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F+W Media (my publisher) files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

March 23, 2019

Cover ImageWell, the good times had to end someday right?

The publisher of my art-how-to books and videos including The Urban Sketcher has recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

[Here’s some background info on that]. But it boils down to; their hobby-niche-magazine empire is fading into irrelevance in the internet age, and, their efforts to turn art-communities (WetCanvas,, etc) into paying ventures haven’t worked out.  Not all that surprising, as this stuff competes against Facebook and the other social media.

What does that mean to myself and their other authors?

Most annoyingly – it means a loss of royalty income for a while. Existing stock in the retail channel might sell, but I won’t receive any income until the situation is resolved.

Particularly bad timing for me, as I’ve recently stopped freelance work, in hopes of jumpstarting my gallery painting. But I knew that was an insane gamble when I threw the dice.

I suppose I’ve had a nice run for the last five years. We’ve sold about 35,000 copies of The Urban Sketcher. I think that’s pretty good for a niche topic like travel sketching.

Thanks, everyone! Good work!

The book income was never enough for me to live from, but it was one tent-pole in my hardscrabble artist-income. In the best-case, F+W can sell the book rights onto another publisher and sales can resume – or – perhaps the books go completely out of print. At which time, (after a significant contractual delay) I have the option to re-issue them myself.

Though, I seriously doubt I’ll receive any help in that regard (like, getting the page layouts back from the publisher? hah!).

Direct Watercolor_Cover 8.5x8.5_Color_100pp_v04 copy

Luckily, I do have my self-published book Direct Watercolor. Though – this has always been somewhat of a labor-of-love title. And fair enough! As honestly, it’s less of a how-to (and that’s probably why you’re a blog-reader) and more of art-book of beautiful images from my years as a traveling painter – and thus, it’s sold about 1/10th of The Urban Sketcher.

So, that’s just some news from me – mostly to say – if you were looking for a book on watercolor – my own title is currently one of my few income streams, so please buy my self published book! – not the publisher’s titles, which are now only paying back corporate debt :)


50 Comments leave one →
  1. March 23, 2019 12:47 PM

    Sorry to hear the news of F+W Media.

  2. Sharon Davis permalink
    March 23, 2019 12:51 PM

    I am truly sorry and upset to hear this news. Not only for you , personally, Marc, but for what that says about the industry. Good luck to you in your future. You are incredibly talented. I own (and have attempted) Urban Sketcher, but I am definitely a hobbyist, not innately gifted enough to do it well. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate those who do. Please keep this blog going.

  3. Victoria Alger permalink
    March 23, 2019 12:55 PM

    Marc, I’m sorry to hear of this news. Have you considered republishing your books through Amazon? I have a few author friends who have had success with this route.

    • March 23, 2019 12:56 PM

      We’ll see if they find a buyer for the books side of the business. Then I have to wait out the contract terms till it’s allowed, but yes, that’s a good option yes.

  4. Penelope Youngfeather permalink
    March 23, 2019 12:56 PM

    Not good news for the art world but I am glad to say, I have already purchased both of your books (though that will not add new cash to your stream). And I always recommend your work to the students in my “Art for your Travel Journal” classes. Keep the faith!

  5. Ann Simons permalink
    March 23, 2019 1:05 PM

    Bummer, you have terrific books. Time for a fesh-minded marketing person to walk into your life and find an exciting (and profitable) new venture. Good luck!

  6. March 23, 2019 1:35 PM

    Marc, Check your contract and check your copyright registration to make sure you and only you own reproduction rights. You may then want to write and inform F+W that you’re terminating their license and they must cease and desist further distribution of your copyright-protected work. Also require a full accounting to date of sales etc for your work. Best, Hylla Evans


    • March 23, 2019 2:48 PM

      Yes, that’s what it comes down to – knowing your contract. Some authors, (like myself) can only terminate the agreement if the work goes out of print – some authors cannot even do that! There are conditions that have to be met to define ‘out of print’ (for instance – if it’s available online, or overseas, is that ‘in print’ or not?). it all depends how favorable your deal is. First time or mid-list authors don’t often have a lot of negotiating power.

  7. Lee Crespi permalink
    March 23, 2019 1:37 PM

    Hey Marc, I’ve learned a lot by following you and from your Craftsy video and first book. You’ve contributed a lot to the Urban Sketching world. So I will be buying your latest book as a show of support. Good luck with your continued art work.

  8. Gina Bisaillon permalink
    March 23, 2019 1:46 PM


  9. March 23, 2019 1:55 PM

    Sorry to hear that

  10. March 23, 2019 1:57 PM

    Bad news, glad I already own your printed books, and your self published one. You’ll bounce back from this I have no doubt.

  11. March 23, 2019 2:46 PM

    Your work is great! Things will look up soon. I also own both of your books and got started with sketching and watercolor by attending one of your courses (in Richmond, VA) a few years ago. Great stuff!

  12. March 23, 2019 2:56 PM

    Sorry to hear that,Marc. As an old editor, I suggest you put the LAST paragraph of this blog page up at the top followed by something like: “Let me explain…” Then go into the details of what happened and is happening.

    Your friend,
    Lee Kline

  13. Judy Sopher permalink
    March 23, 2019 2:59 PM

    I also have your books and The Urban Sketcher. While I also like learning on You tube , books are my companions. I hope you can find a way to have Urban sketcher continue to be published.

  14. Anne permalink
    March 23, 2019 4:07 PM

    Sorry to hear, but I have both of your books and love them!

  15. Meena Razvi permalink
    March 23, 2019 4:13 PM

    Hi. I am sorry to hear about your troubles. I bought your book and met you at the Chicago symposium. I am a little Indian lady and you might remember me. I own a condo on Jaco beach in Costa Rica and other owners in our building rent their units out. If you ever want to lead a sketch group there let me know. Cost per condo depends on the season and month etc. Most condos have two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Fully furnished with AC and security etc. Best of luck Meena

  16. March 23, 2019 4:30 PM

    I would be a real nudge about getting your page layouts. What are they going to do with them if they cease to publish and don’t find another publisher to buy them out? Nothing. But you could pretty easily republish if you had the book mostly already formatted. Hang in there.

  17. Kate Burroughs permalink
    March 23, 2019 5:34 PM

    So sorry to hear about the bankruptcy of your publisher. It has affected many authors and other entities like SketchKon. I already own your “Direct Watercolor” book but was thinking about getting the other one.

  18. Jane permalink
    March 23, 2019 5:44 PM

    So sorry to hear this has happened to you. And it will teach me not to leave a great book on my wish list too long! I’ll wait now until you reissue Urban Sketcher as I know you will rise above this setback. Your strengths and talents are so strong.

  19. Karen Miller permalink
    March 23, 2019 6:09 PM

    Done! And fingers crossed for your future in art.

    Karen Miller

    Sent from my iPhone


  20. Kay French permalink
    March 23, 2019 7:42 PM

    This is a stumbling block but you are so talented you will overcome it. I am one of the few, apparently, who bought your Direct Watercolor book and found it really informative. You can read the process through looking at the images. For those of you who haven’t bought it I highly recommend it!

  21. March 23, 2019 8:11 PM

    Sorry to hear this news, Marc. Wishing you lots of luck with recuperating your books. But you are an enterprising and very talented artist and will get through this.

  22. March 23, 2019 9:14 PM

    This happens all the time. Where do you sell your watercolors Marc? What about licensing your images for calendars, prints, card etc. I would think that could be a good market for you. There’s always Etsy if you dont want to go the gallery route. You have a huge fan base.

  23. March 23, 2019 10:36 PM

    Darn! I’ve bought yours and several others from them over the years, all excellent. There are times when only a book will do.

  24. March 23, 2019 11:03 PM

    Sorry to hear the bad news, Marc. I do have all the print media you authored plus the Craftsy videos. You might have do the workshop gig in the future. I understand the move of art to the computer age. I don’t like it but it is what it is these days. I am old school, very old school. You are a gifted artist and instructor. You will survive and flourish. No doubt.

  25. March 24, 2019 9:30 AM

    Sorry to read that Marc. What a great run. I’m sure it will be followed by more success in the future.

    I took your class last year and really enjoyed your direct watercolor process.



  26. March 24, 2019 11:26 AM

    I’ve given this a lot of thought. Book sales are usually an adjunct to an event, so what’s needed to drive sales are events. This gets me to the subject of The Urban Sketchers. This popular group could support artists through income around the globe, but instead hobbles everyone extensively unless one happens to be physically healthy in New York City or key urban locations.

    I tried to set up a group in New Jersey and found the US rules to be ridiculous. Perhaps these rules would work to attract people to local groups *if* there were still newspapers. In New Jersey, there is a state-wide paper with online presence, plus small “free” papers which, quite unfortunately, the pages of which tend to be floating around in high winds.

    Groups the UR could align themselves with are local recreation departments, libraries, museums, art societies, and even colleges/universities and vocational venues.

    But nooooooooooooo. Not allowed is paid advertising or dovetailing with other groups. And then there is the emphasis on “free free free.” While friendly get togethers are nice, the US also makes use of professional artists and facilitators all of whom I’d be happy to pay something for their services, but noooooooooooooooooo. Are there fees? Nooooooooooooo. Not allowed.

    I tried attracting people to a “Weehawken/Hoboken Sketching Group” but I had to do that thru a paid “meetup.” A problem I had is without a strong affiliation, all locations generally available were outside and not only does the local climate feature seasonable weather, we went through an exceptionally hot summer with most of the best locations directly under the sun.

    I am partially handicapped and have had some problems getting around. After August, I just through up my hands. I am not, however, inert. I’d love to “work” the NW state of New Jersey in the name of art learning and fellowship … I’d love to bring a group (and books) from US facilitators to libraries, museums, etc., but really, to grow, one has to spend money AND support the people (instructors, etc.) responsible for the reason growth is possible. The reliance on “free free free” screws everyone.


  27. March 24, 2019 12:29 PM

    Sorry to hear it, Marc, and best of luck to you. It is seriously difficult to be niche in a world where anything that’s not ‘big and dumb’ or heavily bankrolled is essentially doomed to be niche.

  28. scottngov permalink
    March 24, 2019 10:39 PM

    Hey Marc, sorry to hear the bad news. I’ve bought both books in the Kindle version and I turn to them often. And since I can’t get enough of your art I always google for pictures of your other watercolors and sketches that aren’t on the Urban Sketcher or Direct Watercolor. Have you ever thought of publishing another book that’s based on all of your works? I’d be first in line to buy myself a copy!

  29. stefan wasinski permalink
    March 25, 2019 7:13 AM

    Marc I have admired your work for a long time and all the ideas etc you have shared with us over time. As soon as I read your email I ordered Urban Sketcher as that is the least anyone could do. I’m so sorry things have not gone so well lately. I’m sure with your kind of initiative and talent more opportunity doors will open for you, as you have a great fan base and we’re all keen to support someone with your generosity of spirit. We look forward to seeing the Phoenix arise again! Stefan

  30. March 25, 2019 7:44 AM

    Bummer, Marc! You and your work are a true value to the art world. I hope something bigger and better opens up for you.

  31. March 25, 2019 8:17 PM

    Sorry to read that. Hope an alternate option comes…

  32. March 25, 2019 8:26 PM

    Bought both your books on Amazon kindle. Just ordered your Craftsy DVDs. Keep going, Marc. Your work and teaching is much appreciated.

  33. @emilykelso permalink
    March 26, 2019 4:33 AM

    I’d like to buy your book but I don’t want to shop on Amazon. Is your book for sale some other way?

    • March 29, 2019 12:53 AM

      I’m sorry Emily – the book is only on Amazon. For the indy author, they make it so tempting slash unavoidable. There are other venues but they all cost the authors more to use. Amazon wins by giving authors the best offer – and that gives them the biggest selection and their power just keeps growing!

  34. March 26, 2019 10:31 AM

    best of luck bud. Gallery paintings are looking awesome btw

  35. Fernanda Fernandes permalink
    March 26, 2019 12:27 PM

    So sad to read your bad news… I have just ordered your Direct Watercolor book! Keep on with your great paintings (acrylic included :-))

  36. March 26, 2019 4:10 PM

    Sorry to hear the news of your publisher going bankrupt, Marc. I m an 81 year old painter, instructor, and illustrator…and still “Doing it” as I write my coffee table on my many years as a courtroom artist for television. I long admired your work as a fellow “sketcher.” You’ ve set the standards throughout your career. We creatives can always find ways to move on with our Art. Looking forward to buying your book on direct watercolor.

  37. anne colson permalink
    March 27, 2019 5:17 AM

    So sad to read that. I have taken and enjoyed your classes on Craftsy, and I considere taking your classes on the Artist’s network. I can choose between a subscription and a single class purchase. Does it make any difference for you (copyright,…) ?

  38. March 27, 2019 12:18 PM

    Marc – don’t forget that with most contracts the terms and conditions are null and void if EITHER PARTY breaches the contract (eg by not paying you the royalty income due to you) i.e. you may find the copyright of all that text and all those images reverts to you to sell on to another publisher – or republish in your own account – sooner than you might think.

    I’d advise:
    1) check the PRECISE wording of the contract and in particular what causes the contract terms and conditions to cease to apply – and then check what it means in terms of legal options
    2) check with a lawyer as to whether there is scope to move things faster (i.e. are they protected from you claiming they have breached contract if they don’t pay royalties and file for Chapter 11)

    You may find you need to send them a legal letter if they fail to find a buyer for the art titles in the near future. They can’t go on looking indefinitely – they have to “perform” their part of the contract – and pay up!

    There’s a major creditors meeting on 8th April 2019 (My UK publisher is owed $130k+).
    I recommend keeping a close eye on the website of the proposed claims and noticing agent

  39. Ellie permalink
    March 28, 2019 12:46 PM

    Got the book in the mail yesterday. I love it, and have already learned things (fast scan) I’m hoping to try today. Get the book, friends! I’ve learned more from Marc’s Craftsy classes than I have in many hours of formal classes. And now—more from this great book

  40. March 29, 2019 10:28 AM

    Marc don’t forget to put your Direct Watercolor book up on your sidebars instead of the Urban Sketching book. I am so sorry this happened.

  41. March 29, 2019 1:25 PM

    Hi Marc, I’m an FW author as well, I have 2 jewelry design books (Boho Chic Jewelry & Soldered Alchemy) and 2 DVDs with them. Never received my last royalties check due in Feb – though they emailed me a statement. It irritates me to no end that they are still selling my titles as well as digital downloads of my books and my DVDs. Single mom who of course can’t afford an attorney to protect my interests. Perusing the net trying to find out what other authors are doing in this circumstance. Good luck to all of us. I might start a private facebook group just for exchange of info for authors affected by this, as I’d really like to know what other people are going to do about it.
    Kind regards,
    Laura Beth Love

  42. March 30, 2019 5:55 AM

    How do i buy this Book….??

  43. lahird permalink
    April 3, 2019 9:55 AM

    As a fellow author at F+W Media, I have some information concerning this situation that I would rather not say publicly. If interested, you can contact me at: Thank you.

  44. May 27, 2019 7:01 AM

    Very sorry to hear that. Glad I bought the book at a time you were receiving royalties! Keep going!

  45. June 18, 2019 6:54 AM

    you might be interested in my “F&W Media Bankruptcy Protection UPDATE re SALES of Artist Network, Wet Canvas & North Light Books” following the recent auctions of both the Books Division and the Communities Division

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