December 4th, 2009


The Plot Thickens

The Mystery Writers of America (MWA) has stepped up as the first to put its money where its mouth is over the Harlequin Horizons/DellArte Press debacle with the following announcement. It's interesting to note that MWA's actions, quite appropriately, offer protection from consequence to Harlequin authors who signed contracts before this nonsense began.

MWA Delists Harlequin

The Board of Mystery Writers of America voted unanimously on Wednesday to remove Harlequin and all of its imprints from our list of Approved Publishers, effective immediately. We did not take this action lightly. We did it because Harlequin remains in violation of our rules regarding the relationship between a traditional publisher and its various for-pay services.

What does this mean for current and future MWA members?

Any author who signs with Harlequin or any of its imprints from this date onward may not use their Harlequin books as the basis for active status membership nor will such books be eligible for Edgar® Award consideration. However books published by Harlequin under contracts signed before December 2, 2009 may still be the basis for Active Status membership and will still be eligible for Edgar® Award consideration.

Although Harlequin no longer offers its eHarlequin Critique Service and has changed the name of its pay-to-publish service, Harlequin still remains in violation of MWA rules regarding the relationship between a traditional publisher and its various for-pay services.

MWA does not object to Harlequin operating a pay-to-publish program or other for-pay services. The problem is HOW those pay-to-publish programs and other for-pay services are integrated into Harlequin’s traditional publishing business. MWA’s rules for publishers state:

"The publisher, within the past five years, may not have charged a fee to consider, read, submit, or comment on manuscripts; nor may the publisher, or any of the executives or editors under its employ, have offered authors self-publishing services, literary representation, paid editorial services, or paid promotional services.

If the publisher is affiliated with an entity that provides self-publishing, for-pay editorial services, or for-pay promotional services, the entities must be wholly separate and isolated from the publishing entity. They must not share employees, manuscripts, or authors or interact in any way. For example, the publishing entity must not refer authors to any of the for-pay entities nor give preferential treatment to manuscripts submitted that were edited, published, or promoted by the for-pay entity.

To avoid misleading authors, mentions and/or advertisements for the for-pay entities shall not be included with information on manuscript submission to the publishing company. Advertising by the publisher’s for-pay editorial, self-publishing or promotional services, whether affiliated with the publisher or not, must include a disclaimer that it is advertising and that use of those services offered by an affiliate of the publisher will not affect consideration of manuscripts submitted for publication."

Harlequin’s Publisher and CEO Donna Hayes responded to our November 9 letter, and a follow up that we sent on November 30. In her response, which we have posted on the MWA website, Ms. Hayes states that Harlequin intends as standard practice to steer the authors that it rejects from its traditional publishing imprints to DellArte and its other affiliated, for-pay services. In addition, Harlequin mentions on the DellArte site that editors from its traditional publishing imprints will be monitoring DellArte titles for possible acquisition. It is this sort of integration that violates MWA rules.

MWA has a long-standing regard for the Harlequin publishing house and hopes that our continuing conversations will result in a change in their policies and the reinstatement of the Harlequin imprints to our approved list of publishers.

Frankie Y. Bailey,
Executive Vice President, MWA

It's a ballsy move, taking the delisting of Harlequin from threat to reality, and I applaud MWA for it. However, it remains to be seen whether Harlequin cares as much about MWA's actions as it does about what the Romance Writers of America (RWA) will do. If RWA follows in MWA's footsteps and delists Harlequin too, that may swing a much heavier hammer.

Frankly, I'm a little surprised that Harlequin hasn't shut the whole thing down already. But then again, it's not the higher-ups, the ones who actually made this boneheaded decision, who have to field the calls and emails from angry Harlequin authors--it's the editors, the ones who had nothing to do with it. Corporate remains blissfully out of touch with the reality on the ground, while the people who don't even like this program have to take the bullets. If that doesn't end soon, corporate may have a full-fledged mutiny on its hands.


I just received another blurb for Chasing the Dragon from an author whose work I admire so much. Check it:

"Chasing the Dragon moves like a bullet. As blood-soaked and thunderous as a Sergio Leone western, and grimly referential to classic pulp horror, Kaufmann turns the screws and steadily escalates the tension. A gory, thoroughly rollicking thriller--not to be missed." -- Laird Barron, author of The Imago Sequence and Other Stories and Occultation

For those of you who ordered the sold-out limited edition hardcover, copies should be shipping soon. And of course, for those of you on tighter budgets, Chasing the Dragon will be available as a trade paperback in March 2010 at your local bookstore (provided said bookstore is in Canada, the U.S. or the U.K.; anywhere else and I'm afraid you'll have to purchase online). If it's not on the shelf, I'm sure they'll be happy to order it for you.

Chasing the Dragon will also be released as an ebook for those of you who enjoy reading on your Amazon Kindle, iPhone Stanza, Sony eReader, Barnes & Noble Nook, or leftover Rocket eBook Reader from 1999!