In a note to its members today, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America group offered a fairly strong condemnation of one of the new digital imprints at Random House, Hydra. The note stipulates that being published by Hydra cannot be used as credentials for membership to the SFWA.
Dear SFWA Member:
SFWA has determined that works published by Random House’s electronic imprint Hydra can not be use as credentials for SFWA membership, and that Hydra is not an approved market. Hydra fails to pay authors an advance against royalties, as SFWA requires, and has contract terms that are onerous and unconscionable.
Hydra contracts also require authors to pay – through deductions from royalties due the authors – for the normal costs of doing business that should be borne by the publisher.
Hydra contracts are also for the life-of-copyright and include both primary and subsidiary rights. Such provisions are unacceptable.
At this time, Random House’s other imprints continue to be qualified markets.
According to the SFWA website, there are several classes of membership. Active and associate members are, ostensibly, science fiction and fantasy writers (the other classes of members are for people who are associated with the industry, like lawyers, agents, or manage an estate of a writer). To qualify as a member, a writer must have at least three published short stories or one published novel or one full-length, professionally produced screenplay. The SFWA maintains a list of publishers and magazines that are approved venues for publishing a work and then qualifying for membership.
Hydra was launched in Nov. 2012 by Random House in what was thought to be an attempt to attract more authors who would otherwise have self-published.
According to one author, the specific terms of Hydra deals “feel” more like agreements with self-publishing services providers.