Thursday, November 19, 2009

Harlequin - bad idea or good idea?

Ed here: The Harlequin folks have announced that they're going into big time into self-publishing. While a glance at various websites seem to be dominated by people against the move some writers apparently think it's a good--or at least inevitable--idea.

Here are three letters from Smart Bitches:

PK said on...
11.17.09 at 05:40 AM
Wow! This is big news. I mean with the proliferation of self-publishing and in some cases, leading to a regular publishing contract, Harlequin is making a bold and probably savvy step.

A friend of mine self-published a series of books that were very successful. That success brought her to the attention of Sourcebooks who is now her publisher. It seems that Harlequin means to jump on the bandwagon early on or at least engage in a low risk/high reward business model. If the self-published authors already have a platform (my friend did) and write well (my friend really writes beautifully) but perhaps might get lost in the traditional publishing channels, then Harlequin skips the part where they come in late after the author/book has proven that they can drive sales and build an audience.

I think it’s genius.

Would I want to do it myself? No, not yet, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s a brilliant idea and an equally bold and strategic move.

Manna Francis said on...
11.17.09 at 06:02 AM
Jesus Christ on a pink pogostick. $360 for a one-page press release? $600 to buy a review somewhere (which might not even get published!)? $479.00 plus $29 *a month* to create and host an author website? Oh, but a mere $90 to get into Google Booksearch and Amazon Search Inside (and another $90 for Barnes and Noble!). I guess that’s supported by the $8,399.00 it costs for the six week publicity package.

Crikey. If I had that kind of money to throw around, I wouldn’t need to sell any books.

Manna Francis said on...
11.17.09 at 06:16 AM
$342.00 for a 1700 word sample edit. $204 for US copyright registration. Dude.

Nice money if you can get it. Actually picking up any new authors is just going to be gravy on top.


Dave Zeltserman said...

Ed, I think what Harlequin is doing is amazing (in a very bad way). IF you look at their Halequin Horizons webpages (which is their self-publishing branch), they're trying to make it sound as if these self-published books will be under the Harlequin umbrella. What they're in effect doing is saying that it's worth it to them to diminish their published Harlequin books and their brand in order to try to take advantage of desperate writers. Meaning, they have such little respect for the books they're publishing that they don't see it as a big deal to diminish their reputation or that they see more money catering to desperate writers than in selling their romances. Again, amazing. Maybe this is all related to an ebook world that they're forecasting where publishers don't play a legitimate role other.

Lee Goldberg said...

Today, the Mystery Writers of America notified their members of the actions they are taking in response to Harlequin's manuscript critique business and their self-publishing venture:

Recently, Harlequin Enterprises launched two new business ventures aimed at aspiring writers, the Harlequin Horizons self-publishing program and the eHarlequin Manuscript Critique service (aka "Learn to Write"), both of which are widely promoted on its website and embedded in the manuscript submission guidelines for all of its imprints.
Mystery Writers of America (MWA) is deeply concerned about the troubling conflict-of-interest issues created by these ventures, particularly the potentially misleading way they are marketed to aspiring writers on the Harlequin website.

It is common for disreputable publishers to try to profit from aspiring writers by steering them to their own for-pay editorial, marketing, and publishing services. The implication is that by paying for those services, the writer is more likely to sell his manuscript to the publisher. Harlequin recommends the "eHarlequin Manuscript Critique Service" in the text of its manuscript submission guidelines for all of its imprints and include a link to "Harlequin Horizons," its new self-publishing arm, without any indication that these are advertisements.

That, coupled with the fact that these businesses share the Harlequin name, may mislead writers into believing they can enhance their chances of being published by Harlequin by paying for these services. Offering these services violates long-standing MWA rules for inclusion on our Approved Publishers List.

On November 9, Mystery Writers of America sent a letter to Harlequin about the "eHarlequin Manuscript Critique Service," notifying Harlequin that it is in violation of our rules and suggesting steps that Harlequin could take to remain on our Approved Publishers list. The steps outlined at that time included removing mention of this for-pay service entirely from its manuscript submission guidelines, clearly identifying any mention of this program as paid advertisement, and, adding prominent disclaimers that this venture was totally unaffiliated with the editorial side of Harlequin, and that paying for this service is not a factor in the consideration of manuscripts. Since that letter went out, Harlequin has launched "Harlequin Horizons," a self-publishing program.

MWA's November 9 letter asks that Harlequin respond to our concerns and recommendations by December 15. We look forward to receiving their response and working with them to protect the interests of aspiring writers. If MWA and Harlequin are unable to reach an agreement, MWA will take appropriate action which may include removing Harlequin from the list of MWA approved publishers, declining future membership applications from authors published by Harlequin and declaring that books published by Harlequin will not be eligible for the Edgar Awards.

We are taking this action because we believe it is vitally important to alert our members of unethical and predatory publishing practices that take advantage of their desire to be published. We respect Harlequin and its authors and hope the company will take the appropriate corrective measures.

Kenneth Mark Hoover said...

"Money flows TO the writer."

I know, it's a shocking concept for some people. But when you PAY to have your book published, it's a vanity press, pure and simple.

SFWA has also called Harlequin out for this despicable practice.

Anonymous said...

I suspect that vanity presses will soon be the most profitable and dominant part of book publishing. I fear that this will eventually diminish book sales across the board. The vanity books are attractively packaged now, and many buyers of fiction cannot separate a vanity novel from any other book. By their very nature, vanity novels will disappoint or bore or confuse readers who, having been repeatedly burned by dull books, will turn to other media bit by bit, driving down sales of traditional publishers.

Rob Walker said...

I belive Harlequin is back-peddling like hell right now on this whole matter since MWA, SFWA, HWA, and everyone in publishing has pointed out the error of their ways - and turly, I think they had no idea what the left hand was doing. Vanity Presses have existed from the outset and even Twain self published, that is paid to have work printed. I just hope that not all POD publishing and more recently legitimate digital publishing, as well as small and smaller presses and publishers don't continue to be lumped in with vanity publishing as has been the case in the past far too often. A tiny upstart press like Krill is legit, a publisher like Echelon is legit, Five Star legit and many more.

Let's not see a backlash that calls anyting that is not traditional publishing SHADY.

Deni Dietz said...

Ed says that the Harlequin folks have announced they're going into self-publishing.

Yes, they have, and that's one of the problems. Hqn is NOT going into self-publishing. People who self-pub keep all profits [after paying to print their books and the various expenses that go along with promotion and distribution].

Hqn and ASI are keeping 50% of any profits. The writer supposedly gets 50% NET; do non-pubs understand what net is?

Harlequin's Ho (Horizons) is VANITY publishing and ASI (once the infamous AuthorsHouse - Google them!!!) is a vanity press.

I won't go into the branding, which has been covered thoroughly by others.

That said, I have no problem with a fool and her money being parted (Nigeria, anyone?) Writers who are rejected by Hqn and, at the same time, sent to Hqn's vanity press, are being scammed, big-time, and I feel sorry for them. And while this house of cards might collapse, eventually, Hqn and ASI will make tons of money before it does.