What follows is my translation of the letter Random House sent SFWA regarding the Hydra contracts.
Dear John, Victoria, Jaym and SFWA Members,
We read with interest your posts today about the new Random House digital imprints and our business model. While we respect your position, you’ll not be surprised to learn that we strongly disagree with it, and wish you had contacted us before you published your posts.
We really wish you hadn’t told the truth, because now we have to write a bunch of letters like this. We “disagree” because that’s something you can do now with facts. Thank you, cable news!
We would appreciate you giving us an opportunity to share why we believe Hydra is an excellent publishing opportunity for the science fiction community by posting ours below to them.
We still have snake oil to sell, so we’re going to try to spin this controversy in our favor, would you please comply? Thanks.
Hydra offers a different– but potentially lucrative–publishing model for authors: a profit share. In the more traditional advance– plus-royalty model, the publisher takes all the financial risk up front, and recoups the advance before the author earns any cash royalties. With a profit-share model, there is no advance. Instead, the author and publisher share equally in the profits from each and every sale. In effect, we partner with the author for each book.
We hired someone from the record industry, and we were astonished to learn that you could fuck over writers in ways we never even imagined. So we immediately set about setting up an imprint where we could dick over writers like record companies have been screwing over musicans for years. Why should be have to bear the burden of risk publishing new authors, I mean, we’ve been doing it forever, isn’t that long enough? We swear writers will make money this way.
As with every business partnership, there are specific costs associated with bringing a book successfully to market, and we state them very straightforwardly and transparently in our author agreements. These costs could be much higher–and certainly be more stressful and labor-intensive to undertake–for an author with a self-publishing model. Profits are generated once those costs are subtracted from the sales revenue. Hydra and the author split those profits equally from the very first sale.
We thought a lot of self-publishing suckers would fall for this. You weren’t supposed to even notice.
When we acquire a title in the Hydra program, it is an all-encompassing collaboration. Our authors provide the storytelling, and we at Hydra support their creativity with best-in-class
“Best-in-class” by the way is a magic word marketing people use that is utterly meaningless, I mean, it basically just serves to dull your senses and eat a small portion of your soul. Get ready, here comes more bullshit.
services throughout the publishing process: from dedicated editorial, cover design, copy editing and production, to publicity, digital marketing and social media tools, trade sales, academic and library sales, piracy protection,
By piracy protection, we mean we check that box on Amazon’s uploader that says “put DRM on this file.”
negotiating and selling of subsidiary rights,
Which you’ll be lucky to see a cent of because you sold us those rights, haha, sucker.
as well as access to Random House coop and merchandising programs.
We will be more than happy to sell you a t-shirt with your book’s cover on it.
Together, we deliver the best science fiction, fantasy and horror books to the widest possible readership, thus giving authors maximum earning potential.
Look, what’s the problem here? We provide all the services we provide to our usual publishing clients, we just charge the author for them against their possibly negligible earnings, in complete defiance of the traditional publishing models. But everyone else is screwing over artists and journalists and writers, so why can’t we, huh? We’re sure you’ll have “maximum earning potential” through this scheme. Even though your royalty rate would just be 70% if you’d just upload it to Kindle yourself and we apparently offer you a 50/50 split at best.
As a last point to the SFWA leadership, my colleagues and I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you at your earliest convenience to discuss the advantages of the Hydra business model, describe the program overall, and respond to any of your expressed concerns. Please let me know a good time for us to set up this meeting.
We think these brain slugs disguised as baseball caps with the Hydra logo on it will really change your mind. Just come to our offices and we’ll fit you with one.
Many thanks and all the best,
Go fuck yourselves.