Friday, March 08, 2013

Small Presses and Contracts

There's been an interesting exchange going on between SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) and Random House's relatively new ebook imprint, Hydra.  John Scalzi (blogger, SF writer extraordinair, and current SFWA president), in particular, has been up in arms about some contracts he's seen from Hydra in the past few days.  It's an interesting conversation.

Basically, the Hydra imprint is offering some pretty bad contract terms.  Mr. Scalzi compares them to the raptors in Jurassic Park, testing the fences of the writing industry and looking for weak areas they can take down.  Not only do they not offer an advance, but they also charge the author for costs that have traditionally been borne by the publisher.  Their infractions against the writing community go further than that, but those seem to be the two big ones (Mr. Scalzi lists those infractions in their totality [at least according to him] here).

In response to these dismal contractual terms, SFWA denied the Hydra imprint as a qualifying market for SFWA membership (which is, for all intents and purposes, the SF/F equivalent of the WGA, and holds quite a bit of sway over the community and market).

Random House responded to SFWA with this generally civil but nevertheless pretentious letter essentially saying "Wait!  You never even gave us a chance!"  To which SWFA responded, essentially:  "Why would we waste time giving an exploitative, predatory imprint a chance?"

My hat is off to SFWA, and in particular, Mr. Scalzi.  They're doing their job, and they're doing it well.  They're siding strongly with writers and protecting writer's rights (Writer's rights?  There's a tongue twister in there somewhere.  Writer's writing rights are rightfully written wittily rather than ritfully, and...).  As a writer who is still seeking publication, it feels good to know that I have, essentially, some high-ups on my side, looking out for me.

I have more to say about this, but I'll have to get to it later.  For now, the writing calls.

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