It seems Random House has not only been listening to all the, ahem, feedback (which has reached howling-scream levels in some places), but it has decided to take action. Good action, so far. Big changes in the terrible, horrible, awful, no-good, very bad contract, and much better terms for authors.
Absolute Write (which if you aren’t following, and you are a writer, go and follow them right now) has more.
The moral of the story is: Never trust a smiling publisher. But don’t always assume the publisher is a faceless enemy, either. People who work for publishers are, more often than not, people who love books, and want to see more good books in the world. Lawyers and bean-counters and greedy corporate sharks will do their best to chew authors into little pieces and make money off those pieces. That’s how capitalism works. It is possible and indeed essential to navigate between the sharks and the good book people, and get the best deal you can. Be wary, and educate yourself, and always read the fine print–and assume that everything is negotiable until proved otherwise. Then get out there and negotiate.
We’ll see what the new contracts look like when they’re actually released. So far, from the signs, they should be reasonably not-awful.