Friday, March 8, 2013

Hydra vs Hydra: What's the Buzz?

Wow. I could just end this with "Wow." But then you'd be looking at that one word, and wondering why the hell would I just publish "Wow" when you don't even know what "Wow" means besides "Wow." I mean, I could have just said "Wow" about watching exploding ducks rain over I-94, or a yodeling Samurai monkey selling Amway door-to-door. But those things wouldn't make some other people say "Wow." They might go "Ew!" or "Hehn?" instead, so let me start at the beginning.

This week has been one of the most..."Wow" weeks in recent history. I touch a test switch for a customer, and it falls apart in my hand. I attempt a repair on a leaking air sensor system (I have almost 20 years experience with this type of system), and the leak is a hundred times worse than when I started, after almost 50 hours of troubleshooting.

And Random House, one of the most respected publishers in the world, has turned into a cheap-assed vanity press.

This makes me wonder why in the world they would do this kind of thing. John Scalzi, president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association, has called our attention to it in his blog:

John's initial announcement, Random House's response, and John's final word, are all on the page. Just scroll down. What shocked me to my core, is the same practices that Hydra is trying to foist on the writing community are the same practices that made PublishAmerica a pariah at WriterBeware and other "Heads-Up" warning blogs and sites. Hydra is paying no advances to authors. Now, my own publisher, a small press, doesn't pay advances at the moment. But what Hydra is doing is charging authors for publishing. Give me a break. NO AUTHOR SHOULD PAY DIME ONE TO A PUBLISHING HOUSE LIKE THIS.

Hey, don't get me wrong. There are self-publishing houses out there, and some of them are even respectable houses. There's one just down the road from my house that makes a lot of its authors very happy. But they bust their cans lining up publicity, book tours, their artwork is excellent, and their editing services are worth the investment according to the authors who use them. And they specialize in print, and are expanding into audiobooks. In other words, the author is getting a product or service worth their investment.

But what Hydra is doing is unconscionable. They not only charge their authors FOR EBOOK ONLY PUBLISHING, but they also demand exclsuive rights for the term of the copyright. In other words, until 70 years after the death of the author. Not 7, 70. To contrast that, my own publisher goes on a renewable three-year term.

Seriously, writers: Why would you want to get roped into an exclusive contract with anyone that only expires 70 years after you die? That's also roping your descendants into the same terms, and that, my friends, is foolish.

There is another wrinkle I've just turned up: A small press called Hydra Publications ( ) turns out dynamic books with award nominations and winners in their lineup. Could it be that the Big 6 are looking to squash the bugs that are turning eBook publishing on its ear? What if (Random House) Hydra's only purpose is to destroy Hydra Publication's reputation? Just by painting itself with the image of a draconian, PA-style vanity press, is Random House trying to strangle Hydra Publications' credibility in the industry via guilt by association? Just think of all the decent, God-fearing men named Josef or Adolf who couldn't pass on their good names after 1935 or so.

It's a damned dirty trick. But what do the Big Houses do at bookstores? They crowd out small presses by buying up all the shelf space at Barnes and Noble. Let's face it; publishing is a highly competitive business. Maybe a little "innocent slander" wouldn't be beyond the scope of their capabilities as well.

Or maybe it's just my "conspiracy nerve" flaring up again.


  1. So that's what all the hype's been about. Thanks, Cryus.

  2. I have several books at the small press Hydra Publications. It is a top notch business and the publisher also owns a bookstore called That Book Place which is having it's 3rd Annual Author's Fair next weekend. Please spread the word Hydra Publications is NOT Hydra of Random House.

  3. Cyrus, thanks for bringing up Hydra Publications. I'm not published with them, but I know the owner, Frank Hall, and they have posted on their home page that they're not affiliated with RH. Although, personally, I'm surprised RH couldn't come up with another name. Well, no, probably not that surprised...

  4. I have the highest respect for Frank, although I've never met him. I was a judge in the recent EPIC eBook award rounds, and Hydra's books are an excellent example of a high quality small press. I hope he can maintain his distance from RH, and in the same vein, I hope his sales skyrocket from the mention of the name.