Friday, November 20, 2009

And They Don't Even Offer a Reach-Around

There’s been a lot of outrage over Harlequin’s recent announcement to launch their own self-publishing branch, Harlequin Horizons. (Here, here, and here, to list a few; other links included in these posts.) In short, Harlequin is encouraging rejected authors to pay them to publish their work, instead of Harlequin paying for it.

All the outrage is earned; this is detestable. There’s one other aspect no one I’ve read has picked up on: This will hurt those authors who would have qualified for Harlequin contracts before the new policy. It’s right there in the press release:

“While there is no guarantee that if you publish with Harlequin Horizons you will picked up for traditional publishing, Harlequin will monitor sales of books published through Harlequin Horizons for possible pick-up by its traditional imprints.”

This essentially allows Harlequin to establish its own farm system, at the author’s expense. Never again need they take a chance on a new writer. Make her pay for the privilege of having to publicize and hand sell her own book. Harlequin can then cherry pick the few who are successful and have established a reputation for doing the publisher’s work for them, while pocketing the author’s publication fees from the vanity project.

This is worth watching, as it bodes well for no one.


Mike Dennis said...

The romance writers and mystery writers associations are already taking steps to de-certify Harlequin from their membership lists. In addition, Harlequin authors will no longer be considered members, nor will they be eligible for any awards given out by these groups, such as the Edgar. Let's hope that pressure from Harlequin's traditionally-signed authors will cause them to rethink this despicable move.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Farm system players get paid something though. And they don't have to pay for the farm. I hope this trend doesn't continue, but I fear it will.

Dana King said...

It's good to see the organizations jumping on Harlequin as quickly as they have. let's hope there's a credible threat to the bottom line, or I'm afraid it won't do much good.

I've been chatting with other writers more knowledgeable than I about the business side of publishing. (Which means just about all of them.) We're probably moving--glacially--toward a new business model for finding and promoting writers, and this is the first step. While it could be good in the long run as it evolves, I don't see much here aside from Harlequin looking for a way to bleed authors they weren't going to print, anyway.