Pub Rants

Category: publishers

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!

Exploitation or Empowerment?

STATUS: Only 205 emails in the inbox now. I’m making headway!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? MY EVER CHANGING MOODS by Style Council

So Harlequin is causing quite the furor today. Last week they announced a new ePub imprint called Carina to potentially compete with ePublishers like a Samhain or Ellora’s Cave with royalties of 30% of retail price on copies sold (which by the way, should piss off any Harlequin authors who are being traditionally published by that house as their eRoyalties suck).

Then this week, they announced a self-publishing arm called Harlequin Horizons partnering with Author Solutions (not unlike what Thomas Nelson announced about 2 months ago using Author Solutions as well). Now prospective authors can pay to be published by Harlequin and have access to that Harlequin name.

So here’s my question. It’s quite the revenue machine. Is this exploitation of romance authors who have been rejected by Harlequin but now have an opportunity to “publish” and a possible entry into traditional Harlequin publishing via a strong self-pub sales record (according to the Horizons website) or is this simply another option that empowers authors to get their work out there?

As an aside, I can’t help but think that more books published (and in the marketplace) is not what the industry needs. It already can’t support the number of books currently being published in any given year.

Never Give Up…Never Surrender! Guest Blogger Mari Mancusi

STATUS: Sorry about no blog entry on Friday. The whole day got away from me.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? A KIND OF MAGIC by Queen

No doubt, I’ve been on a ranting streak for awhile. For a nice change, how about a blog entry on a midlist series getting a second life. Let’s talk about something positive today rather than more of my righteous indignation. Grin.

Here is Mari Mancusi. Author of the YA BLOOD COVEN vampire series—originally started years ago, before the craze, but now have new covers and a new floor display in Borders.

Never Give Up…Never Surrender!

I know I can’t be the only author who mutters the Galaxy Quest creed every time the publishing industry throws me a curve ball. This particular time was three years ago, when I got an email from a fellow author, published by the same publishing house that did my Blood Coven Vampires series.

“They’re not picking up anyone’s options!” she lamented.

Shocked, I frantically called Kristin and she started to do some digging. Turns out, the author was right. My publisher was basically fading out their YA line and concentrating more on their core business of adult romance.

My series was basically DOA before the third book had even come out.

I was devastated. Though I’d written other books, none meant as much to me as my little vampire series. And I hated disappointing all my loyal readers who, after Book #3 – Girls that Growl – was released, kept begging for more. But what could I do? Kristin went back to the publishing company to ask again and again, but they kept saying no.

Of course, I could have given up then and there. After all, I’d just gotten a new children’s publisher and was under contract for two hardcover books at a much higher royalty rate. I could have easily moved on and said goodbye to my blood coven vampires. To my twin heroines, Sunshine and Rayne.

But the series meant too much to me for that. And it meant too much to my readers who kept begging to know what happens next. So I kept pushing. I started a “Save the Blood Coven” campaign in which I got readers to help spread the word and get bookstores and libraries to stock it. I did videos, I enlisted a street team, I encouraged my readers not to let the big corporations decide what they got to read.

And so the sales continued, slow but steady, over the next two years. And every day I’d have new teens write to me and say they’d just recently discovered the series. But though the publisher kept reprinting the first three books, they also kept refusing to buy book #4.

Then, out of the blue, something strange happened. My editor from Germany wrote me an email, asking about book #4. She said she didn’t care if the US published it or not. Would I consider writing it just for them?

I decided to do it. Namely because it allowed me to continue writing my beloved series. And Kristin and I schemed for alternative ways to get it to a US audience. Maybe a small publisher would see the Bookscan numbers and see it as an opportunity. Maybe we could sell it POD since I already had a fan base. Or I could give it away as an e-book. Somehow – someway – I was determined to get that story to my readers, no matter what!

But before pursuing those more drastic options, Kristin decided to go back one last time to my US publisher, to see if they’d changed their minds. After all, the Twilight movie had just swept into theaters and vampires were hotter than ever.

And low and behold, they said yes. Not only yes to a fourth book, but also that they would reprint the first three books as well, with shiny new covers for a whole new generation of (vampire hungry) fans!

I think I cried when Kristin told me the good news. She, in return, said that the sale, in many ways, meant more to her than ones she’d made for six figures because this particular sale was a victory. The result of a two year battle that seemed hopeless until the very end. But we didn’t give up. We didn’t surrender.

And sometimes, even in these bad economic times, a story of publishing can actually have a happy ending!

Mari

Visit the series at www.bloodcovenvampires.com

Agenting 101: Why I Don’t Like Net Amounts Received

STATUS: Phone conference in 10 so I’m trying to dash this entry out before it begins.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? NESSUN DORMA by Paul Potts

If you read my Agenting 101 entries on royalty statements (see right side bar), you should know why Kristin wouldn’t like net amounts received.

But if you haven’t, then I happy to just rant about it and tell you. There are two main reasons why I don’t like royalties to be based on net amounts received.

1. It’s archaic and currently doesn’t serve much of a purpose as audio and eBooks have a retail price and there are high discount clauses in all contracts so why not simply make the royalty based on retail?

And

2. Agents can’t track net amounts received by the Publisher. The only way we will get that information is if we:

a. audit and therefore look at the books to see what monies were actually received, from what account, for how much, and what were the deductions, or

b. we put a clause in the contract, not unlike reconciliation to print, that allows us to request the information from the publisher at any time and they can print out all the amounts received information so I can determine if what is on the royalty statements is correct.

Ah yes, once again the onus is on me as the agent to be a squeaky wheel, to demand more info, and pry the necessary info out of the publisher to see if the royalty statement is remotely accurate. And this is making a huge assumption that the publishers have the necessary software in place that will allow for this information to be accessed, printed, and shared.

I know Random House has that in place. Do the others? Guess I’m just about to find out because you know I like kicking up a fuss and less is not more for me when it comes to royalty statements.

See how much simpler it would be if all royalties were based on retail price? I’m capable of doing the math easily on royalties calculated via retail price.

Now that we have this big push from publishers to move to 25% of net receipts for eBook royalties, whose going to hurt 10 years from now when eBooks may be the main format and print editions the secondary?

Yep, you can see why I’m in state of righteous indignation all the time as of late. Maybe it’s time we move back to a term of license on contracts instead of Out of Print clauses and term of copyright.

A Little Tutorial On The Google Partners Program

STATUS: Time for sleep.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SELF-ESTEEM by The Offspring

I want to talk about the Google Partners Program as this is not even remotely related to the Google Settlement issue but a lot of people are just plain clueless about it.

So let’s start with defining it. The Google Partners Program is an agreement that Google makes with Publishers to allow book content to be available, previewed, and searched on Google Books.

Since I’m assuming you know nothing, here’s the link to the Google Books Site.

Everyone following along? Great. Then let’s move on. Not every publisher has decided to participate in the Partners program. If a publisher is not participating, then Google Books will only show the cover, give a brief overview, and maybe the inclusion of reviews that can be found freely on the web.

In fact, under the overview, you’ll see the words “no preview available.”

Disney-Hyperion does not currently participate so for an example of the above, if you plug in I’D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU BUT THEN I’D HAVE TO KILL YOU into the Google Books search field, then this page is what you’ll see.

Easy peasy.

Okay, now some publishers are participating in the Partners Program. If that is the case, then under the title overview you’ll see the words “limited preview.” Click on Ford’s HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET as an example.

Still with me?

Okay, and here’s why I’m doing a tutorial on this subject, some publishers are participating in the Partners program but they are doing so with the ad links turned on.

Simon & Schuster currently participates in the program with the ad links. Click on Kelly Parra’s GRAFFITI GIRL. Look on the left side bar. Do you see the little section that is titled Sponsored Links? See the click through link right below that? That’s an ad link.

If you were to click on that, your click would generate income that Google would have to pay to S&S and S&S would then have to split with Kelly Parra. On the S&S statements, there is a separate line that clearly details the monies generated from these click-thru ads.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

S&S is participating and reporting. Some publishers, however, are doing the Partners Program with Google, with the ad links turned on, and are receiving income from Google but none of this income is reported on statements and therefore not being shared with the authors.

Ah, there’s the kicker.

In fact, just two weeks ago, I called a publisher because I could clearly see on Google Books that my author’s title was included in the program with the ads turned on. Did I see that income on the statement? Nope. I called.

What did the publisher say in return? “Oh. We did it is a short experiment for 3 months to see how it worked and that should have been taking down by now. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.”

Uh-huh.

I’m now forcing them to remove the ad links if they aren’t going to report and to track down the monies and pay the author—even though in general, the amounts are currently negligible. I’m talking around a dollar.

Let’s just call it the principle of the thing. What is negligible today might be real money tomorrow.

I could call because I know how the program works and knew to ask. But if you didn’t know, you wouldn’t even know to ask. Well, now you know. The Google Settlement and the Google Partners Program are two wholly different and separate things.

So have you looked up your titles on Google Books yet? Are the sponsored links turned on? Are you seeing those monies on your royalty statements?

You know what to do.

Publishers, You Want An Edge On the Competition?

STATUS: TGIF and blogging early as I actually want to leave the office before 7 pm tonight.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? OVER THE HILLS AND FAR AWAY by Led Zeppelin

Then let me throw this idea out there before all of you jump on the 25% of net band wagon so as to be like every other publisher out there offering substandard e-royalties.

Three years ago when I had a hot project (as in I’m getting pre-empts, potentially going to auction, going to have my choice of publishers), if Random House was in the mix, I’d lean their way. Why? Because RH had decent royalties for eBooks (at 25% of retail—which I know doesn’t match ePublishers but for a NYC major, not bad). Obviously other factors were in consideration such as marketing plans, other royalty structures, escalator break points but I think you can see where I’m going here.

This was 3 years ago (maybe even longer) when eBook sales might have added up to 10 copies total in any given 6-month period (SF&F or major authors excluded).

I could see the change a-coming; it was just going to be a matter of time.

So RH, you used to have a strong leg-up—which this year you’ve taken away from yourself. I can’t help but think that’s short-sighted.

You want an edge on the competition? Well then, why are all you publishers racing to do the same short-sighted thing?

Tell you what. Come to me with strong trade paperback royalty escalators, solid e-royalties percentages with escalators, decent audio percentages (downloadable or otherwise), etc. and I’m open to talking about non-outrageous advances or dare I say it? No advance at all if we can truly do a shared equal risk on a no returns basis (a la Vanguard Press and Harper Studio).

Maybe I’m alone on this (but I doubt it), I’m totally open to discussing less on the front end for a larger share of the back end.

But what I hear from publishers is the same low advance spiel with no change on the back end. And you’re wondering why I’m not leaping out of my chair with joy. I often hear that agents are to blame for demanding crazy advances etc. but have publishers asked themselves lately what’s been offered in return? Given an alternative, agents could be persuaded to think outside the box. Not given any viable alternative, then we have to stick with business as usual in order to best represent our clients.

Two to tango, certainly, as I’m thinking that “business as usual” won’t suffice for either publishers or agents as the publishing model rapidly changes…

And since it’s Friday and sheesh did I get off on a rant there, a gratuitous Chutney-in-the-snow shot from this morning. She HATES wearing her fleece. Can you tell? She won’t even look at me. Grin.

No Imeem file available.

Contract A Go-Go

STATUS: It can stop snowing now…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I’D RATHER BE WITH YOU by Joshua Radin

I first caught wind of the contract changes from Macmillan via Richard Curtis’s blog about the changes they want to try for in e-royalties.

Oh boy, here we go again. Great, a battle because a publisher wants to do LOWER than that 25% of net that publishers as of late have been trying to push as “standard.” I long for the Random House days of 25% of retail…)

Then Publishers Lunch had a note about it, thank goodness.

Macmillan had sent a letter out to agents regarding the changes but for some reason, I, and just about every other agent I know (and folks that’s a lot), had not received this letter despite all of us having numerous clients with the Macmillan Group.

Small oversight I’m sure. When I emailed their contracts director, she mentioned that the letter was going out in waves to agents as their email list was long. Okay, fine. I’m a little annoyed but when I asked for the change letter and the sample of new contracts, it was sent immediately.

So now I’m in the process of reviewing. Macmillan had planned on implementing these new contracts on Nov. 9. Today I got an email that agents can respond until January 4, 2010. Good to know.

And first off I want to give Macmillan kudos for being totally upfront about the changes they want to do. Unlike, cough cough, Simon & Schuster last summer with their out of print clause and, cough, cough, Penguin Group with clause 9.ii.b. back in March.

So they are least being transparent but if the e-royalties are any indication of things they want changed, it looks like more contract battles ahead…

A Bookseller, A Fall Random House List, And A Glimpse Of Buy-in

STATUS: TGIF! I’ve got a lot of reading to do to catch up on client material this weekend.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? YOU DON’T OWN ME by The Blow Monkeys

On this blog, it’s pretty much been publishing from an agent’s perspective. But here’s a great blog entry from Arsen KashKashian of the Boulder Bookstore in Boulder, Colorado. Right here in my neck of the woods.

He’s giving his blog readers a sneak peek of his sales meeting with RH rep Ron and what books he is buying for his bookstore this fall. Dan Brown, Margaret Atwood, Jon Krakauer.

Aptly named Random House’s Hail Mary Pass. Hugely interesting.

What do you think? Is this a bold move on RH’s part? They are placing some heavy bets on some big hitters to galvanize the holiday sales. Will it work? Agree? Disagree?

Have a great weekend.

Submit Now Or Later?

STATUS: Work all morning. Meetings all afternoon. That’s New York!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HEY JACK KEROUAC by 10,000 Maniacs

Yesterday I had an agent friend who doesn’t handle a lot of adult trade fiction shoot me an email with an interesting question. She asked this: with fiction, she had heard that some agents were not even submitting right now and were planning to wait 6 months to let things settle down. In other words, things were a little volatile right now with lay-oofs and projects that might have been bought 6 months ago were now being passed on in this current cautious climate. (Hard to sell a project if you are unsure the editor is going to be there 2 months from now.) Since I did a lot more adult fiction than she did, what did I think?

Darn good question. To be honest, I didn’t have an answer. I’ve been doing quite a few deals as of late but all for current clients who are already established at their houses. None for debut authors in the adult field. Now I do have some YA submissions out but that’s not the same thing.

Since I’m here in New York, what better way to find out than to ask? Well, the lucky editors at St. Martin’s Press were first up to bat so I asked them, what is SMP’s stance on buying adult fiction?

Here’s what was said:

1. They had wondered why it had been so slow. They weren’t seeing the usual amount of submissions that normally happens for this time of year. (Interesting.)

2. That SMP (and this was emphatically said) was aggressively buying so bring it on. (Nice!)

3. Major accounts were tightening their buy lists. Not ordering as much and not as far in advance. (I’ve heard this from several places—not just SMP.) So if a project is borderline in terms of an editor loving it, they might pass. (Agents might not be submitting right now in order to not risk this.)

So what had they bought recently? SMP just paid big money to lure two mystery authors to the house. One editor had bought two novels—a mystery caper and then a literary commercial novel about a Viet Nam soldier and his specially trained German Sheppard who worked as a team in a special army unit.

You know how much I love dogs. I would have LOVED to have seen that second novel. History. Dogs. A War. Gosh, no one ever sends me that kind of stuff. Oh wait. Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet (although there are no dogs in that one.)

So novels with that intense emotional hook or connection. Check. Historical novels. Check. American based narrative mystery or crime nonfiction (a la Devil In The White City). I don’t do but check. Memoir. Check. And I learned a new term. Editors are looking for midstream mainstream. (i.e. Stuff in the Jodi Picoult realm where it’s ordinary people faced with extraordinary decisions about real problems).

Midstream mainstream. Try saying that 5 times fast! (I think I just call it upmarket commercial fiction.)

Okay, check.