This weekend's Friday Market Alerts (because sometimes Friday doesn't arrive until Saturday) is all about somewhat unorthodox submission opportunities. Two of them come highly recommended and the last one you shouldn't touch with a ten foot pole. (Seriously. Don't.) The first two are reported here for obvious reasons; the last, because the more people know what's unacceptable in a contract the better off the industry is as a whole.
1. Now auditioning: Paranormal YA writers
Liz Pelletier, publisher and senior editor at Entangled Publishing, has a great idea for a paranormal YA series -- and she wants you to write it. She's auditioning authors for the position right now. If you can write something to catch her eye this weekend or if you've already got the perfect excerpt (20 page maximum in, one presumes, standard manuscript format) ready to go, send it to her by Monday, March 11 at Noon EST.
(Note: All the deadlines are given in EST, but since Daylight Savings Time is Sunday March 10, EDT may actually be what's intended.)
What's Pelletier looking for? An author with a "fun, snarky voice who can write paranormal upper YA similar to Buffy during the Spike years plus the Scooby Gang," and do it in a month, following her already-developed characters, worlds and story idea. She's estimating a 60,000-word draft, 90,000 words after edits.
This sounds like work-for-hire, but Pelletier only specifies that world and character rights will remain with the publisher. Who will retain copyright to the novel itself is not specified. Says Pelletier, "Some Publishers treat write for hire as their own, pay the author a flat fee, and keep all the royalties. I don't think that's fair, so we'll offer a contract like normal but keep rights to the world." Other details will be discussed with the author later.
Full audition schedule and call for submissions here. Good luck!
2. Open call for submissions for kickstarter-funded anthology
Long Hidden will be an anthology of speculative literature "revealing the voices of silenced dreamers" to be edited by Daniel José Older and Rose Fox, and published by Crossed Genres Publications. Here's the mission statement:
Most written chronicles of history, and most speculative stories, put rulers, conquerors, and invaders front and center. People with less power, money, or status—enslaved people, indigenous people, people of color, queer people, laborers, women, people with disabilities, the very young and very old, and religious minorities, among others—are relegated to the margins. Today, mainstream history continues to perpetuate one-sided versions of the past while mistelling or erasing the stories of the rest of the world.
There is a long and honorable legacy of literary resistance to erasure. This anthology partakes of that legacy. It will feature stories from the margins of speculative history, each taking place between 1400 and the early 1900s and putting a speculative twist—an element of science fiction, fantasy, horror, or the unclassifiably strange—on real past events.
The anthology will be funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign. The funding campaign continues through the month of March with a delightful list of stretch goals to shoot for. The submissions window will open after the funding campaign ends. Pay will be 5 cents per word.
3. Random House imprints Hydra and Alibi offer worst contracts ever. Do not submit, do not sign, do not allow your friends to submit or sign.
The buzz lighting up the writing blogosphere is that Random House -- you know, the Big 6 publisher with the respected big name, home of imprints such as Del Rey and Spectra -- has launched some electric-only imprints which, as it turns out, have the worst, most appallingly exploitative contracts ever. Seriously, it's like a vanity press in there. Contracts for Random House imprints Hydra and Alibi have been found to exhibit the following problems:
- They offer no advance (which is why SFWA has delisted them as qualifying markets
- They take exclusive rights to everything you can think of: all formats, all languages, all territories, all subsidiaries.
- FOR THE LIFE OF COPYRIGHT.
- They purport to pay 50/50 on net proceeds, but only after subtracting any expenses they dang well want to.
- Next thing you write, they get to do it all again, and you can't say no.
So not only do you see no money up front, you may see nothing on the back end either, because effectively you foot the bill for all the things that a publisher is supposed to cover the cost of: cover design, copyediting, layout, all expenses to do with a print edition should they make one, payments to the narrator should they make an audio book, you name it. While authors of good faith can disagree as to whether a no-advance deal is acceptable, most would agree that there has to be something in it for you if you're going to give a publisher first crack at the profits and all control over the property. If they're not covering the expenses of publishing the book, what precisely is in it for you? Getting to say you're published by Random House, presumably -- but bragging rights don't pay the rent and grocery bill.
Any claims that "they're just asking the author to run some of the risk with them" should be stopped cold by the reminder that the author has already written the book. On spec. With no guarantee of payment ever. The time and effort sunk in writing a book means the author has already carried a great deal of risk. It also means the author has a finished product ready made, ready to sell. The author should reasonably expect to be paid for that product by the publisher looking to profit from it, no?
Put in terms of widgets (always a fraught metaphor for book publishing, but bear with me), they are asking you to give them your product inventory, promising that their shiny storefront will bring in more customers than you alone could find, and that you'll share the profits with them. Except you have to pay for that shiny storefront's rent and utilities, and you have to buy the shelving, and you have to spring for the nice coat of paint and pretty storefront sign. Which you don't even own. But hey, you get to say you're associated with Big Name Retailer, isn't that keen?
Here's a quick round-up of related chatter. Peruse and see for yourself what the big deal is.
- Writer Beware: Second-Class Contracts?
- SFWA: Random House Imprint Hydra Not a Qualifying Market
- John Scalzi's Whatever: Random House's Hydra Imprint Has Appallingly Bad Contract Terms
- John Scalzi's Whatever: A Contract From Alibi
- Publishers Weekly: Random House Responds
- SFWA: Response to Hydra Letter
That should get you started. Check back tomorrow for more discussion about what publishers should be expected to do, what authors should do when publishers test new authors' gullibility, what SFWA does to protect authors both established and new, and what some people think a SFWA president shouldn't be doing.