In case you haven’t heard the news by now, Harlequin is into the vanity publishing game now. Check out it out here and here. And if you’re into the uproar, check it out here. Pay special attention to what Dave Kuzminski says. If you don’t know him, he runs Preditors and Editors, which is a writer’s best friend when it comes to finding out who’s legit and who’s not. He’s listing Harlequin Enterprises as a vanity press. ❗
The fallout. Harlequin authors are worried that the name has been tainted by this move. I can’t help but agree with them…to an extent. Yes, Harlequin is selling their name to anyone with $599 to $1599 to spare. Several of the authors on the Smart Bitches website have brought up a good point. They’ve spent years trying to get into Harlequin and now it sickens them that others can simply buy the name with three clicks of the mouse. It’s not fair. And as someone else pointed out, this gives Harlequin more incentive to pass up a book that’s “almost there”, but they don’t want to spend their money to find out for sure. Let the writer do it and if the book takes off, then we’ll pull them into the other imprint fold…for probably less money, too.
However, if their vanity press is any different from anyone else’s, writers will be lucky if they sell 50 copies of their book. More important than that, those books won’t be sold on the shelf with the other imprints. That’s the promise. That’s what Malle Vallak said in the comment section of Smart Bitches. By the way, read her post because I found it somewhat puzzling and it didn’t put to sleep all of the questions floating around my head.
What does it mean for authors? For the non-pubbed authors who are trying to get in with Harlequin, not much. If they have agents, then those agents will pitch to Harlequin regardless. For now, they’re still the cream-of-the-romance-publishing crop. Not only that, but it’s good money. As for their current stable of authors, not much. Their books will still end up on the shelves at Targat, B&N, Walmart, etc. The biggest problem I see is author branding and misleading aspiring authors who think they’re going to be picked up by the legit side of Harlequin. Anyone who goes with Harlequin Horizons can pretty much say they’re published with the big boy. How does that distinguish them from authors who’ve spent years getting their foot in the Harlequin door the old-fashioned way? And as a rule of thumb that I’ve heard time and time again, money should flow toward the author. Not from them. Sure, this might sound like an ego trip on the part of the published authors, but it’s a legit argument, if you ask me. Suppose you spent years saving up to get the house of your dreams, only to learn that the guy next door got his for free with the same credit score and history as you?
I wouldn’t be surprised if authors start looking for other publishers because they don’t want to be associated with a vanity press. I don’t blame them in the least. And trust me, those other publishers would be more than happy to snag some good writers to saturate their bottom line, since publishing is still hurting.
What does this mean for readers? It depends. From a reader’s prospective, I’ve read both self-published and vanity press books. While there were some I liked, there were a vast majority that I didn’t. Some have left such a bad taste in my mouth that I could’ve thrown up red ink on the pages to single out all of the grammar mistakes. It’ll take a LOT for me to pick up another self/vanity pubbed book again. So, if you’re a reader, you have an idea of what I’m taking about. Vanity presses are bad news because you’re not going to get the quality of a professionally pubbed book. I don’t care if the book is e-pubbed, small press, or NY. It doesn’t matter. No editing is bad. Period. If I’m going to spend $20 for a book, then I expect a whole lot of quality to go into it. I don’t care who published it or whose brand is slapped on the spine. Based on personal experience, vanity presses and self-published books rarely have it. I’d like to be proven wrong, but so far, it’s a no go.
The magic question. So if someone offered me a Harlequin contract today, would I take it? Of course. I’d be a fool not to. Harlequin is a NY publishing house and one of the best in the business. Any author in their right mind would still want to publish with them. Despite this black mark on their record, a publishing cred from Harlequin is worth something…assuming it’s not from Harlequin Horizons.
My biggest question is how will RWA react to this news? I speculate that they’ll be looking at imprints as part of their recognized publisher listing now, if they want to keep Harlequin in the fold…and their board of directors in tact. And given what I know about how much Harlequin seems to be entangled with RWA, they’ll want to do that. Personally, and sadly, I’d chuck them off the listing because those are the rules. No vanity presses allowed. RWA is for the writer’s best interest. Not the publisher’s.
And you probably thought Carina Press was going to send RWA into a tizzy. 🙂
I could be wrong, but if I just read my RWA Alert correctly, Harlequin just got delisted as a recognized publisher. I’ve even checked the list of eligible pubs on the website and I don’t see them . Kudos for RWA for promptly standing up for their members for a change. But damn if I don’t feel bad for all of those authors who have no other publishing creds under their name other than Harlequin. They’re officially–according to RWA’s standards–vanity-pressed authors now. 😦 Interestingly enough, that means Samhain and all of the other publishers who are listed as non-subsidy/non-vanity are a step above Harlequin. Never thought I’d see the day.
Looks like Mystery Writers of America and Sci-fi Fantasy Writers of Amercia have also followed suit. They’re knocking Harlequin off their list of acceptable publishers. Let’s face it. When a publisher is rejecting authors and then sending them to their vanity press services, that pretty much amounts to scam artist. That’s no different from an agent sending a rejected author to a book doctoring service, which they happen to own. I say bravo to RWA, MWA, and SFWA!
Now, I have one question. What about Thomas Nelson? They’re also doing what Harlequin is doing (with Author Solutions, Inc only calling it something else) and are still on the list of RWA’s eligible publishers. I bet anything, they slipped by because RWA doesn’t have as much incentive to keep them on their radar. Well, you can bet they’re on the radar now. But the question still remains, why? Don’t be surprised if they get tossed too.
I stand corrected. Perhaps RWA is in the process of removing Thomas Nelson too. While I see them still listed on the chart for eligible publishers, I don’t see any submission information about them on the Eligible Publisher Market Update page. 🙂