Monday, 18 August 2014

Cosmic (dog) Egg

It is with great pleasure that I can announce that I've been offered a book contract for my sci-fi novel 2084, previously subtitled The Meschera Bandwidth which gives this blog its web address.

And it is with greater pleasure that I can say that it took me about ten minutes and no legal advice whatsoever to turn it down.

The lucky recipient of my decision was Cosmic Egg, an imprint of John Hunt Publishing.  As for my reasons, let me simply quote the feedback I left on their site (everything is done by logging into a database; even the contract offer email was unsigned and came from a no-reply address which rather gives an insight into their style):

Exploitative terms which do not suggest any desire on your part to develop a long-term mutually beneficial relationship

It wasn't so much that they wanted money to publish it - over £2000 - although I have a personal rule not to pay for publication; backing by a publisher, to me, represents independent verification of the quality of the raw material.  No, it was the fact that they would retain the rights, i.e. own the book, for the duration of copyright which, correct me if I'm wrong, would mean they would have it until 50 - or is it 75 now? - years after I'm dead.

But let's go back to the money question.  What other industry other than the arts makes the producers of the raw material pay for it to be processed?  No, really, think about it.  Name one.  I can't.

Actually, I have some sympathy for publishers and can understand why they'd wish to pass some of the business risk back to the author, particularly of niche products (which a sci-fi novel called 2084 isn't intended to be).  They'd argue that it is the information revolution, which has allowed me to submit to, and decline a contract from, Cosmic Egg with such ease that has flooded the market with product.  How do you get a new book by an unknown author noticed under those circumstances?

But my sympathy stops when a publisher wants me to pay for them to take a story off me for my lifetime plus most of my children's.

But maybe publishing is at a bleeding edge here?  What deal will farmers get when we can synthesise our own food?  What deal will anybody get when we have universal 3D printing with (to use Peter F Hamilton's term) 'raw' that can be turned into anything from aircraft engines to underwear?

The answer is simple: farmers will stop trying to sell foodstuffs at a loss, and the aeroengine and panties makers will adopt the new technology.  Only authors keep writing stories when the world has more books in it that anybody can read in a lifetime.  And under those circumstances is it any surprise they're increasingly being asked to pay to publish?

So, why do we do it?  Well, to paraphrase Louis Armstrong, if you've gotta ask you ain't never gonna know...

No comments:

Post a Comment