I was going to name this blog "Digital Rape of Publishing". Then I realized it would make me seem like an insensitive jerk.
I recently read a blog by author John Scalzi on the news that Random House has a new electronic subsidiary called Hydra. He wrote that this new company is offering contract terms that are not beneficial to new writers. It is important to note that these writers are probably not represented by agents.
Here is his blog post to which I am referencing. http://whatever.scalzi.com/2013/03/06/note-to-sff-writers-random-houses-hydra-imprint-has-appallingly-bad-contract-terms/
As he aptly stated, this model is borrowed from the music industry and these so called costs are often inflated, and in some cases, fabricated.
Unfortunately, I think this kind of thing is going to continue. As an example, Amazon has it's own film studio, but what some people may not know is that they have both a WGA and a non-WGA signatories. This often exploits new screenwriters that have yet to receive their WGA card, for the deal they receive is not in their best interest.
If a reputable publisher wants a writer, and offers a writer those kind of terms, why would said writer consider it?
It's because the allure of being published. It's like the hot girl that will date you but never puts out. You still do it because it raises your social status. I think it is the same here.
Publishing is a business and like a business, it wants to make money. It will try to obtain the best work force for the least amount of money. And they prey on the young and/or experienced because, frankly, these people lack the knowledge to resist and/or they will sell their soul to get published any way possible.
Specifically, the writing industry, as many writers well know, in any media is insanely difficult to enter. Art is no longer supported for art's sake, it has to be a viable, income producing commodity.
There are trends. A novel, no matter how brilliant it might be, will not get published if a publisher/editor deems it "unsellable". A badly written novel, if it fits a popular trend, will get published, and incredibly, some are huge sellers.
Which takes me so self-publishing, the equivalent to the "Don't take no for an answer filmmaker." There are some great books that circumvent the traditional publishing path. And many bad ones. It is not very different from what publishing companies crank out, except SP has a bigger scale.
So if a new writer wants to publish his book with a traditional publisher, he needs an agent. To get an agent, the agent wants to see some published work of said writer. So the writer self - publishes this novel, If it does poorly, which it most likely will because of sheer volume of similar novels, he is now in worse position as before. If it does fairly well, he might get the agent. The next project he does may be passed on to a publisher. Now he has a shot to get published. Maybe.
Now, some people might say publishers are threatened by self - publishing and they are giving lousy deals to obtain and/or maintain control to which they were accustomed.
I agree with this sentiment somewhat, but only because of the phenomenal growth of the digital age.
Besides their ability to market and promote your work, what else can they offer for your e-book?
There are no book - binding and printing fees. No shipping costs. No inventory control costs. Minimal labor costs. Even the e-book cover could be made by the writer, and if not, there are freelance pros who give a decent price.
Digital is cheaper. The contracts that Hydra offer that Scalzi calls "A horrendously bad deal and if you are ever
offered something like it, you should run away as fast as your legs or
other conveyances will carry you." is bullshit If you're a writer, you are selling your soul if you sign any deal like this.
You noticed I mentioned the "selling the soul" thing twice. That's because no matter what anyone says, there will be writers, whom without a doubt, will take this kind of deal. It's doesn't matter even if a prominent writer like John Scalzi, who is also the president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), tells them otherwise.
It is because most writers are an insecure lot. We want acceptance. We want viability. But most of all, we want people to listen. Most won't listen when we speak, but maybe, just maybe, that one moment where a group of words grabs them, we might get their attention.
That alone, is so important to some that they will take the risk.