Scalzi: Hydra Imprint Has Appallingly Bad Contract Terms...

AMB

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Huh. I see some merit in the argument that the SFWA should perhaps of gotten in touch to find out the full story before slamming the imprints. That said, now they've said their piece and it is out there on the internet forever and ever, I can't really see it altering the narrative any. It still reads as a very one-sided relationship heavily favouring the publisher.
 

Glitch

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Their response focuses on the shared profits and barely touches on the up front costs.
 

Ursa major

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I particularly enjoyed this part of their letter:
Profits are generated once those costs are subtracted from the sales revenue. Hydra and the author split those profits equally from the very first sale.
(Bolding mine.)

I mean, wow(!), talk about disingenuous. The first sale doesn't begin to cover the costs, there is no profit, and 50% of zero, unless I have been strangely misinformed, is nothing.
If one had a copy of the Hydra contract in one's hand and then read that letter, particularly the part Teresa quoted, would one have any confidence in the honesty of the publisher when it came to the way it determines its costs, the ones it expects the gullible author to pay?
 

Teresa Edgerton

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Are they seeing advances as too big a risk in a market that is swamped, no matter how big you are?
It's not just the lack of advances, though. The rest of the contract is horrendous.

So, OK, let us assume, for the sake of argument, that publishers can't afford to take a risk by offering advances to new writers. (Because, for instance, the people up at the top of the corporation that owns the corporation that owns the publisher is demanding higher profits.) Even if this were the case, why all the other horrible clauses in that contract?

And here is the thing with an imprint like Hydra. Random House has an edge over the independent presses, and the self-published books, in a well-known name and a reputation for a certain level of quality in the books they publish (let's not argue about all the published books that we here might think are bad, because we are talking about their reputation with the world at large). Surely they aren't going to compromise that reputation by releasing a flood of bad books. No, I think they are going to be more selective than that, perhaps as selective as they are with their other imprints, and only buy books they really think are good.

And if I am right about that, then writers will have about the same chance of being published by Hydra as they have of being published at another publisher who will offer them a much, much better contract. They might even, conceivably, do better at another division of Random House itself.
 

Karn Maeshalanadae

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Hell, even if I was desperate for publication, I would run-okay, hobble-away from this contract screaming.

No advances? Suspect, but if that was the only issue, it would be borderline acceptable.

Out-of-pocket expenses on the author's end? No.

Handing over the IP to the publisher? That would be the point where I'd start beating those involved in writing the damn thing up over the head with my cane. That one is the true deal-breaker for me.
 

Gareth Lewis

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It's not completely a vanity publisher, as both myself and another author I know have had our submissions rejected.

But then we've both self-published stuff, so maybe we're not their target since we'd be more likely to recognize this as garbage.

Not that I'd have taken this kind of contract. I had a few questions ready in case they did offer, but it looks like I wouldn't have gotten halfway through the list before abandoning it in disgust (might have been fun to write the letter declining it though).
 

Nerds_feather

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Generally agree with Scalzi, but I do have some questions...

Would we think of this as being "just as bad" if it were an indie publisher, or is it primarily bad because it's a "big 6" publisher, and thus might portend a general move towards more exploitative contracts across the publishing industry?
 

Fishbowl Helmet

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Generally agree with Scalzi, but I do have some questions...

Would we think of this as being "just as bad" if it were an indie publisher, or is it primarily bad because it's a "big 6" publisher, and thus might portend a general move towards more exploitative contracts across the publishing industry?
I can't speak for Scalzi, but the indie publisher at least has the ingorance defense. Being smaller and likely newer they could honestly not know any better. I think it's especially egregious as Random House explicitly knows this is a giant middle finger to the authors offered this contract.
 

Jo Zebedee

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blah - flags. So many flags.
There was no comments, no investigative journalism, nothing to really show Guardian gave a toss about thing, as the reader could had essentially gone and done all this research on their own. I wonder how it got that far.
There were comments, I wonder have I got the link wrong? I will go and check.
 

ctg

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I meant from the journalist darling. Not from the people. The journalist was essentially doing a copy-paste job and if you look his other posts, he has done more writing on those than you seen in this one. So maybe it was his decision or then it was the editor's decision to cut out all thoughts on the matter.
 

TheDustyZebra

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Wow. That's quite a backtrack. I'm still not sure about the "term of copyright" part -- is that standard? -- but it seems to have a reasonable "out".
 

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