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    The Girlfriends' Cyber Circuit

    Harlequin Horizons versus RWA

    So you may have heard about this thing called Harlequin Horizons, and RWA’s response. But if you’re not in the publishing industry, you may not see why this is a big deal — and why RWA did the best possible thing any author organization could do.

    Basically, Harlequin Enterprises has opened a vanity publishing division called Harlequin Horizons, and RWA has taken away Harlequin Enterprise’s eligibility as an RWA-approved publisher. (I’m not going to link to Horizons because I don’t support it, but if you’re curious, you can go ahead and Google it.)

    Ready for the crash course?

    Yesterday, the following was sent out by Harlequin, about Harlequin Horizons:

    In the last few days we’ve heard concerns from many of you about two new initiatives, Carina Press and Harlequin Horizons. We would like you, our authors, to have the correct information about these programs, and help you understand that these programs are in no way intended to compromise the integrity of Harlequin brand or the quality editorial we publish under that brand.

    Okay, off to a good start, right?

    Harlequin has a long history of being the first choice destination for aspiring romance authors. Our programs have a stellar author base with the result that the bar is exceptionally high for new entrants.

    Yep, okay, rah rah Harlequin, it’s tough to break in, etc. This is all cool.

    The two new platforms that have been announced in the last week provide exposure to a growing stream of self-published new talent and give both Harlequin and romance readers the opportunity to evaluate new voices in the genre. Historically Harlequin, and other publishers, acted as a gateway for aspiring authors. Carina Press and Harlequin Horizons are 21st century vehicles for expanding these types of selection pools.

    Okay, stop right there. First, I’m not going to get into Carina Press, the digital publishing house that Harlequin has launched. Second, see how Harlequin is linking Horizons with self-publishing? So you’re starting to think that Horizons is a press that will let people self-publish, right? Thing is, this is incorrect.

    Our editors remain committed to developing new talent through our regular submission procedures and dedicated to ensuring our published authors remain the global gold standard for romance writing. We also want our current authors to know that the books self-published through Harlequin Horizons will NOT be branded Harlequin, nor will they be distributed by Harlequin or appear in stores next to your books.

    A-ha! Here’s a big clue that aspiring authors better have their eyes open. Yes, the press has the name “Harlequin” on it. But even though you may think this means you’re a legitimate Harlequin author, you’re not. Oh, and Harlequin won’t distribute Horizon books. Horizon books won’t appear “in stores next to your books.” Well, gosh, if you’ve written a romance, and you get it printed through Horizon, it won’t be shelved in romance! Want to know where it will be shelved? Simple: It won’t. That’s right: Horizon books don’t make it to the bookstores, folks. But wait, there’s more!


    For the first time since figures have been kept, print-on-demand titles outpaced traditionally-published titles in 2008 according to Bowker. Self-published print-on-demand titles make up a large portion of this expanding sector. This is not traditional vanity press publishing; self-publishing is a large and vibrant part of the publishing industry today.

    This is correct: self-publishing is an option for authors. It’s an important option. Self-publishing successfully is extremely difficult, and I respect authors who go this route. But note: Harlequin Horizons is **not** offering self-publishing. Read on.

    Horizons books will not be distributed by Harlequin. They will not appear in stores next to your book. Self-published books are generally distributed through large online catalogs.

    Okay, see how they’re lumping two ideas together here to make it sound like Horizons is offering self-publishing? They do point out that Horizon-printed books will not be available in bookstores. Wonder where those catalogs they’re referring to will be.

    Horizons books will not have Harlequin branding. Horizons is a separate brand and will carry the double-H Horizons logo on the spine only, NOT the Harlequin brand.

    So even though they’re taking pains to call themselves “Harlequin Horizons,” they’re saying the book itself won’t have the important Harlequin name or brand. This looks like a bait and switch.

    Readers will not be confused. Harlequin is the gold standard for romance. Readers purchase Harlequin because they trust Harlequin to provide a great story. There will be no ‘dilution’ of quality. Horizons is a separate imprint with no Harlequin branding.

    See the subtle dig here? Harlequin offers top-notch stories…and Horizons isn’t that. So if you choose to go the Horizons route, Harlequin has already said your story isn’t up to par. Despite the “Harlequin” name in Harlequin Horizons, you would not be a Harlequin author. And what’s more, Harlequin itself is saying that if you choose to print your book with Horizons, your story **isn’t good enough to be published by Harlequin.** So rather than encouraging authors to sharpen their skills and become better writers, they’re instead offering a way for aspiring authors to pay to print a story that isn’t ready for prime time. Yes, this is pay to play.

    We’ve taken care to be very transparent. The website is very clear that this is self-publishing; we make no promises that Harlequin will in any way publish and distribute Horizons books in the traditional sense. The Harlequin Horizons author keeps her copyright.

    But is this self-publishing? Read on…

    We’re doing this to support aspiring romance authors who choose to self-publish. Although we do not promise this, we will in fact be monitoring sales/editorial for new voices.

    Hey, look at that: Harlequin is going to be “monitoring” Horizons books for “new voices” — that were not good enough to be published by Harlequin. So they’re offering false hope that if you print your book with Horizons, someone from Harlequin may actually decide to help you break in. Uh huh.

    1. What is Harlequin Horizons?

    Self-publishing is one of a suite of publishing options an aspiring author can choose from these days; with the launch of Carina Press we can provide the flexibility of a digital-only press, and Horizons offers a self-publishing option.

    It is a partnership with Author Solutions – they provide the self-publishing services, we provide our brand name and we make authors we have rejected aware of this service.

    WHOA. Stop right there! The two things Harlequin is bringing to the Horizons venture is its brand name — which it also says will not be on the actual books, so it’s providing its name to this press only — AND Harlequin is going to insert a line into its rejection letters that will point these unhappy authors toward Horizons. Why is this a big deal? Read on…

    It is a publishing service in which authors pay for their work to be published in print and/or eBook formats. Authors purchase publishing “packages” with varying levels of service options including (but not limited to) editing, cover design, and a certain number of print copies of their work.

    Competitive examples include Cross Books and West Bow Press from Thomas Nelson.

    This is a big deal because authors have to pony up money — a lot of money; between $600 and $1,600 just for the book production — to get their manuscripts printed. So Harlequin is going to encourage authors who they have rejected to go ahead and pay Horizons to print their book. In other words, Harlequin has come up with a way to make money off its slush pile.

    Do you see the conflict of interest here? 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.

    2. How is this related to Harlequin?

    Horizons will be a division of Harlequin, operated by Author Solutions.

    Authors published with Harlequin Horizons are not published by Harlequin. The books will carry the double-H Horizons logo on the spine.

    So it’s a branch of Harlequin, but the Horizon author gets none of the Harlequin benefit.

    3. Why is Harlequin launching a self-publishing business?

    Many aspiring authors choose self-publishing as a way to see their work in print – to give copies as gifts, to have a bound copy to help in finding an agent, or simply as a keepsake.

    WHOA, STOP AGAIN. How many legitimate agents would actually read a bound copy/printed book and decide to offer representation for that book that has already been printed? Simple: none.

    Horizons will make it possible for thousands of authors, whose manuscripts Harlequin or other traditional publisher cannot publish, to see their books in print.

    In other words: that manuscript that isn’t good enough to be published by Harlequin can still be printed up and turned into books. Which you will then have to figure out how to market and distribute.

    This offers aspiring authors an opportunity not only to be published, but to grow and develop as writers and refine their personal brand.

    Not published. Printed. And how the hell are you supposed to grow and develop as writers if you don’t work with an editor to make your story as strong as possible? And **what** personal brand does an aspiring author have?

    4. Why is this branded Harlequin?

    We’re proud to offer this option to those who choose to self-publish, and for aspiring romance authors, an association with the Harlequin brand makes sense.

    But but but…the Harlequin name won’t appear on the spine, right?

    The brand, however, is only author-facing; Harlequin will not be branded on the books or in any of the metadata or sales information accompanying the book.

    So, right: the only association the Horizons author has with Harlequin is that’s who’s going to pocket the author’s money: Harlequin. That’s it. No other benefit. Not other association. No other nothing.

    We hope to discover new authors through this service and welcome them into the Harlequin brand family proper.

    Hey, look: it’s false hope again!

    5. Isn’t this misleading for aspiring authors?

    We are not misleading people, but simply offering a Harlequin-approved option for those authors who choose to self-publish.

    This does not change our commitment to finding, publishing, and developing new authors through our series and imprints.

    Our partnership with Author Solutions is not an endorsement of self-publishing over submitting to a publisher or press; but if you choose to self-publish, we endorse Author Solutions through our partnership with them.

    OK, everyone got that? Harlequin is offering this service for people who choose to pay out the nose to get their books printed, with no marketing and no distribution channel. But again, is this really self-publishing? Read on…

    6. Why would authors submit slush to us if this is a better option for them?

    For the same reasons they have always submitted slush – not just for the chance to be published by Harlequin, but with the hope of beginning long and fulfilling career as a Harlequin author.

    And because Harlequin books are actually edited, revised, copy edited, proofed, marketed and distributed to all the primary channels. Oh, and because the author **doesn’t pay for any of this to happen.** In fact, **the author is paid to have this happen.**

    7. Will Harlequin and Author Solutions work together?

    Yes and no. The self-publishing house is a separate business with separate staff, website, contract, etc.

    However, if a title sells very well, Harlequin can acquire the title for future print publication.

    So once again, False Hope rears its head.

    8. What’s going to happen with the slush Harlequin currently receives?

    We will continue to welcome unsolicited manuscripts from aspiring authors.

    All standard/form/template rejection letters will include a short note about Harlequin Horizons as a self-publishing option for the aspiring author.

    Author Solutions will not have access to the author contact information in our eHERS database.

    No one from Author Solutions will contact any aspiring authors unless they opt-in through the website (www.harlequinhorizons.com).

    To reiterate: if your work isn’t good enough for Harlequin to pay you to publish your book, you can still pay Harlequin to print your not-good-enough book and then not distribute it. And hey, to make it easy, you can do this through Harlequin’s website. So they won’t brand these books, they won’t edit them, they won’t market or distribute them, but they sure as hell will point authors there and take their money. Again I call foul: conflict of interest.

    9. Will eHarlequin.com sell these self-published books?


    Gosh, so I wonder where that fabled catalog is that Horizons authors can point people to to purchase their books.

    I’m going to repeat what I said above: according to the Horizons website, the cost for you to print your book with them? $600 – $1,600.

    So…is this really self-publishing, as Harlequin claims?

    No. This is vanity publishing.

    Unlike real self-publishing ventures, Harlequin actually pockets money — according Malle Vallik, Harlequin’s digital director, who showed up at Dear Author (see specifically comment #18) yesterday, the author would get 50% of net. And this is AFTER the author has already paid for everything up front.

    Keep in mind:

    – Self-publishing: author keeps all the money after paying expenses.

    – Vanity publishing: publisher keeps majority of the money and the writer pays all the expenses.

    Oh, there’s lots of ways Harlequin Horizons would be happy to take your money. Like this gem, for example: Harlequin would charge each author $11,995.00 to have their book advert-blurb emailed to people who signed up for HQ newsletters and email alerts and agreed to receive book marketing e-mails.

    Yeah, Harlequin Horizons is a vanity publisher. P&E even says so: it labels Harlequin “vanity publisher” starting 11/17.

    OK. Everyone still with me?

    Yesterday, RWA responded with the following:

    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.

    So Harlequin is no longer an RWA-approved publisher. This is a big deal for romance authors; the Romance Writers of America is the main author organization, much like SFWA is for SF/F authors. This is RWA standing by its ethical guns, even at what is sure to be great cost to the organization.

    To which I say bravo.

    Vanity presses hurt authors. The rule of thumb is money flows **toward** the author. Period. Authors should not have to pay to get their books published — they should be paid for their work. If authors choose to self-publish, they damn well should get 100% of the profits, because they have paid for everything up front.

    I strongly disagree with Harlequin Enterprises’ choice to create Harlequin Horizons. Yes, some other publishers have vanity presses, but they don’t add their brand name to those ventures. And they don’t encourage authors whose works aren’t good enough for traditional publishing to go get printed by those vanity presses.

    This has nothing to do with the Harlequin editors or Harlequin authors. My heart goes out to those authors who are getting caught in the Harlequin Horizons/RWA backlash. I hope that RWA will do what it can for those authors — allow them, for example, to retain their “PAN” status as published authors. I’m sure there will be more about this in the days to come.

    But I firmly believe that RWA did the right thing. I’m glad to see the organization standing by its principles:

    Romance Writers of America’s mission and purpose is to advocate for the professional interests of career-focused romance writers and, despite recent changes within Harlequin Enterprise, we have not wavered from that mission.

    Rock on, RWA.

    139 Responses to “Harlequin Horizons versus RWA”

    1. Wow. Fantastic article. Thanks so much, Jackie. Sometimes that small type is a little hard on the brain as well as the eyes, and you clarified a ton of it there.

      by writingwildly on November 19th, 2009 at 11:23 am

    2. Fantastic. Now this gives me a lot more understanding on what is going on.

      by Jackie (Literary Escapism) on November 19th, 2009 at 11:38 am

    3. Excellent analysis, Jackie.

      by Lisa Trevethan on November 19th, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    4. Great article, Jackie, and thanks for putting your views to print.

      by Suzanne Forrest on November 19th, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    5. Thank you very much for the summary. You made things a LOT clearer for me. Especially when you’re not really in the industry (yet) it’s easy to get confused with all the different information being thrown around. So thanks. :smile:

      by Carolin on November 19th, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    6. *applauds wildly*

      Rock on, girl.

      by Barb Ferrer on November 19th, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    7. At the risk fo being unpopular and on the fringe: I have to say, I disagree with the RWA’s handling. I also think Caveat Emptor applies here: buyer beware. There are multiple vanity venues folks can and do get published through. Harlenquin is diversifying it’s enterprise. Hanging the name but not the brand is curious, but that aside, writers need to be self aware enough to decide for themselves how and where to submit and publish. Those who use vanity press will do it regardless of who’s involved. Those who don’t, won’t. Also: Harlequin makes money from slush by offering authors contracts when they like the work. So now they make more money? It’s commerce, in a free market economy. It’s clearly a separate entity. I think this was an overreaction on many fronts, but it touches many hot buttons for authors and begs the evil question of who is a ‘real’ author and who has ‘made’ it. In the end, I think this will have little impact because there’s a certain portion of the submitting folks who will always go vanity for various and sundary reasons. However, very thought provoking post and I applaud you for standing your ground. :wink:

      by Ursula on November 19th, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    8. Very nicely done, Jackie. Linked from multiple places.

      by Kelly McCullough on November 19th, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    9. Great article! Thank you for making the distinction between self-publishing and vanity press. I hope that Harlequin rethinks the approach to this venture, for what they’re asking is absolutely vanity press.

      by Monica on November 19th, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    10. Thank you very much for breaking down the statements/action of HQN and RWA. It’s easy for aspiring authors to become confused about their options and paths for the best career possible for them and while I understand from a business perspective what Harlequin did, I think they’re making a mistake. It will be interesting to watch and I feel bad for those caught in the middle.


      by Annette on November 19th, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    11. Nice breakdown Jackie.

      I’d like to expand a little on the False Hope thing.

      The FAQ document states:
      “…if a title sells very well, Harlequin can acquire the title for future print publication.”

      I’ve heard that the average vanity press book sells about 75 copies.

      I know of an author who sold over 20 thousand copies of her first Harlequin title. The author was subsequently dropped because sales were “disappointing.”

      So, whaddaya think the chances are that any HH titles will sell “very well” enough to get Harlequin’s attention?


      by Toni Andrews on November 19th, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    12. […] P.P.S. If you want to go beyond parable, and read what another Dame thinks about Harlequin Horizons, check out Jackie Kessler’s Blog. […]

      by Contest Finalists & Elephants « Deadline Dames on November 19th, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    13. […] Author Jackie Kessler […]

    14. Thank you for the detailed analysis. Although the info about Harlequin is disheartening, I’m glad for the details from you.

      by Caroll Silvis on November 19th, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    15. Excellent, excellent blog!! I passed the link on to my local OVRWA members.


      by Gia Dawn on November 19th, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    16. Ursula, it should always be writer/buyer beware. There is no substitute for research/homework.

      But by RWA’s Guidelines…they had no choice.

      This isn’t an issue of HQN owning a majority share of a self pub/vanity press like some pubs.

      HQN is HHz’s parent company. It’s their self-publishing arm.

      But RWA’s guidelines, vanity/self pub presses can not be ‘eligible’ thru RWA’s guidelines.

      by Shiloh Walker on November 19th, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    17. awesome, well thought post, Jackie. ;o) LONG awesome well thought out post, but still awesome.

      by Shiloh Walker on November 19th, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    18. Thanks for this very clear summary of the Harlequin situation. It’s particularly disappointing as it’s come hard on the heels of the launch of Carina, about which a lot of people in the world of m/m romance were very excited, since it was seen as a big Romance publisher dipping their toes into the genre.

      This move with Horizons has now completely negated any possibility of Carina being taken seriously either. Especially as Harlequin themselves are drawing an equivalence between the two new ventures.

      by Alex Beecroft on November 19th, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    19. […] a vanity publisher, here are a few links you might check out: Allison Brennan’s take on it; Jackie Kessler’s analysis of Harlequin’s letter to its writers, a Smart Bitches discussion. Between […]

      by A Lobstick Post « Tartitude on November 19th, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    20. Great way to break this down, Jackie.

      Ursula, I think the one thing missing here is while those who understand it’s vanity press will still use it, Harlequin is parading this as self-publishing. There in lies the problem. And on their web-site they call it **assisted** self-publishing. Even better.

      Right. Pfft.

      by Martha W on November 19th, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    21. I love your analysis of their argument, and I echo your sentiments regarding RWA. This seems to be a purely “business” decision on the part of Harlequin (in the sense that killing people is “just business” for the mob).

      I commend RWA for sticking to its principles as a professional organization. Amen.


      by Mark W. Worthen on November 19th, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    22. Great article, Jackie! But then I expected nothing less. Cheers, Jean Marie :smile:

      by Jean Marie Ward on November 19th, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    23. AMAZING article, Jackie–well done!!! I loved the way you broke this down piece by piece and “translated” it into real and easy to understand facts.

      I was a little confused about this (although I’d already written a letter to RWA congratulating them on their timely and decisive reaction) and this cleared up the few questions I had.

      My hearts go out to the HQN authors I know–I hope that this doesn’t blow back onto them, wonderful writers all.

      I’m going to pass this on all over the place!

      by Deborah Blake on November 19th, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    24. >>This move with Horizons has now completely negated any possibility of Carina being taken seriously either. Especially as Harlequin themselves are drawing an equivalence between the two new ventures.<<

      Agreed. I think Carina has real possibilities and is in all ways legitimate. And yet, HQ shot themselves in the foot by releasing the Horizons venture so close after.

      All around, this whole thing is a mess!

      GREAT summary of the issues, Jackie!

      by Leslie Dicken on November 19th, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    25. Excellent analysis Jackie! And it breaks my heart to see Carina associated with Horizons – the timing was terrible and I truly hope Carina doesn’t suffer from it, but I fear it might

      by Lauren Dane on November 19th, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    26. Great article. Thanks for breaking it all down for us.

      by Hailey Edwards on November 19th, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    27. Yes, it’s unfortunate that this is going to drag down Carina, which I felt had much more legitimacy than the vanity operation.

      It’s all proof that Harlequin is running scared that sticking with “traditional” publishing will soon have them struggling for relevancy and income the way print newspapers are.

      by Cecilia Tan on November 19th, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    28. Excellent exposition of a complicated story. For me, the crucial para in your article is this one: “This is a big deal because authors have to pony up money — a lot of money; between $600 and $1,600 just for the book production — to get their manuscripts printed. So Harlequin is going to encourage authors who they have rejected to go ahead and pay Horizons to print their book. In other words, Harlequin has come up with a way to make money off its slush pile.”


      by Nicola Morgan on November 19th, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    29. 1. What is Harlequin Horizons?

      Self-publishing is one of a suite of publishing options an aspiring author can choose from these days; with the launch of Carina Press we can provide the flexibility of a digital-only press, and Horizons offers a self-publishing option.

      What the hell does Carina have to do with this? It’s like saying “Self publishing is one a suite of option an author can choose from these days. For instance, you can always sell your book for a nice chunk of change to Silhouette Desire, and HHo offers a self-publishing option.”

      Ridiculous. The double-speak is sheer elegance.

      by Diana Peterfreund on November 19th, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    30. AMAZINGLY well thought out response, Jackie.

      I was in the “RWA is overacting” camp when I first heard of this, but my opinion swung 180 degrees when I saw the HH ad on the submission guidelines for Harlequin’s traditional publishing.

      Talk about offering misleading false hope… “Here’s another way to be a Harlequin author. Pay us!”

      Proud of the RWA board right now. Feel badly for all my friends who are HQ authors. Feeling bad for the HQ editors, too. Not their fault their parent company decided to make this unethical, writer-unfriendly move.

      by Maureen McGowan on November 19th, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    31. Thank you for taking the time to explain this so well. I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what this meant- confusing, is it or isn’t it? Umm yeah! Excellent explanation.

      As an unpublished writer this just feels like another blow to the fact that I am trying to do things the ‘right’ way by finding an agent/publisher. Claiming pubbed status by actually being published the right way!

      by Andrea on November 19th, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    32. I’m sure they didn’t mean to, but Harlequin has bought themselves an enormous amount of ill-will with this.

      Many think Harlequin could care less about RWA. But realize that RWA is not just romance writers. It’s a huge, organized base of very active and vocal romance readers and buyers.

      Just think…if you are a corporation, and every year you get to sell yourself directly to several thousand of your best customers, the ones right at the heart of your market, the ones who have direct pipelines to a big percentage of your customer base, and you get to do this in person, with a high profile and great good will–that’s an extremely valuable commodity they have just lost.

      It will be interesting to see if they recognize this themselves.

      by Laura Kinsale on November 19th, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    33. For a student in a publishing class, which I am, this was a fantastic article. Do you mind if I point it out to my professor? WOW! Thank you for blogging this. Thank you for the indepth explanation. Thank you for taking the time to let other people know what the true ramifications are to Harlequin Horizins “Publishing”
      I would boycott Harlequin books, but that would be punishing the legitimate authors to spite the publisher.

      by Susie AKA Susilien on November 19th, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    34. This is excellent analysis. Thank you for taking the time to follow all of these dangling threads.

      by Mark Barrett on November 19th, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    35. Brilliant analysis and presentation. Thanks!

      And cheers to RWA, for doing the right thing.

      by EMoon on November 19th, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    36. Great article, clearly stating facts and well-thought-out opinion. Puts this into perspective and I agree with you on all fronts! Such businesses truly hurt people—and ultimately hurt the publishing industry, which, frankly, is watered down enough.

      by Jane Goodger on November 19th, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    37. Thank you. Just thank you!

      You have taken the time to break down this Harlequin Horizon situation and it is so much appreciated.

      I am in the same boat as many in that I have written a book and would love nothing more than to have that book published. There is blood, sweat and tears poured into that book and all publishing houses, agents, editors, basically anyone in the publishing business, knows that.

      Harlequin knows that too. They know it and they use it for their profit.

      This is just such a devastating moment.

      by Melanie on November 19th, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    38. Just a reader, but I also found this helpful. IMO, the frequent references by HQN to “choice” in this context are very odd — who would choose to publish with HHz if they had any other option?

      I think Laura Kinsale’s comment gets at something it is very hard to articulate: Harlequin is not just another company to people in the romance community. The presence of readers at RWA, and the sale of vintage HQN totes and stationery attests to that. There are emotional, historical, personal, and may other important human connections readers and authors have to HQN which are not well captured by the language of business, of buyer beware, or of due diligence.

      by RRRJessica on November 19th, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    39. Jackie, thanks for taking the time to put this together, you did a great job explaining the issues, so I just put a link to your summary in my blog.

      Like Maureen McGowan, I’m proud of RWA’s board for taking such a strong stand. And I feel sorry for all the Harlequin authors who are going to be hurt in the short term by the loss of RWA recognition, and in the long term may find their careers suffer as Harlequin changes its business model.

      by Patricia Bray on November 19th, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    40. EXCELLENT argument and dissection of the issue. Thank you for posting this!

      by Rhonda Stapleton on November 19th, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    41. Thanks Jackie for taking the time to give us your version and there is much valid there but also much I do not agree with. First, exactly what is the difference between self-publishing and vanity publishing? In each case the author puts his or her own money up front to get a book produced and sells it on their own.
      If someone wants to do this, I have no issues with it! So lets not split hairs on daffynitions. There is a lot of money in self-publishing (the term I prefer) or companies like Lulu and an ildie Vantage Press would not be there and more coming along. Everyone thinks s/he can write a book. Some can, some should not try but that is not the point.
      Sure, go RWA, rah rah etc. Stick to your guns yadda yadda. BUT, remember the little books Kensington sold only at Walmart? There was a huge RWA flap over that but in the end it did not change anything and life went on. I predict the same thing will happen here. Publishing is changing and companies will be trying many things to thrive, even to surivive. If it works, why knock it? And yes, caveat emptor, author and all others! I do not ask RWA to be my nanny and mama and business advisor; I have been a big girl for a long time now.
      BTW if RWA’s opinion and sanctions really mean that much, will we see Harlequin back down? Do not hold your breath as you might turn blue before it happens. H/S is the world’s largets romance publisher; do you really think they care??? It would be nice to think so but reality is normally not nice.


      by Gwynn Morgan on November 19th, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    42. :cry: How sad! Harlequin will no doubt make a little money from its scammy Horizons venture. However, it will lose far, far more in reputation and prestige. That eventually will cost the corporation dearly in terms of dollars and cents, the kind of write-offs that their pathetic little vanity press cannot begin to cover.

      I applaud the Romance Writers of America for being the first to stand up and denounce this venture. As individual writers and readers, we can follow suit. Boycott Harlequin Horizons!

      Thank you so much for examining and explaining this situation in depth, Jackie Kessler. Keep up the good work!

      by Mary Anne Landers on November 19th, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    43. Great article J.K. Thanks!

      And excellent point, Laura K.

      Public reputation, customer loyalty, and supplier goodwill are the armor that best protects a company from rising competitors. Has Harlequin just invited some enterprising knight to storm the castle? We’ll see.

      by Regina Richards on November 19th, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    44. What I find even more disturbing on Harlequin’s part than the lumping together of Carina and Horizons is the fact that when Carina came out, they mentioned that they’d chosen to name it that way because they wanted it to be a unique venture, seperate from the Harlequin brand. So they aren’t willing to extend the Harlequin name to authors they’ll be paying, but they’re happy to use it for vanity publishing? Sleazy. Very, very sleazy, imo.

      by Lynz on November 19th, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    45. @Gwenn,

      Frankly, it would be far better for self-publishing itself to be a separate, thriving, independent industry which competes cleanly by offering a competitive product and service (Lulu model, not the ones linked with Amazon, Harlequin or any company with upstream and downstream publishing interests.)

      When corporations start trying to control product all the way up and down along a revenue stream, the way Amazon is attempting to with ebooks, the downstream consumer gets stuck with monolithic pricing and upstream providers are forced to deal with a single viable market for their product.

      This is bad for everybody except the guy who got hold of the monopoly. And if you think that just by self-publishing, you can avoid a monopolized market, you need to continue to study how it all works.

      by Laura Kinsale on November 19th, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    46. Outstanding article. Bravo. Thank you for writing it.

      by Rosemary Letson on November 19th, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    47. @ Gwynn #41

      There is a HUGE difference between true self-publishing (lulu, etc) and vanity publishing. Please do not lump them together.

      Vanity publishers KEEP MOST OF THE MONEY FROM SALES plus mark up basic services FAR beyond cost.

      True self-publishing is totally valid, and the authors keep %100 of the proceeds of their sales.

      HHor is not only making people pay to publish, THEY own the ISBN of the book and they keep all profits on sales except for giving the author %50 of net. NET. Not cover price. Whatever the profit may be from sales, the author only gets half. That is not a true self-publishing model. It’s a scam.

      by Anthea Lawson on November 19th, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    48. You go, Ms. Jackie! You said just about everything I was thinking, and much more calmly and clearly than I probably could have managed right now!

      And with all due respect, Gwynn, there is a HUGE difference between self-publishing and vanity publishing and Jackie is in no ways splitting hairs on “daffynitions” (sic) by laying that out and clearly explaining the differences to those who may not realize it. Self-publishing refers to the business model in which an author maintains complete control over all aspects of the publishing process–including earning 100% of all profits after paying expenses for the publishing process. Vanity publishing, on the other hand, operates much differently. The vanity publisher maintains most control over the publishing process and, in addition to charging the author usually exorbitant fees for the printing process, also takes a considerable bite of the profits on the back end.

      To comment specifically on what HH is doing here–overcharging for printing the author’s books PLUS only paying the author 50% on NET rather than cover is just absolutely insane. No way you can call what they’re doing self-publishing. It is vanity publishing, clear and simple.

      by Kasey Mackenzie on November 19th, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    49. […] won’t go into why I think this whole situation stinks to high heaven–mainly because Jackie Kessler has already done that a whole lot more eloquently than I ever could. I will say, however, that I […]

      by Harlequin Uproar… | Keri Arthur on November 19th, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    50. Hello Jackie, here via Stephen Leigh’s blog over on lj.

      I think people often have a problem recognizing the distinction between self-publishing and vanity publishing. Your point about who collects the profits is most salient, and should be emphasized:

      Vanity publishing is when the publisher/printer keeps a piece of the money the consumer pays for it.

      Self-publishing is when the author pays for the printing, but keeps all the profit from the sale to the consumer (the retailer’s share is not profit).

      Outside of that distinction, it’s very fuzzy. What’s the difference between paying a freelance copyeditor or paying AuthorHouse? What’s the difference between hiring a book designer and typesetter, and asking AuthorHouse to provide those things for you?

      I think that fuzzy zone is where people get confused and don’t understand the problem.

      A book packager may do all of that editing and typesetting stuff for a fee, and indeed, they are hired by regular publishers all the time for this purpose. But book packagers are work for hire. When the work is done, they take their check and go away.

      They don’t continue to claim any of the profit of the book on a per-copy basis.

      A printer takes their pay for printing the book, and goes away. It’s the author’s problem to sell the book.

      We get into a confused zone again with POD–the printer gets paid for each copy, and since the copies only print when they are being sold, it looks a lot like the printer is getting a piece of the sales action.

      But no. The contract with a legit POD printer is that they print the book. They are paid for the service rendered. (Evidence: If the publisher gets bookstore distribution and decides to accept returns, the POD printer sure ain’t returning the money when a copy comes back to the warehouse. They printed, they were paid, they go away.)

      by --E on November 19th, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    51. […] really been to well received.  For those like me who really didn’t get it at first, Jackie Kessler has a great article explaining why Harlequin Horizons is going to be an epic fail for Harlequin.  […]

      by News on the Horizon | Literary Escapism on November 19th, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    52. @Anthea #47 and @Kasey #48 – You both hit the nail on the head and said exactly what I intended to mention.

      It’s sick and wrong that vanity publishers have hijacked the term “self-publishing” when clearly the publishing model is completely different. And, of course, the other term they use to confuse aspiring authors: POD publishing (print-on-demand), a digital printing technology also used by traditional publishers, not a publishing model at all.

      I can’t believe Harlequin is stooping to that level and has become a subsidy wolf in Fabio brand clothing.

      Great post, Jackie. I tweeted a link and also shared it with a couple listservs.

      by Annette Fix on November 19th, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    53. Wow – the best explanation for this issue I’ve read yet.

      I’m so drained from it all, I don’t have anything more to add. :)

      by Kathy Holmes on November 19th, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    54. Great job breaking it down for someone who is new to the author world. :grin:

      by Emily on November 19th, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    55. Ok, this had to take some time for you to put together, and it was just brilliantly done. Point-by-point, questions and answers.


      by Chrissy on November 19th, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    56. […] 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 […]

      by Jackie Kessler on Harlequin Horizons | Ditchwalk on November 19th, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    57. I don’t think boycotting HH would hurt anyone but the writers who use it. Boycotting all of Harlequin: that would get the message across. But it’s not going to happen. I think if this sort of “assisted publishing” spreads throughout the publishing world, the Internet is going to become the new publishing venue of choice for midlist and below writers.

      by Paul Woodlin on November 19th, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    58. Brava, Jackie! Brava!

      by Amanda Brice on November 19th, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    59. Thanks for this Jackie, this is the most detailed info I’ve found on HH yet.

      by Lis on November 19th, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    60. Today, the Mystery Writers of America notified their members of the actions they are taking in response to Harlequin’s manuscript critique business and their self-publishing venture:

      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.

      by Lee Goldberg on November 19th, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    61. Brava to Jackie!
      Brava to RWA!
      Brava to MRA!

      So has anyone seen whether SFWA has responded to this? Author’s Guild?

      The big losers in all of this are the HQ authors (the real ones). This saddens me beyond belief. All I want for Christmas is another publisher to launch a new category line.

      by Trish on November 19th, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    62. Jackie thank you for the well-thought article. I had the same reactio as Maureen when I first read the RWA alert about removing Harlequin as an RWA-eligible publisher, but now that I read this, I think that RWA has done the right thing. I commend the board for having the balls to do it. It can’t have been an easy decision.

      by Elizabeth Kerri Mahon on November 19th, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    63. Lynz, you are so right! They said Carina couldn’t be Harlequin because it wasn’t necessarily “Harlequin promise” books (though neither are harlequin Teen books and oh well) — and then they cash in on their rep — though I just heard that maybe they’ve dropped the Harlequin branding?

      by Diana Peterfreund on November 19th, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    64. Yay. I came here to make sure you’d have the latest on the Mystery Writers of America condemnation, and I see you’re well ahead of me.

      I have to admit I’m thrilled people outside of the romance community see this as such a huge ethical breech. There are enough voices on Twitter who don’t get it, I’ve been concerned. Perhaps this will help them understand some of the issues.

      by hope101 on November 19th, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    65. I see that no one’s commented on this bit:

      Horizons books will not be distributed by Harlequin. They will not appear in stores next to your book. Self-published books are generally distributed through large online catalogs.

      You correctly asked where those catalogs would be, but don’t reach a conclusion.

      I believe that they meant the catalog of books available at Amazon (and similar on-line retailers), where anything with an ISBN (e.g. Atlanta Nights) gets listed.

      by James Macdonald on November 19th, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    66. Fabulous post, Jackie. You spell it all out beautifully. Well done!

      by Tasha Alexander on November 19th, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    67. […] Jackie Kessler has done a thorough, terrific job breaking down and explaining exactly what Harlequin is doing and why RWA has rescinded Harlequin Enterprises’ eligibiity for RWA-provided conference resources. […]

      by Harlequin, You Harlot! « The Whinery on November 19th, 2009 at 9:51 pm

    68. I agree – right on, RWA!

      by Christine Ashworth on November 19th, 2009 at 9:51 pm

    69. In case you haven’t heard, this wonderfully informative post has been linked by Publishers Marketplace!

      by Jeaniene Frost on November 19th, 2009 at 9:52 pm

    70. SFWA will be responding soon.

      by Victoria Strauss on November 19th, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    71. Thank you, everyone, for all of your comments. I am thrilled to hear that MWA has already responded in kind, and that SFWA’s response is also coming.

      Jim, thank you for mentioning that the HqHo catalog would most likely be via Amazon — and for the mention of the brilliant Atlanta Nights.

      I heard this evening that Harlequin has agreed to change the name of Harlequin Horizons to something that does not reference Harlequin — but Harlequin will still keep the website plug for Horizons as well as keep the mention in its rejection letters. In my opinion, this is much too little, and much too late.

      by Jackie on November 19th, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    72. […] Jackie Kessler – Insert Witty Title Here […]

      by Amen Break Macabre Artwork | downloadfreeneroburner on November 19th, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    73. Jackie – One thing you might want to add is to suggest a “less slimy” option for someone who wants to self-publish (lulu is the only one I know of, but I’m not a writer)… And perhaps an option for someone who truly wants to use a vanity press.

      by Alan D. on November 19th, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    74. Writers who want to do true self-publishing (where they keep all the above-cost proceeds from the books they sell) can work with online “upload your book” services like Lulu.com, Wordclay.com, CreateSpace.com, and CafePress.com; they can work directly with online print-on-demand printers like Lightning Source and Booksurge; or they can work with a bricks-and-mortar printer.

      Or they can use a book-printing machine at a local bookstore: one of my local bookstores has a great info page about how that works.

      by Julia Sullivan on November 19th, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    75. A new letter from the CEO of Harlequin was just posted on Pub Rants.
      “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.


      Donna Hayes
      Publisher and Chief Executive Officer
      Harlequin Enterprises Limited”

      by Lynz on November 19th, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    76. […] Author Jackie Kessler has done an excellent analysis of Harlequin’s self-publishing venture…and all the reasons it’s deceptive and bad for writers. It’s a must-read. She quotes extensively from the Harlequin Horizon’s FAQ. This particular excerpt infuriated me: "1. What is Harlequin Horizons? Self-publishing is one of a suite of publishing options an aspiring author can choose from these days; with the launch of Carina Press we can provide the flexibility of a digital-only press, and Horizons offers a self-publishing option. […]

    77. >I don’t think boycotting HH would hurt >anyone but the writers who use it. >Boycotting all of Harlequin: that would >get the message across.

      Please, no!!! Because that would punish the legitimate Harlequin authors who are the ones most sickened and angry about this whole thing.

      by lilian on November 19th, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    78. One thing that I’m really curious about, and I am guessing is probably true, is whether HQN had much say in this venture in the first place? We’re slamming Harlequin, but I’d be willing to put some money on the fact that this was force fed to them by the parent company TorStar, who outside of HQN is bleeding money by the bucketfull. Think HQN editorial staff had any desire to do this? Given editor commentary about publishing in general from HQN editors and others from various houses, I’d guess they were all drowning in scotch by the end of wednesday at their local bars. I’m guessing this info will gradually leak out over time, but I have faith in those who do the daily work in publishing. They’re in it because they love books. HQN employees too. It’s too bad editors aren’t unionized, because I’ll bet they’d have walked over this.

      by jim duncan on November 19th, 2009 at 11:45 pm

    79. Firstly, RWA board has set up a task force to study this issue. For now, HQN will have to pay for things at the convention.

      But the “Buyer beware?” Should we stand by and let people walk into a trap? No! I have a friend who thinks she “sold” her first novel to a “publisher.” They were going to charge her $13,500 to print her book. When she said she didn’t have that kind of money, they immediately dropped the fee to $1,350.

      I wish she’d talked to me before she signed this contract, but she had no contact with other writers or writing organizations. Sadly, she called me after the fact.

      Carolina Valdez

      by Carolina Valdez on November 20th, 2009 at 12:30 am

    80. Thanks for the indepth analysis, Jackie! A skunk by any other name . . .

      by Suzan H. on November 20th, 2009 at 12:57 am

    81. Bravo, Jackie. :grin: Glad you broke this down and added your thoughts. :grin:

      by Tyhitia on November 20th, 2009 at 1:17 am

    82. Great Informative Blog Jackie. However, I don’t see how HQN is involved. I thought that division was a regular part of Harlequin enterprises.
      Carolyn Williamson

      by Carolyn Williamson on November 20th, 2009 at 1:17 am

    83. I find it very hard to believe that Harlequin CEO could possibly have been ‘surprised’ by RWA’s move. Harlequin has been around for a long, long time – sixty years, as their ad campaign all this year points out – and the RWA decision was based on established rather than new policy.

      I’m also kind of entertained that the CEO chastises the RWA board for making this decision without prior consultation or reaching out – the kind, perhaps, that Harlequin might have considered conducting with RWA before making the Horizons announcement?

      by Maya M. on November 20th, 2009 at 1:36 am

    84. […] Jackie Kessler does a breakdown of the concept of Harlequin Horizons and explains exactly why the various stunts they’re trying to pull are […]

    85. The SFWA has also responded. (The last paragraph, especially, rocks!)
      In November, 2009, Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd. announced the launch of a new imprint, Harlequin Horizons, for aspiring romance authors. Under normal circumstances, the addition of a new imprint by a major house would be cause for celebration in the professional writing community. Unfortunately, these are not normal circumstances. Harlequin Horizons is a joint venture with Author Solutions, and it is a vanity/subsidy press that relies upon payments and income from aspiring writers to earn profit, rather than sales of books to actual readers.

      The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. (SFWA) finds it extremely disappointing that Harlequin has chosen to launch an imprint whose sole purpose appears to be the enrichment of the corporate coffers at the expense of aspiring writers. According to their website, “Now with Harlequin Horizons, more writers have the opportunity to enter the market, hone their skills and achieve the goals that burn in their hearts.”

      SFWA calls on Harlequin to openly acknowledge that Harlequin Horizon titles will not be distributed to brick-and-mortar bookstores, thus ensuring that the titles will not be breaking into the real fiction market. SFWA also asks that Harlequin acknowledge that the imprint does not represent a genuine opportunity for aspiring authors to hone their skills, as no editor will be vetting or working on the manuscripts. Further, SFWA believes that work published with Harlequin Horizons may injure writing careers by associating authors’ names with small sales levels reflected by the imprint’s lack of distribution, as well as its emphasis upon income received from writers and not readers. SFWA supports the fundamental principle that writers should be paid for their work, and even those who aspire to professional status and payment ought not to be charged for the privilege of having those aspirations.

      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.

      Already the world’s largest romance publisher, Harlequin should know better than anyone else in the industry the importance of treating authors professionally and with the respect due the craft; Harlequin should have the internal fortitude to resist the lure of easy money taken from aspiring authors who want only to see their work professionally published and may be tempted to believe that this is a legitimate avenue towards those goals.

      SFWA does not believe that changing the name of the imprint, or in some other way attempting to disguise the relationship to Harlequin, changes the intention, and calls on Harlequin to do the right thing by immediately discontinuing this imprint and returning to doing business as an advance and royalty paying publisher.

      For the Board of Directors,
      Russell Davis
      SFWA, Inc.

      by Lynz on November 20th, 2009 at 2:30 am

    86. It’s definately a carrot stick to someone who has been trying to get published for years without success– something I’m sure these new ventures are counting on.

      However, I wouldn’t have minded it so much to try (remember that carrot is looking awfully good to an unpublished person) if they offered some perks with it.

      Such as:

      1) Books they took on would be good enough to sell in a brick and mortar book store.
      2) They never mentioned the cost that the books would sell for which I find even disturbing in some of the newer, smaller publishers (such as $12.99 when you can buy a big author for $6.99)
      3) HH never said how much it would cost to have more books printed.

      I don’t know, but I’m sure they were counting on making money from the “desperate” and I think it would be foolish if you went this route not to pay for editing services which were another $4200 for a 100,000 manuscritpt.

      Desperate but wanting to be careful,

      by Dee on November 20th, 2009 at 8:50 am

    87. Oh, dear. This is the first step toward eradicating any sense of ‘professional’ before the title of ‘author.’ It may give a few people a step up–people who otherwise do not write fiction of sufficient quality to be published. But this only demeans the writer who worked hard to get into (okay, I’ll say it) legitimate print. Or, to look at it another way, now everyone will get to read Harlequin’s slush pile for them.

      by Gregory Frost on November 20th, 2009 at 9:00 am

    88. Oh, in #86, my own post, I didn’t mean I would go for their vanity publishing, I was just trying to say, I can see why someone who has worked a long time to get published might be seduced by it.

      by Dee on November 20th, 2009 at 9:32 am

    89. Thanks Jackie! Great job putting the info in understandable language!

      Will comment #75 make any difference to RWA?

      by Maxine on November 20th, 2009 at 10:11 am

    90. […] Jackie Kessler: http://www.jackiekessler.com/blog/2009/11/19/harlequin-horizons-versus-rwa/ […]

      by Harlequin in Links | Ilona Andrews on November 20th, 2009 at 11:37 am

    91. Maybe it’s just me, but personally, I’d be PISSED if a form-rejection letter from what I assumed to be a traditional publishing company advised me to check out their vanity press if I still want to publish with them.
      That’s just adding insult to injury.

      by Ellen on November 20th, 2009 at 11:55 am

    92. Thanks Jackie for breaking this down. I got the RWA email and I didn’t know what to think.

      by Cassie on November 20th, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    93. Or, to look at it another way, now everyone will get to read Harlequin’s slush pile for them.

      Well, actually nobody will read these books except the friends and family of the people who paid to have them vanity-published.

      But I do take your larger point.

      by Julia Sullivan on November 20th, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    94. I’m so proud to be a member of RWA. These are the kind of issues that really test an organization’s commitment to its stated principles, and RWA came through with honor and integrity. Kudos to the Board for its courage.

      by Phyllis Towzey on November 20th, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    95. […] insult to injury if you go read the letter Harlequin sent to its authors over at Jackie Kessler’s blog (read her whole post, it’s brilliant), it reads a lot like, I don’t know, like […]

    96. Thank you for the analysis. The distintion you make between self publishing and vanity publishing are terrific. I’m all for making a profit, but it seems that Harlequin is taking advantage of both the writer and the consumer in this situation, damaging any credibility they had.

      by MyMusings on November 20th, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    97. […] For a very accurate and well written summary of the situation, please look here  http://www.jackiekessler.com/blog/2009/11/19/harlequin-horizons-versus-rwa/ […]

      by Harlequin Horizon and vanity publishing @ Megan Lindholm on November 20th, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    98. Always late to the party, but thank you for offering this insight Jackie! Your post was thought-provoking and my heart goes out to the Harlequin authors that are forced to be lumped into this train-wreck of a mess.

      So my question is (and forgive me if it was already mentioned in a previous comment) — what happens to all the RITA and Golden Heart applicants? Is RWA going to do a mass muscial chair switcheroo to rid the categories that are Harlequin-heavy? My guess is yes, and my heart goes out to those aspiring writers who view the GH’s as a chance to spotlight their work. And of course to the RITA applicants who look for and deserve kudos as well.

      Even if change is made from Harlequin’s end, it’s very hard to forget in today’s internet age…let this be a lesson for all publishers in what not to do.

      by Cambria Dillon on November 20th, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    99. […] a very accurate and well written summary of the situation, please look here   Jackie Kessler does a great job of explaining all this.  I commend her analysis to your […]

      by Harlequin Horizon, vanity press @ Megan Lindholm on November 20th, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    100. I have done self publishing, 5 books at Lulu already my 5th is entered for 3 different book awards.

      Since LULU is let us print what you wrote, and not a professional publisher, they offer nothing like editorial services. It is very cheap by comparison.

      Author Solutions has Author House and iUniverse, and they are self-publishing but offer professional services. Several iUniverse authors have been paid by big publishers like Simon and Schuster or McClelland and Stewart. Since I was in a time crunch with a limited budget I chose iUniverse for my romance book. I have 3 manuscripts but cannot afford to do more than 1 at this point.

      Dorrance is Vanity. Dorrance asks for $4,000 to $10,000 to publish your book.

      I’ve paid $1,200 to iUniverse for professional services Lulu simply does not have, including a return booksellers program for stores that choose not to carry me to have the option of returning the books, at no financial burden to me, iUniverse eats it. The point being to get my books on shelves, something Lulu cannot do.
      Yes Lulu put me on Amazon and Barnes and Flipkart and Browns and Target etc. etc. but Nobody sees me there. Visibilty works on shelves, not webpages.

      Horizons if it is operated like iUniverse will not be Vanity like Dorrance is, as Author Solutions is iUniverse.

      That’s my 2 cents not that you care.

      by John Ross Harvey on November 20th, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    101. I have never been prouder to be a member of RWA than I am today!

      And “you rock” MWA and SFWA!

      by Joanie on November 20th, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    102. Bravo, RWA! Thank you for summarizing all this in one location for us.

      by Carol Ann Erhardt on November 20th, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    103. Devil’s Advocate question here: if some people would rather pay someone to make a nice package out of their sub-par or niche-market manuscript, why not let them?

      Thins the slush pile for those of us who would rather put our keesters in the chair until our work is either good enough or market-friendly enough to be published traditionally.

      I am really struggling to understand the in loco parentis attitude of RWA and MWA, who will ban Harlequin from their list of accepted publishers if H. doens’t do just as MWA demands (no co-advertising, warning labels, etc).

      I understand that there are plenty of agents who NEVER SELL ANYTHING but churn writers for editing fees, but Harlequin DOES publish authors. Why assume they will take part in unfair business practices?

      I do think HH’s website glosses over the distribution angle on their intro pages. But total ban? Really?

      by Mysti Berry on November 20th, 2009 at 9:40 pm

    104. @ 103. Mysti – Keep in mind that the professional organizations – RWA, MWA and SFWA – are writer’s organizations. That means they have writers’ interests in mind. Vanity publishing is not in the professional writer’s best interest, because professional writers know that money flows toward the author. In other words, we want to be paid for our work, rather than have to pay a press to print our book (which we would then have to market, distribute and sell) let alone give a vanity publisher a majority of the profits for doing nothing. By advertising HQHo in its rejection letters and on its website, Harlequin is not acting in the best interest of authors. (Indeed, it is subtly encouraging authors to give up trying to become better authors and instead pay to print a book that isn’t good enough to be published by a traditional press.)

      by Jackie on November 20th, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    105. Harlequin DOES publish authors. Why assume they will take part in unfair business practices?

      By referring people whose submissions are rejected to a vanity-publishing enterprise with vague encouragements that maybe they’ll be picked up by Harlequin’s trade lines if they do really well, they’re already taking part in unfair business practices.

      by Julia Sullivan on November 20th, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    106. “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.”

      Now isn’t that *special*?

      So — when do you stop sending the rejected writers to Horizon, because that whole conflict of interest thing looks danged ugly on you, dear.

      I *was* going to sub work to HQ, but since they’re no longer recognized as a professional publishing credit, I’ll go elsewhere.


      by JaneyD on November 21st, 2009 at 3:19 am

    107. THANK GOD I FOUND RWA BEFORE ANY OF THIS HAPPENED. I agree in all things buyer beware applies, however, when you’re working your butt of trying to learn the craft, improve your wip, understand an incredibly complex business, and work to live while supporting family, friends etc – all with only a dream to inspire you to continue. Because let’s face it when you know even if you’re picked up traditionally you will in no way be compensated for the hours and hours put in (anyone ever try to figure out a per hour rate for being a writer?) an immensely respected and highly touted name like HQ should be someone an aspiring author could feel good about trusting without having to fear a bait and switch.

      In short ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ TRUST – something that at the moment feels pretty tarnished to me.

      Hazzah RWA MWA SFWA etc

      by KimB on November 21st, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    108. I’ve paid $1,200 to iUniverse for professional services Lulu simply does not have, including a return booksellers program for stores that choose not to carry me to have the option of returning the books, at no financial burden to me, iUniverse eats it. The point being to get my books on shelves, something Lulu cannot do.
      Yes Lulu put me on Amazon and Barnes and Flipkart and Browns and Target etc. etc. but Nobody sees me there. Visibilty works on shelves, not webpages.

      The question is: Does iUniverse actually get your books on shelves in brick and mortar stores? I would agree that without a platform, it’s the most solid visibility around for print books.

      But in my experience as a bookseller of many years (some in chains, the rest in an independent), iUniverse, AH, PA, etc. books are not carried.

      It’s not just a matter of “non-returnable”. We’ve carried one self-publisher (and in this case he was entirely self-published; he took his stuff to a printer and had it printed) to success, but his first novel -was- traditionally published; he didn’t enjoy that process, and he had enough of a name that -readers- were willing to trust him.

      We can’t carry every book that’s published traditionally, period. It’s not possible. We see thousands of titles from publishers’ catalogues and sales reps throughout the year. Yes, we can return any of these that we don’t sell – but having books on your shelf that -won’t- sell is a very, very poor use of linear shelf space, of which there’s too little to begin with.

      The problem with the idea that visibility works on Shelves is that it -relies- on the traditional distribution models, and those models are traditional. I hear a lot of people talking about the wave of the future, and from the way they’re speaking, the wave of the future -won’t involve bookstores-.

      I can understand this when talking about ebooks, whose distribution is -entirely- separate from the rigor of retail space (and from landlords and property tax passthroughs and shoplifting and etc). But if somehow there’s supposed to be a strong connect between waves and waves of vanity press published or self-published PRINT books and bookstores, I fail to see how, exactly, it’s going to evolve.

      It is enough work to stay on top of the various books that will come through the publishers and the reps with whom we have accounts without also trying to wade through the 10,000 new self-published titles that will crop up — sans catalogue or grouping — in Ingrams.

      Assume, in a perfect world, that we would treat all publications equally, regardless of publisher. We would require, what? Double the floor space (and growing)? Double the processing time (and growing), and therefore double the man-hours of the staff? It would, in fact, be much more than double, because the -returns- for these titles would be hideously expensive to pack up and ship, given that it would be what, 1 or 2 books per return? At the moment, distributors take returns for the publishers they distribute, so you’ll ship all of your returns in a cycle to a handful of locations.

      For that expense, we would have to at least double the sales — and our experiments in the past with PoD/self-published titles has indicated that we would not increase -sales- at all. Only expenses.

      I see this as siphoning money from writers; I don’t see this as impacting bookstores because, well, they won’t be there.

      by michelle sagara on November 21st, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    109. […] think that Jackie Kessler described it best on her blog here saying Harlequin has “come up with a way to make money off its slush pile”. They are hoping that […]

    110. 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

      by Anon76 on November 22nd, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    111. @ Ursula #7: Yes, it’s a “free market economy” but the company is not the only actor in that economy. Harlequin is free to start a vanity press, sure. But being free to take that step doesn’t mean free from the consequences, good or bad — it’s supposed to work both ways. In this case, you might say that suppliers (authors, represented by the RWA) and customers (readers) are also free to decide they don’t want to do business with Harlequin if they think the company is engaging in practices that they think are ethically dubious and/or detrimental to their own economic interests.

      As for “buyer beware,” this whole Internet firestorm is just the kind of educational moment that informs the buyer so they *can* beware if necessary. Myself, three days ago I didn’t know the difference between true self-publishing and vanity publishers, and the factors that would lead me to choose one over the other — now I do. (And a tip of the hat to Jackie, because your posts have been fantastic on that score.)

      by Teresa on November 22nd, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    112. […] the incredible amount of space my brain is devoting to the Harlequin Horizon fiasco. You want more links? More? Well, you get the […]

      by Not a Haiku Sunday « Teresa Bodwell Writes on November 22nd, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    113. Thank you so much for posting this! I was considering sending a proposal to HQ, now I won’t.

      by Rhomylly Forbes on November 22nd, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    114. […] Jackie Kessler (succinct summary of the whole thing) […]

      by Time’s a wastin’ (but I’m getting an education!) « on November 22nd, 2009 at 11:33 pm

    115. […] like a vanity publishing arm (as opposed to a true self-publishing arm). Author Jackie Kessler has a good analysis of the situation based on the company’s […]

      by A Quick Thought about Platforms on November 23rd, 2009 at 12:35 am

    116. […] and several outspoken members of the romance community, including Jackie Keesler, whose “Harlequin Horizons versus RWA” post is a […]

    117. […] The lovely and talented Jackie Kessler has been at the forefront of the awareness campaign about this mess. For her take and analysis (which is much more detailed than mine), go here. […]

    118. I am not going to defend Harlequin or Thomas Nelson but just describe what these new imprints are about. They are not Vanity Publishers because such would mean they send you thousands of unwanted books to your garage and you sell them even though they keep 50% or so of royalty. They are not Self-Publishers because that would mean you do everything, and I mean everything yourself but you get to keep, obviously, 100% of the royalty. People have tagged them as Self-Pub for convenience. But they are ASSISTED publishing, which means you ask them, in the basic package, to publish your book, exactly the way you want it, or seek advice if you want a second opinion. They then have a distribution system in which you as the author like in traditional publishing, if you have any sense, will aid to sponsor your own book since putting a book on a shelf doesn’t mean it sells. You get 20% of the royalty for soft copies. With traditional publishers you get more or less 5% of which 15% is given to your agent- who has done what? Given you access to a publisher, changed your book round so much because obviously you are not the expert that an ASSISTED publishing author is otherwise you would take the responsibility of investing in your book with real money.

      The way I see it is that such publishers cannot publish in the traditional manner, give out advances that are not earned out and survive. The problem is indeed that traditional authors expect to have their book published, get a big advance, and if it doesn’t earn out hard luck for the publisher- they have to take risks. Well not anymore- you pay, and it’s only a partial amount, for the cost involved so your book is published and what replaces your advance is the increased royalty percentage, so no one loses out. I don’t see any unfairness in that at all, it’s what they have been doing in most countries, except the UK, for decades.

      You pay, only a partial amount, for the cost involved for publication in Assisted Publishing. The Agent Rachelle Gardner has given a detailed breakdown of cost involved in the publication of a book in Trade Paper which comes to $58,000 and Hard Back is $90,000. See her blog here: http://cba-ramblings.blogspot.com/2009/11/is-your-book-worth-it.html As you probably know, Harlequin asks for $600 and CrossBow $1,000 for a basic package. So, perhaps now you can appreciate why I don’t think it is possible that Assisted Publishing is there to make money off writers. They are there to give an unprecedented, excellent opportunity to writers who have no access to publishers because agents have denied them that access as judging such authors not fit for publication. Finally, publishing houses are opening up the doors to us, as most agents define us, SECOND CLASS authors. And I for one, thank them.

      by Eva Ulian on November 23rd, 2009 at 11:02 am

    119. […] Harlequin felt this recently with the warm reception for their Carina Press announcement, and the cold shoulder Harlequin Horizons received a week later. But now we can “fail fast forward,” informed with real-time reader response to […]

    120. […] on a book that’ll never go into the bookstores. I could rant, but author Jackie Kessler does it so well I’ll just link to her, and then follows up with Harlequin’s response after the Romance Writers of America said, […]

    121. […] 2) Author Jackie Kessler breaks down the problems with “Harlequin Horizons”. […]

      by Randomness for « Twenty Palaces on November 23rd, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    122. […] “To reiterate: if your work isn’t good enough for Harlequin to pay you to publish your book, you can still pay Harlequin to print your not-good-enough book and then not distribute it.” A detailed overview of the issue via Jackie Kessler – Insert Witty Title Here. […]

      by Harlequin Horizon Kerfuffle on November 23rd, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    123. […] Jackie Kessler’s website. There are three posts there that sum up the arguments very well. Check Out Harlequin Horizons Vs. RWA for a piece by piece explanation of the issues. The Day After Harlequin Blinks will give you even […]

    124. […] to write some follow-up about the madness that is Harlequin!fail, but then someone pointed me to Jackie Kessler’s really excellent post about it. She’s continued, in later posts, to express cogently what’s wrong with Harlequin […]

      by Christian A. Young’s Dimlight Archive | on November 23rd, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    125. Bravo to RWA! I hope they stick to their principles.

      by Romance Reader on November 23rd, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    126. […] eureka!  I found a post on Jackie Kessler’s blog!  It’s long but Ms. Kessler breaks the whole sorry mess down for you and doesn’t pull […]

    127. […] Kessler – Post 1, Post 2 and Post […]

      by Radiant Curses & Bound Sorceresses | Literary Escapism on November 24th, 2009 at 12:37 am

    128. […] and the response to it, you can click below on these links for comments: Ashley Grayson Agency Jackie Kessler (Hilarious by the way!) Dear Author Harlequin and Author Solutions Press Release SFWA Statement MWA […]

      by Publishing Definitions | Caridad Pineiro on November 24th, 2009 at 7:03 am

    129. Harlequin-approved….Since when do I need Harlequin’s permission to publish anything. Print-on-Demand services like Lulu offer authors the opportunity to SELF PUBLISH! or in my case run a small niche publishing house.(Role Playing games) We mostly e-publish to small markets.
      I do not need the permission of the big boys in my little niche to do this either.
      Actually it is rather insulting how they have gone about this. Their deal sucks and authors can get better prices at places like LuLu, Lightning source and even Amazon….If I read this right…I am paying them alot of money not to get included as one of their authors. They won’t associate with me unless I sell a LOT of books then they own the rights.

      Eh No. Not only no but HELL NO. If you are an author and want to self publish please email me I can save you thousands of dollars and charge you nothing.

      by Andrew Franke on November 25th, 2009 at 6:29 am

    130. […] with comments from Jackie Kessler who has several posts on the whole HHz/DellArte Press (start with this post about RWA’s swift response and keep reading the week after it.  She has too many great blog posts to name […]

    131. […] Of course, all this commotion was set off by the Harlequin/Horizons (now Horizons is being called DellArte) fiasco from last week. Author Jackie Kessler has a great breakdown of what is wrong with Harlequin’s reasoning in her post Harlequin Horizons versus RWA. […]

    132. With the bad press that DellArte is receiving, I’m amazed that Dell Computers hasn’t sued yet for dilution of reputation.

      by Dave Kuzminski on December 6th, 2009 at 10:31 am

    133. […] to Hate Self-Publishers" is our most popular non-poll post, and given the recent fracas over Harlequin Horizons, I’d like to take a look at how self-publishing can be done right in a variety of ways.  […]

    134. […] Harlequin Horizons versus RWA […]

    135. Basically, I don’t see anything wrong with an aspiring writer supporting his/her work. You have to start somewhere. The market is saturated with seasoned writers, ghost writers and debut writers. Traditional publishing houses cannot afford to print every MS that is received. I feel that authors should support and encourage one another. We should support Westbow and Harlequin Horizons. I believe they will find diamonds in the rough as a result of this venture. Wait and see. Although, however, I feel that Thomas Nelson d/b/a Westbow should be ashamed for charging such outlandish prices (and they are supposed to be Christian – tsk, tsk, tsk – God forbids).

      by Darci on January 7th, 2010 at 3:05 am

    136. […] Shame on you, RWA. I take back my previous bravo. […]

      by Jackie Kessler - Insert Witty Title Here on January 27th, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    137. […] I am very, very, very hopeful that this is indeed the case. In which case, I not only will give back my previous bravo, I will say mea […]

      by Jackie Kessler - Insert Witty Title Here on January 28th, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    138. […] This article from Jackie Kessler clears it up: http://www.jackiekessler.com/blog/2009/11/19/harlequin-horizons-versus-rwa/ […]

      by Harlequin’s Lameness: Cialdini 101 on February 10th, 2010 at 9:47 am

    139. […] Harlequin felt this recently with the warm reception for their Carina Press announcement, and the cold shoulder Harlequin Horizons received a week later. But now we can “fail fast forward,” informed with real-time reader response to […]


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