Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Publishing News

To all the writers out there:

Contract terms seem to be getting worse and worse. I think publishers are test marketing bad contracts to see who will sign. The backlash in one particular case--Hydra, an imprint of Random House, offered a particularly bad contract the terms of which have gone viral--has the potential to send a big message not just to Random House but a great many other publishers who are toying with the idea of abusing writers.

John Scalzi makes far more educated and insightful comments than I can.

And then, it seems, Alibi gives John Scalzi more fodder for commentary. Really, guys? Some writers are in fact desperate to be read, even if they make no money but I think the bandwidth on this scandal--and it's a scandal--may make even them run away.

Kate Wilhelm bails on traditional publishing after withdrawing a book due to an insulting contract offer.

Distribution has been bottlenecked for a long time. Suddenly, the dam burst and literary rivers are running wild. I'm a little confused as to why publishers think that they can misbehave now of all times, when writers have such amazing alternatives.

Maybe from their perspective it makes sense. From their perspective there are so many free and cheap books out there that they may think that writers who have professional aspirations might feel like they can't compete or make money on their writing. (And many of us do.) Such writers, the publishers may theorize while steepling their hands together and giggling maniacally, may be desperate for validation, promotion, and the stamp of approval from a real publisher that will hopefully set them apart from those gizillions of other books. So desperate, that they may accept, despite any feelings of unease or warnings from the writing community, a really, really bad contract. Besides, there are plenty of ignorant writers out there, right? Even if writerly outrage goes viral, there will always be a chance that a talented newbie without an internet connection or the wisdom to go to the library and google up some research will sign. And the Random House name will be on the letterhead. Everyone has a Random House book in their home, if not dozens or hundreds. All it takes is for one James Patterson-like newbie to sign on based on their household name, and the money will endlessly roll in forever (thanks to the contract terms.)

Well, they'd better find that sucker while the Random House name still has a good reputation. Because reputations have a way of going down the tubes fast when your indiscretions become public. And the public loves a good scandal, especially when it involves a corporate giant.

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