Translating Random House’s Response to SFWA

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.

Allison Dobson

Corporate Tool.

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