SFWA Slaps Random House’s Digital SF Imprint

Naming an imprint after a league of supervillains might not be the best idea, because here comes Captain SFWAmerica to smack them down, according to this email that just went out to SFWA members:

SFWA has determined that works published by Random House’s electronic imprint Hydra can not be use as credentials for SFWA membership, and that Hydra is not an approved market. Hydra fails to pay authors an advance against royalties, as SFWA requires, and has contract terms that are onerous and unconscionable.

Hydra contracts also require authors to pay – through deductions from royalties due the authors – for the normal costs of doing business that should be borne by the publisher.

Hydra contracts are also for the life-of-copyright and include both primary and subsidiary rights. Such provisions are unacceptable.

At this time, Random House’s other imprints continue to be qualified markets.

That last bit is important, not only for Spectra and Del Rey authors (who are breathing a sigh of relief right now) but in the context of history. When Harlequin launched a vanity press imprint in 2009, SFWA temporarily removed all Harlequin imprints from their qualifying market list. Random House’s sins are apparently not grave enough to warrant such tactics.

Writer Beware’s Victoria Strauss discusses Hydra’s terms in more detail, concluding, “It’s hard for me to imagine even moderately successful self-publishers finding a deal like this attractive.” SFWA president John Scalzi is sharper: “Dear Random House: It’s clear you’re targeting new, unagented authors here because no agent who is not manifestly incompetent would allow his or her client to sign such a terrible contract.”

Important note: Random House’s Hydra imprint is not the same as Hydra House, a small independent SF/F press.

(Full disclosure: I’m a non-voting SFWA affiliate member.)

3/8/2013: A riposte and a counter-riposte, with SFWA upping the stakes.

6 thoughts on “SFWA Slaps Random House’s Digital SF Imprint

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  3. Betsy Mitchell

    One thing I haven’t heard discussed is whether Hydra is taking on anything and everything that comes their way or whether there’s some form of editorial sifting going on. To me SFWA’s objections are linked to the question of what “vanity publishing” means in today’s digital world.

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