Friday, November 20, 2009

Harlequin Horizons - SFWA Speaks Out

It just keeps getting worse for Harlequin Enterprises, now that Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) have also responded to the news that Harlequin is opening their vanity publishing arm. Yesterday, SFWA released this statement regarding Harlequin's announcement. And here is that statement, in part:

Until such time as Harlequin changes course, and returns to a model of legitimately working with authors instead of charging authors for publishing services, SFWA has no choice but to be absolutely clear that NO titles from ANY Harlequin imprint will be counted as qualifying for membership in SFWA. Further, Harlequin should be on notice that while the rules of our annual Nebula Award do not expressly prohibit self-published titles from winning, it is highly unlikely that our membership would ever nominate or vote for a work that was published in this manner.

And Harlequin is apparently shocked at the responses they've received. It seems to me they pretty much figured that, as the giant of the romance writing industry, they could do pretty much whatever they damn well pleased, and no one would call them out.

Guess they were wrong, huh?

See, it's not just that they are opening a new imprint, and it's not to say that vanity press automatically equals sleaze (there are instances when vanity publishing and/or self publishing are warranted and perfectly legitimate - just generally not for fiction.)

But one of the things that's really gotten so many people twisted into knots is how Harlequin is going about running this show. They play up to the hope and dreams of writers - pay x amount, and you, too, are a Published Author. Maybe your book will catch the attention of an editor. And maybe, just maybe it would happen, but not for the majority of "published" Harlequin Horizons books. To be honest, most of the works found in the slush pile are unpublishable. Basically, Harlequin will make money off said slush pile by encouraging writers who may have very little knowledge of how publishing works, and who may think nothing of writing that check because, hey, I'll be able to say I'm a Harlequin author.

And what's worse? They plan to include, as part of their standard rejection letter, a suggestion to try Harlequin Horizons. Basically, they are going to say, "We think this is too crappy to publish, but it's perfectly publishable if you pay us to publish it."

Imagine that - you're a new author, have waited three (or more) months for a response and not only is it a rejection, but includes a suggestion that, if you pay, they'll in effect, publish it. How crappy is that to do to someone? How sleazy?

And of course, there is the fact that they keep calling it self-publishing, which it isn't. It's vanity publishing. You pay to play, and Harlequin Horizons continues to take a cut in the form of half the royalties (and that's royalties on the net, mind you, not on the cover price.) With true self-publishing, the author pays to have the books printed - after that, all monies go to the author. So Harlequin's trying to pretty up that aspect as well.

I thought I saw somewhere about the Mystery Writers of America releasing a statement as well, but when I went to verify it, I haven't been able to just yet. I don't know that I'll get to it today, as I've got an uber busy schedule, but when and if I can, I will. In the meanwhile, if anyone else has a link, please send it to me so I can keep this updated.

For now, I'll just sit back and watch to see how/if Harlequin manages to fix this mess.


PG Forte said...

Sleazy--yes!! That's exactly the word for it.

And here's the link to MWA's response.

mystery writers of america steps into the fray

AstonWest said...

Check our Kristin Nelson's blog for a post about the MWA response.

Tara McClendon said...

As writers, we are warned over and over again not to work with an agent who charges a reading fee. Is this a double standard? I'm glad the industry is taking a stand on it. In theory it might sound good, but in reality, it's kind of slimy. I think it would've gone over much better if they'd gone with an e-publishing imprint. That way authors make money and don't pay for publishing.

Kim said...

Thanks, PG and Aston! I've got a LOT of reading to catch up on now! =)