In a similar move to the recent partnership between Thomas Nelson and Author Solutions, Harlequin has started a romance self-publishing wing of its own, which is coming under some of the same scrutiny and criticism as the Thomas Nelson partnership, but perhaps with even greater reason. Whereas the Thomas Nelson partnership created an entirely new entity – WestBow Press – the Harlequin partnership will be called Harlequin Horizons, raising the specter of fooling writers into believing their publication is closer to traditionally published than it really is.
Though this site applauds developments in self-publishing and sees the value in such partnerships as further legitimizing self-publishing as an avenue, this deal does pose significant problems. In a post on Dear Author commenters chimed in with criticism about the deal:
When Harlequin’s CEO says, “Partnering with Author Solutions… is an innovative and original approach to discovering new authors to add to our traditional publishing programs.” or they claim that “Harlequin will monitor sales of books published through the self-publisher for possible pickup by its traditional imprints” they’re preying on the hopes and dreams of unpublished authors.
99.99% of those books won’t get picked up by Harlequin, so I find those statements rather unsavory.
Does this mean more rejections of even viable published works because they now stand to make more on rejecting you than publishing you? Does this mean you can write the next “better than” Meyers or Rowling only to find yourself in every slush and rejected pile out there because they want you to PAY for your chance?
Both are entirely legitimate concerns. This isn’t an argument about whether or not self-publishing is a viable outlet, but how will writers be treated given these new arrangements. Will publishers be even more weighted towards taking on “sure fire” books than taking chance on new writers or more genre-bending writers – instead sending them to the self-publishing wing of the publishing house? That is not necessarily a good development, especially when writers may be led to assume that they are closer to being traditionally published when it may not be very different than publishing with AuthorHouse, but with a different brand name.
As self-publishing becomes more integrated in the overall publishing model, deals like this will become more common, but traditional publishers need to be careful that they keep authors’ best interests at heart. Given that traditional publishing is already marketing and bottom-line centered, there is room for corruption in deals like this – though if this helps to increase a publisher’s bottom line so that they’re able to take more chances on new writers, rather than relegate them to the self-published slush pile, the system could have some merit.