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Malle Vallik, Harlequin’s Digital Director, Answers Questions on Harlequin Horizons

I emailed Malle Vallik to ask her three questions which pertained the biggest question I had about brand dilution:

  • Will the books be sold through the eharlequin store?
  • Will there be any HH branding on the book, either on the cover or in the copyright page?
  • Are you (Harlequin) concerned about brand dilution?

This is Ms. Vallik’s response. She said she would be around to answer a few questions.

1.              The books will not be branded Harlequin.

2.              The books will be branded HH (see nice logo on website) attached

3.              The copyright is not associated with Harlequin.

First, why is Harlequin launching a self-publishing business? Bowker reported in 2008 that more titles were published through self-publishing than traditional publishers. Self-publishing is a fast growing and vibrant part of the publishing industry today. Harlequin has decided to provide a romance focused self-publishing business for those that choose to go down the self-publishing road.

Brand – Harlequin put its name on the Harlequin Horizons site to clearly indicate this is a romance self-publishing site. The books published through Harlequin Horizons  will not carry traditional Harlequin branding. The self-published author will be the brand and the Horizon double H logo will appear on the spine of the book. Harlequin is the gold standard in romance and that will not be compromised. Readers will not confuse Horizons books with traditional Harlequin books.

Distribution – Self-publishing has a different distribution model than traditional publishing. Horizons books will not be carried nor appear in traditional Harlequin distribution. The self-published book will not appear next to a traditionally published Harlequin title.

The Harlequin Horizons site very clearly indicates it is a self-publishing business and that those who choose to publish with Horizons will not receive the traditional Harlequin distribution and marketing support.

Many authors are choosing to self-publish. There are a number of reasons to select self-publishing including as a way to see their work in print –   to give copies as gifts, to have a bound copy to help in finding an agent, or simply as a keepsake. Harlequin is providing a service to those choosing to self-publish with a leading organization in this field, Author Solutions.

To recap, self-publishing is an option for those who want to put their story into print. The Harlequin brand will not be on these titles. The Harlequin Horizons site is very transparent that it offers   self-publishing services.

Is Harlequin still publishing aspiring authors: Of course we are!   We remain committed to reading and acquiring manuscripts from aspiring authors.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She 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

236 Comments

  1. RStewie
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 09:37:38

    I think the main cause of misunderstandings here is the fact that Harlequin has decided to call the imprint “Harlequin Horizons” instead of reserving the Harlequin name to only it’s own published works. By calling it “Harlequin Horizons” it appears Harlequin intends to associate itself with the material self-pubbed.

    Was this mainly so authors/readers would understand that the line is Romance-focused? I don’t really understand this, because there are numerous ways to acheive this same goal without relying on the global recognition of the name Harlequin.

    I don’t understand why they have essentially branded the imprint while denying it’s branded. Harlequin Presents, Harlequin Silhouette, Harlequin Horizons, Harlequin Spice, Harlequin Blaze… it appears to fit in relatively seamlessly.

  2. Teddypig
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 10:01:16

    There is no separation here. They slapped their brand name and their H logo on this company.

    Did Publishers Weekly lie when they stated that rejected Harlequin manuscripts will be recruited to Harlequin Horizons?

    Did Harlequin not out right imply in their own press release they would add authors using Harlequin Horizons for inclusion in their “traditional publishing” programs?

    Am I missing something here?

  3. XandraG
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 10:07:58

    HQ is the gold standard for romance, but what does that have to do with receiving no editorial input and no distribution?

    And this branding-but-not-really-branding thing? If some other company called their romance line “Harlequin” you can bet HQ would be all over their asses about trademark infringement (I seem to remember about 10 years back HQ going after a small e-press who simply wanted to brand different types of romance. Play fast and loose with your “gold standard” and it’ll start to corrode real fast.

  4. hapax
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 10:19:34

    1. Malle Vallik specifically said over at SmartBitches that rejected submissions will, indeed, be directed over to Horizons.

    2. This is NOT self-publishing. This is a vanity press. The business model — for both the press and the author — is entirely different.

    3. The three reasons that Vallik gives for “self-publishing” are all attainable through other sources MUCH cheaper. And while “gifts” or “keepsakes” with a Harlequin logo might be sufficient for an author with the money to pay for them (notice that Vallik is no longer plugging the line that Harlequin will “monitor” the sales, and just *might* offer a legitimate contract?), the suggestion that a vanity printed item would be an asset in finding an agent is an out-and-out lie, and a harmful one at that, which Vallik MUST know. No agent would touch such a book, since it no longer has “first publication” rights.

    These responses tip my outrage-o-meter from “cynical money-making” to “deceptive scam.” Harlequin: FAIL

  5. Malle
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 10:25:57

    Hey,

    I’m looking for questions but see mostly commentary. If there is something specific I could clarify please do let me know.

    But, no, Harlequin Horizons is not the brand on the book. (Harlequin Presents or Silhouette Suspense are very clear brands on the novels that Harlequin publishes and distributes.) The author will be the brand.

    Nor will the title be distributed as Harlequin Horizons or sold into any account as Harlequin.

  6. hapax
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 10:39:35

    Okay, I will rephrase my comments as questions:

    1. Will rejected submissions to Harlequin indeed be “informed” that they can “opt-in” to Horizons? How do you assuage the stated concerns that this is a predatory process?

    2. Will Harlequin Horizons hold the ISBNs and pay out royalties from the sales, if any? How does this differ from the “vanity press” model? How does it compare to the “self-publishing” model, in which the author holds the ISBNs and keeps all money from any sales?

    3. If an author chooses to go to Horizons for a “keepsake” or a “gift”, what does Horizons offer (except for the Harlequin name) to distinguish it from much much cheaper services such as Lulu?

    4. If an author chooses to go to Horizons, do they lose “first publication” rights? How will that affect any effort to gain an agent or traditional publisher with their “bound copy”?

    I know that HH is not your baby, but you have chosen to defend it, and I would really like honest answers to those questions.

  7. Teddypig
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 10:40:34

    So Malle,

    You are saying that when they sell these books on Amazon that these will not come up under the name “Harlequin Horizons” when I do a search for “Harlequin”?

    How are they going to not be lumped in together? What is the boundary when your company name is in the publisher name in this case?

    Are you saying there are other Romance publishers out there with the name Harlequin?

    Are your authors all going to change their name to Harlequin?

    It’s not clear to me where the name Harlequin is not involved from the beginning from the Harlequin name on the website to the Harlequin name that is going to be printed on the publisher page in the book.

  8. Anon
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 10:48:59

    Malle Vallik said:

    There are a number of reasons to select self-publishing including as a way to see their work in print – to give copies as gifts, to have a bound copy to help in finding an agent, or simply as a keepsake.

    I’m fairly neutral on this issue–Harlequin can do what it likes–but this bit strikes me as disingenious. Since when does a writer need a bound copy to help finding an agent?

    To aspiring writers who might be reading this, the answer is NEVER. I repeat, NEVER. You do not need a bound manuscript to show an agent. A neatly printed copy is the standard. And increasingly, you don’t even need that, as more and more agents are going paperless and will accept full manuscripts as electronic files.

  9. Anon Again
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 11:04:48

    The FAQ Harlequin sent to its authors states:  It is a partnership with Author Solutions – they provide the self-publishing services, we provide our brand name and we make authors we have rejected aware of this service.

    So they are providing their brand name. There’s a disconnect here somewhere.

  10. Jim Duncan
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 11:11:42

    Will there be a centralized site for HH authors, if not through Harlequin itself, through something affiliated with Author Solutions? Or are the authors basically left to their own devices? A commentor above made an interesting point about places like Amazon. If you look for Harlequin books, will it pull up HH books as well? Really, if authors can’t be flagged somehow with the name Harlequin, what’s the incentive to go through HH to self-pub? It’s very expensive, and authors don’t get 100% back on their sales. There are certainly other options out there for far less investment. Or, is the fact that Harlequin will be tracking sales suppose to be the draw? This whole thing still perplexes me and I’m not finding much to make me think it’s a good thing at all for writers.

  11. XandraG
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 11:15:22

    Rephrased in the form of a question, Alex:

    How can an author submitting to Harlequin’s traditional lines trust that any rejection s/he receives is an honest expression that the manuscript won’t work for the line?

    Where is HQ Traditional’s motivation to continue to review and accept works submitted by authors and agents (which constitute an investment risk, even if a minimal one) instead of rejecting them in favor of a guaranteed revenue stream *and* the offloading of costs associated with book production and printing onto the author instead of the house?

    Will there be a “sales threshold” that existing Traditional line authors have to meet in order to continue having the privilege of submitting to traditional lines without first paying for the vanity line?

    If the “Harlequin” branding is geared towards authors, but hidden from consumers, what advantage does utilizing the Harlequin vanity publishing service offer over using more established self-publishing outfits like Lulu.com or Amazon or Ingram’s? Where is the value if the gold standard name branding isn’t being demonstrated to the consumer?

    As an aside, I do feel sympathy for you, Ms. Vallik. I’m sure you’d much rather be doing work behind the scenes ramping up your much more legitimate epress venture, rather than fielding hostility from the industry and authors here. Thanks for taking the time to attempt to clarify just why this was seen as a good move.

    …And I’m still not entirely sure Ashton Kutcher isn’t reading all these comments and giggling madly.

  12. Malle
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 11:18:50

    to Teddypig

    “You are saying that when they sell these books on Amazon that these will not come up under the name “Harlequin Horizons” when I do a search for “Harlequin”?”

    Yes, that is exactly what I am saying. Not on the book, not in the metadata or the copyright page.

    Please see the lovely “Hh” logo at http://www.harlequinhorizons.com. That will be on the spine.

  13. Anon76
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 11:39:46

    Malle, can you please address this? Directly from the Harlequin Horizons site, by the way.

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

    Why are royalties discussed before the book goes to print if this is self publishing?

    Thanks much for your time, and I don’t envy you having to be the spokesperson for this at all.

  14. Diana Peterfreund
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 11:44:16

    @Anon:

    What Anon at #7 said.

    ASPIRING AUTHORS, do NOT listen to that crap. You do NOT need a bound copy of a manuscript to get an agent. Agents requested regular typed, double space, single sided loose page manuscripts — INDUSTRY STANDARD. I don’t know a single agent who accepts bound printed books unless you are a published author sending things along with your NEW manuscript to illustrate what you’ve done in the past.. And usually agents are capable of looking that stuff up on Amazon same as the next person.

  15. Malle
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 11:49:18

    Dear Anon Again

    “The FAQ Harlequin sent to its authors states:  It is a partnership with Author Solutions – they provide the self-publishing services, we provide our brand name and we make authors we have rejected aware of this service.”

    Yes. As I said in my post above: Brand – Harlequin put its name on the Harlequin Horizons site to clearly indicate this is a romance self-publishing site. The books published through Harlequin Horizons will not carry traditional Harlequin branding.

    I’m not trying to be disingenuous here. We use the Harlequin Horizons name to let potential romance writers know this is a romance-focused self-publisher.

    Because this is a self-publisher these are not books acquired, edited and marketed by Harlequin. Hence, no Harlequin brand on the end result.

    Are we happy to have our Harlequin name associated in our partnership with Author Solutions? Absolutely. Are we claiming to publish editorial the big Harlequin brand would publish under this self-publishing imprint. Absolutely not.

    Hence the distinctions.

  16. Teddypig
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 11:54:25

    Yes, that is exactly what I am saying. Not on the book, not in the metadata or the copyright page.

    So basically Harlequin Horizons prints the book and uses their logo on the book spine but you are saying that Harlequin Horizons shows up no where else in the book to be indexed by publisher or printer on Amazon?

    Whose name shows up in the printer space then? Author Solutions?

    So basically the ONLY branding done by Harlequin Horizon is on the website and in the rejection notices from Harlequin proper?

  17. Anon
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 11:55:58

    How exactly are Harlequin Horizons books not going to be associated with Harlequin’s traditional lines when Harlequin Horizons is advertised in the community forums at eHarlequin.com?

    How are they not giving false hope to aspiring writers who have yet to learn the industry when Harlequin Horizons is advertised in the learning to write section of eHarlequin.com? Before I joined RWA almost six years ago and researched the industry, I frequented the eHarlequin site. I used to think I had to pay to be published and many writers new to the industry still believe this is how publishing works.

    Harlequin Horizons is a complete contradiction to what I’ve heard Harlequin editors state to aspiring writers in the past. That the publisher pays the author, not the other way around. How Harlequin can associate themselves with this type of practice is mind blowing.

  18. Malle
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 11:59:13

    To hapax

    Thanks for reforming to questions! Here we go:

    1. Will rejected submissions to Harlequin indeed be “informed” that they can “opt-in” to Horizons? How do you assuage the stated concerns that this is a predatory process?

    Malle: A writer receiving a standard reject letter will find a line included about self publishing. The writer, if she wants, can then contact HH. The writer will never be cold-called or contacted unless she has opted in.

    2. Will Harlequin Horizons hold the ISBNs and pay out royalties from the sales, if any? How does this differ from the “vanity press” model? How does it compare to the “self-publishing” model, in which the author holds the ISBNs and keeps all money from any sales?

    Malle: The content is completely owned by the author. Royalties are 50% net from both eBooks and print.

    3. If an author chooses to go to Horizons for a “keepsake” or a “gift”, what does Horizons offer (except for the Harlequin name) to distinguish it from much much cheaper services such as Lulu?

    Malle: It is any writer’s choice as to what self-publishing option she choses to purchase or if she wants to self-publish at all.

    4. If an author chooses to go to Horizons, do they lose “first publication” rights? How will that affect any effort to gain an agent or traditional publisher with their “bound copy”?

    Malle: I’m not sure I completely understand this question. The author owns her content. How would she lost first publication rights? She has published it herself. Whether she is giving it away as gifts or marketing it, is up to her. Yup, clearly I don’t get your question.

  19. rae
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 11:59:30

    The vast majority of self published books that I have read are of a very low standard, they should not have been published. Some of them have never seen a spell-check never mind an editor. I don’t doubt there are some excellent self published books out there but they are the exception rather than the rule (and usually non-fiction but that’s another debate). I’m trying and failing to understand why Harlequin would link the Harlequin brand name which is seen as the gold standard in romance publishing with something – self publishing fiction – that has got such a poor reputation. Is it Harlequin’s intention to become the Publish America of the romance world?

    Why isn’t the epub (where the books will be quality controlled) called Harlequin Carina Press?

    to have a bound copy to help in finding an agent,

    Erm I think the last thing Agent’s want is bound copies of books. In fact I have heard agents complain about getting bound copies. An agent wants want they asked for – a query letter, or a synopsis and the first three chapters. They do not like potential authors who can’t follow instructions.

  20. Jane
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 12:02:50

    Can someone educate me on the difference between self publishing and vanity press? I.e., is CreateSpace by Amazon self publishing or vanity press? Is Smashwords where smashwords keeps the 20% of the retail price and the author keeps 80% self publishing or vanity? I don’t think I know the difference.

  21. Anon76
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 12:07:52

    Quote:

    Malle: The content is completely owned by the author. Royalties are 50% net from both eBooks and print.

    Omg, my brain just exploded.

  22. Courtney Milan
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 12:13:47

    Malle,

    As a Harlequin author, I really am curious to find out how Harlequin can stop an author from taking out an advertisement in the New York Times advertising her book and saying something like, “COMING SOON FROM HARLEQUIN HORIZONS…”

    Even if the name “Harlequin” isn’t on the book or in the metadata, don’t you think the authors will use the name in discussing their books?

  23. Jayne Hoogenberk
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 12:15:53

    How exactly are Harlequin Horizons books not going to be associated with Harlequin's traditional lines when Harlequin Horizons is advertised in the community forums at eHarlequin.com?

    Dear Anon,

    I’m the Community Manager at eHarlequin.com and I’m quite proud of the fact that our forums are home to any number of aspiring authors, and that we offer support, advice and instruction through online workshops and networking opportunities. These activities have been instrumental to over 50 of our members being published by Harlequin.

    I personally feel strongly about providing opportunities for aspiring authors to fulfill their dream of becoming published, and I see Horizons as just one more opportunity for aspiring authors to explore . This is why the Harlequin Horizon logo and module grace the community pages. Life is ALL about options and I’m proud to be part of a company that provides so many options to authors.

    Jayne

  24. Ann K
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 12:17:35

    Can someone educate me on the difference between self publishing and vanity press?

    Writer’s Beware has a pretty good explanation here:

    http://www.sfwa.org/for-authors/writer-beware/vanity/

    Edited to add:

    Here’s an explanation on POD:

    http://www.sfwa.org/for-authors/writer-beware/pod/

  25. JulieB
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 12:18:58

    Who owns the ISBN? If you’re self-publishing, YOU buy the ISBN.

  26. Jane
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 12:20:55

    @Ann K So a vanity press is like a general contractor and any company that takes money for publication would be a vanity press. A self published author is someone like a home owner who contracts out for all these services?

  27. Nadia Lee
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 12:26:51

    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanity_press

    Vanity: The US National Endowment for the Arts, in its instructions to applicants defines vanity press “as one that does any of the following: requires individual writers to pay for part or all of the publication costs; asks writers to buy or sell copies of the publication; publishes the work of anyone who subscribes to the publication or joins the organization through membership fees; publishes the work of anyone who buys an advertisement in the publication; publishes work without competitive selection; or publishes work without professional editing.”

    Self-Pub: “A self-publisher is an author who also undertakes the functions of a publisher for his or her own book. The classic “self-publisher” writes, edits, markets and promotes the book themselves, relying on a printer only for actual printing and binding.”

  28. Melissa G
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 12:29:52

    Jane,

    Here’s a link defining subsidy vs vanity vs self-pub from the SFWA (Science-Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America)

    http://www.sfwa.org/for-authors/writer-beware/vanity/

    In self-publishing the author owns the ISBN and receives ALL proceeds of sales.

    ETA: Looks like this crossed with other similar posts…

    Melissa

  29. Anon76
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 12:33:45

    Jane, you said:

    “So a vanity press is like a general contractor and any company that takes money for publication would be a vanity press. A self published author is someone like a home owner who contracts out for all these services?”

    Not so much like that. The vanity press is, once the house is built, takes a cut if you then decide to sell it. You’ve paid for the upfront and they want more.

  30. Jim Duncan
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 12:33:48

    Ah, so Horizons is a subsidy pub not a vanity pub. I wasn’t aware of the differences either. Thanks for the link, Ann.

  31. JulieB
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 12:35:55

    Jane, a friend of mine recently self-published a book. She did it ALL herself. She researched printers and paper and printing processes. Eventually she found someone within driving distance who was willing to do her a deal. She contracted to them to do the layout as well. She hired a cover artist. She was involved every step of the way. She IS the publisher. She alone is responsible for distribution. She sets the price and keeps ALL the profits. No percentage of the net or cover price. It’s all hers. Did she make money? She’s never told me, but I’ll bet she did because she’s darned savvy about that kind of thing. She wouldn’t have risked a print run if she didn’t think she could cover her costs with sales.

    And that’s the difference between self-publishing and vanity publishing. True self-publishing is a business venture, in which the author/publisher takes 100% of the financial risk. I guarantee you Neither Harlequin or AuthorSolutions will lose money on any of the books in this imprint. The fees the author pay make sure of that.

    Now, as long as they’re up-front about what they’re doing and what you get for your money (and AuthorSolutions generally is), I don’t think they’re particularly evil. I do worry about the authors who don’t read all the fine print and think they’re actually being published by Harlequin.

  32. Ann K
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 12:40:26

    @Jane

    I’m far from an expert on this, which is why I linked to the Writer’s Beware articles.

    I’m not sure your metaphor works, but I’ll run with it:

    I think with Vanity Publishing, it would be more like paying a general contractor to put in a kitchen, except that the contracting company now owns your kitchen, set the price for its use, and you have to pay to make dinner. The contracting company maintains your kitchen. You get a discount on your dinner price. While other people can pay to make dinner in your kitchen, too, the contracting company takes a percentage of this money and pays you a set amount of royalties.

    For self publication, you built your own kitchen. You might have hired some help in construction–plumbing, electricians, but in the end, it’s yours, free and clear. You still have to pay for the upkeep of the kitchen, but anyone who pays you to use it–all of that money comes back to you.

  33. James Macdonald
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 12:44:31

    It’s short-term clever, long-term disastrous. But hey! Who cares about the long-term?

  34. FranW
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 12:47:02

    Ms Vallik, thanks for being willing to answer questions.

    My biggest questions are: Is this vanity publishing or self publishing? Will the author own the ISBN and have zero obligations to HH with regards to sales/distribution, or will HH own the ISBN?

    And, how will readers differentiate between real HQ books and HH books? If a HH author pays the twelve thousand dollars to have a promo ad for her book sent out to the ten million HQ readers who have opted in to receive email alerts from HQ, will that email ad come from HQ and imply HQ’s tacit approval of the book’s quality, or will the email state that the ad is for a book that was self/vanity published through HQ’s author-pays imprint and that it has undergone no editing or quality control and may well be a piece of rubbish that no HQ reader would want to buy?

  35. Jane
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 12:49:02

    @James Macdonald: Why in the long term disastrous? Because in the long term, a shift in publishing away from the advance model results in declining quality or removal of good authors in the market because of lack of earnings? or an increase in books in the marketplace will overall add to devaluation of books? Or because this will result in the dilution of an important brand? Just trying to get a sense of what the long term bad side effects are.

    I would argue the opposite, that in the short term, it makes less sense, but in the long term where traditional publishing is not likely to be the dominant business model in publishing, Harlequin as a business positions itself to be a strong market player along with retailers like Barnes and Noble, Amazon and Apple, which thereby increases the profitability of the authors in its stables. But I know you have been in the industry for a long time so I am really curious to hear what your take is on it.

  36. Jane Smith
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 12:50:46

    @Jane:

    The difference between self-publication and vanity publication is one of control.

    Roughly, if a writer pays to be published but controls all the various processes involved in publishing her book (editing, design, print etc), and controls the sales, stocking and promotion of it, and the ISBN is registered to her imprint, then the book is self-published.

    If the writer pays to be published but has no control over those processes (even if she pays for them), doesn’t know who has bought copies or how many are left in stock, or the ISBN is registered to the company which published her, then the book is vanity-published.

    Here’s a blog post I wrote spelling this out in greater detail–I hope it’s a help.

  37. Liz
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 12:52:11

    Malle,

    So what you’re saying is, if I have a romance self-published via, I don’t know, Author Solutions, from last year, I can send the bound copy as a submission to Harlequin Blaze and not have the editors balk because it’s (a) bound, and (b) previously published? After all, I would still “own” the content.

    I don’t know. The more I hear from Harlequin on the matter, the more fidgety I am about the whole thing. It’s Harlequin! But it’s not, really! But it could be, if it’s good enough or sells enough! I think self-publishing is a good solution for a lot of people, but it doesn’t appear as though those people are the ones this service is geared toward. This service isn’t marketed toward someone’s great-aunt’s memoir, or someone who wants to give copies of their book to friends and family, it’s marketed toward new authors who don’t know any better and authors who have been rejected by Harlequin (if they opt in).

    I keep hearing a lot of “could” speak. It could help you land an agent (except most agents won’t look at the material). It could help you land a traditional publisher (except most publishers won’t look at the material). It could help you get into book stores (except most book stores won’t stock the material). It could make your book look like a Harlequin (except Harlequin won’t be associated with the finished product).

    So other than print the book for an outrageous fee, what will HH offer that other vanity publishers don’t already? How is it somehow more legitimate than other vanity publishers, who have time and time again left aspiring authors feeling scammed? And how can Harlequin believe for one second that any association with such an endeavor, would not somehow taint the rest of the brand, especially when every HOW TO WRITE page at eharlequin.com is saddled with a large “Harlequin Horizons–become an author!” banner? How does any of this fit in with Harlequin’s Guiding Principles, like the one about “doing what’s honest and fair” and “communicating openly” and “always consider the impact of our actions”?

    I understand, as most people here do, that this is about money. Self-publishing outfits make a lot of money, both off willing participants who know what they’re getting into, and those who don’t know any better. That’s about the only straightforward thing from Harlequin I’ve seen so far. But for my part, I would be much less creeped out if Harlequin had just said, “Hey, we need money. This is a way to get money. So it’s what we’re going to do.” Instead, I keep seeing the same disingenuous remarks about how Harlequin chose this route because they believe it’s in the best interest of the consumer–which in this case is both the author and the reader–and maybe it’s just me, but I’m not buying it.

  38. GrowlyCub
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 12:55:53

    Okay, somebody repeat this for me so I’m clear on whether I understand this correctly?!??

    Harlequin Horizons first takes the authors to the cleaners with outrageously overpriced ‘services’, makes the author do all the promotion and distribution and *then* they keep 50% of the royalties?

    I’m beyond appalled.

  39. Jane Smith
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 13:01:27

    I’d like to ask why Harlequin considers this to be self-publishing, rather than vanity publishing. What in their view distinguishes the one from the other, and what makes Harlequin Horizons the former, rather than the latter?

    Because in my view, which is informed by a few years of careful study of the two, and quite a lot of research, the HH brand is clearly a vanity press.

  40. Lorelie
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 13:02:35

    The books published through Harlequin Horizons will not carry traditional Harlequin branding

    Neither do the Spice books, yet they’re known to be Harlequin brand. Can someone please explain the difference?

  41. Jane
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 13:04:11

    @Jane Smith Harlequin Horizons does not seem to be a very good value right now, but I am not certain I see the “scam” or “evil” in the nature of the business deal. Nor am I convinced that there is brand dilution for existing Harlequin authors (which is my main concern as a reader).

    I am not sure why any aspiring author would go this route but simply because it is offered to them doesn’t mean that they are forced to take it.

  42. Nadia Lee
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 13:07:18

    @GrowlyCub:

    arlequin Horizons first takes the authors to the cleaners with outrageously overpriced 'services', makes the author do all the promotion and distribution and *then* they keep 50% of the royalties?

    it’s not even off of cover price.

    It’s 50% of NET.

  43. Deb Kinnard
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 13:08:34

    Liz, THANK YOU. That pretty much sets this out as it is.

    I think if a print endeavor (I will not call this publishing, because to my mind it isn’t, per se) charges so much up-front for their services, it’d be best to pay the author a royalty of 100% of cover price. Not 50% or any other fraction.

    I see this as yet another way to separate authors from the money due them for writing books.

  44. Shiloh Walker
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 13:09:41

    @Jane:

    Why in the long term disastrous?

    One of the reasons I see it as a disaster is this…(And i realize that those who don’t write probably don’t see the big deal)

    Writers work hard-to get pubbed, they work even harder. It’s an accomplishment but if this proves to be the way of the future, it won’t boil down to those who work hard getting published…it will be anybody who wants to shell out the dough.

    For the readers? If this becomes the way of the future, it’s going to be a lot harder to find good books.

    There ARE good POD books, good vanity press books. I do know that. BUT many of them? You couldn’t pay me to read them. POD/Vanity books may very well be line edited/proofed, but that doesn’t address story content. A clean book with no or few typos/grammatical errors is a lovely thing… but if the story sucks? No thanks. The writer doesn’t have to change a thing with POD/Vanity.

    Instead of taking the time to improve your craft, writers will just pay the money.
    It will become a matter of whoever shells out the money getting pubbed and if that becomes common, how easy will it be to find decent books?

    I’m not AGAINST POD technology and if there comes a time when traditional pubs can incorporate more POD tech? I’m all for that.

    But I’m not for this.

    I see it as a way for the pub to make money hand over fist while offering a slim to nonexistent hope to the aspiring writer. How many self-pubbed books are out there? A TON. But how many of those self-pubbed writers ever made a decent return on their investment. Not that many.

    Not to mention the huge mark-up I’m seeing on all the little extras the HH site lists. And I mean, OH MAN HUGE… on top of the already substantial costs of having them publish a book.

  45. Jane
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 13:14:50

    @Shiloh Walker I don’t foresee vanity press replacing digital press business model. I do see the traditional publishing model radically changing. In the future, advances will likely be paid out to only the top selling, proven earners and few others here and there. Everyone else will be given nominal or no advances. (Nominal might be anything under $10k per book).

    The future of the digital marketplace necessarily means a) crowding and b) paying for higher placement (much like coops serve in the retail brick and mortar).

    The move to the further democratization of publishing is actually advantageous for authors as it helps them decouple from publishers, earn more as a sole profit center, and given greater publishing freedom.

    So, I don’t see adoption of vanity press as the ruination of quality published books.

  46. Shiloh Walker
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 13:15:33

    Nor am I convinced that there is brand dilution for existing Harlequin authors (which is my main concern as a reader).

    I can almost guarantee that many writers who choose this route are GOING to market themselves as Harlequin authors. So those who pick the books up without realizing it’s a POD/Vanity arm of Harlequin and buy it, read it, discover it’s drivel? That could very well lead to brand dilution.

    And nothing can stop these authors from marketing themselves as Harlequin authors. Especially since the website reads: Harlequin Horizons.

    I realize not ALL POD/Vanity books are crap, but this venture is going to appeal most the newer writer and newer writers aren’t going to have spent as much time improving their craft, which does often lead to books that could stand to improve… A LOT

  47. James Macdonald
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 13:20:04

    #35 Jane:

    Why in the long term disastrous?

    Because while this is a guaranteed fast-cash generator (Author Solutions makes a ton of money, and PublishAmerica has been in business for nearly a decade), it will pretty quickly lead to entire messageboards filled with would-be authors who a) feel scammed, b) won’t be shy about telling the world that they were scammed, and c) actually were scammed.

    In the long term that can’t be good for Harlequin. They’ve taken their eye off the ball. As publishers their job is supplying books to readers that the readers are likely to enjoy. But with this, they’ve decided that the readers aren’t their customers; the authors are.

    One thing has remained true for the vanity publications, the PODs, ever since the first Docutech: The average sales per title has been around 75 copies. (Make no mistake: Author Solutions isn’t a subsidy house, they’re a vanity house. Harlequin has decided to become a vanity house.)

    Will Harlequin Horizons tell their prospective authors that they’re only going to sell 75 copies, to their friends and family, and they’re going to eat all the expenses? Apparently not. That’s dishonest. Instead they’re telling people to “imagine” their books on the shelves of a bookstore. It’s good that they said “imagine” because it’s only going to happen in their imaginations. A friendly local bookstore owner might take one or two on consignment, if the author begs. Otherwise … no.

    I’ve been watching the vanity presses for years. Pretty soon you’re going to see Harlequin Horizons authors advising each other to call bookstores under an assumed name to order copies of their book, then never show up to collect them, to force the bookstore to shelve them. Soon you’ll see Harlequin Horizons authors “reverse shoplifting,” taking copies of their books into bookstores under their coats and sticking them on the shelves. (Got to do something with that garage full of books that they bought in the first blush of enthusiasm, after all.) You’re going to see horrors.

    Aside from alienating the writing community, debasing the house name, and blurring the distinction between commercial publishing and vanity publishing, is there anything good about this plan? Yes: they’ll make some fast cash.

    Nearly twenty years ago, I formulated Yog’s Law to help guide the newbies away from the rocks: “Money flows toward the author.”

    I haven’t seen anything to suggest that Yog’s Law has suddenly been repealed.

    Malle has been gamely trying to respond here, and I don’t envy her position. But look at the questions she isn’t answering to find out the real score.

  48. Nadia Lee
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 13:20:20

    @Jane:

    The move to the further democratization of publishing is actually advantageous for authors as it helps them decouple from publishers, earn more as a sole profit center, and given greater publishing freedom.

    So, I don't see adoption of vanity press as the ruination of quality published books.

    But you don’t earn more.

    You earn LESS.

    Vanity presses take money from you to publish a book. Then it gives you ROYALTIES. How is that any different from a commercial publisher except that you don’t have to pay a commercial publisher to publish your book? As a matter of fact, a legit commercial publisher PAYS advances.

    Vanity presses are terrible for writers who are serious about their career. It’s terrible for people who just want to make some keepsake booklets / bound copies.

  49. Jane
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 13:21:48

    @Shiloh Walker I’m curious how you think readers are going to find these self published authors? Isn’t that the entire problem of publishing – the getting out of obscurity and trying to find an audience? Yes, authors can self identify with Harlequin Horizons but how will they get out there?

  50. Jane
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 13:22:50

    @Nadia Lee Sure, then don’t do vanity press. That seems easy enough. But the existence of vanity presses or the adoption of vanity press by Thomas Nelson, Random House or Harlequin does not, to me, spell doom for an author because no author has to go that route.

  51. Jane Smith
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 13:25:06

    @Jane:

    I don’t think that Harlequin Horizons is a scam; I don’t think it’s evil (although I don’t think it’s particularly nice); but I don’t think it’s self-publishing either, which is the point I was making (I’m not trying to be snarky here, but I’m aware that this is a sensitive subject and the internet makes things appear snarky sometimes when no such snark is intended).

    I agree that no writers are going to be forced to take this route: but if naive writers submit to Harlequin and, with their rejection, they’re directed to Harlequin Horizons and told they can get published that way, they’re likely to bite someone’s hand off in order to take them up on the offer.

    Bearing in mind the lack of sales that most self- and vanity-published writers achieve (anything from 40 to 200 copies per title, depending on which figures you believe), their books are likely to do badly. The good books will disappear with the bad, and the writers concerned might well go into debt in order to fund their “publication” (if you want to see the sadness that vanity publishing can cause, then read the PublishAmerica forums, and the threads about PA at Absolute Write).

    If the Harlequin Horizons website were a little lighter on the rhetoric–if it had fewer references to writers’ dreams and aspirations, for example–and a little heavier on the realities of such publishing programs I would have no problems with it. But as it stands it’s providing a very seductive image to writers which doesn’t seem fair to me.

  52. Eirin
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 13:25:52

    The disaster lies in the fact that the overwhelming majority of vanity published books are, at the very least, not ready for publication.

    It’s like selling rotten meat under your premium meat brand. Eventually customers realize they get the occasional food poisoning from your “premium” product and will simply stop buying it.

  53. Shiloh Walker
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 13:28:29

    It will depend on the author, jane. A lot of them are very… ahhh… aggressive with their self-promo.

    One can set up a website, buy an ad @ the SB blog, thru RT (although man I hope they do it on their own instead of co-oping in with the HH package), blog about it, guest blog, whatever to promote their book.

    Would it be on a huge scale? I don’t know. But I do definitely see the potential there. I realize you don’t agree.

  54. Anonymoussssss
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 13:29:05

    if naive writers submit to Harlequin and, with their rejection, they're directed to Harlequin Horizons and told they can get published that way, they're likely to bite someone's hand off in order to take them up on the offer.

    …turning the Harlequin slushpile into a possible profit center.

  55. Jane
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 13:29:33

    @Eirin I get the brand dilution argument. Really, I do. (it’s the first argument I made in my original post). To the extent that there will be brand confusion for the reader, I think this is a bad thing. Totally bad. But, if what Malle says is true and I don’t have any reason to doubt her, then there doesn’t appear that there will be reader confusion. I.e., if you type in Harlequin on Amazon it won’t pull up Harlequin Horizon books. They won’t be sold at eHarlequin.com.

    @shilohwalker and some others have mentioned that the self published authors who self identify with Harlequin through being self published might create some brand confusion (Courtney Milan made a very good point about this over at the Smart Bitches website) and to that extent, it is the only way I see brand dilution occuring. What effect will that have? I think it depends on whether Harlequin is the brand or if the brand is line related. I think Harlequin’s brand is more line related (ie. readers read certain lines).

  56. Jane
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 13:30:55

    @Jane Smith I don’t think you are being snarky. I can see that there are dangers to vanity publishing but I don’t see vanity publishing becoming more predominant than it already is. Right now isn’t the statistic that a huge percentage of books published are self published and vanity published? In other words, the dangers that are supposed to be coming are already here.

  57. Jane Smith
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 13:32:13

    @Jane:

    Jane wrote, “I'm curious how you think readers are going to find these self published authors?”

    My mother loves Harlequin novels. She’s older than I’d like her to be, and can’t get out as much as she used to and is a recent convert to Amazon, bless her. She finds her reading material by going to Amazon, going to the “advanced search” page, and typing “Harlequin” into the “publisher” box.

    Her searching methods are going to turn up Harlequin Horizons books too, surely?

    Were she more mobile she would be unlikely to come across the HH books on bookshops’ shelves: but as Amazon is now the only place she buys her books, she’s going to find them.

  58. Shiloh Walker
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 13:32:40

    @Eirin:

    It's like selling rotten meat under your premium meat brand. Eventually customers realize they get the occasional food poisoning from your “premium” product and will simply stop buying it.

    LMAO. Good analogy. Damn good analogy.

  59. Jane
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 13:34:14

    @Jane Smith @MalleVallik answered upthread that this would not occur. That’s a danger if it does, of course.

  60. Anon
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 13:38:33

    I get that everyone wants to have more options to be published. I really do, but at what cost? Growing up, I dreamed of becoming an Olympic Gold gymnast. However bad knees and no finances killed that dream. I can still tumble and do some beam work but not to the extent training would’ve required. So for a writer to pay a publisher because they so badly want to call themselves a published author, in my mind, would be like me paying the committee for a gold medal so that I can call myself an Olympic Gold gymnast when I never earned it.

  61. Jane Smith
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 13:40:50

    @Jane:

    Ahh–you’re considering the dangers to publishing as a whole; I’m talking about the dangers to individual writers.

    I agree with you: I don’t think that vanity publishing presents a serious danger to mainstream publication. The majority of vanity-published books aren’t good enough to present any competition at all, and even the good ones tend to sell so few copies that they don’t even register on mainstream’s radar.

    But for the writers who take out loans to fund their vanity publishing project it’s an entirely different matter. Then there are the vanity-published writers who turn up at schools to give author talks, who sell their dreadful books to the kids for £10 a pop and explain to them that if you want to get published you have to stump up a lot of cash, and that of course it’s ok if your writing is full of spelling errors and conforms to your own personal grammar rules, so long as you get it out there (and yes, that’s just what happened in my son’s school last term): it’s not good. Vanity publishing has all sorts of unexpected effects, many of which make me very uncomfortable indeed.

  62. Anon
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 13:41:20

    @Jane:

    I don’t get this at all then. What are these people paying for if not to say they are published by Harlequin? Makes no sense?

    And it’s going to happen. You can bet these authors will have “Jane Doe, Harlequin author” typed big, bold and proud on their website, blog, facebook, twitter, myspace, etc not to mention links and banner ads to the actual HH website and online store. Do that enough and Google takes notice so eventually when someone types “Jane Doe” into the search engine, “Harlequin author” pops up. I don’t see how they can control that unless they have the “authors” sign something up front that says they will only use the hH logo and not the Harlequin name. But then we are back full circle to why pay all that money if you can’t use their name? *sigh* This is such a horrible, sucky mess…

  63. Jim Duncan
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 13:42:33

    Royalties…50% of NET. So, your 12.99 trade paperback book, sold to Amazon, printed off from someplace like Lightningsource is going to net the author roughly a dollar or so per book. So, how many books is that HH author going to have to sell to break even, assuming nothing else is invested beyond the initial fee? Yep, about 600 copies. Throw in any advertising, website development, and so on, and we’re easily talking about 1000 copies. Likely more. How many copies do self-pubbed authors on average sell? About 100. What percentage of them sell over 1000? I believe its 1% or less.

    HH is about providing for the dreams of aspiring authors? I believe their dreams likely fall in the realm of publishing with an actual Harlequin line, not the black hole of money and time HH will provide them. Where is the information about the realities of self-publication (which this isn’t really, by the way)? Where does it say one’s chances of succes using this route are even less than traditional methods? Of course, we won’t hear about the thousands of writers who use this venture over the next few years and gain nothing from it other than the ability to show people a printed book. We will certainly hear about the rare success though and how it demonstrates the greatness of self-publishing.

    Sorry, I’m being the pessimist here, but I’ve seen nothing in this enterprise to warrant any enthusiasm whatsoever. It smacks only of a company attempting to take advantage of uninformed people who do have dreams, and don’t understand the realities of what it takes to achieve them.

  64. Shiloh Walker
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 13:47:56

    @Jim Duncan:

    Sorry, I'm being the pessimist here, but I've seen nothing in this enterprise to warrant any enthusiasm whatsoever. It smacks only of a company attempting to take advantage of uninformed people who do have dreams, and don't understand the realities of what it takes to achieve them.

    i agree.

  65. Jane Smith
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 13:48:05

    @Jane:

    Re the problem that a search on Amazon for “Harlequin” would also throw up results for “Harlequin Horizons”: as far as I understand it, Amazon searches for keywords and gives all results, so yes, it’s likely to happen. A search for “Harlequin Horizons” is less likely to give results for “Harlequin” alone–but unless Harlequin can get Amazon to change the way its searches work, I’m still doubtful.

    (It’s late, I need a drink, and am grouchy, so do feel free to tell me that I’ve got this horribly wrong–I’ll welcome the information as it will mean I’ll not need to spend a few weeks briefing and re-briefing my lovely mother about the differences between H and HH.)

  66. GrowlyCub
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 13:49:48

    This is looking more and more like an incredibly exploitative enterprise whose sole aim is to separate the gullible from massive amounts of their money by selling them their ‘dream’.

    Even if we assume that the books by the poor suckers who pony up the cash won’t make it into wide circulation so brand dilution won’t happen via readers buying thousands of questionable titles that they associate with Harlequin whether Harlequin wants them to or not, the real issue is that I and many other smart readers are going to look at this whole mess, see it for the disgusting money grab it is and consider Harlequin in a light that they surely cannot want.

    Skanky comes to mind. Predatory is too mild in my mind. I’ll be thinking long and hard whether I want to buy books from a company that thinks this is a sound, honest and mutually beneficial business venture.

    I restate: I’m beyond appalled and am very fast losing the little respect I may have had for Harlequin and their executives.

  67. Jill Sorenson
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 13:50:48

    Harlequin gives their brand name to this venture, instead of Carina Press? The web site is better than eHarlequin! I’m oddly compelled by the catchy taglines and smiling faces. I think there might be some subliminal messaging in there. Become an author…realize your dreams…

    HOW TO SERVE ASPIRING AUTHORS. It’s a cook book!

  68. Liz
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 13:58:19

    @Jane: They may not be selling the books on eHarlequin.com, but they sure are pimping the service. How “not associated” with something can you be when you’re advertising for it on every single page of your website? When it bears your brand name?

    And that’s what bothers me the most: the promotion all over eharlequin.com’s writing pages. Sure, they don’t want to be associated with the book in any shape, way, or form, but they’ll plug that service like there’s no tomorrow. It reminds me of a sleazy used-car dealer who’s more than willing to sell lemons, but wants no part of the responsibility after the fact. They want to sell the “dream” of being a Harlequin author, but they don’t want to pay for it by assuming any responsibility. Harlequin appears to be out for Harlequin (or maybe their parent company), and everyone else, reader, writer, etc, are just SOL where Horizons is concerned.

    I think Malle has done a good job at trying to spin the negative publicity into a positive, and I understand this isn’t her baby and she’s just doing her job, but either Harlequin is associated with Harlequin Horizons, or it’s not. There is no halfway. As far as I can tell, it is, and that association is, admittedly, Harlequin Horizons’ selling point over its competitors. The fact that they’re choosing to pimp the Harlequin brand only to the person who pays them, and not carry through to the end user only makes this whole endeavor more unsavory, not less. Who pays to be associated with a brand without expecting to use it, after all?

    Also, if you look at the templates for the HH covers, there’s a place at the top for a series title. That, to me, means the HH will be just as line-related as Harlequin proper. Only time will tell if this will be confusing to readers, though.

  69. Anon76
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 13:59:29

    Again from the HH site: (sounds too much like Harlequin Historicals to me, but wadever)

    “Reach the stars and prove dreams do come true. Titles published through Harlequin Horizons will be monitored for possible pickup by Harlequin's traditional imprints. This is great news for the author who has a dream of one day publishing with a traditional publishing house, but isn't quite sure he/she is ready to go through the whole traditional submission process.”

    Dudes, all those silly publishing submissions processes you’ve heard about? Toss em out the window. We gotcha covered

    “Grow as an author. Knowing your book will finally be in print should be great inspiration for you to develop and hone your writing and editing skills. Our goal is to provide you with articles, blog posts and writing tips to help you become the writer you've always dreamed of being.”

    Dudes, you don’t actually have to know all that writing stuff. If you publish on your own it’ll give you incentive to learn all that pesky crap.

    And yes, my comments are snarky, because that’s how I interpret these come-ons.

  70. Sonya Bateman
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 14:05:26

    @Jill Sorenson: You’ve won an internet! You have been duly notified. :)

  71. Eirin
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 14:05:58

    First of all, no matter what Malle and HQ call this, it isn’t self-publishing. I realize that the term seems more palatable than vanity, but neither the ISBN nor the process itself is under the writer’s control, hence ipso facto vanity publishing.

    None of these books will sell much more than a couple of hundred copies on average, at most, so the brand dilution might not be quite as bad as one could imagine.
    I suspect that the reason HQ isn’t worried about brand dilution is because the general reading public isn’t the target marked here. Authors are. The general reading public will never know about Horizon at all; not unless they happen to have a family member or neighbor who paid-to-play with Horizon.

    That’s the important thing to remember here. The authors are the customers. HQ is banging the drum for being a “Harlequin Author” pretty hard because that will suck in inexperienced writers. HQ isn’t marketing to the general reading public. Those writers are the customers.

  72. GrowlyCub
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 14:12:59

    @Eirin:

    HQ isn't marketing to the general reading public. Those writers are the customers.

    I agree, except it seems that a rather large contingent of the general reading public has the aspirations and dreams to become published authors and so this venture does impact readers right where they are most vulnerable.

  73. Cara
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 14:15:42

    Yes, the writers are the customers, but the brand dilution comes in when the Horizons authors use the Harlequin name in their own marketing efforts (and you can bet that they will). In trademark law, the test for trademark infringement is “likelihood of confusion” — is it likely for a consumer to be confused as to the source of a given product? A person who Googles “harlequin romance” will likely bring up Horizons books in the search and think that Horizons is another Harlequin imprint. It will be impossible for Harlequin to control how its brand is used through this venture, and that’s a shame because its brand is one of its greatest assets.

    Also, as someone else noted, Harlequin readers are often aspiring Harlequin writers as well, so yes, there will be confusion. The “How to Write” section of eHarlequin is promoting Horizons as a way to get published.

    http://www.eharlequin.com/store.html;jsessionid=2DF237B6263C12D92775AE984433A7D2?cid=535

  74. Kalen Hughes
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 14:16:55

    HOW TO SERVE ASPIRING AUTHORS. It's a cook book!

    I believe the HQ menu specifics filleted . . .

  75. Kathryn Edgar
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 14:17:02

    To help Shiloh’s point – You print with Horizons then you log onto Facebook and you make an account with your author name, then you look up other fabulous authors – friend or no but steal every non famous name on their friend list and send the add – within a few days you have your maximum 5,000 friends there’s your first audience (rinse, repeat on Myspace) – now you’ve moved to a club or fan page on the site – Your branding yourself as a Harlequin Horizon author (and if you could afford the book you can afford to cough up some ad money on these sites as well) – it’s not long before under a brand you bought your book under you have marketed yourself to thousands of potential readers.

    How will this affect readers? I’m hearing a lot of readers saying this won’t affect them because they will never buy this or that book under this or that label. But let’s play some what if with that thinking. What if it becomes the norm for the new author to have to go this route to establish themselves because I am still in agreement once this solidifies it becomes more money sense to the said publisher to send you over to the Pay service rather than risk take on you, no matter the potential? So does this mean you will be stuck reading only the favorites of the past and not see any new faces? Because who wants to shell out tons of bucks on books that might be awesome or might be a disaster? When the next big author like so many great and true favorites can’t be found because they are buried under a hundred others with same label? Let’s also say that there is still a vast majority of readers that do not have a clue about Internet savvy, log on check email (which will be sent to them for Horizons if I’m not misunderstanding), log off. They don’t even know the difference between a Harlequin Horizons and a Harlequin Blaze they just know Harlequin.

    Options are options – no one is forced into anything. But this isn’t even clearly defining itself as what it is in terms of the service offered….it calls it self publishing but charges obscene amounts of money for the service and takes cuts from the users of the service.

    And I have read all the threads here and on SB and can say I have seen some questions answered, some not answered, and some half answered – which is still sounding and looking pretty shady to most that are following these threads hoping for clear answers to the questions posed or more clarification. Harlequin was kind enough to send in a representative with some answers because it was in their best interest to do so as this thing is exploding like a bomb dropped on the writing/reading world. But they are also mostly regurgitating a couple of key points, ignoring others and smiling with a job well done.

    And let’s not forget the insult of being told what you have submitted is not publishable with a good house name but you can borrow their shady name and pay them to put it out. As an aspiring author, that is probably the greatest insult yet. A curt rejection stings but a rejection inviting you to spend your savings account on the dream is another matter entirely.

  76. Kalen Hughes
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 14:17:53

    Specifies.

    Snark is so much better when you can type. *sigh*

  77. JaneyD
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 14:22:09

    “Self-publishing is a fast growing and vibrant part of the publishing industry today. Harlequin has decided to provide a romance focused self-publishing business for those that choose to go down the self-publishing road.”

    Let’s call this what it REALLY is and that is VANITY press, not self-publishing.

    The term “self-publishing” is used a dozen times in your statement.

    So long as the the books have “HH” on them and so long as the writers are paying unreasonable amounts of cash to HH, then the books are a vanity press product.

    But that doesn’t sound quite as nice as “self-publishing.”

    I say “unreasonable” because I have self-pubbed a title aimed at a very small, specific market, and it cost me a fraction of the price HH charges.

    It is also pretty danged stinky to aspiring writers to send the HQ rejects over to this vanity site.

    To get a rejection plus a link to the vanity site is just wrong–not to mention a conflict of interest. Why encourage an “almost there” writer to polish and resubmit, when you can get a disappointed and vulnerable consumer to pay out a chunk of cash instead?

    Too many writers already think they have no chance selling to a big house and/or one has to pay to get published; this just confirms it.

    No, I do not have any questions, just outrage at this blatant grab for money.

  78. Janey
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 14:27:35

    Lulu is cheaper, as is Kinko’s, and at the end of the day, either of those printers will be as much of a writing credit as going with a thinly veiled vanity publication like the one here. The difference is, with Kinko’s, you can still sell your 1st rights to a real publisher.

  79. Larisa
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 14:41:17

    I have friends who are Harlequin authors. They ALL worked their butts off to get there. They work their butts off to STAY there. To take what these terrific writers have worked so hard for and hand it over to Ms. Suzy Clueless–who couldn’t write a publishable ms. to save her life–for a fee is a disgrace! I’ve always had the greatest respect for Harlequin, but no more. I hope this crap rears up and bites the Grand Old Dame of romance right in her greedy behind. Ms. Valick’s answers to everyone’s concerns are contradictory at best and sound a whole lot like double-talk to me. I hope RWA and the legitimate authors who deal with them give them what they deserve–the cold shoulder. This is the most ridiculous undertaking I’ve seen in the romance community to date–referring rejected authors over to a vanity press. That’s outrageous and I don’t understand how anyone who works for Harlequin could possibly respond to this in a positive way or even look their authors in the eye.

  80. Jane
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 14:44:40

    @Larisa I think those poor Harlequin authors should never submit to Harlequin again. I think that RWA should kick out Harlequin as a recognized publisher. These are solutions to the problems you list. Authors, make it happen.

  81. Eirin
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 14:44:44

    @Cara:

    Yes, the writers are the customers, but the brand dilution comes in when the Horizons authors use the Harlequin name in their own marketing efforts (and you can bet that they will).

    I don’t disagree, but I also think that, as someone else mentioned, customer loyalty in relation to HQ is mainly to the imprints and lines. Readers will quickly learn to stay clear of the Horizon “line”. Of course, that won’t bother HQ one little bit, since readers aren’t the customers for this particular venture.
    However, in the long run, I don’t doubt it will tarnish HQ as a whole.

    This quote from the discussion over at Absolute Write pretty much sums it up for me:

    I keep remembering myself, back in the day, stumbling around with my (pitiful) first mss. in hand, looking for an agent/publisher. I ALMOST went with PA, just because they made it sound so attractive, but something pulled me back from the edge at the last minute. Now, if it had been HQN soliciting me, with their gigantic reputation and litany of empty promises, I likely would have gone with them.

    Sleazy is the word that springs to mind.

  82. Lolita Lopez
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 14:48:03

    @Malle:

    4. If an author chooses to go to Horizons, do they lose “first publication” rights? How will that affect any effort to gain an agent or traditional publisher with their “bound copy”?

    Malle: I'm not sure I completely understand this question. The author owns her content. How would she lost first publication rights? She has published it herself. Whether she is giving it away as gifts or marketing it, is up to her. Yup, clearly I don't get your question.

    Ummm, I could be wrong (Lord knows these sleepless nights with a new baby aren’t doing my comprehension skills any favors) but I’m fairly certain that once you publish something, you’ve used up those first rights. Am I wrong?

  83. Eirin
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 14:52:36

    @Lolita Lopez:

    Ummm, I could be wrong (Lord knows these sleepless nights with a new baby aren't doing my comprehension skills any favors) but I'm fairly certain that once you publish something, you've used up those first rights. Am I wrong?

    No, you’re not wrong. It’s kinda like virginity. Once you’ve done the deed, you’re no longer a virgin. You still own your body, but you’ll never be a first timer again ;-)

    Someone speaking for HQ in this matter should know that good and well. If she doesn’t, she’s unqualified to field this discussion.

  84. Lisa Hendrix
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 14:55:10

    This question/answer stunned me:

    2. Will Harlequin Horizons hold the ISBNs and pay out royalties from the sales, if any? How does this differ from the “vanity press” model? How does it compare to the “self-publishing” model, in which the author holds the ISBNs and keeps all money from any sales?

    Malle: The content is completely owned by the author. Royalties are 50% net from both eBooks and print.

    In true self-publishing, once the author pays to have the book produced, s/he gets 100% of the subsequent sales.

    In the HH model, the author pays for production, then only gets 50% of sales–plus the opportunity to pay yet more money for “distribution packages.” This is the vanity press model, pure and simple. No wonder there’s so much double-talk and back-pedaling from the Harlequin end. What, they thought we woudn’t notice?

    By offering “instant success with no hassles,” HH caters to the wannabe’s desire for immediate gratification and unwillingness to put in the time/effort needed to really accomplish something. They’re doing no favors to either their heritage authors and readers or the poor suckers who are fooled into believing that just because HH put out a book, they’re actually published. The only winner here is the corporation.

    I’m very disappointed with Harlequin.

  85. Larisa
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 14:55:12

    @Jane:

    Jane, I’m certain those authors who have built up a career with Harlequin won’t be able to shun them, and that really stinks. As for RWA, in their usual fashion, they’ll find a way to go around the inconvenient little fact that HQ is farming out their rejects for profit and keep the old gal in the fold. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if authors could present a completely united front against some of the crap that goes on in the publishing world? Not gonna happen, not when there’s money involved.

  86. Anonymoussssss
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 14:58:33

    The author would have used her first publication rights by choosing to avail herself of Harlequin Horizons’ services, yes?

    After all, they are paying her a 50% net royalty, correct? After fees, that is.

  87. Diana Peterfreund
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 14:59:03

    There are so many reasons this is wrong.

    50% of net royalties? How about THEY start getting paid THEIR share of “royalties” once THEY’VE earned back the advance the AUTHOR paid to publish the darn thing!

    Now, getting a rejection letter from Harlequin that says “not for us, try Hq Horizons” is going to be standard MO, whereas you used to get letters like “Not for us here at Hq Superromance, try Hq Blaze.” And you’d BELIEVE them that they knew the best place for your manuscript. This was pretty common practice. If I was an aspiring Harlequin author that suddenly got referred to HH, I’d think I was just being sent to a more appropriate line.

    And this whole “oh, the word Harlequin won’t appear anywhere.” Too late, guys. IT ALREADY DOES.

    Also, as many authors and author advocacy groups have said over and over again, REAL publishers are focused on selling BOOKS to READERS, not “dreams” to “authors.” And yet, the Harlequin community manager said upthread:

    #23: Jayne Hoogenberk

    I see Horizons as just one more opportunity for aspiring authors to explore . This is why the Harlequin Horizon logo and module grace the community pages. Life is ALL about options and I'm proud to be part of a company that provides so many options to authors.

    Is it a publishing company’s job to provide options for authors, or for READERS! It’s the latter. The reason Harlequin has so many lines is because sometimes readers want to read about billionaires and sometimes about families in small towns, and sometimes about vampires. The reason Harlequin started Carina (purportedly) is because some readers out there (a small number) are looking for books that fit into a niche market that can’t support large scale print publishing. The READERS want those books. Publishers should be in the business of making books for readers — large scale, small scale, whatever.

  88. Seeley deBorn
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:01:52

    The difference is, with Kinko's, you can still sell your 1st rights to a real publisher.

    Yup. Harlequin is no longer a real publisher.

    They are delusional if they think their brand won’t be affected because they are selling services to authors not books to readers. Will the contract include a clause preventing the authors from running all over the place claiming to be a “Harlequin Author”? Unless it does, and unless they plan on enforcing it, there’s nothing stopping these authors, or anyone right now, in fact, from making such claims, and from diluting and damaging a brand recognizable by its very name. That little H on the spine: recognized by readers of the brand. The name Harlequin: recognized by the construction workers on my job site.

  89. Laura Kinsale
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:02:10

    Here’s another useful service for self-published authors. You’ll want to buy yourself some good reviews:

    http://readerspoils.com/authors.html

  90. Janey
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:06:43

    @diana peterfreund

    ITA.

    A publisher’s job is to consider the readers and to purchase books that will appeal to those readers.

    A VANITY PUBLISHER’s job is to make a wannabe author think they care about the author’s “dream” of seeing their book in print, then sell them that dream at as a high a profit margin as possible. Their entire marketing campaign is aimed at the writers… to make them pay for their own work.

  91. Diana Peterfreund
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:07:45

    @Jane:

    @Larisa I think those poor Harlequin authors should never submit to Harlequin again. I think that RWA should kick out Harlequin as a recognized publisher. These are solutions to the problems you list. Authors, make it happen.

    How would that solve the issue Larissa stated regarding the disingenuous nature of referring well meaning authors to a vanity press? How does it resolve the other issues of brand dilution, of unfair (compared to other self-pub operations) terms?

    I actually don’t believe that RWA’s proper response here is to kick Hq out, but, as with other author advocacy moves RWA has made over the years (such as convincing Hq to give up ownership of pen names) I believe the answer is to convince the company to remove referrals from rejection letters for their lines (SO unprofessional and misleading) and distance their self publishing arm from their romance brand. THAT is what is in the best interest of the career-focused romance writers in RWA.

  92. veinglory
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:08:04

    “How would she lost first publication rights? She has published it herself. Whether she is giving it away as gifts or marketing it, is up to her. Yup, clearly I don't get your question.”

    Seriously? Do you know what first publication right are?

  93. Anion
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:09:59

    Ditto Veinglory. Are you freaking kidding? “She has published it herself” automatically equals THE BOOK IS PUBLISHED. FOR THE FIRST TIME. Those are First Publication rights, and they are USED. GONE. Period.

  94. Lolita Lopez
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:11:03

    Glad to see I wasn’t the only one who had a wtf moment when reading Malle Vallik’s answer regarding first publication rights.

  95. Anonymoussssss
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:11:34

    She didn’t LOSE the rights – she gave them away. Along with a big chunk of money.

    Opera claps for some very precise parsing of language answering the question, but…

  96. A Reader
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:12:17

    But she choose to use those rights how she wanted to when she decided to self publish was I believe her point. She didn’t lose them–she used them.

  97. Jane
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:16:10

    @Diana Peterfreund So if harlequin removed the referral from the rejection letter and no longer used Harlequin on its vanity press (I’ll use that term because it seems like its more apt) arm then it would be kosher? Again, just trying to drill down to the main source of complaint.

  98. veinglory
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:16:35

    The point I was making was that as with the whole Horizon website, this statement is either vague and dead wrong, or vague and disingenuous. In either case, not admirable.

  99. Julia Sullivan
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:19:00

    Malle wrote: The author owns her content. How would she lost first publication rights? She has published it herself.

    It’s already been published for the first time. Therefore, “first publication rights” are no longer available.

    You’re very kind to take the time to answer questions here, and I understand you’re coming from a digital-space background. But you might need some backup from a colleague who’s more familiar with the print space to field questions like this, because that’s a pretty basic and important concept in print publishing.

  100. Jane
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:20:15

    @Diana Peterfreund Oh and the solutions I was referring to was Larisa’s complaint about the loss of face for the existing authors and the recognition of Harlequin in the RWA.

  101. Jane
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:21:50

    @Julia Sullivan Clearly this must be dealt with in other places because Avon bought rights to Phyllidia and (can’t remember the name) a book that was previously self published so first publication rights can be gotten around. (There are other self published books in print that have been bought – most recently a famous one involving a mother who died of cancer?)

  102. Janey
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:23:11

    The below is a link to Agent Janet Reid’s “What’s NOT a query letter” list, wherein she details all the things you SHOULDN’T send her if you want her to consider your work.

    LINK

    #5 on the list is:

    5. A copy of your novel, printed and bound, with an ISBN.

    Do I really need to explain this?

    So that pretty much tells you how at least one (and many more who I don’t have links for) agent feels about those “bound copies to present to agents”.

  103. Cara
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:23:41

    I’m not Diana, but if Harlequin’s parent company removed ALL associations between Harlequin and the vanity press, then I personally would find it okay. Business is business, and if a conglomerate feels the need to own a vanity press to keep things afloat, fine. But when you use the good name of one of your brands to drive traffic to a questionable venture, then that’s where I have a problem. The brand name adds legitimacy in a consumer’s (in this case, the writer’s) eyes. It’s like seeing the American Heart Association logo on an unhealthy snack food: it’s still unhealthy, but the branding makes it seem like it’s healthy (or healthier). Okay, that might not be the best analogy, but I hope it’s clearer, at least.

  104. Julia Sullivan
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:23:58

    So if harlequin removed the referral from the rejection letter and no longer used Harlequin on its vanity press (I'll use that term because it seems like its more apt) arm then it would be kosher?

    That would certainly remove the potential for confusion among authors (and readers, though as others have said, self-published books don’t get out to readers so much).

    Here’s the thing. It’s disingenuous to say that someone who says “I was published by Harlequin Horizons” isn’t going to lead a number of people who are casual readers (or not readers at all) to think that their manuscripts were published by Harlequin, selected from submissions by other writers and paid for with advances and royalties.

    And this will lead to confusion. It will lead to people being treated as professional authors, rather than vanity-published authors, in places like local writing groups and small writers’ conferences, etc. And this will breed more ignorance about how publishing works.

  105. Julia Sullivan
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:25:04

    @Jane:

    Jane, you can REPUBLISH books that have been published before.

    You can’t publish them for the first time more than once.

    First publication rights are more valuable than republication rights.

  106. Diana Peterfreund
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:26:23

    @Jane: Well, “kosher” yes, like all vanity publishers are “kosher.”

    I’m talking in terms of RWA response, which is, what I think, you mentioned. RWA, as an organization, has a responsibility to advocate on behalf of its membership, which, according to its mission statement and requirements of membership, are career focused romance authors. Career focused romance authors (CFRA) both published and hoping to be published can be materially damaged by this venture, the former due to the very strong possibility of brand dilution, the latter because there’s an incentive for Harlequin to refer submissions to their vanity wing or mislead writers into thinking that form rejection is real advice as for a “better fit” for an ms (as I posted above).

    Therefore, in contrast to the idea of having writers who are making their living writing for Harlequin no longer write for Harlequin (which is self defeating) or having RWA no longer recognize harlequin, though they are the largest publisher of CFRA in the organization. I think they should work to make Harlequin change their policies that ARE damaging to their members. Same as any organization. They don’t pack up their tools and go on strike unless it’s a last resort.

    Not every Hq author writes romance. Not every Hq author is a member of RWA. Not every RWA member is, in fact, CFRA. Some really DO only want to see a book in their hands with their name on it, and for them HH might be a good option. But that’s not what the organization of RWA is for.

    Now, I’m only speaking about RWA. Personally, I think vanity presses are vile. if you are seeking to self publish, and there are several situations in which that choice is absolutely the right one, then there are far better ways to do it in which you keep ALL of the profits.

  107. Jane
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:27:18

    @Julia Sullivan Who is to say what will be the “value” of republication rights v. first publication rights. It’s a very fluid time in publishing, isn’t it. (Note, this is not to say I think authors, aspiring or published, should be using the Harlequin Horizon service because it seems far overpriced).

  108. Jane
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:28:06

    @Diana Peterfreund Do you have a problem with Random House, a house that publishes you (right? I can’t recall) owning 49% of xlibris, a vanity press?

  109. Eirin
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:28:50

    @Seeley deBorn:

    Will the contract include a clause preventing the authors from running all over the place claiming to be a “Harlequin Author”?

    IANAL, but in my opinion this is not doable. No one can stop the authors from telling people the name of the vanity house that’s printing their books; and in this case the name of the vanity house is Harlequin Horizons.

  110. Julia Sullivan
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:29:01

    Therefore, in contrast to the idea of having writers who are making their living writing for Harlequin no longer write for Harlequin (which is self defeating) or having RWA no longer recognize harlequin, though they are the largest publisher of CFRA in the organization. I think they should work to make Harlequin change their policies that ARE damaging to their members.

    Hear, hear.

    Jane, saying “Well, then, you shouldn’t write for Harlequin” is an unrealistic suggestion to professional writers. Harlequin has placement and distribution and things like end-caps that provide writers with the opportunity to sell enough books to make a living. It’s like saying to US football players “Well, you shouldn’t play in the NFL if you don’t like their policies.”

  111. rae
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:30:07

    Self Publishing is different from vanity/subsidy publishing. In true self publishing you retain the rights. In vanity/subsidy publishing the publishing company takes the first publication rights.

  112. Julia Sullivan
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:30:29

    Who is to say what will be the “value” of republication rights v. first publication rights.

    The people who buy them.

    Yes, maybe someday first rights will be worth no more than repub rights.

    But right now they are, and that’s something that people who are considering doing Harlequin Horizon need to know, and that’s information they’re not getting from Harlequin.

  113. Julia Sullivan
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:31:37

    @rae:

    rae, that’s not true. When you self-publish, you’re using up your first publication rights. If you publish with a trade publisher after that, it’s a republication.

  114. Julia Sullivan
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:32:59

    Do you have a problem with Random House, a house that publishes you (right? I can't recall) owning 49% of xlibris, a vanity press?

    I’m not speaking for Diana, but I’ve been published by Random House, and xLibris books aren’t called “Random House xLibris” books. Big difference right there.

  115. Janey
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:33:25

    Generally a publisher won’t even consider republishing anything unless it’s a monster hit – which 99.99% of vanity titles have no chance of becoming – AND the publisher feels there’s still an audience for it.

    5,000+ copies is the basement for a “breakout” self-pubbed title (and that’s with the author owning the rights to the book so they don’t have to get out of a vanity publisher contract). Almost all vanity titles top out in the double digits for sales, so not even close to hoping for a resale.

  116. James Macdonald
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:34:32

    @Jane:

    If they removed the referral from the rejection letter, and they removed the name from the imprint, what they’d be left with is AuthorHouse, only more expensive.

    It may be true that vanity published works are a big percentage of the number of titles published every year, but in terms of sales they’re invisible.

    Have you, personally, bought and read an AuthorHouse book this year? Ever? Has anyone you know ever bought one? Of the last hundred books you’ve read, how many were self or vanity published? The last thousand? Any, ever?

    Still, authors, especially newbies, are going to say, “But my book will be different!” We’ve seen this story before. Many times. There aren’t any mysteries.

  117. Shiloh Walker
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:34:54

    @Diana Peterfreund Do you have a problem with Random House, a house that publishes you (right? I can't recall) owning 49% of xlibris, a vanity press?

    @Jane: i acutally prefer the way Random House does it-there’s no confusing an Xlibiris book with a RH book.

    But a HH book and a Harlequin? They are BOTH harlequin and HH won’t be able to keep HH authors from using, “I’m a Harlequin” author in their marketing and promo. Considering how hard H/S authors worked to get there, that shouldn’t be something that can be ‘bought.’ Some things should be earned. That’s one of them, IMO.

  118. Rhonda Stapleton
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:34:58

    I have some questions/thoughts on this topic:

    I can’t understand why Hh is only giving 50% net of profits to the author, on top of all the fees being charged for these packages. What are the rest of the sale profits going toward? The author is already paying up front for everything to produce the book. Isn’t the point of self-pubbing that you pay the fees to produce the books, but get to keep all the profits? I’ve never self-pubbed, so maybe I’m missing something here, but everything I’ve read indicates this is how it goes.

    But even putting the money issue aside, because there may be authors out there who may feel it’s worth it, how is it ethical to refer rejected authors to Harlequin’s self-publishing imprint? Agents who refer rejected authors to their editorial services are typically viewed as scammy for this very practice. How is this different?

    And not only that, but telling potential authors that Harlequin is going to be searching through the books for ones that might be worthy of print publication (even though Harlequin supposedly isn’t going to be attached to this at all)? What is going to be the basis of what makes a manuscript worthy of Harlequin publication?

    And let’s say that if an author gets a contract, what kind of deal is the author going to get? Will it offset what the author paid to have the book published, and also the royalties lost because of giving Hh 50% of the net profits?

    I strongly feel it is bad advice to tell authors to use this service to bind a copy of their book to send to agents. If this is done, the author has used first publication rights on the manuscript, so most agents won’t touch it–where’s the money to be made for an agent if the author already published it?

    Also, it’s highly unprofessional to send a bound book to an agent–it brands the author instantly as a novice. Harlequin should know this. They work with agents all the time. And how does Harlequin in general handle books that have been self-published or vanity published, but are presented to them for a hopeful contract?

    Overall–I think this is a win-win situation…for Harlequin. But for authors? I just don’t see how they can win with it. Even those who are one of the rare examples to get picked up for a contract aren’t going to get as much as they would if they hadn’t self-pubbed in the first place.

    I am very much against this idea and cannot support it. All of this just my opinion, of course.

    You know, I’d feel better about it if Harlequin removed all name branding from it–no Harlequin name attached to it at all. It’s misleading and talking out both sides of their mouth to say the author gets the benefit of the Harlequin brand, but not really, because it’s only in your view that it’s a benefit.

    I would rather they also not refer rejected authors to the service. It’s fine if people look at the packages and decide it’s right for them, but it feels WAY too close to scammy to refer rejected authors.

    Also, as a side note, if Harlequin is keeping separate from Hh like they say it is, why is Hh advertised on their how-to-write pages, as well as the submission requirements for the different lines? It feels like Harlequin is speaking out both sides of their mouths, and I just can’t support that.

  119. Jane
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:37:48

    @Julia Sullivan No, but Ms. Peterfreund called vanity publishing vile. I’m trying to drill down to see what the complaint is. Is the complaint that Harlequin is lending its name to this service or is it generally that they are partnering with a vanity press. These are two big different complaints, in my opinion.

    If it is the latter, then what Random House does is more vile because they profit from vanity press but don’t disclose this to the general public. In other words, Random House needs to be excoriated for dirtying its hands in the vanity press business.

    If it is about the former, lending the Harlequin name, then it’s not the underlying business model but complaints about brand dilution and also complaints about a big organization lending some kind of imprimatur to vanity publishing. But Harlequin isn’t the first to do this. Thomas Nelson, a Christian publisher first announced this.

  120. Jane
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:40:16

    @Shiloh Walker so your complaint is a) loss of face (which isn’t really a business issue put a personal pride issue) and b) worry about brand dilution. Brand dilution occurs for the reader and is based on how important house brand is versus line brand or author brand. I.e., how many readers will stop reading Harlequin altogether based on substandard quality of Harlequin Horizons. Will they or will they just not buy/read Harlequin Horizons books?

  121. Jane
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:41:33

    @James Macdonald But this is an issue for authors, not for publishing in general which is why I wondered why it had lasting disastrous results. If the market penetration of self pubbed/vanity pubbed books is so small as to be unnoticeable then there is no brand dilution. (Again, disclaimer that I don’t think authors should use Harlequin Horizons given how overpriced it appears to be).

  122. James Macdonald
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:43:15

    @Julia Sullivan:

    I'm not speaking for Diana, but I've been published by Random House, and xLibris books aren't called “Random House xLibris” books. Big difference right there.

    Random House was very clear that they were not associated with Xlibris in any way, other than that they were both owned by Bertelsmann, and Xlibris was equally clear that they were not Random House.

    It is also true that Xlibris was sold to Author Solutions, the same people who are involved Harlequin Horizons.

    (Barnes & Noble, who once owned about a quarter of iUniverse, divested themselves of their vanity press investment as well; Author Solutions bought it, too.)

  123. Janey
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:47:18

    The dilution from a single author will be too small to notice, but imagine the number of rejected manuscripts in a publisher the size of HQ’s slushpile. Tens of thousands of rejected MS all hitting the vanity line at the same time, with their authors waving banners that say “I was published by Harlequin!!!” is going to have an impact when 99% of those books are garbage.

  124. Liz
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:50:21

    @A Reader: It’s hard to use wisely something you don’t even know you have. Most people don’t know what “rights” are or what they entail, and the HH site does nothing to inform the reader that while Harlequin MAY decide to pick up the book for one of their lines, the chances of going with any other publisher are nil, because other publishers won’t accept previously published material.

    And that’s what makes this whole thing a big bowl of bad soup. Through this endeavor, Harlequin is not only lending their brand name to a shady service, but also selling unrealistic expectations to people who don’t know any different. The way I see it, it’s hard, if not near-impossible, to get straight information when the spokespeople are evasive, the information on the website is misleading and inaccurate, and in trying to backpedal, everything flip-flops around like a cracked out mudskipper. It’s no wonder Malle was so confused earlier; I’m surprised anyone knows what’s going on at this point.

    Authors making informed decisions to fit their needs? Good.

    Authors making costly deals to “reach their dreams” only to find out it’s not what they thought it was? Bad.

  125. Lynne Connolly
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:51:32

    Republication rights.
    I’ve done it several times, because of republication of work from my previous publishers. In every case it states on the page that the book has been previously published, and in every case I had to provide new books (and glad to do it!)

    If I hadn’t built up a reputation and good sales record for, for instance, Richard and Rose, the demand wouldn’t have been there and my publishers wouldn’t have been interested. Once it’s out, it’s out.
    First publication rights are incredibly valuable to a writer. Unknown writers have no chance of selling the same book more than once, because there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of other authors with fresh, new stories to tell.

    You won’t find many Harlequin writers coming out and objecting to what’s being done because Harlequin prefers its authors to behave, which means not rocking the boat. But in private, many of them are confused, distressed and angry. They’ve worked hard, rewritten, sent in numerous manuscripts for the cachet of being with Harlequin. Now anyone can call themselves a Harlequin author if they pony up. And they will, until the brand means nothing.

    Readers may buy something they assume to be a new Harlequin line only to find something undedited, badly written and not at all what they expected. They won’t come back.

    I’m an avid reader of Harlequin romance, and I just find the whole situation so sad. Harlequin have been doing everything right recently – renovating lines, introducing new, exciting authors, and only the DRM (spit) was a misstep. Now – not so much.

  126. Diana Peterfreund
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:53:19

    Yeah, I think vanity presses are vile. But no, I don’t have a problem with the fact that both of my publishers, Random House and Harper Collins, own some vanishing publishing wing. It has nothing to with me. It doesn’t affect me, my books, the Random House brand, or what it says on any rejection letters I or any other author receives from any of the Random House imprints.

    My publishers have also published books I find vile. I’m sure my heating company provides heat to houses owned by people I find vile.

    Random House is not a brand the way Harlequin is, and Xlibris is not branded as a Random House product.

    We’ve had the discussion on this site many times about how Hq and certain epubs (like Ravenous, Ellora’s Cave, etc.) brand themselves so that you know that a book coming out of that publisher is going to be a certain KIND of book. As Malle said, Harlequin MEANS romance and the reason the Harlequin name is there is to signify that it’s a ROMANCE “self” publisher. (Not actually a self-publisher, though.)

    I think that vanity presses are vile because they charge a ridiculous convenience fee for people who could/should be self-publishing. If I was going to get my car fixed and one mechanic started charging me ridiculous fees to order it through HIS system (i.e. a $20k book trailer) and then says that after I get my car fixed, he gets to use it half the time, I would call that guy a scam and go to a mechanic who can arrange more reasonable rates and let me keep my car!

  127. Malle
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 16:05:22

    I think we may all be getting pretty tired of this topic – at least for today! – as the conversation seems to be going around in a circle with those who believe self-publishing/vanity publishing is evil and should be outlawed and others who see it as another choice for writers. You know where Harlequin stands!

    If you have questions about the Harlequin brand, distribution, etc these questions have been answered several times here and at http://www.smartbitchestrashybooks.com.

    All of that said, I do want to share that we are very comfortable with Author Solutions as a self-publisher. We fully vetted their processes and found their services to be excellent.

    Twenty percent of Author Solutions clients publish more than one book with them, a stat that speaks to their customer satisfaction.

    In fact, I anonymously bought a self-packaging service that included an editorial critique as we were investigating Author Solutions. If you don't know my background I am a former editor with Harlequin (10 years, sorry to those who thought I needed more print experience) and I have written and published seven romance novels (under Molly Liholm). I pulled out an old mss, a story I still like but which I know needs some work, paid my money and sent it in.

    I was impressed with the service. They got back to me quickly. My critique was spot on. I had a long telephone conversation with my editor about what I wanted to do with my novel – did I simply want copies for myself and family; did I hope to be able to get it into a bookstore – and we agreed on next steps. As a result, I am very comfortable recommending Harlequin Horizons to anyone interested in self-publishing.

    This is where many of you will segue back into the discussion that self-publishing is evil. Yeah, I'm not with you.

    I asked Author Solutions to clarify a few issues. This is from them:

    “Authors published through Harlequin Horizons maintain all rights to their content. This means if a large traditional publisher, Harlequin or otherwise; an international publisher or film studio wants to acquire rights to the work, the author is free to sell them. Of course, this also means that an author published through Harlequin Horizons is free to work with an agent to market their works. Author Solutions, the publisher that Harlequin has partnered with for this project, has a number of authors each year who get picked up by agents, traditional publishers, independent publishers and international publishers. Lisa Genova, author of Still Alice, which spent several months of 2009 on the New York Times best seller list is one such success story.

    “Here’s a 2009 podcast during which she talks about her self-publishing experience http://www.iuniverse.com/ExpertAdvice/iUniversity/Podcasts/Author/StillAlice.aspx

    “Still Alice was turned down by agents and all of the major trade houses. She published through iUniverse. Marketed her book hard. Got some great reviews. An agent got ahold of it and a bidding war ensured. She secured a six-figure advance from Simon & Schuster in spring 2008, it debuted upon re-release at #4 on the NY Times Bestseller List in early Jan. 2009.

    “Not a typical story, but it certainly shows what she would’ve missed out on if she’d followed the advice of the agent who told her self-publishing the book would kill her career.”

    I'm sure I haven't changed anyone's mind who is predisposed to thinking self publishing is terrible or that we didn't consider the pros and cons. We did. We will also monitor sales of the books that come through this channel and we hope to find a few gems we would not have found otherwise and offer these authors a contract with Harlequin Enterprises.

    I'm repeating that this in no way replaces our regular submissions process, nor are we going to simply reject out of hand any and all manuscripts b/c we can make more money through this venture – our goal remains to discover new voices and new talents and nurture them to long and fulfilling careers as writers; this partnership gives us access to a new talent pool, self-published authors, whose works might have otherwise gone completely unread except by the editor who initially rejected the manuscript.

    Perhaps we should all return to focusing back on our own writing (me included!).

    Good night!
    PS I've also posted this at http://www.smartbitchestrashybooks.com

  128. From RWA
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 16:05:29

    RWA Alert: RWA Responds to Harlequin Horizons
    Dear Members:

    Romance Writers of America was informed of the new venture between Harlequin Enterprises and ASI Solutions to form Harlequin Horizons, a vanity/subsidy press. Many of you have asked the organization to state its position regarding this new development. As a matter of policy, we do not endorse any publisher's business model. Our mission is the advancement of the professional interests of career-focused romance writers.

    One of your member benefits is the annual National Conference. RWA allocates select conference resources to non-subsidy/non-vanity presses that meet the eligibility requirements to obtain those resources. Eligible publishers are provided free meeting space for book signings, are given the opportunity to hold editor appointments, and are allowed to offer spotlights on their programs.

    With the launch of Harlequin Horizons, Harlequin Enterprises no longer meets the requirements to be eligible for RWA-provided conference resources. This does not mean that Harlequin Enterprises cannot attend the conference. Like all non-eligible publishers, they are welcome to attend. However, as a non-eligible publisher, they would fund their own conference fees and they would not be provided with conference resources by RWA to publicize or promote the company or its imprints.

    Sometimes the wind of change comes swiftly and unexpectedly, leaving an unsettled feeling. RWA takes its role as advocate for its members seriously. The Board is working diligently to address the impact of recent developments on all of RWA’s members.

    We invite you to attend the annual conference on July 28 – 31, 2010 in Nashville, TN, as we celebrate 30 years of success with keynote speaker Nora Roberts, special luncheon speaker Jayne Ann Krentz, librarian speaker Sherrilyn Kenyon, and awards ceremony emcee Sabrina Jeffries. Please refer to the RWA Web site for conference registration information in late January 2010.

    Looking forward to seeing you at the Gaylord Opryland!

    Michelle Monkou
    RWA President

  129. James Macdonald
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 16:05:42

    @Jane:

    If it is the latter, then what Random House does is more vile because they profit from vanity press but don't disclose this to the general public. In other words, Random House needs to be excoriated for dirtying its hands in the vanity press business.

    We didn’t see Xlibris referring to itself as Random House Xlibris, as Julia mentioned above. Nor did we see banner ads for Xlibris all over RH’s website. Nor did we see RH referring rejected authors to Xlibris.

    Bertelsmann is huge; it may well be the largest media conglomerate in the world. They have their investment fingers in a lot of pies. That doesn’t make any of those other operations a part of Random House, either.

  130. Sunita
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 16:13:15

    @Jane: I’m not calling vanity presses vile, but I think they take advantage of people who are more gullible or who haven’t weighed the pros and cons in a way that lets them make an informed decision. There’s nothing illegal in profiting from people’s weaknesses, but I frequently lose respect for people and institutions who do that. And since I’ve always had enormous respect for the way HQ does business, this venture is really disappointing to me.

    Random House in its current incarnation has done a lot of things I think are bad for publishing, and it’s trashed the legacies of a number of long-established independent publishers after gobbling them up. But it’s a conglomerate, owned by a bigger conglomerate, so it’s not exactly surprising that today it houses a vanity press alongside former literary jewels like Knopf and Virago.

    HQ may be owned by a (smallish) conglomerate, but it has a relationship with its readers that I think is unmatched among publishers. It cultivates closeness and participation and feedback. Now all of that intimacy, which I at least thought was to forge strong links between authors, books, and readers, is in service to making money off of readers for something other than reading their books. Just go over to the writing pages at eharlequin.com and look around. The fee-for-critique service is suddenly discontinued, presumably in favor of the HH services. And *every* page that is about helping readers become authors is now in service to the Horizons enterprise. They haven’t just monetized their slushpile, as Laura Kinsale so aptly noted. They’re trying to monetize the attachment that reader/fans who dream of being an author have to HQ. Prior to HH, I thought the community was kind of neat, even if I was outside it. Now I view sentences that previously seemed innocuous with great suspicion. And no, I don’t believe in the Great Firewall between HQ and HH, especially given what the eharlequin community pages look like already.

    I say this as someone who is only a reader in this world. I have no desire to write a novel and I can tell the difference between Horizons and the other lines. I’m not going to be personally affected by HH in any way that I can see. But I think HQ is going to squander a lot of goodwill which has been built up over decades, and not just that of their authors.

  131. A Reader
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 16:13:16

    @Liz: Liz,
    In less than a day I went from “cool another option for authors” to “what a rip-off” and I wasn’t even considering plunking down any of my hard earned money. So how misleading are they really being?

    They posted their prices in black and white and made it clear you’re not buying HQ name and backing. The only issue I have is them labeling themselves a self publishing company when clearly they’re a vanity press but again if anyone looking to buy their services spends ten minutes googling them before they drop a couple of grand they’re going to find that out.

    If a new author doesn’t spend time looking into the business of publishing before publishing–umm–sorry you didn’t know what you were doing? Hope you learned something for next time? How is that Harlequin’s fault, vanity press or not?

  132. Diana Peterfreund
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 16:18:10

    @Jane:

    No, but Ms. Peterfreund called vanity publishing vile. I'm trying to drill down to see what the complaint is. Is the complaint that Harlequin is lending its name to this service or is it generally that they are partnering with a vanity press. These are two big different complaints, in my opinion.

    If it is the latter, then what Random House does is more vile because they profit from vanity press but don't disclose this to the general public. In other words, Random House needs to be excoriated for dirtying its hands in the vanity press business.

    If it is about the former, lending the Harlequin name, then it's not the underlying business model but complaints about brand dilution and also complaints about a big organization lending some kind of imprimatur to vanity publishing. But Harlequin isn't the first to do this. Thomas Nelson, a Christian publisher first announced this.

    I don’t think you read my original posts correctly, Jane (#87, #91, #106). The complaint, on behalf of romance authors, IS that Hq is lending this name to the service AND incentivized to refer aspiring writers to it. Whether or not Harlequin is the first to do this is not the point, especially when it comes to the needs of RWA members (which is what I was posting about), and the needs of romance authors and readers at large. Westbow Press was not the largest publisher of romance on the planet.

    I added, personally, that I do not like the existence of vanity presses. I would not recommend a vanity press to anyone who seeks to self publish, and would advise them against it. I don’t see what that has to do with my own publishing career, which has nothing to do with vanity presses. If I don’t like mushrooms on pizza, should I only eat at pizza places that don’t serve mushrooms, even though I can get a pepperoni pizza no problem? The people ordering mushroom pizzas are helping to keep the pizza place open, too.

  133. Larisa
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 16:18:31

    Well, whadaya know! RWA has unrecognized Harlequin. Never thought I’d see the day. Good for them!

  134. Christine_Rose
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 16:24:43

    I think people here are getting bogged down in the distinctions between self-publishing, vanity publishing, subsidy publishing, etc. The truth is that even experts use those terms differently and there are some shades of gray, especially if the self-publisher knows little or nothing about how one makes a roll of paper into a book.

    What I think is important is that vanity or self-publishing is almost never appropriate for a romance novel. It can work for special interest non-fiction, course notes, family recipes, technical manuals, local histories, keeping older books with limited appeal in print–anything that has a built in audience of people who will seek it out. It almost never works for a novel, and when it does, it’s because the novelist has a lot of publishing and publicity skills to go along with her writing skills.

    Secondly, Authorhouse is a really bad choice for vanity publishing. They’re expensive, and worse, they are a vanity house in the worst of the definitions, because they make misleading appeals to people’s vanity.

    And worst of all, by putting the Harlequin name on the books, they are absolutely appealing to author’s vanity, or at least their desire to be published by Harlequin. Why else would you pay extra? They are selling the fantasy that Harlequin Horizons is somehow Harelquin, even when Malle is on here trying to convince us that never the twain shall meet. Sorry, but if that’s not part of the sales pitch…take those links off your main site and change the name.

  135. anonymous
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 16:53:44

    I’m just astonished. Harlequin no longer an RWA eligible publisher? How’s this gonna play out?

  136. rae
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 16:57:22

    @anonymous:

    Very, very, very messily. There are the RITAs, PAN and National to sort out. Not to mention the various Chapter contests. I don’t envy the Board at all.

    Harlequin or should I say Torstar won’t care too hoots though.

  137. library addict
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 16:59:00

    Color me stupid, I am a reader not an author, but I don't get why ALL Harlequin/Silhouette authors are now not recognized by RWA because one branch of their publishing company is considered vanity/self-publishing/whatever-the-heck-you-want-to-call-it.

    If Harlequin, Silhouette, HQN, Mira, and most of their other lines are still offering advances and meet the RWA requirements why not just make the Harlequin Horizons books ineligible? Is it just because they added the Harlequin name to it?

    I don't get why all the “subsidiaries” and their authors should be punished because of what the parent company does. And if this makes all of Harlequin's lines (including Silhouette, HQN, Mira, etc) ineligible, why are Random House authors still eligible when their parent company also co-owns one of these vanity/self-publishing wings?

  138. anonymous
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 17:09:22

    @Library addict:

    AFAIK, RWA is just no longer considered an eligible publisher. What will be interesting is where RWA classifies them. Are they now considered a vanity/subsidy publisher, and therefore their authors will no longer be PAN eligible, and they won’t be an eligible market for PROs? Or are they considered a non-vanity, non-subsidy publisher, in which case, why on earth revoke their eligible status if you’re not going to take it to its logical conclusion?

  139. Kalen Hughes
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 17:09:33

    I'm trying to drill down to see what the complaint is. Is the complaint that Harlequin is lending its name to this service or is it generally that they are partnering with a vanity press. These are two big different complaints, in my opinion.

    My complaint is neither that HQ will be profiting from a vanity subsidiary nor that they're diluting their brand, it's that they're MISREPRESNTING THE SNAKEOIL THAT THEY'RE SELLING. They're pointing rejected authors at their own pay-to-play subsidiary (if an agent did this, we'd call them unscrupulous) and their service is heavily marketed with half-truths and vague promises, and then there's the fact that it's an overpriced RIPOFF compared to established self publishing venues.

    I'm just utterly aghast that ANYONE could defend this crap.

  140. Courtney Milan
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 17:11:05

    library addict,

    I’m a Harlequin author, and my “recognition” as a published author from RWA does not depend on my publisher’s status. There is a separate recognition trail for authors than for publishers.

    This decision has ancillary effects on me, of course, but I don’t feel as if I personally am being punished here. It’s like, if my sister robs a bank and goes to jail, it’ll hurt me because I can’t go to lunch with her anymore (and also, y’know, I love her and hate to see that happen)–but it’s not like I’m being punished. She’s being punished.

  141. Sunita
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 17:21:06

    @library addict: Random House had (and I believe still has) a 49 percent stake in Xlibris, which makes it a (barely) minority owner. If I’ve read the info correctly, Xlibris was acquired earlier this year by Author Solutions, and Bertelsmann (Random House’s parent company) retained its 49 percent stake. As far as I know, there are no direct connections between Bertelsmann’s other publishing companies and Xlibris.

    HH, by contrast, is under the HQ umbrella and if HQ rejection letters are going to suggest HH as an alternative publishing possibility whose output HQ will monitor, then they are establishing a connection between the two. Plus there is the presence of HH promotional material on the eharlequin.com website.

    But this is just outsider speculation on my part. RWA members will undoubtedly have better info.

  142. Anon76
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 17:38:36

    Being a US resident, I also wonder about the “truth in advertising” aspects.

    I’m in no way a lawyer, so could any of you versed in that give some opinions?

  143. Liz
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 17:54:17

    If a new author doesn’t spend time looking into the business of publishing before publishing–umm–sorry you didn’t know what you were doing? Hope you learned something for next time? How is that Harlequin’s fault, vanity press or not?

    Self-publishing, vanity publishing, subsidy publishing, be it through Author Solutions or any other outlet, isn’t a new option. And for some, it will be what they want, and it will work well for them, and I’m OK with that. My issues with Harlequin Horizons have nothing to do with the authors they’re targeting at all, but the fact that they are, indeed, targeting authors.

    How misleading are they being? Well, let’s look at just a couple of things:

    1. They’re marketing a printing service under their brand name to authors who want to write for them and to authors whom they’ve rejected. That behavior, in itself, is disreputable, since what they’re selling is their brand name. Yes, I know Malle said Harlequin wouldn’t be associated with Harlequin Horizons, but let’s get real. If someone gets a rejection that includes the option to self-publish with Harlequin Horizons, they’re going to assume the association is there, even if it isn’t. Same with the banner ads on the HOW TO WRITE section of Harlequin. I don’t consider being mislead to be the author’s fault in this case, no matter if they’ve done their research or not.

    2. Some of the services they’re offering are snake oil, pure and simple. One of their selling points is that they might possibly pick the book up for one of their traditional publishing lines. What they don’t disclose is that by publishing the book through Harlequin Horizons and issuing an ISBN for the book, it’s now largely unpublishable by any other house. Samhain doesn’t accept previously published material, nor does Loose ID or Ellora’s Cave. (Someone please correct me if I’m wrong; I’m going off of Google here.) Yes, there have been self-publishing success stories. But statistically speaking, those are few and far between. Out of the hundreds of thousands of self-published novels each year, how many are picked up by traditional publishers? 1%? The ratio is not unlike that of being accepted by a traditional publisher, except it costs more. And another reality to consider: what are the chances Harlequin will pick up a self-published title they’ve already rejected? Slim to none, is my thinking. If it was publishable to begin with, it wouldn’t have gotten a rejection, right?

    3. The wording on the Harlequin Horizons website actually encourages authors to NOT familiarize themselves with traditional publishers, painting them as slow, hard to break into, controlling when it comes to content and “artistic process”, and overwhelming.

    4. In your comment, you stated that HH has posted their prices in black and white and made it clear the customer won’t be buying HQ name and backing. I just went to the website, and went over what I could find, and didn’t see nary a mention of Author Solutions. The only “publisher name” I saw was that of Harlequin Horizons. If they are, in fact, wanting to distance the HH books from Harlequin’s non-vanity imprints, wouldn’t it make sense to state that up front? Unless you’re counting on the name to make the sell, that is.

    5. Pricing and Royalties. Holy freaking hell, $600 to print a book with a generic cover is ridiculous. Getting 50% off the net earnings are even worse. Someone broke it down earlier, either here or on Smart Bitches, and they estimated 50% of the net earnings on a book that retailed at $12.99 would be $0.50. $0.50!! That’s a royalty rate of 3%. That means you would have to sell 1,200 books to even break even, without distribution, without advertising, without all that other stuff that sells books. I guess that’s do-able, if you pretend your kid’s stuck in a weather balloon, but then you’d have to deal with legal fees and jail time. Regardless, it goes against legitimate publishing rule #1: publishers pay the author, not the other way around.

    When I first learned of Harlequin Horizons yesterday, my opinion was roughly the same as yours–that if the author doesn’t do her research, it’s her own fault if she’s dissatisfied. All that changed when I read about some of Harlequin’s new policies (to suggest rejected authors self-publish with Harlequin Horizons) and saw the banner ads on the eharlequin website. With an established brand like Harlequin, there’s a level of trust. Trust between the writer and the publisher, and between the reader and the publisher. With this venture, I feel as though Harlequin is exploiting that trust by trying to legitimize an uncouth business they admittedly want no part of after the sale. Not only do they know there are a lot of people who would give an arm and a leg to be published, but hell, they’re counting on it.

    So is it the author’s fault for being duped, if they are, indeed duped? I guess that depends on how you look at it, but it doesn’t make this particular business practice any less dishonorable.

  144. C.L. Wilson
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 18:01:20

    @Courtney Milan:
    courtney, it gets muddy. NO vanity/subsidy press published work is eligible for PAN status, period.

    At present, PAN eligibility is limited to the following “Any RWA General or Honorary member in good standing who has either: (1) earned at least $1,000 in the form of an advance on a single romance novel or novella published by a non-subsidy, non-vanity publisher (“Option One”); or (2) who has earned at least $1,000 in the form of royalties or a combination of advance plus royalties on a single published romance novel or novella published by a non-subsidy, non-vanity publisher (“Option Two”) shall be eligible for membership in PAN.”

    Since RWA has now revoked Publisher Recognition status for HQ and labelled them a vanity press, IMO, it’s possible that PAN eligibility will also be denied. They may, however, say authors with the non-vanity division of HQ are still eligible. IDK.

  145. TJ Bennett
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 18:09:44

    Well, that right there is a real eye popper. :-(

    TJB@
    Laura Kinsale:by Laura Kinsale November 18th, 2009 at 3:02 pm
    Here's another useful service for self-published authors. You'll want to buy yourself some good reviews:

  146. Linda Rader
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 18:14:33

    I can forsee a new “Business” start up, loaning money to writers to print their book with Harlequin Horizon.

    The author with the more “saleable” book will get better loan deals with the bank. And if a author uses his book as collateral then the bank will have to start a division to oversee the business models. The bank will in essense become editors, picking which are good books to back and which aren’t.

    Publicity agencies will take on writers by consignment. Popular authors will have business managers to keep all this straight. The risk will go to the writers but also the bigger payoff should the book really take off.

    Big name authors should love this.

    Book reviews by Good Housekeeping or Consumer Report or some similiar organization who do honest reviews that the public comes to trust will determine which books get bought. Bestselling lists will develop for Harlequin Horizon books and people will use them to look at books the way they do the NYT Bestseller category now.

    Like Blogs putting magazine’s out of business, the best blogs do get discovered by word of mouth, and by cross promoting. The best books will be discovered by the public.

  147. Kristi
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 18:15:00

    read the note from RWA again and slowly – they aren’t ‘unrecognizing’ Harlequin/Silhouette in general, they’re simply not recognizing them for the freebies that ‘recogzined publishers’ get at conference.

  148. Courtney Milan
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 18:17:20

    @C.L. Wilson: Ah, good point. I suspect that my PAN status is still in place since it was earned from a non-subsidy/non-vanity publisher (e.g., before the original rule) but that it’s a problem going forward.

    I hadn’t really thought that through, and you’re right–it’s muddy certainly for the future, and possibly for me.

    So I stand corrected. :)

  149. C.L. Wilson
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 18:38:23

    Kristi,
    I’m sorry, You are correct, I should have said “publisher eligibility,” not “publisher recognition;” However, nothing in the announcement clarifies the exact classification of HQ now in the eyes of RWA except as a “non-eligible” publisher

    “RWA allocates select conference resources to non-subsidy/non-vanity presses that meet the eligibility requirements to obtain those resources. Eligible publishers are provided free meeting space for book signings, are given the opportunity to hold editor appointments, and are allowed to offer spotlights on their programs.

    With the launch of Harlequin Horizons, Harlequin Enterprises no longer meets the requirements to be eligible for RWA-provided conference resources.”

    This can either mean that (a) they now consider HQ Enterprises a vanity / subsity press or (b) because all divisions of HQ do not offer advances they lost their RWA-eligibility. However, since Harlequin also launched Carina, which does not offer advances, and RWA did not revoke eligibility over that (or mention Carina in their Alert notification), it seems option (a) is the reason for the revocation.

    As I said, the whole situation is muddy. That was my only point :) This has certainly made for an interesting day.

  150. Julia Sullivan
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 18:42:52

    If the market penetration of self pubbed/vanity pubbed books is so small as to be unnoticeable then there is no brand dilution.

    Jane, I think there are two things you’re not getting.

    A) This is a job for many people. It’s our day job. It’s how we earn a living. We go through a process of getting our manuscripts selected out of thousands of submissions, for, say, “Harlequin Blaze” (not a line I myself have published with, btw), and now a pay-to-play thing called “Harlequin Horizons” that sounds like the thing you actually have to get chosen for by a combo of hard work and luck appears on the scene;

    therefore

    B) Now we are competing for other, non-novel-writing work (teaching classes, giving workshops, speaking at conferences, etc.) with people who have bought themselves something that sounds to the uninitiated like the thing we battled a tough selection process to get for ourselves.

    To return to my NFL metaphor: I knock myself out for years, and with my hard work and a bunch of luck, I get into the NFL. I don’t make a boatload of money, but I am able to parlay my NFL experience into a decently paying coaching job.

    Now the NFL decides it’s going to make more money with the National Fantasyfootball League, a pay-to-play venture. I’m now competing for coaching jobs with people who advertise themselves as “NFL players” because they were in the Fantasyfootball League, and I’m losing some of those jobs to those people because the folks doing the hiring are too ill-informed or naive to know the difference between the two NFL organizations.

  151. Kristi
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 18:43:12

    Totally agree, C.L. … I confused in the extreme about why HQ did this and what it means for all of us – authors and readers alike – going forward.

  152. Jane
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 18:53:10

    @Julia Sullivan: But you already are competing in the online retail space against others who “with people who have bought themselves something that sounds to the uninitiated like the thing we battled a tough selection process to get for ourselves.” This is what is happening in the digital space and through the growth of online retailing. I.e., a CreateSpace author can buy itself to greater visibility on Amazon.

    If the market penetration of self pubbed authors is so low as to not make it a good value for authors to go this route then it cannot conversely have a negative effect on brand. (at least, I don’t perceive this to be true). In other words, it may be a bad deal for aspiring authors because of minimal ability to sell their works but if they can’t get many people to buy their books then I don’t see established authors as suffering from a decline in sales because a large number of the buying public will view Harlequin as equal to lower quality (lower than they perceive it now).

    If, conversely, the self published authors achieve enough market penetration to garner significant sales, then it’s not a bad thing for aspiring authors but it may result in brand dilution.

  153. GrowlyCub
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 19:11:56

    @Jane:

    You don’t need sales of inferior product to get brand dilution. Just the perception by the consumer that the original brand is now worth less will lead to lower sales for authors of that brand.

    I can tell you after looking at their HH site I won’t be giving money to a corporation that engages in this kind of deceptive and unethical bull which will hurt those established authors whom I’ve read in the past, especially if I’m not the only one who decides to do so.

    I don’t buy Domino’s pizza either because I don’t like what they stand for. Hurts their franchises, sure, but one has to draw the line somewhere. This is pretty much it for me.

    I stopped buying Amazon when they went megalomaniac and I’ll do the same with Harlequin.

    This is one of the slimiest campaigns to separate consumers from their money that I’ve seen in a long time and I’m not an author nor do I aspire to be one. Disgusting.

  154. XandraG
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 19:15:18

    @LibraryAddict

    I am a reader not an author, but I don't get why ALL Harlequin/Silhouette authors are now not recognized by RWA because one branch of their publishing company is considered vanity/self-publishing/whatever-the-heck-you-want-to-call-it.

    The RWA has created different means for authors to be recognized than publishers to be approved.

    A big point of contention here is the serious conflict of interest between the pay-to-play arm and the traditional arm. Where is their money coming from? Is it coming from the readers who buy books, or is it coming from the authors who pay to have their books vanity-published. How can a writer interested in pursuing a career ever be confident that the rejection she receives (along with the ad for the pay-to-play services) can be believed? Is her work truly not-suitable-for-this-line, or is she the mark that’s worth more to them as a way to make money? If their money comes from authors, where is their incentive to sell books to readers?

    And nobody did answer those questions of mine way upthread. What assurances do current harlequin authors have that their future status with the company won’t require them to use the vanity services? Will a current author be referred to the vanity service if her sales numbers fall below a certain level? Where is HQ Traditional's motivation to continue to review and accept works submitted by authors and agents (which constitute an investment risk, even if a minimal one) instead of rejecting them in favor of a guaranteed revenue stream *and* the offloading of costs associated with book production and printing onto the author instead of the house?

    @Jane
    The market penetration of the vanity-pubbed authors is not the main issue of brand dilution. It’s the resources of the brand entity itself. If the brand targets authors as their revenue stream, then it is taking its focus away from readers (and while the venn diagram may have a lot of overlap, it’s a porous overlap). Authors and readers have different needs, even when they’re the same person. Either the brand services the reader, or they don’t. And if they don’t, they’re missing the point of being a publisher.

  155. Magdalen
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 19:21:37

    Here’s my concern: Who’s going to read all these books? If it’s an accurate statistic (I read it on a blog, so I can’t say for sure) that there are already 400 romance novels published each month, where are the eyeballs for the dozens or hundreds more that will be produced through the HH process? It’s already true that romance novelists do a lot of self-promotion. Presumably writers going the HH route will also be self-promoting.

    And it seems reasonable to suppose that HH writers will want Internet reviewers to review their books, as a favorable review on the Internet can make a difference. Which could put the reviewers (“your mission, if you choose to accept it”) in the position of sifting through HH books to find that diamond in the rough. I thought that’s what publishers were already doing? Haven’t we all heard of slush piles and “over the transom” submissions?

    This seems to be turning publishing upside down: Anyone with a clean manuscript can get it into the marketplace, and hope that someone will read it, like it, and pimp it. That *used* to be called “getting an agent.”

  156. Jane
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 19:23:59

    @Magdalen: This already happens. We get soliticitations for reviews from self published books on a daily basis. We get almost 5 a day? from one PR firm. If the book is attached to the email, then I will read the first chapter, often. I’m usually not reading much farther than that.

    Self publishing and vanity publishing is happening at a faster and faster pace. The great majority of books “published” are self published/vanity published.

  157. Vanity vs Subsidy vs… « Danie Ford
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 19:43:44

    [...] Dear Author – Malle Valik answers questions on Harlequin Horizons [...]

  158. Julia Sullivan
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 19:44:43

    Jane, you’re missing my point, so obviously I’m not stating it clearly.

    Let’s say my local Senior Center has a writers’ workshop, funded by (let’s say) a grant.

    I apply to teach there and include among my professional credentials that I have had three books published in the Harlequin Blaze line.

    Rhonda Roe applies to teach there and includes among her professional credentials that she has had six books published in the Harlequin Horizons line.

    Now, to someone who knows anything about publishing, what the first set of credentials means is that I am an experienced professional romance novelist; what the second set of credentials means is that Rhonda Roe had at least $3600 to spend on vanity publishing.

    But because Harlequin has given the vanity arm a name so similar to its real trade publishing lines, not everyone is going to be able to see that.

    I think the same thing is true of Nelson’s Westbow line—it’s even worse in that case, because Westbow was once a trade imprint.

  159. Lucy
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 19:46:31

    @Jane

    If the book is attached to the email, then I will read the first chapter, often. I'm usually not reading much farther than that

    That pretty much explains the outrage over HH, doesn’t it?

    If you, in the business of reviewing books, can’t stand reading more than one chapter of these SP/VP books, then what chance does a book purchaser have of picking up a book by an unknown author, confident that it will be readable. If SP/VP books are the wave of the future, then are bad books becoming the norm?

  160. MD
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 19:48:06

    @Anon76:

    Dudes, you don't actually have to know all that writing stuff. If you publish on your own it'll give you incentive to learn all that pesky crap.

    What’s sad is, it doesn’t. Rejection after rejection gives you incentive to learn all that pesky crap. If someone (like some of the online publishers and a few NYC pubs) is willing to take your bad beginner writing and publish it, you’re going to keep churning out bad beginner-type writing for a long time to come.
    Publishers who give their name to and provide another outlet for poorly written fiction in a market already glutted with it are not doing readers any favors. They should be ashamed of themselves.

  161. Jane
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 19:48:51

    @Lucy: My point is that self publishing/vanity press publishing is already a “norm”. I can’t recall the statistics but it’s clear to me that the number of books out there in the publishing stream of commerce are largely self pubbed/vanity press books.

  162. GrowlyCub
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 19:55:34

    @Jane:

    But just because VP ‘published’ books are the majority doesn’t make it right or that there should be several thousand more crappy books out there every year! And they may be the majority of books put out but they sure aren’t the majority of the books being read.

    All those other vanity presses put out shit, so it’s okay for Harlequin to use their name to lure in people who ought not to be writers with the vague promise that they might get picked up by the trad Harlequin lines if they spend 10s of thousands of dollars with HH? Authors have to do the promo and distribution and then only get 50% off NET? That’s okay? I don’t get it.

  163. Jane
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 19:58:02

    @GrowlyCub: I don’t think this is a good value for aspiring authors which I’ve said time and again. But I don’t think vanity presses are vile or that Harlequin is a scummy evil company for doing this. If I were an aspiring author, I wouldn’t use this service. I would also hope that aspiring authors who are laying out a grand or more would do some research!

  164. Dana
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 19:58:28

    But because Harlequin has given the vanity arm a name so similar to its real trade publishing lines, not everyone is going to be able to see that.

    This is what bothers me as a reader. And not to mention that I associate HH with Harlequin Historicals. The Harlequin Historical line has just started branding their covers with HH.

  165. Lucy
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 20:00:31

    This whole thing is sick making.

    I feel sorry for everyone involved–HQN published authors, slush pile hopefuls and HQN employees who must grin and bear the fallout.

  166. GrowlyCub
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 20:17:50

    @Jane:

    There are a lot of ‘ought to’s and ‘shoulds’ in life, but this enterprise is clearly preying on those who either don’t have the savvy or the know-how to find out the truth behind HH’s honeyed words; preying on folks like people who are in dead-end jobs and use their last penny to play the lottery every day in hopes of hitting it big. Those are the people HH is targeting, not folks who know this is a bad deal.

    Maybe that means that they ‘deserve’ to get scalped, which is what I’m getting from you and it’s really disturbing me. And no, Robin, that’s not condescension, but reality. There are *many* folks who need to be protected from predators. I know a bunch of folks like that. Not everybody can be as smart and educated as the folks who hang out on DA. Some folks send money to Nigerian scammers, some folks give money to total strangers who claim they are collecting for a charity. Some folks will give money to HH because they will believe in their hype and promises.

    I’m glad RWA took a stand. I hope they stick with it. Somebody has to look out for the little guy/gal whose dreams HH is trying to turn into cold hard cash with no return for the money and no consideration of what this will do to them financially and emotionally.

    Making money is not wrong, being in business to make money is not wrong, promising one thing, holding out a carrot with little or no intentions of ever coming through is at least false advertising, if not something worse. I don’t care if other vanity publishers are offering even worse terms (although it seems even there Harlequin partnered with one of the worst in the business).

    Harlequin has positioned itself as a legit, honest business (although some of their practice past and present are pretty questionable already and have been for years), as ‘the’ romance publisher and they have good will that they are capitalizing on. If they weren’t trying to, they would have dropped the ‘Harlequin’ from the vanity publisher’s name.

    And to consumers like me, Harlequin has destroyed any good will I may have had towards them.

  167. Julia Sullivan
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 20:17:51

    My point is that self publishing/vanity press publishing is already a “norm”.

    But until now, those vanity publishers haven’t had trade publishers’ names as part of their brand.

    Here’s another way Harlequin Horizons could potentially dilute the brand identity:

    Some lovely, well-meaning soul cobbles together a not-ready-for-publication manuscript and pays her $600 and gets her Harlequin Horizons books.

    She has a signing at the local public library, and people stop by.

    They see the unedited, unprofessional mess that is her book and think “Gee, these Harlequin people are publishing everyone these days!”

    Then they’re in the bookstore and see a display of Harlequin Historicals, with their “HH” logo. Don’t you think it’s very likely that they’ll think of the horrible “HH” Harlequin book they saw at their local library and shudder and pass the whole endcap by? Most people aren’t publisher-focused enough to distinguish between two similarly-initialed lines and their logos.

  168. JaneyD
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 20:35:15

    Julia Sullivan–

    But because Harlequin has given the vanity arm a name so similar to its real trade publishing lines, not everyone is going to be able to see that.

    you nailed it.

    I can see a Harlequin Horizon vanity writer slapping down their money, getting a book in hand, and calling up their local B&N to set up a signing.

    The community relations manager, seeing the name Harlequin in the mix, may well conclude that this is a new line the grand old dame is kicking out. The manager makes arrangements, thinking of easy sales.

    So what happens next? Will the store attempt to order a bunch of POD vanity titles? The big chains have policies against that sort of thing–b-b-but the Harlequin name is on it!

    Suppose they do get in a box of books and they don’t sell? Do they return them? CAN they return them?

    Whatever disaster comes of it will leave a bad taste behind and it will be for the Harlequin brand.

    So what kind of reception will the next Harlequin writer get? And I mean a legit HQ writer who was paid an advance and wants to promote a professionally published title.

    The only way I can see them hauling their arse out of this fire is to give another name to the HH division and have NO crossover between it and HQ–as in NO sending a rejected writer a link to the vanity site.

    I can still hardly believe that they did NOT think this through and missed the conflict of interest of this scheme.

    So perhaps they did think it through and cynically decided it was perfectly fine so long as it brings in money.

  169. Eirin
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 20:41:51

    @Jane:

    My point is that self publishing/vanity press publishing is already a “norm”.

    Only in terms of being produced. Many books are vanity-published, few of those sell. In terms of books actually sold to people who are not the author’s family and friends, vanity books aren’t the norm at all.

    Statistics vary, but a vanity book sell on average 75 – 200 (I’ve seen both numbers referenced). Even if we are generous and say the author has 200 friends and relations…those are the only sales most will make. That’s abysmal compared to what a commercially published book, even from a small press, is expected to sell.

  170. Jane
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 20:47:45

    @Eirin: So then there are no problems with dilution, right?

  171. Jane
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 20:50:21

    @GrowlyCub: Do you have the same strong feelings toward Random House that owns 49%of a vanity press? I commend you for you strong principles that are consistently applied. I don’t think RWA consistently applies them, though.

    Do I think people deserve to be “scalped”? No, but I would hope that anyone that plans to lay out a significant amount of money does their research.

  172. JulieB
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 20:54:13

    Suppose they do get in a box of books and they don't sell? Do they return them? CAN they return them?Suppose they do get in a box of books and they don't sell? Do they return them? CAN they return them?

    I don’t think their books are returnable. However, they offer a return program. Based on the wording at the bottom of the page, I’d guess the book isn’t returnable otherwise. It’s hard to tell. Be prepared to choke on your beverage when you see the price.

  173. GrowlyCub
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 21:00:31

    @Jane:

    I’m unclear why you refuse to acknowledge that there is a vast difference between a conglomerate that owns a minority stake in an unaffiliated subsidiary vanity press with a completely unrelated name and a company that uses its brand name as part of the new vanity press name trying to cash in on its good will with customers, heavily advertises that vanity press on its non-vanity customer website and in its customer forums where readers/potential new authors go, makes vague promises that being published by said vanity press for major amounts of cash may lead to a future contract with the traditional print publishing house and that will refer rejected authors to the vanity press in the rejection letter.

    Last time I looked Random House wasn’t doing any of that, but Harlequin is planning to.

  174. Liz
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 21:04:57

    @Jane: Sorry for butting in, but what kind of research would you suggest they do? Pretend you don’t know what you know about the publishing industry. A Google search of “book publisher” and “how to publish a book” turns up little more than vanity publishing on the first page. While I’m with everyone else that says people should do their research, the fact of the matter is, it’s damn hard to get any straightforward information about publishing if you don’t know where to look, and vanity publishers tend to take advantage of that.

  175. Caligi
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 21:08:51

    Jane, are you just playing devil’s advocate?

    These SP/VP defenses contradict your previous pleas for fewer romance novels published each month and a higher standard of writing.

  176. Jane
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 21:13:39

    @GrowlyCub: Because I look at it as more deceitful to earn money off the slush fund, so to speak, doing it on the downlow as opposed to doing it up front and in your face like Harlequin.

    And I think it’s instructive to listen to what others complaints. I.e., if the issue is vanity press = vile and unethical then every company that involves itself in this in a financial way should be excoriated.

    If the issue is that way in which the Harlequin Horizons is branded, then maybe there could be a cure. I.e, not referring a person to the self publishing service (which I view as the most egregious of the “sins” of Harlequin). I’m not certain how I feel about the eharlequin site because I don’t really know what the purpose of the Harlequin Horizons thread is. I.e. if it is clearly marked what it is then I’m not certain how that is deceitful.

    Using its brand name to identify a vanity press as romance oriented, I think isn’t “vile” but to the extent that it results in lowered quality of manuscripts being submitted to Harlequin because higher quality authors will go elsewhere or it results in decrease in consumer opinion (and thus a decline in sales) then I think it’s a bad business decision.

    I don’t necessarily view vanity presses as an immoral business model as some people upthread do. I view it as providing a service to some segment of the population that wants to use it. I certainly wish more people would focus on improving their craft rather than rushing to publication but Harlequin not having Horizons hasn’t done that.

    I guess I am of the opinion that Harlequin makes decisions that are good for Harlequin. I don’t see (as I said upthread) that it is likely that Harlequin will turn away publishable manuscripts to get them to take advantage of Harlequin Horizons because I think Harlequin makes more money publishing books than it will through its partnership with Author Solutions. Maybe I’m totally wrong about that.

    I think that Harlequin is selling a fantasy through Harlequin Horizons. For some, that fantasy will come to fruition. For many others, it will not. I am not going to judge those who choose to pursue the fantasy through Harlequin Horizons. Maybe the money that they spend is satisfying to them even if you and I would view it as wasteful. As I said upthread, I don’t believe this is a good value. I don’t think that author’s should look at this as their first, second, or even their third option. But the mere offering of the option doesn’t seem predatory to me.

  177. Jane
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 21:19:21

    @Caligi: I think my pleas for lower amount of books published and higher quality is a fantasy in and of itself. Like I said to GrowlyCub, I wish more authors worked on their craft instead of rushing to publication.

    One of the biggest problems with the rise of the digital book market will be filtering. Right now, publishers and brick and mortar stores serve as a filtering system. In a book market that is largely digital, this presents both a good and a bad for readers and authors. In some ways, the democratization is good because it can increase the access readers have to a wider variety of books. The bad will be slogging through all kinds of books.

    For authors, democratization means that they can decouple from the publishers stringent word counts, line demands, etc. etc. They can recoup a greater percentage of income from the sale of their works. This won’t work for all authors and I don’t see publishers falling by the wayside, but it presents a new way for authors to make money without relying on the publisher gatekeeper.

    I am concerned about the future of publishing and what it means for readers. I’m not sure where we are going to “find” good books. I think I’ve actually blogged about this before. I.e., will greater choice result in fewer books purchased as readers turn to more dependable authors.

    It’s possible that publisher brand will evolve to agent brand or contract editor brand. I’m not sure how it will all shake out.

    What I am sure of is that it is coming.

  178. XandraG
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 21:32:20

    @Jane

    I don't see (as I said upthread) that it is likely that Harlequin will turn away publishable manuscripts to get them to take advantage of Harlequin Horizons because I think Harlequin makes more money publishing books than it will through its partnership with Author Solutions. Maybe I'm totally wrong about that.

    Are you sure about that? How can you be sure that the fine, overworked editors at Harl. Presents and Blaze aren’t even now reading memos from On High that encourage them to funnel the slush towards HH? If you’re an overworked editor with the choice to “reject with revisions” or just copypasta a link to the vanity-pub arm, which will you do, the one that requires extra work with a potentially great payoff down the line or maybe goes nowhere when it doesn’t work out, or the quick and dirty solution with a good chance of netting the company some extra cash (and though I don’t like to speculate, I have to wonder if they won’t take the Best Buy route and have their editors earn commissions on recs to the HH service, thus driving more money that direction). Which do you think the company is going to be more interested in promoting?

    And beyond the speculation (which I admit is speculation), how can you trust that the editors are *not* doing just this, when you know full well that they *could.* How can you trust that the editors won’t pass on more and more manuscripts just because it’s easier money to let the author assume the costs of production and the risks of doing so? And make no mistakes–the marketing departments that get the final vetting will be thinking of this much more than the editors.

    The skies may not fall right away, but you can’t help but see where this will lead. Every business does its best to minimize risk and maximize returns. The best way to minimize the risk of a book is to eliminate the costs associated with producing it (dump it in the author’s lap) and maximize returns (pick it up once the author has paid the cost of production and done all the work of selling it and/or building an audience, or just keep collecting 50% revenues off the author’s efforts). This will, at the very least, make it harder for editors of the traditional lines to acquire new authors or even new books by existing authors.

  179. GrowlyCub
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 21:32:33

    @Jane:

    I don't see (as I said upthread) that it is likely that Harlequin will turn away publishable manuscripts to get them to take advantage of Harlequin Horizons because I think Harlequin makes more money publishing books than it will through its partnership with Author Solutions. Maybe I'm totally wrong about that.

    I don’t know if you are or not, but sheer numbers would speak for it. After all, they publish only a minuscule number of the books they receive. There are many more people out there who don’t even query them, who might be willing to pay them. I think it’s potentially a big money maker but I think it’s going to hurt the brand in the long run.

    Romance isn’t exactly getting a lot of respect as is. Vanity presses have a very bad name in general (AS especially) and it will be enough for many of the snobs just to hear that Harlequin will now publish anybody if they just have a large enough bank account. That will hurt the genre as a whole and with it authors and readers.

    I don’t like it. Not one bit. And it makes me angry that a company that purports to represent the romance genre would serve us such a back-handed turn.

    We will have to agree to disagree on the predatory aspect. I admittedly know very little about the publishing industry beyond what I’ve gleaned in 25+ years of being a reader and interested in the behind the scenes workings of the publishing process, but the whole website reads like a giant red flag. It is everything publishing should not be as far as I’m concerned.

  180. Anne Douglas
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 21:35:05

    @Julia Sullivan: Nothing to do with the topic, but I just had to giggle

    Rhonda Roe

    I actually know a Rhonda Roe :)

    EDIT: And no, if she wrote a book I think she’d have much greater sense to use a vanity publisher

  181. Jane
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 21:40:41

    @XandraG: I don’t see it happening because its not profitable. (Again, I could be wrong). And “reject with revisions” is nice but it’s not required by a publisher. They can just reject so I am unsure why editors don’t just reject without revisions. (I would!)

    I would think that if Harlequin Horizons hurt Harlequin financially then it results in changes and the vanity press is a tiny arm of Harlequin. It would be different, in my mind, if they were actually sourcing all the VP from within. Then it might be more financially viable to reject and not publish.

    I understand your concern, I do. I just don’t see the future as you see it. But you could be totally right and I could be wrong. Obviously I don’t have a stake in this other than wondering how I, a reader, will navigate the offerings out there.

  182. Southern Fried Chicas » Blog Archive » Curiouser and curiouser
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 21:42:05

    [...] it, including the Janes at Dear Author.  They sent Malle Vallik an email inquiry and she responded with the following: Harlequin put its name on the Harlequin Horizons site to clearly indicate this is a romance [...]

  183. Caligi
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 21:45:59

    @Jane:

    I really don’t like what Harlequin is doing here with Horizons, but I do like straight self-publishing. I buy self-pubbed books, but never for fiction. I buy a lot of local history books, because NY just doesn’t need to bother with a guide to local cemeteries or an oral history of local everymen. This sort of book, unlike fiction, is still valuable even if it’s poorly written. It’s not about the reading experience, it’s about the information.

    I don’t see it ever really taking off as a distribution channel for fiction. I rely on publishers to filter my books for me. I don’t want a slush pile any more than an editor does. I like knowing that an Avon will have larger type and be a fluffy, quick read, or that a Harlequin Presents will be 180 pages of machismo car wreck I just can’t stop reading.

  184. Poison Ivy
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 21:47:32

    I am wondering…

    1) Will Harlequin editors now be ordered to get through slush faster, because ASI needs reject letters to be generated to drum up HH business? (An unexpected bonus for writers waiting months to hear something.)

    2) Will Harlequin editors now be pressed to reject more mss. with form reject letters, since those are the ones that will include the ad for HH? (Bad for writers who might have been thrown the bone of a short personal note of encouragement.)

  185. Courtney Milan
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 21:53:56

    @Jane: Jane, I agree with you here. It would not make business sense for Harlequin to turn away a publishable manuscript for a couple hundred dollars in referral fees. I’d be more than willing to bet that they make more than that on every book they publish.

    I don’t think that this really gives Harlequin an incentive to reject otherwise publishable manuscripts–not until publishing itself becomes far more unprofitable than it is.

  186. JulieB
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 22:16:04

    @Liz – you have a point. Many writers join crit groups – either in person or online – but many work alone. Try googling for a book publisher and see what comes up. The next logical step would be to research the publisher, but a lot of writers don’t do that. They are lured in by the shiny. THEN they find the writing boards and show up proclaiming to be a Published Author.

    Honestly, I don’t know what the solution is. Even in crit groups people fall for shady vanity publishers. By “shady” I don’t mean this operation. Think about the folks who didn’t pay to get published, but end up spending hundreds on their own books. At least the Harlequin deal is fairly up-front about what you get for your money.

    I’m not sure what the answer is, to be honest. Those of us who blog about the industry do our best, but sometimes it feels like preaching to the choir.

    And honestly, if someone goes into this fully understanding what they get for their money then I have no problem with their decision. I know someone who went with Booksurge for their romance novel. She knew exactly what she was getting into. She didn’t have the skills to do the layout and cover design, and she wasn’t looking to sell a lot of copies – mostly to family and friends. It was a good deal for her. She got exactly what she wanted.

  187. No_e
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 22:20:43

    I have a question for you.

    Malle wrote: 2. The books will be branded HH (see nice logo on website) attached

    If the books are not meant to be branded as Harlequin Horizon why the HH logo? What does the second H stand for if the logo does not include Harlequin?

  188. bestest
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 22:38:49

    Also, let’s be clear here. Most big publishers are wary of books that have already been copyrighted and already have an ISBN. You can’t get a new copyright or ISBN without showing substantial changes, I think, and that’s a problem. You don’t want to publish a book in 2010 which has a copyright date of 2009. And you want the ISBN to have the prefix which indicates your own press and not another.

    And no agent wants a bound and printed copy. What, you think for the past 100 years, they required that? They want a printed manuscript or an electronic document. Let’s not mislead new writers. Agents are not impressed with a vanity-printed copy. They are used to dealing with MANUSCRIPTS. Yes, if you sold 10K copies of your book, they might take notice… but if you sold 49 copies, they aren’t going to perk up and notice because you send them a bound copy. They might actually assume that’s a mark of amateur.

  189. Liz
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 22:46:07

    @JulieB: The only thing we can do is what we’re doing now–talking about the pros and the cons, and calling out bovine fecal matter where we see it in hopes no one will get any on their shoes. I’m not talking a smear campaign, here. I’m talking straight talk from people who aren’t in the business of spinning straw into gold. If the information is out there, and kept out there, it’s much more likely the necessary information will reach those who need it most. What they choose to do with that information is up to them.

    I’m not anti-self-publishing in the least, but I think I’m opposed to the marketing Harlequin has chosen for this venture because I don’t think it’s communicated well enough that Harlequin Horizons is selling an Author Solutions service, not a Harlequin product. From what I took away from Malle’s most recent post, the editing service won’t be provided by Harlequin, but by Author Solutions. The marketing, same thing. None of this is stated up front on the Harlequin Horizons website, and that information should be available, not in the comments section here, or in a press release at Publishers Weekly, but on the website. In order for customers to be able to do their research, they need to know just who, exactly, they’re in business with.

    Just my $0.02.

  190. bestest
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 23:56:24

    Jane, you said you need a drink, and I just opened a very nice Malbec, and I’m sending you a virtual glass. :)

    Don’t ask what happened to the real glass!

  191. Suze
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 00:10:05

    how is it ethical to refer rejected authors to Harlequin's self-publishing imprint? Agents who refer rejected authors to their editorial services are typically viewed as scammy for this very practice. How is this different?

    This very eloquently sums up why I have a tummyache. It’s not different, and it’s not ethical.

    It makes me sad.

    The comments about people paying for publishing needing to do their research and be realistic and go in with their eyes open also makes me sad. The eHarlequin writing community has been FOSTERING wannabe authors. They’ve been supporting, and a great source of advice and encouragement. People who have come to rely on that community for good advice are now going to be sold a product that may not be in their best interests.

    If you’ve heard from other writer wannabes, and even some published writers, over the last twenty years that “Harlequin has wonderful support, and they’ll tell you just what you need to do in order to get published with them” — and then you get a rejection letter that says “Try Harlequin Horizons”, you do it. Maybe you’re naive, and maybe you should have done more research, but why, after 20 years of good reputation, should a person suddenly have to start researching to double-check what a (formerly) trusted source is telling them?

    Sad. Tummy hurts.

  192. Chrissy
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 00:15:26

    Well, the New Yorker has now weighed in… and if you thought this incredibly stupid move wouldn’t give romance another black eye… and self publishing a backhand…

    http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2009/11/harlequin-hacks.html

    …you’d be wrong.

  193. Poison Ivy
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 00:36:17

    Wow. I thought the New Yorker was a lot classier when it put you down. This slam, though deserved, is raunchy. And, of course, features the usual inaccurate terminology: Bodice ripping…sigh.

    Maybe I’ll wake up tomorrow and it will all have been a bad dream.

  194. A Reader
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 01:09:08

    @Suze:

    Sad. Tummy hurts.

    Good grief.

  195. Nadia Lee
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 01:15:48

    Never mind.

  196. Nadia Lee :: Paranormal Romance Writer » Blog » Harlequin Horizons = Vanity Press
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 04:23:03

    [...] So you contact Pace Self-Salsa (PSS). PSS says you have to pay them money to make and bottle and label your salsa. For every bottle of your salsa that sells, PSS gets to keep half of the profit and you get the other half. So — after paying Pace a bunch of money up front — you have to split the profits with PSS 50-50. [...]

  197. Publishing is as easy as one, two, $599 and up | Murder She Writes
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 04:31:56

    [...] it’s all about, so I’m not going into detail here. You can read about it here, here and here. And that’s two of three links that are Harlequin information and responses. Here’s [...]

  198. Eirin
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 05:34:54

    @Jane:

    So then there are no problems with dilution, right?

    I think there will be, because nothing can stop those authors from saying they’re Harlequin Authors.

    I also think it possible that, in the beginning, the HQN name will help sell a few extra copies; right up until the moment when people, end customers and booksellers alike, realize that the books they’re getting are vanity-published slush.

    Ironically, the more successful the first batch of authors from HH are at pushing their books, the quicker this dilution will occur.

  199. RRRJessica
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 06:20:31

    @Chrissy: On The New Yorker article, thank you for the link. But nothing — not even signing Thomas Pynchon — would make The New Yorker approve of Harlequin or the romance genre. If they didn’t have this to point to, the folks who have always looked down their noses at romance would find something else. And the vast majority of regular folks will have no idea HH is related to Harlequin, and wouldn’t know what to make of the information even if they did.

    To me, when it comes to the universally maligned “bodice ripper”, the reputational argument is a nonstarter.

  200. Anon76
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 07:01:01

    Question:

    If the Harlequin name were stripped entirely from this new division and that website, would any of us be having this conversation? I don’t think so.

    Unless of course Harlequin still had the “try this other option” on their rejection letters and the eharl writer community boards.

  201. Gennita Low
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 07:22:59

    I’m sure Carole Mortimer is not very happy this morning that her book cover from Harlequin Historicals is being used by the New Yorker as an example of HQ’s new self-publishing venture and being called a “Harlequin Hack,” with one of the hash tags being “masturbation.”

  202. GrowlyCub
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 07:45:36

    @Gennita Low:

    I hope she gives her editors and the higher ups at Harlequin hell about this and I hope her fans do too! What a mess.

  203. Marianne LaCroix » Blog Archive » More on the Harlequin Horizons and RWA drama
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 07:58:22

    [...] Author 11/18/2009 – Malle Vallik, Harlequin's Digital Director, Answers Questions on Harlequin Horizons 11/17/2009 – Harlequin Horizons: Shortsighted or [...]

  204. Jane
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 08:18:57

    @Anon76 I think you are right and that is part of what I find so fascinating about the dissent against Horizons. Can you rank for me in the order of most egregious to least egregious the following publisher interactions with vanity publishing?

    A. Harlequin Horizons partnering with ASI and using its name all over the vanity press site.
    B. Thomas Nelson partnering with ASI and forming West Bow Press which states on its site:

    TOP TEN ADVANTAGES OF WESTBOW PRESS:
    1. Opportunity to be discovered by parent company Thomas Nelson

    C. Random House which owns 49% of Xlibris (a subsidiary of Author Solutions Inc) but does not actively publicize the ownership.

    D. Harper Collins’ Authonomy which is an ad driven site sponsored by CreateSpace (Amazon’s vanity press) and earns an affiliate fee off of packages purchased through CreateSpace with direct links from the Authonomy site.

  205. JulieB
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 08:48:15

    The comments about people paying for publishing needing to do their research and be realistic and go in with their eyes open also makes me sad.

    There are some very good reasons to pay for publishing. Sometimes you just want a book to hold in your hands. A fair number of people who do “back of the room” sales at talks either self-publish or use this sort of service. The former group would probably be better off at Lulu. The latter has presumably done a cost/benefit analysis and had darn well better be making money off of the project.

    Some professors turn to Lulu or AuthorHouse to publish extra material for classes. Even at AuthorHouse prices, it’s generally darned cheaper for the students to buy those books than a standard textbook. (Says the mom who recently forked over $100+ for a POD textbook that the bookstore probably won’t buy back.)

    Want to put together a bound copy of your family history for your reunion? You’ll pay to get it published.

    Generally though, I don’t think this is the best route for novels. Why? Consider this NYT article from back in January about self-publishing. A spokesperson from Author Solutions estimates “the average number of copies sold of titles published through one of its brands is just 150.”

    THIS is why you need to go into it with your eyes open. If you know the pros and cons, do your research, and still decide that this is the route you want to take with your book, then go for it. Just don’t come back and scream “scam” when you sell only 75 copies or so of your book. You knew the job was dangerous when you took it.

    What really makes me sad are the writers who are absolutely convinced that they are going to be the exception to the rule, the tiny percentage who get picked up by a commercial publisher. All they have to do is get their book “out there” and good things will come. Believe me, those folks in that tiny percentage work their tails off for that success. They approach their book as a business. Most writers don’t have the marketing savvy it takes to move 500 let alone 5,000 books. I don’t, and I get paid to write sales, marketing and ad copy.

    Pardon any typos. The morning coffee IV keep slipping out of my arm. At this rate it’ll take all day to get caffeinated.

  206. Anon76
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 09:00:59

    @Jane:

    I looked through those links and dug deeper into each one. I find those very different than the Harlequin Horizons site when it came to being upfront about certain issues.

    1) Westbow press. We aren’t the parent company, but they’ve given us their standards to go by. This, this and this is what they expect. Based on that, you have a chance of being picked up by the parent company. Pretty clear that their editing doesn’t come directly from a parent company editor.

    2) Xlibris. No mention of the parent company Harper Collins or a possibilty of being picked up by them that I could find. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    3) Authonomy. http://www.authonomy.com/FAQ.aspx with further info listed throughout. And you get other great tips without paying a dime first. Rather than, we’ll hook you up with all this neat info once you sign on.

    To me, there is a definite distinction between the links you provided and the Harlequin Horizons link.

  207. Anon76
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 09:08:50

    @Jane:

    Shoot, you asked me to rank, missed that part. Least egregious to most:

    1) Random House

    2) Harper Collins

    3) Thomas Nelson

    way beyond 4) Harlequin Horizons

  208. Jackie Kessler - Insert Witty Title Here
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 09:16:11

    [...] pockets money — according Malle Vallik, Harlequin’s digital director, who showed up at Dear Author (see specifically comment #18) yesterday, the author would get 50% of net. And this is AFTER the [...]

  209. XandraG
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 09:23:27

    @Jane

    I don't see it happening because its not profitable. (Again, I could be wrong). And “reject with revisions” is nice but it's not required by a publisher. They can just reject so I am unsure why editors don't just reject without revisions. (I would!)

    Harlequin, for all its faults, has traditionally been very encouraging to authors submitting to them. It’s not at all unusual for an author to receive rejections with encouragement of some sort, and not unusual for an author to receive progressively “better” rejects from them as she incorporates more of their house standards into her works. You literally can circle the target, then hit a bull’s-eye with them, and the editors I’ve talked to, or who have spoken to our RWA groups over the years have all emphasized how much they enjoy cultivating newer authors and finding the next new voice.

    But they are not the people who write the checks. (and IMNSHO, they are also way underpaid).

    Up to now, rejections have cost them nothing, but netted them nothing. Books cost them risk and money to produce, and may net big gains, but may equally return nothing, or even a loss when taking into account returns.

    Books still cost them risk and money, and may pay off big or bomb, but now rejections still cost them nothing *and might earn them money.*

    I don’t believe they’re going to all of a sudden refer La Nora to HH, or the other big, consistent names like Debbie Macomber, nor do I think they’ll cease re-issues of classics from now-big names. But there will be a lot less new talent, a lot less, “it’s a tad bit risky, but let’s try it anyway” and a lot more, “This one might be just the thing our readers want but why risk it. Let’s sit back and collect the money from her while she hustles it out of her trunk.”

  210. The Galaxy Express>>Harlequin Horizons: Redefining the Published Author or Damaging the Brand?
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 09:58:51

    [...]This event has been the shot heard round the romance world.[...]

  211. Jackie Barbosa
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 11:16:47

    The New Yorker article is offensive on any number of levels, but the WORST part for Harlequin and its “legitimate” authors is that, by putting Carole Mortimer’s Harlequin Historicals cover there next to the discussion of the vanity arm, it has made her book appear to be vanity/self-pubbed, and, by extension, ALL Harlequin books.

    Brand dilution has already occurred, folks.

  212. Karen Scott
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 11:32:21

    turning the Harlequin slushpile into a possible profit center.

    That’s exactly how I see it.

    Books still cost them risk and money, and may pay off big or bomb, but now rejections still cost them nothing *and might earn them money.*

    Yep, yep, yep. Which is probably the whole point for them.

    how is it ethical to refer rejected authors to Harlequin's self-publishing imprint? Agents who refer rejected authors to their editorial services are typically viewed as scammy for this very practice. How is this different?

    I couldn’t agree more.

    I think it’s disingenuous to think that self-pubbed authors who go via HH wont go around telling all and sundry that they’re published with Harlequin. If it was me, I would. The logo may be different, but the fact is, the Harlequin name is still attached, so how can branding not be compromised?

    This seems to be nothing more than a get-richer-quicker scheme to me, but I’m happy to wait and see what the results are, and whether it ultimately ends up negatively affecting HQN.

  213. Plotters & Manipulators United » Blog Archive » A Sinkful of Blood
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 11:59:33

    [...] of the self-publishing (or is it vanity publishing) venture it has branded, the riveting threads at Dear Author and Smart Bitches, and RWA’s swift and dramatic rescission of Harlequin’s status as a [...]

  214. Magdalen
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 12:52:34

    I’d have loved to have been a fly-on-the-wall at the HQN meetings where HH was discussed. Here’s my guess, though.

    Someone commented on how “all” romance readers think they can write a romance and most then try. (We know that’s not true of all of us. But HQN may have market research on what the percentage is.) They have numbers for their current slush piles. They have numbers on the uptake rate (to borrow a term from academia), meaning the percentage of slush pile mss that eventually result in a published novel by that writer. They do the math and realize that leaves them with a potentially large number of writers who clearly want to be published but aren’t going to get the brass ring through HQN’s editorial process.

    Maybe HQN has research on the number of romance novels being printed through vanity presses elsewhere. Anyway, they think: Hey, ours is the biggest brand name in romance publishing — why not let aspiring writers fulfill their dreams? If we get up-front money and a split on royalties, we’re covered even if that one-in-a-million writer manages to write something everyone wants to read.

    So, yes, my guess is that they are monetizing their slush pile. They may have dismissed the notion of brand-dilution because they figure we (readers) will know that HH is self-publishing. I doubt they considered the effect this will have on their current and future “traditionally published” authors. I do think it’s misleading to a potential HH author to suggest that going this route will increase the chances of traditional publication.

    I feel certain HQN never considered the backlash from RWA in the equation — it will be interesting to see how that plays out. But even if RWA has real teeth here, HQN may figure the profits to be made from HH are sufficient to outweigh the negativity.

    None of this makes HH a good idea in any the ways being discussed here: it probably won’t improve the quality of the writing of the 400 books published each month, so I don’t see how readers benefit; it may hurt authors already published by HQN through dilution and the “The New Yorker” effect on romance novels generally; and it doesn’t seem a benefit to the writer who pays for her name on an HH book — unless she knows that all she’s doing is paying a lot of money for some presents to give to family and friends. Without a HUGE amount of work on her part, not many other people are likely to buy her shiny new HH book.

    But HQN will probably make money they otherwise wouldn’t make. And that’s business.

  215. Shiloh Walker
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 12:58:00

    A question…

    With headlines like

    The Author’s Heart Beats Faster

    and

    Harlequin Hacks

    How can people NOT expect this new venture to dilute Harlequin’s brand?

  216. Jennifer Leeland
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 13:11:02

    You know, the first place I went when I wanted to write romance was eharlequin. I am stunned and saddened that now new authors will be presented with this predatory practice.

    1. I would like to ask Jane and Miss Vallik why HQN keeps calling this “self-publishing”. There are clear and definitive lines between a vanity press and self-publishing in our profession. Wouldn’t that be considered “fraud” if you advertise that the author retains control over the book when actually HH will dole out royalties?

    2. The timing of this is interesting. Carina Press has opened with HQN seeming to keep a arms length distance from its launch. Even though Miss Vallik and HQN are clearly “behind” Carina, HQN isn’t lending the Harlequin brand to the epublisher. Yet this “pay to have your book published” is called “Harlequin Horizon”. I would like to know if there is a reason for that. Perhaps I have misinterpreted HQN’s intentions with Carina. Can you explain?

    3. Jane, is 20% of authors publishing a second book with a press really that good? I mean, I wouldn’t know how to research that, but frankly that seems like a low number. If clients were so happy with ASI, wouldn’t that percentage be higher?

    Let me say this. I have seen “self-published” books that are quality books. But the author who took this route did so to retain control, retain the rights, be their own publisher rather than rely on others who might dilute their story. It was a choice. Some are niche books that haven’t fit in any publisher’s genre.

    Vanity presses are different entirely. I ought to know. I’ve been published by one. I went in with my eyes wide open and paid my fee. (Which, at the time, was actually one third the cost to print the book. The publisher provided the rest.)
    I had an editor who raked me over the coals. I knew exactly what I was getting with my contract and chose to take the print option so I could have a book in print.
    There’s nothing wrong with that option BUT Whiskey Creek was completely up front about what the print option cost, what it entailed and I had a choice to say “No thanks” and release an ebook only.

    This HH venture implies that rejected books at HQN will now be published. That strikes me as making money from an author’s dream instead of readers.

    Yuck.

    I know that Dear Author is about the reader. Well, I wonder what the readers will now miss out on because a new author who might have tremendous potential is going to be grist in the mill of a dream killing machine.

  217. Lynne Connolly
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 13:19:55

    I'd have loved to have been a fly-on-the-wall at the HQN meetings where HH was discussed. Here's my guess, though.

    I don’t think it was discussed at Harlequin at all. I think Torstar did a study – where can we squeeze more milk out of the cash cow, the only subsidiary we have that is doing well – and they came up with Carina and HQN Ho. (HH is Harlequin Historicals, not Horizon).
    They got the marketing people and accountants and financiers onboard, then they told the editing staff. By then it was a done deal and no amount of “it won’t work that way” was going to work. You took it or you left. Period.
    This reeks of top-down, of a “study” maybe done by a management consultancy. It sometimes stinks to be a management consultant. You’re suggestion is supposed to be a starting point, then the company you did the study for takes it and runs with it, instead of doing more specific studies and consulting the people who work in the area.
    Just like HQN did with Ho.

  218. Estara
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 13:21:27

    Some suggestions for links to people who do excellent self-published ebooks (not vanity published) – the problem is that only one of these authors I’ve read in self-published form hasn’t first appeared in print at one of the big houses (they’re also mostly not romance authors), so I would expect that it’s difficult to build up reader numbers if you aren’t already somewhat known:

    - Ann Somerville and her Darshian Tales (I’m getting into her Samhain series now as well) at lulu.com (brilliant epic fantasy, with m/m that is simply part of the story and not used for cheap thrills). Actually, I think you can read all of the Darshian Tales for free on her website (where I Highly recommend reading A Fluffy Tale), but they’re LONG! – and good.

    - Book View Café: loads of previously published sf&f authors collectively offering backlist novels and newly written anthologies in ebook form (Sherwood Smith will join soon, yay!) – reads like a who’s who of (mostly) female sf writing (they even have Ursula LeGuin in there – although only as a comic author/artist) ^^ – they’ve just released a collective short story backlist anthology and in December there’ll be a steampunk anthology with all new short stories. You can also read many of the novels in serial instalments free on their site.

    - Wave without a Shore, where C.J. Cherryh, Jane Fancher and Lynn Abbey are working on their own ebook press for their backlist. Haven’t opened yet though.

    - Inkalicious where Michele Jerott Albert is selling five of her out-of-print romance suspense novels as ebooks and you get the first one completely free (which is why I discovered her).

    All these ebooks are drm-free. All great value for the money spent.

  219. olivia
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 13:53:35

    This reeks of top-down, of a “study” maybe done by a management consultancy.

    I don’t know or much care about the source and system of the decision-making, and won’t speculate about that. I don’t think the truth will–or can–ever be known.

    I care deeply about the outcome and impacts, to be more fully revealed in the fullness of time. The past 48 hours have been very interesting. And painful for so many.

    One thing you said is certain: This reeks!

  220. Harlequin Uproar… | Keri Arthur
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 14:35:02

    [...] real WTF moment for me came from an answer Malle Vallik gave to this following question over on the Dear Author [...]

  221. News on the Horizon | Literary Escapism
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 14:56:34

    [...] Dear Author – Malle Vallik, Harlequin's Digital Director, Answers Questions on Harlequin Horizons [...]

  222. O-Anon
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 16:10:10

    HQN Ho must go viral now!

  223. Jane
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 16:13:28

    @Jennifer Leeland Have you read all my comments upthread Ms. Leeland? Because if you had, you would have seen where I said that this is not a good value for authors. I’m not sure why you are asking me these questions.

  224. Jennifer Leeland
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 17:17:19

    @Jane: Oh sorry if I missed that Jane. I was asking thinking you had an inside line to the story. (And thought I missed something). You usually have great insight.
    Primarily my questions were aimed toward Miss Vallik.
    And word is that HQN has told its authors it’s going to try and get the Harlequin name off of Harlequin Horizon. (According to a “secret source”)

  225. James Macdonald
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 19:31:30

    .@Julia Sullivan:

    Some lovely, well-meaning soul cobbles together a not-ready-for-publication manuscript and pays her $600 and gets her Harlequin Horizons books.

    So far we’ve mostly been considering the book that’s been rejected because it … isn’t very good. That’s the great majority of them, true.

    But consider the case of the book that’s rejected by Harlequin for some other reason than “stinks on ice.” There are other reasons that books get rejected, after all, ranging from “Doesn’t quite fit our line,” to “We’ve already bagged our limit.” Suppose there’s an author whose manuscript could have gone to Pocket for a nice advance, garnering sales, gaining fans, and launching a career? Suppose that author takes the bait, plunks down a few grand, and gets seventy-five sales out of it.

    Where’s the upside for anyone in that scenario?

    Also, and this is real-world, I see it every day: The authors who, instead of sitting home and working on their next books instead spend all their free time, energy, and loose cash on promotion and marketing that’s pre-doomed to failure (they still get the same seventy-five sales). Where’s their professional growth and career going to come from?

    Readers won’t notice or care about the vanity-published books. They aren’t in the stream of commerce right now. They aren’t going to be, either. Unless and until the reading public develops a taste for raw slush. When that happens, within two weeks the bookstores will have their Unedited Slush sections right down front.

    But I don’t see it happening. No one reads slush for fun. No one reads slush a second time unless they’re getting paid to do it. Not even if they’re told that one or two out of every hundred will be a gem.

    What we need to concentrate on here are the authors. RWA and MWA, as author-advocate organizations, are on top of this. And we need to think about the corrosive effect on the publishers who follow this path. No good can come of it.

  226. Poison Ivy
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 19:47:01

    No one reads slush a first time unless they’re getting paid to.

  227. Kristine
    Nov 20, 2009 @ 03:47:07

    This really worries me. I do look at the E-harlequin writing section from time to time. I do have some thoughts that I might want to try to write a book at some point,though most of my ideas are really outside the box in regards to time period and setting, when I have some time though I am in Graduate School at the moment. I was looking last week and saw that Harlequin was starting an e-publishing site. I thought that it was not a bad idea because a lot of people my age like digial books and if the book is a big hit than everybody wins. But the pay to publish one stinks and I really wondering what the pubisher is thinking at this point. I know times are tough and the industry is suffering because of the recession but this is NOT the way to solve the problem.

    I know the Harlequin gets a lot of bad submissions the reason is that they are the last major publishing house in the industry to take unagented manscripts and this means that you get people that have no idea how much their own book stinks so it can painful to read these books. This does not mean that the solutiion is to allow these messes to be published if the author has enough money to do so. I have a big worry that this action is going to bring down the entire company and this sadden me very much. The reason is that it has been the only place that publishes books that are outside the norm of light happy Regencies, a trend that needs to die right now, so with this action reader may lose their only publisher that seems to care what their readers think and this may be the biggest loss of all.

  228. Harlequin broadens its Horizons by adding vanity publishing « Romance Writers of Australia
    Nov 20, 2009 @ 18:42:57

    [...] Dear Author [...]

  229. My take on self-pub/Harlequin Horizons/vanity presses, etc « Trivial Pursuits
    Nov 20, 2009 @ 22:02:18

    [...] It will be almost impossible for a writer to make a profit there, because they take 50% of net.  What’s net?  Net is what is left AFTER cost.  From the questions answered over at the Dear Author blog… Malle: The content is completely owned by the author. Royalties are 50% net from both eBooks and pri… [...]

  230. L’esprit d’escalier » Harlequin Horizons and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Deal
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 17:09:57

    [...] don’t earn anywhere near that.  They earn royalties at 50% of the net price, according to Harlequin’s Digital Director Malle Vallik’s response to that question at Dear Author (comment [...]

  231. Not a Haiku Sunday « Teresa Bodwell Writes
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 14:46:39

    [...] uninspired. Not sure whether it’s the incredible amount of space my brain is devoting to the Harlequin Horizon fiasco. You want more links? More? Well, you get the [...]

  232. Radiant Curses & Bound Sorceresses | Literary Escapism
    Nov 23, 2009 @ 22:39:33

    [...] Dear Author – Malle Vallik, Harlequin's Digital Director, Answers Questions on Harlequin Horizons [...]

  233. The Harlequin Fiasco « Embrace the Shadows
    Nov 24, 2009 @ 04:08:22

    [...] led to a firestorm of opinions all over the blog-o-sphere. The most widely read, IMHO, where at Dear Author and Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.  It was like watching a train wreck. Some speculated that [...]

  234. FiledBy | Blog » Google Settlement Dates + Harlequin Horizons
    Nov 24, 2009 @ 07:24:20

    [...] Vallik, Digital Director for Harlequin, responded to similar concerns raised by the Dear Author blog: “There are a number of reasons to select [...]

  235. the Harlequin hubbub « Collection Developments @ Sno-Isle
    Nov 24, 2009 @ 15:46:19

    [...] immediately, criticism emerged.  a Harlequin rep tried to reassure readers and authors by explaining that it wasn’t a case of brand dilution, that it would be [...]

  236. Harlequin’s Self-Publishing Venture – A Blog Surfer’s Journal « Tia Nevitt
    Nov 24, 2009 @ 17:22:53

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

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