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.
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?
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.