Friday, November 20, 2009

Harlequin Brouhaha

If you follow many romance industry blogs, you're probably sick to death of hearing about Harlequin Horizons by now. It seems the denizens of Romancelandia have been talking of little else this week.

If you haven't heard, here's a quick primer: Harlequin Enterprises opened a new line called Harlequin Horizons. Unlike their other lines, like Harlequin Presents or Harlequin Blaze, this new line is a pay-to-play vanity publisher - instead of the publisher paying you for the right to publish your work, you are paying them to put it into print (just don't expect it to be stocked in bookstores).

Several aspects of this new enterprise caused a kerfuffle in the writing community. Brand dilution, preying on uneducated aspiring writers to monetize their slush pile, and the misleading verbiage on their sales pitch were all brought up as concerns by writers far and wide. (The thread at Smart Bitches was one epicenter of the discussion if you'd like to see various arguments re: HqHo. They were creeping up on 600 comments when I posted this.)

Romance Writers of America responded by announcing Harlequin was no longer considered an "eligible" publisher according to their definition of such, Mystery Writers of America threatened sanctions & Science Fiction Writers of America jumped into the fray with a statement of their own. Harlequin has now announced that they will be changing the name of Harlequin Horizons (perhaps because there is already a Horizons line in France?) to something less closely tied to their brand.

I'm sure there are still many developments to come and I predict that when everything shakes out, the effect of Horizons will not be as drastic as it originally seemed. Or maybe it'll be more drastic. What do I know?

My question for you is this: if you were a writer interested in publishing with a Harlequin line and you received a rejection letter which included a referral to a Harlequin vanity-publishing company asking you to pay hundreds of dollars to have your book printed, how would you feel? Would you be tempted? Insulted? Would it impact your willingness to submit to Harlequin again in the future? As a writer being targeted by what some are calling predatory business practices, would you feel preyed upon? How do you think Harlequin Horizons will impact Harlequin's reputation in the long run, if at all? Anyone care to speculate?

7 comments:

Christine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dayner said...

I would definitely feel preyed upon and insulted. It seems very unethical and just plain slimy.

Anonymous said...

I would doubt the integrity of the R. Before this, I would take the R as a reason to IMPROVE MY CRAFT.

Kate Diamond said...

It's been very busy at my day job, so I haven't had any time to do writerly web searches. Imagine my surprise when I jumped online yesterday and saw all this chatter!

I read the blog chatter regarding displeasure with Harlequin. I read the Harlequin statement that RWA's reaction was a shock (and also shockingly public).

I'm just hoping there can be some sort of resolution!

Vivi Andrews said...

I'm really hoping that Harlequin draws clearer lines between itself and the vanity press. No one is saying they can't make money by offering that publishing model, but filtering writing-hopefuls with rejection letters to a vanity option with misleading promises really doesn't seem like a good way to maintain a good reputation.

There's been a lot of negative backlash. Here's hoping the future developments are more positive for all parties involved.

Anna Richland said...

If you want an eyebrow raising read, go to page two of Smart Bitches 700 plus comments and do a find on "Nora." Nora Roberts engaged, I think too deeply but she's obviously and correctly passionate about this topic, a person who didn't know when to stop crossing swords with Nora. I had to shake my head and remember Nora's plagiarism discussion at RWA Nationals in 2008. Something along the lines of, if someone plagiarizes you, call me and I will go to their house in the night with an axe. I wouldn't cross Nora after hearing her. Not for anything. Never.

Kate Diamond said...

"Here's hoping the future developments are more positive for all parties involved."

I agree, Vivi. I hope to write category romance, and that makes Harlequin my best bet... the conflict between RWA and Harlequin has me personally worried.