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Saturday Midday Links Roundup: Writers Organizations Mad at Harlequin

TBIResearch believes that Amazon is losing quite a bit of money on the ebook market as it tries to drive down prices of books. Publishers are trying hard to maintain a higher price, but researchers and retailers believe that consumers will not pay a high price for ebooks. The good news according to the research paper is that publishers can still maintain a 10% margin with ebooks because of savings in manufacturing and shipping costs.

Publishers should be able to sell e-books to distributors like Amazon at $5 and still maintain the profit margins they enjoyed on print book sales. In turn, distributors like Amazon should be able to sell e-books at the current $9-$10 price and still enjoy a healthy profit.
The bad news for authors is that their royalties will decrease since they are based off of retail sales price.

It’s a pretty interesting article and includes a mock profit and loss statement. I wouldn’t agree with all the points in the article such as author royalties which are increasingly off the net making the publisher margin more manageable.

Three major writing organizations are urging Harlequin to make changes to the Harlequin Horizon business venture. SFWA wants Harlequin to divest itself entirely of the venture (I hope they urge RandomHouse to sell its 49% interest in Xlibris and HarperCollins to shed Authonomy); MWA hasn’t said what would make it happy and neither has RWA. I guess the next move is up to Harlequin. It occurs to me that Harlequin could sue if these other writers’ organizations do not apply their standards evenly across the board so I wonder if we’ll see more publishers unrecognized by the writers’ organizations.

Lori posted her thoughts on the Amazon’s top 2009 books. The customers’ favorites are quite different than Amazon’s top 10 list.

The list for customer favorites is:

  1. Vision in White
  2. Bed of Roses
  3. Lover Avenged
  4. Skin Trade
  5. Black Hills
  6. Hidden Currents
  7. Dream Fever
  8. Bad Moon Rising
  9. Dark Slayer
  10. Covet

Editor’s top picks are:

  1. Angels’ Blood
  2. Smooth Talking Stranger
  3. Kiss of a Demon King
  4. The Perfect Poison
  5. Bending the Rules
  6. What Happens in London
  7. Fireside
  8. A Duke of Her Own
  9. Immortal Outlaw
  10. Angel Lane

I haven’t read a lot of those books.

According to a press release posted over at, Smashwords has purchased BookHabit Limited, a New Zealand author community.    Earlier, Smashwords announced a partnership with Shortcovers.

Toronto, Canada-based Shortcovers, an eReading application owned by Indigo Books & Music, will distribute eBooks published by Smashwords on a worldwide basis. Shortcovers will distribute the eBooks in 189 countries. Smashwords has more than 5,000 original eBooks from 2,300 self-published authors and small publishers from 20 countries.

I do think the advantage of digital books is the ease of international delivery.   Perhaps what will be lost in margin can be made up in volume.

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. joanne
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 12:23:52

    Is Amazon’s list the best selling or the do customer’s actually say they’re top 10?

    It seems like maybe these are editors that don’t get out of their comfort zone much.

    I’ve read 16 of the 20 and except for Angel’s Blood none of them would be on my top ten list for ’09.

    Some are great reads, but top ten?
    Some would be in my top twenty but not top ten. I’m all about Amanda Quick but The Perfect Poison wasn’t close to her best efforts. Nora Roberts and no In Death books on either list? I bet most of the readers & reviewers here could come up with a better and more varied romance list.

  2. Alley
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 12:42:15

    But Xlibris/Random House do not refer rejected authors there to PAY for critique and publishing services. They also keep their names separate entities. Whereas Harlequin and Harlequin Horizons have “merged” their businesses and that’s what’s got everyone in an uproar. See my article on it at:
    Harlequin regresses to vanity press

  3. AQ
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 14:14:27

    Mad is a very interesting word choice for the post title and the subsequent commentary.

  4. A Reader
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 14:15:14


    But Xlibris/Random House do not refer rejected authors there to PAY for critique and publishing services. They also keep their names separate entities. Whereas Harlequin and Harlequin Horizons have “merged” their businesses and that's what's got everyone in an uproar.

    I think the whole vanity press business model is disgusting and just short of criminal. So my disgust has room for Random House and Harper Collins as well–it doesn’t matter which one has more disgusting business practices, they’re all disgusting to me.

    Unfortunely for Harlequin they’ve done such a great job of marketing their brand instead of their authors it’s easy for me to avoid buying their books. And I’ll actually feel good about not supporting a company that makes money off of a business model that’s so unfair and one-sided.

  5. Ann K
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 14:16:10

    SFWA wants Harlequin to divest itself entirely of the venture (I hope they urge RandomHouse to sell its 49% interest in Xlibris and HarperCollins to shed Authonomy)

    I’m not sure how Authonomy is like Harlequin Horizons. As far as I can tell from the Authonomy website, people upload their work digitally without paying any money. It seems to be more of a review community with the option that HC might pick up your work. There doesn’t seem to be an option to print your novel for any amount of money that I can find. It does not seem to be pay-to-play at all.

    I’m also not sure how Bertelsmann owning RandomHouse and 49% of Xlibris is like Harlequin partnering with AuthorSolutions to direct potential Harlequin authors to pay to be published with Harlequin Horizons.

    I don’t see a link from the RandomHouse site advertising potential authors to Xlibris. In fact, for manuscript submissions, RandomHouse states:

    Random House, Inc. does not accept unsolicited submissions, proposals, manuscripts, or submission queries via e-mail at this time.

    If you would like to have your work or manuscript considered for publication by a major book publisher, we recommend that you work with an established literary agent.

    Xlibris itself doesn’t seem to suggest that if you use their services, you’ll have a chance of becoming a RandomHouse Author.

  6. sarah mayberry
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 14:18:25

    That TBI article scares the #*%! out of me. If that’s the future, no way will category writers be able to survive on the income from their books (not that a lot of us are, anyway, since we all work other jobs to make ends meet). For starters, we get significantly less than 10% off retail prices as our royalty. Someone told me that mass market paperback rates are less than 10%, too. If the retail price point on categories drops, we could be in real trouble. Obviously, the winner in this situation is the reader, which is nice, since I am also a huge reader. But it looks to me as though the distributors and publishers take a hit, but also make savings thanks to volume and reduced cost. Not much a writer can do to reduce the costs in writing a book. Write by candlelight? Eat less? Writer faster, crappier books? Maybe I should go eat something with sugar in it to cheer me up…

  7. Suze
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 14:26:46

    (I hope they urge RandomHouse to sell its 49% interest in Xlibris and HarperCollins to shed Authonomy)

    Throughout the comments on the various HarHo articles, you keep bringing up RandomHouse and Xlibris as if that is exactly the same situation as what HarHo is doing, and it’s not.

    Several people, in several blogs, have explained in great detail why it’s not the same. The most coherent entry is Jackie Kessler’s.

    I’m inferring that you think it’s hypocrytical of these writing organizations to come down on HarHo, but not on RandomHouse & Xlibris. Since so many people have explained why the two situations are different, can you explain why you think they’re the same?

  8. Jane
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 14:42:24

    @Suze: I’m referring to two things. First, the SFWA language states:

    Until such time as Harlequin changes course, and returns to a model of legitimately working with authors instead of charging authors for publishing services, SFWA has no choice but to be absolutely clear that NO titles from ANY Harlequin imprint will be counted as qualifying for membership in SFWA.


    SFWA does not believe that changing the name of the imprint, or in some other way attempting to disguise the relationship to Harlequin, changes the intention, and calls on Harlequin to do the right thing by immediately discontinuing this imprint and returning to doing business as an advance and royalty paying publisher.

    This appears to me that any vanity press involvement by a publisher is an anathema to the organization. Thus ownership in and profit from such a press such as Xlibris (which is part of Author Solutions Inc, the same company that Harlequin partnered with) should also be an anathema to them. In other words, Bertelsmann, the parent company of Random House, still profits from vanity press which objectors complain as predator. I think Scalzi said that they take advantage of those that do not know any better.

    (I’m actually uncertain where I fall on the Xlibris thing).

    I think the Authonomy situation is far more perilous for writers’ organizations. First, Authonomy is clearly branded by Harper Collins. It’s slogan is “beat the slush”. Harper has a link from its site to Authonomy and it clearly has marketed Authonomy as a way for aspiring authors to come to the attention of HarperCollins. Once you sign up for Authonomy, you are sent regular solicitations to publish through CreateSpace.

    Second, in looking at the bylaws of the RWA (because I’m trying to decipher how Harlequin could “cure” the defect or why Harlequin is a target and these other publishers are not such as Thomas Nelson (although they may already have been “unrecognized” and its simply not announced).

    The bylaws state as follows:

    Vanity Publisher means any publisher whose authors exclusively promote and/or sell their own books and publishers whose business model and methods of publishing and distribution are primarily directed toward sales to the author, his/her relatives and/or associates.

    Now, Harlequin’s authors do not exclusively promote and/or sell their own books nor is it’s primary business model selling books to its authors. It is true that Harlequin partnership with ASI fits that bill but not the company as a whole. Measuring the actions of Harlequin strictly against the definitions, it seems that only one tiny part of Harlequin, the Publisher’s, overall business model fits into the definition of Vanity Publisher but it doesn’t strictly adhere. (ie. authors exclusively promote or the business model is primarily directed toward).

    So the board is acting on some other rule or test. If the rule/test that board is applying is any involvement with a company that fills the definition of vanity press then Random House, Thomas Nelson and Harper Collins has to go.

    If the rule/test is what name is attached to the publishing arm that meets the definition of vanity press then Thomas Nelson and HarperCollins has to go.

    Do you see where I am confused by the actions of RWA given the language of the bylaws and the application thereto?

  9. Daigon
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 14:47:06

    Xlibris and Random House. My understanding is that Random House’s parent company owns 49%. Technically while they are owned by the same entity, they are still different businesses.

    Author House bought/is in control of the majority portion of Xlibris in January of 2009.

    Random House is not suggesting that people use Xlibris–Harlequin is actively promoting ASI.

    The relationship between HQE and ASI is far more troublesome and problematic (guiding rejected authors to the services of ASI) because their relationship is not very clear cut and reminds me of the clerks at Sears who are forced to ask their customers why they do not have the store charge card.

    I do not see why this is relevant as you are comparing apples to oranges:

    “I hope they urge RandomHouse to sell its 49% interest in Xlibris and HarperCollins to shed Authonomy.”

  10. Jane
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 14:54:08

    @Daigon: That remark was made in response to the SFWA statement. If you read it, it clearly is against publishers engaging in vanity press business, not merely the cross promotion of Harlequin with ASI (although I do think the Authonomy situation is very close to the Harlequin Horizons issue).

    As I stated in my previous comment, it’s not clear from any of the statements of the writers’ organizations except the SFWA which wants Harlequin to cease business with vanity presses, what the reason is for being unrecognized. As I read the RWA bylaws, Harlequin shouldn’t be deemed a Vanity Press. It’s one arm/imprint could be deemed it but not as a Publisher as a whole.

  11. Daigon
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 15:00:31

    I did read it, forgive me for being unclear.

    I may be splitting hairs but what if it is not Random House but the parent company that owns Xlibris? Does this alter the view and connectivity between Xlibris and RH?

    From what I can tell, Random House itself is not actively engaging in vanity publishing or promoting such business practices.

    I have been trying to find sources about Random House and Xlibris and am obviously suffering from search fail as I am not finding anything more recent than 2004.

  12. Jane
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 15:03:17

    @Daigon: I’ve been informed that Random House sold it’s interest in Xlibris so that’s a moot point.

    How do you feel about the Authonomy situation? I.e, if Harlequin had a separate website where members could join free and then were solicited through email to go to Horizons, would that be objectionable?

  13. Liz
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 15:11:19

    (I hope they urge RandomHouse to sell its 49% interest in Xlibris and HarperCollins to shed Authonomy)

    You’re comparing apples to oranges. Why? Why such the hard sell defense for Harlequin?

    From the Authonomy website:

    How much does it cost?

    Nothing. It costs nothing to create a profile, to upload your book, or to read and recommend the books on offer.

    I don’t know much about Authonomy, but I took five minutes to do a little research. It’s reader-approved slush, and any of the books chosen from it are fully backed by Harper and its imprints, not swept under the proverbial rug like some shameful secret.

    Harlequin Horizons–or whatever the hell it is–is not reader-approved slush. It’s author-printed slush at a very high cost, a cost that is not just monetary. Owning a minority interest in a similar company does not compare. Owning a free reader-based services does not compare. Thomas Nelson owning West Bow Press does compare, but on a slightly lesser scale. (WBP may be pay-to-play, but at least I have seen a few of their titles in specialty stores. I’m not on board with WBP as a legitimate press at all, but those authors do have some distribution to brick-and-mortar stores.)

  14. Jane
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 15:12:43

    @Liz: I’d just direct you to my previous comments. It’s not a hardsell defense of Harlequin. It’s a question of what these writers’ organizations are advocating for/against and what rules that they apply.

  15. Liz
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 15:20:50


    if Harlequin had a separate website where members could join free and then were solicited through email to go to Horizons, would that be objectionable?


    If, however, Harlequin had a free service like Authonomy, where writers could upload their stories and allow readers to pick and choose which ones they would most like to see published by Harlequin’s traditional imprints, and recommended that service, I would be OK with it.

  16. Jane
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 15:23:53

    @Liz: But what I described Liz is exactly how Authonomy works. You sign up for free, participate for free, but you are solicited regularly through email to use CreateSpace to self publish.

  17. Liz
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 15:41:11

    @Jane: Thanks for the clarification. I’ve never used Authonomy, so I wasn’t aware of that. But I do have a question or two, if you don’t mind. Isn’t CreateSpace Amazon’s baby? Does HarperCollins have any interest in CreateSpace, licensing or otherwise? Are these solicitations or paid advertisements? Is there any confusion to those who receive these solicitation as to what company they will be dealing with–HarperCollins or CreateSpace? Just my opinion, but I think it’s rotten and underhanded for any legitimate publisher to endorse the vanity model. But as with many things, there are many shades of gray, and many levels of disgust. Authonomy, a slush-reading service, being sponsored by CreateSpace is a lighter shade of gray than if HarperCollins were to endorse its own vanity press, and then funnel its potential and rejected authors over to it.

  18. Daigon
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 15:46:18


    I am not sure what I think about Authonomy to be honest. I have done some research and it does raise quite a few red flags…but they are not as overt as my issues with HQE/ASI.

    I thought Random House was out of the picture with Xlibris, but could not find any hard confirmation of that–I live locally to Xlibris so recall people talking about ASI taking over its operations.

    I do not really see how Authonomy is useful to writers, but perhaps that is just me.

    If HQE did open their own self publishing venture that was POD, I would not have an issue. My understanding of ASI is they are not POD but you have to purchase various services, but I could be wrong.

    I know the line is fuzzy, but I do not have an issue with self publishing or POD services–I have an issue with vanity presses. (which ASI is).

    I am still formulating my own thoughts right now, so am not as coherent when trying to explain what I think.

  19. Jane
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 15:46:29

    @Liz HarperCollins gets an affiliate fee from those that use CreateSpace. HC has an Authonomy branded CreateSpace portal. As for confusion, I have no idea whether people are confused or not. There are banner ads at HC for CreateSpace and under the FAQ re Self Publishing, HC refers to CreateSpace pages.

  20. Jane
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 15:55:50

    @Daigon Nearly every page at contains an ad for authonomy including the Submissions Guidelines page for Avon. Link here.

    I know some have had a problem with ads on the Harlequin site for Horizons but I don’t really see the difference.

  21. Caligi
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 16:06:04


    I don’t see Authonomy offering paid services. It’s not vanity publishing, like HH.

  22. Jane
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 16:20:21

    @Caligi I feel like a broken record. Authonomy solicits its members to use CreateSpace through email. You get put on the solicitation list once you sign up.

  23. DS
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 16:23:27

    @joanne: According to Amazon the top 10 bestsellers they have are based on actual purchases. Amazon is starting to emphasize items actually bought there.

    And click on “Customer Favorites” to find the bestselling romance books at during 2009. (Ranked according to customer orders through October. Only books published for the first time in 2009 are eligible.)

    I don’t know if you have seen the Amazon verified purchase on reviews, but if a reviewer has actually purchased that item through the review account then they can opt into having this information provided on their review. I don’t know if the fuss is still going on about it– but some reviewers didn’t like that a bit.

    (Apologies if this double posts)

  24. Caligi
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 16:33:53

    @Jane: Well, so what. It’s a totally separate company. I think most people assume they get signed up for marketing when they give their info online.

    Big difference between this and HH. The “bypass the slush” product is a free service, and the self-publishing is merely an affiliate advertised separately, whereas HH wants to directly profit off their slush.

  25. Daigon
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 16:42:41


    I think my issue is how they are being advertised. There is a difference between Authonomy/Createspace and Horizons.

    My biggest squick with the whole Harlequin partnership was the note on the rejection letters.

    If HarperCollins starts putting a “get published via CreateSpace by Amazon” on their letters, then I would have an issue and I would be voicing my opinions vociferously. But, for right now, I do not see the issues as being the same. Not that this counts for much as this is purely my opinion.

    There seems to be, at least, some degrees of separation as vague and hazy as they may be.

  26. ardeatine
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 17:16:09

    Authonomy started life as a peer review online slush pile. The top five books each month receive a critique from Harper Collins editors. And the editors regularly look over the uploads in the top one hundred to see if anything catches their eye. To date, none of the top five have received contracts although several have come fairly close. The three books that have received contracts were picked from lower down the charts and rumour has it that two were already agented. Agents do look over the Authonomy lists and several authors have been approached by agents from being on the site. The race for the top five is basically a popularity contest based on the authors who are best at promo in the forums. Some authors use the site as a place to get critique for their manuscripts and some are after the editor critique. The site is part writing workshop and part online slush pile. Harper Collins also run a blog with useful imput from editors and published authors.

    There was a feeling that Harper Collins might be assembling an online community of authors who would then be offered some sort of pod deal. They did hand-pick authors to test some software with a view to this, but word was that there was some sort of problem with that software and it was dropped. In fact, when I made a comment on the forums that Harper Collins were originally going to offer pod, a HC rep jumped straight in to deny it. But when I asked the authors who’d been approached they said yes, that’s what they’d understood was happening. And then later the Creatspace sponsorship appeared on the website. As a member, I’m not aware of being overly pestered to self publish through Creatspace, but HC have added a self-publishing thread to the forums possibly to encourage people to think in Creatspace’s direction.

    The main point though is that members aren’t stupid. They talk to each other and ask questions and don’t give the impression of being lambs to slaughter. There’s enough expertise in self publishing on Authonomy for newbies to mine in order to make informed choices. Smashwords and Kindle are hot topics in the self publishing threads at the moment. We see the Creatspace ads and immediately someone opens a thread on them to start a discussion. That’s quite healthy.

    If publishers running self publishing arms is the the future, then the Authonomy model at least has some built in advantages for the authors. Free mentoring and critique, a place to discuss publishing and life in general. Authors aren’t quite so vulnerable when they can talk to each other. If Harper Collins wanted to be predatory about Creatspace they should get rid of the forums and cut the authors off from each other. Authonomy with Creatspace ads and plugs is quite a gentle approach when compared to the HH deal.

  27. library addict
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 17:23:36

    I think that what Harlequin had planned with the referral on the rejections letters is bad. But if what these writers' organizations are really objecting to is the pay-to-play vanity press angle, then the standard needs to be applied to all publishers.

    Just because Harlequin stepped way over the line with their Horizon venture, doesn't mean the publishers who are only a little bit over the line should get a free pass. Either the line is there or it's not. If it is, it should apply to them all, not just Harlequin because they had planned to put their name on it.

  28. Jane
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 17:27:49

    @Caligi Authonomy is a total separate company or CreateSpace is? Because Author Solutions Inc is a different company that Harlequin. Harlequin is earning an affiliate fee the same as HarperCollins. The press release said that the only thing Harlequin was offering was its name and it was monitoring the sales. Author Solutions does everything else.

    In terms of the RWA definition, I don’t see the differentiation. HarperCollins wants to profit off the slush in the same business relationship as Harlequin. The optics might be different, but the core is the same.

  29. Jane
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 17:39:19

    @library addict Right. How far removed does the profiting from the slush pile have to be before it’s okay?

  30. Caligi
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 17:43:25

    @Jane: CreateSpace is an obviously Amazon branded company. No one is deluded into thinking they’re a HarperCollins author and HC makes no claims to care about sales through CreateSpace.

    Harlequin attaching its name to the ASI venture and offering it as a paid opportunity to move to the top of the slush pile creates a different kind of relationship. It now has vanity published titles branded Harlequin.

    Should RWA have clearer standards for how they categorize publishers? Absolutely. This is hardly the first time their standards have been questioned.

    However, RWA aside, these two ventures are different. One is misleading and borderline predatory, and the other is straightforward.

  31. AQ
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 17:48:52


    But what I described Liz is exactly how Authonomy works. You sign up for free, participate for free, but you are solicited regularly through email to use CreateSpace to self publish.

    There’s a difference between receiving a third-party e-mail solicitation as part of the membership “perk” from an online community and receiving a rejection letter from a publisher that includes a direct or third-party pay-for product solicitation as part of the rejection.

    The first is rather generic and the member has the right to turn off those solicitations via a change in their website profiles. The other is much more specific and personal since it is included as part of the manuscript submission/rejection process. A process which in my mind is not a business to customer relationship but rather a manufacturer – supplier relationship.

    If Harlequin and other publishers want to monetize their slush piles this way, they should send an additional page offering the service so that it can clearly be seen as an advertisement. That being the case, they should also have an opt out option which the publisher would need to track and be held accountable to comply with just like any other business which solicits its customer base. I know a company has the right to advertise to their customers but this is clearly a case of a company changing the meaning of “customer” to suit their needs.**


    @Daigon Nearly every page at contains an ad for authonomy including the Submissions Guidelines page for Avon. Link here.

    I know some have had a problem with ads on the Harlequin site for Horizons but I don't really see the difference.

    There wouldn’t be much of a difference if Harper Collins had CreateSpace ads but there still would be a difference. There is, however, a big difference if they have Authonomy ads because there’s another layer of separation.

    Why? The publisher isn’t mudding the waters by calling that third-party option a name which immediately implies the Harlequin brand. And perhaps I missed it but I don’t believe that either Xlibris or CreateSpace or Authonomy states anything comparable to this on their info pages:

    Harlequin Horizons is a division of Harlequin Enterprises Limited, a global leader in romance and women's fiction.

    If one already understands the publishing world the rest of the text clearly states that this isn’t traditional publishing but that presupposes that ones knows what traditional publishing means. Couple that with the constant use of the imprint name Harlequin Horizons and the statement about book sales data mining and it’s quite easy to be let yourself believe that your novel, the one you paid to have published, is a Harlequin. The most well-known published brand in the world whose name brand means ROMANCE. And at Harlequin Horizons you aren’t just getting your novel published, you’re getting your romance novel published. It’s completely misleading more so than any other vanity press out there. If


    The final bit is I don’t believe that Random House ever claimed that it would be mining Xlibris for books to bring into the traditional publishing model. In fact, I was under the impression that they specifically stated that they wouldn’t be. Nor does the Xlibris website state that book sales will/may be mined by traditional publishing. If you want to see the Random House to Xlibris business link, you must search for it because as far as I’ve seen/heard there is no direct solicitation.

    BTW: I don’t think the writers orgs should be releasing any additional information about what they are asking for from HQ to non-board members. They need to further refine their perspective positions and negotiate with HQ in private now. When negotiations are over, we can all bitch and moan about what did or didn’t happen.

    I am, however, very glad that they made a pubic statement, although I doubt it will make that much difference unless HQ backs out of its contract with ASI. Somehow I don’t see that happening even though I’d like to be wrong.

    ** If the supplier reference isn’t right then how about employment candidate? How would any of us feel if we submitted a resume directly to an employer for a job opening and the company sent back a statement within the rejection letter about a resume service or a placement agency. And when you went online to look at the service being offered it stated within the copy that the company was a division of the original corporation?

  32. Jane
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 17:54:22

    @AQ The third party being Authonomy? Because Authonomy is the one that sends the emails.

    Can you explain how Harlequin fits into the definition of Vanity Publisher according to the RWA bylaws and no other publisher does? There is nothing in the bylaws that talks about predatory or deceptive or misleading. It doesn’t say how far removed the vanity press has to be from the original publisher. Everyone’s descriptions of why Harlequin is bad versus other companies varies. This seems to me that RWA and other writers orgs are looking at this by a “case by case” basis. If that’s true, don’t you see how precarious of a position this is for writers’ organizations? I.e., why can’t they look at digital publishers on a case by case basis?

    It sounds like profiting off the slush pile is okay so long as there are sufficient layers between the publisher profiting and the slush pile itself.

  33. Jane
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 17:57:34

    @Caligi You are redefining the standard. Upthread you said it was the “profiting off the slushpile” that made this bad now it’s “misleading and borderline predatory”. I still fail to see how Harlequin fits into the vanity publisher definition and others do not. (I don’t see how Harlequin fits into the VP definition at all).

    Again, I think that everyone’s descriptions of what Harlequin is doing wrong changes with each post and each comment, mutating and changing, which is fine for having an opinion, but it’s not fine for a writers’ organization to apply a mutating and changing standard, particularly if done unevenly. And if RWA can look at each situation on a case by case basis, then it has to have a standard (which is clearly does not) else it subjects itself to being in violation of its own bylaws. Wasn’t that the reason that digital presses with long histories of non predatory behavior couldn’t be recognized by RWA?

  34. Laura Kinsale
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 18:03:24

    Oh, I do hope Harlequin sues RWA to force me as a dues-paying member to comp their conference fees, and pay for the space for them to talk up their lines.

    That will make some really lovely headlines, and bring them so much goodwill among the 10k romance reading and writing members of RWA. I really like the idea of them suing the heart of their own market to force it to pay for the advertising and goodwill that the RWA conference has brought them in the past. (You don’t think they gave us a party and gave out free books just because they personally LIKE all of us, do you?)

    Next chapter, Harlequin goes to court to demand RWA require members to buy minimum $ amount of their books every year.

    I suppose it’s a pipe-dream, but dang.

  35. Jane
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 18:06:45

    @Laura Kinsale You and I are in agreement. I would like for Harlequin to sue RWA to force them to stand by their bylaws and rules and apply them evenly but like you, I don’t think that would happen.

  36. Janet W
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 18:09:04

    I’m reprinting Becca’s comment from the huge Smart Bitches thread because for me, this is where some of the discomfort comes from — the segue from helping writers develop (even though the Romance Novel Critique Service came at a cost) … to helping Harlequin’s bottom line develop. I “hope” that Bean Counters planned this but it bothers me that no one was smart – – or powerful enough – – on the Harlequin side to squash it.

    Interesting. On the eHarlequin site, under Learn To Write, it says: Romance Novel Critique Service
    Please note: While we've been pleased to offer this program for a number of years, due to business reasons we regret to announce that we will no longer be offering the Romance Novel Critique Service as of December 1, 2009. All manuscripts submitted before this date will be critiqued. Manuscripts received after this date will be returned to the writer. We thank you for your interest.
    I wonder what that means for HHorizons?

  37. Caligi
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 18:15:02


    I think I am learning a life lesson here.

    Online arguing with a RL lawyer is different.

    I’m really more used to threads where a lolcat or a “posting in a legendary thread” ends the discussion.

    I guess it’s the name that makes the difference. If HC and Harlequin have the same affiliate set up in monetary terms, which I have no idea if they do, it’s the Harlequin name and the “buy your way to a contract” association that makes it sketchy.

  38. Jane
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 18:16:53

    @Caligi I dislike, a lot, the referral thing in the rejection letter and I think it’s a business mistake for Harlequin to put its name on the vanity press arm, but unlike others, I don’t have a problem with vanity presses in general.

  39. Caligi
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 18:21:27


    I don’t think vanity presses are inherently evil, just a bad value.

    Coupling a VP with the promises Harlequin makes in the press release is what I don’t like. That’s when they look predatory to me.

  40. Shadesofquartetpress
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 18:29:03

    Interesting. Some people seem to be behaving exactly the same way they did after the Quartet Press implosion or whatever the heck that was. Always feeling the need to defend their little friends even when they are doing the indefensible.

  41. AQ
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 18:38:34


    The third party being Authonomy? Because Authonomy is the one that sends the emails.

    Third-party being Createspace. Is Createspace the only advertiser that Authonomy uses? And do you consider this to be a direct link between Harper Collins and Createspace? I ask because in my mind there’s no direct link.

    Can you explain how Harlequin fits into the definition of Vanity Publisher according to the RWA bylaws and no other publisher does?

    I’m not a member of RWA. I don’t have access to either the bylaws or the criteria they use to make a determination.

    For me it comes down separation of publishing arms and solicitation. Harlequin is directly branding and thereby publicly approving this branch of ASI. It’s rather similar in nature to the NASCAR / HQ collaboration. Further they are directly soliciting for ASI via the relationship established during the manuscript submission process. And finally Harlequin Horizon isn’t just another self-publishing service or a vanity press, they are claiming that it’s a division of Harlequin. In order for the prospective author to find out about the Author Solutions collaboration, they would need to click on the About Us found at the very bottom of the screen and then go to Harlequin Horizons News and click more to read the press release. The only other mention of it is on the History page but it’s really not significant enough for the average potential customer to really notice.

  42. Daigon
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 18:47:37


    True story. I was farming out my teaching references/mad skills and was not “rejected” by University of Phoenix but was told they did not have any openings in my particular area and would keep me in mind.

    I got a letter two days ago saying that I was obviously an awesome professional and wouldn’t I like to earn another PhD in management or education. I snorted as I tossed the letter in the circular filing system that has teeth.

    Not quite a note in a rejection letter, but it was the only communication from them that I had ever received in paper form.

  43. Edie
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 19:00:46

    They definitely need to clear up the guidelines, from an outsider looking in, they are clear as mud. And it is also going to be interesting to watch IMO as I think there will be many more publishers with large shares or diversion deals in the future, as they try to get the profits back up. JMO

    BUT the writing orgs definitely need to at least look at Thomas Nelson/Westbow if they haven’t already, (Though apparently they have never been on the MWA list) I did two minutes of looking into Thomas Nelson the other day, this is what I found taken from my post on KNB:

    Thomas Nelson and Westbow, following the links on their website:
    “Although we receive thousands of submissions from aspiring authors, we only publish about 500 new titles per year. Until now we have had nothing to offer these authors other than a rejection letter and our best wishes for “finding just the right publishing partner.”

    “We want to find the new voices for tomorrow. Publishers aren't omniscient. We miss numerous opportunities every year. Finding the next bestseller is like searching for a needle in a haystack. WestBow Press provides us with a kind of “farm team.” We intend to watch the sales of these titles carefully. We will offer traditional publishing contracts to those authors whose self-published books begin to gain traction.”

    Sounds pretty much similar to HHz to me

  44. AQ
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 19:20:31


    Sorry Jane, I hit submit before answering the other questions in your response.

    If that's true, don't you see how precarious of a position this is for writers' organizations?

    Of course I do but I think I said before when we’ve had discussions about the RITAs, the small press approved publishers list, full author membership, etc. that I felt that based on what I hearing publicly that the criteria and definitions were lax and didn’t reflect the rapidly changing reality of the author/publishing model. My position hasn’t changed. Again I’m not a member and I’m looking from the outside in.

    Honestly, it sometimes seems like a clusterfuck but I KNOW how difficult it is to run any volunteer organization and I also know how fast things spiral out of control online with little basis to the original reality.

    That said, I have no idea know how RWA has applied their definition and criteria to the other cases outside of those of Ellora’s Cave and Samhain. Even those cases are only based on online opinions. From what I heard/read I felt the RWA definitions and criteria were too imprecise to be useful to an author given the current reality, however, I definitely understood the intent even if I didn’t agree with the final vision/position.

    why can't they look at digital publishers on a case by case basis?

    Again from the outside looking in, I think their definitions and criteria are flawed given the current marketplace. What I don’t understand is why someone isn’t championing these issues (perhaps they will if HQ remains off the list) and by champion I mean a group of authors need to be proactive and come up with proposed definition and criteria changes and then either lobby the rest of membership and/or challenge the board to come up with something better. Again from the outside, it doesn’t sound like there’s much grass root action. Why can’t these issues be written up and then discussed as part of the regular meetings and once a consensus by the smaller groups are reached forwarded on to the representative and perhaps eventually the opposing viewpoints / positions could make it to the national newsletter prior to the Nationals.

    It sounds like profiting off the slush pile is okay so long as there are sufficient layers between the publisher profiting and the slush pile itself.

    I don’t think profiting from the slush pile is okay, not when it’s from the submission process directly to the publisher. If you’re talking about the Authonomy slush pile, I don’t feel the expectation or the relationship are the same because the author is looking for feedback and the possibility of discovery. Not from a publisher but from the world at large. The author must take extra precautions because there isn’t the same level of “trust” that they would expect to give/receive if they submitted directly to Harper Collins or HQ or TOR or etc.

  45. Jane
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 19:34:43


    If you're talking about the Authonomy slush pile, I don't feel the expectation or the relationship are the same because the author is looking for feedback and the possibility of discovery. Not from a publisher but from the world at large. The author must take extra precautions because there isn't the same level of “trust” that they would expect to give/receive if they submitted directly to Harper Collins or HQ or TOR or etc.

    This here is my biggest problem because there is no “trust” relationship between a publisher and a submitting author. There is between an agent and an author because they have a different business relationship, but no relationship exists between a pub and a submitting author. The duty the publisher has starts with the contract and ends with the contract. An agent (because of agency law and the rule against self dealing) has duties that start with the solicitation of its services.

  46. AQ
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 19:45:52

    @Janet W: Romance Novel Critique Service vs. Hh editorial services

    The Editorial Review is not a full manuscript edit, nor is it a replacement for the Harlequin Horizons full range of editorial services. Rather, our trained editors take a portion of your work-‘typically the first chapter or about 1,700 words-‘and give you a sample edit. The sample edit is designed to pinpoint areas that need improvement and give you, the author, constructive comments, areas that could be strengthened, and a general overview of your work.

    The cost: $342

    Keep in mind that for a sample edit of around 1,700 words. Jane’s Saturday First page posts generally come in around 500 words I think. Jane you need to triple your prices: $0 X 3 = well FREE!!!

    Compared to $1 / page for a full manuscript from eHQ or $100/$125 for half-manuscript critiques. Really if you thought you needed a professional critique and believed the service was trustworthy and the critique in-depth, the price of $200-400 is quite reasonable.

    They aren’t necessary though. You can join critique groups or writers’ organizations much cheaper than that.

    Having an option having an “approved” HQ critique provider…well, if I had a romance novel that wasn’t working and really felt I needed a professional critique, I definitely move them to the toward the top of the consideration/to be researched list just because it was HQ.

    I didn’t find anything about a full critique on Hh’s site. The closest thing would be the advanced editorial service which would come in around $6,000 but it’s supposedly much more than a critique although it doesn’t specify how many passes you get.

    True story.


    Ha ha ha ha! You made my night.

  47. Reader
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 20:15:09

    Jane, what RWA did doesn't fall under the “strict scrutiny test” that one might think Harlequin would win the case if they did sue. This means that RWA in this situation has a right to do whatever they think is best for their organization as a whole, regardless of whether Harlequin agrees with that decision or not.

    Furthermore, RWA is under no obligation to maintain the “same rule-of-thumb” so-to-speak which is the stand you seem to be upholding on this particular issue. RWA had a right to act on its discretion in this matter, and it did, even if there isn't a precedent for this situation.

    Also, Harlequin wouldn't qualify for a case of discrimination because legal discrimination stands on the definition that the body has a characteristic which is immutable and discrimination shouldn't be allowed to stand against immutable characteristics. However, Harlequin not only controls the decision of whether to maintain its association with Horizons but that it is not an immutable characteristic, which means that if Harlequin is being discriminated against by RWA, it is a perfectly legal discrimination.

    Moreover, you are presupposing knowledge on part of RWA as a whole of the aforesaid other companies also engaging in this practice, which might or might not be the case (which I wouldn't know because I'm not a member). But supposing RWA did possess knowledge of the other companies also engaging in more of the same, RWA is allowed to act on a case-by-case basis.

    However, I do agree with you on the point that RWA should ideally have the same rule for all publishers. But unfortunately, a vast chasm often lies between what should be done and is actually done.

    Also, I am almost always the supporter of the underdog in any situation, which means that I would not support this practice (even if it is perfectly legal) because I find it extremely unethical.

    (For the purposes of this thread, I must also say I’m not “A Reader,” comment #4).

  48. Jane
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 20:23:01

    @Reader: Um, strict scrutiny is a test applied to determine constitutionality of laws. I said that the RWA does not appear to be abiding strictly by its own bylaws. I can’t envision that the RWA would be subject to strict scrutiny test. Am not sure when a non profit’s rules would ever be subject to a constitutionality test.

    A non profit has to abide by its bylaws and apply them fairly or it can lose its non profit status, although, I am not familiar with the laws of Texas, but this is how I understand the law generally.

  49. Jane
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 20:24:39

    @Reader: Now that I think about it, the director and board would have to be sued and not the non profit.

  50. AQ
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 20:38:53


    This here is my biggest problem because there is no “trust” relationship between a publisher and a submitting author. There is between an agent and an author because they have a different business relationship, but no relationship exists between a pub and a submitting author. The duty the publisher has starts with the contract and ends with the contract. An agent (because of agency law and the rule against self dealing) has duties that start with the solicitation of its services.

    I think I understand the general meaning here but your words are moving into legal concepts that I don’t have the necessary background to either argue or interrupt precisely enough. Please take my response in the most general of terms.

    Would an author say that submitting to a publisher was different than submitting to an agent? I’d buy that because on a certain level authors know that they are submitting to different entities. But I don’t think the above distinction would ever enter their minds because I don’t believe we’re ever taught to think in those terms about the manuscript submission process.

    What do you mean when you say “trust?”

    I was using trust in regards to manuscript submission process to mean that the manuscript would be reviewed, then either returned or destroyed, and a letter would be sent: rejecting, offering contract, asking for revisions. The trust I speak of is that the publisher wouldn’t try to turn me into a customer paying for services that have no bearing on the acceptance/rejection of the manuscript or offering to allow me to pay to publish the manuscript instead when their submission guidelines state that they are advance/royalties based publisher with no author “pay to play” costs.

    If I’m interrupting the above paragraph then legally there’s no basis for that expectation. So what is the publishers obligation to its customer here? Because if the publisher is now marketing services to the author then the publisher has moved the author into some type of customer role in my mind.

    As a customer I can control the type of mailings and telemarketing I receive from corporations, be they direct, third party partnerships or even restricting who they can sell my name to. IF the author becomes a customer by virtue of the submission process which laws if any would be applicable to that marketing? And where’s the author’s/customer’s opt-out process?

    Not trying to be difficult, just trying to grasp the complexities.

  51. Jane
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 20:50:21

    @AQ: But you are’t a customer of the publisher. You may become one but simply sending in your manuscript doesn’t create that kind of relationship. I guess that’s where I have difficulty.

  52. AQ
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 20:56:58


    But doesn’t rejecting me but including a paragraph about the Harlequin Horizons option ETA: or even including separate ads —customer put me into the marketed customer base?

    Harlequin would definitely be marketing to me so if they aren’t marketing to me as a customer or a potential customer, what am I?

  53. Jane
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 21:01:00

    @AQ: I would agree that you are a potential customer at anytime, but what do you think (and by you, I’m referring to a general you) believe you are entitled to as a potential customer?

  54. Reader
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 21:10:30

    I was thinking in terms of no court ruling that RWA’s by-laws (that form the crux of the possible discrimination suit against the organization) is unconstitutional and thereby the case not being able to constitute a win for Harlequin. Certain laws and practices that discriminate are allowed to be challenged on its constitutional violation, in this example, a fundamental right to not be discriminated against illegally. However, certain types of discrimination are legal.

  55. none
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 21:12:09

    Owning stock in a company is not against the bylaws of RWA. BEING the Vanity press is. Had Harlequin simply started another corporation and kept things separate the issue would not be as it is.

    Being a Corporate and owning stock, and not even controlling stock, is NOT the same thing. Not even in IRS eyes. There is no share staff or resources, no money passed between bank accounts on a day to day bases, and so on. No using that company to fluff your bottom line or the help offset negatives.

  56. Jane
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 21:13:56

    @Reader: The laws of discrimination as you refer to are based on nationality, religion, race, gender, age, and certain disabilities.

  57. Jane
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 21:15:18

    @none: Actually, the bylaws state :

    Vanity Publisher means any publisher whose authors exclusively promote and/or sell their own books and publishers whose business model and methods of publishing and distribution are primarily directed toward sales to the author, his/her relatives and/or associates.

    It says nothing about ownership, nor IRS rules, nor legal corporate status. I don’t even see how Harlequin, as a publisher, falls under this definition. Harlequin Horizons, yes, but not Harlequin.

  58. none
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 21:18:55

    If they are a separate corporate then they are NOT doing any of those things you mention or rather they are not operating a vanity press. How can they be? Random is NOT running a vanity press nor are any of their authors involved in that operation. The company they own stock is. That is completely 100% different. A separate corporation cannot be held accountable for something the other corporation does.

  59. AQ
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 21:19:37


    In general here’s my off-the-top of my head list:

    As a customer or a potential customer (meaning either I signed up or the corporation acquired my name somewhere), I expect a privacy statement, to be able to control how the corporation uses my information and what they do with it, what type of advertisements I receive like only this brand name or only from this division of the corporation, or to be able to opt-out of receiving advertisements at any time unless it directly relates to the services the company is currently providing me. I expect that advertisements will be clearly labeled as such. I expect that if I submit a query/compliment/complaint to the company that any response from the company will pertain directly to the matter at hand. No superfluous information like ads or marketing material unless that’s what the query specifically requested.

  60. Liz
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 21:44:00

    HarperCollins gets an affiliate fee from those that use CreateSpace. HC has an Authonomy branded CreateSpace portal. As for confusion, I have no idea whether people are confused or not. There are banner ads at HC for CreateSpace and under the FAQ re Self Publishing, HC refers to CreateSpace pages.

    There are ads, here on this site, for products Dear Author does not endorse. But they are not marketed as Dear Author products, branded with the Dear Author name, with the intent to mislead Dear Author’s readers.

    I think that is the biggest difference between a sponsorship/affiliate link, and a partnership/imprint.

    HarperCollins, in this case, refers people to a third party, much in the same way the links here refer people to Though they are an affiliate, their interested in CreateSpace is limited, and that is made clear to the customer from both sides. Having a non-publishing entity such as Authonomy to use as a go-between doesn’t hurt, either.

    Harlequin’s venture with ASI goes beyond that. There is no clearly-defined line between the two companies, Harlequin and ASI, or if there is, it isn’t being appropriately disclosed to the customer. (Representatives commenting about those lines on this forum or on SBTB do not count.) They have defined their alliance only as a partnership, and Hh as a new Harlequin imprint. Unlike HC, Hh’s plans were not to use a non-publishing entity such as Authonomy to issue their solicitations to those who had agreed to receive them per the terms of service, but instead had planned to rely on Harlequin editors to solicit rejected authors on behalf of their own company. HC’s relationship to both Authonomy and CreateSpace is distanced; Harlequin’s relationship to ASI and Hh isn’t. Both are self-serving, but one is a clear conflict of interest. Changing the name will not change this fact, neither will suing RWA or any other writing organization who opts to not recognize Harlequin as a legitimate publisher now or in the future.

  61. Jane
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 21:46:44

    @Liz: Why will changing the name not create the separation? I’m thinking if Harlequin has a website called “Horizons by Harlequin” and “you have the opportunity to beat the slush” and there is a message board and links to a differently branded publishing services company, it’s essentially the same distance through Authonomy. (and there is a site that says “createspace by authonomy” or something like that).

  62. Reader
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 21:48:55

    If an individual is speaking of discrimination in its terms of an invidious sense, then the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process of law and the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of both due process of law and equal protection provide a measure of protection against any invidious discrimination. But unless you posit certain types of discrimination (e.g. race or gender), then all other discrimination is reviewed under a “rational basis” standard, which is what I would imagine would be applied here. And under the rational basis standard, the by-law would not be ruled unconstitutional. And even though the Constitution does not explicitly mention corporations, past key court decisions have afforded corporations many of the same rights as human beings, which is why I can conceive of this as a possible court case but not one being won by Harlequin.

  63. Janet W
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 21:51:09

    @AQ #46 — I so appreciate you answering my questions but I’m sorry, I don’t understand the answer.

    I get that Jane’s Free Saturday First Page analysis is the best deal in town (free).

    But the OLD HH service, contracting for some editorial analysis — how much was that? For how many words?

    How does it compare to the new pay*for*play Horizons plan?

    Is the first a Honda (in terms of cost)? The second a Mercedes? Feel free to ignore: I just didn’t understand the post … hopefully everyone else did!

  64. none
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 21:55:09

    A name change is just that — a name change. It does not change the fact that the company is performing the Vanity function, nor does it separate staff and operational resources, funds, and so fourth. It is still one company, tied financially, ethically, and legally. Usually you remain one company because you want to join resources, staff, funds. Again — Random is not even a majority stockholder in that other company. This is night and day — there is no comparison.

  65. Jane
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 21:55:09

    @Reader: Only the Fourteenth Amendment gives you protection against due process. The Fifth Amendment provides protection from abuse by government entities. It’s not really a due process argument.

    And again, the rational basis, strict scrutiny and heightened scrutiny are tests that are applied to legislative action.

    I’m uncertain where you get your interpretations of the law.

  66. Jane
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 21:57:07

    @none: Harlequin is not performing any function. Author Solutions Inc provides everything – the editors, the marketers, the whatevers. There is no staff, operational resources, funds put forth by Harlequin. It’s all provided by ASI. Only thing that Harlequin is offering is its name and it gets to monitor the sales. That’s what the press release says. In essence, it is getting an affiliate fee for every package purchased by the customer.

  67. brooksse
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 22:03:07

    @sarah mayberry:

    The TBI article mentions the possibility of “sell[ing] more units for less.” I think “more units” is a valid point, so it seemed strange to me that while the article mentioned selling more units, the P&L comparison was for the same number of copies sold. I would think if the total number of units sold increases, that should help offset decreased royalties per unit. I think this could be especially true for category authors who have a limited print shelf life but whose ebooks have a much longer shelf life.

    Also, the article doesn’t mention the possibility of a change in purchasing habits brought about by digital reading. I don’t know about others, but my buying habits have definitely changed since I started purchasing ebooks.

    I’m purchasing more books now and also reading a larger variety of authors. All my purchases are digital, so every ebook purchased results in a royalty to the author. Back when I was reading paperbacks, I would typically buy 5 or 6 used books for every 1 new book purchased. So maybe 15% of my purchases resulted in a royalty to the author. Categories in particular, I very rarely bought new due to their limited shelf life.

    Before it would have been rare for me to buy new copies of backlists or new-to-me authors. Those would have been purchased as used books. Now, all backlists and new-to-me authors are purchased new because I only buy in digital format. I try to find the best deal possible, and take advantage of sales and coupons, but it’s still a new copy instead of a used copy.

    For example, I’ve bought five books from your backlist this year, all as ebooks. I’ve read two of them and three are in my TBR pile. But because it’s the holiday season, I’ll probably buy and read “Home for the Holidays” before reading the other three. If I were still reading paperbacks, all five of the books from your backlist would have been purchased as used copies. That would have meant 5 used books and maybe 1 new book purchased in paperback format versus 6 new copies purchased in digital format.

    I don’t know how typical this is compared to other readers of ebooks, but my buying habits have changed since going digital.

  68. none
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 22:10:03

    If that is the case, and nothing is being done by Harlequin and they change the name — this is all being done by a separate company — then that could change things in my eyes from the legal structure standpoint and the guidelines. Who owns what defines how those guidelines have to be evaluated and applied. And yes– equally. One publisher cannot be treated differently. But to say Harlequin could sue or anyone could sue is pre-mature when we don’t know what is what here. We can only speculate — but people need to know when they hear this speculation that corporate structure does impact how the by-laws should be fairly and properly applied rather than assuming one is being treated differently.

    On a separate note — there are deceptive practices going on with Horizon that are concerning. If you call — some of the things being said and promised are not things I’d like to think Harlequin would want being said and promised. I have a lot of respect for Harlequin. I’d like to think this is Author Solutions and they really don’t realize its going down as it is. If you haven’t called and played the role of someone wanting to do this program, do it. See if you still feel good about what is being done.

  69. AQ
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 22:29:46

    @Janet W:

    Sorry about my inital muddy response. Hope this is more straight forward.


    A full manuscript critique is priced at a rate of $1.00 U.S./Cdn. per page. (For example, a 202-page manuscript will cost $202.00 U.S./Cdn.)
    A partial manuscript + outline, 1-60 pages $100.00 U.S./Cdn. payment
    A partial manuscript + outline, 61-80 pages $125.00 U.S./Cdn. payment

    Typical manuscripts are 200-400 pages based on the eHQ formatting specifications.

    In comparison: First chapter which Hh designates at around 1,700 words is around 4-7 pages depending on how much white space is on each page. The cost is $342.

    The submission guidelines for a HQ Presents (Mills & Boon Moderne Romance) states a word length of 50,000. Typically around 200 pages give or take.

    So to use the Hh Advance Development Editorial Services (beyond an actual critique but the closest critique-like service offered on the Hh website) is $0.077 per word:

    50,000 X $0.077 per word = $3,850.

    Note: That these calculations assume that the aspiring author is using these services ala carte without purchasing a package. The Editorial Review of the first chapter is included in packages starting at the $999 level. The Developmental Editorial Service only appears ala carte on the website.

    ETA: Taken from the websites

    Learn to Write provides professional, experienced critique editors to assess the romance novel manuscripts, under the supervision of the Learn to Write director.

    The romance writing experts have a depth of experience in the publishing industry (and romance specifically) editing and reviewing manuscripts, working closely with multipublished and new authors.

    The editorial critique is written by a romance writing expert and it will assess the strengths and weaknesses of your story, including pacing, writing style, voice, internal and external conflict, characterization, and romance. As each critique is personal, one critique may focus more on pacing versus another critique which may focus more on characterization, depending upon the qualities of your manuscript. Manuscript Evaluation Checklist Certificate of Completion

    Hh Editorial Review

    The Editorial Review is not a full manuscript edit, nor is it a replacement for the Harlequin Horizons full range of editorial services. Rather, our trained editors take a portion of your work-‘typically the first chapter or about 1,700 words-‘and give you a sample edit. The sample edit is designed to pinpoint areas that need improvement and give you, the author, constructive comments, areas that could be strengthened, and a general overview of your work.

    Hh Development Edit

    Phase One: Developmental Editing

    In the Developmental Edit, an editor gives your entire manuscript a detailed review at the book, chapter, and paragraph levels. You start by receiving a sample of the developmental work to approve. After your approval, the editor continues to review your work for additional revisions. These revisions for your fiction book will confirm that your content relates to your genre and target audience, and that your plot, pace, characters, and dialogue are consistent throughout your book. You are then given the opportunity to make changes to the content of your book based on the editor's recommendations.

    Phase Two: Content Edit

    After you complete the content changes, a content editor will continue the editing process. This Content Edit comes at no additional cost to you-‘it is included in the Development Editing cost. Grammar, spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure errors are corrected in this phase.

    Phase Three: Quality Assurance

    Just like in a car factory, your manuscript will receive one final “test drive” before it is released to be published. An editor will complete one final review to make sure the manuscript follows the Chicago Manual of Style, the style book used by traditional publishing houses nationwide.

    The entire editing process typically takes eight to ten weeks (not including any time you spend reviewing your manuscript throughout the phases).

  70. Liz
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 22:36:54

    @Jane: If this is a double post, I apologize; I got an error when I tried to respond earlier and it et my post.

    If CreateSpace were the lovechild between HarperCollins and Author Solutions, I would agree with you. It isn’t. What you’re proposing is the appearance of distance as opposed to actual distance, not unlike when authors take up sock-puppet IDs to plug or defend their work, or the measures some drug dealers put in place to ensure their dirty dealings are kept out of sight and their money kept clean. Merely renaming the venture and saying it isn’t Harlequin doesn’t negate the fact that Harlequin has a clear profit share interest in it, and pretending otherwise would only be more deceptive, not less.

  71. Chciklet
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 22:39:39

    What I’m seeing here is that Harlequin’s connection to Harlequin Horizons is both in fact and in name, but HarperCollins’s connection to Authonomy is merely in fact. IMO, if RWA is going to declare entire publishing houses ineligible because of connections to vanity presses, then they should be doing it for all houses with in fact connections to vanity presses, not just those with in fact and in name connections to vanity presses. If vanity presses are verboten, then all companies connected to one should be ineligible by RWA standards, regardless of how the vanity press is named.

    I’ve been sitting here with the above comment in the posting window for like five minutes, deciding whether or not to post it, because it sounds anti-RWA, which I’m not. I’m not a member of the organization, so I don’t have any say. I’m just wondering what the boundaries are for eligible/ineligible publishers.

  72. Janet W
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 22:41:18

    Thanks @AQ — you know sometimes people say, “it’s as clear as mud”? It’s definitely a tad clearer now.

    Correct me if I’m wrong: the services and the prices that are being offered now (through Harlequin Horizon or whatever they decide to call it) … are considerably more expensive than the previous menu?

    Is that correct?

  73. AQ
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 22:44:49

    @Janet W:

    Very much so. The cheapest service Hh offers is $342 for a first chapter review.

    eHQ Full manuscript critique: $200 – 400

  74. sarah mayberry
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 22:56:08


    Thanks for this perspective. Shall stop breathing into paper bag! I did read an article recently where ebook owners were talking about how it had changed their reading habits – ie increasing their rate of consumption. I must admit to cherishing hopes (as a book lover, let me state, not a book writer) that making books “sexy” by delivering them via something saucy like a Kindle or an Ereader or the much-touted-but-when-the-hell-is-it-going-to-get-here Apple tablet would turn a whole new generation onto reading. Books have been my favorite go-to for relaxation, escape, comfort and reward for years and it would be very cool if new technology gets more people into the written word. And glad you’re enjoying the reads. I have said before that I consider myself very lucky to be writing in the age of the ebook, since it keeps category authors’ writing alive past the sell-by date. Cheers!

  75. Jackie Kessler
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 22:58:42

    Regarding Thomas Nelson, it is no longer considered an eligible RWA publisher. I confirmed with the RWA Board today that Harlequin and Thomas Nelson books are still eligible for the 2010 Ritas (which makes sense, because those books were published in 2009, and the companies were not considered ineligible until 11/09). They are going to make the wording about the 2010 Rita eligibility more clear. But again, Thomas Nelson, like Harlequin, is no longer an eligible RWA publisher.

    Why? Simple: the publishers not only offer a vanity press option — the publishers are actively encouraging authors to use that vanity press option. Harlequin is doing this by including a line about Horizons in its rejection letters. Both publishers have links to their vanity presses on their websites.

    Now keep in mind that no matter what Harlequin calls it, Horizons is a vanity press. It is not self-publishing. When authors choose to self-publish, they keep 100% of the profit. (As well they should, after spending hundreds, even thousands, of dollars to print their books.) And in self-publishing, authors control their ISBN. Vanity publishers, on top of charging astronomical fees (case in point: Horizons offers developmental editing at the low, low price of .077 cents per word, so if your manuscript is 80,000 words, you’d pay more than $6,100 for a complete edit) also get a majority of the profit. (For what? All the risk they’ve taken? For their tired hands from endorsing all the checks they get?) And in vanity publishing, the publisher, not the author, controls the ISBN.

    But what’s really horrible about this, specifically in Harlequin’s case, is how it is steering authors toward the vanity option. By suggesting in its rejection letters that authors use Horizons to publish (really just print) their book, Harlequin is saying that while the author’s book isn’t good enough for Harlequin to pay the author for it, the book is good enough for the author to pay Harlequin for it. This is no better than having an agent reject a manuscript, but in the agent’s rejection letter it suggests that the author pay to get the manuscript edited by an editing company that’s owned by the agent. This is a gross conflict of interest. It is a way for Harlequin to make money off its slush pile.

    And when Harlequin says that it will monitor Horizons books for potential new voices, all this is doing is offering false hope. Because really, is Harlequin’s slush pile so small that it needs to consider vanity published books as a source for new talent?

    RWA, MWA, and SFWA have stood up for authors by saying Harlequin is an ineligible publisher. These organizations stand by the notion of authors being paid for their work. Any publisher that actively encourages authors to use a vanity press is not acting in the best interest of authors.

    Authors should be paid for their work.

    If authors choose to print their book themselves (instead of being paid by a publisher for their book, and having the publisher edit, copy edit, proofread, design, publish, promote, store, distribute and sell the book to bookstores and libraries), they should go with a true self-publishing option, say, with Lulu or Cafe Press. And they may want to strongly consider self-publishing an ebook version only, so that they won’t be stuck figuring out how to warehouse and distribute their books.

    If authors really, really want to go the vanity publishing option and give up the majority of their profit as well as pay huge fees to get their book printed, that’s certainly their choice. It’s a poor choice, and it is not going to help the author become a better writer, or grow an author’s career.

    But for publishers to promote the vanity press option, that’s nothing more than preying on new authors who don’t know any better. It takes time for authors to do their homework and to get a handle on how publishing works — and to really understand, deep in their bones, that they should be paid for their work. When a new author gets rejected, it’s all too easy for that hurting author to be swayed by the false promise of Harlequin that Horizons is a good solution — and dangle the carrot that by using Horizons, one day the author might actually become a real Harlequin author.

    It’s not enough for Harlequin to remove its name from Horizons. It must also stop promoting Horizons on its website and in its rejection letters. And it must stop hinting that Horizons authors may be chosen to become Harlequin authors. Then Horizons would be just another Xlibris. Still a hold-your-nose situation, but at least Harlequin would not be preying on new authors any longer.

  76. Janet W
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 23:12:56

    @AQ — Thank you! Clarity for me at least …

    You know what I’m thinking is not so much the legalistic mumbo jumbo about Tab A and Slot B but whether or not this passes the average Joan (notice, NOT average Joe LOL) smell test … does this feel like like a seismic change? Or is it business as usual?

    Sadly, a month or so for now, this may feel very “yawn*esque” … but for me, tonight, I think it S U C K S! I grew up in Toronto. I read the Toronto Star every day I lived in Toronto. For me Harlequins were what you read in a musty cottage. Hey, just me. And the Toronto Star was something I read every day, even thou I was a Globe and Mail paper girl. Times change: Harlequin is the cash Queen and TorStar is more in the Red than a blood bank. Times change!

    RomLand bloggers, Smart Bitches/Dear Author, they have done the whole embrace the Contemporary –> consider the author … I have bought more Harlequins in the last year than in my whole life (and unbeknowst to me, I was always a HH fan). So this really sticks in my craw. I’m telling my buds, hey, Nora Roberts rocks the house, Eloisa is the cat’s meow, whatever … I did NOT need this!!!

    So legalistic is not the answer for me — I’m looking for — “Harlequins are an undiscovered pleasure — you should not care about this vanity/self publishing arm because” — but I suspect that is not going to be an easy sell. So thanks Head Honchas at Harlequin for making my soft sell of romancelandia books that much harder.

  77. Magdalen
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 00:29:25

    What I haven’t seen anywhere is a discussion of revenue streams. Harlequin gets, I believe, 25% of the net profits from sales of Hhz books (Author Solutions gets 25% and the writer gets 50%). That says the revenue stream is comparable to that of a publisher, just the percentages are different. If someone can show me that Harper Collins gets a percentage of the net profits from sales of books that CreateSpace publishes through a referral from Authonomy — then I’ll start to believe the apples-to-apples argument. (I would guess that’s not the model with HC, but perhaps someone knows what the revenue model really is.)

    And as for Random House / Bertelsman / Xlibris — well, why didn’t Torstar announce the deal with Authors Solutions as a corporate entity in the Torstar stable, and thus only a corporate sibling to Harlequin? I think the answer is fairly evident: Torstar qua Torstar wouldn’t make any money that way. What writer would care that they used a vanity venture associated with Torstar? Harlequin was clearly — and brazenly — trading on its name and reputation. This was evident from the “Harlequin Horizons” name, the cunning Hh logo, and the assurance that Harlequin would be monitoring sales data with an eye toward acquiring properties for other Harlequin imprints. I don’t see any of that sort of cross-promotion with Harper Collins or Random House. And certainly not a romance-specific imprint like Avon.

    Here’s the problem I have with all this, and the reason why I’d back RWA’s move both morally and legally: Harlequin set up the Harlequin Horizons venture so that Harlequin would make money directly off the desires of writers to have their romance novel published. They put their name on it, they put out the gushing press release, they had their flacks defend the venture, even while authors and others were complaining. Maybe, Jane, you are right and Harper Collins and Random House are as bad and just haven’t been caught. (Personally, I think the visible differences and imputed differences are sufficient to argue to the contrary.)

    But Harlequin got caught because it flaunted its vanity venture. And now it has some problems to deal with. Changing the name won’t fix the underlying revenue stream and commingling of editorial and other efforts with Author Solutions. Changing the corporate structure would — but no one can think that “Torstar Horizons” is going to make any money with the a la carte prices as quoted. The only reason to pay those prices is the connection with Harlequin. Take that connection away and it’s just a too-expensive option in the vanity press market.

  78. Jackie Kessler
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 06:47:57

    That says the revenue stream is comparable to that of a publisher, just the percentages are different.

    The problem is that Harlequin claims that Horizons is a self-publishing option. It’s not. It’s a vanity press option. A true self-publishing option gives authors 100% of the profit. Which makes perfect sense, since the author is **paying for every single service.** A vanity publisher takes the lion’s share of the profit (in Horizon’s case, the author gets 50% — and that’s of net, not even of cover price) even after the author pays for every single service to get the book printed.

  79. Shiloh Walker
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 08:03:57


    But Xlibris/Random House do not refer rejected authors there to PAY for critique and publishing services. They also keep their names separate entities.

    Exactly, Alley.

    There’s a distinction between the two that counts a lot, IMO.

    More, there’s a difference, as far as I know, between owning STOCK, even a majority, and owning the COMPANY.

    Now if RH had XLibris under it’s ‘umbrella’, and if RH was sending referrals to those they rejected, and if Random House had posted links to Xlibris all over a ‘how to write’ section of their website, I would see the parallel, and the problem.

    But they don’t.

    HarperCollins’ relationship with authonomy-authonomy is called ‘authonomy’.
    It wasn’t marketed as ‘HC Authonomy’ and the website isn’t’. There isn’t a ‘learn how to write’ section on their site that funnels aspiring writers to authonomy.

    I know, as a romance writer, when I was starting out, one of the first things I did was go to HQN’s website and check out their submission guidelines. If there had been a link in their ‘learn how to write’ section labeled BECOME AN AUTHOR, you can bet I would have checked it out. And I mean… this is HQN, so why shouldn’t I trust they are telling me straight-they are telling this could be the way to publication, why shouldn’t I believe that?

    The other websites associated with selfpub/vanity are not linking THEIR names to the selfpub/vanity pub. They aren’t funneling their rejected authors.

    If they were, yes, we’d be screaming about it.

    But they aren’t. I’m sorry we can’t seem to get people to understand the differences we see, and why.

    Changing the name with HHz is a start. But unless they stop funneling their rejected authors to the vanity pub, it’s not going to be enough.

    And they really, REALLY need to stop calling it self pub, because it’s not.

  80. Jackie Kessler
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 08:25:29

    Well said, Shiloh.

  81. Jane
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 08:42:44

    @Jackie Kessler I hear what both you and Shiloh are saying, but that’s not what the bylaws say. The bylaws state that if the authors are customers of the publisher then it’s a vanity press. It says nothing about the difference between self publishing and vanity publishing.

  82. Jackie Kessler
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 08:47:21

    @Jane – By definition, the authors are customers of the vanity press; they have purchased services of the press to print their books. And it’s well known that vanity presses strongly encourage/pressure authors to buy their own printed books from the publisher.

    Vanity publishing hurts authors. (And based on the high prices for the final printed books and the questionable quality of the final product, I’d say it also hurts readers.)

  83. Jane
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 08:48:40

    @Jackie Kessler: I’m not saying Vanity Press isn’t a bad deal for authors, Jackie. I’m asking how Authonomy by HarperCollins which markets a service to its authors, turns them into customers, is different under the bylaws.

  84. Nora Roberts
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 08:55:29

    Just echoing what’s being said.

    You can’t call it self-publishing when it’s vanity press.

    You can’t claim it’s not really a Harlequin entity when you clearly advertise it as connected to Harlequin and use mss submitted and rejected by Harlequin to attract customers, particularly with all this fulfill your dreams, become published la-la-la–when the customer would NOT be published, but printed at a very hefty fee.

    The connection to Harlequin, the use of the Harlequin name, rep, influence and popularity is the essential ingredient to this venture. It’s not a separate arm owned by Torstar, or an entity Torstar has a major share in. It’s a partnership between Harlequin and Author Solutions which hypes a vanity press as something it’s not and uses the Harlequin name and its resources.

    RWA, MWA and SFWA represent the best interests of their members–of writers. I don’t believe any of these organizations took the step to deem Harlequin an ineligible publisher lightly but because what Harlequin intends to do, and how it intends to do it crosses a line.

  85. Jane
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 09:00:39

    @Nora Roberts: I’m not denying any of that. I’m stating that the use of the publisher name and partnership is not dissimilar to Authonomy/HarperCollins.

    It seems like the complaints boil down to this: Profiting off the slush or being involved in a pay for play interest is okay for a publisher so long as there is enough separation from the “legitimate” publishing business. If the vanity press could cause confusion in potential customers, then there is not enough distance.

    If that is the main complaint, then great. But the bylaws should be rewritten because as it stands now, that’s not how the bylaws read.

  86. Nora Roberts
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 09:34:41

    Jane, maybe the bylaws should be rewritten–way not my area. But I think, seriously, none of these organizations could or would have expected a major, reputable and recognized publisher to have taken the step Harlequin took and have previously reflected it in those bylaws.

    I know where you’re coming from, and it’s more straight legal or procedural line, because well, you’re a lawyer and you’re wired that way. You’re supposed to think that way.

    I don’t actually see what Harlequin is proposing as all that similar to Authonomy/HC. But that’s certainly a difference in viewpoint.

  87. ardeatine
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 09:41:26

    It’s worth noting that Authonomy members, right from its inception, have been regularly calling on Harper Collins to open a POD imprint under the Authonomy banner. Members have also suggested that it might be a way for HC to monitor sales with a view to offering formal contracts.

  88. Anonymousssss
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 09:53:41

    OT: I really feel for newish RWA President Michelle Monkou. She probably didn’t envision that she’d be navigating THESE choppy waters when she took the job.

    That said, she appears to have a nice, firm grasp on the tiller.

  89. Magdalen
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 10:02:40

    @Nora — I’m a lawyer, and I don’t see the similarities that Jane sees. Until someone shows me that Harper Collins gets royalties from books published by CreateSpace when it was the Harper Collins/Authonomy connection that got that writer to CreateSpace, there is no comparison.

    In the Harlequin Horizons model, a writer (from the slush pile or not) decides to have her book published by Hhz. The net profits from that book are shared by the writer, Author Solutions and Harlequin. That’s parallel with the revenue stream for traditional publishing: the pub gets some money from sales, and the author gets some money from sales.

    In the Harper Collins model, HC refers people to Authonomy, which doesn’t publish anyone itself (it’s just a free digital peer-to-peer critiquing space with some review by HC editors) but does have a deal with CreateSpace to encourage writers to publish with CreateSpace. It seem highly unlikely to me that HC would get an ongoing share of profits from books published by CreateSpace through the Authonomy connection. I don’t doubt there’s a monetary consideration in all these deals — but the revenue stream is going to be more like a flat referral fee or the like. That’s not the way publishing works. Frankly, that’s more like what agents do, and how agents get paid.

    So, no, I don’t think a law degree makes a big difference in how one looks at this situation.

  90. Jane
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 10:04:32

    @Magdalen: Where do you see royalties mentioned in the bylaws?

  91. Jackie Kessler
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 10:05:04

    @Jane: It’s an excellent question. But there are some clear differences between Harlequin Horizons and HarperCollins UK’s authonomy.

    1. Authonomy is primarily an online slush pile, one that allows readers and writers to comment on and critique authors’ uploaded works. Horizons is a vanity publisher, period.

    2. Authonomy’s slush pile costs nothing for authors. Horizons is completely pay for play.

    3. Authonomy is a social networking site in which readers can recommend authors’ uploaded manuscripts to other readers (and to HarperCollins editors, in the hopes that those editors would consider reviewing those manuscripts for possible publication). Horizons is not a social networking site and does not allow for reader or author commentary.

    Now, there are some important similarities.

    1. Authonomy is advertised on the HarperCollins website (UK and US; I have not checked the other HC websites) just as Horizons is advertised on the Harlequin website. (I don’t know whether HC mentions authonomy in its rejection letters.)

    2. Authonomy dangles the carrot of HarperCollins editors reviewing the top rated authonomy manuscripts for possible publication by HarperCollins, just as Harlequin says it keeps an eye on Horizons books for possible future publication by Harlequin.

    3. Among its other functions, authonomy offers a POD option to the authors posting their work. Horizons, of course, also offers the pay-for-play service — with a hefty profit margin for Horizons.

    I don’t know how authonomy offers the POD option, nor do I know if it makes a profit on any of those printed books or who owns the ISBN. Does anyone here know?

  92. ardeatine
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 10:11:56

    I don't know how authonomy offers the POD option, nor do I know if it makes a profit on any of those printed books or who owns the ISBN. Does anyone here know?

    The POD option on Authonomy is reached by clicking the Creatspace link. Takes you from the site to Creatspace and there the author makes the decision based on what they find. Authonomy also send out mails suggesting Creatspace as a place to self publish ones work.

    You don’t have to click the link. You don’t have to read the mails. Unless you want to.

  93. Jane
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 10:13:35

    @Jackie Kessler: I’m just looking at the bylaws and trying to figure out how the board is applying them because if the board is applying the bylaws in a way that says that any publisher that has authors promote and/or sell their own works or has a business model wherein the methods of publishing and distribution are directed toward sales to the author, then I don’t see the difference between Horizons + Author Solutions and Authonomy + Createspace.

    I understand that Authonomy directs you to a POD & does not keep a royalty but those aren’t the terms within the bylaws. I understand that there are differences, but not ones that I see in the bylaws. That’s what I am talking about in terms of fairly applying the rules.

    It’s not that I don’t understand that there are differences, but I don’t see the differences in terms of how the bylaws are applied. I think part of the problem is that there is no definition for publisher in the bylaws. A publisher definition could include something like “any entity that receives a royalty from a sale of an author” and that would make a difference between the Authonomy + CreateSpace and Horizons + ASI but that language is not there. Thus, the board must be reading that into it and I don’t know if that is a reasonable interpretation.

  94. Jane
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 10:15:14


    You don't have to click the link. You don't have to read the mails. Unless you want to.

    Is Harlequin Horizons making people buy their product? I hadn’t realized that.

  95. AQ
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 10:20:51


    Profiting off the slush or being involved in a pay for play interest is okay for a publisher so long as there is enough separation from the “legitimate” publishing business.

    Jane, I think get where you’re going and I think it’s great that you’re pushing for a full re-evaluation of definitions and criteria used.

    But I’m having a disconnect. Can you walk us through the legal distinction you’re making with Harper Collins, Authonomy, and CreateSpace vs. Harlequin and Harlequin Horizons as it applies to your take on RWA bylaws. How are they the same under the bylaws definition?

    Also are we saying that’s there no further criteria/testing than a bylaws definition? My assumption is that there’s some type of forms & procedure manual giving more fully-fleshed out definitions, instructions on how to apply criteria to make the determination, how often the testing should occur, under what circumstances and by who, etc.

  96. Magdalen
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 10:30:08

    @Jane: I’m not looking for “royalties” in the bylaws; I’m looking for evidence of an entity acting as a publisher in a vanity press venture. Harlequin has clearly and openly joined Author Solutions in a vanity press venture. There can be no rational question that by doing so Harlequin has violated the RWA bylaws.

    That Thomas Nelson and the other Christian publisher (forgotten the name, sorry) have also done so in their vanity ventures with Author Solutions is also clear. You can fault RWA for not getting as upset about WestBow as they did about Harlequin Horizons, but I think you can see the real-life differences between Harlequin and Thomas Nelson vis a vis RWA’s membership.

    So now the question is whether Harper Collins or Random House has done anything that violates RWA’s bylaws. Again, I think RWA needs more evidence one way or the other. And among the evidence RWA might reasonable ask for and look at would be the nature of the revenue stream for Harper Collins and Random House vis a vis CreateSpace and Xlibris.

    Which is where royalties come into it. Harlequin earns royalties from books published by Harlequin Horizons. That’s a publisher acting as a vanity press.

    Until someone says definitively that Harper Collins makes money as a percentage of net profits from sales of books published by CreateSpace (through Authonomy), or Random House does from books published by Xlibris through referral by Random House, I would argue that Harper Collins and Random House are not themselves vanity presses in the meaning of the RWA bylaws.

    Now, just to sound all lawyerly for a moment, there could be other business models and revenue streams that could seem sufficiently damning to allow or insist that RWA to deem either Harper Collins or Random House a vanity publisher. I just haven’t read anything that persuades me that is the case. I’m still reading, though, and keeping an open mind.

  97. ardeatine
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 10:31:14

    Is Harlequin Horizons making people buy their product? I hadn't realized that.

    I was just making the point that however it’s presented to them, authors have a choice and are usually sentient enough to exercise that choice. There’s been a lot of talk from published authors and organisations about what is best for the unpublished author, but not a lot from the unpublished author point of view. I’ve been a long time member of Authonomy and contribute regularly to the forums there. The Authonomy authors don’t appear uncomfortable with the Creatspace ads. Harper Collins also use the sidebars to advertise their own published books. There was some eye rolling at this and then normal business resumed.

    I do think that the Harly Horizons deal is over priced and possibly hitting authors at their most vulnerable, ie just as they’re receiving their rejection letter. I do think the Authonomy deal with Creatspace is a better deal for authors looking to publish their own books. I think there have to be shades of grey in this or authors will be missing out on opportunities that might be beneficial to them. But I also think that rules are rules and when you join an organisation you read the rules and should be expected to abide by them. Perhaps it’s time for new organisations that take into account of the changing climate in publishing?

  98. Nora Roberts
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 10:37:34

    Just as an aside, Thomas Nelson has also been deemed an ineligible publisher by RWA.

  99. Magdalen
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 10:39:49

    @Nora Roberts: Right. But some people in the blogosphere have suggested that because RWA didn’t include Thomas Nelson (and the other one whose name I don’t know) in their announcement re: Harlequin Horizons, this is really just some feud between RWA and Harlequin.

    I don’t endorse that view, I merely report it.

  100. Nora Roberts
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 10:51:14

    Magdalen, I see. I guess the idea of a feud between Harlequin and RWA was just too silly for me to think of–and I hadn’t seen that view on any of the blogs I’ve read so far. Fascinating.

  101. Magdalen
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 11:02:00

    @Nora Roberts: I think the arguments on behalf of Harlequin’s new venture with Author Solutions go something like this: Harlequin didn’t invent vanity publishing, and writers — even ones who have just been rejected by Harlequin — are grown ups and not gullible children, so if they want to spend their money this way, let them.

    And then, when popular opinion was, let’s say, more unfavorable toward Harlequin and Harlequin Horizons (for a variety of reasons that I suspect you either know, believe, or have read), the arguments shifted to one of fairness. That it is unfair for RWA to single out Harlequin Horizons when Harper Collins has Authonomy (which doesn’t actually publish anything but which does refer a writer/member to CreateSpace, which does publish stuff if you pay them) and Random House’s corporate owner, Bertelsman, has a substantial ownership in Xlibris, which also publishes stuff if you pay them.

    I don’t entirely understand all the nuances of every argument, so I apologize to anyone who thinks I’ve mis-characterized the spirit of the debate.

  102. Stevie
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 11:02:28

    Actually, my complaint about all of this is on a much more personal level; I really dislike being taken for an idiot.

    Only an idiot would fail to distinguish between self-publishing and vanity publishing, and only an idiot would believe that vanity publishing is a new business model. Nevertheless, a disappointing number of romance bloggers appear to have fallen for it hook, line and sinker, to the extent of quoting chunks of Hhos press releases as if these were revelations of truth from on high.

    I appreciate that there may be cultural differences at play here, and there is always the chance that as an English English speaker I am failing to pick up on the nuances of American English. So, in order to clarify, let me explain in very simple terms: Harlequin’s claim that the suckers in question will self-publish is what we on this side of the Pond call a lie.

    It has been my experience that people who are prepared to tell lies in order to relieve other people of their money are unlikely to worry too much about anything other than obtaining a further supply of other people’s money. Well, that and not feeling the long arm of the law fingering their white collars.

    Putting up the cry of ‘other people do it’ simply makes it obvious that they are scrabbling for some way in which they can carry on telling lies to suckers in order to extract cash whilst pretending that they are fine, upstanding and reputable people who wouldn’t dream of engaging in the publishing equivalent of a Ponzi scheme…

  103. Magdalen
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 12:03:32

    @Stevie: I believe you call them “porkies.” (Married to a Brit; sorry.)

    That is certainly one of the complaints — that the options for writers interested in getting published have expanded to include self-publication (in paper or as an ebook) where the writer keeps all rights and profits from the book itself. In the brave new world of ebooks and the like, self-publication is a viable option. What Harlequin Horizons offers is not self-publication, and even as a vanity press option, it seems expensive and possibly misleading with regard to the likelihood that publication through Harlequin Horizons will result in traditional publication with a Harlequin imprint. (Not sure if, as a legal matter, there are any lies there, though.)

    My complaint is different. I worry that Harlequin — as a brand name — is so closely linked to romance novels even among people who know nothing else about romance fiction (the UK equivalent, of course, is Mills & Boon, which I believe also stands for romance fiction for some people), that its foray into vanity publication will hamper efforts by a lot of people to elevate the romance genre from the cliches of “bodice-rippers” and “smut for women.” I think a lot of people think “anyone can write a romance novel,” meaning romance novels lack the indicia of craft and creativity found in other fiction. With Harlequin Horizons, that assumption is that much closer to being true.

    (P.S. My husband tells me that David Lodge called his fictional publisher Bills & Moon in his book Small World. Here it might be Columbine or Pierrot Press, if anyone got the reference…)

  104. Melissa Blue
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 12:30:57

    According to James D. MacDonald, Random House or it’s parent company no longer owns Xlibris, but Author Solutions does. As of Jan. 09. You can find the comment on the Absolute Write thread about HqHo # 361

  105. Kalen Hughes
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 13:02:04

    Why? Simple: the publishers not only offer a vanity press option -‘ the publishers are actively encouraging authors to use that vanity press option. Harlequin is doing this by including a line about Horizons in its rejection letters. Both publishers have links to their vanity presses on their websites.

    Several authors have reported that Thomas Nelson’s rejections also contain information pointing them to WestBow. This is moot however, as TN has also been removed from the list of eligible RWA publishers.

  106. AQ
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 13:09:14

    @Jackie Kessler said:

    1. Authonomy is primarily an online slush pile…

    In response to Jane
    @Jackie Kessler: I'm not saying Vanity Press isn't a bad deal for authors, Jackie. I'm asking how Authonomy by HarperCollins which markets a service to its authors, turns them into customers, is different under the bylaws.

    While I agree that Authonomy’s community contains a slush pile, I don’t think it’s a publisher slush pile.

    There is no expectation of the publisher-author manuscript submission transaction. Harper Collins editors are not required to read submissions or to provide a yeah/nay answer to the submitter. The submissions are not limited to authors seeking publication with Harper Collins, the comments are open to the entire Authonomy community which may include readers, agents, other authors, editors from other publishing houses, etc..

    The free (as of today) web service is governed a terms of service agreement. Advertisement is shown but that is not unusual in a free online social networking environment. As far as the e-mails for offers/products are concerned, the customer/member may opt-out at any time.

    This isn’t a publisher-author relationship, it’s a customer-web service relationship with clearly defined terms prior to membership. So in my mind, it’s not a publisher slush pile even though the community has a slush pile.

    To take that one step further Harper Collins isn’t profiting on Authonomy’s slush pile, they are “profiting” from the development of an online social networking community. And from my outsider view I haven’t been made aware that development of an online social networking community is covered under RWA bylaws or publisher eligibility requirements.

    Jane, as soon as one signs up for the Authonomy one becomes a customer. That relationship allows Authonomy to market to its customer base (not limited to authors) via e-mail but it also allows for the customer to opt-out. How is a voluntary customer relationship the same thing as a Vanity Publisher under the bylaws?

  107. ardeatine
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 13:21:23

    I think a lot of people think “anyone can write a romance novel,” meaning romance novels lack the indicia of craft and creativity found in other fiction. With Harlequin Horizons, that assumption is that much closer to being true.

    Hate to say it, but (rightly or wrongly) Mills and Boon/Harlequin already has that stigma amongst most non romance reading authors and readers. I agree that the Horizons imprint won’t help, but it won’t be the primary cause of the naysaying, because that’s already happening.

  108. Jackie Kessler
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 13:23:06

    @Kalen Hughes: Yes — Thomas Nelson is no longer an eligible RWA publisher.

    Until someone says definitively that Harper Collins makes money as a percentage of net profits from sales of books published by CreateSpace (through Authonomy), or Random House does from books published by Xlibris through referral by Random House, I would argue that Harper Collins and Random House are not themselves vanity presses in the meaning of the RWA bylaws.

    Yes, exactly what @Magdalen says here. Is HarperCollins profiting from authonomy’s POD agreement with CreateSpace? If not, then it’s not a vanity press, and HarperCollins would not be disqualified by RWA as an eligible publisher.

    And as @Melissa Blue says, Bertelsmann (Random House’s parent company) no longer owns Xlibris. Author Solutions does. Before that, I’m fairly certain it wasn’t Random House’s venue but Bertelsmann’s.

  109. Jackie Kessler
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 13:24:32

    @AQ: Nicely put, AQ.

  110. Robin
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 13:40:18

    @Jackie Kessler:

    Is HarperCollins profiting from authonomy's POD agreement with CreateSpace?

    The short answer is yes.

    I’m kind of wondering whether Mrs. Giggles is right that this only becomes an issue for authors when they feel directly impacted (i.e. nobody blinked at the Nelson thing except Nelson authors, but now Romance authors are objecting because Harlequin has entered the game).

    IMO pubs that go to lengths to create “layers” or whatever between themselves and any endeavor to profit off the slush pile should be viewed with even more suspicion, because the profit mechanism is still very much in operation, but it’s hidden, perhaps to spare authors a sense of stigma? If the issue is that it’s bad to monetize the slush or to hang with vanity presses, then why should ANY publisher with such ties/initiatives be passed through? Whether there’s direct linkage or not, if a publisher is making money off the backs of aspiring authors, shouldn’t that be objectionable to all authors, especially if they’re doing it on the sly?

    It’s not like these events have been hidden; Writer Beware has been covering ALL of these developments, and then some. Which would make it really convenient for the RWA BOD to keep up with stuff that directly affects their member advocacy and implementation of their own rules.

  111. Magdalen
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 13:53:45

    @Robin: That Harper Collins is profiting from Authonomy’s arrangement with CreateSpace is not the issue. DearAuthor presumably profits from the banners ads for eHarlequin, but that doesn’t make DearAuthor an epublisher.

    What matters (legally and/or with respect to the RWA bylaws) is the nature of that profit-making relationship. I used “royalties” as an example that is so clearly an indicator of a publisher-author relationship that no one could be confused. Until we know what the revenue stream arrangement (or corporate ownership) is between Harper Collins and Authonomy and between Authonomy and CreateSpace, I don’t see evidence that Harper Collins is a vanity press, or is a partner in a vanity press venture.

  112. Jackie Kessler
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 13:59:36


    HarperCollins gets an affiliate fee from those that use CreateSpace. HC has an Authonomy branded CreateSpace portal. As for confusion, I have no idea whether people are confused or not. There are banner ads at HC for CreateSpace and under the FAQ re Self Publishing, HC refers to CreateSpace pages.

    Thank you for linking, Robin. But I would argue that HC getting an affiliate fee is very different than if HC were taking a percentage of the profit away from the author. My fault for not clarifying what I meant when I asked if HC were profiting from the POD venue. So I will reframe the question:

    Is HarperCollins taking any of the CreateSpace author’s profit? Or is the author seeing 100% of the profit?

  113. Robin
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 14:16:36

    @Jackie Kessler: I understand that you would argue it differently, but I’d argue that what Harlequin is getting is NOT part of the author’s profit, but part of ASI’s profit. That is, they are getting a referral fee from ASI, since those fees are native to ASI’s services. In fact, didn’t they actually get ASI to charge somewhat less than what they did with Nelson?

    To clarify, IMO you can argue it either way with BOTH, so if you’re going to argue that Harlequin is profiting off authors via the ASI referral fee, IMO it’s only consistent to argue that way for HC’s referral fee via Authonomy/Createspace.

    I think Michael Hyatt has some interesting things to say here about some of the objections to these ventures.

  114. Suze
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 14:18:04

    Only an idiot would fail to distinguish between self-publishing and vanity publishing

    I don’t think everybody who can’t make this distinction is an idiot. I’ve been looking at various definitions, and a lot of them are murky, in many many many places on the net. I think it’s pretty obvious to more people now (after this huge, cross-net discussion), but even the P&E definition of vanity press wasn’t very useful to me. (Of course, it was pretty late when I was reading it, so my cognitive functions may have been suffering…)

  115. Moriah Jovan
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 14:22:48


    Only an idiot would fail to distinguish between self-publishing and vanity publishing

    Not true. Until this blowup, self-publishing and vanity publishing have been oh-so-conveniently conflated by those who A) really don’t know and B) want to deliberately confuse the issue, and this conflation has been the overarching vision of most people.

    NOW the definitions are coming out of the woodwork (where they’ve always been) and being taken seriously.

    But no, the two terms have, for the most part, always been used interchangeably.

  116. Melissa Blue
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 14:31:25

    @Robin: I could almost agree on certain points until he made the reference authors ripping off publishing by being paid an advance.

    Which is a pretty bold, though ignorant, thing to say.

  117. Lucy
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 14:31:56

    Michael Hyatt is CEO of Thomas Nelson. Of course, he’s going to defend TN’s position. I’m not saying he might not have some good points, but you should be aware of the source.

  118. Robin
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 14:38:49

    @Lucy: Oh, I know exactly who Hyatt is. That was the point, actually. ;)

    @Melissa Blue: There’s absolutely NO question that publishers are looking out for themselves.

    My pressure point with the whole thing vis a vis authors is that pubs do stuff all the time that’s exploitive, distasteful, ethically questionable, etc. Some of it, though, keeps authors from being dropped. So let’s say Harlequin did this quietly, didn’t announce it or make the connection well-known. And let’s say they run it for three years and it’s profitable, to the point where they can take on more HQN authors. Would it be okay or not?

  119. Suze
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 14:49:05

    So let's say Harlequin did this quietly, didn't announce it or make the connection well-known. And let's say they run it for three years and it's profitable, to the point where they can take on more HQN authors. Would it be okay or not?

    It still wouldn’t be okay to be misleading hopeful writers into spending huge dollars to get their sub-par work printed. After three years, I’m guessing there would be a huge community of people who felt they’d been ripped off by HarHo, and HQ would be dealing with an uglier, stickier PR mess. And it would probably lead to some anti-predator laws, like what happened in Canada with cemetery pre-need sales.

    ETA: I’m assuming the links on the how-to-write sites and the ad in the rejection letters were still in place for those three years.

  120. Janet W
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 14:52:25

    I for one am waiting for the big blogland voices to address whether this move by Harlequin was/is/will be a dilution of their brandname. I think I’ve read some say Harlequin is such a terrific marketer that they’re almost teflon proof (my interpretation).

    Was this business decision well-marketed? Guess not, given the reaction.

  121. Robin
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 14:56:15

    @Janet W: I wouldn’t assume that existing authors were the applicable market here, though.

    @Suze: My argument would be that other publishers ARE doing just that, though, and are STILL not catching crap for it.

  122. Lucy
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 14:58:42

    IMO, to leave the relationship intact for three years would do more to steer good writers AWAY from HQ than to recruit unsuspecting fodder for AS.

  123. Suze
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 15:05:32

    My argument would be that other publishers ARE doing just that, though, and are STILL not catching crap for it.

    Well, if nothing else, this whole episode has certainly raised the profile of the issue. With any luck, more writer organizations will get on board with Writer Beware and P&E, clean up their definitions, and starting throwing some crap around.

  124. Janet W
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 15:06:07

    I’m not @suze but if I could make the Kleenex analogy one more time (stealing the thunder of a gal from Scandinavia who posted on Smart Bitches) here’s what she said —

    No other publisher on the planet has succeeded in associating the type of books it publishes with the brand to the same degree that HQ has. Hell, I live in Norway, and I can tell you that HQ is romance in all of Scandinavia. I wouldn't be surprised if that goes for the rest of northern Europe, as well.

    IF people didn’t associate Harlequin with romance books the way they think Kleenex and tissue, this discussion wouldn’t be happening. It’s because they do market their brand so effectively that they catch crap when they do something like this. Well, enough crap from me … I doubt I’m changing any minds and hearts here :)

  125. Magdalen
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 15:13:15

    @Suze: I disagree with this. If Harlequin didn’t have its name on the vanity venture, and just referred rejected authors to Author Solutions without revealing how much Harlequin got paid for that referral, and without any suggestion that paying Author Solutions money for a vanity publication would increase that writer’s chance of getting published by Harlequin at a later date — then I’d be okay with that. That’s your classic caveat emptor situation. (I’m ignoring any possible violations of the new FTC regulations on disclosing payments and/or other inducements — especially as I don’t know whether Harlequin’s offices in Buffalo, NY are sufficient to trigger the US government’s right to issue fines for violations of the FTC regs. I suspect they are.)

    In that hypothetical — which is a long way down the road from where we are now, even with Harlequin’s willingness to take its name off its venture with Author Solutions — we’re a lot closer to the arrangement with Harper Collins / Authonomy / CreateSpace. Telling someone of a business opportunity that they may or may not want to take isn’t necessarily predatory.

    (Predatory, in the legal sense, is usually reserved for lending techniques and the like. It *might* be predatory if Harlequin Horizons routinely quoted a fee to a writer, then after the writer had said yes and paid the fee, Hhz suddenly said, “Oh, but we need more money for –” and the writer either pays or risks losing the book she thought she was going to get. There are common law remedies for such contract claims, though.)

  126. Melissa Blue
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 15:15:58


    Well in this example, you’ve really picked the wrong person to ask this question. Also in your question I wouldn’t know, but I’ll answering anyway. *As an aside, you can’t keep things like this quiet forever*

    I worked for a company that did something for the community the average Joe wouldn’t do. Really noble. Really life changing. And they were the only business in the area that provided a particular service. Things got hard for the company. If the company folded it would have hurt a lot, a lot of people. They started to cut corners. They started to straddle a line of ethics. But the problem was once they straddled that line they did a disservice to the people they were helping. Their reputation suffered, badly. And the people they provided a service to couldn’t help but wonder if they would do this, what would stop them from doing that TO ME. And the people who worked for them started to wonder the same thing.

    So, yes by straddling the line of ethics they were able to continue to help people. More people in fact. Shouldn’t that somehow outweigh? Did everyone involved walk away unscathed?

    Note: I said I used to work for the company. So, you really can’t put a price on ethics. You can’t weight it with the good you can do. In my eyes you can’t justify it.

    But I may the only person who thinks that.

    ETA: I also strongly believe it’s worst to ask the people who work for you to compromise their ethics. Or look the other way when the company does it. To me that’s much more damaging than brand dilution.

  127. Jackie Kessler
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 15:51:34


    I understand that you would argue it differently, but I'd argue that what Harlequin is getting is NOT part of the author's profit, but part of ASI's profit.

    Actually, no. Authors get only 50% of net. The rest goes to Harlequin & ASI. That’s what I mean when I say that Harlequin is taking part of the author’s profit. And this, ultimately, is the largest difference between a vanity publisher and a POD that lets authors self-publish. In self-publishing, the author gets 100% of the profit. In vanity publishing, the publisher takes some, even a majority, of the profit.

    Why should any publisher that has an author pay for all services get a profit on top of that? They’re already grossly overcharging for those services as is. But to take any of the author’s profit after that? **This** is a huge problem with vanity publishers. This is an important reason why vanity publishing does not help an author’s career (and this doesn’t begin to get into the quality of services provided by vanity publishers).

    And this is why I am very proud of RWA, MWA and SFWA for standing up for what’s best for its members.

  128. Robin
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 15:57:36

    @Melissa Blue: I understand what you’re saying, Melissa. What concerns me, I think, is the question of why authors are okay with what, for example, HC is doing with Authonomy and not with Harlequin. Yes, I’ve read the explanations they’ve offered, but I find the differences articulated to be artificial and unconvincing *to me.*

    I haven’t yet decided what I think of this whole enterprise, so I’m not ready to lay down my judgment on the ethics of it all; right now, I’m just confused both by RWA’s IMO inconsistent actions and all the qualifications being drawn to distinguish Harlequin from other pubs that are, IMO, doing something very similar if not identical to Harlequin.

    Definitely agree with you re. ethics v. brand dilution. I honestly don’t see the brand dilution argument here now, especially since Harlequin has decided to remove their name from the imprint.

  129. Robin
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 16:01:23

    @Jackie Kessler: I understand that you don’t like the vanity publishing model. I don’t have that same position, so I don’t see it the way you do. IMO there are people for whom it works well, who know what they’re getting into, who are happy to pay others to do the massive amount of work a self-pubbed author has to (and some of those costs will be expended by self-pubbed authors, although without a middle-man mark-up).

    And honestly, I found Malle Vallik’s explanation of why they chose ASI to be brilliant. What a great idea to actually *try them out* with her own MS.

  130. Laura Kinsale
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 16:12:57

    Robin, are you aware that ASI is the only game in town for vanity pubs? They have bought all the others.

    It’s not a matter of “choosing” ASI. It’s a matter watching to make sure they don’t make you look any worse than you already look for going there–as Michael Hyatt said when he assures everyone that they are “watching closely” what ASI does.

    Vanity publishing is a legit industry. It’s just a different industry. It makes profit from a different market.

    It probably could use some good healthy competition WITHIN it, cause it appears that ASI is working on the typical “monopolize the market through buy-outs, then jack up the prices” profit model.

    We’ll see how long Lulu lasts. (IE if ASI tries to buy them too. At which point maybe the FTC should get interested.)

  131. Melissa Blue
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 16:33:55


    Well, Robin, I can’t say it any better or more eloquent than the people before me. But, the argument–that I know is superficial–I’d make is that it’s Porn when you see it or read it. I can’t give you definable factors like people are naked, there’s bad dialouge if there is any, there is a *ahem, cough* at the end of it so you know it’s over.

    Now when I went over to Autonomy did I feel like I needed a shower, the way I felt after reading HqHo website? No. Did I find it more akeen to Textnovel? Yes. *which Dorchester had a contest going on through it not too long ago*

    The major difference in how I feel about it has a lot to do with their FAQ’s. Once you’ve read over them I don’t see how you could feel at all that it’s anything but what it is. Maybe I’m mentally challenged, but when I hit sitemap on HQHO I didn’t find an FAQ page. Our Advantages and About Us continues to be a sells pitch. There’s a page where Self-Publishing is talked about, but that consists of 4 paragraphs. Autonomy has 4 sections. Sections.

    I’m going to go with this is P0rn.

    Now how is RWA, SFWA, MWA going to translate this whimsy a@@ argument into their policies, eligible publisher, etc.–no idea. But that’s not RWA’s job–to support publishers and the way they do business. It’s educating the authors on what is best for their career. Until there are hard numbers that show a vanity publisher can be a viable way for majority of the authors that go this route, they can’t and I honestly don’t think they should.

  132. Magdalen
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 16:40:50

    @Laura Kinsale: That’s a fascinating thought — perhaps the Department of Justice (Antitrust Division) and Federal Trade Commission will investigate Author Solutions to see if their actions in the vanity press market constitutes an antitrust violation. It could be that true self-publishing outfits like Lulu are sufficient competition to keep Author Solutions’ control of the vanity press market (if in fact they do control the market, or have a sufficiently large market share to control pricing, for example) from being deemed a possible antitrust violation.

    I’m starting to enjoy this story more by the minute. It’s like law school all over again (the fun part of law school, at least)… :-)

  133. AQ
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 17:13:03


    @Jackie Kessler: I understand that you don't like the vanity publishing model. I don't have that same position, so I don't see it the way you do. IMO there are people for whom it works well, who know what they're getting into, who are happy to pay others to do the massive amount of work a self-pubbed author has to (and some of those costs will be expended by self-pubbed authors, although without a middle-man mark-up).

    From a writer organization’s perspective the only question of consequence is whether or not Vanity Publishing is a legitimate path for an aspiring author to take in order to generate enough income to attain professional status within the organization. The answer to that question is NO.

    It does nothing to increase the odds of receiving either an offer of representation from an agent or a publishing contract from an advance and/or royalty paying publisher. It does nothing to increase the odds of generating income for the aspiring author. In fact, it costs the aspiring author money.

    There is no like or dislike here. There is no does it work for a select few. There is only is this a legitimate path for the many. The answer is NO.

    ** I speak for no writers’ organization.

  134. Jackie Kessler
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 17:41:12

    Very well said, AQ.

    I realize that in many ways, this is a difference of perspective. Readers are going to have a different perspective than authors. And that makes sense. I’m sure most readers are not going to see any problem with the vanity publishing model, or notice the difference between self-publishing and vanity publishing. And why should they? It doesn’t affect them at all. How many vanity published books do most readers read? The answer is none.

    For authors, though, it’s very different. There’s the question of traditional publishing versus small press and e-publishing. And that’s when authors believe in the concept of being paid for their work. They also need to understand the self-publishing option and what it requires of them. And they also need to understand the vanity publishing option and understand how it differs from self-publishing.

    RWA, MWA and SWFA are author organizations that have decided to stand up for what is best for its members: professional authors (read: those who are paid for their work) and also, in the case of RWA, aspiring authors. Because vanity publishing is harmful to an author’s career, RWA and SFWA have declared that works published by such presses are ineligible for consideration for membership. MWA has given Harlequin until December to make changes; otherwise it, too, may declare Harlequin an ineligible publisher.

    Here are the facts:

    Harlequin partnered with AuthorSolutions to form Harlequin Horizons, which is a vanity press.

    HarperCollins’ authonomy is a social networking service in which people critique and recommend the work of authors who choose to post, for free, a portion or all of their manuscripts. In addition, it offers a POD option** via CreateSpace.

    ** That is, as far as I can tell. No one has shown CreateSpace to be anything other than a legitimate POD press.

    Bertelsmann’s Xlibris (note: not Random House; this was through its parent company) is now owned by AuthorSoultions — the same vanity press that partnered with Harlequin to form Horizons.

    So there you go. Everything that’s happened is probably not going to affect readers at all. But it’s of great importance to authors.

  135. Suze
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 17:42:57

    And honestly, I found Malle Vallik's explanation of why they chose ASI to be brilliant. What a great idea to actually *try them out* with her own MS.

    I think it would have been more telling if she’d also anonymously sent in a shyte manuscript, and compared the response.

  136. Jackie Kessler
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 17:47:42

    @Suze: Travis Tea, anyone? ;)

  137. Melissa Blue
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 18:02:34

    @Jackie Kessler:

    You know. I was thinking the same thing. I’ve still got my first manuscript in all it’s horrible glory sitting on my computer. No one in their right mind would publish it even for money.

  138. library addict
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 18:07:57

    I hope that RWA takes the opportunity to clarify some of their bylaws, and applies said bylaws evenly to every publisher.

    And that Harlequin takes whatever steps it needs to become a recognized publisher again.

  139. Jackie Kessler
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 18:16:59

    @Melissa Blue: Oh, I hear you! I have my first one, too, from 1995. It’s **terrible.** The plot doesn’t begin until page 212, for one thing. And the book ends, on a cliffhanger, on page 226.

  140. Stevie
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 18:18:18

    Actually, it is affecting at least this reader, by profoundly irritating me, but I accept that the stakes are a lot higher for someone who is at the producer end of the chain which ends with the reader. And pace Moriah, the distinction between vanity and self-publishing has been understood very well by anyone who bothered to spend some time reading Miss Snark or Writers Beware; HHo are simply trying to pretend otherwise because they know that the reputation of vanity presses stinks for very good reasons.

    The specious claims being made are, if anything, even more damaging to the genuine self-publishing author such as Moriah than to the genuine author going the more usual route, because they are being tarred with the same brush as the suckers prepared to pay $19,999 to hHo for a


    to pimp a story which has already been turned down as unpublishable by Harlequin.

    Incidently, the latest fallback position of ‘there’s nothing wrong with vanity publishing’ is self-evidently nonsense; Stevie’s Law asserts that if there is nothing wrong with vanity publishing, a vanity publisher would not pretend not to be a vanity publisher…

  141. Melissa Blue
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 18:23:07

    @Jackie Kessler:

    I think I just hurt something laughing. But, you want to know my heroine’s first name: Norah.

    No relation.

    Ok. Maybe a little. In my head at least.

  142. DS
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 19:04:48

    @Jackie Kessler: I just googled Travis Tea and probably got in a day’s aerobic exercise from laughing. It’s brilliant!

  143. Jackie Kessler
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 19:12:23

    @DS: My work here is done. ;)

  144. Moriah Jovan
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 20:18:38


    The specious claims being made are, if anything, even more damaging to the genuine self-publishing author such as Moriah than to the genuine author going the more usual route, because they are being tarred with the same brush as the suckers prepared to pay $19,999 to hHo for a


    to pimp a story which has already been turned down as unpublishable by Harlequin.

    (Not picking on you, Stevie, but you sparked a thought.)

    I don’t feel threatened, and I’ll tell you why.

    1. Nobody’s going to pay that, not in this economy, even if they have the money. I mean, if I had $20K lying around, I’d build a swimming pool. If they do pay it, well, more power to ’em.

    2. They probably don’t have the money to pay what HHz is asking for most of their packages, either.

    3. If they DO, nobody’s ever going to see those books. DO they get put in HHz’s supply chain, sitting on Wal-Mart shelves next to the Presents and Desires and Blazes and Superromances, etc.? Are they going to be on the Hqn website/storefront? Are they going to be at Fictionwise and All Romance eBooks et al? Are they promising this? (I’m asking cuz I don’t know, but if Wal-Mart has a say in it, I can guarantee the answer’s no.)

    4. Do they get listed in Ingram’s catalog? (Again, asking cuz I really don’t know.) And an ISBN number doesn’t mean you automatically get listed. I mean, I don’t get much in the way of distribution, but because I’m in the Ingram’s catalog, you WILL find me on all the major bookstores’ sites and you CAN order me from the chain bookstores, as long as they don’t lie to you and tell you it’s not available. (Which they will do and have done, because I have made the books nonreturnable.)

    5. It takes a lot of work to get the word out about one’s book, and I really doubt regular readers (including faithful Harlequin readers) will ever encounter these books. Sure, there will be people who say, “I’m a Harlequin author!” to their friends and neighbors, but the friends and neighbors won’t get it and they’ll have to buy the book out of that person’s trunk because it won’t be available anywhere else. And they probably won’t read it.

    6. The vast majority of readers aren’t here, aren’t online, aren’t in the middle of romancelandia watching this all go down. They will never know about any of this, and they will, in all likelihood, never see one of those books. The downside of that FOR ME is that they won’t see mine, either. C’est la vie.

    That’s my nuts’n’bolts take on it, FWIW.

  145. Jane
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 21:32:45

    Egads, I hardly want to wade back into this after a day away. I will say this, though, it sounds like Authonomy + CreateSpace is totally acceptable with most people and within the bylaws?

  146. Jane
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 21:45:49

    @AQ My understanding of the law is this (and this is my last comment on this because it is just taking up too much time to keep track of).

    1. Bylaws are legally binding on non profit organizations.
    2. A term that is defined in the bylaws provides the definition for legal purposes. The board can interpret the rules if there is ambiguity but their application of the rules can also be deemed as interpretation of the rules.
    3. Vanity Publisher is a defined term in the bylaws. Vanity Publisher is, according to the RWA bylaws, “any publisher whose authors exclusively promote and/or sell their own books and publishers whose business model and methods of publishing and distribution are primarily directed toward sales to the author, his/her relatives and/or associates.”
    4. Harlequin, as a publisher, doesn’t meet the face of the definition so RWA must be interpreting it different. (Harlequin Horizons does, but the entire publisher was deemed a VP, right?) Harlequin’s relationship with ASI is a partnership wherein Harlequin lends its name and in return ASI does all the work and has some kind of profit sharing agreement with Harlequin which is at least 50% of every book sold and possibly some profit sharing in the packages purchased.
    5. If the definition that is applied to Harlequin’s case is “any publisher who has any authors who exclusively promote and/or sell their own books and publishers who have any arm wherein the author is the customer (which is how I essentially read the second part of the definition”, then it seems that Authonomy could apply and (before I found out that Random House Investments had sold its interest) Xlibris could apply.

    As I said early, the lack of a definition for Publisher (and for Author for that matter) is really problematic. What is a publisher? Is it just an imprint? The entire house? The corporate entity? I just don’t know. I don’t know that anyone knows.

  147. Barbara B.
    Nov 23, 2009 @ 03:23:01

    As a reader I totally get why the authors are up in arms. What I don’t get is what will be the impact on Harlequin if they’re unrecognized by various writers groups? Didn’t Harlequin exist before most of these writers groups did? Will Harlequin’s current writers no longer submit to Harlequin because the RWA does not recognize them? Will aspiring authors by-pass Harlequin as a viable publisher?

    I ask these questions because as an outsider I don’t know what kind of power these writers organizations have. Nor do I understand exactly what NOT being recognized by RWA will mean for Harlequin. I’ve noticed that many publishers, particularly epubs, want to be recognized and I can somewhat understand that. To a degree. But I just don’t get what being unrecognized will do to Harlequin. Is it just symbolic?

    I know the damage to authors but what will be the damage to Harlequin?

  148. mina kelly
    Nov 23, 2009 @ 05:46:54

    (Neither a lawyer, not RWA member, nor anything else – just going by what I’ve read here. Feel free to correct my assumptions!)

    Under the bylaws, surely the fact that CreateSpace and HC are separate publishers is what’s keeping HC above the mud? HC [em]promotes[/em] Createspace via Authonomy, and probably gets money for that promotion, but they are two distinct businesses, with separate staff, offices, contracts etc.

    xLibris and RandomHouse were different again. Though owned by the same business conglomerate, there was little cross-promotion between the two. Whether resources were shared between the companies I don’t know. As someone said on AW, if RandomHouse owned a 49% share in Disneyland, it wouldn’t make them a rollarcoaster. However, I think it’s a good thing RH has diversted itself of xLibris before this blew up, because the line is definitely more blurred than HC, and depending on how the bylaws were enforced, they may have had to be disqualified too.

    AuthorSolutions and HQE are separate publishers, but they’ve entered a join business venture, in which they share the proceeds (and presumably share some of the costs – at the very least, someone who isn’t an author has to be paying to host that website). As RWA seems to have interpreted it, this makes HQE as responsible for publishing the books as ASI, though the business plan is clearly ASI’s.

    Basically, RWA (and the others) need to clarify their by-laws. I think, even as currently defined, that they could justify exclusion of HQE and not HC, but the fact you can interpret them otherwise shows what a complex mess this whole thing is.

  149. Robin
    Nov 23, 2009 @ 11:05:17

    @mina kelly: I’ve started thinking of Authonomy and the like as reputation laundering services. They superficially appear distanced enough to keep authors from feeling demeaned, but they still provide revenue to the parent company publisher.

  150. Magdalen
    Nov 23, 2009 @ 11:34:43

    Okay, everyone else can skip this post because at this point it’s just two lawyers talking to each other.


    Even before Bertelsman sold Xlibris to Author Solutions, Xlibris was a corporate sibling to Random House. Additional evidence showing that there was a greater involvement by Random House in Xlibris would have been needed to make Random House a vanity press — basically the equivalent of piercing the corporate veil between two corporate siblings. (E.g., if you call the telephone number for Xlibris and a Random House receptionist answers…. that sort of thing.)

    I believe that CreateSpace is an entirely separate corporate entity from Harper Collins. Authonomy may not be incorporated separately, and may, in fact, be a group/division/department of Harper Collins. But Authonomy doesn’t publish anything, in any meaning of the word publish. So far, the evidence proffered to suggest that Harper Collins is as much of a vanity press as Harlequin is the fact that Harper Collins supports (owns? runs?) Authonomy, and if you are a registered member of Authonomy, you will almost certainly be informed of the opportunity to use CreateSpace for paid-by-the-writer publication. The suggestion has been made (in this comment thread, even) that this is a sufficiently close business relationship that Harper Collins is as much a vanity publisher as Harlequin under the RWA bylaws.

    Now, to argue that Harlequin Enterprises is not a vanity press under the RWA bylaws is to go in the other direction, and suggest that the bright line test is “all or nothing.” Meaning, unless all of your business is vanity publishing, then you are not a vanity publisher. That’s clearly an absurd position. If Author Solutions bought a small, independent commercial press or imprint, would that acquisition be sufficient to inoculate it from the “vanity press” exclusion in the RWA bylaws? Of course not.

    The question then becomes twofold: How much of the business has to be vanity publishing before that business is a vanity publisher under the RWA bylaws, and how close does the corporate relationship with the vanity publisher have to be.

    Looking at the second question first: If Torstar, the corporate owner of Harlequin Enterprises, had entered into the vanity venture with Author Solutions directly but still called it Harlequin Horizons and offered the same services, etc., the question would be very intriguing: Harlequin Horizons would then have been a corporate sibling to Harlequin Enterprises, but there would have been corporate intermingling sufficient, perhaps, to suggest that there was no real corporate separation. (For example, if Harlequin Horizons was incorporated as a holding of Torstar but it had no staff, offices, assets, etc. other than those already employed, leased, owned, etc. by Harlequin Enterprises.)

    But that’s not what Torstar & Harlequin Enterprises chose to do. Harlequin Horizons is a division of Harlequin Enterprises, and that must certainly be enough of corporate relationship to overcome any corporate veil defense to the RWA bylaws.

    Back to the first question. How much of Harlequin Enterprises has to be involved in a vanity press for it to violate the RWA bylaws? Well, clearly RWA (presumably in consultation with their legal counsel) has determined that owning a division that is a joint venture with the sole purpose of publishing romance novels for money and consistent with the business model of a vanity press is sufficient to violate the RWA bylaws. Perhaps RWA, in making that decision, considered certain key facts:

    — Harlequin would be touting Harlequin Horizons to writers of rejected manuscripts (i.e., Harlequin’s various slush piles).

    — The services of editors employed by Harlequin would be available for a fee.

    — The services of marketing personnel employed by Harlequin would be available for a fee.

    — Harlequin had its name on the venture and had designed a logo referencing Harlequin as part of the venture’s name. (This was true at the time that RWA made its announcement.)

    — Harlequin Horizons would keep 50% of the net profits on the sales of any books published by Harlequin Horizons, and that share of profits would be split, so that 25% of the net profits would go to Author Solutions and 25% to Harlequin. (This is significant, legally, because it suggests that Harlequin Horizons, qua separate division of Harlequin, is just a pass-through for the money made by the venture.)

    I have never been a corporate lawyer, so there may be additional considerations I’m not thinking of, but my analysis vis a vis whether Harlequin qualifies as a vanity publisher is that they do, even though only a small portion of their profits may stem from Harlequin Horizons. (You can’t go on the number of books published because as a fee-based service, there’s no telling how many people will use the service.) If they had established the division and staffed it with new editors and marketing specialists, they’d have had a stronger argument. But given the publicity and promotion by Harlequin, the corporate willingness to be associated with the new venture, and the acknowledgment that Harlequin Horizons’ profits flow directly to Harlequin, it would appear that all of Harlequin in involved, in some way, with Harlequin Horizons.

    Therefore, in my opinion, Harlequin is now a vanity publisher under the meaning of the RWA bylaws, nothwithstanding that so much of Harlequin’s business is as a commercial publisher. In effect, Harlequin is now both a commercial publisher and a vanity publisher.

  151. Gutenberg
    Nov 23, 2009 @ 12:15:52

    For the record, the definition of a Vanity Publisher is in RWA’s Policies & Procedures Manual–not RWA’s bylaws, as Jane keeps stating. This is a rather important distinction to make as the two documents (and their purposes) are very different.

  152. Robin
    Nov 23, 2009 @ 12:32:33

    @Magdalen: Without getting into the substance of your analysis, I just want to point out that piercing the corporate veil has a very specific meaning within the context of corporate law (related to creditors, allegations of fraud/misrepresentation and the like, and involving erasure of the legal separation between the corporation and its officers/shareholders) and IMO it substantially (and perhaps substantively) confuses the situation at issue.

  153. Magdalen
    Nov 23, 2009 @ 16:08:29

    Still skippable by the non-lawyers, btw.

    @Robin: Okay, so you pierce the corporate veil in litigation, when you need to prove liability by the corporate parent or individual shareholder and because otherwise you’ll never recover any damages. The concept of piercing the corporate veil can also be used more generally in more complex corporate families, for example preventing a corporate parent from piercing its own corporate veil and treating sibling corporations as a single employer when it’s economically advantageous in a workers’ comp. case. (Do you want a case cite for that?)

    And discussing the corporate veil doesn’t confuse the legal analysis regarding RWA having to decide if Harlequin is a vanity press, because among the things that a competent lawyer would want to know is if the corporate veil between Harlequin and Harlequin Horizons is a sham. I will agree my use of the verb “to pierce” may have been sloppy; what I mean to suggest is that there may be no corporate veil at all, or one that is more form than substance and thus no support for the claim that while Harlequin Horizons may be a vanity press, no other part of Harlequin Enterprises is.

  154. Robin
    Nov 23, 2009 @ 17:10:08

    @Magdalen: Is Torstar a closely held corporation? For some reason I thought they were public. (and yeah, I obviously don’t agree that the alter ego analysis is the way to go here)

  155. Magdalen
    Nov 24, 2009 @ 07:35:41

    @Robin: Don’t know about Torstar (someone more Canadian than I might know), but it doesn’t have to involve the shareholders, or any discussion of an alter ego (which I don’t think I suggested). The corporate veil exists between sibling corporations, which is why it was relevant in the discussion regarding Random House, for example. In the case I found, the corporate parent was trying to suggest that all the employees of its two sibling subsidiaries were employees of the corporate parent (makes a difference in a workers’ comp. case how many employees you have). The court held that the corporate parent couldn’t pierce its own corporate veil when it liked.

    The point is, you can set up separate corporate subsidiaries (not that this is what Harlequin has done, as Harlequin Horizons is a division and not a subsidiary) and as long as they meet the list of indicia for a corporate entity in that jurisdiction, it is a separate corporation and the veil is not a sham. But where there are no employees, no assets, and the profits pass through, it’s likely there is no corporate veil.

  156. Robin
    Nov 24, 2009 @ 13:15:16

    @Magdalen: But generally speaking, corporate veil analyses arise because shareholders/owners of a closely held corporation are trying to avoid liability by hiding behind a sham/shell (alter ego) entity.

    In terms of a claim against RWA for unequal/inconsistent application of the rules, isn’t the issue how RWA’s bylaws and P&P’s define “vanity publisher” and then how the RWA has interpreted and applied that definition so as to include/exclude publishers? I agree with you that the corporate structure of publishers is relevant (and it’s relevant in a more general way in the casual conversation we are having about how each of us perceives the similarities/differences among publishers), but wouldn’t the core legal analysis in any case filed against the RWA begin with and focus on the RWA and the way they have defined a vanity/subsidy press (which may or may not be directly correlative of the actual corporate structuring)?

  157. Magdalen
    Nov 24, 2009 @ 14:31:56

    @Robin: If by “generally speaking” you mean a statistical predominance (60%? 75%?) of cases that invoke the intent to pierce the corporate veil are single shareholder cases, I can agree with that. But the concept of piercing the corporate veil can and does occur in other situations.

    I’m not sure what cause of action a publisher (Harlequin or any other publisher) could have against RWA for the way RWA interprets its own policies & practices. Not a contract action, I wouldn’t think, as the benefits conferred on a qualified publisher are by permission, not by contractual obligation. Tort claims? I don’t think the term “vanity publisher” is so pejorative that is constitutes defamation. Fraud in the inducement? Doesn’t look likely.

    I agree that if RWA hadn’t treated Thomas Nelson the same way because of the WestBow venture, that would have been a breach of the implied covenant of fair dealing. But that still only arises in the context of a contractual relationship. I’m sure there are contracts between RWA and Harlequin (advertising, etc.) but the privileges of being a “qualified publisher” wouldn’t seem to meet the conditions of a contract.

    But okay, let’s say there’s a case filed against RWA. You and Jane have identified the two arguments that could be posited: 1) RWA has treated Harlequin differently than other publishers (hoping to find evidence of malice, bad faith, and impure motive in discovery), or 2) RWA has been egregious in its misinterpretation and misapplication of their own policy & practices to Harlequin Horizons, stretching the plain meaning of their policies & practices beyond credibility or fairness (and again looking for evidence of bad faith, etc., in discovery).

    I guess my reaction would be that any such suit would be kicked out, either on the grounds that it failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted or at summary judgment. There’s got to be tons of case law that says that a private organization is allowed to establish its own P&Ps and interpret and enforce them as it sees fit, provided it doesn’t discriminate, etc. Even though a corporation is an individual under the law (a legal fiction I’ve always thought was silly, but then I’m not a corporations lawyer), it’s not the sort of individual that can be discriminated against.

    I think the best cause of action I can think of is bad faith in the business relationship between RWA and Harlequin. Interesting question: what’s the measure of damages? The odds are there will be no drop in sales as a result of this, particularly as RWA’s actions occurred in the middle of a lot of other bad publicity, so causation is going to be tough. Can the privileges of being deemed a qualified publisher actually result in direct profits? Supposedly, RWA’s decision has an effect on Harlequin’s role at the annual conference, but given that Harlequin spends a lot of money at that conference in promotional efforts, etc., RWA’s decision may save them money!

    *sigh* All a bit far afield from the original question of corporate structure. Sorry — I just like thinking about the law.

  158. Wednesday Publishing Links: Horizons Becomes DellArte Press | Dear Author: Romance Novel Reviews, Industry News, and Commentary
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 11:02:43

    […] have totally missed it).  There is no word whether this will pacify the writing organizations.  To use Chicklet’s terminology, it appears that Harlequin will be participating in some form of publisher cash for service program […]

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