Popping up all over the SF and publishing end of the internet, Kate Wilhelm announced that she’s starting InfinityBox Press with some family members. She’ll be publishing her backlist as well as at least two new novels. When her own work is all up, she’ll start in on that of her husband, Damon Knight, who passed away in 2002.
Unsurprisingly, what led Ms. Wilhelm to this decision was being offered a truly horrible contract by a big publishing house.
In the fall of 2011 I was offered a contract that was so egregious that the publishing house that sent it should have been ashamed, and if I had signed it I would have been shamed. I proposed additional changes to those my agent had already managed to have incorporated and each suggested change was refused. I rejected the contract and withdrew the novel. At that point, I could have tried a different publisher but I knew it would have been a repeat performance, because the major publishers are tightening ranks and the contract I had rejected was more or less the new standard. It wasn’t about the advance, I might add. It was about rights, especially electronic rights, not only those in existence today, but anything that might be developed in the future in any form: who owned them, duration of ownership, how they would be exploited, how and if they would ever revert, and so on. I refused to submit it to anyone else.
Good job to Ms. Wilhelm for walking away. A lot of writers would’ve muttered curses to themselves and signed, which is, of course, what the publishers are counting on. If everyone walked away from horrible contracts, they’d have to change. That’s not going to happen, though, at least not in the foreseeable future. Still, it feels good to see someone escaping. 🙂