Scottish authors who lost thousands of pounds when publisher Freight Books collapsed are “unlikely to get anything” back when the company is wound up, according to the liquidator.

Creditors will meet interim liquidator Ian Wright of WRI Associates on Wednesday, but he’s warned that “it’s looking bleak” for everyone who is owed money by the Scottish firm.

More than 80 authors published by the award-winning company haven’t been paid royalties in months, and thousands of copies of their books could be pulped if they don’t reach a deal to buy them back.

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Among the writers associated with Freight Books are Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh and Janice Galloway, whose book Jellyfish was nominated for several awards.

Speaking exclusively to the Sunday Herald, interim liquidator Ian Wright said: “From the information currently available it’s unlikely the authors will receive any cash payment. They’re unlikely to get anything. It’s looking bleak for everybody. It’s not just authors who have lost out.

“There is a stock of books - it’s more than 30,000 units - and we’ve taken advice from a variety of parties about what we can do with them. They are an asset of the company but authors have certain rights, so we need to reach some agreement with the authors individually about their stock.

“We haven’t spoken to all of them. There’s quite a lot who have been spoken to, and there’s been a lot of email correspondence. If authors haven’t been contacted they should get in touch with us. There’s no secret as to where we are.”

Freight Books was founded in 2011 by Adrian Searle. Searle “walked away” from the business in April. In the summer sister company Freight Design, run by Samrai, put Freight Books up for sale, as authors began complaining payments had stopped.

In September Glasgow printing company Bell and Bain took Freight Books to court over unpaid work and the following month Wright was appointed interim liquidator. He has now carried out an audit of Freight Book’s assets and confirmed they simply aren’t worth enough to ensure all creditors are compensated.

He said: “Some money is owed to HMRC, and then there’s a variety of suppliers of different kinds that are owned money. Director Davinder Samrai appears to be owed a fair amount of money. It’s five figures.

“Adrian Searle resigned and left the business back in April. I haven’t had any discussions with Mr Searle and haven’t corresponded with him as of yet.”

Wright is likely to appointed liquidator on Wednesday following a vote by creditors. He said: “I would expect the liquidator, once appointed on Wednesday at the meeting, will be in touch with Mr Searle. I haven’t had any indication from him that he is owed money.

“Some of the authors are creditors. Not all are. Some are owed money of varying amounts. A few are owed at least four figures. The bulk of them are owed less.”

Wright said the process of winding up the publisher has “become ridiculously complicated, a lot more complicated than I expected it to be”.

He added: "One of the things that’s come to light in this whole process is the authors' rights are far from clear when a publisher goes into liquidation. The contracts between the publisher and the author hasn’t fully considered what happens when a publisher goes into insolvency. It’s probably something that should be looked at by everybody because the liquidator isn’t bound by the existing contracts with the authors. The contracts were terminated when I was appointed. It needs to be made clearer what the rights of the author are.”

Meanwhile, former Freight Books authors have criticised Searle after his new company Dalbeath Trading, published its first title this month, under a publishing imprint called Wild Harbour.

Author Shawn Stein said: “Searle opening a new publisher prior to the completion of all legal proceedings related to the demise of Freight Books is outrageous.”

Writer Kirstin Innes said: “Deciding to launch a new venture the week that Freight Books was being officially liquidated…seems at best an insensitive move and at worst a horrendously-miscalculated publicity stunt.”

One prominent Scottish writer, who asked to remain anonymous, said they had lost thousands of pounds in royalties from sales of books. They said: “The whole situation has been a real kick in the teeth, at every stage of the demise of Freight. It’s just another kick in the teeth to see Searle launch another publishing venture at this time.”

One former Freight Books employee, who asked not to be named, added: “Going on to publish again while dozens of Scotland's authors are left with the fallout of this destruction is a morally bankrupt act.”

Searle said: “The new publishing venture was founded and operating several months ago. Although much has been made of this, the first title’s launch date in the run-up to Christmas was purely coincidental.”

LITERARY SPAT: FORMER PARTNERS IN WAR OF WORDS

Freight Design director Davinder Samrai has broken his silence over the demise of Freight Books to blame its failure on former business partner Adrian Searle.

Samrai insisted “to all intents and purposes” Searle was Freight Books. Samrai also said he had “no operational or decision-making involvement” in the running of the collapsed publisher.

Speaking to the Sunday Herald, Searle accused Samrai of stopping publishing and failing to recruit a successor to run the books business after he “walked away”.

Samrai said: “Since Adrian’s abrupt exit it has been independently established that Freight Books was in the midst of severe financial difficulties. These difficulties were undisclosed to myself or company advisors.

“I became increasingly concerned, then alarmed, about the running of Freight Books in January 2017. My fiduciary duties as a director obliged me not to allow new publishing debts to be ascribed if I had concerns about the ability to settle the related invoices.”

Samrai also dismissed a claim by Searle that he tried to buy Freight Books. Searle told the Sunday Herald: “From November 2016 to April 2017 I attempted to buy Freight Books from my business partner. After an initial period of consideration, he then refused to discuss the matter.”

Samrai said: “I can categorically state that Adrian has never made a formal offer to myself, our advisors or latterly, WRI Associates, to purchase Freight Books. His sudden desire to exit, with the benefit of hindsight, was driven by the inescapable fact that Freight Books had liabilities he could not trade out of. By any fiscal measure Freight Books was not succeeding.

“Having grave concerns about how Freight Books was operating, I met with our financial advisors to report my concerns. They immediately requested a meeting with Adrian who admitted to significant liabilities related to Freight Books and aside from clearing his desk over the following weekend, never returned.”

Samrai also defended his handling of Freight Books after Searle’s unexpected departure. He said: “I stayed and did all I could to help authors and numerous other affected parties, with the few levers that were left available to me. The design business also met a number of Freight Books’ liabilities. Where was he?

“There was absolutely nothing stopping him staying to resolve matters or make a formal offer to purchase the publishing business. Why he didn't is just one of the numerous questions for him to answer.”

Responding to the criticism, Searle said: “Walking away after sixteen years of building a business, losing my livelihood, was a very last resort. I could not be a part of the decisions that were being made. Had I stayed, I am certain I would not have been able to influence the outcome.

“Authors are entitled to their opinion regarding my actions. However, I believe it would have been an act of greater moral bankruptcy to stand by and watch Freight Books being dismantled, unable to doing anything. I did what I thought was the right thing to do.”