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November 18, 2009

RWA Walks the Walk
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 05:29 PM *

Romance Writers of America (RWA) has reacted to Harlequin’s announcement that Harlequin has gone into the vanity publishing business in partnership with Author Solutions:

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

They really do take their role as author advocates seriously over there.

Mystery Writers of America (MWA) statement:

Recently, Harlequin Enterprises launched two new business ventures aimed at aspiring writers, the Harlequin Horizons self-publishing program and the eHarlequin Manuscript Critique service (aka “Learn to Write”), both of which are widely promoted on its website and embedded in the manuscript submission guidelines for all of its imprints.

Mystery Writers of America (MWA) is deeply concerned about the troubling conflict-of-interest issues created by these ventures, particularly the potentially misleading way they are marketed to aspiring writers on the Harlequin website.

It is common for disreputable publishers to try to profit from aspiring writers by steering them to their own for-pay editorial, marketing, and publishing services. The implication is that by paying for those services, the writer is more likely to sell his manuscript to the publisher. Harlequin recommends the “eHarlequin Manuscript Critique Service” in the text of its manuscript submission guidelines for all of its imprints and include a link to “Harlequin Horizons,” its new self-publishing arm, without any indication that these are advertisements.

That, coupled with the fact that these businesses share the Harlequin name, may mislead writers into believing they can enhance their chances of being published by Harlequin by paying for these services. Offering these services violates long-standing MWA rules for inclusion on our Approved Publishers List.

On November 9, Mystery Writers of America sent a letter to Harlequin about the “eHarlequin Manuscript Critique Service,” notifying Harlequin that it is in violation of our rules and suggesting steps that Harlequin could take to remain on our Approved Publishers list. The steps outlined at that time included removing mention of this for-pay service entirely from its manuscript submission guidelines, clearly identifying any mention of this program as paid advertisement, and, adding prominent disclaimers that this venture was totally unaffiliated with the editorial side of Harlequin, and that paying for this service is not a factor in the consideration of manuscripts. Since that letter went out, Harlequin has launched “Harlequin Horizons,” a self-publishing program.

MWA’s November 9 letter asks that Harlequin respond to our concerns and recommendations by December 15. We look forward to receiving their response and working with them to protect the interests of aspiring writers. If MWA and Harlequin are unable to reach an agreement, MWA will take appropriate action which may include removing Harlequin from the list of MWA approved publishers, declining future membership applications from authors published by Harlequin and declaring that books published by Harlequin will not be eligible for the Edgar Awards.

We are taking this action because we believe it is vitally important to alert our members of unethical and predatory publishing practices that take advantage of their desire to be published. We respect Harlequin and its authors and hope the company will take the appropriate corrective measures.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) statement:

In November, 2009, Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd. announced the launch of a new imprint, Harlequin Horizons, for aspiring romance authors. Under normal circumstances, the addition of a new imprint by a major house would be cause for celebration in the professional writing community. Unfortunately, these are not normal circumstances. Harlequin Horizons is a joint venture with Author Solutions, and it is a vanity/subsidy press that relies upon payments and income from aspiring writers to earn profit, rather than sales of books to actual readers.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. (SFWA) finds it extremely disappointing that Harlequin has chosen to launch an imprint whose sole purpose appears to be the enrichment of the corporate coffers at the expense of aspiring writers. According to their website, “Now with Harlequin Horizons, more writers have the opportunity to enter the market, hone their skills and achieve the goals that burn in their hearts.”

SFWA calls on Harlequin to openly acknowledge that Harlequin Horizon titles will not be distributed to brick-and-mortar bookstores, thus ensuring that the titles will not be breaking into the real fiction market. SFWA also asks that Harlequin acknowledge that the imprint does not represent a genuine opportunity for aspiring authors to hone their skills, as no editor will be vetting or working on the manuscripts. Further, SFWA believes that work published with Harlequin Horizons may injure writing careers by associating authors’ names with small sales levels reflected by the imprint’s lack of distribution, as well as its emphasis upon income received from writers and not readers. SFWA supports the fundamental principle that writers should be paid for their work, and even those who aspire to professional status and payment ought not to be charged for the privilege of having those aspirations.

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. Further, Harlequin should be on notice that while the rules of our annual Nebula Award do not expressly prohibit self-published titles from winning, it is highly unlikely that our membership would ever nominate or vote for a work that was published in this manner.

Already the world’s largest romance publisher, Harlequin should know better than anyone else in the industry the importance of treating authors professionally and with the respect due the craft; Harlequin should have the internal fortitude to resist the lure of easy money taken from aspiring authors who want only to see their work professionally published and may be tempted to believe that this is a legitimate avenue towards those goals.

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

For the Board of Directors,
Russell Davis
President
SFWA, Inc.


Update 04DEC09:

Mystery Writers of America, second statement:

The Board of Mystery Writers of America voted unanimously on Wednesday to remove Harlequin and all of its imprints from our list of Approved Publishers, effective immediately. We did not take this action lightly. We did it because Harlequin remains in violation of our rules regarding the relationship between a traditional publisher and its various for-pay services.

What does this mean for current and future MWA members?

Any author who signs with Harlequin or any of its imprints from this date onward may not use their Harlequin books as the basis for active status membership nor will such books be eligible for Edgar® Award consideration. However books published by Harlequin under contracts signed before December 2, 2009 may still be the basis for Active Status membership and will still be eligible for Edgar® Award consideration (you may find the full text of the decision at the end of this bulletin).

Although Harlequin no longer offers its eHarlequin Critique Service and has changed the name of its pay-to-publish service, Harlequin still remains in violation of MWA rules regarding the relationship between a traditional publisher and its various for-pay services.

MWA does not object to Harlequin operating a pay-to-publish program or other for-pay services. The problem is HOW those pay-to-publish programs and other for-pay services are integrated into Harlequin’s traditional publishing business. MWA’s rules for publishers state:

“The publisher, within the past five years, may not have charged a fee to consider, read, submit, or comment on manuscripts; nor may the publisher, or any of the executives or editors under its employ, have offered authors self-publishing services, literary representation, paid editorial services, or paid promotional services.

If the publisher is affiliated with an entity that provides self-publishing, for-pay editorial services, or for-pay promotional services, the entities must be wholly separate and isolated from the publishing entity. They must not share employees, manuscripts, or authors or interact in any way. For example, the publishing entity must not refer authors to any of the for-pay entities nor give preferential treatment to manuscripts submitted that were edited, published, or promoted by the for-pay entity.

To avoid misleading authors, mentions and/or advertisements for the for-pay entities shall not be included with information on manuscript submission to the publishing company. Advertising by the publisher’s for-pay editorial, self-publishing or promotional services, whether affiliated with the publisher or not, must include a disclaimer that it is advertising and that use of those services offered by an affiliate of the publisher will not affect consideration of manuscripts submitted for publication.”

Harlequin’s Publisher and CEO Donna Hayes responded to our November 9 letter, and a follow up that we sent on November 30. In her response, which we have posted on the MWA website, Ms. Hayes states that Harlequin intends as standard practice to steer the authors that it rejects from its traditional publishing imprints to DellArte and its other affiliated, for-pay services. In addition, Harlequin mentions on the DellArte site that editors from its traditional publishing imprints will be monitoring DellArte titles for possible acquisition. It is this sort of integration that violates MWA rules.

MWA has a long-standing regard for the Harlequin publishing house and hopes that our continuing conversations will result in a change in their policies and the reinstatement of the Harlequin imprints to our approved list of publishers.

Frankie Y. Bailey,
Executive Vice President, MWA

MWA’s Official Decision: That because Harlequin’s for pay publishing business violates MWA’s rules for approved publishers, MWA takes the following action: First, Harlequin shall be removed from MWA’s list of approved publishers upon the adoption of this motion; Second, that all current active status members of MWA whose status is based upon books published by Harlequin shall remain active status members; Third, that MWA decline applications for active membership based upon books published by Harlequin pursuant to contracts entered into after the effective date of this motion; Fourth, that books published by Harlequin pursuant to contracts entered into prior to the adoption of this motion shall be eligible for the Edgar® Awards, except that books published by DellArte Press shall not be eligible for the Edgar® Awards regardless of when such contract was entered into; and Fifth that books published by Harlequin pursuant to contracts entered into after the adoption of this motion shall not be eligible for the Edgar® Awards.

MWA’s Executive Vice-President, and her or his designates, are directed to continue discussions with Harlequin in an effort to reach an agreement that would allow for Harlequin to be an approved publisher according to MWA’s rules.


Horror Writers Association statement:

Recently, Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd. announced the launch of a new imprint, Harlequin Horizons, a self-publishing venture for aspiring romance authors. This venture is prominently promoted on Harlequin Enterprises’ website and is touted in the manuscript submission guidelines for all of its imprints.

The Horror Writers Association is very concerned about the conflict of interest created by this new venture. Harlequin Horizons is a joint venture with Author Solutions, and it is a vanity press that relies on payments from aspiring writers to earn a profit. The fact that this business venture shares the Harlequin name may mislead writers into believing they can improve their chances to be published by Harlequin Enterprises if they pay for this service.

HWA asks that Harlequin acknowledge that the imprint does not represent a genuine opportunity for aspiring authors to hone their skills, because no editors will be vying for or editing the manuscripts. HWA supports the basic principal that writers should be paid for their work, not pay because they aspire to write.

The HWA does not believe that changing the name of the imprint in an attempt to disguise the relationship with Harlequin, changes the intent. We call on Harlequin to discontinue this imprint immediately. If this matter does not find a positive resolution, the HWA will take appropriate action, which may include removing Harlequin from the list of HWA approved publishers, declining future membership applications from authors published by Harlequin and declaring that books published by Harlequin will not be eligible for the Stoker Award.

We are taking this action because we believe it’s crucial to alert and protect our members from unethical and predatory publishing practices that take advantage of their desire to be published. The HWA hopes Harlequin Enterprises Ltd will take the appropriate measures to correct this matter posthaste.

Deborah Leblanc, HWA president

Comments on RWA Walks the Walk:
#2 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2009, 06:35 PM:

It's nice to see an organization not grandfather in bad behavior just because the group behaving poorly is a big name in the area of shared interest. It's even nicer to see a smackdown written with such grace and civility without losing any of its force.

#3 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2009, 06:54 PM:

Of course, you realize this means war.

#4 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2009, 06:55 PM:

Good for the RWA!

#5 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2009, 07:00 PM:

If my reading of this is correct, this means that effective immediately Harlequin books, and authors, are not eligible for any RWA awards.

#6 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2009, 07:05 PM:

Considering that a huge hunk of the RWA's membership probably got its start writing for Harlequin, that's really gutsy.

#7 ::: Darth Paradox ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2009, 07:08 PM:

Oog. Harlequin already has reputation issues. I can't imagine slapping their brand on a bunch of vanity-press crap is going to help matters.

#8 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2009, 07:10 PM:

Yeah, whoa, that's truly impressive. My jaw, it droppeth.

If I ever decide to write romances (under an assumed name, I promise you), I will have no hesitation in joining RWA.

#10 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2009, 07:29 PM:

Sundre -- that needs to be coupled with the fact that eligibility is limited to works published by a "non-subsidy, non-vanity publisher". I don't know how the organization will work with the appropriate separation of vanity and non-vanity sides of Harlequin. It will be interesting to find out. If a publisher is partially vanity and partially legitimate, what's an appropriate separation? This is not necessarily a simple question to answer.

#11 ::: Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2009, 07:32 PM:

It was an open question when they started Carina, but at least there the monies flowed the right direction, if more slowly.

Horizons made the question a no-brainer. Glad to see RWA Do the Right Thing.

#12 ::: sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2009, 07:33 PM:

...Oh. My. *fans flutter*

I've seen people celebrating Harlequin's vanity press elsewhere, but I'm pretty sure they didn't expect this response from RWA. It's a shame that means so many good authors in the other imprints are not going to now be eligible for RWA awards. My question is, what about books under the Luna imprint? If a gem is to be found there, are they still eligible for SFWA awards? They are a separate imprint who qualify under the published guidelines...Opinions, oh SFWA members?

#13 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2009, 07:36 PM:

I'm impressed.

What I now wonder is how Harlequin's established authors are going to react? They can't be thrilled about this.

#14 ::: Stephanie Leary ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2009, 07:37 PM:

Linkmeister @6: you can remove the "probably" from that sentence.

Harlequin always has a huge presence at the national conference. (I have a couple of very nice tote bags plastered with the logo.) I was floored (and delighted) when this announcement landed in my inbox.

#15 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2009, 07:51 PM:

Stephanie @ #14, I was hedging because I was not (am not) sure whether Silhouette and Harlequin are two parts of a larger whole or whether they are separate publishing outfits. I figured the RWA members who didn't start with HQ started at Silhouette. I can't imagine too many independent publishers trying to beat those gorillas.

#16 ::: one harlequin author ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2009, 07:59 PM:

I'm a Harlequin author. Am I happy my publisher has been stripped of its standing in RWA? No.

Am I glad RWA did it? Yeah.

But rules for the RWA awards (the RITA) cannot be changed mid-contest. RWA won't be able to address this issue until July, and changes will affect next year's contest. So all the Harlequin authors are still eligible in the current contest (awards to be given in July).

This whole situation sucks in many ways. I'm feeling a little ill at the moment.


#17 ::: Stephanie Leary ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2009, 08:04 PM:

Linkmeister, fair point. The two were separate until a few years ago. And that brings up another fun fact: if Harlequin books are no longer eligible for RITAs (next year, as @16 points out), the two Contemporary Series Romance awards get knocked off the list entirely. Since Harlequin bought Silhouette, it's the only publisher for those books.

As usual, the comment thread at Smart Bitches is well worth reading if you want to know what romance writers think of Horizons.

My favorite part of the Horizons service menu is the $19,999 Hollywood-produced book trailer.

#18 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2009, 08:07 PM:

Lee @ 13... They can't be thrilled about this

They're not. I should know, I'm married to one of their authors.

#19 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2009, 08:13 PM:

The open romance boards and blogs are pretty much in meltdown right now. I can only imagine what's being said on private boards and behind friend locks.

#20 ::: Darth Paradox ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2009, 08:23 PM:

@16: Is it actually a rules change we're talking about here? Or would removing Harlequin from the awards be more like a disqualification (i.e. "sorry, you did something that invalidated your eligibility")?

#21 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2009, 08:26 PM:

http://www.jackiebarbosa.com/2009/11/18/wtf-wednesday-bait-and-switch/ is interesting here.

#22 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2009, 08:29 PM:

One writer @ 16, Darth Paradox @20 -- the eligibility rules about membership say that if a person drops between nomination and the award announcement, they lose their eligibility. I don't imagine that they'd treat this differently than what would happen if a member stopped being a member. In that sense, this is not a rules change -- it's an eligibility change.

I am not a member of RWA, I just read the rules, my interpretation is not guaranteed to be correct.

#23 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2009, 08:37 PM:

Rereading the rules: that applies to getting the lower fee for members, rather than strict eligibility. I still think they can make a serious argument that this is a similar sort of change of status rather than a change in the rules.

#24 ::: one harlequin author ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2009, 09:01 PM:

The way the rules are now, anyone can enter the RITA. Non-members do pay a higher fee to enter, and if your membership lapses at any time, then you must pay the higher fee.

However, only books published by a non-vanity/non-subsidy publisher can be entered. Now that Harlequin has been listed as a vanity/subsidy publisher... well, how do you split that hair? (And RWA has had to split many already.) Just because the line I write for isn't vanity, should I still get to enter?

The announcement from RWA mainly refers to conference eligibility. Harlequin has always been a huge presence at the national conference. They take pitch appointments, do Q&A and spotlight sessions on what's new and what they're looking for, etc. RWA allocates space and resources at the conference for them, and comps the editors' attendance. Now that Harlequin is listed as a vanity/subsidy press, Harlequin won't have an "official" presence at the conference, and they'll have to foot their own bill if they want to attend in any way. With so many of RWA's members targeting Harlequin, that absence will affect the attendance numbers and possibly cause financial problems.

So, it's a big honkin' mess.

I'm still glad RWA made the stand, though.

My personal feelings about this are a whole 'nother matter...

#25 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2009, 09:03 PM:

Just to clarify -- when I said I wondered how established Harlequin authors were going to feel about this, I was thinking more about Harlequin having established a vanity-publishing arm than the RWA announcement. If I were a non-vanity Harlequin writer, I would certainly feel that this had damaged my credibility in the market, and would be looking to change publishers forthwith.

#26 ::: Lon ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2009, 09:09 PM:

It's really cool that they are doing that and I applaud them, but I'm wondering about the email itself. It's behind a member's lock on the RWA site. Was this email meant for public consumption?

#27 ::: 2nd Harlequin Author ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2009, 09:31 PM:

I'm also a Harlequin author. I can safely say that a lot of authors do not support the Horizons endeavour and applaud the RWA decision, despite the short term repercussions. This is about industry, not awards.

Michelle Monkou, the president of RWA, posted the letter at Dear Author so it is safe to say it is public.

#28 ::: one harlequin author ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2009, 09:36 PM:

Oh, trust me, when I say I feel ill, it's because of what Harlequin has done. I thought y'all were referring specifically to the RWA side of the equation.

As one person said, it's kinda like finding out your favorite uncle is a pedophile. Even though he's not screwing you, he's still screwing other kids.

And "meltdown" is a gross understatement. I've probably had at least 500 emails on this land in my inbox today from the various loops.


I'm very surprised to see that the announcement from RWA is in the members only section. That may be because of how it went out initially -- as an alert to the membership.

#29 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2009, 09:41 PM:

It seems to me a vanity romance would be a gigolo.

#30 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2009, 10:02 PM:

Well, so much for those who think that "Romance Writers" don't consider themselves professionals, and that they (the writers) don't need to be treated as such.

Has there been a big ownership/management shuffle at Harlequin that would prompt this?

What did Harlequin *think* would be the reaction from the authors (and the readers) when they decided to play bat-and-switch this way?

#31 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2009, 10:35 PM:

Buffy : vampire :: RWA : vanity presses.

Oh wait. Vanity presses are vampires.

#32 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2009, 10:42 PM:

Craig R., #30, my guess, and it's just a guess, is that they want to get part of the big "you don't actually have to have a good book to get published" market. They probably didn't realize RWA would react like this, or think they can talk RWA out of it.

#33 ::: Laramie Sasseville ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2009, 11:17 PM:

As a member of RWA I've been reading a lot about this issue on the chapter mailing lists.

#7 "I can't imagine slapping their brand on a bunch of vanity-press crap"

From what I gather, Harlequin is not planning to put their name on books published through Harlequin Horizons, nor on books published through Carina, their new e-publishing enterprise. From the blogging on the Carina site it sounds like these are intended as separate enterprises and they hope to have them treated separately from their other lines such as Harlequin Presents and Harlequin Nocturne.

In a message Harlequin sent to our Chapter link they wrote:
"In the last few days we've heard concerns from many of you about two new initiatives, Carina Press and Harlequin Horizons. We would like you, our authors, to have the correct information about these programs, and help you understand that these programs are in no way intended to compromise the integrity of Harlequin brand or the quality editorial we publish under that brand."

I suspect that things may shake out differently than they stand now.

#34 ::: Janni ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2009, 11:28 PM:

#12/sisuile: My question is, what about books under the Luna imprint? If a gem is to be found there, are they still eligible for SFWA awards?

My understanding is that, while SFWA requires one be with a professional publisher to become a member, books don't have to be published with professional publishers to qualify for the Nebula Awards -- in theory, even actual self-published work is in fact eligible, if it meets the other requirements and the members vote it so. So Luna books would still be eligible for the nebs, as would any other Harlequin book, self-published or not, with SF/fantasy elements.

#35 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2009, 11:34 PM:

Whenever I hear of the Luna line, I think 'blood bath'.

#36 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2009, 11:35 PM:

My understanding is that Harlequin is planning to put a solicitation for Harlequin Horizons in their standard rejection letters.

"This is your invitation to indulge in your passion for writing and start your next chapter as a published author with Harlequin Horizons."

Far more on this at Dear Author.

#37 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2009, 11:40 PM:

Laramie, 33: If they're not going to put "Harlequin" on their vanity-press books, why are they calling it "Harlequin Horizons"? I don't think they're being truthful.

#38 ::: Daniel Martin ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2009, 11:41 PM:

I'm boggled by this statement: "these programs are in no way intended to compromise the integrity of Harlequin brand"

I mean, they went and made a vanity press, and slapped the name "Harlequin" on it, ostensibly so that people would associate that particular vanity press with the Harlequin name. The clear and obvious intention is to adjust the prestige of the vanity press outfit by use of the Harlequin name. Did they think this reputation adjusting process works only in one direction?

#39 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2009, 11:51 PM:

Harlequin authors, you have my sympathy. I hope your future looks better than the present does.

#40 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 12:18 AM:

Daniel @ # 38 - Of course they didn't *intend* to dilute the brand. That would be malfeasance. It's just that they're so brain dead they didn't realize it would have to do so by its very nature. That's just lack of due diligence. I'm not sure what Canadian law is, but if I were a Harlequin author with a few bucks, I'd buy a few shares of Torstar right about now, and then lodge a complaint.

#41 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 01:01 AM:

Josh Jasper @ #40, "That's just lack of due diligence"

Beyond that, it's a lack of empathy. Does Harlequin have no one on staff who said "Wait a minute. What about our already-existent authors? Won't they rightfully feel a little devalued if we do this?"

Apologies to any HQ mid-level staffer who did say that and got overruled by a profit-hungry marketing "genius."

#42 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 01:02 AM:

Repent Harlequin Said the Ticked Off Band

#44 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 02:08 AM:

What does this say about the viability of Harlequin's traditional publishing? They'd trash their business model in favour of vanity publishing? Could vanity publishing really be that much more potentially profitable than Harlequin's romance publishing? I wonder just how badly they are doing to try something this desperate.

#45 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 02:35 AM:

Greg Ioannou @ #44, from Torstar's annual report for 2008:

Our top performer in the year was Harlequin, which delivered 11% growth in reported earnings (15% excluding foreign exchange).
This was the second year of growth in a row for Harlequin, reflecting the success of Harlequin’s strategy and execution. It is a terrific business and we remain optimistic about its prospects
despite the difficult global economy.
Even including Harlequin, they lost $180M in 2008 after making 101M in 2007. That's a loss of $2.29 per share (I'm pretty sure the dollars are Canadian). They reduced the annual
dividend from 74 cents to 37 cents per share.

Harlequin's revenue was $472.9 million in 2008, up $10.2 million from $462.7 million in 2007. Net was $72,411,000 up from $65,473,000 in 2007.

It looks like Harlequin is the only bright spot in the Torstar firmament (sorry; I couldn't resist), which makes this decision even more odd. The time to take risks with your best unit is not when it's the only one doing well, it's when all the others can pull their weight while you muck around with the cash cow.

#46 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 02:47 AM:

Hmm, is Harlequin/Torstar deciding to copy the RIAA/MPAA methods of doing business involving treatment of Talent?

#47 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 03:09 AM:

As Linkmeister pointed out, Harlequin's doing fine financially. It's the parent company with the problems, and I suspect it was someone in the parent company who dreamed up this bright idea (or at least thought it sounded mighty fine when AutherHouse pitched it to them).

Watching one of the Harlequin people trying to spin this in the Smart Bitches thread was squirm-inducing. She has to know what this looks like, and she has to know what it does to the credibility of the other new venture, which happens to be her baby. I doubt I'm the only epub author who seriously thought about submitting to Carina in spite of the poor terms (by epub standards), and has now put them on my "do not touch with bargepole" list.

#48 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 04:26 AM:

#45 Linkmeister It looks like Harlequin is the only bright spot in the Torstar firmament (sorry; I couldn't resist), which makes this decision even more odd.

Perhaps they decided that it would be a good idea to get all the gold out of the goose at once?

Seriously, I think that the conversation at headquarters went, "Someone is going to make money off these rejected manuscripts. Why shouldn't it be us?"

#49 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 04:51 AM:

Sometimes the wind of change comes swiftly and unexpectedly, leaving an unsettled feeling.

You can sort of tell that's from a press release issued by an association of professional romance writers.

#50 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 06:36 AM:

Comment #42 wins the thread.

#51 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 07:36 AM:

ajay @ 49... Ahem.

#52 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 07:40 AM:

Paula Lieberman @ 42... My metaphorical hat off to you.

#53 ::: Paul the ex-poet ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 07:51 AM:

All I can say is that a SF/F writer, I hope RWA stands it's ground, because if they don't, we're next.

#54 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 07:56 AM:

ajay @49:

"Greetings, gentlebeings..." Glass genres, stones.

Longer me: I think that repeating stereotypes about romance writing in this thread is fairly obnoxious. In particular, considering that the RWA continues to show the kind of professionalism and genuine author advocacy that we'd love to see from SFWA, we're not really in a position to sneer at the (frankly, fairly tame) phrasing of a press release.

#55 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 08:24 AM:

abi @54:

> I think that repeating stereotypes about romance writing in this thread is fairly obnoxious.

I thought it was a gentle enough prod, and not mean spirited.

And as someone who's read mainly SF for my whole life, I took this (http://www.shrovetuesdayobserved.com/flight.html) in good part.

And to get on topic, yay RWA! It's upsetting reading some of the more credulous or defensive comments over at Smart Bitches - makes me think of my ghastly experience reading the Publish America forums and seeing people who had to protect their emotional investment in the trap they'd fallen into.

#56 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 08:37 AM:

The idea that the parent company was the driver on this makes sense. I suspect somebody up in the bozosphere there went from "why shouldn't we get some of the profits from the vanity market" to "... and we'll get synergy by linking it to our established brand!" But not being actually involved in the romance-publishing business (aside from owning it), they failed to realize that it does matter how you handle these things, and that there was a damn good reason why Random House hadn't tried to exploit that "synergy" with Xlibris.

So instead, they (1) get dysergy instead of synergy, (2) shack up with an outfit that's well known as sleazeballs... and (3) may well kill their original brand altogether.

If they'd started off with a proper "Chinese wall" like Random House, they wouldn't be in this fix (but would Author Solutions have accepted that?). Now, I suspect they'll need to dump the whole deal ASAP if they want to salvage anything at all.

#57 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 08:42 AM:

Steve Taylor @ 55... I thought it was a gentle enough prod, and not mean spirited

Run that one past a romance writer, and watch. One won't need to be Doc Carl Lightman to notice the signs of irritation. That being said, if Raymond Chandler were still around, and if a mystery publisher tried to pull a stunt like, I wonder what his press release would say.

"Their mouths were filled with broken promises."

#58 ::: 2nd Harlequin Author ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 09:12 AM:

LOL I took it as gentle and kind of funny. I hate to break it to you, but that statement is utterly accurate. The winds of change ARE blowing, and it IS unsettling.

I for one thought it a fantastic statement - and remember, that address was sent to RWA members who immediately felt the impact and meaning behind it.

Serge - I'm still lol about "Their mouths were filled with broken promises." Damn, I love writers.

#59 ::: Laramie Sasseville ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 09:13 AM:

#37 Texanne,

I'm just quoting their press release to the chapters. I probably should have included the whole thing. They also write,

"> Our editors remain committed to developing new talent through our regular submission procedures and dedicated to ensuring our published authors remain the global gold standard for romance writing. We also want our current authors to know that the books self-published through Harlequin Horizons will NOT be branded Harlequin, nor will they be distributed by Harlequin or appear in stores next to your books."

I think they are trying to have it both ways: to use the Harlequin name to attract writers for self-publishing and e-publishing, but not actually put their brand on the finished products, and
at the same time trying to distance their traditional lines from the new enterprises.

#60 ::: one harlequin author ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 09:43 AM:

In honor of the brand, I think I shall call this fiasco "The Billionaire Beancounter's Bargain of Shame."

#61 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 09:48 AM:

2nd Harlequi author @ 58... I know, I get a bit sensitive. Kind of like SF writers used to, whenever the genre was referred to as 'Scifi'.

As for the 'broken promises', I paraphrased the tag line for a noir movie about a deadly dame. But the following are from the movie version of Murder, My Sweet and presumably were lifted straight from Chandler.

"I caught the blackjack right behind my ear. A black pool opened up at my feet. I dived in. It had no bottom. I felt pretty good - like an amputated leg."

"Now this is beginning to make sense, in a screwy sort of a way. I get dragged in and get money shoved at me. I get pushed out and get money shoved at me. Everybody pushes me in, everybody pushes me out. Nobody wants me to DO anything. Okay, put a check in the mail. I cost a lot not to do anything. I get restless. Throw in a trip to Mexico."

#62 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 09:48 AM:

54: Apologies if that came over as insulting - I certainly didn't intend it to be so, nor to imply that romance writers are any worse than any other sort of writer. It's just that that sentence - in an otherwise fairly standard notice - rather caught my eye as being slightly more romance-y than you normally get in an official statement.

Serge: like it. Please start writing irate press releases from the Hard-Boiled Cop Thriller Writers' Association, and go on until we tell you to stop.

#63 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 09:58 AM:

ajay @ 62... Or I could steal Jerry Orbach's wisecracks from Law & Order.

#64 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 10:07 AM:

Steve Taylor #55: OK, that "flight of fancy" was cute... and a good warning for writers!

#65 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 10:13 AM:

ASI, the Bernie Madoff or (name of the Worldcom scam executives...) of the publishing industry....

Given ASI's penchant for buying/adulterating once semi-honorable publishers with usurious pay-to-publish same, is there a viable case for anti-trust action? What percentage of the "major" vanity press packaging market does ASI now have? And given that ASI has been convicted of large-scale fraud etc.... Is there a case for egregious continued fraud, in the takeover of XLibris, in the deals it is making with "traditional publishers," and is there a basis for pursuit of additional criminal sanction, and liquidiation of ASI and its smarmy deceit-laden tentacles?

Roger Elwood merely killed off the SF/F anthology market for half a generation....

#66 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 10:34 AM:

Tangential comment: I just got a link to a short article by NY Times bestselling author Lynn Viehl, in which she discusses her actual revenue stream from one bestseller. It doesn't come to much.

However, you can bet that stream is still bigger than it would be for vanity press books. Most booksellers won't accept vanity press books* because of the inability to make returns.

*The one major exception is books on local history. FWIW.

#67 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 10:51 AM:

I have a book I've written
Pre-published author me.
I have a book I've written,
Now published I shall be!
I'll send it out to Author House,
XLibris, better still,
To Harlequin Horizons now,
And pay for it I will.

I have a dream of authorship
And Harlequin provides,
The service that will publish me
And get me many prides,
And for the privilege that they grant
Of publishing for me,
I will happ'ly write them checks
And I will pay each fee,

Pay the fee, pay the fee, pay the fee!

Now editing they say I need
And that service I'll buy,
And how about a video
To catch the reader's eye,
Each vaunted service has a price,
And I will pay each fee,
For Harlequin's the biggest name
In romance circles see--

Pay the fee, pay the fee, pay the fee!

Now I know lots of writers,
And editors a few,
And when they yell out "Read Yog's Law!"
That's not what I will do,
I really want to see my book
In print and in my hands,
As Harlequin will publish it,
The biggest of the brands!

Pay a fee, pay a fee, pay a fee!

Alas the world is not a place
Where ev'rything is fine.
And Author House is full of scams
And schemes that cross the line.
And Author House and Harlequin
A rancid deal have wrought,
That scam aspiring authors
And get big gains ill-got.

Don't pay the fee, don't pay the fee, don't pay the fee--
And to an honest agency get thee.

#68 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 12:09 PM:

This kind of makes me want to re-up with RWA despite the fact that I let my membership lapse because I'm not writing romance at the moment. Very nicely done!

#69 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 12:23 PM:

I suddenly remembered that Roger Elwood and Harlequin did business with one another. I'm trying to remember the imprint--Laser Books. The books all had Kelly Freas covers with a face in a bottom corner. The SF readership of the time didn't find the imprint worthwhile and Harlequin discontinued the imprint. There were even lampoons, I have a "Zapgun Books" "cover" signed by "O'Shaunessy Slush" drawn by (artist)in colored markers in a Boskone musical play done long ago, the artist in the play being chosen for how fast he could provide covers to Zapgun books....

Laser Books was basically a packaged product operation--Elwood acted as a packager and Harlequin distributed the resulting books out to retailers. Elwood also packaged science fiction anthologies, pumping out dozens per year and killing the market with the flood of low quality stories that most of the anthologies were filled with.

Author Solutions makes the Elwood era look appealing....

#70 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 12:25 PM:

*surveys the bloodstrewn scene* "Looks like the romance in this relationship . . . is dead."

YEEEEEEAAAAAAHHHHHH!

#71 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 12:31 PM:

69: I think I have a couple of Tim Powers books that were originally published by Harlequin.

#72 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 12:32 PM:

70: or the Lovecraft version:

"Dear God! Even as I write he is inviting me out for dinner!"

#73 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 12:56 PM:

#71 ajay
They apparently were butchered by the "editing" applied in the Laser Books editions, and the later publication of them, were edited quite differently....

Meanwhile--

First Prize (multiple awarded) in the "manuscript sent to Harlequin for publication consideration sweepstakes--contract offer from Harlequin for "traditional" publication with book going out to the usual racks of Harlequin books.

Booby Prize (all others, except perhaps if there are cases of "we'd like to see something else from you," or "the book has the following issues"-sort of implication "if you rewrite this according to the comments we made, you might get a contract offer for "traditional" publication) -- referral to Author Solutions Harlequin Horizons and wheedling to pay highly inflated rapacious service fees for poor quality vanity press "publication" and affiliated "services" allegedly providing promotional support.

#74 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 12:56 PM:

That letter is the dummy-slap heard 'round the web.

#75 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 12:56 PM:

ajay @ 71... I think the original version of Powers's "Dinner at Deviant Palace" was published by Laser Books.

#76 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 01:38 PM:

One big problem (among many big problems) with the current Vanity Publish offer is this: How many folks who submit to Harlequin but are rejected (for any of a number of reasons of which "stinks on ice" is only one possibility) would go on to pay a couple of grand to get 75 sales with a manuscript that could have been happily published by Pocket, put an advance in the author's bank account, garner a few thousand sales, and start a career?

When a newbie author sees the line, "This is your invitation to indulge in your passion for writing and start your next chapter as a published author with Harlequin Horizons," you know that what they're going to see is "a published author with Harlequin."

#77 ::: ppint. ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 02:03 PM:

julia @ #47, david harmon @ #56, et al:

in doing this, harlequin/torstar do, at least, retain syzygy...

#78 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 03:00 PM:

Truthfully, I had no problem with the announcement of Carina.

I had a conversation with Mary-Theresa Hussey (I believe she is still the lead on the Luna line still) a couple of years ago. I asked her about the ending of a couple of lines, and starting new lines, reshuffling of etc, in Harlequin/Silhouette. She explained to me that they do try to keep abreast in changes in the market place. If something isn't working, they change the line or end the line depending on the market. (Thus the ending of Bombshell, Intimate Moments being revamped as Romantic Suspense...)

So starting up Carina didn't surprise. I believe that with e-presses, there is a little more room for things that might not solidly fit the mold. I think that more risks might be able to be taken with e-pub than traditional. And they can take a chance on books that wouldn't traditional fit into any of their other lines. I'm fine with that.

But... with Horizons. Oh, Lord. It made me cringe. Harlequin is already made sport of. Harlequin is the stereotype I often hear when in regard to romance novels - from non-romance readers. This was just going to tear down the reputation of Harlequin - and I can even imagine of the repercussions of the romance marketplace.

I don't like it. I really don't like it.

While I have never planned to submit to Harlequin - I don't know if I want to consider it now, even if I got an agent tomorrow and told me a sale to them was a sure thing.

And I think that RWA's move is the best thing that they have done for a while. This makes me almost forget the entire e-pub debacle.

#79 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 03:17 PM:

The Tim Powers books published by Laser were The Skies Discrowned and Epitaph in Rust. Laser also published books by Pournelle, Anthony, a pseudonymous Dean R. Koontz, John Morressy and others who were Real Writers. And they failed in large part (according to scuttlebutt) because Harlequin couldn't count on selling the same number of copies of each book -- those pesky sci-fi types insisted on buying different amounts of books written by different authors.

Harlequin did actually publish some SF under its own imprint in the early days: three Golden Amazon novels by John Russell Fearn and an A. E. van Vogt book.

#80 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 04:06 PM:

Tom Whitmore @ 79... I stand corrected. I still have a few of those Laser Books around, including Pournelle's. Am I being delusional that one of those books was by Gordon Eklund?
("Serge, you delusional? What a shocking idea!")
I heard that.

#81 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 04:16 PM:

There's definitely room in epub for books that don't fit the standard romance formula. There's room for glbt romance, there's room for polyamory romance, there's room for inter-racial romance, there's room for femdom romance, there's room for romance that isn't the standard length. And books from the top tier epubs sell perfectly well by small press standards -- my best at $4k royalties is hardly mmp money, but it's still a lot better than I would have ever seen if I'd gone vanity-published. I know epubbed authors who do significantly better than that.

Which is the point that Harlequin's apologists elsewhere are missing. I paid *nothing* save the cost of the postage to return the contract for that book that earned me $4k, or for any of my other books. Carina potentially makes sound financial sense for both Harlequin and for the authors who prefer to write in sub-genres better suited to epub. Horizon only makes sound financial sense for Harlequin.

#82 ::: PixelFish ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 04:42 PM:

I don't really see a problem with Carina. I see big issyoos with Horizon. BIG.

Scenario 1 : REAL Self Publishing. Author pays for everything, author gets all the profits.

Scenario 2: Horizon: Author pays for everything. Printer demands half.

It's kinda like Kinko's suddenly demanded money for printing up my zine. (Okay, that's a little extreme, but what is Harlequin bringing to this?)

Jackie Kessler breaks it down here: http://www.jackiekessler.com/blog/2009/11/19/harlequin-horizons-versus-rwa/

#83 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 05:13 PM:

Genres in, genres out... As Scalzi pointed out so pungently, SF has won, culturally; did the SFWA, uh, tone of voice make more sense when the geeks had no pull at all?

Romance is still more ghettoized (IME, etc etc), and perhaps the RWA are such grownups because they have such clear pressure from outside.

#84 ::: Laramie Sasseville ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 06:13 PM:

Carina Press sounds like a much more reasonable proposition for writers - they are open to all genres and sub-genres. (F/SF, mystery, choose your own adventure, et alia). They only offer a 30% royalty rate, which is lower than some if not most other e-publishers, but their blog indicates that they'll offer more in the way of promotional help. (Not sure I trust that). Of course, after the Horizons debacle, with their RWA standing gone, that may not be worthwhile.

(Ordinarily PAN eligibility for RWA authors is based on both sales and the credibility of the publisher.)

#85 ::: becca ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 06:26 PM:

according to http://www.jackiekessler.com/blog/2009/11/19/harlequin-horizons-versus-rwa/, the Mystery Writers of America have just chimed in with the RWA and declared that Harlequin authors aren't eligible for the Edgar award anymore, too.

#86 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 07:13 PM:

Serge @57 writes:

"Their mouths were filled with broken promises."

Serge++

#87 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 07:19 PM:

Tom Whitmore @79 writes:

> Harlequin did actually publish some SF under its own imprint in the early days... an A. E. van Vogt book.

Careful! When you mention Harlequin and A.E. Van Vogt in the same sentence, my head explodes from cognitive dissonance.

Now I have to go and look for all the pieces.

#88 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 07:37 PM:

Steve Taylor @ 86... Alas, I can't take credit for that one. Its inspiration came from a calendar featuring noir films. In the same spirit, I offer you this description of Cyd Charisse's character of a deadly dame in the Mickey Spillane spoof (with Fred Astaire as Mickey) within the movie The Band Wagon...

"She came at me in sections... more curves than a scenic railway."

#89 ::: Dave Robinson ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 07:42 PM:

Serge @#80 No I don't think you are delusional at all. Gordon Eklund wrote a couple of Laser books. I remember buying several and enjoying them at the time.

Of course, they say "the golden age of science fiction is thirteen" - and Laser Books' brief window of publication nicely bracketed that age as I was 13 in 1976 and they ran from 75 to 77.

#90 ::: JD Rhoades ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 07:51 PM:

becca #85: MWA hasn't dropped the hammer...yet:

On November 9, Mystery Writers of America sent a letter to Harlequin about the "eHarlequin Manuscript Critique Service," notifying Harlequin that it is in violation of our rules and suggesting steps that Harlequin could take to remain on our Approved Publishers list. The steps outlined at that time included removing mention of this for-pay service entirely from its manuscript submission guidelines, clearly identifying any mention of this program as paid advertisement, and, adding prominent disclaimers that this venture was totally unaffiliated with the editorial side of Harlequin, and that paying for this service is not a factor in the consideration of manuscripts. Since that letter went out, Harlequin has launched "Harlequin Horizons," a self-publishing program. MWA's November 9 letter asks that Harlequin respond to our concerns and recommendations by December 15. We look forward to receiving their response and working with them to protect the interests of aspiring writers. If MWA and Harlequin are unable to reach an agreement, MWA will take appropriate action which may include removing Harlequin from the list of MWA approved publishers, declining future membership applications from authors published by Harlequin and declaring that books published by Harlequin will not be eligible for the Edgar Awards.

And I am informed by She Who Runs Stuff at MWA that, if the hammer comes down, it will come down on Harlequin's thriller imprint MIRA as well.

#91 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 08:06 PM:

Dave Robinson @ 89... they say "the golden age of science fiction is thirteen"

While I officially was one decade past the Golden Age during Laser's days, I too liked the books well enough back then. Mind you, there wasn't that much choice for anglophone SF in a francophone city so what the heck did I know?

#92 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 08:14 PM:

The next question seems to be whether or not Harlequin will actually pay attention, or just keep digging....

#93 ::: JD Rhoades ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 08:47 PM:

David #92: Well the question is, are they really digging? I know a few folks who've written for Harlequin, and they all say that this is is one publisher who knows how to do one thing better than almost anyone in the publishing business: make money.

Is this a major miscalculation on Harlequin's part, or have they actually made the calculation that they can say "screw RWA, screw MWA, we're going to make more money this way than not doing it this way"?

#94 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 08:56 PM:

#81 Julia

Polyamory? GLBT? Look at e.g. Fairyville, or Demon's Fire, both by Emma Holly and published by Berkeley, or almost anything by Kate Douglas (Aphrodisia), in Barnes & Noble and/or Borders...

#95 ::: Rob T. ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 09:08 PM:

About the MWA's notice--I find the Mira angle interesting because they publish the paperback editions of Kate Wilhelm's "Barbara Holloway" legal mysteries. Now none of these have been nominated for Edgars, but it occurs to me that if SFWA should follow RWA's and MWA's lead here...well, it boggles the mind to think of a work by Kate Wilhelm being ineligible for the Nebula (even if it's not sf as such).

#96 ::: Rob T. ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 09:26 PM:

Steve Taylor @ 87: Did you know Van Vogt broke into professional writing with confession stories? No, really. Nearly 50 years later, he expounded on the principles of confession writing for Charles Platt for his book Dream Makers--"These stories have to have emotion in every sentence. You don't say, 'I lived at 323 Grand Street.' You say something like, 'Tears came to my eyes as I thought of my little room at 323 Grand Street.'"

#97 ::: mcz ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 09:31 PM:

According to agent Kristin Nelson's blog, Harlequin has just announced that it will be removing the "Harlequin" branding from the new scampublishing arm. Not exactly a 180° turn, but it's better than nothing.

#98 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 09:50 PM:

Rob T. @96 writes:

> Steve Taylor @ 87: Did you know Van Vogt broke into professional writing with confession stories?

No - very cool! I wonder if they all had 800 word scenes and insanely complicated plots?

#99 ::: Laramie Sasseville ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 10:08 PM:

This just in, via Pub Rants, a quick back-peddling from Donna Hayes at Harlequin Enterprises"

"Most importantly, however, we have heard the concerns that you, our authors, have expressed regarding the potential confusion between this venture and our traditional business. As such, we are changing the name of the self-publishing company from Harlequin Horizons to a designation that will not refer to Harlequin in any way. We will initiate this process immediately. We hope this allays the fears many of you have communicated to us.

We are committed to connecting with our authors and aspiring authors in a significant way and encourage you to continue to share your thoughts with us.

Sincerely

Donna Hayes
Publisher and Chief Executive Officer
Harlequin Enterprises Limited"

#100 ::: becca ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 10:11 PM:

now, if only they'll stop recommending the service in their rejection letters...

#101 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 10:11 PM:

Julia Jones @ 81: Who's publishing poly romance? That really caught my eye.

#102 ::: Rob T. ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 10:11 PM:

Don't know about the plots, but they surely had the 800-word scenes (which principle he picked up from a "how-to-write-fiction" book). Van Vogt on his first story, again from Dream Makers: "It's impossible for an unorganized person [to write 1,000-1,200 "emotional sentences"], but not for somebody who thinks by a system." (Platt on Van Vogt's methods--"...however eccentric he may sound, when he applies his ideas to his own mind, and when he applies his mind to writing fiction, the result works"--italics Platt's.)

#103 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 10:12 PM:

Julia Jones @ 81: Who's publishing poly romance? That really caught my eye.

#104 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 10:24 PM:

Most importantly, however, we have heard the concerns that you, our authors, have expressed regarding the potential confusion between this venture and our traditional business....

Oh, ugh. First they spawn a vanity publishing wing, then they start darn-near using Publish America's coined term-of-no-meaning ("traditional publishing"). This continues not to bode well.

#105 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 10:27 PM:

And now I have read the rest of the letter over at Pub Rants. The middle portion really sticks out for me. Not only is Harlequin surprised/disappointed that RWA didn't discuss this with them first, but...

It is disappointing that the RWA has not recognized that publishing models have and will continue to change. As a leading publisher of women's fiction in a rapidly changing environment, Harlequin's intention is to provide authors access to all publishing opportunities, traditional or otherwise.

LOTS of pub-scammer language packed into that little paragraph. Publishing models are changing! Vanity is just one more opportunity! And another use of "traditional publishing" to mean the regular commercial advance-and-royalty paying stuff. Ick.

In tomorrow's news (today!), Harlequin will offer their Horizon authors a token advance of $1 to show that they believe in their authors' books and will give them the chance they deserve.

#106 ::: JD Rhoades ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 11:02 PM:

AJ Luxton #103:

Who's publishing poly romance? That really caught my eye.

Check out Samhain.

#108 ::: Joyce Reynolds-Ward ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2009, 11:42 PM:

Just read the Anna the Piper's link to SFWA @ 107.

Sweet. So with RWA, MWA and SFWA weighing in....will further backpedaling ensue?

#109 ::: sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2009, 12:09 AM:

...and there they go. Who is left in the writing clubs to weigh in and say "y'all are nuts, we support following Yog's Law. Bye."? AAG?

Rob T @ 95 If you think it's odd for Kate Wilhelm to be ineligible for a Nebula, Mercedes Lackey has been writing a series in the Luna line for several years now. I don't think they've been nominated for Nebulas, but the concept that Mercedes Lackey has books that are ineligible? My mind does not grasp the concept well.

#110 ::: Maya Reynolds ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2009, 12:16 AM:

The thing I find most interesting is that the romance writers and the mystery writers took on Harlequin, but where were the Christian writers when Thomas Nelson (the world's largest Christian publisher) announced THEIR self-publishing division last month?

In my mind Nelson's initiative is even more egregious because they are going to pay a referral fee to agents who refer their self-publishing house (WestBow) to newbie authors.

Talk about a conflict of interest!

#111 ::: Rob T. ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2009, 12:32 AM:

I see what you mean, sisuile, but I cited Wilhelm in particular because she's one of the founding members of SFWA (and widow of the organization's first president, Damon Knight). I'd say the cognitive dissonance of her work being ineligible for SFWA's awards is a bit greater than with most other writers, no matter how popular with readers, respected by peers, etc.

#112 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2009, 12:49 AM:

The statement says "...Harlequin should be on notice that while the rules of our annual Nebula Award do not expressly prohibit self-published titles from winning, it is highly unlikely that our membership would ever nominate or vote for a work that was published in this manner." So that doesn't sound like it's barring things published through Harlequin's actual lines, at least not yet.

#113 ::: James Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2009, 01:06 AM:

#112 ::: A.J. Luxton

That's right. SFWA's membership could vote a Nebula to a story spray-painted on a wall if they wanted to.

What SFWA has done is said that no Harlequin imprint is a qualifying sale for SFWA membership. Kate Wilhelm couldn't join SFWA based on a sale to Harlequin right now.

As to awards, I suspect that it's true that a vanity-published novel wouldn't win one: not enough people would read it.

#114 ::: Eirin ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2009, 01:16 AM:

Harlequin books will still be eligible for the Nebula, provided SFWA members vote them in.
I vaguely remember a truly horrible self- or vanity-published book that actually made it to the long ballot. I can't recall the title, but Macdonald reviewed it once upon a time.

#115 ::: James Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2009, 01:23 AM:

I can't recall the title, but Macdonald reviewed it once upon a time.

The Pleistocene Redemption.

#116 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2009, 02:05 AM:

Via http://www.jackiekessler.com/blog/2009/11/19/harlequin-horizons-versus-rwa/

Excerpt from Harlequin promotional material:

The two new platforms that have been announced in the last week provide exposure to a growing stream of self-published new talent and give both Harlequin and romance readers the opportunity to evaluate new voices in the genre. Historically Harlequin, and other publishers, acted as a gateway for aspiring authors. Carina Press and Harlequin Horizons are 21st century vehicles for expanding these types of selection pools.

A) Hmm, "two new platforms" -- I smell Sales and Marketing Weasels! Since when is a publishing imprint/mechanism "a platform" ??!!

B) "exposure to a growing stream of self-published new talent...."

1) I am quite capable of doing searches, following links, ASKING people for recommendations, getting recommendations from friends and acquaintances (got one in email Wed. AM, in fact....), and browsing bookstores, looking in Locus, etc., for new writers.

2) Horizons is NOT self-publishing. Self-publishing is my friend who did an X-rated comic ZoneSix, and did the production and sales of it all by herself, without the likes of Author DISSolutions more than 100% overhead upfront money vacuuming. Horizons is, as has been said here again and again and again, a vanity press. Self-publishing is the Foglios producing Girl Genius page after page three days a week week after week year after year on-line, and publishing and republishing print editions of volumes of the series. Self-publishing is the newsletters than people put out, some as promotional efforts for books, even, others as promotional for getting contract work in the areas the person writes the newletter in.. Self-publishing is not handing over large sums of money to in effect a broker who for multiple times the cost of the actual service, will contract publication-related services out to third parties or poorly paid employees, with a void as regards quality control, to do actual production of books and provide information allowing ordering of the book by whomever happens to get apprised of the existence of the book and gets persuaded to buy the book--generally this consists of the author and the author's immediate coercible or obliging circle of friends and family...

3) The "exposure" doesn't to me bid to be particularly highly visible--given that publishers often don't do much in the way of books that they actually spent their own revenue stream on (including borrowing to pay for.... economic reality is that the world of commerce involved borrowing money, and paying it back from the proceeds of sales of the product the money was borrowed to produce.... tax laws reward borrowing for production, and renting, because those are expenses, as opposed to getting taxed on owned properties...leasing has a lot of business benefits, and borrowing money, also does.... it might seem counterintuitive, but....), why should a broker who's got -nothing- of their own money on the line, spend anything of its own money and effort, on promotion? The author paying the broker for "product placement" and mention, would be a lot better off at least in terms of cash flow, doing their own marketing--it's not as if authors published by paying markets... which Horizons and Author DISSolutions aren't--don't do or don't have to do promotion of their work....

C) give both Harlequin and romance readers the opportunity to evaluate new voices in the genre.

1) In the words of Yog, "You, too, can be a[n unpaid] slush reader!"
I am NOT interested in being an unpaid Harlequin slush reader. The samples I see of certain e-published authors, which got edited presumably by the publishers, are I expect rather more literate than the bulk of the Horizons slush are likely to be...but fail to meet my criteria for bothering with. Undigested slush perpetrated by Horizon as "published" I expect to be far worse.

2) I expect that "Harlequin"'s "evaluation" will consist of monitoring the sales figures, and cherrying picking the results. On the basis of that, Travis Tea I would expect could get offered a for pay contract..... (And for that matter, there are people who genuinely like and enjoy and are ecstatic about writing which to me is subliterate, and makes Eye of Argon look devoid of adverbs and adjectives. I use the term "lush" to refer to such writing when it's got the main focus as romance. "Gag-inducing" might be more accurately descriptive, but in the interests of limiting just how incensed I can get other people advertently as opposed to inadvertently....

D) "Historically Harlequin, and other publishers, acted as a gateway for aspiring authors"

Where do I start on this one? The business of a publisher is to publish --make work available to the public. Commercial publishers do it for profit (assuming they're competent, and/or not money-laundering or tax-writeoff operations....) Non-commercial publishers have other reasons, and may or may not be interested in a profit... The Washington Times is not publishing with the intention I expect of turning a profit, it's got ulterior motives as a branch of the Unification Church, and I have seen allegations that it is very heavily subsidized. (disclaimer, personal opinion ahead, not the Official Opinion of NESFA....) NESFA Press is a non-profit operation, which tends to publish books on the basis of merit of either "this should be in print but it's not available from commercial publishers and the majority of NESFA voting members agree that NESFA should (re)publish it," or, "This volume is being published as part of NESFA's honoring of the annual Boskone Guest of Honor, and consists of work by the GoH chosen for inclusion in the book, which also shows some of why the GoH was chosen as meriting being GoH."

1) Publishers act as gateways "for aspiring authors" only insofar as the publisher expect to get a benefit from publishing the work of the aspiring author--any of such things as:
a) The publisher expects that the author's work will earn a profit for the publisher, at the publisher's expected level of profit desired for a new author.
b) The publisher or an editor at the publisher feels an obligation for some reason to publish the work, though it might not earn out--perhaps the work is something the editor/publisher feels is seminal and that while it won't directly provide large profit, the publisher will benefit from the book being an award nominee, or from the effect of the book sparking other writers in the publisher's stable to write books that will sell well, or there could be media tie-in opportunities, or....
c) The author has written something that fills a hole in the publisher's lineup of books or fits in with the publisher's direction of what mix of books etc. the publisher is publishing.

2) Commercial publishers are not going to publish authors who fail to impress slush reader and editor as to the commercial value of the book, including how much or little effort there will have to be to make the book commercially worth publishing. (That is, if the book needs substantial editing and hand-holding to turn it into something commercially viable, unless there is some extraordinarily attractive about the book, the author is probably highly unlikely to get a contract for it as-is....)

E) Harlequin with Horizons, of course, is sidestepping all those issues in D) above. Since there is no quality control involved on the intake, and the only criterion is "How much will the author pay for "publication"?", there is, again, no direct financial risk to Harlequin and Author DISSolutions (or perhaps, Author Disillusions? Author Illusions?). The indirect financial risk is that the readership will decide they are being scammed and exploited and cease and desist purchasing Harlequin product generally.... Horizons is not a "gateway" -- the term gateway tends to imply that there is a gate check function involved, such as at an airport, checking for ID and ticket and shoebombs before allowing prospective passengers to boarding areas of the airport, and a winnowing process, that not everyone is going to merit going through the gating.... Horizons is a promotional device for separating wannabees from their money, with a premium provided to the wannabee of production, at high cost to the wannabee, of some number of bound books, and provision of other services which the wannabee hands more money over to Horizons for--services available for lesser amounts of money for higher quality from more reputable, named persons and agencies, than whatever faceless persons Author DISSolutions is employing/contracting out the services to.... Horizons is playing vacuum cleaner, sucking up as much loose money as the wannabee has hanging around as discretionary funds to expend on "becoming published" and "promoting" the "published" work output from Horizons.

F) Carina Press and Harlequin Horizons are 21st century vehicles for expanding these types of selection pools This is near-absurdity. There is little bar to self-publishing and self-promotion, other than such things as attacks of embarrassment, lack of self-confidence, limits on chutzpah, limits on ability/willingness to perform all the steps involves, and limits on the willingness of others to provide advice/support/enthusiasm/assistance/information. Also, there is the consideration that if someone is successfully selling books and earning a livelihood from writing with advances and royalties from paying publishers, self-publishing recedes as regards having actual attraction.

1) The Horizons author who was aspiring to publication, or "pre-published" is going to go out there probably and be likely more pushy than the person with the first novel out from a pays-advances-publisher imprint--the author who got an advance, at least collected some income! The Horizons author gets nothing of revenue until and unless there are orders/sales that are "real" to people other than the author....

2) Someone pushing their Horizons-published book at me, I am not likely to treat more nicely than the fellow with the tables full of truly self-published books at the San Antonio Worldcon (He got a structural analysis of his prose done by me at him, after I responded to his "look at what all these people said about my book!" with 'It's called "Quote whores,"' and her persisted in trying to sell me his book--I opened it up to a random page, and started in on the literary deconstruction... he grabbed back the book after I'd ruthlessly dissected his sentence and paragraphs for structure and content, said, "It's not for everyone," and shut the book--and ceased trying to push his book at me.)

3) As for expanding these types of selection pools, that is yet more drivelous marketroid moronicity. It's perpetration of slush as product.... that's not expanding anything but the noise level.... it's a scam on wannabee writers, and a scam on readers, it's insulting and demeaning, utterly squalid, and the latest corollary of Gresham's Law.

4) The more I think about it, the more dastardly and despicable it looks.

#117 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2009, 02:11 AM:

Synchronicity! It was The Pleistocene Redemption that I gave obnoxious academic litcrit treatment to, to the author's face....

#118 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2009, 02:16 AM:

Hmm, I have a vaguely remembered image in my mind of a piece of Aubrey Beardsley art, involving two of three people--there is a servant powerpuffing someone else's ass.... Seems to me to apply to Horizons and the fraudulent claims of providing a "self-publishing" service....

#119 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2009, 02:18 AM:

Maya, #110: I suspect that Thomas Nelson is getting away with this because most of their writers have nowhere else to go. I also suspect that the lack of critical commentary about that venture is one of the reasons Harlequin thought they could get away with doing something similar.

#120 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2009, 03:00 AM:

Paula @94: Those sub-genres can be found at print romance houses now. One of the reasons you can find them there now in any quantity is that Ellora's Cave demonstrated that yes, there was a market for some of them. (No, I do not write for Ellora's Cave. I don't like their contract.) You still won't find them in the category lines, by and large. If you want category-style, you go to the epubs.

One of the things that comes out of author conversations is that what sells in epub is erotic romance in general, and what gets labelled "alternative sexualities" in particular. When the authors put the reader hats on, they see two clear reasons for that. One is that even in this day of Amazon, people are less embarrassed about buying ebooks -- it's not just about going up to the counter with it, it's being seen with it on the bus. The other is that they can't find it, or enough of it, in print.

One of the differences between single title and category romance is quantity. Individual category lines within Harlequin bring out one to four titles per week. Epubs do the same. Romance readers get through a *lot* of titles. If you read category and Harlequin isn't giving you a certain genre, epub is a good alternative. So long as you'll read ebooks, of course.

I always thought that Harlequin was likely to do something like Carina when ebook market penetration got to the level where a separate ebook imprint looked like a worthwhile investment for them. It's an obvious way to get into that market while not disturbing the more conservative end of their primary market.

What I didn't expect was Horizon...

#121 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2009, 03:11 AM:

Note well: I would always tell someone with a manuscript to take it to the mainstream publishers first. If it doesn't fit there, then consider the small press, which is what professionally run epublishers are, and tread carefully.

But I would also always choose legitimate small press or self-publishing over a vanity press, even a vanity press owned by a big, legitimate publishing house. Harlequin-branded Authorhouse is still AuthorHouse, with all it implies about selling "being published" to writers rather than books to readers. And if I really wanted to go vanity, because that was the easiest way to get Grandma's memoirs in print -- there are honest vanity presses that offer value for money. A Lulu ISBN, for example.

#122 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2009, 03:28 AM:

The ghost of Roger Elwood glides
To Harlequin alights.
The ghost of Roger Elwood haunting
These November nights.

The man who killed anthologies
Of science fiction tales,
And now he's come to kill romance,
I hope that spirits fails--

The publishers who dealt with him
Those many years ago,
They outsourced books as packaging,
Creating reader woes--

A tidal wave of books came though
Of quality most low,
It killed the readers' interests
And caused the writers woe--

The harvest from the outsourced books
Was readers who refused
To purchase more anthologies
Because they felt abused

The stories in the books they'd bought
They felt quite cheated by,
And so they would not purchase more
And thus the market died.

And authors who had earned their fees
From stories writ for pay,
Bereft of income from that source,
Their livings gone away.

But that was not the only market
Elwood got involved,
For Harlequin contracted him
And details they resolved.

A line of science fiction books
All uniformly cast
With Harlequin distributing
The line did not long last. .

The SF readers of the time
They wanted novelty
And not a packaged product shelved
So interchangeably

Each month another one set out
Upon the retail rack,
The readers did not buy the books
Most covers got sent back.

And so the giant publisher
It then shutdown the line
And ended the experiment,
Like throwing out bad wine.

And for a generation
It's gone past thirty years
The focus stayed upon romance
Despite abundant sneers.

But hark the change crept in in time
And vampires' Nocturne nights,
The publisher revamped its lines
With paranormal sights

And then it's taken more steps out
From its former ways,
And now the horror full has struck
To authors' appalled gaze--

The ghost of Roger Elwood roosts
This time in subsidy
"You rejected aspirant,"
"We have a deal for thee,

"We are not going to buy your book
"Nor give you any fee,
"But if you pay Horizons now
"Then published you shall be!"

"Horizons is a brand new arm,
"Of our company,
"We have a partner who will handle
"Ev'rything you see

"Just hand in lots of money and
"They'll print your book and say,
"That you will be a published author,
"Career well underway."

"And for some money extra,'
"We've other service which,
"Will help you to promote your book,
"And might help find a niche,

"And if it does quite well enough
"With all that you have spent,
"Then Harlequin might possibly
"Let you get in its tent.

"A contract possibility,
"For those who do the best
"A paying contract for a book,
"Unlike most of the rest

"For those of you we raise a hope,
"That you could be the one,
"Who having paid those many fees,
"Shall come into the sun."

The ghost of Roger Elwood glides
To Harlequin alights.
The publisher it sees revenue
And authors and readers spites.

#123 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2009, 04:16 AM:

#110 Julia

Polyamory and GLBT have been around in SF/F for a long time in the mainline publishers, going back decades, and including Heinleing (including Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, Time Enough for Love, All You Zombies), Sturgeon, "Leonard Daventry," Diane Duane (The Door into... series), Chip Delany, Elizabeth Lynn, Melissa Scott and Melissa Scott and Lisa Barnet, Sharon Green, L. Sprague de Camp (though Jorian doesn't keep all the wives he starts off in the series with), Fritz Leiber (A Specter Is Haunting Texas), Marion Zimmer Bradley, Esther Friesner ("Mustapha and his Twelve Wives"), Tanith Lee (Don't Bite the Sun; Drinking Sapphire Wine), Thomas Burnett Swan, and anyone writing accurate historical or mythological fiction about the likes of Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Hadrian, most Asian emperors and Pashas and Khans and Sultans and such, Jacob with his two wives and two concubines, Pharonic Egypt pre-Ptolemy I (but then there's the field day with the Ptolemaic inbreeding....)... anyway, explicit sex scenes including GLBT ones, were around in SF/F long before Ellora's Cave ever showed up.... (There was at least one explicit though brief interspecies sex scene in The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson, published back in 1954 or so. )

Ellora's Cave hit a resonant chord and proved there was a market for porn aimed at women explicit "lush" erotica aimed at women (though Anais Nin was writing a long time ago.... and while I have never understood the appeal of The Story of O by whoever wrote it, that too predates Ellora's Cave by decades and decades). Perhaps the equation is that Ellora's Cave demonstrated that the market was large enough for the triumph of commercial capitalism over social control fanatics taking public offense and action....

There remain issues with covers of various printed books that go beyond social acceptability for a lot of US citizens (double standards remain in effect, comparing gazonga covers on various Bane books, with large amounts of male skin showing, and entwined nude or nearly nude couples on "spicy" romance covers), but generally, the level of "spice" in especially trade paperback books from Berkeley Sensation, Avon Red, Brava, Aphrodisia, Berkeley Heat, Harlequin something or other, etc., would have gotten the books trivially "Banned in Boston" (or most of the rest of the USA) decades ago.... the reality is that finding romance novels without explicit scenes, other than in non-adult parts of bookstores and libraries, has gotten difficult--the reader looking for such, needs to do something like look for the terms "inspirational" or "sweet romance" in pursuit of explicit sex scene avoidance....

#124 ::: DaveKuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2009, 08:45 AM:

Everything about Horizons makes me suspect that Miranda successfully infiltrated Harlequin's management level.

#125 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2009, 09:27 AM:

DaveKuzminski @ 124... Carmen Miranda as an editor? It would be a sight to behold.

#126 ::: Laramie Sasseville ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2009, 09:50 AM:

#120 Julia,
What is there in Ellora's Cave contracts that you find objectionable? Do you know if it pertains to Cerridwen Press as their imprint?

Carina's website indicates that they are open to Poly love stories - along with everything else - and works of all lengths, including books that would be too long or short for most print publishers.

#127 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2009, 10:19 AM:

Believe it or not, Carmen Miranda's Ghost was not in my mind at all... I do tend to write in ballad form when doing verse or song. Tunes don't however show in ASCII.... often I have original tunes, not TTTO (To The Tune Of)--tunes get made up inside my head on a fairly frequent basis, with or without words, and verse with or without tune....

Ballad form is one of the more common forms that verse spontaneously comes into my mind in.

#128 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2009, 10:40 AM:

#120 Julia

Harlequin was behaving a -bit- like IBM--waiting for other, smaller companies to prove there was/is a market large enough for the thousand ton gorilla's while to be worth. Unlike IBM, however, Harlequin entered into a business arrangement with an corportate entity having a shyster reputation and unsavory history and antecedents.... if IBM entered into business deal with a computer company with a reputation and legal history congruent to Author Solutions', I suspect that its existing suppliers, partners, and customers would rapidly examine their options for cutting loose from IBM and realign their businesses to deal with other organizations instead--and there would be an exodus of people looking for new positions, retiring, and starting up their own new businesses, eager to distance themselves from shitstorm, likely lawsuits, and business drops.

#129 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2009, 10:47 AM:

#128, me

Make that, were IBM to enter into a major business deal partnership arrangement for a new division with.... Companies do business with the disreputable all the time, selling products to them so long as the check doesn't bounce and the FBI etc. doesn't come in investigating. Partnering with fraud convicts, however, tends to be bad for business (and for the partner... )..

Hmmm, -does- Author Solutions pays its bills on time or anything approaching on time?

#131 ::: Wyman Cooke ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2009, 12:07 PM:

John Scalzi reports that the SFWA and the MWA have joined the Romance Writers in condemning Harlequin. Harlequin now says that Horizon will not have the Harlequin name on their imprint.

Like that's going to make everything better.

#132 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2009, 12:16 PM:

Now RWA, MWA, and SFWA need to turn to Thomas Nelson and say, "Hey. You too."

#133 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2009, 12:20 PM:

Wyman, it was never going to be on the imprint. Now it's not going to be on the bait lure promotional materials for the vanity press.

#134 ::: Sean ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2009, 12:58 PM:

Paula: "Elwood also packaged science fiction anthologies, pumping out dozens per year and killing the market with the flood of low quality stories that most of the anthologies were filled with."

This was already easily discounted by Mike Ashley, in his HISTORY OF THE SCIENCE FICTION MAGAZINE, and then further on the mailing list, fictionmags, recently. (Pretty much the entire month of November is devoted to its discussion, on FM). Either way you might find it interesting, as the evidence points to different conclusions. :-)

#135 ::: sarah ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2009, 01:04 PM:

#126 Laramie, #120 Julia in regard to Ellora's Cave contracts

What I don't like:

Length of grant of publishing rights: Life of copyright

uhm... yeah...

#136 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2009, 01:10 PM:

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

I don't know if that was added after Harlequin's announcement that HH would not have the Harlequin name on it, but it certainly looks like that angle is being covered...

#137 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2009, 01:24 PM:

Well, this is depressing. Aside from all of the other excellent points made here, Harlequin has a reputation in Canadian publishing as being a great place to work, especially for women: progressive HR policies, flexibility for working parents, same-sex partner benefits before they were required to provide them, all that. This crap suggests that Torstar will be wrecking that as well, if they haven't already.

#138 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2009, 01:35 PM:

79: Also, the first books by K.W. Jeter were Laser Books.

#139 ::: Ken Brown ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2009, 01:36 PM:

#128 Paula Lieberman: "Unlike IBM, however, Harlequin entered into a business arrangement with an corportate entity having a shyster reputation and unsavory history and antecedents..."

Have you ever looked into the history of IBM? Thy *were* the ones with the "shyster reputation and unsavory history and antecedents"

#140 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2009, 02:48 PM:

Scraps @ 138... Welcome back.

As for Laser Books... Jetter too? I think old-time SF writer Raymond F Jones also had a book in there.

#141 ::: eyelessgame ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2009, 04:40 PM:

Just a thought. Is it possible that Harlequin's books look worse than they're letting on? Is this perhaps more a desperate move than a greedy one?

Granted that's unlikely; romance still dominates the paperback shelves and it's not as though Harlequin has any competition. But still, I wouldn't be betting on any for-profit media sitting pretty right now. These 'tubes are awfully disruptive to the market.

#142 ::: eyelessgame ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2009, 04:42 PM:

ewps - it might be easy to misunderstand context in the way I used the word 'books'. I am referring to their numbers, not their words.

#143 ::: eyelessgame ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2009, 04:44 PM:

I should read the thread before posting. Apologies.

#144 ::: James Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2009, 06:23 PM:

Jackie Kessler, Stacia Kane, and others will be discussing this affair on the Book Chatter podcast tonight, 2300 (11:00 pm) http://www.ustream.tv/channel/bookchatter

#145 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2009, 07:25 PM:

There were a lot of good people who sold books to Laser -- what makes Pournelle, Koontz and Piers Anthony notable is that they all went on to have real-world bestselling novels (Pournelle in collaboration with Niven, that is). Powers may yet end up in that category if Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides gets made and has the kind of following the earlier films in the franchise did.

My memory is confirmed by fantasticfiction.co.uk -- the van Vogt title was The House that Stood Still, and it was published in 1952.

#146 ::: edward oleander ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2009, 07:43 PM:

@ Paula (67) - Bravo! And for some reason i just couldn't help mentally adding, "...and Goldberry is waiting!" to the end... :-)

#147 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2009, 03:11 AM:

I think my favorite typo-comment so far is at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books:

Great way for them to make money in a down market. Nothing against self-publishing but I think they are deluding their brand.

#148 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2009, 04:11 AM:

The impression I get is that most "standard" romance is a short-life product. It's part of the modern equivalent of the pulps, and few writers get away from that.

(Now I'm waiting for a romance writer to start a new religion.)

From what I've heard, here and else-net, I also get the impression that publishers always have an internal tension between innovation and fear of risk. I recall one claim that standard contracts still contained clauses which had been rendered meaningless, possibly even unlawful, by the Copyright Act of 1976 (I think). Well, maybe you can blame that on lawyerly caution.

So something simple, like signing over the copyright for its entire life, might have started in the days of a 28-year life, in a market where is was worthless almost immediately. And it's stuck.

And some of the outrageous copyright grabs on the internet can be seen as attempts to deal with tech problems. How can an operation such as Facebook or Livejournal purge content from their backup system?

Besides, I know of electronic resellers (not books or videos, but still copyrighted sequences of bits) which advertise that customers can download replacement files, with no time limit.

So something such as the Ellora's Cave contract, I can see how it might come out of a system, even though the underlying assumptions are contradictory.

But Harlequin is not just guilty of sloppy thinking. This requires, somewhere in the chain of authority as well as in the planning, a degree of active immorality. This isn't "This sucks, but we can't risk changing it."


#149 ::: green_knight ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2009, 09:04 AM:

One Harlequin Author @60:

"The Billionaire Beancounter's Bargain of Shame."

I just wanted to admire that again.

It strikes me as if the 'selling services to authors' (aka vanity publishing) is nowhere near as potentially successful as the 'sell books to the public' model. The pool of potential clients is much smaller, the pool of potential clients who are willing and able to pay you a substantial fee even smaller. From looking at catalogues, I would say that the number of repeat customers is likely to be 5% or less, which means that you need to continue to market yourself at new customers - and if your service is expensive and does not live up to the promises you have been made (agents hate having bound copies dropped on their desks, nobody the author knows had $publisher calling, they only sold half of your 100 author copies, plus their friends and family want to be _given_ a book instead of paying for it) then, in short, your current clients aren't going to reccommend your services.

Compare to the pool of readers with an established reading habit, who tend to be more than willing to buy another book *and* to reccommend them to their friends. Sure, there's more risk in this... but it's also a long-term proposition.

The problem with the vanity model is that it cuts into the traditional revenue stream in so many ways. It might be a short-term profit (but then, setting it up also cost money, and ASI will want a substantial cut, so the money doesn't go to Harlequin.

From a business point of view, it really makes no sense at all. Which shows that even a company that's profitable with 60 years experience can get it completely, utterly, totally _wrong_.

#150 ::: Eirin ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2009, 09:18 AM:

It strikes me as if the 'selling services to authors' (aka vanity publishing) is nowhere near as potentially successful as the 'sell books to the public' model.

It's more reliable, though. Authors will unfailingly buy their own books for resale, when that proves to be the only way to get the stories in front of readers. Not as many as an even just halfway decent commercial sale, but that doesn't really matter since the author already paid up front. No risk.

Commercial publishing has all that risky business of initial investment, being able to spot a good seller, all the work of getting the trade to notice it...

Of course, in this case, it's obvious that HQ is trying to have their cake and eat it too.

#151 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2009, 09:55 AM:

On reading the three statements, I think the RWA's is the most effective. No judgments. No condemnation. Not even dismay. Just a statement of fact: Harlequin no longer meets the RWA's definition of "eligible publisher" and won't be treated as such.

That's the way to do it.

#152 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2009, 11:19 AM:

Paula @123: Yes, I know about the books you cite. I was reading most of them when I was in my teens. I didn't catch up with Swordspoint until about ten years ago, but I know when it was published. But finding the same material in books labelled as and using category romance tropes -- that was a different matter. And is a different, if overlapping, readership. (There is also the problem I mentioned of some story lengths not having many print romance markets, although there is a matching rant to be had on the subject of ebook pricing at novelette length.)

Paula @128: That's a very good analogy.

Laramie @126: What I don't like about the Ellora's Cave contract is that they want to have their cake and eat it. The digital publishing model that's grown up is that publishers invest less money up front, but pay out faster on higher royalty rates, and take short term rights rather than long term rights. If my publisher has a collective fit of insanity, I wait a maximum of three years before I can take *all* my toys away and find somewhere more congenial. But the versions of the EC contract which I've seen take life-of-copyright, with either no reversion clause, or a reversion clause that in practice amounts to "as long as we keep it listed in the catalogue and sell a dozen copies a year you can't make us give it back to you". There is an option clause from hell which means they basically get to take your next book, on exactly the same terms, and so on ad infinitum. I know of people who've been caught by that, and have a new pseudonym as a result. Add in a serious rights grab, and a lot of other stuff at the niggle level. Reports are that if you have an agent, you can get this negotiated to a more reasonable contract, but that if you don't have an agent you're out of luck.

Of course, in my opinion it's still a far better option than Horizon. Not least because people other than the owners make money at EC.

#153 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2009, 01:20 PM:

We've noticed, with the vanity press, that the authors are ecstatically happy with all of them from the moment they get their "acceptance" up to the moment the first royalty check arrives. During that honeymoon period they are running around recommending the service to anyone who will listen and will refuse to hear a word against it.

Clearly, anyone who warns them that this is a bad idea must just be jealous of their success.

#154 ::: Linda Faulkner ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2009, 02:22 PM:

Bottom line: 3 big things.

#1 - Writing is writing, publishing is business. In business, when I meet with a client, she pays me--I don't pay her for the pleasure of spending my time, effort, and expertise. I understand the term "professional" means paid--as in professional athlete versus amateur athlete. Then again, I'm a professional in a couple of different capacities. Unfortunately, many writers know nothing about business. It seems that Harlequin's vanity press isn't being upfront about its business and it will be a shame if writers work with them and learn about the business world the hard way.

#2 - Once upon a time, Harlequin was the only publisher of romance. That isn't so any longer. I think they're shooting themselves in the foot--do you think a number of their established authors could work with another publisher if they wanted to? I guess we'll be finding out.

#3 - I've read on loops recently that Harlequin has said they'll take their name off Horizons. Whoopdedoo. Now they're getting even sneakier. It's bad enough being a "sleazeball," to use the word of one of my fellow commenters. But, in my opinion, being a sneaky sleazeball is even worse.

#155 ::: RfP ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2009, 02:40 PM:

green_knight @ 149: "It strikes me as if the 'selling services to authors' (aka vanity publishing) is nowhere near as potentially successful as the 'sell books to the public' model."

I assume they're counting on these trends:

"the number of people doing creative writing increased by 30 percent, from 11 million in 1982 to more than 14 million in 2002 [especially among 18- to 24-year-olds]. However, the number of people who reported having taken a creative writing class or lesson decreased by 2.2 million during the same time period."
(National Endowment for the Arts, 2004)

#156 ::: RfP ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2009, 03:35 PM:

I should add that for a profitable publisher like Harlequin, the above statistics still don't make "selling services to authors" more profitable than "selling books to the public". But the stats may indicate a growing market for

1) vanity presses and
2) e-presses (given that some of the creative writing activity is happening online).

Not so coincidentally, Harlequin has recently announced new ventures in both markets.

#157 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2009, 04:57 PM:

#149 Green Knight

Simplified arithmetical case:
Assume each of 300,000,000 people in the USA buys 1 book per years Assume that a print publication book needs 50,000 copies to sell to be commercially profitable the the author get the next contract. Divide 300,000,000 by 50,000, ad the result is there there is a viable market for 6000 books published per year in the USA.... How many of these is Harlequin publishing?

Now look at shyster vanity press (SVP)--EACH rube spending at least $600 is donating money to the shyster. If there are 2000 rubes per year, that's a minimum of $120,000 that SVP is getting. Some of the rubes are going to drop more than $25,000 on SVP "services" without SVP necessarily providing two cents in royalty payments.... And for every disillusioned rube suckered by SVP, there are new rubes lining up to replace... SVP's expenses for getting the money, are the time and effort for advertising, for making partnering deals with publishers who are debasing themselves, and for the cost of providing such services as they actually provide--but first except for the advertising and partnership arrangements, the money comes -in- from the wannabeepublisheds....

Meanwhile, just what are the profits that the book publishers are getting from publishing the books?

There is a term, "return on investment" that is the true bottom line in big business--it's what the business earns, compared to to what it spends up front. It's why businesses paying what used to be apparently usurious interest rtes of 18% per annum borrowing money for production and such, were willing to borrow money at those rates -- the basis was they borrowed money for a few months, to pay for production, and paid back those short-term loans with money from product sales when the products got sold..... one big issue with the liquidity crisis at the moment is that stores couldn't get loans for Christmas Sales Season merchandise in the amount and at rates that they used to be able to get, and the result is that there is a lot less stock in stores than there used to be... yes, stores were deliberately cutting orders, but part of it, again, is not only the expectation that consumers are being parsimonious, but that the retailers had much lower and nastier term borrowing limits available, with which to order/buy merchandise for retail sale....

The plurality of retail goods sold in the USA, sell in November, December, and late October. Retailers borrow money to pay for orders, and then get their revenue when consumers give them money... the retail prices take into account that consumers use credit cards and pay over time, and that credit card companies charge percentage fees for the service, and that the retailer has to pay back the loans... if the sales fail to cover the loans, the business goes the way of Circuit City or Borders--either out of business outright, or renegotiating terms and loans with creditor and cutting back on merchandise available for sale,
shutting down stores, laying off people, etc.

The successful business does more accurate forecasting of customer spending months ahead of when the merchandise actuaally arrives and is available for purchase by consumers... in the case of "traditional" publishers, the buyers for Borders, Barnes and Noble, etc., make order decisions from the publishers' catalogs, which the publishers decide, years earlier, whether to offer an author a contract for a book or books the author is proposing to write, or has written and has submitted the manuscript to the publisher for publication consideration.

The "traditional" publisher therefore is making a bet usually at least two years in advance, of what the public is going to buy, and a bet more than a year in advance, about what retailers nd wholesalers will order in what quantities....

Now consider loan economics.... 20% loan for six months, means that the business will have expenses of the total loan value plus half a year's interest, or 110% of the value of the loan, to pay to the loan company if paying off in full at the end of the six months.

The publisher is paying more than that, because the loan is for longer period of time.

However, looking at "return on investment," the economics are somewhat different-- the retailer takes out a six month loan for say $20,000 for merchandise, and sells the merchandise for $40,000. Assume that the expenses are the $2000 in six months' of interest at a 20% annual percentage rate, and store running expenses of $16,000... $40,000 - ($4000 + $16,000) = $20,000 -- the return on investment is 100% !!! What the store -actually- spent of its own money was $20,000.... it leased the use of $20,000 from the creditor loaning it the money. Also, the store gets to deduct the $4000 of interest payment as cost of money expense, from its taxes....

Meanwhile, SVP is forward financed, the money comes -in- from the suckers, before any money actually gets spent on book production and such--so SVP has the use of the suckers' money for investing, in, loaning it out to agencies getting that 20% short-term interest.... if the SVP is brainy. If the SVP is typically greedy, it's busily hiring more marketing and sales weasels people and spending money advertising looking for more suckers, and then hiring people to do the increased expected workload from the more suckers....

#158 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2009, 04:59 PM:

#156: I should add that for a profitable publisher like Harlequin...

Yes, but for an unprofitable corporate master, it might appear to make sense to squeeze even more money out of that golden goose.

I'm sure that a sales rep from Author Solutions arrived at Torstar headquarters with a Powerpoint, and used the phrases "turnkey operation," "turn your rejected manuscripts into a revenue stream," and "show a profit on the very first day."

#159 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2009, 05:30 PM:

Oh, Bah! I messed up on the simple arithmetic [never trust the simple arithmetic of someone with a math degree....].

Anyway, the bottom line nonetheless is that return on investment is the ratio of the income, compared to what the business had to spend of its OWN money, as opposed to using OPM-- Other People's Money. The loan cost is the fraction of employee's time and travel and phonecalls for getting the loan approved, and the cost of money pying the interest on the loan, the rest of the loan "cost" evaporates if the company pays it all back-- the income pays off the loan principal and that gets listed as a business expense in the profit and loss statement--but for the purpose of Return on Investment, it doesn't exist.

That also is part of what drives e.g. Just In Time business practices, and "outsourcing -- somebody ELSE is paying the day to day salaries and the day to day warehousing fees and for the warehouse space, and the inventory and real estate taxes. The business is paying its partners service fees for services, which are completely expensible and tax deductible in the USA for the year the services occur in, and paying rent rather than owning, the cost of the facilities is fully expensible and deductible.

Tax laws drive a LOT of things....

#160 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2009, 05:52 PM:

Regarding the efficiency of delivery services -- I think it was The Franklin Mint, that when I was doing market research studies (paid commercial research, that is....), I was told has the production lines terminate into a substation of a delivery company--the products go DIRECTLY from production line into the delivery service station and from there onto delivery service trucked headed out to delivery to the purchasers.... If retailers and wholesalers etc. are included in the purchasing, they get to do their own warehoue and merchandise storage on store shelves or in warehouses or in storerooms... the producer sends quite literally the merchandise all down the line to the freight company to deal with.

#161 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2009, 09:29 PM:

Jackie Kessler on where things stand now.

Oh, and reportedly RWA has also cast Thomas Nelson (another publisher pulling the same stunt) into the outer darkness beside Harlequin.

#162 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2009, 10:07 PM:

We had bookgroup today and during the part when we purposely bring stuff up (doesn't keep us from doing it the entire rest of the time, of course), I said "I have to tell you something about Harlequin" and it took them two minutes to stop laughing. And when I explained, they were serious. (Had to explain vanity press to some, too.)

#163 ::: RfP ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2009, 10:07 PM:

#158: "Yes, but for an unprofitable corporate master, it might appear to make sense to squeeze even more money out of that golden goose."

Yes, exactly. What had previously been goose droppings is now two secondary products (vanity, e).

"I'm sure that a sales rep from Author Solutions arrived at Torstar headquarters with a Powerpoint, and used the phrases 'turnkey operation,' 'turn your rejected manuscripts into a revenue stream,' and 'show a profit on the very first day.'"

Also "you're the prime mover", "you can present the romance industry with a Hobson's choice", and "potential for lucrative price discrimination".

#164 ::: EClaire ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2009, 11:12 PM:

Can I just say, in favor of Borders... I will continue to shop at Borders as my bricks and mortar chain of choice as long as Barnes and Noble continues to put historical biographies in with all the rest of the celebrity bios. If I'm looking for random medieval history, I really don't want to have to browse through x number of "celebrity of the week" biographies to find the new Alison Weir. Grrr.

Having said that, I am appalled at Harlequin's grab at vanity publishing, I am astonished at that interview where the Harlequin representative pretended not to know what first publishing rights were, and I'm really hoping they rethink linking themselves with the known sleaze-fest that is Author Solutions.

#165 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2009, 01:23 PM:

I missed the chunk of the thread with A.J. Luxton's query -- that'll teach me not to read ML in my lunch break when there's bedlam going on behind me. Poly romance is a significant sub-genre at a lot of the romance epubs. Were I looking for books to buy, I'd hit up Samhain and Loose Id first (conflict of interest alert -- I write for Loose Id). My reason for that is that both publishers have a fair amount of cross-genre written by people who love both sf&f and romance. But read the excerpts before buying, to make sure it's to your taste.

#166 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2009, 04:42 PM:

Linda @154:

There are businesses where when you meet with a client, she pays you, because your time and expertise at the meeting are the actual service being sold. You haven't mentioned what business you're in, but it sounds like that's what you're selling, your expertise as a doctor, lawyer, architect, or such. That's one reasonable model: I see a doctor and a dentist, and I had a lawyer prepare my will.

There are a lot of businesses where, if you meet with a client, you're trying to sell her something, and she's not paying you to use her time that way. In the publishing business, the writer is the vendor, not the customer: the publisher may have most of the power to dictate terms, and it may be a buyer's market, but the publisher is buying the rights to sell the book, not selling the writer a service.

Even used car salesmen don't expect their customers to pay so much an hour for the chance to be sold a car.

#167 ::: green_knight ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2009, 12:38 PM:

Paula @157, I understand the temptations of that business model. However, book buyers are repeat customers, and there are a lot of them. The pool of people willing and able to pay for this package is small-and-shrinking, and once the scheme has been running for a bit and the promised dreams weren't delivered, getting further people to pay will become harder. Also, you are continuously looking for _new_ customers. And you're competing not just with all the other divisions of ASI (who don't care which of their divisions you go with) but with Lulu and putting out an e-book on your website with a PayPal button.

So yes, short-term profit. Temptations galore. However, it seems to me as if ASI is running out of easily found marks, which is why they're now targetting major publishers to bring in new writers. Give it ten years, and the number of new people you can successfully dupe into the venture is going to be very low.

On the other hand, today's bestselling authors are not unlikely to still be money spinners in ten years' time. It's a different business.

#168 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2009, 02:26 PM:

#167 Green

Paula @157, I understand the temptations of that business model. However, book buyers are repeat customers, and there are a lot of them. The pool of people willing and able to pay for this package is small-and-shrinking, and once the scheme has been running for a bit and the promised dreams weren't delivered, getting further people to pay will become harder. Also, you are continuously looking for _new_ customers. And you're competing not just with all the other divisions of ASI (who don't care which of their divisions you go with) but with Lulu and putting out an e-book on your website with a PayPal button.

The US population is 300 million. Doing a gross simplification, dividing that by 60, there are 5 million people in each age bracket 1 to 60 (I did type "gross simplication"). If one percent of them are susceptible to deceptions such as ASI publish, that's 500,000 new scammables per year coming into prime scammable age . If one out of 500 of the scammables wants desperately to be a Published Author, that's a thousand -new- people per year who'll bite on the baited hook.... A thousand new rubes per year is "a market" for producing a revenue stream, at the rate that ASI charges....

It's the same basis as spam runs on--a fraction of one percent, provides far more than enough return on investment to continuing spamming. ASI basically is a spammer...

So yes, short-term profit. Temptations galore. However, it seems to me as if ASI is running out of easily found marks, which is why they're now targetting major publishers to bring in new writers.

ASI has been getting hit with lawsuits which is has been losing. At the same time, it has expanded its sales operation.... Until and unless the management at publishers, particularly conglomerate ones, tell ASI to take their business model and walk off the side of a freight ship into the Pacific over the Marianas Trench, or someone manages to put the principles of ASI into a situation banning them from it on threat of rotting in a jail cell if they don't, I expect that the ASI principals and their backers are going to persist in their noxious scam behavior.... I sincerely wish they would suddenly and magically cease being shysters, but based on past history and behavior, I don't expect them to. I expect them to be sleazy slimy sales and marketing weasels, hawking inferior services at inflated prices, and conning the gullible and the greedy into collusion with them.

Give it ten years, and the number of new people you can successfully dupe into the venture is going to be very low.

Ponzi schemes haven't gone away, and again, there are fresh crops of gullible aspiring authors arriving daily....

On the other hand, today's bestselling authors are not unlikely to still be money spinners in ten years' time. It's a different business.

Craig Shaw Gardner was at Readercon, and is back working as an SF/F/gaming store store clerk, which is what he was doing before becoming a bestsellling author....

#169 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2009, 04:11 PM:

green_knight, #167: I think Paula's analysis is correct. It's the scammer's version of the same reason that our Move Along T-shirt continues to be a good seller rather than saturating its market: every year there are new potential customers moving into the age-group that buys it. And on the scale of ASI/Horizons, it doesn't take a very high penetration percentage to yield a worthwhile ROI, especially with Harlequin doing the kickback referrals.

#170 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2009, 05:07 PM:

green_knight #167, Paula Lieberman #168, Lee #169:

The shorter version of the above would be P.T. Barnum's line: "There's a sucker born every minute".

#171 ::: Steve Downey ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2009, 05:08 PM:

Scraps @ 138 - That's the book I've been trying to think of. The Dreamfields by Jeter. Involved shapeshifting lizards and a lot of paranoia. Crocodile thing on the cover, and a disembodied head with glowing eyes.
Didn't Laser number the books?

#172 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2009, 07:00 PM:

green_knight #167 The pool of people willing and able to pay for this package is small-and-shrinking, and once the scheme has been running for a bit and the promised dreams weren't delivered, getting further people to pay will become harder.

It's huge.
Look at all the people PublishAmerica has sucked in. Four thousand a year, for ten years.

No sign that they're going to run out of marks any time soon. Particularly not when the general public believes that of course you pay to get published.

#173 ::: Steve Downey ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2009, 09:41 PM:

Me @ 171 - The cover is almost worse than I remember, although it turns out to be by Freas. Here it is.
And maybe now my subconscious can start obsessing about something else, now that I've laid hands on that book.

#174 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2009, 10:31 PM:

Laser did number their books, and the last 3 were sent only to subscribers in order to finish out the subscriptions. There's a list available here. J. Hunter Holly, who wrote one of them, is also a long-term seller to (low-end) legitimate publishers.

#175 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2009, 11:15 PM:

Quick research shows I was wrong and it was the last two, #s 56 and 57 (Gift of the Manti and Shadow on the Stars). I never collected them, and have only kept the Powers and the pseudonymous Koontz (#9, as by Aaron Wolfe).

#176 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2009, 02:30 AM:

#170 David

Succinctness is rarely one of my virtues.

Twitter not into temptation....

#177 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2009, 03:23 AM:

Dung from a white elephant in the living room with the living room owner hving been persuaded to pay for by a con artist, who convinced the buyer that the elephant was a prestigous pet bestowing celebrity status and fortune upon the buyer....

http://blog.writersdigest.com/norules/CommentView,guid,1fe314c8-e939-49b1-b324-5960abc3ce9f.aspx#commentstart

#178 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2009, 02:40 PM:

Side note on Author Beware: Humor writer James Lileks revealed a couple of days ago that his agent— the same one he's trusted for his last eight books— has been stealing the royalties from his latest book. He's trying for a resolution but once he reveals the name I'll pass it along for you Minneapolis-area folks.

Really, that's low.

#179 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2009, 02:44 PM:

Sorry: should have posted a link. Second half of the post.

#180 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 01:57 AM:

Julia Jones @ 165 (& also J.D. Rhoades @ 106): Thanks for getting back to me! Romance has always been one of those genres which I've thought I should like, but most of the ones I've picked up, I have dropped because my world just doesn't work that way.

Bookmarked both presses and now I intend to check out their stuff; maybe I'll find inspiration for my own writing.

#181 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 02:31 PM:

AJ Luxton @181: this is how I ended up writing for who I write for -- I like the idea of romance, but most category romance and much single title romance is written to cater to a different worldview to mine, to the point of large chunks of it being active wallbangers rather than "meh". (Book assumes that all romance readers living in the Big City secretly yearn for the simple life in the country -- book hits wall with high velocity...) Small press romance publishers cater for niche audiences in more ways than one. Email me if you want more info or suggestions.

#182 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 03:52 PM:

Aren't romance novel covers designed so that the consumer can tell at a glance if that's their niche type?

#183 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 05:05 PM:

Earl @183 -- in theory, although in practice there are complaints that sometimes the covers are more than a little misleading. And you can get very different covers on the same book being sold into different countries (much to the amusement/consternation of some of the romance blogs).

However, one of the things you see with Harlequin/Mills&Boon category lines is those stereotypical titles, such as "The Billionaire's Mistress's Secret Baby". Those titles are a laughing stock, but they are used for a very good marketing reason - *instant* recognition of exactly what sub-genre of story they're offering. Harassed mother trying to do the weekly shop and get out of the store can grab them from the rack and drop them in the trolley without even looking at the blurb to check which of the sub-genre lines the book is published by.

#184 ::: DN ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2009, 09:36 AM:

So here's something way after the fact, Eirin @114, James @115, Paula @117: Oddly enough, among the handful of books I screened for a very, very small press a few years ago was, yes, The Pleistocene Redemption. (We passed.)

But that's *just* a few years ago. 2006 or so. And when I looked it up online just now...it was 'published' in 1997? So it's still being shopped around 10 years later. Is that insane or admirable? I don't know.

#185 ::: Lee Goldberg ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2009, 12:01 PM:

MWA Delists Harlequin

The Board of Mystery Writers of America voted unanimously on Wednesday to remove Harlequin and all of its imprints from our list of Approved Publishers, effective immediately. We did not take this action lightly. We did it because Harlequin remains in violation of our rules regarding the relationship between a traditional publisher and its various for-pay services.

What does this mean for current and future MWA members?

Any author who signs with Harlequin or any of its imprints from this date onward may not use their Harlequin books as the basis for active status membership nor will such books be eligible for Edgar® Award consideration. However books published by Harlequin under contracts signed before December 2, 2009 may still be the basis for Active Status membership and will still be eligible for Edgar® Award consideration (you may find the full text of the decision at the end of this bulletin).

Although Harlequin no longer offers its eHarlequin Critique Service and has changed the name of its pay-to-publish service, Harlequin still remains in violation of MWA rules regarding the relationship between a traditional publisher and its various for-pay services.

MWA does not object to Harlequin operating a pay-to-publish program or other for-pay services. The problem is HOW those pay-to-publish programs and other for-pay services are integrated into Harlequin's traditional publishing business. MWA’s rules for publishers state:

"The publisher, within the past five years, may not have charged a fee to consider, read, submit, or comment on manuscripts; nor may the publisher, or any of the executives or editors under its employ, have offered authors self-publishing services, literary representation, paid editorial services, or paid promotional services.

If the publisher is affiliated with an entity that provides self-publishing, for-pay editorial services, or for-pay promotional services, the entities must be wholly separate and isolated from the publishing entity. They must not share employees, manuscripts, or authors or interact in any way. For example, the publishing entity must not refer authors to any of the for-pay entities nor give preferential treatment to manuscripts submitted that were edited, published, or promoted by the for-pay entity.

To avoid misleading authors, mentions and/or advertisements for the for-pay entities shall not be included with information on manuscript submission to the publishing company. Advertising by the publisher's for-pay editorial, self-publishing or promotional services, whether affiliated with the publisher or not, must include a disclaimer that it is advertising and that use of those services offered by an affiliate of the publisher will not affect consideration of manuscripts submitted for publication."

Harlequin's Publisher and CEO Donna Hayes responded to our November 9 letter, and a follow up that we sent on November 30. In her response, which we have posted on the MWA website, Ms. Hayes states that Harlequin intends as standard practice to steer the authors that it rejects from its traditional publishing imprints to DellArte and its other affiliated, for-pay services. In addition, Harlequin mentions on the DellArte site that editors from its traditional publishing imprints will be monitoring DellArte titles for possible acquisition. It is this sort of integration that violates MWA rules.

MWA has a long-standing regard for the Harlequin publishing house and hopes that our continuing conversations will result in a change in their policies and the reinstatement of the Harlequin imprints to our approved list of publishers.

Frankie Y. Bailey,
Executive Vice President, MWA


MWA’s Official Decision: That because Harlequin's for pay publishing business violates MWA's rules for approved publishers, MWA takes the following action: First, Harlequin shall be removed from MWA's list of approved publishers upon the adoption of this motion; Second, that all current active status members of MWA whose status is based upon books published by Harlequin shall remain active status members; Third, that MWA decline applications for active membership based upon books published by Harlequin pursuant to contracts entered into after the effective date of this motion; Fourth, that books published by Harlequin pursuant to contracts entered into prior to the adoption of this motion shall be eligible for the Edgar® Awards, except that books published by DellArte Press shall not be eligible for the Edgar® Awards regardless of when such contract was entered into; and Fifth that books published by Harlequin pursuant to contracts entered into after the adoption of this motion shall not be eligible for the Edgar® Awards.

MWA's Executive Vice-President, and her or his designates, are directed to continue discussions with Harlequin in an effort to reach an agreement that would allow for Harlequin to be an approved publisher according to MWA's rules.

#186 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2009, 12:15 PM:

Yay, MWA!

#187 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2009, 09:21 PM:

HWA has also cast Harlequin into the outer darkness. Text in the update to the main post, above.

#188 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2009, 05:03 AM:

Well, that's it for Harlequin vampire romances, I guess.

#189 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 11:01 AM:

Paula Lieberman,168:

The US population is 300 million. Doing a gross simplification, dividing that by 60, there are 5 million people in each age bracket 1 to 60 (I did type "gross simplication"). If one percent of them are susceptible to deceptions such as ASI publish, that's 500,000 new scammables per year coming into prime scammable age . If one out of 500 of the scammables wants desperately to be a Published Author, that's a thousand -new- people per year who'll bite on the baited hook.... A thousand new rubes per year is "a market" for producing a revenue stream, at the rate that ASI charges....

1% of 5 million is 50,000 . I'm almost sure of it.

Still, if you get 'em for enough money, a hundred new people a year is a pretty decent business.

In peripherally related news, I had to send some items from around here to a cousin of mine who was taking a writing course, and the teacher mentioned self-publishing. Thank you, dear publishers and writers, for the gift of knowledge.

#190 ::: Harald Korneliussen ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 09:26 AM:

I've been dimly aware of this phenomenon, after seeing a newspaper article about a local girl who had "won" a competition to get her poem published in an anthology, and was entitled to travel across the Atlantic to recieve an award and buy a copy of the book. For her own money, naturally. The newspaper managed to cheerfully believe it all, yet leave me almost certain that the girl was falling from some kind of scam.

I really, really feel sympathy for these people. I've seen enough examples of people spending everything they have on their big creative projects, with no understanding of what they're getting into, without encouragement. That businesses exploit people's dreams and ignorance in this manner makes me angry. Yog's blood boils in me as well, I suppose.

Yet, there's a small side of me that is angry at all the naïve people as well. And especially the naïve people who against all odds go on to get some sort of publishing deal, and arrogantly presume that they deserve it for their skills.

Because they help keeping the cycle going. People see them, and they think, "Hey, I can do better than that", and they may even be right! For sometimes poor creative works make money. The problem is they refuse to see the iceberg of works, good and bad, that never make money.

What it comes down to, and I'll give you only the short version of this rant (I may be tempted to self-publish the long one!): People worship creativity too much. There is a streak of romantic genius worship in our society that just refuses to die. In a way, authors should pay their publishers! There is just so much supply compared to demand, and the market (not to be confused with any individual publisher) is going to pick a few of them in a highly random manner, and put them on pedestals and make movies and action figures and collectible trading chess variants out of them and whatnot.

Because we don't really care about getting the "best" culture possible. We want shared culture. Shared with the right people, ideally.
How happy is a Star Wars geek in rural Mongolia?

We should be cynical enough to realize that most of the true value of Star Wars (or Harry Potter, or Twilight) wasn't made by their inventors. It's not what it was, it's what it became. If those things never were, our faithless culture would find other things to obsess about.

Which is not to say anything could have filled those niches equally well. But something would, and the world would be a better place if more "creative" people (as if those were the select group they think they are) understood it.

#191 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2010, 09:51 AM:

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

Chances are you don't understand the situation.

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