I've been reading with interest as the Harlequin saga unfolded and I even discussed it with a few of my online friends, but mostly I'm sitting back with my popcorn and Milk Duds to see how this plays out.
While everyone is demonizing Harlequin, it's quite possible that it's a logical and lucrative move.
What?! Are you crazy Swami Maria?
Well, that's always possible, but let me finish.
Do I think Harlequin creating a vanity press is unethical?
Yeah, I do. But only when they were going to name the subsidiary Harlequin Horizons. The name Harlequin implies a respectable company. Publishing virgins and those desperate to see their names in print aren't going to care that it's self-publishing, they've got that Harlequin pennant to hang on to. They can squee to all their friends that they were published by Harlequin Horizons.
Do I think it's going to hurt their brand?
Nope. The average Harlequin reader is not a writer. They don't know squat about self publishing or why it's a stigma. And they don't care. They're never going to see a Harlequin Horizons book (or whatever they end up calling it) unless a family member shoves it at them.
It matters to us, but we're not the majority of the readership.
But Swami Maria, why is this a logical move on Harlequin's part?
Because it makes them MONEY. I've been studying Harlequin's business moves for several years and they've been alarmingly intuitive about where the industry has been headed. Most notably, they were the first major publisher to embrace digital. Now all the other big houses are playing catch up.
Do I like this business model?
Absolutely not. It sucks.
Money flows to the author. We were weaned on this. It was hammered into our heads. Money flows to the author.
Yet all it takes is one giant company to make one tiny move and that philosophy falls by the wayside.
This is one business model I hope does not work. But knowing human nature as I do, I have a feeling I'm clinging to false hope. Not only will it will work, I'm afraid it will become especially lucrative. There are just too many people out there with a "book idea". Frustrated with the traditional route, they just as soon pay for the privilege and hope for the best.
Harlequin wouldn't have gone this route if there wasn't a demand for it. And I will bet dollars to donuts, they're not the only ones with this plan on their drawing boards.
To add insult to injury, it's been reported that Thomas Nelson of WestBow Press offered a finder's fee to agents who refer new authors to his company. While most agents seem appalled with the advent of major players owning vanity presses, I've no doubt some will be lured to the dark side by way of kickbacks for services rendered. How many take their thirty pieces of silver is yet to be ascertained.
Take a look around. Self publishing companies haven't dwindled despite all the education and advice we give newbies. On the contrary, they're growing, and now the big boys want to play too.
How do you stop an entire population of wannabe authors?
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