Thursday, November 19, 2009

Further on the Harlequin dumpster dive

Here is a well thought out and cogent explanation of the Harlequin/AuthorSolutions mess.

This is the paragraph that makes me see red:
3. Why is Harlequin launching a self-publishing business?

Many aspiring authors choose self-publishing 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



A bound copy is close to useless for help in finding an agent.

Harlequin KNOWS that. They're not stupid. They're making it up so aspiring authors will pay for their services.


This whole thing just makes me sad.



(thanks to Susan Adrian for the linkage)

44 comments:

Aimee said...

After all they've done for the genre, it's sad to see them sully what name they have.

brimfire said...

Oh, wow. I expected Harlequin to try to spin this to make themselves look good, but an outright lie?

Hope you guys don't start getting (more?) vanity published books in the mail now.

Joe Iriarte said...

*nod*

You can't claim to be merely providing a service when you actively lie to your potential customers.

Furious D said...

I think someone should take a good long look at the current Harlequin management. Something just doesn't pass the smell test there.

Josin L. McQuein said...

As of today, the mess is murkier. The NewYorker mixed up HH - as in Harlequin Historicals with Hh - as in Harlequin Horizons... but NO ONE is going to mix them up... it's just not possible that anyone would think a Horizon's book is a "real" Harlequin or associate it with them at all!

It looks like that darn double H caused The New Yorker to use a Historicals cover as an illustration for Horizons.

LitWitch said...

Oh, it hurts. It hurts my head...

Thank you for being a voice of raging sanity in this mess.

Margaret Yang said...

So, the Horizon's author won't get the Harlequin name on the spine, won't get distribution into stores, and won't get Harlequin sales reps to sell the book.

Oh, wait, the author CAN use the Harlequin name--she has to put it on the big fat check she's writing them.

Sierra Godfrey said...

Thanks for posting about this.

It's really important for publishing professionals to tell writers their thoughts on this, because there's a trust people have in Harlequin as a publisher. Trust is now violated.

Stephanie said...

Wow....that is just plain wrong!

Indigo said...

Makes you wonder what happens to the credibility of already published authors with Harlequin. I wouldn't be surprised if they start backpedaling away and searching out a new house. Indigo

Mike said...

I don't profess to be an 'expert', i.e. someone with a limited perspective, on the publishing business, but...

Did you hear about that moron Columbus who thinks he can get to the EAST Indies by sailing WEST? He'll fall off the edge!!

Or that guy Ford? Fool actually thinks he can make cars more cheaply by starting some thing he calls an 'assembly line'? Yeah, right...everybody knows you can't make cars that way.

Or that kid Fred Smith? How will he EVER deliver all those packages overnight using AIRPLANES, for God's sake?

My point? Conventional wisdom is just that... Conventional. History is replete with quantum paradigm shifts. None have been more roundly criticized and opposed than those that threaten to lower the drawbridge. Witness the current debate on health care reform.

Harlequin's owners are in business to make money. If they do, and their customers are happy, this worked. If not, it'll all go away very quickly, and all those safely inside the moat of Publishing Castle can settle back in and resume being smug.

As a certified non-expert, I actually think this move by Harlequin, and the litany of parrot-like comments posted here, speak VOLUMES about the current state of the publishing business.

Adapt, improvise, overcome.

Debbie (Nerd Goddess) said...

This whole thing has just been a big disappointment all around.

Lily Cate said...

A bound copy to an agent?
Huh?
I've never even had an agent request a printed copy of my manuscript, let alone bound. We're working digial here, people. There's no need to be killing so many trees anymore.

Collette Thomas said...

I've avoided vanity presses for my work because I WANT to work with editors, even those from hell who expect the best from us who write these stories. I wonder if these writers who submit to vanity presses will be willing to actually do those extensive revisions sometimes required by editors who look for high quality writing in a finished product. I've worked with these editors from hell, and at times felt like pulling my hair out, but stuck with the process. Now if I were paying the pub to publish the book would I have stuck with it as much? I'm not sure. Then again would editors who work with vanity presses push as much? I'm doubting that happens.

I guess I need the validation that comes from the knowledge that my work is accepted because of its content and not because of my writing out a check to have it published.

I enjoy reading the 4 star reviews I get for my stories. I'm not sure that would happen via a vanity press because as we all know the editing of a story is as important if not more important as writing the story.

Marie Roy aka Collette Thomas
http://www.newsletterofmarieroy.blogspot.com
http://www.newsletterofcollettethomas.blogspot.com

Amy Sue Nathan said...

I've been reading about this all over the internet -- thank you for that link which brings all the pieces together. Not only is it comprehensive, it's very understandable.

Jean said...

The second I read that excerpt, I knew what made you see red.

Rebecca Knight said...

That really pisses me off :(.

That just proves (to me, at least) that this is a predatory move aimed at parting hopeful writers from their money--NOT helping them.

Writers beware!

MeganRebekah said...

I've been following this for the last day or two, and finally blogged about it myself today.

I understand that Harlequin is a business, and needs to make money. No problem. But their new approach makes me feel sleezy. My heart goes out to all the hopeful writers who will fall for the opportunity to "publish" with Harlequin, without understanding that they won't really be a Harlequin writer (or even a real published writer).

What's the next step? I'm seeing a future where sites like Match.com offer hookers to any members who can't find a real date...

 Patrick Lee said...

When I heard about this, my heart began to race, and my massive, well-defined chest muscles strained against the tunic I wore. My chiseled jaw clenched as if of its own volition, and my golden mane of hair flowed in the breeze. (Alright, the hair would've been flowing in the breeze regardless, but I just thought I should include it.)

Maryann Miller said...

Mike makes some valid points about being able to shift gears and go in a new direction with a business, but that is one of the problems with publishing. It is treated too much like any other business where the bottom line reigns supreme.

Publishing used to be unique because it dealt with a product that was unique. We weren't in the business of turning out tortilla warmers. I remember an agent commenting at a conference that when the industry started being driven by marketing departments and not editorial departments, we were all going to suffer for it.

This proliferation of subsidy and vanity publishers just perpetuates the problem. Anything can get published if the price is right.

DeadlyAccurate said...

Mike, vanity publishing is not new, and this is not a new way of getting work out to the reading public. It's a way to take money from writers. That's it. The people who decided to go along with this idea don't care if any of those Harlequin Horizons writers make one single dime off their work. The quality of work that comes out of there is more likely to be on par with the typical PublishAmerica novel than any NYT bestseller.

John said...

This is obviously just the first of many tremors to come in the earthquake that will eventually reshape publishing as we know it.

From a business perspective, it's smart, ruthless, and something I sure as hell wouldn't pay money to participate in. Then again, there are plenty of people buying snake oil off the internet and TV.

The free market will decide what to do with this. This is a big deal to everyone in publishing but Josephina Blow in the real world doesn't have a clue and probably never will if this thing takes off. If she doesn't buy books from Hh because she never hears of them, enough authors will become disillusioned, realize they've been duped, and take their money elsewhere.

If it takes off, then things will change drastically. Other publishers will start adapting a similar strategy.

I'm pretty ambivalent at the moment. I don't think this will do well because the execution is extremely flawed and there are enough unpublished authors whose smarts outweigh their desperation. There are also plenty of newbs who don't have a clue how traditional publishing works and will go for it.

At this point it's kind of a crapshoot. But I'm really interested to see where this goes.

TO THE FUTURE! (or hell in a handbasket).

David Edgerley Gates said...

Let me ask this a different way: if you were an agent repping romance (which Janet is not), would you now submit to Harleguin, or have they pissed on their own doorstep?

RRuin said...

This is a carrot to the ignorant. There will be writers who believe if they pay for their manuscript to be printed by Horizon they will have bought a way to get their foot in Harlequin's door.
I emphasize the word printed because to me this has nothing to do with publishing. It has to do with trying to lure people to pay Harlequin to print a book with the hope that something real will follow.
Worse yet is them suggesting these books be sent to agents. That's just idiotic.
This new move is about greed.

Chris Eldin said...

Mike,

I can actually understand your point. But... to me, this is preying on the desperate. Plus, from a profit POV (for the "author") I wonder how many books have to be sold to break even? A blogging friend did some calculations recently, and it ain't pretty.

And it just spoils it for the rest of us. {sigh}

BJ said...

This sort of thing is why people need agents. There are too many crooks out there preying on the unknowing.

Gemma Noon said...

Mike,

I see what your getting at, but the point is that Harlequin aren't doing anything new by launching HH, nor are they challenging conventional wisdom. Vanity Presses have been around for a long time. They do not help aspiring authors. Plus, their partnership company has a somewhat dubious reputation and is regularly flagging up on all the "writer beware" type sites.


HH is NOT a self publishing house, it is a vanity press. What grates the most is that they are suggesting that if you pay for your book to be published then you are more likely to get your "lucky break". This is just plain wrong. If it was true, then why the hell haven't other vanity presses succeeded in the past?

SO, basically, comparing Hh to Ford, Columbus or Smith just isn't fair. There's nothing new about what they are doing. In my opinion, it is just exploitation.

CKHB said...

Yup. That's the exact language I quoted in my comment last night. I knew it would make you furious... and it's just so sad.

"Reader will not be confused." Yeah. Just writers.

mariellacavallini said...

There was a mess in the author house? i want to see waht happened.

Joe Iriarte said...

Patrick Lee wins.

Marty Ison said...

It is sad. They might as well call the imprint Harlequin-Kinkos. No offense to Kinkos intended.

 Patrick Lee said...

Joe--

:)

I'll be here all week, folks... try the veal...

Chris Eldin said...

Here's a post about self e-pubbing and the numbers: http://shortsf.blogspot.com/2009/10/to-self-e-pub-or-not-to-self-e-pub.html

Anyone else have more numbers to share? Would love to dissuade people from putting their hard-earned money into such a venture.

june said...

The word of God says "the LOVE of money is the root of all evil." Not money itself mind you, but the love of it. This Harlequin Horizon mess along with the financial/banking/mortgage debacle is just another example of that eternal truth.

ryan field said...

I hate to see authors get the wrong impression.

Florence Fois said...

Although I don't write romance fiction, I have admired the ability of other authors to build a career starting with Harlequin/Silhouette novels. People like Nora Roberts and Debbie Macomber to name two of hundreds of others.

It gave the unknown, unagented writer a chance to develop their craft, to make a couple of bucks along the way and to find their niche.

As so many others, including Janet Reid, I am saddened by this move by Harlequin into the vanity press.

It will do nothing more than cheapen their imprints and sully what had been until now a good reputation in publishing.

Damn, just once I'd like to find out someone said NO to acquisitions, mergers and corporate greed.

holly said...

wow, that would make me sad if i was an agent as well, we all want to give books out to family members or friends as gifts but i mean if you dont have an agent and can actually sell the book, no use...

Jill James said...

Vanity presses are not new. They flourished during the Great Depression, not just for books but for records and songwriting too. They prey on aspiring artists to spend some money to realize their dream. It is just plain wrong.

Literary Cowgirl said...

With a statement like that, has anyone reported them to Preds&Eds yet?

Demon Hunter said...

I wonder if they'll change their minds after they realize that no one is going for it? :-D

JKB said...

Me too.

:-(

Josin L. McQuein said...

SFWA has now added their statement on the new imprint:

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

LINK

Matt said...

Wow. That is low.

danceluvr said...

Anyone consider that the Harlequin people didn't write that press release? That the corporate office staff did, and they may not understand that self-publishing doesn't open doors to agents.

So maybe this ire needs to be redirected toward the company overseeing Harlequin.