Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Now it's getting interesting

The author loops and chat rooms are buzzing with the recent annoucement from the Mystery Writers of America (MWA) about removing Harlequin and all of its imprints from a list of approved publishers effective immediately.

What's the big deal?

Well, here's what Publishers Weekly noted in a recent article:

"By de-listing Harlequin, MWA is barring all Harlequin authors from using their Harlequin books as a basis for active status membership. No Harlequin book will be eligible for Edgar Award consideration, although books published by Harlequin under contracts signed before December 2, 2009 may still be the basis for membership and will still be eligible for Edgar consideration."

The catalyst for all this change was Harlequin dipping its publishing toe in the waters of self-publishing and while changing the name of its self-publishing venture from Harlequin Horizons to DellArte Press appeased most of the concerns of the Romance Writers of America (RWA), the MWA hasn't been as flexible.

Again, what's the big deal? Well, I'd like to say you the reader be the judge but that's not how the publishing world operates, especially with regards to distribution. Now, DellArte (and other so called vanity presses) asserts at their website (http://www.dellartepress.com/) that they have access to these distribution channels for those who publish with them but only time will tell how affective this proves to be. There are issues of promotion, built-in readers through their traditional publishing channels based on the Harlequin brand, book signings, return policies and so much more. I hope someone out there who publishes with DellArte Press contacts me and lets me know as I'd love to do a follow-up blog on their experience.

Another issue - and the one I hear the most - is the lack (real or perceived) of editorial oversight in the world of self-publishing, especially with regard to fiction. Most people in the publishing world from those who work in it to the writers themselves believe that having an editorial process provides a layer of quality control that produces a better final product - the book itself.

Again, I'd like to say you the reader be the judge and perhaps that is more attainable than ever before but, again, only time will tell. I do think that the sands are shifting, however, because there are more and more self-published writing contests and even many self-published authors that have gone on to be published by traditional publishers and even have their works made into movies.

So, let me say that you the reader and you the writer be the judge and that this is a topic that I will be watching very carefully. I'd love to hear from everyone out there about their thoughts on this topic. But, above all else, readers keep reading and writers keep writing.

Take care.


Morgan Mandel said...

I've heard that the prices DellArte is charging are quite high. People who don't know any better may sign up with them thinking it's the norm.

I self-published Killer Career, as many people know. Most of them also know I made sure to get a good editor and lots of great advice before I undertook the process. I'm happy to say I've received some great reviews, confirming that I produced a professional product.

I'm not sure how many of the DellArte authors will be able to say the same thing. Only time will tell.

PS Now they sound like a division of Dell computers, don't they?

Morgan Mandel

Terry Odell said...

You can paint a horse, but it's still a horse. Changing the name doesn't stop the money flowing to Harlequin (and a LOT of money, as I understand it).

Because Harlequin didn't do anything (at least that's my understanding) but change their name, they're still a vanity publisher. In traditional publishing, they money flows TO the author.

There's nothing wrong with writing for a vanity press if you understand that it's highly unlikely you're going to sell a lot of books unless you do everything yourself.

If an agent rejects your manuscript, but says that with editing, it might be accepted, and then points you to an editorial service that's nothing more than that same agency wearing a different hat, that's WRONG, and in violation of AAR standards.

If Harlequin still points rejected manuscripts to DellArte, it's in violation of the RWA rules. The rules were established for a reason, and any publisher, large or small, who violates them, should not receive the privileges of membership.