Friday, November 20, 2009

Harlequin Self Publishing Line??

Disclaimer: I'm copying a lot of this from my other blog b/c I don't have much time online today but I thought this was important enough to post in more than one place.

Apparently Harlequin has decided to open what they call a self-publishing line (Harlequin Horizons), though it really sounds like a vanity press. Check out Dear Author, here, here, and here for a wonderfully detailed description of the unfolding drama. I love her blog b/c I can always count on her to stay up to date on happenings in romancelandia and she's usually fairly impartial.

My big problem is that Harlequin Horizons is not separating the Harlequin brand from the self-publishing brand. They say they are, but including an HH logo on the spine is annoyingly similar to something like Harlequin Historicals. And don't get me started on the covers, which can also be seen at the Horizons website b/c they look like a lot of Harlequin covers. For typical readers, it's unlikely that they'd be able to tell the difference between a regular Harlequin book and a self-pubbed one. Talk about brand dilution. That's just bad, bad, bad. If I was a Harlequin author, I'd be pissed. (and a lot of them are!)

RWA sent out a notice to all its members yesterday stating that Harlequin was no longer meets the requirements as being a non-subsidy/non-vanity press. Not gonna lie, this quick response surprised me, but it also makes me proud to be a member of RWA. Quote from the alert: 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.

Apparently, Harlequin moved fast with a response, which I pulled in its entirety from Literary Agent Kristen Nelson's blog, Pub Rants. It sounds like Harlequin will be changing the name of Harlequin Horizons to something undecided at this time, but it will not be linked to Harlequin in the future. I'm glad they've made a move toward changing this (other NY publishers have self-publishing companies, they're just not linked in name), but I don't think it should have ever happened in the first place. The whole debacle just feels sleazy.

Here's the response letter:
Harlequin was very surprised and dismayed to receive notice late yesterday that the RWA has decided that Harlequin is no longer eligible for RWA-provided conference resources. We were even more surprised to discover that the RWA sent a notice to its membership announcing this decision, before allowing Harlequin to respond or engage in a discussion about it with the RWA board.

Harlequin has been a significant supporter of the RWA for many years in several ways, including:

• financial sponsorships at the annual conference
• sending editors to the national and regional chapter conferences throughout the year to meet with and advise aspiring authors and participate in panel discussions on writing
• celebrating our authors, most of whom are RWA members, annually with the largest publisher party at the conference.

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.

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.


Donna Hayes
Publisher and Chief Executive Officer
Harlequin Enterprises Limited

Have a fabulous weekend everyone!!


Wynter Daniels said...

I totally see RWA's point. However, I was pretty surprised the board didn't go to Harlequin first and allow them the opportunity to rectify the situation because as we see, the solution was pretty easy and painless. Let's face it, most Harlequin authors are RWA members, but Harlequin does do many things for RWA events. On a personal note, they were incredibly generous when I asked for book donations for a recent benefit signing, and have been the biggest contributor to that event for the past 3 years.
I'm just glad that a solution is in the works.

Terry Odell said...

Changing the name doesn't solve the problem. It's more of a coverup. If you get a rejection letter from an agent saying, "you need a professional editor, why not try ABC" and it turns out that ABC is really the agent (or the agent's partner), would you find that ethical?

When a company as savvy as Harlequin should be goes against clearly stated policy, they should expect to get smacked down. I commend the board (and MWA and SFWA did the same thing) for not backing down simply because Harlequin is the 500 pound gorilla. Rules are for everyone.

And there are plenty of cheaper vanity presses out there for those who want to pay to have their work published.

Savannah Stuart said...

I've been reading Harlequin books since I was in high school and I think they're great. However, adding the tag 'try out Harlequin Horizons as a self-pub opportunity' to people they've just rejected is wrong. They haven't mentioned anything about taking that out of their rejection letters, they're just changing the name (which is a good start but not nearly enough).