Random Hydra Rides Again: Or, Why Better Isn’t Always Good Enough

Oh noes!And so the saga continues. There is a new contract. It’s better than the old one. It is not, however, even yet, a good contract.

Scrivener’s Error, the publishing blog for true wonks, is not terribly impressed.

What it looks like from here is a few cosmetic changes, a little spackle over the cracks, and still a lot of problems with the foundation.

But here’s the thing. What it is now is a pretty standard major-publisher ebook contract. The profit-sharing version is a sucker’s game–gambling that your book will be the one that beats all the odds and becomes a big bestseller. The advance and royalty version puts you back into traditional publishing territory but shorts you in the long run if your book takes off (gambling again).

What it really comes down to is whether and how much you believe it is worth going with a major publisher as the market now stands. There are strong (and strongly defended) arguments either way. A lot depends on your book, whether it’s something that could use the broader reach and deeper pockets of a major corporation, and the same applies to your sales potential. If you’re brand new and nobody has heard of you, the majors are where the money is. If you’ve been around for a while and have an established fan base that you can rely on to find, buy, and promote your books, maybe not so much.

Choices. Nobody can make them for you. Absolute Write and Scalzi and SFWA and Scrivener’s Error and all their fellow writers’ advocates can advise, and triangulate, and establish and explain the options. Then it’s up to you to decide.

Would I sign the Random Hydra contract? Frankly, no. I’d go to one of their traditional imprints and try to get a print contract. Terms will be even crappier, but print is still where the big money is. I have not to this point seen any major publisher do outstanding work with an ebook–and I’d prefer not to be treated like a poor relation. I’d bring my ebook out from a venue with a demonstrated respect for and understanding of the medium.

That’s my take on it. Your mileage may vary.

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