Last week, writers' associations and individuals, in short the industry as a whole, lambasted Random House on their new imprint Hydra, Alibi, and their other eBook-only houses. And let's face it. It was for good reason. Their contract terms were absolute trash. No author should have to pay a contract publisher for setup charges.
The good news is this: Random House has revised their terms (slightly, but let's give the poor schlocks credit where credit is due). According to Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing,
the terms are better. Now, RH offers a standard advance-plus-royalty deal, as well as the profit-sharing deal, and they've removed setup costs from the author for eBook editions. They still intend to charge setup and shipping for print versions of books with these imprints, though, which is a real shame. Read Cory's article and check out the new posts at WriterBeware for the details. Plus, they did improve the reversion clauses in the contract so if sales drop below a certain amount, an author can demand the contract be terminated and all publication rights be returned to them.
Let me define some terms for those who are still looking for their first contract: Rights, where the publisher is concerned, include publishing, sales, and distribution rights. An author owns his work, meaning the copyright. The right to copy belongs to the author. He allows the publisher to publish, sell, and market the work. The publisher picks up setup costs, including editing and cover art.
Every contract defines specific things the publisher is allowed to do, as well as how long they are allowed to do it.
Okay, so RH is forgiven, to a point. But they still have some pretty crappy terms in place. Some of them can be negotiated out, but I'll be honest: RH still isn't going to be my first choice of houses in the future.
Yes, they did fix some of the more egregious terms in their eBook contracts. We have to give them credit for that. Their response to pressure from the industry is encouraging. It shows that even the Big 6 aren't so big they can afford to ignore writers, and it shows that writers are being given a louder voice as a whole.
There's still some room for improvement, though. I think we can all do better. The thing to remember here is that, even though we all want to be picked up by the Big Houses with their Big advertising budgets and their Big market appeal, sometimes the cost of doing business at that level is just too high. We'll keep watching things, and get back with you as they develop.
Yes. We can and should do better. But thanks for little things.