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23 November 2009 @ 08:10 pm
first e-books, now vanity publishing  

Last week (the week before? very recently, anyway), Harlequin Books–the parent company which publishes my Walker Papers novels–decided to try to take a chunk out of Ellora’s Cave profits and open Carina Press, an e-book-only press for…well. Smut*.

This past week, Harlequin has decided to jump on the vanity press wagon. They’ll edit and publish your book for the bargain price of something like $6K, and then they’ll take 50% of the royalties 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, “Sorry, we can no longer consider Harlequin a legitimate publisher,” and the Science Fiction Writers of America and the Mystery Writers of America echoed them. Anyway, it’s a big mess and I’m absolutely agog that somebody thought it was a good idea**.

*Don’t get me wrong. Smut sells fantastically in e-book form. I’m in no way slamming it. If I were going to write erotica I’d almost certainly look at Ellora’s Cave as the first market. I’m just sayin’ that’s basically what they’re looking to sell.

**I really can’t actually believe anybody at Harlequin *did* think it was a good idea. Apparently HQN’s parent company needs money, and I can see somebody at *that* level deciding it was a good idea, but holy beans.

(x-posted from the essential kit)
Laura Anne Gilmansuricattus on November 23rd, 2009 07:12 pm (UTC)
Reportedly, the NYC staff (at less than exalted levels, anyway) learned about it the same way and at the same time the rest of the world did.

I suspect "dismayed' doesn't even begin to cover it. As a former editor, my response would not have been politic.
dancinghorse: Pandorabuttdancinghorse on November 23rd, 2009 07:27 pm (UTC)
Oh My. Those are for the most part good and honorable people who love what they do. This must be excruciating.

Bean counters in general are bad news for publishing--they do not get it at all. But this is impressively off base even for them.
UrsulaVursulav on November 24th, 2009 10:02 pm (UTC)
Oh god. My heart goes out to them--that's as nasty a scenario as I can imagine.
wednesday childewedschilde on November 23rd, 2009 07:13 pm (UTC)
just thinking about what harlequin is doing makes my brain hurt.
Kate Kirbykirbyk on November 23rd, 2009 07:31 pm (UTC)
I've been wondering, hearing about this brouhaha, how this affects you and other Luna writers.

But I guess that's a question that you need to ask your agent about. Luna's been very good to you (and by extension, your readers), but this is the kind of thing that could cause one to pause and reflect.

Maybe when one isn't in the Cold Capital of America, though.
kitmizkit on November 23rd, 2009 07:36 pm (UTC)
Realistically, it doesn't affect me. I mean, the RWA, SFWA and MWA not recognizing HQN as a publisher is mildly affecting, except I don't belong to any of those organizations anyway. But it doesn't affect my Luna books any more than the dismal failure of the Bombshell line affected me; they're fully separate entities for my purposes. And honestly, 99% of my readers will never have any idea this is going on, and neither would they care.
Pamela: Batman WTFjeditigger on November 23rd, 2009 07:39 pm (UTC)
Well, thing is, Kit, that a lot of people who follow you are aspiring novelists (like me) and if Harlequin makes ONE DIME off this cheap-ass, sleazy venture they will encourage other publishers to do the same. So it could affect us. As a writer, I'm outraged, especially when I think about the overly trusting authors who would see a Glimmer of Harlequin Hope in that "Hey, you can be a writer, just pony up!" clause without knowing that it's really just paying them a ton of money for nothing more than...well. Nothing.

That summary you linked was terrific. Thank you.

Edited at 2009-11-23 07:40 pm (UTC)
kitmizkit on November 23rd, 2009 07:44 pm (UTC)
Jackie's awesome. :)

And yeah, you're right, it could affect a percentage of my readers, which is part of why it's worth mentioning, I think. But in terms of my book readership, as far as I can tell at the absolute most I'm reaching about 1500, MAYBE as many as 2K people directly with my blogs, facebook, etc. So in the terms of larger readership--well, okay, maybe that's like 95% who'll never hear of this, not 99%. That's what I was thinking of in terms of readership when I said that, not the people who are directly reading this. It probably potentially affects a third or half the people reading this!
Pamelajeditigger on November 24th, 2009 03:22 am (UTC)
...that's too much math for me, love. ;)
Laura Anne Gilmansuricattus on November 23rd, 2009 07:50 pm (UTC)
my .02, adjusted for currency exchange
the only way it would affect anyone with regard to it being a "non-recognized" market would be if someone was trying to use those credits toward membership. This might/might not cause new writers to sell to Harlequin. Likewise, if you were hoping to win a Rita, or an Edgar, or a Nebula off something Harlequin published (and they do have a lot of suspense authors as well as romance), then you're SOL.

But if you're already there? It's not an issue of "punishment." 99% of their ventures are legit, and no organization has called for blacklisting/harming those imprints (nor should they, IMO, as it's not in anyone's best interests right now).

The weightier stick, in terms of what it means to Harlequin, is that established writers whom Harlequin might want to lure might (and likely will) reconsider if they want to submit their work there, as opposed to another house in better repute.

Of course, much will depend on what Harlequin does, going forward.

BTW and in case anyone thought otherwise, the objections being raised are not a slam on self-publishing. Self-publishing is NOT what "Horizons" is offering. What we're trying to do is alert the would-be writers of the world that this is NOT proper, this is NOT the route to a writing career, and this is NOT acceptable to the professionals or would-be professionals who understand that the job of the publisher is to push the BEST manuscripts, not the ones with the fattest wallets.

Edited at 2009-11-23 07:54 pm (UTC)
anthony_lionanthony_lion on November 23rd, 2009 07:41 pm (UTC)

Vanity publishing?

Isn't that a firing offence?
(no, not as in "you're fired," but more like "Ready, Aim, FIRE!")

I mean, I'd rather go unpublished than use Vanity publishing.

Anyway, asking for $6000 + 50% royalties, isn't that a bit much for these kinds of scam?
dancinghorse: angryUFOdancinghorse on November 23rd, 2009 09:57 pm (UTC)
The thing is, you can put your book on lulu or cafepress, get a nice professional package, and in lulu's case if you list them as "publisher" they will put you on amazon and Ingram. You pay nothing but the printing cost of one "proof" copy that you need to check so you're sure the book looks the way you want (which will cost you, for the most part, $10-20 including shipping). You then get a percentage of sales off the site and amazon, which is similar to what a publisher does. And if you pay for your own copies, you pay printing and shipping costs only, and you can sell them for any price you want.

That's self-publishing. Sure, you can pay them for various services, but the costs are in the order of $75 for a listing on additional sites besides amazon, a couple of hundred for cover design or interior design, and so on. Except for the listing service, most of these things you can do on your own with basic photoshop skills and a PDF converter.

Seriously, if you just want to see your book in print, lulu or cafepress or Kinko's will do it for you for 'way, 'way, 'way less than Harlequin is asking. And get it out to more readers, too.

Harlequin is charging authors what it would pay them if they were accepted for its legitimate lines, then taking a cut of any sales above that. It's pure scam, and utterly evil, because it turns the whole process inside out.
martianmooncrabmartianmooncrab on November 23rd, 2009 09:14 pm (UTC)
I have been ticked at Harlequin since they put their Mystery books at subscription only, or you have to order individual titles online, so this pay to publish idea and we rip you off because we are a legit house goes even further.

I am pleased that they are being taken to task over it.
nuj on November 24th, 2009 01:13 am (UTC)
I want to gently correct your assertion that Carina Press seeks to publish smut.

Officially, they say "We expect to publish a majority of romance and erotic romance but are also very interested in women’s fiction, science fiction, fantasy, futuristic, mystery, thrillers, horror, and niches. If you have something new and fresh we would be happy to read your story!"

Most of romance is not erotic, and combining everything, I'd say they seek to publish fiction. :)
kitmizkit on November 24th, 2009 07:20 am (UTC)
Yes, that's their line, but I'm pretty sure what they're aiming at is mostly smut. Like I said, this isn't meant to be a judgement call; it's just what I suspect their motive is. Ellora's Cave, if you read their guidelines, say virtually identical things.
nm_evilednm_eviled on November 27th, 2009 01:52 am (UTC)
Actually, Ellora's Cave is an erotic-only publisher so they're publishing exactly what they've always intended to publish. Carina Press plans to do an array of genres, including some erotic romance but not only. To date, our submissions have actually been weighted quite heavily away from erotic romance, actually! I'm happy to answer other questions about Carina Press if you have any.

Angela James
Executive Editor, Carina Press
Randomnessr_ness on November 24th, 2009 04:12 am (UTC)
If you haven't seen Nick Kaufmann's posts on this whole drama, they're worth a glance, if only for snark.

http://nick-kaufmann.livejournal.com/552336.html (we write a novel in the comments!)
http://nick-kaufmann.livejournal.com/552661.html (goin' Hollywood!)
http://nick-kaufmann.livejournal.com/553435.html (Romance Writers of America strikes back!)
http://nick-kaufmann.livejournal.com/553566.html (Harlequin acts all hurt 'n stuff *snif snif*)

(Commentary in parenthesis is from nihilistic_kid, which is where I found about all this.)

http://nick-kaufmann.livejournal.com/554258.html came out after nihilistic_kid's post, and includes the statement the HWA released.