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Sep 17, 2012

Is Harper Voyager's Deal Worth Taking?

I think we'll be seeing a lot more of this:
Harper Voyager has launched an international talent search, with aspiring writers invited to submit their un-agented manuscripts directly to the publisher. The HarperCollins sci-fi and fantasy imprint will be opening a two week window in October where writers can submit their novels, with plans to publish selected titles digitally.
Writers are wondering if this is a good deal. Obviously before the digital revolution and the possibility of cutting out an extra layer of middlemen, this would have been a great opportunity. But is it now?
I have a couple of thoughts:

1. The only possible reason to go with a traditional publisher at this point would be to get your books into a bookstore, hopefully in hardcover. So why on earth would you sell ebook rights only?

2. There's no such thing as "free" editing, cover, proofreading and promotion. You are paying for these services by forking over a huge percentage of your royalties for the rest of the life of the book. This is not a good deal.

If an author wants professional editing, hire a professional. Pretty simple. Keep your rights, and keep a decent percent of the royalties. Do not let yourself be exploited by "traditional" publishers who are behaving no better than vanity presses of yore.

3. The digital revolution is only going in one direction. More people tomorrow are going to have ereaders. Now, eventually, big companies may make it impossible for indies to operate profitably. That tends to happen. But that moment isn't here yet--so why sell your soul to the megacorps before you have to? And furthermore, the big companies of the future are unlikely to be the same ones operating now, so prematurely selling your soul could really go sour for you.

Ask yourself why publishers are becoming more and more desperate to lure in authors. These are the same publishers who are used to beating writers back with umbrellas. What has changed?

Obviously, what has changed is that authors don't need them.

It is now up to publishers to prove that they can add value to what the writer and distributer already bring to the table.

In other words, in my opinion...This is a superbly bad deal for authors.


Lucas Darr said...

"The HarperCollins sci-fi and fantasy imprint will be opening a two week window in October where writers can submit their novels, with plans to publish selected titles digitally."

If this does not include print titles in bookstores this is a non-starter. As you pointed out, in return for editorial and cover design, you don't get your books in a bookstore AND the publisher takes a huge chunk of royalties compared to hiring your own editor and cover artist.

And in both scenarios, you have to do your own marketing.

Bottom line: this is a rip-off.

Tara Maya said...

Yeah, exactly. One has to wonder what prices they will be charging as well, to know if it will even be worth it from the reader's pov.

Jai Joshi said...

I totally agree. The moment I heard the deal I was like: "But why would anyone sell ebook rights when they're not getting anything out of it?"

The whole deal is so messed up and deceptive, pretending like they're helping authors when really they're just being parasites, taking no risk but acquiring ebook rights so they can make money easy.


ClareMDavidson said...

I can see it being a useful way in for writers who still want to pursue the traditional route, rather than self publish. There is still a lot of stigma out there and it's one way to avoid it. I don't see why someone who is currently self publishing successfully would see this as a worthwhile deal.

My only thought is the possibility that if a book is successful, they'll take it on for print eventually too. But that's a massive IF.

I'm trying to look at it as a publishing house trying to be progressive and moving with the times, rather than as being a deceptive rip off.

They aren't publicising the contract terms (which publishing house does?), therefore the only way to find out if this is a good offer or not is to submit, be selected and see the contract!