Friday, December 4, 2009

How do we solve a problem like Harlequin?

If you've been vacationing in an internet-free zone and haven't heard about the drama with Harlequin and their brand-spanking-new vanity press, get thee here and read what happened while you were blissfully ignorant. Or go there and grin over Ms. Kessler's fabulous way with a Low Down.

Today, Mystery Writers of America announced that they have "voted unanimously on Wednesday to remove Harlequin and all of its imprints from our list of Approved Publishers, effective immediately." What does this mean for MWA members? Nothing if they were already acknowledged as published authors by way of a December 2 or prior contract with Harlequin. For anyone else? Denied.

Romance Writers of America have revoked Harlequin's privileges as an "eligible" publisher at the 2010 conference, and the board will meet to decide Harlequin's fate within the RWA.

Last night, during an awesome #askagent session on Twitter, I tweeted a question to find out how agents are reacting to the MWA, RWA and even SFWA (sci-fi and fantasy writers organization) to Harlequin's business decision - are they changing their submission policies to Harlequin or their relationship? Colleen Lindsay of Fineprint responded: "Not at all; Harlequin is still a good publisher."

I have to agree. Harlequin is still a good publisher with helpful and professional editors. Though I haven't sat in on any business meetings, I'm almost certain this bollocks decision was made by Torstar (Harlequin's parent company) with zero regard for how it  would affect their cash cow.

Then again, isn't it the responsibility of the writers' associations to protect their members? And isn't Harlequin still in ethical murk because they're pimping the vanity press in rejection letters?

What do you think? Is RWA/MWA/SFWA helping the situation? Do you think Harlequin will (or should) change how they do business in order to align with the demands of the writing organizations? Will you still submit to Harlequin? Will you sign a contract knowing it could mean ineligibility for awards and published perks (or membership) within these writing organizations? Do you have an agent, and is that agent still willing to work with Harlequin?

We've seen a lot of discussion about Harlequin's DellArte Press now, but we haven't seen much from the authors affected by this, the ones who will sacrifice to be a Harlequin author or the ones whose reputations and future careers might be affected by their publisher's decision.

Keep it respectful. Keep it professional. But tell us how this will affect how you will carry out your career pla


Ann said...

I wonder what people would say if an NFL team decided to start up a football league called... oh, I don't know... DellArte Professional Football League.

It would be *completely* (nudge nudge) separate from that NFL team. Though the team would direct college and high school players it rejects to the DPFL. As a suggestion.

For $600 or more (Say $1400 if you want the Quaterback Package), aspiring football players can join this league and play professional football.

Except they would only ever play against each other, and only friends and family would ever get to see you play...

Buy HEY! If you play really well, the NFL team might pick you up!!!

Oh, and the money made by having your friends and family come to games? Yeah... you get 50% of the net for that.

Do you think that people would defend that? Or call it what it is? How would is color your feelings towards that NFL team? Would your feelings change if it was the team you root for?

Or would you see it as a way to make money off of the dreams of college athletes who don't make the cut?

Why is it when it's the arts people think it's just fine to exploit hopes and dreams?

And why when its the arts do we *let* them?

KL Grady said...

I agree, Ann. So many undervalue art because it's seen as frivolous. Sports? Nah. ;)

I take it you don't intend to query Luna or HQN with your fantasy....

Ann said...

KL--Yeah, they'd be off my list. I wouldn't feel very comfortable being an author at HQ. (And I know HQ authors. And I can't imagine being in that place right now.)

I don't see much of a difference between DellArte Press and PublishAmerica, except that DellArte makes you pay upfront while PA makes you pay later. Both take you for a ride.

And I want to qualify for SFWA someday. :) It's kind of a career barometer for me.

KL Grady said...

Ann, I completely understand. I'd love to hear from someone whose plans re: Harlequin haven't changed. I know they're the only traditional pub game in town for short contemporary romance, but is there another reason someone would still want to submit work to them?

Leslie Ann said...

Now living in the world of screenwriting, but having never totally surrendered my roots of novel writing, I'm totally dismayed by all this.

And I have to admit, I'm baffled. I don't understand all the fine points. Why would Harlequin want to alienate RWA, and its vast stable of deeply committed authors, and conversely, why is RWA taking this stand? I always wanted to write for Mira, now I simply don't know.

I do know that I'll continue to write screenplays and I'm itching to tackle novels again...and hope that RWA will be reasonable as will Harlequin. I've always respected both.

Oddly I feel bereft. Harlequin has always been a staple at RWA National...

One confused puppy,

KL Grady said...

LA - I'm with you in feeling a little lost. I had projects that were targeted to H/S if only b/c they're the only trad short market. Now what?

On the other hand, I deeply respect RWA for taking a stand. This move by HQ might be good money for them, but it's bad business for writers. The WAs should do everything they can to protect us from predatory practices. And as wonderful as HQ has always been, their tactics are most definitely predatory.

Still...I feel lost.

Donnell said...

KL, gotta agree with what the others have said. RWA has announced a special meeting in January. I guess I'll reserve comments until I listen to what that outcome is. Publishing is changing rapidly, it's a matter of hurry up and hold on -- at least for me.

Audra Harders said...

I'm sitting back and listening. And watching. And waiting.

I can't give an opinion yet since it would just be a gut reaction. I've watched over the course of a couple days, tempers have cooled and reason has been interjected back into conversations. People are taking their seats back around the table.

It's a given: RWA and all the other professional writers' groups must protect their membership.

Torstar, HQ and a host of other publishing companies are looking at the changing market and analyzing their best strategies also on behalf of their authors and themselves. Thomas Nelson has also been dropped as an approved publisher in RWA since they've chosen to offer a vanity press within their imprints.

This is one tough issue. The market, technology, and a host of other factors are challenging professional by-laws that have been in place for years. The market, technology and other factors are challenging and vying for each and every dime the consumer is willing to spend.

In answer to your question over submitting work to HQ, my answer is yes, I will continue to submit my work to Steeple Hill AND Thomas Nelson (when I go back to writing 100,000 word novels). I've worked hard to build relationships with the editors at these and many other houses.

Hiccups have occured before and they will occur again.

This too will pass...

Leslie Ann said...

Wise words.