Sci-Fi and Fantasy Writers Group Condemns Random House Hydra Digital Imprint

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.

4 thoughts on “Sci-Fi and Fantasy Writers Group Condemns Random House Hydra Digital Imprint

  1. Pingback: We are not Random House! « Hydra Publications

  2. Karen Myers

    While I don’t disagree with SFWA’s assessment, their general reliance on “member candidates must be published by the following list of traditional publishers” which ignores the entire Indie world makes them something of a joke these days.

    Considering best-selling indie authors like Hugh Howey (Wool), were they unworthy before a traditional house picked them up? If not, why aren’t they eligible?

    1. Eric J. Ehlers

      That’s a VERY different issue than the quality of the contracts being offered by Random House’s new imprints.

      Perhaps you feel there’s a different qualification schema that better reflects today’s market than what SFWA currently uses, but it doesn’t change the fact that Hydra and the other imprints are taking calculated advantage of newer authors with extremely unfair terms.

      The quality of Hydra’s contracts has nothing to do with the validity of self-, indie-, or e-publishing. It has everything to do with the fact that these contracts put all the burden of marketing and expenses on the author while giving every imaginable right and control to the publisher. It’s extremely inequitable and immoral for Random House to do this.

      But I reckon this doesn’t change the drum you have to beat, so go ahead and bash on SFWA despite the fact that, in this case, they are supporting ALL authors.

  3. Shannon McRoberts

    I do not like those terms. I guess the group has a right to qualify their authors as they seem fit. I have had companies already trying to prey on my works because when I do my copyright I do unpublished because it is at that time. They then troll the listings and try to contact me to ” help me” get published. All authors need to be aware of the “helpers” out there and how some just want to help themselves to your money. However, I do agree Indie authors need to be allowed into groups like this. Maybe some one will make one since the market is changing so much.

    But I really don’t like the terms if this Hydra contract. This exclusivity crap and we own you mentality that some places have started is scary and just another reason why I choose to just do Indie style everything 🙂



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