Over at John Scalzi's blog, the ever insightful author writes an excoriating take down of Random House's epublishing wing which offers writers a shakedown contract for the ages. Scalzi's impressions are detailed, but essentially boil down to the following direct quote:
THIS IS A HORRIBLE AWFUL TERRIBLE APPALLING DISGUSTING CONTRACT WHICH IS BAD AND NO WRITER SHOULD SIGN IT EVER.
Most egregiously, the contract includes no advance whatsoever, goes on to claim any and all rights in all forms and all languages, and...well, after that there's some more really, really awful stuff, but who would read past that caveat?
This comes on the heels of journalist Nate Thayer publishing an email exchange on his blog with the Global Editor of The Atlantic asking him to repurpose an article of his for their website, for free. The two stories come from different venues, but the trend is one that continues to rise up. Whether it's journalism or fiction, writers keep getting shit on. Each area comes with its own concerns. For freelancers, work is spotty, and being paid in exposure doesn't go very far. For independent authors, seeing their book on the roster of a major publisher might be all they're after. Epublishing is still a budding market, and this contract is shameless exploitation, especially if they luck into the next 50 Shades of Grey.
The end result is the SFWA declaring Hydra and Random House's other epublishing imprints "not a qualifying market" to use as credentials to join.
(You probably know if you've freelanced for the Mercury that Steve pays in assgrabs. It's totally worth it, but nothing to feed a family on.)