Random House Makes Changes to Hydra/Alibi Contracts
Posted on March 12, 2013 Posted by John Scalzi 13 Comments
Here is information about the changes from Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware, including a pdf of the actual announcement from Random House. The announcement is also up here.
The short version: The imprints will now offer writers a choice of publishing models, and in the profit-sharing version of the model, some significant changes have been made.
I’ll be looking at the revisions and be offering my personal thoughts at some point in the reasonably near future.
Likewise I know the SFWA board has been made aware of these changes, although I can’t give a timetable for a response there, if any.
Update: My additional immediate thoughts are here.
Wow, I am impressed by your, the SFWA’s and the writers as a community, ability to create even a small change to a publisher’s policy. I really thought your hullabaloo would be all for nothing.
I’m sure Random House is just concerned with the bad publicity it’s getting. They probably haven’t abandoned the predatory terms, just put some other “choices” that you will be sure they will forcefully ignore when they can.
I don’t know if you could call if slayage or not but still: one down, eleven to go.
It’s mostly the same sort of bland wording that screams out “warning! warning!” whenever you are read a legal contract. They still want all copyright for the known multiverse, but have still settled for the planet, and the copyright can only revert back to the author if they fail to sell 300 copies. I can think of perhaps a few titles that might fail to sell 300 titles, but I have a hard time imagining any honest effort doing that poorly
Be interested in your/SFWA’s take on the “changes”, Scalzi.
Does the Algorithmic Rape T-Shirt / Novel Generator still live?
I can think of perhaps a few titles that might fail to sell 300 titles, but I have a hard time imagining any honest effort doing that poorly.
The actual wording (from Writer Beware) is:
So the publisher’s computer counts up sales, and if a book fails to sell three hundred copies in eleven months, a human is tasked to decide whether to “buy” the number needed to retain the copyright?
As well, the whole “the author can demand reversion” thing; the author can demand it at any time. When will it be granted ?
looks like they blinked
I’m still not sure I’d be OK with signing over all rights throughout the world in every language.
After looking over the ‘changes’ I’m not really seeing much difference to the original other than they now offer an advance + royalties option. The rest of the terms seem pretty much the same as the old one (slight variations like they will cover the first $10,000 of marketing and such, but the author is still on the hook after that $10k, and the publisher could easily claim to rack up $10k for cover/illustration, marketing, etc.).
I still would rather self-publish and use KDP, Smashwords, and all the other tools to market myself than risk signing a contract with Hydra/Alibi. I’ll take my chances at not being the next Scalzi or James.
It is nice to see that Hydra and its sibling digital imprints are responding to the concerns voiced by SFWA and other organizations. This might sound a bit cynical, but it doesn’t come as a surprise that the publisher would offer such a Raw Deal and hope the authors don’t have their own Schwarzenegger to make amends. As far as bargaining tactics go, asking for the moon and making the other party(ies) whittle down a bad offer is one of the oldest I know. If even a few sucke- I mean authors bite, that’s a sizable profit turned.
It is the larger, long term implications of this deal that really bother me. I like reading high quality writing. In order for authors to continue to produce such, there needs to be an incentive for authors to do so. I think it’s a little crazy for publishers to not do a better job nurturing new authors. Where do they think new writing will come from?
While Hydra is responding, it is bothersome that they didn’t see/care about these issues arising. I mean, they are part of one of the largest publishers in the world, right? Do they not have any experienced agents/editors/authors who could have had some input on the creation of their contracts? Doesn’t speak well to their long term planning, just a race to the bottom.
Looking forward to you thoughts John.
Also, I hope the movie analogy worked, its been in my head since this whole contract incident popped up.
“I can think of perhaps a few titles that might fail to sell 300 titles, but I have a hard time imagining any honest effort doing that poorly.”
There are some traditional print books with a great deal of effort put into them that do not sell 300 copies; a great many POD and ebooks do not reach that number even with great effort.