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Orbit takes stand on Hugo free copies

Orbit publisher Tim Holman has defended a decision not to include full novels by Ann Leckie, Mira Grant and Charles Stross in voter packs for the Hugo Awards.

The awards recognise excellence in the science fiction and fantasy community, and put together a voter packet each year, which provides members of the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS), who vote on the awards, electronic copies of shortlisted books.

Little, Brown Book Group-owned Orbit has decided to include “long extracts” of three of its four nominated books – Leckie’s Ancillary Justice, Grant’s Parasite and Stross’ Neptune’s Brood - instead of full novels this year.

Publisher Tim Holman said he understood some voters may be “disappointed” and in a post on Orbit’s website said he wanted to “offer a word of explanation”.

“We are of course very much in favour of initiatives that help readers to engage with important awards, and we are always looking for new ways to help readers discover new authors,” he wrote. “However, in the case of the voter packets, authors and rights holders are increasingly feeling that if their work is not included in the packet it will be at a disadvantage in the awards. It’s difficult for anyone to know for certain whether this is the case, but either way we don’t feel that authors and rights holders should feel under pressure to make their work available for free.

“There are a lot of different attitudes to the idea of giving work away for free, but we hope most people would agree that writers and rights holders should be able to make their own choice, without feeling that their decision might have negative consequences.”

Holman said the decision was Orbit’s, not one requested by any of the authors, and that the publisher believed it was “acting in the best interests of our authors while continuing the support the voter packet”.

The three authors issued a statement saying they felt the disappointment of voters “keenly” and were “discussing the matter with other interested parties, and working towards finding a solution that will satisfy the needs of the WSFS voters and our publishers in future years”. 

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It's a poor decision. Compare Tor's decision to include the entire Wheel of Time sequence in the Hugo packets.

“There are a lot of different attitudes to the idea of giving work away for free, but we hope most people would agree that writers and rights holders should be able to make their own choice, without feeling that their decision might have negative consequences," is an interesting statement. The rights holder in this case is making a choice on behalf of the writers that the writers don't appear to agree with. If the writers are not free to make their own choice, then invoking them is pure spin, surely?

Secondly, Orbit say they want to offer 'a word of explanation', but then don't actually explain. There's vague waffle, certainly: "It is a complex issue, with many different perspectives and opinions, and we believe that we are acting in the best interests of our authors." But we don't know *why* they believe that, what consequences they fear, what their own perspective is, anything.

It's a poor decision. Compare Tor's decision to include the entire Wheel of Time sequence in the Hugo packets.

“There are a lot of different attitudes to the idea of giving work away for free, but we hope most people would agree that writers and rights holders should be able to make their own choice, without feeling that their decision might have negative consequences," is an interesting statement. The rights holder in this case is making a choice on behalf of the writers that the writers don't appear to agree with. If the writers are not free to make their own choice, then invoking them is pure spin, surely?

Secondly, Orbit say they want to offer 'a word of explanation', but then don't actually explain. There's vague waffle, certainly: "It is a complex issue, with many different perspectives and opinions, and we believe that we are acting in the best interests of our authors." But we don't know *why* they believe that, what consequences they fear, what their own perspective is, anything.