Here’s everything I know about romance writing:
- It’s not my thing.
Which is why I didn’t really know what to make of Harlequin’s recent announcement that they were starting a self-publishing/branded-imprint hybrid called Harlequin Horizons. Fortunately, people like Jackie Kessler know a good bit more than I do about such things, and in a post on her blog today she pulls the wool back quite nicely:
What is the difference between what Harlequin is doing here and what scammer agents do when they reject an author but then steer them to Papa Jack’s Editorial to pay a lot of money to “clean up” their submissions…and Papa Jack is another business owned by that agent? Easy: none.
Read the whole thing, it’s more than worth it. And if you know anyone who has stars in their eyes about this supposed opportunity, make sure they see Jackie’s post.
I also suspect this is only the beginning of such shenanigans. The idea that all of these novice, amateur and un-published professional writers are suddenly going to take advantage of self-publishing tools has got to be making traditional publishers both mental and green with greed. Ergo Harlequin dangles its brand in front of the uninitiated, works a bait-and-switch, and takes a cut. Ugly, but oh-so lucrative.
(By the way, I’d never even heard of the RWA before, but good for them for saying, “No.”)
Update: April L. Hamilton weighed in on this debacle as well, and as always April gets inside the numbers:
For example, as of this writing it costs $35 to register a U.S. copyright online; HH/ASI charges $204 for this same service.
Depressing and predictable at the same time.
Read April’s post. If you’re too busy, read the UPDATE at the bottom, then find time for the rest later. This kind of thing is not going to go away, it’s simply going to become more sophisticated.
(The people at Harlequin are not embarrassed that they’ve been caught red-handed, they’re embarrassed that they didn’t make things so convoluted and obscure that no one could really tell what was going on. Like your cell-phone contract.)
Later update: John Sclazi rips up the remaining shreds.
— Mark Barrett
April L. Hamilton says
Did you see my take on it?
I started reading it yesterday, lost it in a Mozilla crash, then forgot about it because I have a headcold that’s refusing to commit to any sort of resolution. My apologies — as always you’ve put your finger on why this is happening (easy money) and what’s wrong with it (everything).
See update to post.
Author Solutions published 13,000 titles last year. Titles that vary in content and quality. Titles that perhaps didn’t quite fit a publisher’s existing lines. Those books already exist, but are the readers buying them?
And if not, why? (IMHO they aren’t. 2,500,000 copies were sold of 13,000 titles. That first number sounds impressive, right? But divide that down to the average number of copies sold per title = 192. Depressing.)
Those books I spoke of are no different than the products readers will receive through Harlequin Horizons. Because these are Author Solutions products, not Harlequin products. Products designed to lure in writers, not readers. (13,000 packages sold to writers at a base price of $599 multiplies out to $7,887,000. Cha-ching )
That’s an excellent way of putting it:
As for the number crunching, I’m sure the average revenue per title is shallow, particularly given that most of those titles have no marketing behind them — or at least nothing like the marketing that’s done by a publishing house. (Then again, I hear that’s not too great these days, either.)
I like the idea that more titles are available. I’m pretty sure most of them aren’t great. But at least a new kind of filtering mechanism is going to have to develop around a much broader content model — and one that allows writers to compete on the merits, instead of on the merits of a pitch or proposal. As long as you’re willing to do the work, you’re going to have a shot — and that hasn’t been true until recently.