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The Harlequin Horizons Saga Continues [Nov. 19th, 2009|09:21 am]
International Bon Vivant and Raconteur

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:

Dear Members:

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!

[User Picture]From: nick_kaufmann
2009-11-19 03:09 pm (UTC)
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.
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[User Picture]From: suricattus
2009-11-19 03:23 pm (UTC)
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....

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[User Picture]From: nick_kaufmann
2009-11-19 03:41 pm (UTC)
It will be very interesting to see what happens next!
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