Thursday, November 19, 2009

Harlequin: Talk of the Town

IN THE NEWS: Police: Teens taped themselves stealing presents. Read more HERE.

Well, everybody and their mother has been talking about the lowdown with Harlequin, so I thought, "Hey, why not bring it here, too."

It seems just a few days after the launch of Harlequin's Carina Press, Harlequin Enterprises announced Tuesday the launch of Harlequin Horizons; a self-publishing partnership with Author Solutions, Inc. (ASI) — the world’s leading self-publisher. More of the press release HERE.

Um, this little announcement has not made authors happy. As you can see HERE.

Harlequin tried to address concerns.

Here's what they had to say:

What is Harlequin Horizons? Self-publishing is one of a suite of publishing options an aspiring author can choose from these days; with the launch of Carina Press we can provide the flexibility of a digital-only press, and Horizons offers a self-publishing option.

How is this related to Harlequin? Horizons will be a division of Harlequin, operated by Author Solutions. Authors published with Harlequin Horizons are not published by Harlequin. The books will carry the double-H Horizons logo on the spine.

Why is Harlequin launching a self-publishing business? Many aspiring authors choose self-publishing as a way to see their work in print - to give copies as gifts, to have a bound copy to help in finding an agent, or simply as a keepsake. Horizons will make it possible for thousands of authors, whose manuscripts Harlequin or other traditional publisher cannot publish, to see their books in print. This offers aspiring authors an opportunity not only to be published, but to grow and develop as writers and refine their personal brand.

Why is this branded Harlequin? We're proud to offer this option to those who choose to self-publish, and for aspiring romance authors, an association with the Harlequin brand makes sense. The brand, however, is only author-facing; Harlequin will not be branded on the books or in any of the metadata or sales information accompanying the book. We hope to discover new authors through this service and welcome them into the Harlequin brand family proper.

Isn't this misleading for aspiring authors? We are not misleading people, but simply offering a Harlequin-approved option for those authors who choose to self-publish. This does not change our commitment to finding, publishing, and developing new authors through our series and imprints. Our partnership with Author Solutions is not an endorsement of self-publishing over submitting to a publisher or press; but if you choose to self-publish, we endorse Author Solutions through our partnership with them.

Why would authors submit slush to us if this is a better option for them? For the same reasons they have always submitted slush - not just for the chance to be published by Harlequin, but with the hope of beginning long and fulfilling career as a Harlequin author.

Will Harlequin and Author Solutions work together? Yes and no. The self-publishing house is a separate business with separate staff, website, contract, etc. However, if a title sells very well, Harlequin can acquire the title for future print publication.

What's going to happen with the slush Harlequin currently receives? We will continue to welcome unsolicited manuscripts from aspiring authors. All standard/form/template rejection letters will include a short note about Harlequin Horizons as a self-publishing option for the aspiring author. Author Solutions will not have access to the author contact information in our eHERS database. No one from Author Solutions will contact any aspiring authors unless they opt-in through the website (

Will sell these self-published books? No

A lot of established Harlequin authors feel their credential of being a Harlequin author won't mean as much now.

And then the RWA said this:

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.

A yikes.

I think Harlequin got a little greedy with this endeavor. However, because of the size of the company, I'm not so sure this will really hurt their sales. It will be interesting to see Harlequin's response to this bold move by the Romance Writer's Association.

Do think this was a smart business move by Harlequin or do you think they're trying to have their cake and eat it too?

Do you think it will hurt their sales in the long run?


Maria Zannini said...

Sadly, I don't think it's going to affect their sales because writers are only a small minority of their readership. The average reader doesn't care what Harlequin does on the side. Horizons doesn't affect them since most won't know it exists.

As a business move, I think it's shortsighted. Yes, they might get a few virgins to pony up the bucks, but anyone serious about the business will do the research and learn the truth.

They'll still get the writers desperate to see their names in print though, and that's sad. I don't want to see anybody taken for a one way ride.

Stephanie said...

I recently heard that self-publishing was becoming huge. With Kindle and being able to self-publish on there for free, sony reader, nook and a rumored apple tablet, I think this is a last ditch effort to make money on those who get rejected from Harlequin. I think it's greedy too, and while I can see the appeal of it all, I don't like how it targets innocents.

Sarah Forgrave said...

Hi Jennifer - I thought it was interesting how Harlequin said this new division is for authors who "want to see their books in print." In other words, this would not be the route for you if you want to sell a respectable number of books (which in my opinion is impossible for a self-pubbed author unless they're famous). Just like Thomas Nelson, I think Harlequin is a big enough company to succeed at this endeavor, but it will be interesting to see how long they can balance the two approaches.

Jeanette Levellie said...

This does not surprise me at all, similar to what TN did a few weeks ago. The big companies see it as a way to tap into the self-publishing market, since traditional book sales have decreased lately. It seems kind of greedy, but they are in it to make money, right?

Natalie said...

I hope it hurts their sales. The whole thing will definitely hurt the brand, but it's possible that they'll make more money with the self-publishing side than they ever could have made with traditional publishing--only time will tell.

Susan R. Mills said...

I have mixed feelings about this. Personally, I don't have as much respect for the company, but they do have to make money.

Marianne Arkins said...

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


I have to admit to being both surprised and disappointed that Harlequin has put their name on a self-publishing company.

Going to go follow all your links now and get the scoop.

Terri Tiffany said...

Sounds like they are following Nelson's lead. I think it will make it confusing for some and might possiblity dilute the other publication.
But business is business and they know there is a market to get a share in!

Renee said...

I'm very surprised by all this. I'd like to see what some of their authors are thinking.

Elizabeth Bradley said...

I just came from another blog about this same topic, great minds think alike and all that, I am still shocked. The publishing industry is panicking. Changes are coming and this is just the beginning. In my humble opinion.

Cindy said...

I'm especially surprised by RWA's response and can't help but find it justifiable. I don't disagree with self-publishing in general but I do disagree with some of the means by which people are led to it.

Before really understanding this industry I would have been a bit more impressed by Harlequin's decision, which leads me to believe that many readers might not mind so much about their addition. But as a writer and one a bit more knowledgeable on the topic now, it's a challenge to think of it as only a business endeavor. It affects writers and reflects on what kind of fiction is out there.

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

This decision definitely disappointed me, especially since my latest finished manuscript is targeted for Harlequin.

Although I just read on Pub Rants that Harlequin has issued a statement saying that they are going to remove the Harlequin name from the venture because of all the concerns people are having, so it will be interesting to see if that changes anything with RWA and such.

Jessie Oliveros said...

I have been reading about this all over the blogosphere today! I think that as long as they keep it separate (separate logo, different name) it won't affect their sales.

Jessica said...

Hi Jennifer,
For some reason I missed this post yesterday in my dashboard but Jeanette told me you'd done it, so I popped by.
I don't think it will affect their sales at all, since readers won't know or won't care. But...I wonder if it's going to affect writers submitting to them? Or even their long-time authors? I just don't know.
I do think it's a very smart business move in the sense of making money. Not so smart in the sense of respectability or credibility in the publishing world.
It'll be interesting to see what happens with this, and if other pubs jump on this style of business too.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

I missed this one too, yesterday. WHo knows what this will do for their sales. I am happy that Harlequin won't be on the covers. My concern is that self-pubbed work isn't edited near as well so it might give a bad impression of the lines that aren't self-pubbed. Lots to consider here. That is a bold move by RWA, though.

Anonymous said...

I am surprised that Harlequin has done this, and I am disappointed in them. I have to agree that I don't believe it will hurt their sales all that much because the average reader doesn't care, however, I believe that they were greedy and this doesn't speak well of a company that I myself would have submitted to until I heard this. This is another company that will go on my list of do not deal with and that is sad.

Diane Craver said...

Wow - I didn't know this. Thanks, Jennifer. I need to read more about this. I don't like it but I guess they want to make money. It is a surprise to me that HQ would move in this direction.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Mystery Writers of America also took a stand against Harlequin's new venture. Since I've signed a contract with Harlequin Worldwide for their mystery book club paperback editions for both of my mysteries, I am definitely concerned about MWA's position.