|The Harlequin Horizons Saga Continues
||[Nov. 19th, 2009|09:21 am]
It seems like every morning there's newer and more fabulous information to share about Harlequin's bone-headed vanity-publishing plan, Harlequin Horizons. For some background on this story if you're new to this blog, check here and here.
But today's news is actually good news. Or rather, awesome news! And it comes from the Romance Writers of America (RWA), whom I now love with a passion (no pun intended). In response to the Harlequin Horizons program, the RWA released this statement:
Romance Writers of America was informed of the new venture between Harlequin Enterprises and ASI Solutions to form Harlequin Horizons, a vanity/subsidy press. Many of you have asked the organization to state its position regarding this new development. As a matter of policy, we do not endorse any publisher’s business model. Our mission is the advancement of the professional interests of career-focused romance writers.
One of your member benefits is the annual National Conference. RWA allocates select conference resources to non-subsidy/non-vanity presses that meet the eligibility requirements to obtain those resources. Eligible publishers are provided free meeting space for book signings, are given the opportunity to hold editor appointments, and are allowed to offer spotlights on their programs.
With the launch of Harlequin Horizons, Harlequin Enterprises no longer meets the requirements to be eligible for RWA-provided conference resources. This does not mean that Harlequin Enterprises cannot attend the conference. Like all non-eligible publishers, they are welcome to attend. However, as a non-eligible publisher, they would fund their own conference fees and they would not be provided with conference resources by RWA to publicize or promote the company or its imprints....
Aside from her very clear, principled stand, you kind of have to read between the lines of RWA President Michelle Monkou's letter to truly understand the awesome here. Essentially, RWA is doing to Harlequin exactly what Harlequin is doing to its submitting authors--namely, RWA is telling Harlequin that they are no longer invited to its annual conference, but they can still come if they pay RWA to do so. Now not only does Harlequin have to pay what I hope are exorbitant fees in order to have a presence at the biggest and most important romance writers conference in the country, if not the world, but also their booth will now probably be relegated to the RWA conference's version of the BEA's "vanity press row."
Way to turn the tables on Harlequin, RWA! I applaud you!
What you forget to mention, in your glee, RWA members who are published with Harlequin's legitimate branches are now also being "shunned" into the vanity press areas, and their books won't get the full exposure, etc versus other publishers' romance lines.
That makes Monkou's decision (backed, I presume, by the full board if not by vote-of-membership) even more impressive, and painful.
I'd like to think that SFWA would be able to do the same (and under the new direction, I think we would). I have my doubts about HWA. MWA... would probably just take a hit out on the offending publisher. (/jk. mostly).
Author's Guild would try for a cut of the publishers proceeds, and throw the authors under the bus.
You raise a great point. I hadn't realized that Harlequin authors did signing or readings at the Harlequin tables at the conference as opposed to in special rooms, etc. That does make it a lot more difficult, and makes RWA's stand all the more impressive. They're clearly playing hardball with Harlequin, and I hope for every author's sake, including those with legitimate Harlequin titles, that it works.
HWA isn't really known for making principled stands. They had the chance to make one back in the early '90s by raising their minimum pro-level advance amount for novels (in the hopes that the industry would follow suit), but so many of HWA's authors were published at the time by Zebra, which paid a pittance of an advance, that they threatened to walk if the change went through. It didn't. That lack of backbone informed HWA for years after that. And of course, eventually those people who threatened to walk walked anyway.
As per the announcement, there will be no free space given for signings, nor the chance to make major spotlight presentations [a huge deal at these conferences], and the implication was there that any giveaways by Harlequin would require a placement fee rather than being included as a courtesy.
In these budget-days, having to pay these fees means Harlequin will probably send fewer people, do fewer presentations/giveaways, and overall have a greatly reduced presence in the romance world. So yeah -- this could be a significant Hurt.
Unfortunately, it's also put Harlequin on the spot -- if they back down now, they will be seen as having 'caved' to a writers' organization, something Corporate will resist. There needs to be a way to save face and shut this down. I'm hoping they will be able to announce a dismal response, forcing the operation to shut down for lack of product. But that may be asking too much of the "needs-to-be-published-in-the-worst-way" wannabees....
It will be very interesting to see what happens next!
Speaking as a lowly self-published wretch, I can only say this is pure awesome on toast! Go, RWA!!!
I don't always agree with RWAs stance on things, but in this they are pure awesome. It may hurt the legitimate authors at Harlequin a bit, and this makes me sad, as one of them is my good buddy oracne
However, Harlequin seems to have been deaf to the shouts of outrage regarding their adoption of this sullied imprint (which also hurts their legitimate authors). Perhaps this action by RWA will get through. "YOU ARE NOT BEHAVING LIKE A REAL PUBLISHER, SO WE'RE NOT GOING TO TREAT YOU LIKE ONE." Maybe someone at HQ has more than three brain cells and will understand the problem.Edited at 2009-11-19 02:51 pm (UTC)
Fingers crossed. This reminds me of Kirkus Reviews' brief flirtation with pay-to-be-reviewed silliness.
Clearly this is just the act of a few nepotistic mid-listers engaged in the massive conspiracy of cronyism and trying to keep the hard-working up and coming writer down.
The MWA just issued a statement to its members about the Harlequin deal, too. I don't know if it's a public statement, so I won't quote it here, but they have grave concerns about "troubling conflict-of-interest issues." The MWA has addressed their concerns to Harlequin directly.
I don't know if the RWA's statement was meant to go public either.
MWA's letter also indicates that it's considering possibly even more severe action than RWA...
Yes, both were meant to be public. See my link in the comments below on this post.
Way to go, RWA and MWA! And a smart move on Harlequin's part.