Harlequin Horizons: Want to Self Publish? How about Harlequin?

Thinking about self-publishing a book? Wondering what a publishing house really has to offer you, if you’re digitally savvy and know your XML from your epub, and already know marketing and promotion are on your shoulders?

To hell with apps: say it with me now. There’s a Harlequin for that.

Harlequin announced today that they’re launching Harlequin Horizons, a self-publishing enterprise in partnership with Author Solutions, Inc.. From the press release:

Harlequin, Book Business Magazine’s 2009 Publishing Innovator of the Year, regards the self-publishing venture as an accessible opportunity for emerging authors to bring themselves to the attention of the reading public….

Through this strategic alliance; all sales, marketing, publishing, distribution, and book-selling services will be fulfilled by ASI; but Harlequin Horizons will exist as a division of Harlequin Enterprises Limited. Harlequin will monitor sales of books published through the self-publisher for possible pickup by its traditional imprints….

Harlequin Horizons is the second such partnership ASI has launched with a leading trade publisher in the last two months. The parent company of industry-leading self-publishing imprints AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Trafford Publishing, and Xlibris, ASI brought to market more than 21,000 new titles in 2008.

The packages offered online range from $599.00 to $1599.00, and can include various services from editorial to copyright registration. The basics includes an ISBN number, softcover, and several other services, but every package includes softcover and ebook formatting for Kindle and Sony Reader.

I’m going to order some custom socks from Etsy with the Harlequin logo on them, because they keep knocking my current socks off. It is November, people, chill already. Seriously, this is some ground-breaking news that makes me think and rethink and rethink again about the viability of self publishing, print on demand services, and the opportunities that exist at present for authors looking to market their work. 

Now that Harlequin has entered the self-publishing market, after having gone DRM-free with Carina, what’s next? And does this make you interested in or curious about self publishing?

 

Categorized:

General Bitching...

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  1. 1
    Nobilis Reed says:

    Given how few self-published authors sell more than a handful of books, I think the vast majority of the money in this case will be flowing to Harlequin and Author Solutions from authors rather than from readers.

    I think it’s a bad idea, and Harlequin’s reputation (such as it is) will be harmed by this brand.

    Before getting excited about this, check out ASI’s track record:

    http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2009/01/victoria-strauss-author-solutions.html

  2. 2
    Mama Nice says:

    I am just all around impressed with Harlequin and the all sorts of awesome they seem to be churning out!

    Color me clueless, but as a “maybe-this-is-the-year-I-actually-finish-a-book-and-submit-it-to-publishers-author” with the start-up of Carina, why would one choose to go for the self-pub instead…is it because Carina is exclusively digital and the self-pub includes pb’s?

    While we’re on the subject…is it still better to seek a lit.agent prior to sending out submissions – even to an e-pub?

    I hope all this awesomesses from HQ does much to stem the negative attitude associated with e-pubs…that or roll over it in BIGCRUSHINGWAVE mwah hah ha!

  3. 3
    PK says:

    Wow!  This is big news.  I mean with the proliferation of self-publishing and in some cases, leading to a regular publishing contract, Harlequin is making a bold and probably savvy step. 

    A friend of mine self-published a series of books that were very successful.  That success brought her to the attention of Sourcebooks who is now her publisher.  It seems that Harlequin means to jump on the bandwagon early on or at least engage in a low risk/high reward business model.  If the self-published authors already have a platform (my friend did) and write well (my friend really writes beautifully) but perhaps might get lost in the traditional publishing channels, then Harlequin skips the part where they come in late after the author/book has proven that they can drive sales and build an audience.

    I think it’s genius. 

    Would I want to do it myself?  No, not yet, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s a brilliant idea and an equally bold and strategic move.

  4. 4

    Jesus Christ on a pink pogostick.  $360 for a one-page press release?  $600 to buy a review somewhere (which might not even get published!)? $479.00 plus $29 *a month* to create and host an author website?  Oh, but a mere $90 to get into Google Booksearch and Amazon Search Inside (and another $90 for Barnes and Noble!).  I guess that’s supported by the $8,399.00 it costs for the six week publicity package.

    Crikey.  If I had that kind of money to throw around, I wouldn’t need to sell any books.

  5. 5

    $342.00 for a 1700 word sample edit.  $204 for US copyright registration. Dude.

    Nice money if you can get it. Actually picking up any new authors is just going to be gravy on top.

  6. 6
    Betsy says:

    *koff* I have a knitting Etsy shop, and can make you some socks if you like…there’s nothing in the shop right now, because I’ve only been taking custom orders.  madberry.etsy.com.
    Okay, shameless plugging done now.

  7. 7
    Margie says:

    Great way for them to make money in a down market. Nothing against self-publishing but I think they are deluding their brand.

  8. 8
    Anonymous says:

    The vast majority of self-publishing services are essentially parasites on the hopes and dreams of aspiring writers.

    This one, by dint of its connection with Harlequin, is worse: because now it will make people believe that at the low, low cost of $599 (more, if you want to sell anything), they may be able to get an Actual Publisher interested in their work. It’s an audition, if you will, at a huge cost in terms of promotion.

    This actually makes me feel sick to my stomach.

    I also don’t see how this can be “ground breaking” when Harlequin is the second publishing house to partner with ASI. And I think it is an insult to Angela James, Carina, and DRM-free content to mention them in the same sentence as self-publishing.

  9. 9

    Yeah, I’m not thrilled. A brilliant financial move for Harlequin (I’m sure Torstar is rubbing its hands in glee) but the potential for author exploitation is worrisome.

    Writer Beware’s post on Thomas Nelson’s recent deal with ASI has some rather prescient comments, given this news.

  10. 10

    Dear Anonymous,

    I take exeception with your comments. We’re thrilled to be partnering with Harlequin on this project. Tens of thousands of authors have realized their publishing goals with an Author Solutions brand. Self publishing has become a popular option for an increasing number of authors who have struggled for years to bring their stories to the marketplace.

    I would encourage you and all readers , to contact me directly with any questions or concerns you have about this partnership.

    Best,
    Kevin A. Gray
    Author Solutions, Inc.
    kgray @ authorsolutions.com

  11. 11
    Anon76 says:

    So, let me get this right: HQ has affilliated themselves with the “pay-to-play” market? Wish I was the proverbial “mouse in the corner” at RWA headquarters right about now.

  12. 12
    sull says:

    Kevin, I take exception to your thrill.

    Those tens of thousands of authors generated work that was deemed unworthy of publication—in most cases, by more than one agent or publisher. Yes, a small percentage of your authors go into self-publication with full knowledge and don’t have any illusions about their books’ legitimacy in what you call “the marketplace.” But most of them refuse to see the forest for the trees.

    There is a reason those stories “struggle,” as you put it.

    If people who write unpublishable books want to spend their own money to put them between shiny covers, then they’re entitled. But when Harlequin attaches its name to this process, it disappoints me beyond measure. And it makes me see your gleeful, arrogant thrill as nothing more than arrogance.

    I hope this blows up in the face of everyone involved.

  13. 13
    Stacia K says:

    Sorry, I agree wholeheartedly with Nobilis and Anonymous. I am totally shocked that Harlequin would dilute its brand and take advantage of writers in this fashion.

    Kevin A. Gray, I have some questions for you. Of those “thousands of authors” who’ve used your service to print their books, how many of them have sold over, say, 75 copies? To people other than themselves, I mean. (75 is the average number of copies a self-published book sells, if memory serves.) Also, how many copies did your best-selling title sell, and did it remain with you or did the author move on to a commercial publishing house? 

    What were their “publishing goals”? Because most writers I know don’t have “sell copies of [their] book out of [their] garage and personally beg local bookstore managers to stock it” as a “publishing goal.”

    What is the typical price of your books? Are they trade paperbacks, like most print-on-demand titles? Are they POD, or do you do print runs, and how much do you charge writers for those?

    What is the distribution system you have in place for these books?

    How many of those books have made it into bookstores? How much did the writers of those books pay for your services, and what did they get in return? Do you have an in-house sales/marketing staff who will push your books to buyers, which is really the only way books make it into bookstores nationwide (and is something commercial publishers do for free, in addition to paying authors for their work)?

    Do you have any evidence that your “marketing packages” make any difference in sales at all?

    I’m with you, Anonymous. This makes me ill. With all the work so many of us do to teach aspiring writers how publishing really works, and that they deserve to be paid for their work rather than the other way around, and that writing is a craft which must be learned and practiced…all this does is set more new writers up to lose money and have their dreams crushed. How many of them will see this and fall for the sales pitches of self-publishers, when their books could have earned them money rather than cost them, and could have led them into a real writing career?

    And NO, this is not the same as legitimate epublishing.

    I’m so disappointed in Harlequin, and in any major house that does this.

  14. 14

    Wow, really?  So, do they lose their RWA affiliated publisher status now?

  15. 15
    Stacia K says:

    Yeah, I’m fairly eager to see the big RWA back-pedal that must be coming.

  16. 16
    Jody W. says:

    Is this self publishing (where author keeps all rights, monies, etc while hiring others to do things like create formats or covers) or vanity publishing (where author pays to get a book in print while also giving up rights and monies to the printer)? I didn’t see a contract anywhere on the new website.

    Either way, I’m sure Harlequin won’t be the second publisher (saw something about Nelson on Writer Beware) to “leverage” their thousands of rejects into revenue.

  17. 17
    Tabetha says:

    Awesome.  The more options the better for everyone, I think. 

    I went to the site and no where does it make promises of book sales, contracts or make mention of anything to prey on the hopes and dreams of authors.  They’re offering a service that some will think is worth the price and others won’t. I imagine they’ll do well with it too the same way wedding planners, travel agents, personal shoppers and real estate agents do well with the services they offer.  It’s a solid business model not a scam.

  18. 18
    MamaNice says:

    Just watching the back and forth in the comments here is incredibly educational for me. I am new to all of this, have yet to ever try submitting anything anywhere, so have yet to be rejected, accepted or fill in the blank. I most certainly have no intentions of going the self-pub route now (or maybe ever) but it’s clear that the publishing world is changing and the more options available to authors the better, I suppose.
    However, reading the responses, I realize how HQ’s new self-pub offer could take advantage of a writer…though in my book if you don’t do your research before writing a check, you deserve what you get. Someone posted some excellent questions and I am interested to see the answers.

    My “real job” is teaching children’s theatre – and one of the first things I tell parents is to never pay an agent to help make their kid famous or fall for those star search contests that have huge entry fees. Like many have said, if you are good enough to make it – people will pay YOU to work with you.

  19. 19
    Anon76 says:

    I’m still flabbergasted that HQ has signed on to this.

    Dear Authors, if you really, really, really want to get a book out there, any book, why not try an epublisher first. Not all are top rate, but even if you get in with a less than stellar house, you will get some form of editorial services without paying for them.

    Take that information, learn from it, apply it, and keep going. Learn more with each edit or rejection form. (Because most of the editors in the eworld will provide some feedback even with a rejection.)

    And yes, I understand that some houses only focus on sex, but others aren’t that way.

    Or, better yet, find a set of critique partners with like-minded writing interests. Then hone your craft together and submit.

  20. 20
    Stacia K says:

    MamaNice, I just left you a message on your blog. :-)

  21. 21
    Anon As Well says:

    MamaNice said:

    Like many have said, if you are good enough to make it – people will pay YOU to work with you.

    This may be it in a nutshell.  They’re going after those aspiring authors who are tired of submitting, tired of getting rejected, and who might simply be willing to pay someone some $$$ to finally get their words between two covers. 

    I imagine there is a market for this.

  22. 22
    Anonymous says:

    Dear Kevin,

    I’m the first Anonymous.

    I have no problem with the concept of self-publishing, but if you think offering a $3900 “personal media valet” package here: http://www.harlequinhorizons.com/Servicestore/ServiceDetail.aspx?ServiceId=BS-6175 to a self-published author who can’t even get their book in most Barnes and Nobles is doing anything other than preying on hopes and dreams, you are as delusional as your authors.

    That is wasted money. If you don’t think so, then give up the statistics so people can make an informed choice—of the people who purchased that package, what kind of sales did they get? How many of them came close to selling enough books to justify the price tag?

    Put up the information, or shut up about the “opportunity.”

  23. 23
    SB Sarah says:

    I’m asking honestly, without rancor or sarcasm: why is this making you angry, if you’re pissed off?

    For example, Stacia, you said:

    With all the work so many of us do to teach aspiring writers how publishing really works, and that they deserve to be paid for their work rather than the other way around, and that writing is a craft which must be learned and practiced…

    I understand that source of your anger, clearly, from the perspective of having spent time educating aspiring authors on the intricacies of publishing. But why does this make you and others so angry?

    The experience of publishing a book taught me that I must expect to pay for some of the effort of marketing, publicizing, and basically selling a book after it’s been produced. Yes, we received an advance. But I paid for travel, promotional items, and other expenses after the book came out. If I were to write another book, even with a contract from an established publishing house, I’d likely pay for an editor who works for me, not the publishing house – because with the cutbacks and layoffs inside publishing, for every one editor there may be 10 or more books, to say nothing of the possibility that the editor who has my mythical book now may not be the same editor who bought it. The environment within and around publishing is such that as a prospective author of a book, I would want to have more oversight into the editing and production of the book.

    This is one hypothetical experience, but it’s not uncommon. So if I were, with eyes open and fully aware of my responsibilities and risks, to take the Horizon option, how is that in any way detracting from another writer’s experience?

    To go back to my original question: why the anger?

  24. 24
    JS says:

    I do freelance editing and book design in addition to my day job (I have 15+ years of experience in both magazine and book publishing, just FYI), and all I can say is, wow, these prices seem really high.

    The next time someone gives me crap about a quote on their project, I think I’ll send them over to the Harlequin Horizons site and open their eyes a little bit to what these services can cost at a big outfit. ;-)

    Secret word: market48. Guess the people at HH think the market can support $4,800 book packages!

  25. 25
    Anonymous says:

    So if I were, with eyes open and fully aware of my responsibilities and risks, to take the Horizon option, how is that in any way detracting from another writer’s experience?

    It’s the line about “eyes open” that is where the anger stems from. ASI in particular I think specifically deludes its authors as to the possibility of reward, and provides no statistics for people to form their own profit/loss statement in their mind. It appeals to peoples wants and fears, rather than laying it out in a business-like manner. That’s what makes it predatory.

    For me, it’s personal because there are people near and dear to me who have been burned, particularly by ASI. Should they have done more research? Yes, I definitely think so.

    I have no problem with self-publishing, or with authors spending $ on promotional dollars. But in my mind ASI is barely one cut above “Hello, my name is Dr. Nginrina, and I am the former bank treasurer of Nigeria.”

  26. 26
    MS Jones says:

    Through this strategic alliance; all sales, marketing, publishing, distribution, and book-selling services will be fulfilled by ASI; but Harlequin Horizons will exist as a division of Harlequin Enterprises Limited.

    I’m appalled by the improper use of semi-colons. One hopes this does not represent the quality of the Harlequin editing services.

  27. 27
    Lisa Hendrix says:

    There was a pertinent tweet yesterday from Paper Tyger, a former Bantam editor with 11 years of experience:

    papertyger the slush pile: it’s way worse than you think. imagine textual Regretsy – 99.9% misguided, incompetent, or obviously insane.

    I don’t know why we (or Harlequin) would expect self-published books to be any different. Yes, there will be gems. But I can’t help but wonder if the prospect of digging out that .1% is really worth the dilution of Harlequin’s brand with the inevitable tremendous load of dreck.

  28. 28
    Shana says:

    I published a book through this company and have to say that they took pretty good care of me. I haven’t made my initial money back, but I don’t necessarily expect to either. Some people spend $1000 on golf clubs or quilting fabrics and a sewing machine or paints and canvas. I spent my hobby (writing) money on getting my book published. How is that a scam? I got what I paid for. My salesperson was really upfront and honest. He said that I need to market my book myself if I want to succeed and I do that. I’ve sold just under 100 copies in three years, which is pretty good I think.

    The people who get burned are the ones who are so deluded that they think that they will become bestsellers. And these people are the ones who will yell SCAM faster than anyone else. They just don’t listen to what the company is actually saying, I think. I LISTENED so I knew what to expect and I got exactly what I expected. I don’t feel ripped off becuase I didn’t make my cost back yet. Honestly the thrill of holding my own book in my own hand is worth every penny I paid.

    If you know anything about what the publishing industry is going through, you know that even “real” writers (with degrees and books already published and agents and everything) are having problems getting published. The rest of us are on our own, so I’m glad that someone stepped up to offer the service for sale. If you don’t think your work is worth investing in, why should you expect anyone else to? Stupid people who have unrealistic goals may feel burned by this, but if you asked the questions and listen to the answers, you will find it’s a pretty good deal. And if you don’t think that, follow your gut and don’t sign up and give them your money. Its not that confusing.

  29. 29
    Lisa Hendrix says:

    And, btw, I’m not sure if this is self-publishing or a vanity press.  It seems to me that the “promotion package” makes it the latter (real self-publishing is when the individual actually becomes the publisher, hires the designer, printer, etc, does the promotion, and arranges distribution. It doesn’t include “distribution help” from the “publisher).  This is an opinion seconded at teddypig:

    Harlequin will distance themselves from Digital Only Publishing with Carina Press but slap their “good” name all over a Vanity Imprint. Sorry, this was a totally bad business move. Ripping off writers usually is and Harlequin sold their “good” name to Author House.

    The full article is here:

    http://www.teddypig.com/2009/11/reader-beware-harlequin-becomes-a-vanity-press/

  30. 30
    Anon76 says:

    Sarah, I will try to answer your questions from my viewpoint. I cannot speak for others.

    When you published, you had a viable product that the house thought they could sell. They paid you an advance, whatever amount, and put their team to work on it. Cover art, editorial, etc. In epublishing the advance is usually nothing, but the royalty rates are higher, just to distinguish between the two.

    In either case, you as the author, pay no upfront costs. The eceteras are handled by the house taking a risk on you. And trust me, they don’t want to toss their moola into the wind in hopes you sell ten books. They plan on volume, even if they miss the mark on that estimate now and again. And they usually have more contacts to get books listed for sale than a lone author. Not always, but most often.

    But if you want to self publish, no criteria exists. If you can’t string two sentences together, it is of no matter to them. If you can’t sell more than ten books, it is of no matter to them. You paid for all the bells and whistles and that is that. They are happy.

    Truth be told, in either instance you will still have to fork over bucks to promote your book. It’s the norm now.

    And I agree that if you go into the Horizon option well-versed, then no harm done. To work it, an author should well versed in all the ins and outs of such a venture.

    The reason why many of us are up-in-arms is because the majority of newbie writers aren’t well-versed. If they pay, they will have a published book. And everything must be kosher because HQ endorses it, right? You know, that whole idea of “star” endorsement.

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