Second-Class Contracts? Deal Terms at Random House's Hydra Imprint

This post, by Victoria Strauss, originally appeared on Writer Beware on 2/28/13.

Over the past few years, more and more trade publishers have created digital-only imprints. Another new one just popped up in my newsfeed today: Little, Brown UK’s Blackfriars will be launching its first list this coming June.

Last November, there was some excitement over three brand new digital imprints from Random House: Hydra for SF/fantasy, Alibi for mysteries and thrillers, and Flirt for the is-it-or-isn’t-it category of New Adult. I was interested by the fact that these new lines were pitched in language reminiscent of self-publishing services:

Under this program, authors will have a complete and unique publishing package. Every book will be assigned to an accomplished Random House editor and a dedicated publicist. They will also have the invaluable support of Random House’s experienced marketing and digital sales teams, who know how to reach out to and expand each book’s dedicated readership. Not only will authors benefit from working with the finest cover designers to ensure irresistibly eye-catching books, but they will also be offered the unique advantage of social media tools and training that will allow them to connect directly with their readers. To reach the widest possible readership, every title will be available for purchase at major e-retailers and will be compatible with all reading devices.

I wasn’t alone in this impression–much of the news coverage of the new imprints speculated that Random House was attempting to snag self-publishers, what with the imprints’ focus on short content, their willingness to accept previously-published books, and their literary-agent-optional submission procedure.

Authors who are accepted by Hydra and the others will have access to professional editors and designers, and will benefit from Random House’s publicity team–just as with conventional imprints. If they desire the prestige of being able to say they’re published by Random House, they’ll have that too.

Even so, I can’t help feeling that, with digital-only or digital-mostly imprints, print-based publishers are offering a kind of second-class publication.

Read the rest of the post on Writer Beware.

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