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Harlequin and #1 NYT Bestseller Author Stephanie Laurens strike unusual hybrid...

Back in January it was a fairly open secret that Stephanie Laurens was poised to leave Avon and pursue self publishing with the hope of signing a print only distribution deal. When I dug deeper for confirmation, I was told to wait and see.

Laurens is the author of one of my favorite historical romances, Devil’s Bride, and has been publishing books since 1992. Devil’s Bride launched the Cynster series which has been Laurens’ mainstay for nearly fifteen years. Devil’s Bride, at the time, presented the hero in pursuit which was a large departure from many romances that featured reluctant heroes who had to be dragged to the altar. Reading it now may not see revelatory but at the time, back in the late 90s, it was quite a change.

Many publishing houses are leery of print only deals. Most indie acquisitions have translated into poor print sales and the few print only deals that have been struck have been, for the most part, disappointing. There’s a definite divide between what sells in print and what sells in digital (although the Venn Diagram definitely has its overlapping areas where authors sell buckets in both such as Nora Roberts). But for many indie authors with no history of print sales, publishers are reluctant to buy print only rights.

Last week it was shared with me that Ms. Laurens had struck an innovative deal with Harlequin, a deal brokered between Nancy Yost, Laurens’ agent, and Tara Parsons, Editorial Director of Harlequin Mira.

The deal is as close to a controlled experiment that either the publishing house and the author could ever hope to achieve in this crazy market.  The deal is for seven books in total. One hardcover and six mass markets.  For three of the titles, Ms. Laurens will release the digital format under her own banner with Harlequin releasing the print format simultaneously. For the other four titles, Harlequin will be charged with releasing both the digital and print simultaneously.

Essentially Laurens will digitally publish three titles as Harlequin concurrently publishes the same three titles in print. Both the publishing house and the author can see what the benefits are to both indie publishing and traditional publishing. It behooves Harlequin to outperform Laurens’ self publishing titles if they hope to strike another deal with her again.

It’s not that every author can do this deal. Laurens is a prolific author and is able to write multiple books a year.  At certain echelons, the print component of an author’s revenue stream is significant. For historical authors, often the print component can make up greater than 60 percent of their revenue and sometimes even higher (into the high 70s and 80s).  Both the publisher and the author are taking a chance here, but its a smart one that allows both parties to see what kind of hybrid deals make sense going forward.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and 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


  1. library addict
    Feb 24, 2014 @ 10:48:28

    It will be intersting to see how this goes. Doesn’t Harlequin have a print-only deal with another self-published author? I want to say Bella Andre but it may be someone else.

  2. Shannyn Schroeder
    Feb 24, 2014 @ 11:49:06

    @library addict: Yes, it is Bella Andre. She brokered the deal AFTER she had huge hits with the Sullivan series. She had a whole bunch of books already out in the series before making the deal.

  3. Bella Andre
    Feb 24, 2014 @ 15:55:10

    Great news for Stephanie and Harlequin!

    Yes, I have previously done 3 separate print only deals with Harlequin for a total of 16 books and just this month we have agreed to a 4th English language print only deal for the first 2 books in my Seattle Sullivans series. It’s been fabulous working with them on the print side of my catalog and a real thrill to have my Sullivan’s available in print all over the English reading world! I’m so glad we will be continuing on with my series through 2014 and into 2015.
    ~ Bella

  4. SonomaLass
    Feb 24, 2014 @ 16:58:03

    I hope that Laurens’ books sell really well, and that Harlequin manages to move a lot of print copies. I can’t help thinking about Courtney Milan’s account of how her historical romances with Harlequin didn’t sell well in print, which was part of why she moved to self-publishing.

  5. Keira Soleore
    Feb 24, 2014 @ 17:57:15


    Courtney was a midlist author, but Laurens will be one of their stars as evidenced by the advance they’re giving her. I bet they’ll pull out all stops for her. Like Jane said, they have to outperform her Cynster eBooks with her new series eBooks.

  6. Blythe Gifford
    Feb 25, 2014 @ 07:19:48

    It doesn’t say, but I must assume that she will have Harlequin edit as well. Does that mean they do editing and covers and proofing but get no piece of the digital sales? Interesting. A deal only a top seller could negotiate!

  7. Stephanie Scott
    Feb 27, 2014 @ 11:09:40

    I’m glad to see authors with power using that power to negotiate deals in their favor. Very exciting!

  8. Bookmarked – Book Thingo
    Mar 04, 2014 @ 18:49:57

    […] strong. Four of the books will be part of a quartet ‘set in the same Regency world’. Dear Author has a more comprehensive analysis of what this deal entails (Laurens will retain some ebook rights […]

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