Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Friday Midday Links: MWA Breaks Up With Harlequin

Explicit sex is hard to write well and even if you do write it well, it means you are just packaging up pornography for women. Also, bla bla bla, romance books are killing romance bla bla bla. All according to this   article by Alan Elsner.   I don’t plan to comment over there because Alan Elsner doesn’t like explicit sex in books and no comment, no matter how articulate will move him from his convictions.

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The Stalker’s Notebook wrote about genre labels and how restrictive they can be, particularly in the store. On the internet, however, with “tags”, readers can use as many labels as they like to help group books together. The more meta the data, the more helpful to the reader, and the better able authors are able to sell their books to the right audience.

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According to the Bookseller, a UK publication, many industry insiders say that ebooks will harm brick and mortar retail bookselling and while people are reading digitally, only a small percentage are actually buying them.

The results showed that though 44% of respondents had read a book digitally, only 19% had bought one. The majority of respondents said that e-books should be priced at the same cost as a paperback book (30.1%), or cheaper (53.6%).

“The high price of e-books is the main obstacle to their takeup,” said one respondent. “Readers can’t understand why the online versions of bricks and mortar shops sell ebooks at higher than paperback prices.”

The entire article is worth a read.

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Digital Manga Publishing announced that it hard partnered with Harlequin to bring Harlequin’s romance manga available online.   What I found interesting wasn’t the deal but the rent to own business model of DMP.   Apparently you can “rent” a book for approximately 72 hours and if you rerent it, you are also granted ownership.   I find this pricing model very interesting.    Another reader, Blue Tyson, pointed me to this article about subscription pricing for music.   Apparently an entry fee and small per song charge yields higher revenue than individual uniform pricing.

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Lori James of All Romance EBooks shared some of her insights as a retailer of romance digital books.   DRM clearly inhibits sales as only 3% of sales at her site are for DRM’ed ebooks.   It’s another article that I thought was really fascinating although I do wonder whether anyone though Microsoft was a player in ebooks.   Hasn’t it always been Adobe?

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MWA has delisted Harlequin as a recognized publisher.   The two were in talks since the announcement of Harlequin Horizons now Dell Arte Press but could not come to a resolution.   Lee Goldberg has an explanation of MWA’s position and Harlequin’s lengthy response. In Harlequin’s response, it notes that ITW and NINC have taken a different approach than the one taken by MWA.    Goldberg excerpts from the MWA rules this passage:

…nor may the publisher, or any of the executives or editors under its employ, have offered authors self-publishing services, literary representation, paid editorial services, or paid promotional services.

If the publisher is affiliated with an entity that provides self-publishing, for-pay editorial services, or for-pay promotional services, the entities must be wholly separate and isolated from the publishing entity. They must not share employees, manuscripts, or authors or interact in any way. For example, the publishing entity must not refer authors to any of the for-pay entities nor give preferential treatment to manuscripts submitted that were edited, published, or promoted by the for-pay entity.

I’m still curious how HarperCollins/Authonomy/CreateSpace fits into this because while Authomony is free, HarperCollins solicits for CreateSpace through it.   Authonomy’s blog post today is how participants can get published with HarperCollins.    RWA is having a special board meeting in January.   Will it follow MWA’s lead and end up with a very, very abbreviated RITA ceremony or will it adopt the hands off approach of ITW and NINC?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

21 Comments

  1. jmc
    Dec 04, 2009 @ 14:30:37

    I just read Hqn’s letter at the end of Lee Goldberg’s post. Hqn’s continued use of “self-publishing” to describe DellArte bothers me, because what I understand self-publishing to be is not what DellArte’s business plan is (as far as I can tell). Is Hqn trying to blur (futher) the lines between vanity publishing and self-publishing?

  2. Jane
    Dec 04, 2009 @ 14:51:01

    My guess (with no real insight) is that HQE has adopted the language of Author Solution. ASI uses “self publishing” all over its site. Further, since vanity publishing has a negative connotation, I’m sure that HQE wants to use the more palatable term so I don’t know whether it’s so much an intentional blurring as trying to use terms it sees as more favorable. Does that make sense?

  3. jmc
    Dec 04, 2009 @ 15:13:35

    Yep, makes sense. The cynic in me assumed it was intentional blurring of the terms *because* of the negative connotation to vanity publishing.

  4. Jane
    Dec 04, 2009 @ 15:15:21

    @jmc Yours is as good an explanation as any.

  5. Kalen Hughes
    Dec 04, 2009 @ 15:25:51

    After reading HQ's response to MWA I sincerely hope that RWA takes the same stand and I will be writing the board to say so. HQ's continued misuse of “self-publishing” to describe and legitimize their vanity arm disgusts me.

  6. Anion
    Dec 04, 2009 @ 17:44:26

    @jmc:

    Is Hqn trying to blur (futher) the lines between vanity publishing and self-publishing?

    Yes. That’s one of their main deceptive selling points, is the idea that this isn’t vanity publishing.

  7. anon
    Dec 04, 2009 @ 19:35:24

    I read Alan Elsner’s post. I don’t agree with everything. But I can’t say he’s totally off base. I’m guilty of some of the things he mentioned in my books, and it bothers the hell out of me. It bothered me that I’ve been doing these things before I read the piece. So I copied his post and I’m going to study each point he made.

  8. Liz
    Dec 04, 2009 @ 19:38:30

    Forgive me, but I still don’t see the similarities between HarperCollins/Authonomy/Createspace and Harlequin/Dellarte. Createspace and Authonomy aren’t HarperCollins imprints, nor do they charge for participation. Dellarte, even with the name change, is still a Harlequin vanity imprint, per Harlequin.

    I was also annoyed by Harlequin’s response. All writers’ organizations should let Harlequin break the rules/amend their rules because one already has? Because someone unassociated with Author Solutions/Dellarte was a self-publishing success and blogged about it? I wish Harlequin would step up to the plate and offer a logical defense instead of relying solely on “but so-and-so is doing it.” If Harlequin worked half as hard at trying to find innovative and author-friendly publishing models as it does to find loopholes to let this one slide by, they wouldn’t be in the position they’re in now.

    And I’m with jmc re: blurring the lines/creating confusion surrounding self-publishing and vanity publishing. I would be more receptive to their defensive tactics if they based their arguments solely on the venture at hand, and not on gross generalizations of everything not published through traditional means.

  9. brooksse
    Dec 04, 2009 @ 20:26:39

    The results showed that though 44% of respondents had read a book digitally, only 19% had bought one.

    When I first read this I thought, wow, that’s a large percentage reading digitally without ever having paid for an ebook. Made me wonder if some might jump to the conclusion that never having paid for an ebook = stealing. But the article mentions it was a “survey of more than 1,000 book trade professionals.” That made me wonder if those free ebooks they’ve read might have been job-related. If that’s the case, the respondents may not be typical of the average ebook reader.

    Lori James of All Romance EBooks shared some of her insights as a retailer of romance digital books. DRM clearly inhibits sales as only 3% of sales at her site are for DRM'ed ebooks.

    I didn’t realize allromance.com even sold DRM’ed ebooks.

  10. AQ
    Dec 04, 2009 @ 22:42:41

    Authonomy's blog post today is how participants can get published with HarperCollins.

    Actually it’s a contest announcement. Admittedly not a very good contest but the terms and conditions are laid out and the investment for the writer of a maximum of 3,000 words. Pretty small really although I have no idea as to the criteria used by the writers orgs to certify them for their membership or how it might affect publisher eligibility.

    I'm still curious how HarperCollins/Authonomy/CreateSpace fits into this because while Authomony is free, HarperCollins solicits for CreateSpace through it.

    I’m still curious as to how Authonomy and DellArte come together within your argument. I get flashes of what it might be but I simply can’t pull it together.

    For me, what you identify as solicitation, I see as clearly marked advertisement governed by a voluntary website membership agreement. So I’m left wondering what I am missing? What distinction are you making that I’m not understanding?

  11. SAO
    Dec 05, 2009 @ 03:01:04

    How many regular books are lent, passed-on and sold? I’m a big library user, book lender and borrower, and I donate to and buy books from used book sales. I read hundreds of books a year, but I buy around 30 new books a year.

    Further, it would be interesting to know how many of those 25% who have read, but non bought an e-book have read a free e-book, or borrowed a friend’s kindle as opposed to reading a pirated book.

    At present, no one is tracking the extent to which one printed book is read by multiple readers. To treat the reading of an e-book by a non-purchaser as a copyright violation is to reserve for authors and publishers more rights than they have for printed book.

    Further, to remove DRM from most media is relatively simple, if you are willing to go to dodgy websites and download the right software. As a result, DRM hassles honest users without doing a whole lot to prevent piracy.

    The industry has to figure out how to prevent wholesale theft of copyright without making life difficult for honest readers.

  12. Scarletti
    Dec 05, 2009 @ 08:01:59

    I have never bought an e-book, but I have read the ones that are listed free on various blogs. I have downloaded from my library’s site and kept them for the three weeks and then they become inaccessible.

    I buy probably 300 books a year, no more than five or six a year from a retail store, at least my kids. My daughter, age 10, probably gets about ten books month retail.

    I feel better having read the numbers because maybe that means that paper books will be around for a while longer. I need the paper. I can’t afford the e-book costs with the volume I read nor do I want to be responsible for keeping up with yet another electronic device. As it is now I feel like I spend half my time asking people if they know where their phones/iTouches/digital cameras/laptops are; and when they are all at home I wonder is someone breaking in and taking them, although I have never had a break in in my life.

  13. Lori James
    Dec 05, 2009 @ 10:12:11

    @brooksse:

    I didn't realize allromance.com even sold DRM'ed ebooks.

    About 2/3 of the books on the AllRomance.com site have DRM applied. We currently have in excess of 30,000 digital romance titles – more than Amazon.

    On OmniLit.com, our sister site that sells all kinds of digital books, about 95% of the content is DRM protected.

  14. Seressia Glass
    Dec 05, 2009 @ 10:35:53

    The 2010 Rita Awards will still have Harlequin books as finalists if the judges reading them rank them high enough to be finalists. IOW, if a HQ book finals, it will still be eligible for winning an award in 2010 because the publisher eligibility window for RWA closed before HQ’s Horizons/Dell Arte announcement. ‘Twas all explained in the member’s Hot Sheet.

    Now the 2010 contest for the 2011 award season will depend on the decisions made in January.

  15. Jackie Barbosa
    Dec 05, 2009 @ 11:07:14

    As I read MWA’s (very clear, IMO) guidelines, the difference between Harlequin/Dellarte and HarperCollins/Authonomy/CreateSpace is that Harlequin editors will be referring authors in rejections letters directly to DellArte (and possibly to other options, but that’s not relevant). HarperCollins editors NEVER do this…they don’t even refer rejected authors to Authonomy. Authors may join Authonomy in hopes of getting the attention of HarperCollins’ editorial staff, but there is no pay-to-play relationship. The fact that writers who join the Authonomy community receive emails directly from CreateSpace suggesting the use of their services does not involve HarperCollins’ editors in soliciting business for CreateSpace and therefore, the firewall between the traditional imprints and the self/vanity arm is maintained. It’s when editors at the traditional imprints have direct involvement in the vanity/self publishing arm that the publisher runs afoul of MWA’s rules.

    Harlequin/Dellarte has explicitly created a direct relationship both by referral and by claiming the traditional imprint’s editors will “mine” Dellarte for bestsellers. By contrast, HarperCollins makes no claims (that I know of) about monitoring CreateSpace’s authors; it DOES monitor Authonomy, apparently, but that is a free community and there is no suggestion that I’m aware of that publishing through CreateSpace would improve an Authonomy author’s chance of being picked up by HarperCollins’ traditional imprints.

    FWIW, I’d like to see RWA adopt the clarity of language that MWA has with regard to WHEN a publishing house’s relationship with a vanity publishing arm crosses the line. RWA’s rules are a bit more “squishy,” IMO, and subject to a bit too much interpretation.

  16. Jane
    Dec 05, 2009 @ 13:05:38

    @Jackie Barbosa I see the differences. I know that there were complaints about the presence of Dell Arte press on the Harlequin site (and the Harlequin writing forums) and I saw (and still do) see a lot of similarities between the programs. I don’t see how RWA can allow Harlequin back in since it appears Harlequin is determined to a) keep the referral letter and b) keep track of sales of the Dell Arte Press books.

  17. Suze
    Dec 05, 2009 @ 15:17:29

    That made me wonder if those free ebooks they've read might have been job-related.

    I made me also wonder how many of those free ebooks are public domain ones. I have a friend who’s an English prof. Since I showed him my Sony, he’s been sending me links to free ebook sites, all of which are legal, classic books whose copyrights have long since expired. English profs like those kinds of books.

    Me, I buy my ebooks, on account of they’re mostly new-release romances and scifi/fantasy.

  18. Melisse Aires
    Dec 05, 2009 @ 16:40:34

    There are free ebooks all over the internet. Not pirated, legal. E publishers and ebook stores have them, Project Gutenberg Press has classics, Baen has a free scifi library. I think Hqn just did a big ebook giveaway.

    I think the free books are great way to heck out different readers etc.

  19. brooksse
    Dec 06, 2009 @ 14:42:57

    @Lori James:

    Thanks! Whether it’s right or wrong, I tend to think DRM=NY-pubbed and non-DRM=e-published. The times I’ve visited your site, it seemed the books on your main page were all e-published, so I didn’t realize you sold ebooks by NY publishers. It’s nice to know there’s another place that offers NY-pubbed ebooks, especially if they’re in my Sony reader’s favorite format (epub). Even if they do have the dreaded DRM.

    @Suze:

    Actually, that was my first thought as well upon reading the quote here at DA: That the free ebooks could be public domain, or legitimate freebies, or ebooks borrowed from the library. But I wondered if others might think never buying = pirated. It was only after reading the full article at Booksellers website, which mentioned the survey respondents were book trade professionals, that I wondered if could be job-related. I wished they had provided a breakdown of the types of free ebooks the respondents were reading.

    I do take advantage of the legal freebies offered by places like eHarlequin, Mills & Boon (everyonesreading.com), and Amazon (now that they have the Kindle for PC). But the vast majority of ebooks I own are ones I’ve bought, for the same reason as you mention, because they’re new releases. Or because they’re part of some new-to-me author’s backlist.

  20. Jana Oliver
    Dec 06, 2009 @ 16:13:44

    For someone who has spent the last eight years carefully explaining the differences between self-pub and vanity/subsidy publication (and actively discouraging the latter) HQN’s recent move makes me seriously unhappy. Self-pub authors take enough heat as publishing’s illegitimate step-children without this nonsense. Where I have had issues with some of the writing organizations over the years, I must admit they’ve stepped up the plate on this. Unfortunately it muddies the waters for those who choose to engage in genuine self-publishing, and not in a good way.

  21. mina kelly
    Dec 07, 2009 @ 04:30:59

    Though I don’t think the Bookseller article is directly accusing eBook readers of piracy, it’s worth remembering that even legitimately free eBooks can hurt brick and mortar stores. After all, why would you pay £7.99 for the Penguin Classics’ Pride and Prejudice when you can get it from Project Gutenberg for free? Out-of-Copyright works still sell for high prices, and though I’d argue that most of the big ‘Classics’ ranges try and offer added value – footnotes, articles, forewards by leading academics etc – I don’t think they’ll manage to survive at the same price as in-copyright books for much longer.

    (I say this, petting an incredibly battered copy of P&P that I filled with pen, pencil and highlighter for my exams almost a decade ago. I can’t see teachers allowing eReaders into exam halls for a while yet, especially with the shift towards net access.)

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