Sad News – Bards and Sages Publishing Is Shutting Down

In the world of speculative fiction, the closing of a beloved publisher can feel like losing a trusted old friend. That’s the weight we carry today as we say farewell to Bards and Sages Publishing, a beacon for writers and readers alike for over two decades. Founded by Julie Ann Dawson, whose love affair with horror began in the quiet corners of her high school library with a Stephen King novel clutched in her hands, Bards and Sages has been more than just a publishing house; it’s been a community, a launching pad for stories that dare to explore the unknown, and a sanctuary for those who believe in the power of imagination.

Julie’s decision to close the doors is from the harsh reality—balancing the scales between passion and practicality, between the love of storytelling and the weight of personal health and the changing tides of the publishing industry. In her candid farewell, she touches on the battles with mental health, the challenges of managing a day job alongside a publishing empire, and the daunting surge of AI-generated content that threatens the very authenticity of human creativity. (And our own submission inbox as well…)

Bards and Sages Publishing’s legacy is not just in the books, magazines, and stories it leaves behind, but in the spirit of community and innovation, it fosters. Julie’s work has been a labor of love, a beacon in the speculative fiction world, lighting the way for authors and artists. As she embarks on this difficult process of winding down, she ensures that the rights and works of those she’s published will be respectfully handled, preserving the integrity of their creations. It’s a graceful exit, mindful of the legacy and the impact Bards and Sages has had on the literary world.

To Julie and everyone who’s been a part of the Bards and Sages journey, thank you for twenty years of magic, of nightmares dressed as dreams, and for proving, time and again, that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword—or in this age, the algorithm. Hopefully, even with the shuttering of your doors, we can keep this to be true. Your contribution to the world of speculative fiction will not be forgotten.

You can find their official announcement stored below for posterity:


Effective March 6, 2024, I will begin the process of winding down Bards and Sages Publishing. There is a lot that needs to be unraveled and sorted out before I can formally close everything down. The most immediate impact is the closure of the Bards and Sages Quarterly and ceasing publication of new issues.

If you are an author or artist who was previously published in an issue of the Bards and Sages Quarterly, those issues will remain on sale until the end of 2024. After that, all back issues will be removed from sale, and all rights will revert to their respective authors.

The same is true for back issues of The Society of Misfit Stories and all of our anthologies. These will remain on sale through the end of the year and then unpublished. At that time, all rights will revert back to their respective authors and artists.

I’ve already informed our authors that we have stand-alone publishing contracts with about the decision. I will work with those authors individually to make sure all of their rights revert to them in a timely manner, and provide them with any raw files we have of their books. They will be free to use those files to either self-publish or take to another publisher if they wish.

Regarding our RPG offerings: I own all rights to the RPG materials through work-for-hire agreements. If other publishers are interested in buying the rights to any of our RPG products or properties, I will entertain offers. Email [email protected] to discuss.

With that out of the way, I want to provide the reasons for this decision.

As I have noted previously, I have been struggling with mental health issues for some time now. I am being treated for generalized anxiety and depression, and though my condition has improved, I’m still not where I feel I need to be to properly commit the time and effort needed to being an effective publisher.

At the end of last year, I was diagnosed with additional physical health issues that will require surgery and treatment. While none of them are life-threatening, they are an additional weight that requires my attention.

As most people who have known me a while also realize, publishing has always been my love, but it has never been my primary income source. Like a lot of micro presses, I have a proverbial “day job,” and that day job has become increasingly more complex over the last few years.

All of these issues impacted my decision. However, I also have to confess to what may have been the final straws. AI…and authors behaving badly.

I am spending four to five hours a week trudging through submissions just to weed out AI-generated trash. I have editorial assistants who actually read and review the submissions, but I still look at every submission myself first to make sure I am weeding out the obvious junk before wasting their time, otherwise the submission response rate would take 20 months. Just over the weekend, I rejected twenty obviously AI generated submissions. My inbox is flooded with it.

Meanwhile, Amazon and other ebook retails are pushing full-steam ahead to promote AI-generated content at the expense of real authors and artists. Publisher who actually pay authors and artists and editors now have to compete with AI-generated material churned out in bulk and sold at 99 cents. And while it is easy to shrug this off if you are outside the industry and claim, “Well, the cream rises to the top,” anyone that has been around the industry long enough knows that what rises to the top is what Amazon’s algorithms push there. And the AI bots are much better at manipulating the algorithms that real people.

Two to three times a month, I need to fight with Amazon over negative reviews that get spammed on multiple books because an author got upset about a story being rejected. Or I get some snark response back about how my reviewers need better training, or that I am not a “real” editor, or something outright vulgar. Or I get a prank call to my phone. These sort of people have always lurked around the industry, so I am not unaccustomed to dealing with them. But it seems like they have grown more emboldened, and there seems to be this weird social currency tied to the bad behavior now.

With everything else I have going on right, I do not have the mental energy to deal with these people.

To be clear, the majority of authors and artists I have worked with over the decades have been wonderful. But the number of badly-behaving individuals, and the increased level of hostility they bring to the industry, has gotten to be too much.

My goal is to have everything closed down by the end of the year. Emails to Bards and Sages will still be active, so if you are an author or artist or publisher with questions, you will still be able to reach me. The Contact page will get updated with this information to make it easier to communicate. Social media accounts will also remain active so I can be reached through those as well.

To those of you I have had the pleasure of working with over the decades, thank you for being a part of Bards and Sages Publishing. I am extremely proud of the works we produced over the years and I hope you are as well.

With Love and Respect,

​Julie Ann Dawson

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