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The Plan of Hydra and Co. Has Gone Crazily Wrong

Posted on 2013-Mar-16

by Paul Salvette

Despite analyzing the dreadful clauses Hydra, which elaborates their near-zero benefit scheme to award authors and suck every bit of creative juice out of their future opportunity, it is outrageous how traditional publishers underestimated the complicated level of intelligence authors have trained themselves these years.

Term of Bonded Servitude


From the first impression when my eyes follow every trace of David’s texts, I felt as if I were reading a conspiracy theory of the century to decrypt Da Vinci’s code before the bad guys rule the world and the apocalyptic meteor would wipe out all living creatures on Earth. Sorry for my overreacting exaggeration. In fact, I reread the juicy materials that have been out and about for some time to validate the latest scandal surrounding Hydra that has been revealed by many others. Terms of bonded servitude are repeated too many times in the contract, elaborately offered by Hydra, to make sure that most of the publisher’s cost will be covered by the author’s startup fees. These further create the dividing gap between independent authors and traditional publishers. For authors who want to work with a team of trustworthy representatives and experts, signing the exclusive contract might give their life away unless they want to put their hope in a new home that has been a haunting house for many.

The Profit Share Model?


First of all, for those who have not followed the new scandal closely and want to learn what the fuss is all abou,t Random House’s new digital imprints offer “author services.” John Scalzi shines a light into the unfair treatment Hydra provided for authors by referring to Writer Beware’s blog posted by Victoria Seuss in February. Despite the excitement being centered around the profit sharing model and the defending response from Random House’s V.P. and Digital Publishing Author-Allison Dobson-it seems the whistleblower does not board the same ship as Hydra and co. Although Victoria is quite print-oriented, she does not come fairly close to nodding with traditional publishers releasing unfair contract deals to authors. Apparently, eBook production costs are much lower than the print ones. Yet, Hydra’s terms to exclude advance, forge out life of copyright contract, and deduct production costs of eBook and print edition are downright unproductive for authors who nearly obtain no value out of this contract apart from having Random House’s associated brand name, Hydra, stamped on their cover.

Publisher’s Risk Mitigation


John takes the disadvantageous sentiment to the next level when he details what authors might have to sacrifice to work exclusively with Hydra with strategically placed F-bombs. In John’s blog, he discusses in greater detail about what authors deserve from a well-known publisher. By analyzing the first list of disadvantages about the exclusion of advance, the publisher has already lessened their risks of pouring investment in a book. The 50/50 net split will be a safe net for them to cling to if the book does not fare well. The questionable split is dissected into several tiny hidden agenda in the following paragraph when “one time fee” is substantially included in the calculative formula resulting in authors potentially earning less than 50%. Blame the less than 50% split on other ordinary expenses the publisher has to cover.

The life of copyright comes to light when John likens the unfair contract deals to giving your master tapes away. For the rest of your contract, your rights to creative intent will depend on the publisher’s judgment how they want to distribute your work. With your consent, they can release audio books, sign movie adaptation deals, or have it translated into foreign languages to penetrate new markets. This unfair treatment does not paint a positive attitude about traditional publishers trying to help independent authors live in the spotlight. Obviously, if you read our blog closely, you will know that independent authors have done so much more to prosper and live free from these restrictions as mentioned above.

One Fond Memory about Publishers


Wait… if you have come to the conclusion to shun away other publishers’ offer, you may be wrong about traditional publishers sabotaging the reputation independent authors. John admits working with Tor and Macmillion’s. He is happy about it, not because he can carry the brand name around to brag, but because they do what they get paid for: editing, designing cover art, and handing all the PR rather than being a “middleman” to “suck money.” However, it does not mean he will be solely attached to the professional services. In the wake of successful self-publishers, it is anybody’s game to DIY everything all in one with or without help from external service providers. You are an entrepreneur in your own right as an author. For your reference, this very blog has attracted 172 comments.

Author Solutions et al.

Joining the conversation, David Gaughran reflects how many traditional publishers have attempted to let indie authors down. Hydra is not the only one as he has known of and many more of them are brought back to discussion. Rubbing salt into the bleeding wound, David presents an open letter from Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA) that removes Hydra from their qualifying market. He mentions the lawsuit against Penguin-backed Author Solutions. Like the previous business model of Random House splitting into various imprints, Author Solutions is not the publisher’s doppelganger in the universe. Look up Xlibris, iUniverse, BookTango just to name a few to understand why.

The ‘Bounty’ Incentive


In his previous blog posted last year how traditional publishers worked together to “rip off writers,” it seems Simon & Schuster’s new attempt to motivate authors by offering a ‘bounty’ commission to those who can talk their peers into publishing with Archway Affiliate Program. D Publishing failed to attract any literary investors when they released “most oppressive terms.” What David means by oppressive simply refers to outrageous fees (AUS$499-$997) to publish a book or an eBook. If you have the faintest heart, do not read the parts what authors must grant to D Publishing. The demise of D Publishing is unavoidably predictable.

Win-win Situation, Maybe?


Obviously, the term “vanity press” will not fade away as long as the crazy contract terms and outrageous clauses have discredited traditional publishers. One of the main reasons authors need to consult or collaborate with publishers is they need to trust somebody in maximizing the potential of their creative works beyond their perception. If publishers cannot support what authors aspire to achieve, why will they be needed any longer? There are resounding echoes to reassure what authors can do to produce and market their book on their own. If they cannot get the works done by themselves, at least they can turn to someone who treats them as an equal business partner and gives free consultation. But then, traditional publishers can benefit from author’s endless creativity so using their core business skills to aggressively pitch books’ sales to achieve the level of success authors might have never expected. Think of the win-win situation how authors can rest their head about figures and numbers and concentrate purely on building stories. On the contrary, if traditional publishers are here to offer “a contract a parasite offers to a host,” they will end up being carefully scrutinized and potentially losing ground on the road of trust they have once strategically built.

Label: Self-Publishing

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