Sunday, March 10, 2013

Contract Controversy for Science Fiction Writers


If you read Publisher’s Weekly or follow The Passive Guy’s blog, you will have heard about the latest brouhaha to invade the publishing world. For those who don’t know, Random House recently launched in imprint called Hydra, created to electronically publish science fiction novels and short stories. On the surface, it seemed like a great opportunity, however, a scathing blog by John Scalzi points out some major pitfalls.

First, Random House offers no advance, which is almost unheard of for a big six publisher. Secondly, the author is being charged for production costs, such as editing and typesetting fees, etc. Third, and most disturbing of all, is that Random House keeps the copyright forever. In other words, authors don’t have a chance to get their rights back to sell to someone who has better terms. Should the author die, he probably can’t bequest those rights to others either.

Scalzi indicates that Random House is primarily targeting newer authors who haven’t had a traditional contract and are eager to get a foot in the door. In many ways, Random’s House new model doesn’t sound all that different from iUniverse or AuthorHouse, or other publishing services. I’m not sure if Random House is pickier about whom they choose to publish than other services, but this new model has created a lot of buzz, and not much of it is positive.

Some might say that Random House is simply adapting to the rapid changes in the publishing world. Others are saying run away as fast as you can. I’ll post the link and let you decide. http://whatever.scalzi.com/2013/03/06/note-to-sff-writers-random-houses-hydra-imprint-has-appallingly-bad-contract-terms/

Now, an article in Publishers Weekly states that Scalzi, who also happens to be the president of Science Fiction Writers of America, has stated that authors will not be granted membership if they are using Hydra as a credential. As you can imagine, Random House has responded, indicating their disappointment with Scalzi’s stance. They also stated that this new publishing model is potentially lucrative for authors as it involves profit sharing, but that all business ventures have upfront costs. If you want to read Random House’s full letter in response to SFWA, then go to http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/content-and-e-books/article/56244-rh-responds-to-sfwa-slamming-its-hydra-imprint.html

Boy, these are fun times, aren’t they?


3 comments:

KT Wagner said...

Random House has now changed their terms. http://www.atrandom.com/eoriginals/index.php

Katherine

Debra Purdy Kong said...

Thanks for this, Katherine. Good to know! I'll mention it in tomorrow's blog.

Jaxson Corey said...

I am much impressed by the decision and also it is necessary to declare if there is no change has been come. I am much thankful to you for sharing a very nice topic.
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