Pub Rants

A Very Nice Literary Agent Indulges in Polite Rants About Queries, Writers, and the Publishing Industry

Tagged RWA

Horizons Is Not Remotely Like Harper Studio Or Vanguard Press

STATUS: Heading off for Thanksgiving Break. I won’t be back to blogging until Monday. Seems like bad timing with all that’s going on but don’t worry. We haven’t heard the last of it yet. If I hear any breaking news, I’ll try and update the blog.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? Nothing at the moment.

Today, Thomas Nelson Publishers joins the Harlequin hoopla in a ridiculous blog post. Ashley and Carolyn Grayson posted their response—to which I whole heartedly agree. I find it laughable that Hyatt believes that agents are speaking out against the ripping off of writers via vanity publishing arms because we see “self-publishing” as a threat.

As many commenters have already noted in my blog comments section, vanity publishing and self publishing are not the same. A distinction that Hyatt does not seem to understand. I suppose he also believes that venerated writing organizations such as RWA, MWA, and SFWA, all of which have a long tradition of helping and protecting writers, are similarly trying to keep the status quo by vehemently speaking out against such blatant ripping off of writers.

I also want to make this distinction.

When I spoke to an editorial director from Harlequin last week, the editor mentioned that “several other publishers were doing it.” The only difference was they didn’t announce their vanity publishing arm.

Incredulous, I had asked “like who?”

The editor could not respond with a list of names.

I’m wondering if the editor was erroneously comparing Harlequin Horizons to a legitimate publisher such as Vanguard Press or Harper Studio.

They are not remotely the same.

At Horizons, the writers are forced to pay for their work to be “published.” And forced to pay for “marketing” or anything else from a fee-oriented “menu” of choices. The writer foots the entire cost.

At VP and HS, the publishers pay for publication. The authors are not out any money from their pockets. Vanguard and Studio also commit a certain percentage of monies to the marketing/promotion as part of the plan. In lieu of the advance, there is an equal split of royalties between Publisher and Author.

And another key factor, at VP and HS, the books are available for wide distribution via traditional sales outlets just like a traditional publisher.

None of these things are true at Harlequin Horizons (or whatever they are calling it now).

And the most egregious part of Horizons? The fact that Harlequin planned to refer rejected authors to this option as a “viable” alternative.

As RWA, MWA, SFWA have all pointed out. That’s not legitimate publishing, it should not be advertised as so, and it’s just plain wrong.


Friday Funnies

STATUS: I’m done for the night.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? LANDSLIDE by Dixie Chicks

Considering all the chatter over the last two days, today has been relatively quiet. SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) did issue a statement. You can find that here.

Also, the Ashley Grayson agency blogged with their response.

On a wholly different note, I have a Friday funny—sort of. Do you remember my blogging about an Eddie Murphy movie being shot on our street about two summers ago? For two days in a row they had the extras and the movie crew filming. Sara and I remember it vividly as a car alarm kept going off incessantly. With our windows open on a nice summer day, it was all we could hear for two days running.

Can’t imagine why if you don’t remember. That was a year and a half or two years ago. I only remembered a couple of weeks ago when my husband said he caught the film while on an airplane trip.

The movie is called IMAGINE THAT and no, neither Chutney or I are in the film. In fact, I can’t imagine what they were doing on our street for all that time because in the film itself, there is a brief flash of the front façade of our office in the SH Supply Company building in the scene where Eddie Murphy is fumbling in his briefcase for something while driving. About 10 seconds later, the car drives down the alley behind the building.

Exciting stuff I’m telling you. Grin.

There is one big scene where Mr. Murphy dances on a concrete wall and there is a beautiful lit up staircase behind him. This leads to the bridge that goes over the railroad tracks and into lower downtown. Very noticeable by the bridge support which looks like a ship’s mast. (You can actually see that scene in the movie trailer.)

Well, that takes place right in front of the Platte River Park where Chutney and I often go walking on nice days.

Anyway, highly amusing to watch a movie set in Denver and in Lodo where our office is located.

I’m out. Have a great weekend.


Harlequin News Flash

STATUS: Sara’s first day back in the office. Totally fun.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SHAKE THE DISEASE by Depeche Mode

This just in (literally five seconds ago) from Donna Hayes, CEO of Harlequin.

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.

Sincerely

Donna Hayes
Publisher and Chief Executive Officer
Harlequin Enterprises Limited

And earlier today, Mystery Writers Of America Board of Directors weighed in:

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.

This e-bulletin was prepared by Margery Flax on behalf of MWA’s National Board of Directors.

The fun continues. I did speak with a Harlequin Editorial Director this morning. She couldn’t say much (as you can imagine) but I was able to voice some concerns–specifically about eRoyalties at Harlequin going into the future.


And I Thought The Furor Was Bad Yesterday….

STATUS: Who can get work done when there is so much Harlequin gossip flying around?

What’s playing on the iPod right now? EDGE OF SEVENTEEN by Stevie Nicks

Then today can’t even compare. I think Harlequin has just gotten the smack down.

I have not confirmed this rumor yet, but a fellow agent just emailed me to say that RWA revoked Harlequin’s recognized publisher status. Uh… that means no Harlequin author can enter the RITAs.

Let me tell you, the emails are flying fast and furious among the agents.

And RWA just sent out this announcement:

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
RWA Alert is a publication of Romance Writers of America®,

I have to wonder. Did Harlequin not think there would be a strong response? I’ll keep you posted if I hear anything more!


What Surprises An Editor

STATUS: I love going to conferences abut I have 246 emails in my inbox. And I was checking and responding to emails when I was away!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HOME by Face

When I was at RWA in D.C. last week, I was having drinks with an editor from The Penguin Group (I think that was the house—it’s all a blur really). We were talking about passing on sample pages and I had mentioned that I had just passed on an author who already had an offer on the table.

She was really surprised and said, “I didn’t know that agents did that. I thought you’d always take the sale.”

And then I looked at her surprised (there was a lot of surprise going on in this conversation) because I just had assumed that editors knew that agents pass on projects—even with offers in hand. Even if the agent can see that the project might excite other agents and probably sell. Guess I shouldn’t assume what an editor would know or not know about the agent side of the biz.

Maybe I’m unusual. Maybe other agents wouldn’t have passed but right now, when I think about taking on authors and really pushing them in what is a tough fiction market, I’ve gotta feel the love. It could be a tough slog—even with a prior publishing record!

This offer was from a previously published author with a debut track record (so neither good or bad in that aspect). It’s not like I didn’t like the project or didn’t see the merit it. I did. It just didn’t speak to me so I could champion the author’s career.

And in this case, I don’t think the author had prior representation but had worked directly with the publisher. I don’t remember. She may have left the previous agent (which is a requirement for me as it makes me uncomfortable if an author is shopping new agents without leaving the old. I know it’s done and I know we’ve debated the pros and cons on this blog about that. I’m just saying what I’m comfortable or not comfortable with.)

Of course, I’m always wondering why my favorite authors aren’t ever dissatisfied with their current agents. Grin.


Wrapping Up RWA

STATUS: Travel day as I head back to Denver from D.C.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BABYLON by David Gray

1. All the romance editors I talked to mentioned that they were still buying projects (and I spoke to several from each house). So nice to hear when other fiction sales have slowed down as of late.

2. Many editors expressed interest in seeing something fun and meaty in contemporary romance. It’s been a little while since contemporary was actively sought from authors beyond the established lions in the industry such as Rachel Gibson and Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

3. We all have our fingers crossed that historical romance will trend up again.

4. Paranormal is still selling well. (Here’s an interesting tidbit though. What’s hot in the U.S. doesn’t necessarily match what’s hot abroad. For example, Sherrilyn Kenyon couldn’t be hotter here in the US but not as hot in Germany. An Australian bookseller weighed in and said the Aussies like her bunches Down Under as well.) I find that fascinating.

5. On Saturday night, a non-dark romance without a vampire or werewolf in sight, Seducing Mr. Darcy, won the RITA on for best Paranormal. Does that mean anything? Heck if I know but I thought that was rather cool. Also, a Young Adult title nabbed Best First Book (the fun title Oh. My. Gods.) YA is taking over the world!

6. Three editors asked me what I thought would be hot next. Uh…if I knew that, I’d buy a lotto ticket too!

7. And last but not least, I did survive teaching three one-hour workshops back-to-back-to-back. But I didn’t have much voice or energy by the end of it. I dragged a fellow agent off to the Bantam party only to discover that it had ended 20 minutes prior to our arrival.

Oops. But that gave us ample opportunity to visit the White House where we were promptly not invited in for tea.

Me and the wonderful Sally Harding of The Cooke Agency:


News From The Floor

STATUS: Considering I hit the floor by 9 a.m. and don’t hit my hotel room until midnight, I’m doing okay.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? CAN’T HELP FALLING IN LOVE by UB40

I’ve got a quick 15 minutes that I can pop online to give you an RWA rundown. For a more updated behind the scenes look, you might want to check out the Smart Bitches site. Those gals know the scoop because I obviously don’t. I sat next to Heather Osborn from Tor at the Wed. night SB party and since we hadn’t ever met in person, we didn’t know until the next day when I sat next to her at the FF&P award ceremony and we finally introduced ourselves. Note to self: it’s easier to network if you actually introduce yourself (neither one of us were wearing badges).

Big news on this end. Linnea Sinclair’s SHADES OF DARK won the Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal P.R.I.S.M award for best futuristic.


Hooray!

I acquitted myself well with the acceptance speech on her behalf—didn’t trip on the stairs or anything.

Hooray!

I had the thrill of handing over my iPhone to Catherine Asaro (who was sitting next to me) so she could text her congratulations to Linnea directly. In fact, a ton of Linnea’s friends were at the table so much iPhone passing ensued. Linnea was so tickled. It was almost like being there.

This morning standing in the lobby, a sudden posse of agents, editors, and the wonderful reviewers from All About Romance gathered to dish the dirt. (or lament depending on your perspective).

It was declared that paranormal historical romance might be dead (or never really got off the ground).

Contemporary paranormal was going strong and all of us had fingers crossed that historical romance was on the rise.

We shook the magic eight ball for that. Big smile here. Off to do my three workshops that RWA, in all its wisdom, decided to schedule all on the same day back-to-back-to-back. Sigh.

I may not have a voice by 5:30 pm.

TGIF!


If You Think You Are Going To Meet Up With An Agent At A Conference

STATUS: Safely arrived in D.C. for the annual RWA conference. I started with a bang with a breakfast meeting at 9 a.m. Off and running.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BIG GIRLS DON’T CRY by Fergie

Because I was going to RWA, last week several previously published romance authors looking to get an agent on board for their career got in contact with me. They were hoping to meet me in person at the National conference.

Great idea! There’s only one problem. The timing. My schedule has already been booked up for over 4 weeks. I haven’t got an open slot to meet with a potentially new client—even if I’d like to!

Let’s say you’d really like to do this in the future. Here’s my suggestion for those of you who are previously published.

Start this process about 6 to 8 weeks before the conference. That’s when you want to get in touch. Offer to send samples of your work because any agent who might be contemplating a physical meet up will want to read your work first. We may or may not be a good fit for each other. (Also, I read widely so there is a chance that I might have read your work on my own but it’s probably more likely that I haven’t.) Seeing material is usually the best first step.

Once material is reviewed and I like what I see, then I’ll still have plenty of time to fit you into my schedule before the conference actually happens. This way we can then find out if we are a good match for each other both personally and professionally.

Big smile here.


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