Mythical Hydra Beast: Pros and Cons

Statue of Heracles and Lernaean Hydra in Hofburg Palace in Vienna

Statue of Heracles and Lernaean Hydra in Hofburg Palace in Vienna

Random House is taking flak this week over the terms of its contracts for authors that do business with its Hydra digital imprint.
The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association fired the first salvo in a letter to members saying that publishing with Hydra did not qualify one for membership because of its onerous contract terms — Hydra does not offer advances and the profits from the books are shared with costs of production, editing, etc. coming off the top, meaning that a book that doesn’t sell well nets the author nothing. (Random House responded with a letter of its own defending the imprint and inviting the SFWA into a dialogue about it.)
The question is, is there something inherently wrong with a publishing model that is essentially a partnership?
“I think we’ll see a lot more of the ‘no advance/profit sharing’ model. This makes everyone have a vested interest in the success of the book,” writes DBW expert blogger Bob Mayer, adding that it’s the model his own publishing company, Cool Gus, uses.
The way Mayer sees it, perhaps Hydra has its flaws but it’s also publishers doing the sensible thing in going after a growing market in supplying author’s with services that they want. Perhaps a more pressing problem for the author community is spending more time thinking about marketing and publishing than about writing and craft, writes Mayer.
Read more.

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The rest of the day’s top news:

Lulu Partners With ASI (Pub Lunch)
Self-publishing service Lulu has formed a partnership with Author Solutions wherein the former sells the premium services of the latter.
Nook Enhances Video Offerings (DBW)
Nook has added video content from MGM, Paramount and other major studios to its Nook Video platform. Problem is, paidContent points out, who is going to watch it? And, will this help Nook solve its tablet problem? Probably not.

Digital Drives Wiley Growth (DBW)
Wiley announced its third-quarter earnings yesterday and growth was modest. Growth in the company’s various digital areas was more than modest, however.
AAP Voices Opposition to Amazon (DBW)
Amazon wants to own the “.book” domain. The AAP doesn’t think it’s such a good idea.
Booksellers Screwing Publishers? (The Bookseller)
Conservative UK politician Iain Dale has some harsh words for booksellers when it comes to dealing with small publishers. According to him, booksellers like W H Smith, Waterstones and Amazon make it incredibly hard for small publishers to make money.
Anti-Piracy Enforcement Increases Sales, Study Says (WSJ)
A new study has found that the shutdown of major file-sharing websites last year has helped increase revenue for content providers, specifically movie studios.
Digital Sacred Texts (DBW)
EMC will help the Vatican digitize tens of thousands of its texts. Related: Diversion Books Brings Pope Ebook to Market at Ungodly Speed.
Ebook Sharing Start-up in the UK (Pub Perspectives)
Boosh will allow readers to share ebooks through Facebook.
Netflix for Ebooks for Kids (TechCrunch)
Something that’s never been done before (except by Amazon and about half-a-dozen start-ups): A subscription ebook service for kids. This one is called Sproutkin and it has raised “under $1 million from investors,” which gives one confidence that it can compete against Amazon. (It’s not even like bringing a knife to a gun fight – it’s like bringing a wet noodle.) Related: The Challenging Economics of Ebook Subscription Services.

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