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Writers Beware: Random House’s e-book contract

When a major publisher like Random House seeks manuscripts for three new genre e-book lines it sounds like “good news”. I certainly thought so when I heard about the call for manuscripts last year. Unfortunately, the “small print” in the contracts has been anything but…

The Writer Beware blog from Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (the objective of which is to “… [shine] a bright light into the dark corners of the shadow-world of literary scams, schemes, and pitfalls”) published a detailed critique of the conditions – Second-Class Contracts? Deal Terms at Random House’s Hydra Imprint – at the end of last month.

John Scalzi (president of the SFFWA) also weighed in with an article – Note to SF/F Writers: Random House’s Hydra Imprint Has Appallingly Bad Contract Terms – that details just what he saw wrong with it.

I first came across this furore through SF and fantasy writer Judith Tarr’s excellent article – Random Hydra and the Terrible, Horrible, Awful, No-Good, Very Bad Contract – at the Book View Café blog. Her whole article on e-publishing is well worth a read.

In the meantime, it is good to see Random House has responded to the wave of criticism and have proposed changes to the contract terms. Writer Beware carried an update – Random House Announces New Terms at Digital Imprints Hydra, Alibi, Loveswept, and Flirt – detailing these.

Anyone considering an e-book (or conventional) contract will be well-advised to review these articles (and the rest of the “Writer Beware” site) to gain an awareness of things to look out for. We all want to be published but don’t want to be scalped (or be pushed back towards “vanity publishing”).

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