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Friday News: Harlequin authors win some and lose some, Toronto Public...

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Updated by Jane to add: This morning it was announced that News Corp. will buy Harlequin for close to a half billion dollars and that Harlequin will become a division of HarperCollins. The “Harlequin as a division of HC” is worrisome to me. When Penguin and Random House merged, each remained its own separate entity. With Harlequin as a division of HC, I think it is safe to say that several things are going to change. Harlequin has always been reader friendly, library friendly publisher. And it has, particularly in recent years, tried hard to push diverse characters into its mainstream lines. Honestly I feel a little dismayed about this.

Appeals Court: Book Publisher Must Face Self-Dealing Lawsuit – So it looks like the authors suing Harlequin are both winning and losing. The 2nd Circuit held that the subsidiary companies Harlequin established in the 1980s and 1990s were valid representatives of “the publisher” per the contractual agreement with authors. However, Judge Parker reversed the holding of the lower court in regard to the self-dealing claim, which relates to the 6 to 8 % Harlequin Enterprises paid to its subsidiaries (and therefore for distribution to the authors in the form of royalties) was far too low relative to the industry standard. Now the case goes back to the lower court for further proceedings.

The ruling could be a confidence boost for others bringing vertical integration claims. For example, The Walking Dead creator Frank Darabont sued last December in a New York court with a claim that AMC has cheated its profit participants by licensing the show to itself and “creating an unconscionably low license fee formula that had no regard for what AMC or any other network would pay in an arms’ length agreement for the right to broadcast such a comparable highly successful series.” –Hollywood Reporter

Nintendo Forgoes An E3 Press Conference Again, Brings ‘Smash Bros.’ To… Ever Wondered How Nancy Grace Comes Up With Her ‘Infamous And Wacky’ H… Someone Asked The Toronto Public Library To Remove ‘Hop On Pop’ Because It Promotes Violence Against Dads – The Toronto Public Library released its top seven books that were the subject of requests for banning within the last year, and the Dr. Seuss classic Hop on Pop made the list for promoting violence against fathers. Sometimes you have to wonder if this kind of thing is a joke, or whether someone really believed that Dr. Seuss was somehow promoting patricide. These kinds of requests illustrate the danger of banning, but they also have to give us pause around any assumptions we might have about universal textual interpretation.

As for the other titles that received complaints, Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Kennedy was accused of containing “falsehoods because it concludes Kennedy was killed by Oswald along”; A Kiss Remembered was deemed “obscene” because it “offends current societal morality”; Complete Hindi “contains inaccuracies and states that Hindi and Urdu are paired languages”; Flesh House is “shocking and disturbing”; the children’s book Lizzy’s Lion is “violent and disturbing”; and in my personal favorite complaint that I wholeheartedly agree with, the DVD copy of Adam Sandler’s That’s My Boy should be removed because it “shows sick and illegal behaviour and depicts it as humorous.” –UPROXX

What is Free Comic Book Day? – Free Comic Book Day occurs the first Saturday in May, and involves comic book shops around the world giving away free copies of volumes as a way of promoting the genre, its creators, and its commercial retailers. Apparently authors appear at some of the stores, depending on location. A full list of participating stores can be found on the website. –Free Comic Book Day

Decipher These Mysterious Margin Notes and Win $1000 – When someone donated a rare 1504 copy of Homer’s Odyssey to the University of Chicago Library, they did so wondering about two pages of margin notes in the text that have yet to be deciphered. So the owner is now offering a financial prize in order to incentivize discovery of the words’ meaning. More details can be found at the University website here.

What do they say? Why are they there? The person who donated the book to the library has offered a prize of $1000 “to the first person who identifies the script, provides evidence to support the conclusion, and executes a translation of selected portions of the mysterious marginalia.” The donor thinks it may be a form of French shorthand, but has no evidence for this. The notes interact strongly with the text, underlining and bracketing the specific parts they comment on. The text is in Greek, by the way, so that may make your deciphering a little more difficult. –Mental Floss

isn't sure if she's an average Romance reader, or even an average reader, but a reader she is, enjoying everything from literary fiction to philosophy to history to poetry. Historical Romance was her first love within the genre, but she's fickle and easily seduced by the promise of a good read. She approaches every book with the same hope: that she will be filled from the inside out with something awesome that she didnʼt know, didnʼt think about, or didnʼt feel until that moment. And she's always looking for the next mind-blowing read, so feel free to share any suggestions!

31 Comments

  1. SAO
    May 02, 2014 @ 06:21:21

    But the book clearly states, “Stop! You must not hop on Pop!”

    My kids loved the sly humor of that section the most of the whole book.

  2. mari
    May 02, 2014 @ 07:24:45

    The banning thing goes to show everything is offensive to someone. I support the right of parents to censor/ban materials that are against their values at school and at home…but libraries are for the general public. There is a difference.

  3. Jennifer Estep
    May 02, 2014 @ 07:57:45

    Free Comic Book Day is awesome. It’s a great day to visit your local comic book store because lots of the stores host authors/artists/others, hold costume contests, and more, along with handing out free comic books.

  4. library addict
    May 02, 2014 @ 08:09:00

    Honestly I feel a little dismayed about this.

    Me too. I sure hope this doesn’t mean HC will try to add DRM to Carina titles.* Or shutdown any of the lines. I don’t read them all, but I like the ones I do still read in.

    *Not sure why, but that was my first thought.

  5. library addict
    May 02, 2014 @ 08:22:13

    Oops, meant to add I also hope this won’t affect sales to libraries. Harlequin is the one publisher my library will usually buy in digital because the cost is low and as far as I know they don’t have a limit on the number of times the book can be borrowed.

  6. Elise Logan
    May 02, 2014 @ 08:41:18

    As I told someone else this morning, the acquisition of HQN by HC (and thereby NewsCorp) makes my submission decisions easier. Too bad. I liked working with HQN.

  7. Lostshadows
    May 02, 2014 @ 09:36:51

    Tip for anyone who’s never been to free comic book day, go early.

    I once couldn’t get to my local store until late and they’d run out of the free comics. :(

  8. Walt Stone (@Cuppacafe)
    May 02, 2014 @ 09:58:08

    Has anyone run the potential numbers on the Harlequin lawsuit? I’m curious if it’s merely coincidence that the notice of sale came directly after the small reversal Harlequin saw in court or not. I would imagine if the potential numbers are more than, say, 18 millionUS, that would have been factored in the sale. Less than 5 millionUS and I would imagine the prime reason would remain the recent Harlequin profit/loss statements.

  9. Anna Richland
    May 02, 2014 @ 09:59:28

    Yes, I was immediately concerned about digital and Harlequin/Carina and public libraries. I’ve been thrilled to see my Carina title in the digital lending at so many public libraries – and all lines are well-represented in ebooks at libraries – Carina seems to be one of the few e-only publishers that lots of libraries buy from Overdrive, and libraries completely load up on the category in ebook, which is a great way of drawing younger people to category. I really don’t want to see the contracts or pricing changed so that avenue diminishes.

    Nothing I can do though.

  10. MaryK
    May 02, 2014 @ 10:02:35

    Yikes!

  11. Liviania
    May 02, 2014 @ 10:11:55

    Another FCBD tip: the comic stores pay for the giveaway comics.

    So if you want them to keep participating, it helps to buy something. Some ongoings I’d recommend are Lumberjanes, Saga, and Ms. Marvel.

  12. Melissa
    May 02, 2014 @ 10:56:34

    Count me in the group dismayed by the selling of HQ to Newscorp via Harper Collins. I am assuming that Mills & Boon is a part of this deal too? I am moving to the UK this summer and was looking forward to reading M&B titles. The ones I read in the past (the last time I lived in the UK) were some of the best romances I read and cherish period. I am always recommending my top three titles.

    Thanks for the heads up about Free Comic Book Day. Saturday morning plans are now set – off to the comic book store my family goes.

  13. Laura Vivanco
    May 02, 2014 @ 12:02:51

    @Melissa: Mills & Boon was taken over by Harlequin in 1971. The Mills & Boon name is still used in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and India but all/almost all of the Mills & Boon romances are published as Harlequins in the US and Canada.

    Which were your top three titles?

  14. Jane
    May 02, 2014 @ 12:05:07

    @Walt Stone (@Cuppacafe): I doubt very much that the lawsuit had anything to do with the sale of Harlequin.

  15. MrsJoseph
    May 02, 2014 @ 12:51:01

    The sale of HQN to NewsCorp is very sad. I really hope they don’t stop library use.

  16. LG
    May 02, 2014 @ 13:05:19

    @library addict: ” I sure hope this doesn’t mean HC will try to add DRM to Carina titles.”

    That’s one of my worries too. I’ve been debating whether I need to sit down and see how much of my Carina wishlist I can afford, because Carina will be off my list if DRM is added to their books.

  17. Darlynne
    May 02, 2014 @ 14:54:40

    @Liviania: Thanks for the reminder. My (only) local comic store has the trade edition of the first six volumes of Saga. Can’t wait to read it.

  18. Walt Stone (@Cuppacafe)
    May 02, 2014 @ 15:13:34

    @Jane:
    I’m not a lawyer, but… If the Harlequin lawsuit is won in full by the authors, whoever owns Harlequin would be on the hook for costs amounting to perhaps 5% of the purchase price reportedly paid for Harlequin. That potential liability HAD to be factored into the sales price. If it didn’t, then Torstar has pulled one over on Murdoch and friends.

  19. Jane
    May 02, 2014 @ 17:03:15

    @Walt Stone (@Cuppacafe): I’m not sure what you’re saying. Initially you indicated that you thought the suit might have something to do with the sale and now you are saying that it has affected the sale price.

    While I’m concerned about the affects of the buyout will have on readers, I’m pretty confident that the teams who negotiated the price of the sale would be fully aware of the assets/liabilities involved in the sale. That would be part of any due diligence in an acquisition of any type, including this magnitude.

    A sale of this type doesn’t happen overnight because of the aforementioned due diligence. The Harlequin lawsuit over author royalties is unlikely to come to any resolution within a three or four year time frame and could be dismissed on summary judgment grounds before then (and then appealed and then remanded and so forth).

  20. Heidi Belleau
    May 02, 2014 @ 17:35:40

    That Hop on Pop thing stinks of MRA fuckery. STINKS.

  21. peggy h
    May 02, 2014 @ 17:53:51

    I’ve never quite understood why we still can’t use coupons on Kobo for books that had been under the Agency model…and would this mean we won’t be able to use them for Harlequin books anymore?

  22. Milly
    May 02, 2014 @ 20:25:54

    http://www.thestar.com/business/2014/05/02/torstar_sells_harlequin_to_news_corp.html. How much do you wanna bet that the Competition Bureau of Canada will rubber stamp this? Yet another Canadian company being sold off to foreign ownership.

  23. Wahoo Suze
    May 02, 2014 @ 23:08:16

    Some of those margin notes look a little like Gregg shorthand. I had to giggle, because my shorthand is way out of practice, so my notes kind of look like that: a hybrid of words and squiggles, and if too much time goes by before I transcribe them, they’re completely undecipherable.

  24. Tori
    May 03, 2014 @ 10:27:55

    I’m going to wait to see what HC does before crying the sky is falling but I have a feeling we won’t be happy with what happens.

    The Hop and Pop hater needs a life. I remember reading it to the kid and she would just giggle the whole time.

  25. Walt Stone (@Cuppacafe)
    May 03, 2014 @ 14:56:34

    @Jane:

    We won’t know if the sale had to do with the lawsuit until a length of time has passed, and perhaps not even then. My initial thoughts on that was pure speculation based on past experiences outside the realm of romance fiction.

    Due diligence has to come into play on the lawsuit affecting the price of the sale. Either Torstar accepts part or all of the liability of that lawsuit, which would have affected the price of Harlequin one way or the liability remains with Harlequin as part of the sale. I’ve seen both instances occur outside the realm of publishing.

    Dismissal of the lawsuit on summary grounds is possible and carries with it the benefit to whomever has accepted the liability. Likewise, the lawsuit could come down fully in favor of those behind the class action. The result of the lawsuit has a value, either positive or negative. Assuming the liability here means assuming the risk/reward. The sale of the company in the middle of the lawsuit, however long it takes to settle, has to reflect that value — again, either positive or negative — unless the liability has been split off from the sale of the company.

    The risk (of winning or losing the lawsuit) has to be assigned and changing the assumed risk (of winning or losing) changes the value. If Torstar thought they would win hands down, they would assume liability of the lawsuit in order to speed the sale at the highest price.

    But, let’s say the negotiations have been going on between buyer and seller for three months. The liability of the lawsuit must have been a part of the full disclosure, but the risk of the lawsuit even going to trial was (publicly at least) still in doubt. NewsCorp/HarperCollins must have come into the negotiations believing this. So, due diligence happens, a deal memo is signed and then Harlequin, what, opens the books to the evidence pertaining to the lawsuit so that NewsCorp/HarperCollins’ lawyers can then assess their own risk? Okay, that happens. The internal deal memo with hard dollars is now privately carved into granite, and the announcement day happens.
    And on that announcement of sale day, the risk of the lawsuit coming to trial changes.
    The risk of winning/losing that lawsuit changes, and thus the value placed on that changes.
    The value of the deal then changes by a theoretical but non trivial amount.

    If, however, the upcoming reversal of the lower court ruling were somehow known to the parties before the public release of the info, then the sale price might already reflect that change in risk.

    Furthermore, if only Harlequin heavily suspected this reversal (of the lower court ruling) was coming (and perhaps forgot to tell NewsCorp/HarperCollins because they lacked “proof”) then Harlequin would have been financially motivated to speed the sale. A separate lawsuit might then be in order.

    So, it’s possible that Torstar has financially benefited by settling on a price before news of the reversal of the lower court’s ruling was known to the public.

  26. Ros
    May 03, 2014 @ 15:39:36

    @Walt Stone (@Cuppacafe): Walt, you do know that Jane actually IS a lawyer, right?

  27. Ridley
    May 03, 2014 @ 15:44:08

    @Walt Stone (@Cuppacafe): *mansplains the law to a lawyer*

    Aw, bless.

  28. Walt Stone (@Cuppacafe)
    May 03, 2014 @ 17:50:11

    @Ros:

    I am very aware. I have been “taken to school” by lawyers before.
    I find it’s a good way of learning the fine parts of the discussion.

    One of the things I learned in a previous life (I wasn’t a lawyer then, either) was that not all “full disclosure” discussions that goes along with “due diligence” prior to the sale of a company with potential liability are indeed “full disclosure”.

  29. MaryK
    May 13, 2014 @ 23:10:30

    I found some Kobo coupons on the mobile read forum and tried to use them on HQN books without success. I can’t tell if the problem is the coupon code or the books because all the books I want to buy seem to be from non-coupon publishers. I’m going to be so upset and irritated if coupons aren’t good on HQN any more.

  30. Angela James
    May 18, 2014 @ 08:28:38

    @MaryK: Those are one-time use coupons that are posted there, for the most part, so you have to be quick in order to use them. Coupons are still good on Harlequin/Carina Press books!

  31. MaryK
    May 18, 2014 @ 13:05:04

    @Angela James: Thanks! I meant to come back and say I did find some codes that worked on HQN books. Which is great because I keep discovering authors whose backlists I need to get.

    PS – I got my math wrong and had to redo it. Knew it was a matter of time.

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