The Harlequin mash-up

Wednesday, November 18, 2009 12:00
Posted in category Ponderings

Most people will know by now that Harlequin has announced a vanity publishing line, Harlequin Horizons. It’s caused a massive blow-up on the Internet. Ann Aguirre, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, Absolute Write, Maya Reynolds and Dear Author are only a few places where you can see discussions about the new venture.

What strikes me is the consensus of opinion. While there are a few tentative welcomes, most commenters are against the initiative. I’ve rarely seen such agreement. Not 100%, but pretty close. It’s been roundly condemned. If it had tweaked its approach a little more, it might have reached a tentative acceptance.

It’s using the Harlequin name. Good enough for a vanity publisher but not good enough for the digital imprint Carina? Who knows? But from a marketing point of view, this seems to make sense. Because everyone submitting to Harlequin from now on will be ‘made aware’ of Harlequin Horizons, so you can read Harlequin rejects there. That sounds good, doesn’t it? (Not). But they don’t care. They’ll be making their money from the writer, not from the reader, so as long as you can pony up, they’re happy. Carina will probably appeal to a different sector of the readership, since it plans to publish a wider range of books than the Harlequin lines. Or maybe Carina is being super-savvy by deciding to make its own reputation and just using Harlequin’s backing.

Horizons linked with Author Solutions, which doesn’t have a squeaky clean reputation, especially under its imprint of Author House.

I haven’t yet found a page at Horizons that explains, for good and for bad, the business of vanity publishing. When you should and when you should think again, that kind of thing.

Regular Harlequin authors, usually keep silent about the decisions of the publisher. This time several have come out and said how disappointed they are (check the Smart Bitches thread). They worked very hard to get a slot in the Harlequin line of their choice and now anyone who has the money can call themselves a Harlequin author.

LynneCs iconI’m betting that Harlequin’s parent company, Torstar, has seen the “business opportunities” in what it pretty much its only healthy subsidiary. It might even be considering turning Harlequin into a cash cow, which in marketing terms receives minimum support and is squeezed for maximum profit. This is going to devalue the Harlequin name, no question.

Me? Count me on the side of the appalled. I thought Harlequin had more sense, but if the orders came from above, they’d have little choice.

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