Bit like being told what a sweet, pretty victim you are by your mugger

Came across the following on John Scalzi blog and felt it was worth passing on for writers and would be writers.

A Contract From AlibiMarch 6, 2013 By John Scalzi

So, don’t ask me how, but I have in my hands (from what I consider a reputable source) a contract from Alibi, which is the sibling imprint of Hydra, the Random House imprint that I thumped on roundly in the previous entry. You will recall that I thumped on Hydra because its contractual terms were so heinous to authors (including, but not limited to, offering no advances). Well, it appears that Alibi’s standard boilerplate contract is no less horrible than — or, more accurately, it appears to be exactly as horrible as — Hydra’s contract was reported to be. This suggests to me that the contracts for Flirt and Loveswept, Random House’s other two eBook imprints in this grouping, are likely to have similar boilerplate.Shall we dive in? Oh, let’s!

But before we do, just to have this out there:

THIS IS A HORRIBLE AWFUL TERRIBLE APPALLING DISGUSTING CONTRACT WHICH IS BAD AND NO WRITER SHOULD SIGN IT EVER.

The rest which is well worth reading can be found here

The publishing industry has of course been buffeted in recent years by the winds of change but this kind of thing really does make you wonder at the thinking within traditional publishing. Sure there have been writers that had one huge hit but in the ranks of writing they are the aberrations. Most successful writing careers are based on a succession of books. Terry Pratchett, Stephan King, JK Rowling to name but a few. Sure they have had individually successful books but the bulk of their success is based on the number of titles each had written over the course of decades.

I have heard that a massive percent of traditionally published books failed to turn a profit and every best seller subsidized a dozen flops. So I’m guessing the thinking here is:

  1. If it is a flop the publisher covers their own costs at the writers expense
  2. If a success the writer is tied to the publisher for at least a second book.

Flawed thinking to my mind since writing is a hard way to earn a living especially when you’re not being paid. Offering a contract that a writer will want to get out of a soon as they realize how little they are going to get for their efforts seem evidence of short-term, no-further-than-the-next-quarters-figures thinking. A strange attitude to take when success takes time. It may even kill a few promising writing careers after all, who wants to be played for a fool?

Note: Blog title came from a commenter on the Scalzi page going by the name Mark Terry

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Filed under Traditional Publishing, Writing

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