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Julie Barrett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Plano, TX.

Harlequin Enters the Self-Publishing Field

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


Yesterday Harlequin unveiled a new self-publishing venture called Harlequin Horizons. This is a partnership with Author Solutions, parent of AuthorHouse, Xlibris, iUniverse, and other ventures. The press release announcing the new venture is here.

This announcement has generated a lot of discussion, some of which I'll round up at the end of the post. One of he most interesting is over at Dear Author, where Harlequin's Malle Vallik answers some questions about the venture.

Quoting from the press release:
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.

Will some writers see this as an end run around the slushpile?

Digging down into the site, I see they're calling it "assisted self-publishing." At least they're up-front that you're paying them to publish your book. But I see some problems.

At the DA link above, Ms. Vallik mentioned a something that bothered me:

There are a number of reasons to select self-publishing including 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.

A bound copy for agents? I can't think of a single agent who asks for a bound copy of a manuscript.

And in the comments she added:

A writer receiving a standard reject letter will find a line included about self publishing. The writer, if she wants, can then contact HH. The writer will never be cold-called or contacted unless she has opted in.

It depends on how that line is worded, I suppose. However, "not for us" at Harlequin may be an acceptance at another publisher, depending on the book.

So, let's see where the rubber meets the road. How much is this going to cost? Packages start at $599 and go up to $1,599. All packages include an ISBN (but does it belong to the author, Harlequin, or Author Solutions?), but none except the most expensive package include copyright registration. The charge for that: $204. You can do it yourself for as little as $35. Want your own web site? That will be $479 plus $29 a month. The hosting company for this site charges $10 a month. Another site I maintain is with a company that charges about $60 a year, including domain registration. Both offer templates.

Flip through the list of packages and extras and watch it add up.

In the end, you're paying for a book to get designed and printed - apparently with a Harlequin Horizons logo.

How much to you stand to make back? Again, Ms. Vallik from the DA comment stream:

The content is completely owned by the author. Royalties are 50% net from both eBooks and print.
From reading through her comments it's my understanding that the price is set after consultation between the author and the publisher. How is net defined? It may be different through various sales channels. Standard commercial publishing contracts - even with reputable e-presses - call for royalty on the cover price. If the net is low enough and the sales high enough that can be a wash for the author, but POD books are generally more expensive than offset, so an author doesn't want to price themselves out of the market.

What can you expect for sales? First, keep in mind that YOU are responsible for all marketing and distribution. Your book will be available through Ingram, but who lets the bookstore know they can buy and stock it? You. Who sends out review copies? You. Or, you can buy those services from the publisher.

Before you start dreaming of those big royalty checks, check out this article in the New York Times in which A spokesman for Author Solutions says the average number of copies one of their titles sell is 150. Ouch.

At this point I'm not terribly convinced this is a great idea. As with all such ventures, be sure to weigh the pros and cons (and your bank account) before you proceed. Here are a few related blog posts you should read:

The Dear Author article mentioned above. Please read through the comments. Breaking: Read comment #127, a statement from the RWA stating that Harlequin is no longer eligible for RWA-provided conference resources. Ouch.

Update (11/19 8:090 pm): Agent Kristin posted the contents of a statement from Harlequin. They'll be changing the name of the Harlequin Horizons venture to distance it from the parent company. Also, the Mystery Writers of America have published a statement. I couldn't find it on their site, but the Writer Beware Blog has posted a copy. (The MWA is now a supporter of Writer Beware.) The SFWA sent out a tweet that a statement will be forthcoming.

Update (11/19, 9:30 pm) No statement from the SFWA, but their web site now states that Harlequin is an ineligible publisher for books published after 11/2009.

Update (11/19, 10:15 pm) The SFWA has issued a statement.
(And, I can't believe that as many times as I've edited this post I never saw the typo in the line below. Mea Culpa.)

A discussion at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. (Stacia Kane has a very interesting comment published 11/17/09 @ 11:05 pm.)

Absolute Write has another interesting discussion.

Jane Smith of How Publishing Really Works (must add her to my writing links) provides some good commentary.

Victoria Strauss weighs in at Writer Beware Blogs! Spot on, as usual.

Falconesse does the math. And boy, am I impressed! (If you've been considering this venture or a similar one, please read this post.)


Two small bits of housekeeping before I go throw a ball at ten sticks of wood tonight:

I admit it: I broke the blog search functions and should be flogged with an ASP.Net book for my sins. I'll try to get around to fixing it tomorrow. (Update: Works now. Guess web karma bit me in the browser there, or something.)

The paperback of Two of the Deadliest hits the UK streets next Thursday. Something for me to be thankful for, at least! You can still get your very own hardcover in the US. Paperback release is scheduled for April.

Filed Under: Publishing


Filed under: Publishing            
11/18/2009 5:00:54 PM
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