Pub Rants

Harlequin News Flash

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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.


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.

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75 Responses

  1. K Taboada said:

    The name change doesn’t change the reality that they’re preying upon their slush pile writers.

    That they continue to refer to themselves as “self-publishers” instead of owning up to being a vanity publisher is maddening.

  2. Elizabeth said:

    I’m annoyed that Harlequin is “dismayed” by the RWA’s decision to adhere to its own rules. The RWA did not put new rules in effect that excluded Harlequin’s already-established lines; Harlequin chose to violate those rules by adopting a vanity publishing module and thus excluded themselves. The only thing Harlequin has to be dismayed about is its own poor business decisions in this matter. The fact that, within this memo, they included a list of how they’ve supported the RWA in the past only makes me less sympathetic for the position they’ve gotten themselves into, not more. They knew the rules. They broke them. They expected the RWA to turn a blind eye because of their contributions to the organization in the past. And now they’re disappointed they were shot down? Please.

    Any word on whether or not they’ll refrain from plugging their vanity press (whatever it will be called) in their rejection letters, too? Or is that game still on?

  3. waitingforthecall said:

    Sadly, the section of eHarlequin for aspiring writers still carries the message “Become an author” promoting what is still called Harlequin Horizons.
    Please don’t do this. Harlequin. You are too big and too respected a name to risk it marketing vanity publishing services to hopeful writers.

  4. shilohwalker said:

    I’m curious why HQN seems to think that RWA’s BoD should have addressed HQN first.

    The BoD’s responsibilities is to the members. Not publishers.

    Whether or not HQN has supported RWA is beside the point.

    RWA is FOR the writers and it wouldn’t exist WITHOUT the writers.

  5. Bluestocking said:

    Thank goodness. As an unpublished, unagented writer, I was all ready to consider any traditional pub outside of Harlequin because of their HH intentions… But the onus is on authors/agents to find publishers that play fair (or as fair as they can in this biz) in addition to publishing their work. And some folks are so desperate, ethics go out the window at the chance to see their name in print. Or so the HH model hoped. Times are changing, I agree, but integrity doesn’t need to go by the wayside.

  6. Stephanie L. McGee said:

    Wow. This is going to be a longer ordeal than I thought when I first started hearing about it. Hope that things get worked out in some way. Though it’s probably not going to happen soon.

  7. Anonymous said:

    Changing the name is all very well, but unless they change the intensive advertising to rejected authors, nothing substantive will have really changed.

  8. AstonWest said:

    Surprised that Harlequin would stoop to offering a self-publishing option like that in the first place. Just gives all of the current places (and some who don’t want people to consider them self-publishing) more credibility, which isn’t a good thing.


  9. Anonymous said:

    My, she sounds peevish that professional writers and their organizations object to something that amounted to a very expensive flim-flam.

    Publishing is indeed changing, but change does not have to be unethical.

  10. AstonWest said:

    Personally, it’s amusing that they’re changing the names, but not getting rid of these businesses. Apparently, the lure of easy (and big) money is too much for them to resist.

  11. Arianna Skye said:

    Was she truly surprised? Just because their name is Harlequin, doesn’t mean RWA will bend their rules for them, right. I think they’re surprised that RWA grew a backbone and stood up to them. 🙂

  12. Morgan Ashbury said:

    The biggest problem, really, with what Harlequin has done is the false hope it’s giving aspiring authors.

    Their offer to change the name of the vanity publishing venture brings to mind Shakespeare’s “a rose by any other name…”

  13. Anonymous said:

    Just which authors are RWA and MWA being pro for? Authors who can’t get the time of day from agents and publishers? Authors who would like to see their books in print or eprint?

    I think RWA and MWA, not to mention SFWA, are not open to the idea that there just might be a good book or two out there that can’t get the big okie-dokie from the publishing world.

    It’s all about competition. If Harlequin can get readers via a vanity press concept, then a bunch of authors will either 1) be shown up as the trash writers they are OR 2) be shown to have perfectly written perfectly good books that the major publishing industry wouldn’t give the time of day.

    If Harlequin crashes and burns based on the quality of their books, whichever imprint they fall under, then that’s the market. If they do great, then the biggies need to regroup and consider their business plans.

    I’m glad I don’t do romance. I’d really hate to have to decide which way to jump.

  14. Anonymous said:

    I’m impressed and pleased with RWA and MWA (I wonder if they talked to each other?) for supporting the under-represented interests of writers in this new ‘publishing model’ as Harlequin so charmingly puts it.

    I find Harlequin’s claim that they only want to give us writers more opportunities to get published insultingly disingenuous since we all know that what they really want is our money–so much so that they’re using their rejection letters as marketing tools.

    I emphatically agree with MWA that Harlequin’s practice of marketing their publishing services for fees is a conflict of interest, especially since the line is blurry on what exactly they are promising/selling (how much of an edge will that critique service get you or will you really get noticed if you self-publish with them?)

    Unless writers continue to stand up and band together like the RWA and MWA have done, we could see our pay and ability to make a living at writing dwindling to nothing.

  15. Anonymous said:

    That’s nice that they are willing to change the name. But I am very skeptical that this will change anything.

    Are they willing to remove the referrals to the self-publishing companies from their rejection letters too? Something tells me no.

    Kudos to RWA for putting their foot down. Were they truly surprised that the organization they have dealt with for years is dedicated to upholding their by-laws? As someone else pointed out, it’s Romance Writers of America, not Harlequin’s Romance Writers of America.

  16. Rebecca Knight said:

    It really is impressive how quickly the MWA and RWA reacted to this :). You can definitely tell they care about protecting their members as well as new writers from being taken advantage of.

    Thank you for keeping us posted on all the drama!

  17. Debra said:

    While they’re at it, they need to remove those sleazy links to the vanity press from all of their submission guidelines pages.

    Those links and the plug for the vanity press that Harlequin said would become boilerplate language in all rejection letters are just beyond the pale.

    Yuck. I’ll transform my short contemporaries into single title, shop them as-is to smaller presses, or put them aside. But offer them to Harlequin? No way. I don’t want to be associated with a business who’d think this endeavor was even remotely a good idea.

  18. ~Sia McKye~ said:

    Well, for sure there is a explosive brouhaha happening over this on about every loop I’ve visited or belong to.

    I’m glad to see Harleqin’s response as you’ve printed it here. I’m sure ASI won’t be happy but the Harlequin Authors will be.

    thank you.

  19. Christine said:

    Will they take their steerage off the website? I went there and the HH is on every submission guideline page.

    I must say, tho’, that the Vanity writers they depict fulfilling their dreams are much nicer and tidier looking than I am when I am deep in the throes of revisions.

  20. Amy said:

    Kudos for taking a stand, but I can’t help wonder…yearly, RWA sends 3 members to the Harlequin Summit, paid for by the membership, and they didn’t learn this then?

    MWA rocks.
    Member of both.

  21. Tori said:

    Very interesting to read.

    I have one problem though. What about these poor authors who are published by them? Declining their membership and saying they are no eligible for awards? That’s harsh indeed. And punishing them, I think at least, is wrong.

    What Harlequin did was stupid to say the least. But why hurt the authors too?

  22. Mary Anne Landers said:

    Thank you for informing us of the latest developments in the Harlequin Horizons story, Kristin.

    Harlequin will no doubt make a little money from its scammy Horizons venture. However, it will lose far, far more in reputation and prestige. That eventually will cost the corporation dearly in terms of dollars and cents, the kind of write-offs that their pathetic little vanity press cannot begin to cover.

    I applaud the Romance Writers of America and the Mystery Writers of America for standing up and denouncing this venture. As individual writers and other literary professionals, we can follow suit. Boycott Harlequin Horizons!

    Keep up the good work!

  23. London said:

    I’m glad RWA and MWA are stepping in to police the publishing industry & stand up for authors. (Harlequin, shame on you!)
    Thanks for posting this & keeping us up to date! It’s so interesting, in a train-wreck way..

  24. Anonymous said:

    Harlequin’s letter translated: Feel free to cross post.

    Harlequin was very surprised and dismayed to discover our support of RWA didn’t entitle us to do whatever we want. Don’t they know that in corporate world “support” means bought and paid for pansy. We were even more surprised to discover that the RWA sent a notice to its membership announcing this decision. We “business” come from these people. (Also: Oh shit the word is spreading!) And you didn’t allow Harlequin to drag it’s feet or pressure the the RWA board to change their minds.

    Harlequin has been a significant supporter of the RWA for many years which means you have been bought and paid for ten times over. What is wrong with you?

    We said it’s dissappointing, but this is actually Oh shit, we invested lots of money into and idea to milk authors for millions. That’s a lot harder now with RWA spreading the word that what we’re doing is unethical. In fact we might not even get our investment back. Harlequin’s intention is to provide authors access to all publishing opportunities, traditional or otherwise, as unethically as possible.

    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, but we’ll still advertise this service on our submissions page and we definitely are not going to specify this is an add only and it doesn’t increase your chances of being published. We hope our double speak allays the fears many of you have communicated to us.

    We are committed to connecting with our author’s and aspiring author’s bank accounts in a significant way.

    Harlequin, were not stupid.

  25. Jody said:

    Interesting what as to their reaction but the idea that they seem to think that they should have been told before RWA membership seems odd to me. Didn’t they think that their relationship was more important then the RWA membership? The things they list as doing for RWA is in reality Public Relations for their publishing house, its laughable that think they were doind RWA a favor. Clearly if they didn’t benefit as a publisher they wouldn’t have been there that is a basic business model.

    Changing the name is great but still the cat is out of the bag!! And RWA members and potential authors should be suspicious.

  26. Sara York said:

    Seriously, Ms. Hayes is surprised that RWA reacted this way. Hundreds, if not a few thousand of RWA’s members or previous memebers have been saying for years that RWA has not recognized that publishing models have and will continue to change.

    RWA has always been against self-publishing and doesn’t like epublishing either. RWA’s reaction isn’t different than thousands would have guessed.

    Authors, one thing to remember is that Harlequin Enterprises is a business and it not beholden to what your perceptions of what the book business should look like. Like all other free market businesses, publishers will continue to push the envelope to find out what the market will bear because they are a money making enterprise.

  27. Anonymous said:

    I went to their website. They have “learn how to write” all over. Its almost as though they’re accepting submissions just to advertise their other businesses.

  28. Robin Miura said:

    Good for them. I’ve been wondering how this was going to shake out since I first read about it. It’s one thing for a publisher to adjust to new publishing models, but to throw editorial principles out the window and attempt to profit from aspiring writers they have little to no intention of (traditionally) publishing–or even to give the impression of such an attempt–seems a bit misleading to me. And here’s to higher eRoyalties across the board.

  29. Liana Brooks said:

    What did Harlequin expect? There’s a gap between traditional “gated” publishing and self-publishing for a reason.

    If you look at the Harlequin Horizons website it looks like the only thing a new author with a just finished book should do is self-publish. No mention of agents or regular publishing or anything. If that’s the first site a new author stumbles on they’d be easily misled.

    Go RWA and MWA for supporting their pro authors and taking a stand. This isn’t a trend I want to see another publishing house follow.

  30. kaigou said:

    I’m not sure if you’re familiar (not sure if it’s one of your genres) but an author can go on Baen’s site and post a short story to get critiques from others in the forum. Stories that get high marks may be selected for Baen’s anthologies, I believe, and if not, there’s always the goodness of critique — and it’s all free, and looks like a pretty vibrant community.

    Sounds to me like Harlequin looked at that setup and thought to themselves, “how can we do that and make money off these aspiring authors at the same time?”

    Guess they didn’t think to ask the second half of the question “…and simultaneously lose our membership in every single bleeding professional writer’s organization on the freaking planet?”

  31. Karla said:

    Thank you for the update. I had only considered this issue from a romance writer’s angle, so seeing the MWA’s stand is news to me. Wow… to the whole situation. I’m glad to see Harlequin will change the name of the vanity press, but do you think it’s too late?

  32. Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said:

    I feel bad for Harlequin, and Torstar. They are in bad shape. I’m pretty sure the staff at Harlequin are just swallowin their pride and trying to hold onto their jobs.

    Torstar’s debt is enormous– their financials are public, since theyr are a publicly-traded company.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if they filed for bankruptcy soon or tried to jettison some of their other investments.

  33. Heather Snow said:

    I don’t see how Harlequin could have expected RWA to respond any other way. Yes, maybe they could have been nicer, sent more of a ‘cease and desist’ type of demand but the fact is vanity publishing is predatory (not to be confused with a well-informed personal choice to self-publish). Yes, “publishing models have and will continue to change.” That doesn’t mean we have to accept them changing into something that takes advantage of aspiring authors. The majority of RWA members, myself included, are unpublished—those more likely to be “referred” to Harlequin Horizons if/when rejected. I am proud that my professional organization chose to stand up and protect our interests. I’m also glad to see MWA take a similar stance.

    An interesting note, among my circle of writing friends, even members who disagree strongly with each other over RWA’s stance on certain e-pub issues are united in their outrage over Harlequin’s vanity publishing arm.

  34. ann foxlee said:

    Wow, slapdown indeed! I understand the idea of publishers trying to reinvent their business models these days, but it seems like some of their ventures were not very well thought out.
    Kudos to MWA and RWA for taking a hard stand with them!

    And welcome back to Sara!!

  35. Christine said:

    To the anonymous poster who questioned the membership of RWA being all unpubbed wannabes.. Not so. It is all writers, published and actively pursuing publication. I commend the HQN authors for standing behind our organization’s strong response.

    I actually dug a little deeper into the website of HH and asked about potential earnings (not because I would, but curiosity drove me). The bottom line? No real answer. The one thing I did learn, was I’d be lucky to make 20% in royalties (after paying to be published by them?). This isn’t even a true self publisher/it is a vanity press. Plain and simple.

    Also, E pubs are here to stay and I believe RWA recognizes and understands that is a truth. But there are great E pubs and not so great ones. Protecting their membership from the lousy ones only helps e pub’s reputation as a force in the publishing world.

    Yes, the times are changing. But some changes are not positive waves. No. They are tsunamis of destruction. We need to be vigilant and aware.

  36. Kitty Bucholtz said:

    Can anyone say “New Coke”? That almost ruined Coca-Cola and the guy who thought of it got fired when it failed. Then someone came up with the “Coca-Cola Classic” idea and the tide turned and people drank Coke again. Just read that in a book this week. I’m curious to see if the situation will be similar with Harlequin. What will they do to win back our respect? I’m sure they’ll do something.

    Meanwhile, it doesn’t change the fact that I’m half-way through the first draft of a novel I am aiming at the Harlequin American Romance line. If they don’t buy it, I won’t be asking Harlequin Horizons to publish it, though!

  37. Anonymous said:

    Only 18 days of maternity leave for Sara? That’s less than most people take of for a bad case of H1N1. Who is watching the baby? Or is it a kid-friendly office? Just curious.

  38. Skeptic said:

    I haven’t read through all the comments, so I apologize if someone else has mentioned this.

    I have always looked at traditional publishing like the peer review process for scientific publication. If I were reading something from Science that wasn’t peer reviewed, it would have zero credibility. In the realm of fiction writing, traditional publication represents that level of professionalism that I expect when I’m paying for a novel.

    I respect the process and the professionalism of the author in achieving success via traditional publishing of his/her work.

  39. Kris_W said:

    In response to those wondering why all the fuss about trying something new – Certainly publishing has to adapt to the times, but this business model is not new. It is as old as Ponzi schemes and almost as reputable.

  40. Deborah Blake said:

    This was a great post. As an almost-there unpubbed author, I have been folowing this story with interest–not just for myself (I have a full and a partial with Adam Wilson of HQN MIRA right now) but also with concern for my many author friends who are already pubbed with Harlequin.

    I just hope this can eventually be resolved without punishing the authors for something they have no control over. Will HQN books no longer be eligible for the RITA’s, for instance?

  41. Wendi said:

    In response to the note from an anonymous commenter (If Harlequin crashes and burns based on the quality of their books, whichever imprint they fall under, then that’s the market. If they do great, then the biggies need to regroup and consider their business plans.)

    The problem is that the books published by the vanity arm of Harlequin are not and will never be “their books.” They won’t be listed in the Harlequin catalog, sold by the Harlequin sales reps, cross-promoted in other Harlequin titles, mentioned on the Harlequin website, or marketed by Harlequin in any way whatsoever. Harlequin will not “crash and burn based on the quality of these books” because Harlequin is taking no risk whatsoever in their publication. Every single book published by this vanity arm could be an abject failure and Harlequin will still have made a bundle of money off the authors. The only one taking a risk is the author – and it’s not a good risk – which is why the RWA and MWA are absolutely doing a service to their members in raising a red flag.

  42. Anonymous said:

    Good on the MWA, RWA and SFWA for doing this. HarlotQueen has been exposed, her unmentionables are flapping in the air like the banners of a seedy and corrupt banana republic. All can now see that her abject, pitiful designs have failed. Hooray!

  43. Deb said:

    Good on the authors’ associations, I say. As a former RWA member, I was impressed.

    It seems to me over the last few years, the idea that you’d write a story and get PAID for it has become a foreign concept. I can’t remember the author’s name, but an AWC published writer said that his per-book advance had not gone up since 1982.

    In real terms, that author has lost ground. Today’s dollar and 1982’s are not the same. Now we have “no-advance” print business models, small presses and e-presses who have never offered advances, and so on. Some of the traditional print houses who’ve gone to simultaneous e-release have announced low e-book royalty rates.

    Now Harlequin (and from where I sit, they can tack a different name onto it and it’s still a bad idea) who’s planning to charge writers and STILL take a 50% royalty on the off chance anything sells.

    Anyone beside me see a pattern here?

  44. Anonymous said:

    To clarify for everyone: Self-Publishing is when an author seeks out a legitimate book manufacturer and prints his/her book him/herself with the responsibility of marketing it him/herself.
    Vanity Publishing is an organization (legit or unscrupulous) that charges an author fees to print, design, market their book for them.
    Vanity publishers can (and do) take advantage of writers who are not familiar with publishing. Vanities can generate millions on this ignorance. Usually at the cost of the writer and their dreams.
    Self-Publishing places all responsibility on the author. The writer is in control of how their book is brought to market AND the cost of that endeavour.
    Harlequin is launching a Vanity Publishing arm to generate revenue for their ailing parent. Not to help writers get published.
    (New) Harlequin potential writers beware.

  45. Nicole Chardenet said:

    Harlequin DID ask for this, on bended knee. They’ve shot their credibility all to hell with what appears to be a (albeit legal) conflict of interest of sorts…shoving writers to their self-publishing arm which sure doesn’t give them much incentive to take on good writers either (after all, if you can get them to self-publish and make it a success, THEN you can sign them on with little risk).

    Unfortunately, they’re not the only ones looking for low-risk self-pubbed successes. They’re only the most blatant about it.

  46. Anonymous said:

    Some people seem to be missing the difference between e-publishing, self-publishing and a vanity press. For starters, I’m all in favor of RWA and others adopting amended standards toward e-publishing. As for self-publishing, it’s a risky proposition with few real successes to show for it so far, but at least the author, who takes 100% of the risk, receives 100% of the profits. That is not the case with this new Harlequin venture. Authors assume 100% of the risk and in exchange will receive 50% of the net price of the book. A book that will get minimal distribtion on the vanity publisher’s site and will receive no editing without substantial additional costs. Not to mention a price schedule that is out of line. $19,999 for a video trailer? You can get live action trailers for substantially less. On a final note, changing the name alone is not enough. Harlequin has to discontinue the intended predatory practice of sending slush pile rejects to this new venture to “get published.” It’s not being published, it’s being printed and at a very high cost.

  47. Ellen said:

    Rock on, RWA and MWA. It’s reassuring to see that author guilds like these really can have an impact on even large publishers like Harlequin.
    And thanks for these posts – they are a very interesting look at the politics of the pub industry.

  48. green_knight said:

    Selling services to writers is not ‘a publishing model.’ It’s a different kind of business. Unfortunately, it’s a parasitic business that preys on the goodwill of the very people – content providers – that a publisher needs to survive in the long term.

    If the content could be provided by employees – none of this pesky slush reading and haggling with agent business – I think Harlequin would have switched to it a long time ago. They don’t. They rely on writers spending their own time and money to develop their skills to become publishable. If they now encourage writers to vanity publish, they are ultimately siphoning off their own future talent, because the people who will spend the next year trying to sell their unedited books? Aren’t sitting down to write the next one, _and might never do so_.

  49. Dara said:


    I just hope there’s a compromise reached. While I understand why RWA and MWA are doing this, it disheartens me to see them punishing the poor authors who’ve already been published or are about to be published by “legitimate” imprints of Harlequin. Suddenly they aren’t considered a legitimate author because of that? It’s absurd.

    I do have a question then–if Harlequin becomes viewed as illegitimate, does that mean agents are going to stop submitting to them and any of their imprints? If so, I envision it being even harder to get published with all the closed doors.

    Seems to me everyone’s forgetting the author in all of this. 🙁

  50. Heather Snow said:

    Not only did SFWA jump on the bandwagon, they stated that just taking the Harlequin name off of Horizons is not enough…

    “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.”

    Way to go, writers’ groups, for standing up for writers!

  51. Kelly Bryson said:

    The only thing that makes sense to me is that the financial pressure has made them desperate. Perhaps they’re surprised that their iconic name is not enough to prevent HH from being labeled a vanity press. Weird things start happening before a business goes under.

  52. Writer and Cat said:

    I wonder if we’ll see HQ’s official response to SFWA? Are they surprised and dismayed SFWA booted them without discussing it first too? Or will only RWA get the “after all we did for you” treatment?

  53. Anonymous said:

    WOW, have you been reading the comments on Rachelle G.’s blog–all of them? Some good points there!

  54. Finny said:

    all I can say is WOW. This drama is more fascinating than primetime. Everyone seems to have jumped very quickly — HQN jumped on the opportunity to open up a self-publishing line that sported their name without thinking of the consequences this might have on their standing with organizations such as RWA, MWA, and SFWA. While I think everyone understands HQN’s desire to capitalize on the changing landscape of the publishing industry, they should’ve considered how it would violate the already-established parameters all these organizations have for their approved publishers lists. RWA responded swiftly in order to protect and inform its membership of these changes, and I applaud all organizations that attempt to keep their members up-to-date on industry news.

    I’m sure this debate will continue until they (the organizations and HQN) can come to some agreement.

  55. Anonymous said:

    In the music biz, this concept is known as “pay to play” and is common in high competition markets. The venue charges bands who want to play, and then the band is responsible for filling the house. Sure, the musicians and their managers and agents complained (and still do), but if you want a corporate contract, it is what you do.

    Hh is pulling something similar. Call it what you will, but the bottom line is that Hh is telling the aspiring writer, “If you think you are good enough, put up some front money,” then get on the road and sell yourself. The untalented will quickly fall to the wayside, broke.

    Paper pulp is going the way of record vinyl, and various digital media are standing by to replace the deadwood artefact. Writers associations can scream and stamp their feet, but that will not stop the transitioning of business models in publishing. Pulp is just plain getting too expensive to process and ship.

    Perhaps Hh is not perfect, but the concept is sound and will appeal to shareholders. The evolution I see will involve the agent’s role transforming from selling a book to raising capital to edit, publish and market a book, only digitally. Meanwhile, the publishing houses will break down the services they offer ala carte.

    Now is the time for publishing houses to experiment with new models and find something sustainable, rather than wait and end up in the crapper with the music industry.

  56. Paula said:

    @Dara and another poster further upthread.

    You mention ‘punishing the author’ thanks to RWA’s decision but I don’t see it that way at all. I am a Harlequin author and I do not feel punished – I feel that my *publisher* has been punished, which is a BIG difference. I’m not a ‘vanity’ author nor has RWA labeled me as such. I get an advance and royalties for my work and that has not changed. In fact, this decision has not personally inconvenienced me much (don’t enter the RITAs, won’t get kicked off from the pubbed loops) but I know it will affect others. And you know what? They’re still glad RWA took this stance.

  57. mark bastable said:

    I was looking at the range of packages that Harlequin Horizons offer, and I was interested to note that the more expensive packages include an Editorial Review of Manuscript.

    The explanation of this review begins:

    As a writer, errors in your work can potentially damage your reputation with your readers and cause you to lose credibility.

    One might imagine that that kind of inelegant and ungrammatical construction would be the kind of thing the editors would review for you. However, other descriptions of the service do not inspire confidence that these people have much idea of how to write a sentence.

    In the Enhanced Cover Design package your book’s cover will create a unique cover according to your ideas and industry standards.

    Your book is found when users search for relevant key words related to your book.

    The e-book is a revolutionary way to read an electronic version of a book anywhere without having to physically carry a copy of the book.

    If a picture can speak a thousand words, how many words can a video speak? By adding a video service to your marketing strategy you can literally make your words jump off the page…

    You’d like to think, wouldn’t you, that somewhere in the Harlequin organisation there are editors biting their lips until blood is drawn and weeping with embarrassment.

  58. Elizabeth said:

    Here’s my take on it (for whatever it’s worth): I think RWA stinks. A few years ago, when they tried to marginalize epubs and erotic romance, I let my membership lapse because I couldn’t stand all the infighting and “holier than thou” attitude of the RWA board.

    I also took issue with their main agenda–over the years, many romance authors have been laughed at because they write romances. So they spend a lot of effort and money trying to force the general public to “respect” the romance genre. This is a complete waste of time, in my opinion. Romance novels are formulaic and plot-driven. Readers either enjoy reading them, or they don’t. No amount of posturing about the genre being great literature is going to change anybody’s mind. But RWA persists, and this Harlequin brouhaha is just more of the same.

    RWA takes a condescending attitude toward authors. They’re not being duped! Of course, they know they have to pay up front! Duh! At least, these rejected authors will have a chance to get editing, self-publishing, and a new venue for their books. It’s the author’s choice, and many will be more than willing to pay.

    RWA has also not taken into account the thousands of Harlequin authors who pay to belong to RWA. Now they will be marginalized, too. A friend of mine thinks this will cause a schism in RWA, where the Harlequin authors defect and form a new group. If that happens, RWA will be dead in the water, because Harlequin IS romance to most of the reading world.

    Well, it will be interesting to see what happens, huh?

  59. Anonymous said:

    So what’s happened with this anyway? Are they still banned by the RWA, MWA, & SFWA? Has DellArte actually ‘published’ anyone yet?