Post Mortem

Now that the majority of the flames seem to have mellowed out, I’ve been thinking about what exactly went wrong with Harlequin’s launch of Harlequin Horizons.

Apart from the questions of self publishing vs. vanity publishing and profit and loss, I have been pondering why this was such a huge splashing fail.

My answer: brand inconsistency.

Note: I know there are some folks who think of branding as a negative thing. A false front or artificial construct designed purely to sell you things. Not necessarily. Branding is how you communicate who or what you are.

I think the biggest flaw of the entire launch was the increasingly close linking of the publishing wing and the vanity arm of Harlequin, especially the ads all over the eHarlequin site and the Harlequin community pages that read “Be an author!” With the addition of rejection letters directing writers to the Horizons line, the Horizons launch came across as predatory, greedy, and heartlessly tuned solely to profit and bottom line.

That said, corporations have one responsibility and one responsibility alone—namely: to make money for shareholders. So Harlequin’s effort to increase profits is not out of order at all. However, everything about the Horizons launch contrasted severely with the branding of Harlequin up to that point, and the volume of the outcry reflected that disconnect. In effect, that inconsistency created a major loss of goodwill.

Harlequin has gone beyond the reach of any other publisher in romance in the past few years to reveal the process behind the book production. They have entire blogs run by Harlequin staff which are devoted to their individual fiction lines, and employees serve as community managers that revealed the people behind the books to an unheard-of degree. Their digital efforts to reach a new generation of romance readers is part of their evolving success. Harlequin isn’t a “what.” It’s a “who,” and you knew a lot about the various whos who were running the show than you did about any other romance publisher. Harlequin was the first to openly emphasize the reader, the aspiring writer, and the author as a priority, and their efforts to create communities reflect that. I don’t agree with the idea that any romance reader is an aspiring romance writer, but I do see how Harlequin successfully formed communities based on that concept.

They’ve cultivated writers through contests and offer pages upon pages of instruction and tips for those who aspire to be Harlequin authors – for free! There’s no charge to access those instructional pages, nor to join the Harlequin community discussions, nor to post on the bulletin boards or hang out at the blogs. All that cultivation and generosity of time and effort creates… authors. New ones. Who write new books to sell. Whose books may be successful because the writer-turned-author has already invested herself in that community, and that community may have a more attentive interest in that writer’s career.

Of course Harlequin is all about profits. They should be without question. But until Horizons, they’d successfully emphasized the community of readers, writers, and authors to such a degree that their reputation was more than merely corporate.

Harlequin until now has been amazingly attuned to the readers and writers of romance – one of the earliest of the massive publishing corporations that listened and solicited opinions from readers. But Horizons and the ads and the links and the redirection in rejection letters demonstrated such a huge degree of tone deafness, it was jarring. It was wrenching and inconsistent with the brand they’ve established. Add to that the revulsion directed at self publication, the confusion as to what constitutes vanity and self-publication, and the miasma of contradiction found in the path to publishing, then contrast that with the value and meaning of the brand Harlequin cultivated on the part of its readers and authors, and it was a big ol’ mess.

If another publisher did something like this, one who wasn’t so reportedly in touch with readers, one, perchance, who wasn’t as profitable as Harlequin, I don’t think the outcry and fury would have been so enormous.

Harlequin has been more transparent about the publishing process and the types of books they are looking for within their lines, and actively engaging readers and aspiring writers for far longer than any other romance publisher. Thus the avaricious tone of the Horizon’s launch, coupled with the manner in which the Horizons line was connected with the established Harlequin publications, undermined their previous efforts at branding.

But as I said, Harlequin does listen to readers, writers, and authors. I don’t think this is finished, and I think there are lessons inherent in the last few days that apply to everyone who is invested in the romance community. Therefore, I’m listening, too.


Random Musings

Comments are Closed

  1. 1

    That said, corporations have one responsibility and one responsibility alone—namely: to make money for shareholders.

    I just want to point out that shareholder primacy is a relatively US-centric corporate concept, and is not endorsed worldwide. I am by no means an expert (or even mildly well-read) in corporate international law, but I seem to recall reading that the Canadian Supreme Court had very recently rejected full-on shareholder primacy.

    Someone who knows more about this can and should chime in, but I keep hearing this assertion, and I keep thinking that the matter may be a little more nuanced when you’re dealing with companies incorporated in other countries.  This is not to say you’re wrong, but I think it may well depend on the country of incorporation, and we should be wary of assuming our national understanding of the nature of a corporation’s duties holds sway without further comment.

  2. 2

    Just want to thank you, Sarah, for providing this discussion arena.  I’ve certainly learned an enormous amount myself, about a lot of angles that I hadn’t taken the time to really think through or research.

  3. 3
    mulberry says:

    Sarah, that’s an insightful analysis.

    My feeling over this was betrayal.

    Like I’d walked into my bedroom and found my husband in bed with another woman.

    First came disbelief. Then WTF? Then deep pervasive sadness.

    Maybe I’m naive.

    But Harlequin has built their brand loyalty on keeping their promises to readers.

    I don’t like seeing a company I trust make promises they won’t be able to keep.

  4. 4
  5. 5
    Laurel says:

    Other publishers have done this, most notably Random House. The distinction is that they did not link it to rejections and did not bill it as a way to “make your dream of becoming an author” come true.

    Harlequin is very unique as a publisher who accepts submissions directly from an author. It happens other places, but it is routine at Harlequin. This puts them in close contact with the aspiring author, much like the online communities cited in your analysis. It also puts them in the unusual position of marketing their vanity press through rejections. No agent would make money by rejecting a submission.

    I absolutely agree that a company’s first responbility is to remain financially viable. I also think they do owe it to their investors to turn a profit. What Harlequin did should not necessarily be illegal but it was certainly unsavory and even predatory. They sold their name. In a nutshell, they said, “If you pay us we will print your book with the added validation of the Harlequin name on the spine.”

    It wasn’t just that it violated their branding, they specifically used their branding to sell a service and a promise to “make your dream come true.” The only people who can get away with that work for Walt Disney.

  6. 6
    MicheleKS says:

    I called this a ‘brand fart’ similiar to what Coke did back in the 80’s with New Coke. Remember that one?

    Also, consumers are much more aware of branding and have certain expectations for a particular brand. Mess with those expectations and feel the fury.

    Consumers now have a considerable measure of control on the market. If consumers don’t like something, the reaction is instant and powerful and that’s mainly due to the advent of social media (blogs, message boards, Facebook, Twitter, etc). And I think another reason the reaction to the Horizons venture has been so strong is that Harlequin didn’t communicate this beforehand and/or solicit opinion from their community.

  7. 7

    If another publisher did something like this, one who wasn’t so reportedly in touch with readers, one, perchance, who wasn’t as profitable as Harlequin, I don’t think the outcry and fury would have been so enormous.

    Thomas Nelson did it and there was hardly even a blip.  (Random House’s deal was completely different—they invested in an existing self-publishing company, they didn’t start a line of their own publishing company that was vanity.)  In fact, until the hue and cry over Harlequin, Thomas Nelson remained on RWA’s acceptable publishers list.  Now, they’re both gone.

    I doubt this is over, either, and I’ll be very interested in watching how the rest of it plays out.

  8. 8
    Liz says:

    I think you’re right about brand inconsistency, but only to a point.  It goes deeper than that for some people, myself included, even though I’m not a Harlequin author, nor do I aspire to be.

    Part of Harlequin’s brand that feeling of closeness with the reader and, I imagine, with the author.  They paint the picture of Harlequin being different from all the other publishing houses; those other publishers are cold and sterile, all work and no play; but Harlequin cares about its readers, its authors, and the romance genre.  They promote themselves of advocates of romance writers, of romance readers, of the romance genre.  “We are the gold standard of romance,” Harlequin says.  “You can trust us; we know what we’re doing.”  Of course it’s all an illusion, but that illusion was part of the brand, and an important one, at that.  Horizons pulled back the curtain of that illusion, and allowed people to see the wizard for what he was, and it wasn’t pretty.

    I feel as though the mask has slipped and I’ve finally seen Harlequin’s dark passenger, and while the disguise itself hasn’t changed, that brief glimpse of its true form—as unethical and unrepentant, cold and sterile as every other business in the industry—has permanently altered my perception of it.  I only slightly bought into the illusion of loyalty Harlequin portrayed before, but now I can’t even fathom it, not even if I try.  Above my desk in my office, I have a Harlequin wall calendar.  I got it in the mail after signing up for Harlequin’s “Tell Harlequin” campaign.  I’ve always really liked it, because the images are vintage covers, and some of them are freaking hilarious.  But it means less to me now than it did two weeks ago, because the meaning behind it has changed.  I don’t look at it and think “valued customer” anymore; I look at it and think “time wasted taking stupid Harlequin survey.”  It’s a small thing, but it’s only one of many.  It will be a long time before I invest in anything Harlequin without looking over my shoulder.

  9. 9
    Kathy says:

    Picasso had an affair with a girl named Germaine.  She led a very interesting life before and after him.  Maybe this is her story?  Germaine was married to a man named Florentin, and was persued by another painter who killed himself when she rejected him.  Just a thought.

  10. 10
    Ros says:

    Harlequin is very unique as a publisher who accepts submissions directly from an author. It happens other places, but it is routine at Harlequin. This puts them in close contact with the aspiring author, much like the online communities cited in your analysis. It also puts them in the unusual position of marketing their vanity press through rejections. No agent would make money by rejecting a submission.

    Yes, this exactly.  They foster that close relationship with authors through all the blogs and forums and their submission process.  I think that’s why authors feel so betrayed by this – especially on behalf of their fellow-authors about to embark on a process which used to lead to either straightforward publication or rejection, but which might now lead some unsuspecting authors into vanity publishing under another name.

  11. 11

    In addition to everything you mention, Sarah, I think people were also really disturbed by the cost of the packages.  The prices were much, much higher than fees offered by other self-publishing companies.  It seemed like a crass money grab.

  12. 12
    Linda Rader says:

    It was the marketing to the slush pile that raised the hackles of the professional writing community.

  13. 13
    joanneL says:

    As ‘just’ a reader I’m sorry I know anything about Harlequin Horizons.

    I’ve always known, in a peripheral way, that Harlequin is a business but for me it was first and foremost the source for the books that introduced authors and pushed new boundaries without being ‘pushy’. 

    I truly wish I was among those many happy customers of Harlequin who aren’t aware, and will never know, that Harlequin put it’s name on such a cheesy endeavor.

    Of course they want to make money, I get that.  Of course they want to keep their employees working, that’s admirable. Cutting dead weight and implementing new concepts is a given in business and I hope they find ways and means to keep themselves in the black.

    It’s just when I reach in the refridgerator for Hellman’s I don’t want to have to check and see if it’s Hellman’s Lite and when I grab a Harlequin or Silhouette off the bookstand I don’t want to wonder if it was printed on some silly author-want-to-be’s dime.

  14. 14

    So Harlequin’s effort to increase profits is not out of order at all.

    Doing it in a fashion that involves misleading their public, though, is out of order.  The marketing of this doesn’t just violate the brand; it dangles a chimera of happiness and success that the uninformed can easily mistake for reality.  Vanity presses thrive on misleading their customer base (which is writers, not readers), and they don’t give good value for the money sunk into them.

  15. 15
    Theresa Meyers says:

    Excellent analysis. There’s only one thing, and it’s a big thing.
    Unfortunately most people who aren’t in the communications field aren’t aware of it because publicists are trained to keep this below the level of your awareness.

    Branding is more than just an image or a gimmick. It has become an unspoken agreement between consumer and product. Everything at a corporate level should be done with that branding in mind. The reason you have a growing customer base is because they come to rely upon that agreement. When you break that agreement, you tick off your consumer and you risk financial losses.

    It would be no different than if Nora Roberts started writing dark bondage paranormal fantasy and nothing else. That’s not her brand and her readers would likely be loud and beligerant about it. Would she lose readers, even being the icon of romance that she is? Shockingly, yes. Because branding does matter. Your consumers matter. Business bottom line about the customer.

    All those shareholders need to remember that without the customer your shares are worthless.

  16. 16
    Not About the Lies says:

    Nevermind the branding. How about the Lies? Corporations have a responsibility to their shareholders, but they also have a responsibility not to commit fraud.

    Inducing customers to believe that they would have an advantage in the marketplace by publishing under the HQN brand, when no such thing was going to happen was a lie.

    Telling customers that using up their first rights and having a bound copy of their book would help them find an agent was a lie.

    Telling customers on the phone that J.K. Rowling had started as a self-published author was a lie.

  17. 17
    Melissa Blue says:

    Theresa, I’m sure other reasons were involved, but the best current example would be J.D. Robb vs. Nora Roberts. I came to the series long after it became popular and they’d put the Nora Roberts brand on the book too.

    I did have a moment of “what is this?!!!” It didn’t make me stop reading her, but I did come to that book with the mind set this is going to be a Nora Roberts.

    It really depends on how married to the brand a person is and how far apart the brand and the new brand are. In this instance it was a complete departure. So it felt like the previous brand—we nurture authors, we respect our readers—was a lie.

  18. 18
    Ana says:

    I might be missing something, but I really don’t understand why everyone is so angry at Harlequin. I mean, I think “self-publishing” speaks for itself. My grand-father used to write poems for family events: weddings, birthdays and such. And because he wanted to keep them, he went to a self-publishing house, had about 30 copies “published”, and then gave a copy to each member of the family. He obviously is no Pablo Neruda, so his possibilities of being published by a real company were small. This self-publishing company gave him (and us) the possibility to see and keep his poems in much better (and fancier) shape for years and years. Just like him, I imagine there is plenty of people who would like to see their writings “published” as a book even if the quality of the work will normally prevent it, and Harlequin is providing a way to do so. Even better, because Harlequin is very well know, so people who would not know of this possibility any other way have heard of it by now. So, why is everyone so mad about it?

  19. 19
    Theresa Meyers says:


    Check out the 800+ comments on this on page three or four, of this site and you’ll get a thorough understanding of why people are so angry.

  20. 20
    Theresa Meyers says:


    Actually, the J.D. Robb / Nora Roberts branding was a prime example of how to do it correctly. You don’t bait and switch. You introduce the new brand completely separate, let it grow on it’s own, then integrate with the other successful brand if you choose to in order to broaden both customer bases.

    From the outset the publisher did not connect the two. J.D. Robb was J.D. Robb. Only those in the romance community were even aware it was Nora Roberts. It was a brand in and of itself.

    It wasn’t until readers had developed a taste for just J.D. Robb and made it a NYT bestelling name on its own that they did a book that featured both J.D. Robb and Nora Roberts with a black/white cover theme that showed two distinctly different pictures of her back to back one in black leather the other in crisp white suit- which was a perfect way to visually showcase her different brands.

    Had Harlequin not affiliated, but introduced New Horizons without any link to the company, then let it build its own success, then likely no one would have been as concerned about them being affiliated. But that’s not what they’ve been doing. From the outset, just like Sara said in her analysis, what they are doing isn’t matching with what they’ve always said so it is jarring and pisses people off.

    I’ve actually told clients who want to write under more than one name these simple guidelines:
    1. if you write something that’s in direct opposition, you’re two brands can never blend. (ie. christain young adult books and erotica).
    2. Direct oppositions usually invovle matters of sex, politics, money and religion. In these cases your different readers are never going to see eye to eye so don’t ask them to.

    Harleqin was taking on a brand in direct opposition (in regards to money) to the corporate image they’ve had for 60 years (vanity publisher in it for the money vs. traditional print publisher supportive of its authors and readers). That was bound to rock the boat. I just don’t think they anticipated the tidal wave.

  21. 21
    A romance reader says:

    I am simply a reader but I am disgusted by this predatory money grab.  I feel sorry for the authors who have been published by Harlequin as well because what now distnguishes them now from the slush pile—-not the publisher’s ame.  Harlequin plays up their image of being women’s fiction and being women friendly but now it blatantly obvious that it is all smoke and mirrors.  They play on the home and family image.  Well, a name means something.  People sign honor pledges with their names in those exam booklets.  People sign their names to legal documents.  Branding is important as many have said before.  I no longer trust the name.

    I love the comment about drawing back the curtain.  Yes, Harlequin should make money but not by preying upon prospective authors or potentially their loyal customer base.  For me as a customer, Harlequin just went one step too far.  Some corporate bozo made a bad decision and it has consequences.  Not just the RWA but people like me who are just readers, not an aspiring author, who no longer wants to be part of this cynical infomercial-type scheme.  One good thing—-there are lots of great romances out there and lots of publishers and as a reader, I have lots of choices.  I will not be choosing the Harlequin brand now.

  22. 22
    JenTurner says:

    I totally agree with your comments, Sarah. It wasn’t Harlequin’s attempt to enter into an alternative publishing market that bothered me…it was the manner in which they did so. Partnering with a vanity press that doesn’t have the greatest reputation to begin with, and then marketing that service as a way to make your publishing dreams come true, was a huge mistake. But I have a question for everyone who’s been following this story…and please bear with me because it takes a moment to explain:

    Let’s say Harlequin had opened a new subsidiary last week called Harlequin Horizons. And let’s say this division, staffed by Harlequin editors and other employees or even outsourced to a company they were comfortable partnering with, had opened their doors by asking for submissions from self-published authors and already established small presses or e-publishers. They might’ve said something like, send us the cover of your romance novel along with the inside book block, both of which have already been created for the trade paperback or e-book version, along with your sales figures for said book (at least 1,000 copies sold through major online print & e-book retailers), and a list of all the marketing/promo you’ve done for this title. Once we receive your submission, we’re going to take a few weeks and evaluate your materials. We’re going to look at the quality of the writing/editing and the overall story, the professionalism of the cover design and marketing efforts, as well as your sales data…and when we’re finished, we’ll either send you a polite e-mail saying thanks but no thanks, or we’ll invite you to the next step in our process.

    The next step of the process is where we offer you a small mass market paperback run of 5,000 copies, at no upfront cost to you – because we think putting your novel in bookstores is a RISK worth taking. So instead of paying you an advance or purchasing rights as we would with a traditional author, we’re going to work with you to do mild editing in the form of only fixing any existing typos or grammatical errors if there are any (so our reputation for high quality stands strong because we already think your book has merit), and then we’re going to enter into a contract where after you assign this mass market paperback version a new ISBN number (because it must have a different ISBN than the trade paperback or e-book version), we’re going to print the book, distribute it to 5-10 test markets, and offer you a royalty of $0.50 per copy sold. Yes, we understand that we’re going to give this book a cover price of $5.99 per copy and keep $5.49 to cover printing, our profit and the wholesale discount we have to offer to put your book on the shelves, but you see – we’re taking a risk. We’re using our extensive knowledge and expertise in regards to the romance industry, along with our own distribution channels to place your novel into select romance markets that we know perform well…which we happen to know is something you couldn’t do on your own. Oh, and we’re also not going to do any marketing or promotional work for your title. Since we’re taking a financial risk on the print run, we expect you’ll put some extra money into marketing your now cheaper, more accessible title. If all 5,000 copies sell in the timeframe we set, then we’ll go back to the table and negotiate a larger print run and a different royalty structure. If they don’t, we’ll send you a royalty check for the copies that did sell and our contract will terminate.

    So here’s my question: If Harlequin had come out with that strategy last week, do you think authors, other publishing industry pros, the RWA, or romance readers would have reacted the same? If Harlequin’s name had been attached to a stylized self-publishing venture that they actually invested in, would you have felt differently? Or does the thought of any major publisher getting involved with authors who didn’t get picked up by NY, for whatever reason, leave a bad taste in your mouth?

    For the most part, the model I described above is somewhat similar to what Lightning Source, Inc. already does. LSI prints a book and distributes it via routes they’ve already established with major bookstores, online and brick and mortar, and independents. However, LSI doesn’t offer any kind of author services such as editing, cover design or anything like that, and they also don’t offer mass market printing. LSI will print a bad book riddled with grammar errors just as happily as they’ll print a great book. But before you can even apply with LSI, you have to put out $275 to purchase ISBN numbers that are either registered to your name or the company you’ve created. And, personally, I think LSI uses that rule as a “gatekeeper”, because only someone who’s really serious and has done their homework would put out $275 just for 10 numbers.

    But Harlequin has the resources and the technology to offer everything LSI does and more, which means they could easily make a substantial profit by becoming a step between self-publishing/small presses and traditional publishing. I’m sure the numbers I used above for royalties and whatnot might have to be tweaked a bit, but I think the concept is viable, and it opens Harlequin’s doors to self-published authors, small presses and digital publishers seeking a wider audience for their titles. And, more than anything, not only would the above process allow Harlequin to make sure the end product meets or exceeds its own quality standards, but it would give Harlequin an avenue to find the new talent they’ve said they’re searching for and put that talent in front of a lot more readers.

  23. 23

    That set up wouldn’t personally have offended me at all, JenTurner.  Basically what you’re describing doesn’t strike me as being in the same league as the underhanded crap they did try to pull.  Allowing a previously self-published or e-published author a way to prove their mass-market print appeal would strike me as a very good idea.

    It was the hearts and rainbows, it’s Harlequin but oh wait, no it’s not, suckering in their rejects and fleecing them of hundreds or thousands of bucks crap that got my personal panties in a bunch.

  24. 24
    Melissa Blue says:

    Had Harlequin not affiliated, but introduced New Horizons without any link to the company, then let it build its own success, then likely no one would have been as concerned about them being affiliated. But that’s not what they’ve been doing.

    You made my point. I didn’t come to J.D. Robb blind. I came with it when it had NORA ROBERTS right beneath it. At the time I wasn’t the savvy reader I am now. This didn’t automatically cue to me this is NOT a Nora Roberts—Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Also good wins over evil. I expected a different genre from the cover. I didn’t expect a marriage i.e. missing out completely on the boy meets girl thing. (I should say I don’t read blurbs, because it takes out the surprise of what the story is going to be about. Yeah, I should change my policy. But that’s not the point.)

    So, now everything you said I agree with. Harlequin wasn’t giving me the boy meets girl set up. They weren’t even giving me the marriage. They were giving me the divorce and still I was kind of hoping there would be an HEA at the end. They didn’t deliver this. It became the book I threw at the wall.

    And, really how many times before now have we readers, viewers have said the corporation doesn’t understand at all what keeps us coming back for more? No it’s not surprising, but it’s damn sure disappointing. Even infuriating because we are not mindless sheep.

    Spam word: Should, yeah, a whole lot of shoulds in this situation.

  25. 25
    Laurel says:

    Hi, Ana!

    You’re right, vanity presses have a definite place and what you describe is perfect. It’s like publishing a photo album through Snapfish or iPhoto. I used a vanity press (Blurb…love love love them!) to publish a family cookbook as a gift. It was marketed as a way to put my memories into a professional looking hardback book with a beautiful jacket. That was exactly what I got.

    Blurb did not ever imply that this might be my first step breaking into the publishing industry as a professional author. It was a glorified family album/cookbook. I got what I paid for and I knew what the expectations were.

    This is absolutely not what the sales pitch for Harlequin Horizons was. They implied that your vanity press book might actually be a contender in the fiction marketplace. Sure, it could happen. I read once about the same guy getting struck by lightening seven times. Much like lightening guy, it is highly unlikely that my vanity press book, no matter what imprint is on the spine, is EVER going to make me a successful author. Furthermore, once a writer has taken this step first rights are gone and their book is far less saleable in traditional avenues. And, to add insult to injury, if Harlequin picked up your book your royalties would not have been negotiable. You have to take what they offer.

    Harlequin was deliberately misleading aspiring writers who lack the experience to know better. For any who fall for it, it will be a disappointing and expensive lesson.

  26. 26
    JenTurner says:

    I absolutely agree with everyone who’s posted that what Harlequin did was wrong in a lot of ways. I guess what I was going for with my scenario above is – what could they have done, or still potentially do, that wouldn’t draw so much negative fire?

    For me, the thought of a traditional publisher carving out a new niche in the self-publishing market is welcome. I’m just really interested in hearing (or reading as the case may be) everyone’s ideas on how they could do it sucessfully, without upsetting traditionally published authors or taking advantage of newbie authors.

    Who knows, maybe Harlequin or some other major publisher will see this discussion and learn something from it…

  27. 27

    Nice post, Sarah, and you make some excellent points.

    I don’t see HQN as some evil entity out to bilk unsuspecting writers for all their worth, and if they wanted to dip their toes into the self-publishing **TRUE SELF-PUBLISHING**, I don’t know that I’d have any problem with it.

    My problems with this has been the way this was done:

    -referring writers from the ‘learn to write’ section of their website.  In my opinion, the ‘become an author’ button seemed rather deceptive.  I can easily see it conveying the message that getted pay by HQN is a ‘pay to play’ venture.

    -referring rejected authors to HHz-see above.

    -what strikes me as overpriced services, along with a perceived message that *this* could be the way to a publishing career.  Sure it could be.  And I could win the lotto tomorrow.  From where I’m sitting, the odds of either are probably pretty similar.

    -the name itself.

    Some of the problems have already been dealt with-the name is changing and the links are gone.  That’s a start.  If they stop the referral mess, I’d be more pleased.

    And if this venture into ‘self-publishing’ was actually done through (IMO) TRUE self publishing…the model where the author fronts the $$ and risk, and keeps all profits?  Hey, I’d be downright pleased.

  28. 28
    Suze says:

    t would be no different than if Nora Roberts started writing dark bondage paranormal fantasy and nothing else.

    So, in other words, Harlequin pulled an LKH?  Teehee.

    I am by no means an expert (or even mildly well-read) in corporate international law, but I seem to recall reading that the Canadian Supreme Court had very recently rejected full-on shareholder primacy.

    I seem to recall that, as well.  And this has been preying on my mind this whole week.  HQ’s HQs are in Canada, and we loveses our regulationses, we does, oh yes, my precioussss.  Shareholders don’t matter as much as the public interest.  Corporations come and go, but people matter.

    This move was shenanigans, and I admit to half-heartedly searching around for the appropriate body to report such shenanigans to.  (Haven’t found it yet, but I’m sure it exists.)

    Also, I thought they were going to change the name.  It’s still Harlequin Horizons.

  29. 29
    Elysa says:


    You mentioned that you don’t want to go to the bookstore and pick up a Harlequin that was self marketed.  Why not?

    I say if the book was good enough for an indie bookstore owner to buy it or for a traditional distributor (which wouldn’t be Harlequin itself) to get it into the stores, the author damn well deserves the money.

    Are we truly not understanding here that self published books have to be *better* than traditionally published books in order to gain any traction in the marketplace?

    And to many of you…if *you* can pick up on the overblown sales tactics that Harlequin is engaging in, what makes you think that aspiring romance authors are going to lose their collective minds and shirts?  Do you secretly think that all other Romance readers are stupid? 

    And @ JenTurner,
    How would self publishing upset a traditionally published author?  And why should any woman tippy-toe around and not pursue her dreams so as not to upset some other woman she hasn’t even met?  That’s like refusing to lose weight because other random fat ladies might hate you.

  30. 30

    Great post, Sarah! 

    I have no qualms with people purchasing services like those offered from Horizons but I do have a big problem with some of the potential fall out.  Well, perhaps not so much a problem as the feeling of greeting a tsunami while sitting in a rowboat.  A big house doing something like this…well, I think a business should be concerned about money- it’s an appropriate, well-defined goal- but what if this branch winds up being more profitable than the actual Harlequin material?  What happens to all those authors?  I’ve read on some agent’s blogs that some of them are actually going to begin looking for agents to help get them into a new publishing house, which I think is a sound idea.  But what happens, in a market which is already having so many issues with gains (not Harlequin- they’ve been weathering this trend just fine and dandy), when it’s more profitable to not publish new authors?  To stick with only the Stephen Kings, the Nora Roberts or John Grishams and the rest get referred to vanity presses?

    Ultimately I still look at this as an opportunity for the consumer to have a good, strong voice.  You don’t like what Harlequin is doing- don’t buy the books (it just really sucks for those authors if people did this… HATE that!  :( ).  You don’t want to support vanity publishing or vanity published but want to support/use true self-publishing services?  Pay for it accordingly.  There are frightfully few areas of industry which seems to be “free-market”- publishing is one of them.  It is in that system the consumer really has the most power- they want/need money to operate, don’t like it then don’t give it to ‘em!

    Well, just my $.02…..  (and for $01 more- what first set me off about this was actually including info about Horizons in their rejection letters then seeing little buttons on the Horizons site like “become an author!”.)

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