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Harlequin Horizons: Shortsighted or Farseeing?

I couldn’t resist the wordplay for the title.   In any event, it appears that authors really are unhappy with the announcement of Harlequin Horizons. I’ve heard that some published authors are asking for the RWA board to examine whether Harlequin should be a recognized publisher.

Essentially it appears that Harlequin is lending its name to a self publishing venture that will be sourced by AuthorSolutions Inc.   My guess is that Harlequin will use this to monitor sales and move authors who are selling well from Horizons to one of its print/digital lines.    HarperCollins UK does this with Authonomy but it isn’t a profit making venture, yet.

As I see it authors have three basic complaints:

  • dilution of house brand
  • possibility of unsuspecting authors spending money on the chance of getting the notice of Harlequin.
  • the choice of POD partnership.

Dilution of House Brand

This one is the most understandable to me.   Harlequin Horizon books are labeled with the Harlequin brand (although we don’t know what the badging will look like).   If a number of works in circulation carry the Harlequin brand and the quality declines, one assumes that the Harlequin name brand also declines.

Authors also refer to this as a loss of prestige (which is not the same as brand dilution in my opinion).   Essentially saying that you are published through Harlequin can become ubiquitous, thus reducing the personal cachet to an author.

Unsuspecting Authors

I have a much harder time with this argument.   People who have written books and then want to pay to have their books published are somehow chum for the sharks of vanity press.   I’ve seen people use the words “prey” and “predator” in reference to the vanity press.   Essentially a person pays a vanity press for everything that a publisher should do for you if your work is accepted.   Is business model making victims of people who want to be published but cannot get accepted by traditional or digital publishers?

Another way of asking it would be is Harlequin required to be paternalistic to non published authors? Or is there something just so offensive about the business model of vanity presses?

POD Partnership

Random House has a self publishing interest in   Xlibris.   It owns 49% of the company.   I haven’t heard that Random House is preying on innocent writers. Amazon owns CreateSpace, a vanity press.   On the digital front, Smashwords is a self publishing company in which Smashwords keeps 20% of an author’s sales.   Smashwords is partnered with Barnes and Noble.

I only point out these other relationships so that I can get to the core of what is the complaint about the Harlequin Horizons endeavor.   I understand the brand dilution thing. I’m not so sure I follow on how HH makes victims of authors.

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. Caligi
    Nov 17, 2009 @ 14:21:25

    The important difference between Harlequin and the other companies you mention is the branding. These self-published works are branded as Harlequin.

    Not only that, but they are being predatory in whipping up unreasonable expectations in a way independent self-publishers don’t.

    When Harlequin’s CEO says, “Partnering with Author Solutions… is an innovative and original approach to discovering new authors to add to our traditional publishing programs.” or they claim that “Harlequin will monitor sales of books published through the self-publisher for possible pickup by its traditional imprints.” they’re preying on the hopes and dreams of unpublished authors.

    99.99% of those books won’t get picked up by Harlequin, so I find those statements rather unsavory.

    There is a lot to be said for buyer beware, and prospective authors need to think and research for themselves, but this is a fairly shady way for Harlequin to make extra money. It’s just a step away from dishonest.

  2. Kathryn Edgar
    Nov 17, 2009 @ 14:31:59

    Another reason for the outrage that was not mentioned in the post is the fear of what this will turn the publishing world into in a broader horizon. Much like the popularity of Ebooks scared a lot of readers into thinking the local library would turn into stacks of computers rather than bookshelves, does this turn mean that publishing as an unknown or first time author will become a thing of the past unless you can afford to do so?

    Another concern no one has hit yet is does this mean more rejections of even viable published works because they now stand to make more on rejecting you than publishing you? Does this mean you can write the next “better than” Meyers or Rowling only to find yourself in every slush and rejected pile out there because they want you to PAY for your chance? While at the same time your paying for your chance at fame and fortune, Barnes and Noble and bookstores across the country are LAUGHING over the phone when you ask them to stock your “chance”, readers are seeing your promotions and rolling eyes at yet, another, “self published” promotion – and you have sold 25 copies to your friends and family. It doesn’t matter what your potential once was now.

  3. Wendy
    Nov 17, 2009 @ 14:47:14

    I think it’s short-sighted. Let’s not beat around the bush here. Harlequin, even with the recent good press, is still a punch line for a lot of people. Getting in bed with this self-publishing endeavor is not going to help matters on that score, at all.

    I feel very strongly about self-publishing. There have been examples of success. M.J. Rose and the street lit genre being the two shining examples. The difference is that both Rose and street lit turned to self-publishing because NY felt they couldn’t market the books. Even in the bio on her web site Rose indicates she had received positive feedback from editors who ultimately said “Sorry, we don’t know how to market this genre-blurring book.” The fact is though for every success story, there’s a mountain range of dreck. Take it from the librarian who routinely dodges “published” writers pushing their manifestos my way. My absolute favorite was the woman who wrote a novel set on the U.S.-Mexico border and (no, I’m not kidding) there was a racial slur on the back cover description.

    Self-publishing and small presses work (I think) when they’re filling a niche market that isn’t being met by traditional NY. Which is why after street lit took off via self-publishing, NY got a clue and started signing many of those writers. Heck, same thing happened with many of the erotic romance writers who started out with e-pubs. But with the Harlequin brand name, who is going to choose the Horizons route? People writing romance. And frankly, if it’s any good (at all) why self-publish? Hell, it makes a ton more sense to look at many of the smaller, reputable, ebook publishers. But if NY is turning you down, and the e-pubs are turning you down? Um, yeah.

  4. An Author
    Nov 17, 2009 @ 14:56:46

    The basic rule new writers are taught is: “Money flows TO the writer.”

    You don’t pay to be published. It’s in violation of the basic tenent.

    Now, imagine the new rejection letters.

    “Dear Annie Author,

    We’re sorry but your ms doesn’t meet our needs for (insert line name) at this time. However, please consider placing your ms with Harlequin Horizons. We offer a 10% discount on publication with this rejection letter.”

    There is a place for self-publishing. Particularly for non-fiction. But imagine trying to find good quality reads in what basically amounts to slush? Have you ever read slush? Sign up to judge an unpublished contest to get a taste of it. The gems, and there are some, are fabulous finds. But you have to wade through a lot of meh, and some downright dreck to find the gems.

    Now imagine PAYING to read the meh and the dreck. Now imagine coming to the meh and dreck expecting to find a HARLEQUIN there.

    Harlequin takes a lot of flack over quality as it is without adding this to the name brand.

    No, I do not see this as a good thing. Except for HQ’s pockets.

  5. Christine Rimmer
    Nov 17, 2009 @ 15:15:43

    It would all be acceptable–not exactly savory, but acceptable–if they hadn’t put their own damn name on it. It’s a devaluation, period, of the Harlequin name. And a way to get money of author HS rejects.

  6. Harlequin Starts Self-Publishing Partnership with Author Solutions | Self-Publishing Review
    Nov 17, 2009 @ 15:28:09

    […] legitimizing self-publishing as an avenue, this deal does pose significant problems.  In a post on Dear Author commenters chimed in with criticism about the deal: When Harlequin's CEO says, “Partnering with […]

  7. Mike Cane
    Nov 17, 2009 @ 15:51:25

    >>>Random House has a self publishing interest in Xlibris. It owns 49% of the company. I haven't heard that Random House is preying on innocent writers. Amazon owns CreateSpace, a vanity press.

    See, most people don’t know those things. And since I avoid print, I keep needing to be reminded of that too. I wouldn’t need a reminder if those were called, say, “Random House Horizons” and “Amazon Horizons.”

    They’re putting the Harlequin brand on theirs. Not a wise move.

  8. German Reader
    Nov 17, 2009 @ 16:46:22

    I really don’t get why anybody publishes with a vanity press unless they have lots of money to spare.

    Don’t most people know at least one person that is qualified and willing to do editing/proofreading just for the fun of it or a small contribution? I know my retired German teacher would be delighted should I ever feel the need to write.(The same with coverart)
    And then they could publish with (horrible name) – that doesn’t cost anything except the new author orders a bunch of books for his/her personal book tour.

  9. Dara England
    Nov 17, 2009 @ 18:16:30

    Another problem no one has brought up yet is this: will Harlequin now be inclined to pass on publishable manuscripts simply because it’s become more profitable to recommend Horizons? After all, Horizons will bring them good money at zero risk and could give them a chance to test a first time author’s sales before offering them a real contract.

    In my mind there’s no doubt this new venture is a smart move–for Harlequin. They wouldn’t be making it if they hadn’t crunched the numbers. What I’m less convinced of is that it’s good for authors.

    It’s been said before but this feels a little too much like those agents who send out rejections that just happen to include ads for their editing services. It seems like there could be conflicting interests here.

  10. Larisa
    Nov 17, 2009 @ 18:21:43

    This is unbelievable. What self-respecting author would want to publish with Harlequin after this? Sounds to me like they’re trying to drag the romance industry down into the gutter via the fast lane and if others follow suit, things keep going in the direction they’re going, no romance author will be making any money in the near future. Readers will be too put off to part with the price of a book. And who could blame them. I have to side with whomever is trying to get RWA recognition taken away from Harlequin. This is just too much.

  11. RRRJessica
    Nov 17, 2009 @ 19:51:22

    The “dilution of brand” question seems different to me when I think about an author answering it or a reader answering it. As a reader, I doubt it will be harder to tell the difference between a Horizons and a Blaze than between a Presents and Blaze. I have definite opinions about which lines suit my tastes, formed by trying books from different lines. The Harlequin “brand” doesn’t get me to blindly pick up and read every book that says “Harlequin”. Why would one bad line get me to stop reading Harlequin? Why should this be any different?

    Obviously, I agree with Wendy’s expectation that these books will be weak. But customers will figure this out sooner rather than later, either through trial and error, or through word of mouth, as with any Harlequin line or author.

  12. Jim Duncan
    Nov 17, 2009 @ 20:33:35

    I think what Harlequin does with this will really effect how it plays out. It’s already got a link at their ebook site. They’ll really have to be careful with their regular slush pile and completely avoid any suggestion of taking it to Horizons. In my opinion that would seriously backfire on them. Will they attempt to funnel readers who are downloading the regular lines to Horizons? Or will they stay hands off and leave things entirely up to the author regarding generating interest? If they’re going to attach their name to it then one would expect them to have some sort of interest in making it work. For me though, the biggest eyesore is the money.

    A basic fee of 600? Which amounts to little more than converting the file to useable ebook formats and slapping a generic cover on it? Seriously? I can do that myself for a lot less. If I’m going to pay that kind of money, I’d better be able to take advantage of the Harlequin name, but will that be available in any legitimate way? My guess is no. Is the ability to slap a Harlequin logo on my book going to be worthwhile? Not if everything is left entirely up to me. My money could be better spent. If the only real advantage is that Harlequin will be keeping an eye on the books for possible success, I’d be better off just writing and submitting. At least that way I’m working on becoming a better writer and not wasting time and money trying to generate positive press for myself. I’d be just as well off throwing it up with the various other low cost or free solutions like smashwords, scribd, kindle, and so on and just seeing if I get lucky. Unless I see something else from Harlequin on this, that $600 is a serious over-charge.

  13. Kathryn Edgar
    Nov 17, 2009 @ 21:17:54

    LOL 600.00 is overcharge – wait until you dig deeper.
    Laura Kinsale posted over on SmartBitchesTrashyBooks discussion that they will also offer a 19,999.00 movie trailer service with distribution on Youtube, and provided the link………………………
    This reeks of greed and will hurt not only Harlequin’s name but the way anyone who enjoys books will begin to see them – not only will it push those rejected to spend their money on a chance – but it gives readers no confidence in what the label is they pick up.

  14. Amy
    Nov 17, 2009 @ 21:24:57

    Shortsighted. This will bite them in the butt.

  15. SonomaLass
    Nov 17, 2009 @ 21:53:02

    The menu of services offered is interesting. This is my favorite (thanks, Laura Kinsale, for pointing it out) — a book trailer for your book, only $19,999!

  16. XandraG
    Nov 17, 2009 @ 21:57:21

    Conflict. Of. Interest.

    Harlequin authors have busted their butts to write, polish, submit, lather, rinse, repeat, often taking years and several manuscripts to circle the target with a particular editor or line, and then going further to build up audiences of readers within those lines by consistently delivering on their storytelling. At the very absolute least, you know with a harlequin line that you’ll be getting a certain type of read, and it’s simply a matter of execution by individual author.

    Or, you know, instead of honing your craft and improving your writing and creating salable elements and concentrating on making your voice unique within some very challenging word counts and guidelines, you could pony up a grand for the over-inflated privilege of someone printing out whatever your brain vomits out and slapping cardstock on either end of it.

    I wonder how many of the recently-dropped midlisters/unfinished series authors will be receiving hyperventilating offers to keep their dreams alive via a sizable donation to the Horizons line.

  17. Jackie
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 03:12:25

    Harlequin is a business. I guess in these times of recession they are looking forward to increasing their remuneration. But the author of Horizon will not see much further than what most receive in e book publication. And really who wants to pay that much to have a novel printed. These writers will never see their return and the one’s that submit must be totally blind regarding the publishing world. They should realise it is vanity publishing. Who wants to buy a romance that has not had the proper evaluation that a romance novel of Harlequin deserves. Who wants to buy a novel with typo’s, grammar mistakes, puntuation mistakes. I certainly don’t want to waste my money on such, but will on a good Harlequin novel. :)

    I worry about the already pubbed authors with Harlequin who have done so much to get to where they are only to have a lesser grade of novel take their place. But surely, readers will know the difference, will know these novels won’t be the true Harlequin lines they have been reading.


  18. Mikaela
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 04:15:27

    I think putting their brand on, was a mistake by Harlequin. I wouldn’t dream on paying for getting published. I can see the point of paying an freelance editor, with credentials, for editing my manuscript. But, that would be a choice I made, paying for something that I can do for free, on my own? Um. No thank you.

  19. ardeatine
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 05:05:11

    And frankly, if it's any good (at all) why self-publish? Hell, it makes a ton more sense to look at many of the smaller, reputable, ebook publishers. Um, yeah.

    Can’t speak for print, but a self published ebook romance author may make more money going it alone, if they know what they’re doing.

    Maybe it’s time to stop assuming that all self publishers are failures on their last resort.

  20. Edie
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 05:37:54

    Mostly I am not fussed as a reader.. I don’t read that much harlequin so it is not going to impact on me.
    But there are two things that have me curious, and they are kinda on completely different thought train lines..

    1) Is I am not liking where my thoughts are heading with the fact that Carina doesn’t get the Harlequin brand, but the horizons does??
    Are they just wanting to cash in on those “I have read enough of these, I am now going to write one”?? Or what? That part does make me a little uncomfortable.

    2) While I am not a vanity fan, (I would think you would be better off going the established e-pub routes..) I do love the authors getting all het up in these sorts of discussions, defending the all mighty NY publishers and their practices. When the NY publishers seem to be going down the gurgler in many ways.. And every other week there is threads – blog posts bagging them out, I would think authors would be more open minded.. (that is worded wrong as usual..)

    I guess as a reader, (who thought there was another publisher with their hands in the self pub pie?) while I am sure there will be a lot of dreck, maybe it will also lead to more diverse stories/characters to start seeping in? (that last part is probably pure pollyanna)

  21. SarahT
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 06:25:11

    I don’t care about the new Harlequin self-publishing venture. I wouldn’t choose to go that route myself and I have no plans to buy a Harlequin Horizons book unless it gets excellent reviews.

    As Edie said, I find it odd that Harlequin chose to lend their name to the self-publishing venture but not the digital publishing one, but that’s about the extent of my interest in it. Same goes for Carina Press.

    I don’t understand the outrage that this announcement is generating from some authors. It’s like the panic over epublishers all over again.

    I’m most curious to see how RWA will react given the number of board members who are pubbed by Harlequin/Silhouette. :D

  22. Ros
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 07:45:36

    I do think that there is a place for self/vanity-publishing and that it doesn’t necessarily prey on unsuspecting authors/victims. BUT when HQ suggest that this could be a route towards being picked up and published by one of their mainstream lines, that strikes me as exceptionally manipulative. Since most HQ lines accept unagented submissions, there is at present virtually no cost to the author of putting their work in front of an editor’s eyes. Every potential new author is on an equal footing. But with this new option it seems that HQ is hoping that at least some potential authors will shell out $600 or more to have their book ‘published’ in the hope that this will eventually lead to a real contract. I don’t see how anyone except Harlequin gains from that.

    And from a reader’s point of view, I can’t see that there’s anything much to be gained from the establishment of yet another self-publisher. If people want to self-publish, they already can. And if they want to aggressively market their self-published book in the hopes of financial success, they already can. But by far the majority of these books will languish in the friends-and-family readership list – we won’t know about them, and we won’t have a way of distinguishing the good from the dross.

    What exactly is farsighted about this?

  23. Kwana
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 08:03:07

    I’m waiting to see how this all plays out. I can see both sides of the argument but not some of the immediate outrage and wishes of failure. I do wonder how many people actually pick up a self pubbed book and if this could be a real opportunity for those that don’t fit into any box. I ask these question on my blog today.

  24. Jane
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 08:04:41

    @Ros I don’t think self publishing should be the first option for authors but I do think that day is coming, maybe in 5-7 years. (not for every author, mind you, but for many authors). I also don’t know that this program offered by Harlequin is the best value out there. I don’t have much knowledge regarding the various self publishing companies and the cost of the services that they provide.

    Why do I think that this might be farsighted? Because self publishing could very well be the wave of the future. Amazon bought CreateSpace so that authors could self publish, either electronically or in print, using Amazon’s business. Amazon then watches what books are successful in the self published space and they are now publishing those through “Amazon Encore.” Barnes and Noble also has a self publishing arm (but is focused on non fiction/self help works). So I guess I see Harlequin trying to position itself for the changing of the publishing business model.

    What may be shortsighted its putting its name on the line because as I noted in my post, this could lead to a dilution of the house brand, although to what extent I am not sure.

  25. rachel
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 08:22:11

    I have read in a few places that on rwa loops there are authors who have been rejected and directed towards Horizons. Now there is the suspicion that they are just asking to see stuff (which isn’t ready) so that they can pass it on to Horizons.

    Also Harlequin is one of the few publishing companies making money, increasing profits. Their parent company Torstar has been losing money in it’s newspaper/tv division ($200m+ last year). They need a moneyspinner, and fast. So they grab their biggest profitable brand and use it with a vanity press operation. Guaranteed to make them money.

    I really don’t think anyone has a problem with Harlequin going into the self publishing business, it makes good business sense but this? This appears to be deeply cynical and designed to exploit the dreams of aspiring authors by using the Harlequin brand name to funnel them into a vanity press. There is a reason that most books are rejected and it isn’t just because the publishing house doesn’t know where to put them (how to sell them).

  26. Jane
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 08:25:29

    @rachel: I find it difficult to believe (and maybe I’m totally wrong on this) that Harlequin could make more funneling people to Horizons than publishing a manuscript. The average earn out for a series line author is between 15-50K on average, I think, depending on the line. Assume then that the publisher profit is equal to (probably greater).

    Given that Author Solutions is going to be doing the heavy lifting, it seems that ASI would also earn the majority of the profit from Harlequin Horizons. Thus, could Harlequin earn more per author via publishing or sending them to Horizons. If they believe it is a publishable manuscript, I would think that the smart decision is to publish the book.

  27. XandraG
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 09:15:03

    There’s an important distinction to make here–this effort by Harlequin is vanity publishing, not self-publishing. And I can’t speak for other authors, but my outrage stems from the fact that this feels too much like a blatant effort to monetize their slush pile. It has now become more profitable for Harlequin to reject a manuscript than it is for them to make an offer of publication. Because they will be “monitoring sales” there’s no reason they ever need accept another manuscript again–all you as a writer have to do is pay to play, and if you’re lucky enough to win the lottery make sufficient sales, you might get picked up by the regular lines, after having invested *your* money in all the work in getting the title to publication. All they do is sit back and rake in the dough.

    So it boils down to, you pay for cover art, isbn, typesetting, editing, production, and marketing, and then eventually, if all that miraculously pays off without the strong arm of distribution and in spite of the ridiculous pricing and the stigma that exists (deserved or not), then they do you the supreme honor of picking up your book and continuing to sell it, only now you get 8% and they keep the rest after having done nothing but overcharge you for services you could find at a fraction of the cost of true self-publishing.

    Thus, could Harlequin earn more per author via publishing or sending them to Horizons. If they believe it is a publishable manuscript, I would think that the smart decision is to publish the book.

    I see what you’re saying, but the sad fact is that every new book is a risk taken. Harlequin *could* earn more per author if they published the book, but then, too, they *could* take a bath. But by getting the author to front the production money and start off the sales, they never have to take a risk on a book again. I feel very sorry for all the editors who work there and love finding stories and working with authors.

    I don’t think I’d have as much problem with this if the vanity-pub arm were completely divorced from the other streams of the business and didn’t dilute the brand.

    And please once again note that vanity publishing is different from self-publishing and different from e-publishing. Epublishers choose to market their books in a certain type of format but acquisitions and editorial efforts operate pretty much the same as traditional NY publishing. In self-publishing, the author acts as publisher, acquiring isbns and registering copyrights (at a much cheaper rate than what HH is offering) in addition to arranging the production end with a printer/bindery. If HH holds the isbn, then this is vanity publishing.

    It still smacks of skeevy. How can anyone ever trust a rejection from a Harlequin editor again?

  28. DeadlyAccurate
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 09:33:00

    I find it difficult to believe (and maybe I'm totally wrong on this) that Harlequin could make more funneling people to Horizons than publishing a manuscript. The average earn out for a series line author is between 15-50K on average, I think, depending on the line. Assume then that the publisher profit is equal to (probably greater).

    In the long run, you’re right. But it takes time to publish a book. It takes less time to cash a writer’s check. It’s a short term, shortsighted solution.

  29. Anon76
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 09:40:39

    I posted this on SBTB and will repost it here. Quoted from the Harlequing Horizons site:

    “Chapter 5: Print and Promote Your Book
    Imagine the joy of seeing your book on your shelf or even the shelves of your local bookstore. Once you approve all aspects of your book design, you are well on your way to experiencing that joy. Before your book finally goes to the printer you will work with your publishing team to determine the price of your book, your royalties and other post-printing details. Once your book is published people all over the world can buy it through our online bookstore and you are free to start your marketing efforts. Congratulations! You are finally a published author.”

    Vanity publisher or no? Notice that before your book goes to print they will work with you to determine your royalties.

    Me oh my! Look, a hidden fee in the form of a royalty cut. Who gets that cut?

    The normal route is that, once all the work is done, the truly self-published author retains all monies from sales, while working with the printer on a sliding fee scale over the number of copies said author wants printed.

  30. Olympia Press
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 10:03:15

    I’d quibble slightly with CreateSpace being a vanity press. It can be–there’s lots of add-ons that I advise authors to avoid, but if you are looking to self-publish, they’ll put you on Amazon for the cost of a single proof (under $10), and that’s it. And if you were an LSI publisher, having your books also available through CreateSpace was a very lucrative way to go last year (when Cspace gave away free pro setups). Lot of the cool kids did it. More should have.

    Disclaimer: I partnered with Booksurge for Olympia, but I also have things like Chinese folklore in translation for ages 8-12… stuff that doesn’t really go with Love Me, Love My Dog. So, I put my other imprints into CreateSpace, sold a bunch of proofs at festivals and managed to grow that part of the print biz despite… everything. Very, very happy with them. On the success of CreateSpace, the Booksurge division just changed its name to “CreateSpace Enterprise,” and… well, now we’re into NDAs.

  31. The Good, The Bad and The Unread » The Harlequin mash-up
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 12:01:39

    […] on the Internet. Ann Aguirre, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, Absolute Write, Maya Reynolds and Dear Author are only a few places where you can see discussions about the new […]

  32. Vivienne Westlake
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 18:40:15

    RWA just sent the notice that Harlequin’s status as an eligible publisher has been removed. If I understand correctly, that means no more pitch appointments for Harlequin editors? Harlequin would be able to attend conference, but would not be able to have the book give-aways and the publisher spotlight.

    I’m still processing all of this. I feel badly for the authors already with Harlequin who now will not be able to participate in the free signings and activities at Nationals and the authors who might have problems with the Rita contest now that their publisher has lost it’s “eligibility”.

  33. Fusion Despatches » Blog Archive » Indymedia, Harlequin, RWA … oh my!
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 20:02:49

    […] of Harlequin authors to swoon like it’s cover art of the 1950s. You can go to Dear Author for various takes on […]

  34. Harlequin’s Self-Publishing Venture – A Blog Surfer’s Journal « Tia Nevitt
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 20:28:42

    […] it had a linkstravaganza upon the subject, so I found myself following a link to Dear Author that summarizes many of the arguments that authors have against this venture. They also have a […]

  35. Marianne LaCroix » Blog Archive » More on the Harlequin Horizons and RWA drama
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 08:00:18

    […] Some informative posts about the web about the Harlequin shake up: Dear Author 11/18/2009 – Malle Vallik, Harlequin's Digital Director, Answers Questions on Harlequin Horizons 11/17/2009 – Harlequin Horizons: Shortsighted or Farseeing? […]

  36. Teresa DAmario » Blog Archive » Life is busy – modifications, edits, critiques and surprises.
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 09:39:26

    […] Dear Author […]

  37. Ursula
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 11:24:02

    I agree with you completely. I also am confused as to why the entire company gets the tar and feather job vs simply the HH venture. Why does that not apply then to other large houses similarly engaged? I’m sure it’s the unpopular opinion, but it’s a free market economy so why so much flying fur? If you decide to go vanity, you now have another option. It in no way takes away from the authors published through more traditional venues.

  38. L’esprit d’escalier » Repent, Harlequin?
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 13:08:53

    […] been plenty of discussion amongst romance writers and on romance blogs.  Check out Smart Bitches, Dear Author, and Writer Beware.  Romance Writers of America has declared that with the advent of Harlequin […]

  39. Sometimes the wind of change comes swiftly and unexpectedly, leaving an unsettled feeling. « Midwest Meets Manhattan
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 13:17:12

    […] and everyone and their agent has an opinion about it. Funnily enough, it all seems to be the same […]

  40. Lee Goldberg
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 16:05:02

    The Mystery Writers of America released a statement to their members today regarding Harlequins business ventures aimed at aspiring authors:

    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.

  41. Lee Goldberg
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 16:09:10

    Oops, the last line got chopped.

    It should read:

    We respect Harlequin and its authors and hope the company will take the appropriate corrective measures.

  42. Shannon Stacey
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 16:11:44

    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.

    The eHarlequin Manuscript Critique Service has been there for years. They’re shutting it down now that they’ve gone vanity.

  43. Jane
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 16:12:05

    @Lee Goldberg Do you have any opinion as to how Harlequin could “cure” this short of divestiture of this arm? I.e., if it wasn’t branded Harlequin Horizons, would the MWA be objecting? Is it merely the referral link? If it was more like Thomas Nelson’s West Bow, would that be sufficient or if it was styled more like Authonomy by HarperCollins, would that be sufficient?

  44. Lee Goldberg
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 16:23:03


    I am directly involved in the discussions between MWA and Harlequin so it would be inappropriate for me to get into the details here. I just wanted to share the statement we released today with you and your readers…and to let RWA members know that we share their organization’s concerns about these developments.


  45. The man behind the curtain is Harlequin | Debora Dennis
    Nov 20, 2009 @ 07:43:08

  46. Maya Reynolds
    Nov 20, 2009 @ 08:38:06

    Jane: The reason you haven’t heard Random House is preying on its authors is because Random House maintains an arms-length relationship with Xlibris.

    Random House is not dangling the carrot of “we’ll be monitoring our self-published books, looking to offer a contract to the worthy ones.”

    It will be interesting to see if Harlequin’s rejection letters refer the rejected writers to Horizons.

    I applaud RWA and MWA for taking the stance they did.

  47. Jane
    Nov 20, 2009 @ 08:46:54

    @Maya Reynolds: So the issue is the distance that the publishing house maintains from its vanity press arm? Thus, it is okay to own an interest in a company that preys on unsuspecting authors but it’s not okay to be up front about it because being up front about it somehow makes the company more predatory?

    I’m trying to distinguish how this is different from say Authonomy by Harper Collins which has clearly advertised its service as a way to traditional publishing (Beat the Slush is the slogan) and who sends weekly emails to members soliciting them on behalf of CreateSpace, through which HC earns affiliate fees.

    I look forward to RWA and MWA taking a stance against Thomas Nelson as well.

  48. Kalen Hughes
    Nov 20, 2009 @ 11:17:34

    If it was more like Thomas Nelson's West Bow, would that be sufficient or if it was styled more like Authonomy by HarperCollins, would that be sufficient?

    RWA is looking at Thomas Nelson’s WestBow, I know, cause I talked to several board members about it. IMO HQ and TN have the same problem and TN should be treated the same way as HQ and removed from the list of eligible publishers.

    I think the full outcome of all this remains to be seen, but I'm happy that all the writers' orgs appear to be taking the same strong line.

  49. Nora Roberts
    Nov 20, 2009 @ 12:46:47

    Jane, I might find vanity presses deplorable, but they’re legal. And may be a reasonable alternative for someone who’d rather pay than self-publish that book of family history or whatever.

    A publishing conglomerate holding an interest in a vanity press is one thing. Harlequin’s pretty blatant use of its brand, its website, its base, its slush pile–and its intention to suggest this as an alternative to publication for rejected mss is so much another. To phrase it as a way to make your dreams come true, and so on.

    It wasn’t up front, number one. It called this self-publishing, and a way to publication. It’s not, and that’s deceptive.

    I wasn’t aware HC had anything like this set up. It may be that Harlequin’s very public launch of Horizons, and the fallout, the reactions, will cause writers and their organizations to take a harder, closer look at this practice if indeed it’s going on in the same manner at other publishers.

  50. Jane
    Nov 20, 2009 @ 12:57:07

    @Nora Roberts: There are actually two other publishers that have the same sort of setup as Harlequin. One is Thomas Nelson, a Christian publisher (leading Christian publisher?) and another is a smaller pub.

    My feeling is that if the vanity press business as styled on Harlequin’s site is deceptive, there are laws for that.

    HarperCollin’s setup is different but it still is under it’s own name, there are links to it from it’s main website and members are solicited regularly to publish through CreateSpace.

    My point is that there are many other publishers that are trying to monetize the slush pile. I’ve been asking what the real crux of the complaint is and not really getting anywhere. In other words, does Harlequin have to divest itself of Horizons to make it “okay” as suggested by SFWA. Does merely removing the branding fix the problem which seemed to be the message I heard last night as everyone heralded the announcement by Donna Hayes that the Harlequin name would be removed from Horizons.

    Is it the partnership with Author Solutions? Is it keeping a royalty? Etc.

    Because to be consistent, someone has to identify what is the guideline that is being violated and then look at all the other publishers to see if their business model is somehow in violation of that guideline. (or guidelines).

  51. Nora Roberts
    Nov 20, 2009 @ 13:15:40

    Okay, here’s what I would want:

    If Harlequin wants an interest in a vanity press, that’s fine.

    However, the press does not use its brand, it does not solicit customers to this press from its pile of rejected mss. It CALLS it what it is, and does not pretend it’s self-publishing if it intends to take 50% of net from the customer.

    If–let’s just stick with Horizons–is a separate arm of Torstar I’ve got no problem. But if it remains a part of Harlequin, using that brand, reputation, client and writer base to feed the till, I do–personally. And I have a very big problem if it’s called self-publishing when it’s absolutely not.

    The message I heard, often, after it was announced that Harlequin would take its name off Horizons was not that it fixed everything at all, but that it was a good start. Now do the rest.

  52. Jane
    Nov 20, 2009 @ 13:20:28

    @Nora Roberts: I would think offloading the eharlequin writing community to an authonomy styled site and then the regular solicitation of those members via email or at the site of its vanity press would be the most profitable and seem to address the concerns that you’ve raised.

  53. Time’s a wastin’ (but I’m getting an education!) «
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 21:32:57

    […] Dear Author (which includes the response from Harlequin rep, Malle Vallik) […]

  54. Elizabeth
    Nov 23, 2009 @ 13:16:24

    I think RWA stinks. A few years ago, when they tried to marginalize epubs and erotic romance, I let my membership lapse because I couldn’t stand all the infighting and “holier than thou” attitude of the RWA board.

    I also took issue with their main agenda–over the years, many romance authors have been laughed at because they write romances. So they spend a lot of effort and money trying to force the general public to “respect” the romance genre. This is a complete waste of time, in my opinion. Romance novels are formulaic and plot-driven. Readers either enjoy reading them, or they don’t. No amount of posturing about the genre being great literature is going to change anybody’s mind. But RWA persists, and this Harlequin brouhaha is just more of the same.

    RWA takes a condescending attitude toward authors. They’re not being duped! Of course, they know they have to pay up front! Duh! At least, these rejected authors will have a chance to get editing, self-publishing, and a new venue for their books. It’s the author’s choice, and many will be more than willing to pay.

    RWA has also not taken into account the thousands of Harlequin authors who pay to belong to RWA. Now they will be marginalized, too. A friend of mine thinks this will cause a schism in RWA, where the Harlequin authors defect and form a new group. If that happens, RWA will be dead in the water, because Harlequin IS romance to most of the reading world.

    Well, it will be interesting to see what happens, huh?

  55. Anonymous Reader
    Nov 23, 2009 @ 16:32:39

    I support RWA in their decision. I feel heartened that
    some organization is standing up against Harlequin Horizons rather than just allowing money,corruption or anything goes attitude to guide them.

    While I enjoy reading Harlequin books and have nothing against self published or vanity books per se, I find the Harlequin Horizons model just downright sleazy. On the surface Harlequin appear to support women but the Harlequin Horizons packaging is more about preying upon a captive audience.

    I feel sorry for Harlequin authors caught in the middle. They are not responsible for the sleazy actions of their publisher or its parent company. The decision does not mean they are bad people or bad authors, but I am happy to see RWA have some independence instead of kowtowing and compromising itself just because Harlequin has a name. It would be nice if Harlequin authors were inspired by ethics and pushed back at this move towards Harlequin Horizons. That is in their best interest — after all, those authors themselves may be shoved into Harlequin Horizons too.

  56. Romance Reader
    Nov 23, 2009 @ 16:34:07

    I support RWA in their decision. I feel heartened thatsome organization is standing up against Harlequin Horizons rather than just allowing money,corruption or anything goes attitude to guide them.

    While I enjoy reading Harlequin books and have nothing against self published or vanity books per se, I find the Harlequin Horizons model just downright sleazy. On the surface Harlequin appear to support women but the Harlequin Horizons packaging is more about preying upon a captive audience.
    I feel sorry for Harlequin authors caught in the middle. They are not responsible for the sleazy actions of their publisher or its parent company. The decision does not mean they are bad people or bad authors, but I am happy to see RWA have some independence instead of kowtowing and compromising itself just because Harlequin has a name. It would be nice if Harlequin authors were inspired by ethics and pushed back at this move towards Harlequin Horizons. That is in their best interest -‘ after all, those authors themselves may be shoved into Harlequin Horizons too.

  57. Publishing Definitions | Caridad Pineiro
    Nov 24, 2009 @ 05:03:31

    […] below on these links for comments: Ashley Grayson Agency Jackie Kessler (Hilarious by the way!) Dear Author Harlequin and Author Solutions Press Release SFWA Statement MWA Statement RWA Alert to Members […]

  58. RomanceWriter
    Nov 24, 2009 @ 12:05:03

    Elizabeth #54, you’re right on. I did hang on to (and enjoy aspects of) my membership through all those years and brouhahas, but this time…if they don’t revisit their decision, they will have smashed the organization. Done. Over.

    Jane, IMO, as a romance writer and reader and also an MBA, I don’t have a huge problem (or surprise) with what Harlequin is doing. I think it’s current market reality and is happening in more places than just Harlequin. By putting an (HH) on the vanity-pubbed books’ spines, I don’t think they’re diluting the brand perception amongst readers (that argument actually makes me laugh, for reasons I don’t want to go into here). The argument of “duping” writers, too, gets my hackles up–really, do you think RWA members are so uneducated and naive? No. We are savvy and tough, and we need to act like it, now more than ever.

    IMO, we need to step away from our anger and our fear and instead think rationally about our future business interests. The publishing industry isn’t going to go back to “the way it was” (ie not experimenting with methods to increase profits and/or cut costs in all aspects of their operations–including the slush piles) any more than my outsourced corporate day job is going to come back to me, either. More and more, in increasing increments, we’re in a new, global, internet reality with our work and living economies. We need to deal with it constructively, not like a labor union screaming “no deal!” while management simply picks up the plant and moves it to China.

    My suggestion? Revisit the rules for “recognition.” Think long and hard about the lines in the sand we want to draw, especially against any publishers we decide to dis-invite to the conference (ie do the cost/benefit analyses). Consider who we really are advocating for as an organization (ie Are we for anyone outside the top tier of best-selling New York authors? Maybe not so much. Remember that HQ is by far the biggest romance publisher, mainly for new and midlist authors, and the only remaining major romance publisher who still encourages and routinely purchases debut books from non-agented slush piles). Continue education efforts re: vanity-publishing, self-publishing, e-publishing and small press options, and the direction of the industry at large.

    Interesting topic, Jane, for interesting times.

  59. Getting a book published is getting trickier by the minute « Write with Excellence
    Nov 24, 2009 @ 14:38:32

    […] Dear Author […]

  60. Get the word out-vanity presses, assisted self pub, etc. « Trivial Pursuits
    Dec 13, 2009 @ 09:48:15

    […] Harlequin Horizons: Shortsighted or Farseeing? (again…good insights are found within the comments) […]

  61. Author Solutions - "Breaking the Chains" | Bernice & Andy Tate
    Dec 14, 2009 @ 15:09:16

    Kevin Weiss, president and CEO of Author Solutions, video statement on Monday December 7, 2009 addressing the importance of providing expanded choice and opportunity in the book publishing industry is analogous to an asteroid strike into a herd of dinosaurs. Kevin Weiss' declaration ignited, setting off a nuclear reaction, vaporizing long-established, outdated ideas about the traditional publishing industry as we “knew” it. The long-established publishing trade has functioned like a sharecropping scheme of exploitation that hugely benefited traditional publishers, leaving little or nothing for most authors. The clamor and angry outbursts against the idea that function must match the realties of the times, is nothing more than a reaction to fear of the inevitable. It appears to be an affirmation of an industry adapting to new realities, “Breaking the Chains.”

  62. Self-Publishing Review — Blog — Harlequin Starts Self-Publishing Partnership with Author Solutions
    Dec 31, 2009 @ 19:02:49

    […] legitimizing self-publishing as an avenue, this deal does pose significant problems.  In a post on Dear Author commenters chimed in with criticism about the deal: When Harlequin's CEO says, “Partnering with […]

  63. Why pay good money for something you can do yourself? | Pegasus Pulp
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 21:42:01

    […] new. Harlequin Horizons, the self-publishing arm of Harlequin, which made waves two years ago, had a very similar model. So does epubli, a self-publishing platform operated by Holtzbrinck, parent company of Pan […]

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