Saturday, November 21, 2009

SinC's Position on Harlequin Horizons

by Marcia Talley
President, Sisters in Crime

The mission of Sisters in Crime, Inc. is to support the professional advancement of our members, and not to comment on business decisions made by publishers. Nevertheless, the Sisters in Crime board feels obliged to let our membership know how we stand on the recent decision by Harlequin to partner with Author Solutions, a subsidy/vanity press, and to promote these services to aspiring authors via links on its website.

It is our job to educate our members, to make sure that they enter into publishing agreements of whatever kind with their eyes wide open. Harlequin Horizons, by whatever name, is a vanity press, and like all vanity presses, provides editorial, marketing and publishing services to authors for a fee. As such, it relies upon payments and income from aspiring writers to earn profits, rather than sales of books to actual readers.

After researching the market and taking her goals into consideration, a Sisters in Crime member may make an informed decision to self publish, but should also be aware of the consequences.

Presently, self-published writers do not enjoy the same benefits as traditionally published authors in Romance Writers of America (RWA), Mystery Writers of America (MWA) or Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA), nor will they qualify for literary awards sponsored by those organizations. More than likely, self-published writers will not be assigned to author panels by conference coordinators. Self-published books are generally not carried in brick and mortar stores.

If those benefits are not a concern, then self-publishing may be the right choice for a writer seeking a creative outlet. If so, there are dozens of subsidy/vanity presses which can provide the same services as Harlequin Horizons, some at considerably less cost.

We urge members to research those companies carefully, comparing services, quality and price before making a decision. Do not assume that because Harlequin Horizons is affiliated with Harlequin that choosing Harlequin Horizons to print your self-published novel will improve your chances of being published by Harlequin's more traditional advance and royalty paying divisions.

Read the official RWA, MWA and SFWA statements here:


The Written Remains Writers Guild said...

Excellent points which can't be reiterated too often.

carl brookins said...

I take some issue with the last sentence in the fourth paragraph. Generally speaking, most bookstores neither know nor care whether a given book is self-published. If the work is offered under terms similar to those from "traditional" distributors, if it appears to be a work of good quality (editorial and physical) and if the bookstore owner believe she or he can sell enough to make it worth their while to give the work space, they would do so. Similarly, most readers neither care about nor know the origin of a given book. We are all entirely too quick to use easy labels to dismiss people, events, and,in this case, books. For the rest of the piece, I entirely agree.

Marcia Talley said...

Carl, you make a very good point. The key phrase here is: "if the work is offered under terms similar to those from "traditional" distributors." Alas, most vanity presses have no interest in offering such terms to book retailers. They make money by selling books to the author.

A member hoping to see her books appear in brick and mortar stores and actually make a living from her craft should look for a publisher that does most, if not all of the following:

1. Puts at least 1000 copies of the book in print.
2. Gives standard industry discounts to booksellers.
3. Distributes the book thru normal distributors.
4. Allows booksellers to return unsold books.
5. Prices books competitively.

It's not the method of getting the book into print that's important here, it's what happens afterwards.

And again, I can't emphasize enough the importance of education! Know your craft. Consider your goals. Do the research. Then make the best decision for you.

Vivian Zabel said...

Carl is correct about stores not caring as long as they receive their discount and can return books. Readers don't care at all if the books are quality writing and quality products.

Of course by the time a distributor finishes taking the standard discount, there's not much left. However, my books still go through Ingram. Whatever it takes to get the books to the public.

I'm concerned about "mainstream" publishers going into the vanity or subsidy business, but more are.

Morgan Mandel said...

Horizons sounds like a subsidy press. I'm afraid it may prey on the unwary or unsavvy and money will fly out the door.

I've been published by a small house and also took on self-publishing as an experiment.

In self-publishing, you pay the printing house directly, you set up your own company, and everything goes through you. It's a lot more involved and a lot more work than by just signing up with somewhere like Horizons.

If done correctly, when you self- publish the product is every bit as good as that produced by traditional houses.

Yes, if you self-publish you can get into brick and mortar stores. Killer Career was accepted by Barnes and Noble after I sent a copy of the book, marketing plans, blurbs, a bio, and filled out a form, and said I'd accept returns. Also, if you don't have the book priced right, I've heard from some authors Barnes and Noble will refuse you. The stars all have to be in alignment to make self-publishing work. Will I do it again? Probably, since a lot of groundwork has already been done.

That's not to say I may not submit a book to an editor or agent. Actually, I have one in mind that may go the traditional route.
I like to keep all my options open in the changing publishing world.

I digressed a bit. Actually, I don't think Horizons is a good thing for Harlequin. They should have distanced it from the main house and made sure those published or to be published through Harlequin are separate, so the Harlequin authors can enjoy the rights they've earned.

Morgan Mandel

Rosemary Harris said...

Well said, Marcia. Regarding bricks and mortar stores - most buyers won't even see reps with fewer than six titles to sell and that may be one for the biggest hurdles for the self-published or small press author. It's not that the reader cares whose name is on the spine, it's that the retail buyer just has so many hours in the day to be pitched. (Can you tell I used to be a retail buyer?) Another point is that should a buyer make a purchase and need to return books there may not be next season's crop of new titles to use the credit on.

maryalice@mysterylovers said...

Thanks to you, Marcia and thanks to the many authors who care about relationships. Doing business with indy booksellers and communicating with them is the key!
Readers want books that are good reads with few typos and that are priced attractively.......those 20 buck pubs are really rejected.
When you write to your homework. Telling us that your book can be bought at amazon and the big b's is not a way into our hearts.
I thank Sisters in Crime for all the support and go out there folks and buy Indy!!!

Anonymous said...

"Readers don't care at all if the books are quality writing and quality products." Wow! What an insult to the people who purchase books and love reading. Frankly, I don't know any actual person that is a "reader" who doesn't care.

I support all those who are against Harlequin trying to make money off the desperate wannabe's who will pay anything to have a book with their name on it. And I feel so sorry for the Harlequin authors whose reputations will be tarnished by this.

Great article and I'm glad the professional organizations are taking this stand against Harlequin.

Jane K Cleland said...

As the chair of the Wolfe Pack's Nero Award (celebrating literary excellence in the tradtion of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe mysteries), I want to chime in that we only accept nominations from MWA-approved publishers. More information is available at

Linda Pendleton said...

More authors putting out quality books are moving into self- publishing, and distribution is available as are good royalty rates, most better than traditional publishing. I believe it discriminatory that authors of self-published books are banned from major organizations.

Publishing is moving in the direction of POD and e-books. Self-publishing can be a good choice for many authors for several good reasons.

Apparently Harlequin wanted to get into the game, too. (of course, for financial reasons).