Controversial Changes

There are some changes in publishing.

First, Christian publisher Thomas Nelson is partnering with Author Solutions in a new venture called WestBow Press. This will be Thomas Nelson's self-publishing arm. You can read some details at Writer Beware!.

Now I've just found out that Harlequin is a part of a new press called Harlequin Horizons. There's some talk about whether it's a Vanity or Self-publisher. Lots of talk, actually. Check out Dear Author for a short post about this, and then in the comments a Harlequin representative answered some questions.

As a capitalist, I think these publishers are innovative and smart to do this. As a writer, I'm concerned. These are new territories and it'll be interesting to see where publishing heads.

What do you think about these traditional publishers using traditional names for their self-publishing ventures? How about agents receiving referral fees? Do you think these changes will really affect those of us who are aiming for traditional publishing?


Kristen Painter said…
Agents who receive referral fees will be removed from the AAR or not allowed to join. That's considered an unacceptable business practice. And it should be for legitimate publishers, too.

Paying to have your book published and being paid to have your book published are two very different things.

RWA was right to remove Harlequin from it's list of conference eligible publishers. It's RWA's job to watch out for it's members and that's what they did with that move.
It's so weird to me though! I'm glad to hear about the AAR. I was thinking about them and this whole thingy. The fees thingy is what probably disturbs me the most, but not even for myself, but for all the newbies who won't realize what's happening.
Thanks for commenting, Kristen!
I did a lot of reading on WestBow when the news launched. I felt like my head was spinning. I also share concerns, but found it to be an intriguing move.

~ Wendy
Cherie Hill said…
Thanks for stopping by my page today Jessica...found the topic of WestBow interesting too...not sure what to think of it!?!
Blessings to you!
MeganRebekah said…
I'm definitely not sure what I think. I understand they need to make money, but I feel like they are pulling the wool over writers' eyes (the uninformed writers that is) and that feels shady.

I guess we'll have to see how it plays out.
Wendy, I think my head was spinning too, but now this other publisher has doubled the spinning. I wonder how many will jump on this bandwagon?

I'm not sure either, Cherie.

Megan, it does seem to be a little shady to me too. They have their right to do business how they want, but I wonder if this is going to open some doors for smaller companies to grow?
Karen Hossink said…
I forgot, what's the difference between Vanity and Self-Publishing?
I'm not sure how I feel about all this stuff. Just did some quick reading of the links you provided, and it sounds like they're trying to do what they think is best...But I agree with Megan - it'll be important to be informed.
Hey Karen,
Well, with self-pubbing, which is what you did (I think) you own all the rights to your book, you make all the decisions, and you get (I believe) all the royalties.
Vanity is different because the author pays for their book to be pubbed but they also pay the publisher a percentage of royalties.
Well, like always, my opinion on this topic is a strong one. While I understand the need for big business to do whatever they need to do in order to survive, I just don't agree with this whole self publishing idea that's bleeding into our lives. Buying your way into publishing just can't be justified for me as a writer; and a company that allows someone to buy their way in paints a slimy picture for me. I know there are people who won't agree with me about that, but I applaud RWA's choice to remove Harlequin's rights as an "eligible" publisher.

As authors, we type our fingers to the bone and work our substantial tushies off to develop and hone our craft and grow to the place where we're finally ready to enter the world of publishing. Handing out discount coupons or free passes to enter negates the importance of the work we've done to get there.

Don't stone me, please. It's just my opinion, and I believe I'm still allowed to express it. :-)

You are absolutely allowed to express it! I appreciate you taking the time to do it too. :-) And I would never stone you. LOL

I actually agree with you and with RWA's stance. I really think this is going to change things and that there might be a backlash from writers that may have negative consequences for both Nelson and Harlequin. Not sure though...
Jody Hedlund said…
I'll be watching all of these changes from the sidelines! Will be very interesting in the months and years ahead to see where it all leads!
Kathy said…
If the issue is self-publishing, I have nothing against that. I always think of L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. He certainly worked hard on his book and couldn't get anyone to publish it. Kids loved it. Publishers didn't. Or didn't think people would buy it. So Baum published it himself. We all know how that worked out. A classic.

Book publishing is a business. I think it's chancy. There is risk involved whether a writer self-publishes or is published by an established company.
I agree, Jody. Very interesting.

Hi Kathy, I don't have anything against self-publishing either. Vanity pubbing is different. A little more deceitful, I think. I didn't know that about Wizard of Oz. Very cool!
Unknown said…
It all seems a bit crazy to me. I think it's one of those things that will work itself out through trial and error.
Sarah Forgrave said…
Jessica - I've been watching the ACFW loop light up with this whole debate. In the end, I want to pursue traditional publishing because I want to have the editing, marketing (however sparse it may be), and distribution support. It's a little hard to think that people who may have written mediocre books can self-publish and call themselves "published", but I've seen plenty of traditionally published books that I found mediocre too. :-) I guess in the end, what matters most is that I write a great book that will sell either way.
I think you're right, Karen.

Sarah, I was wondering what ACFW loops might have to say. Good for you for your attitude! I totally agree that it's our own work that matters.
Linda Kage said…
I also wonder how this will affect us writers shooting for traditional publishing. Will it now be EVEN harder to get a contract because possibly they won't worry about selling as many "traditional" books... or will it be easier because more writers will now turn to self-publishing more quickly, taking out some of our competition??? Hmm. I think it's a wait and see kind of deal.
Unknown said…
I'm still leery of the whole self publishing thing. I'm not quite sure how I feel about all this...
Katie Salidas said…
I'm not sure how I feel.

On the one hand Kudos, to the RWA for taking the stance they did. On the other hand Publishing is a business and all business cares about is money. Adding self publishing is another avenue to make money. I can't blame them there.

Like you, as a writer, I wonder what these changes mean for publishing in the future. Are we heading towards an age where new writers may have to start shelling out money to get that first book out there? Will publishers who reject newbie authors, offer self publishing to get that first book out? Will the trend follow suit to Agents and Editors? Will we start seeing Book Doctoring as a requirement to publishing? Who knows.
Jennifer Shirk said…
I think it's a greedy move by Harlequin. Good for RWA.
Hi, Jessica! I don't really know enough to make a full opinion, I just know that I want to continue to pursue only traditional publishing.
Patti said…
It is definitely an interesting move in an industry where credibility are everything and from what I've heard in the past, self-publishing does not give you credibility.
Erica Vetsch said…
I guess my major concern over Harlequin Horizons is that if you send a book to one of the editors of a Harlequin Imprint, and they decline to publish it traditionally, will they be referring you to their self-publishing wing?

How is this any different from an agent who says "I can't take your ms on right now, because it needs editing. Here's an editorial service you should try, then get back to me." and, lo and behold, the agent owns the editorial service?
Dara said…
LOL I just posted on the whole Harlequin Horizons thing today.

My concern with their new imprint and RWA's recent standpoint on it is that now all authors published under any of Harlequin's myriad of imprints won't be looked at as legit, simply because of the vanity press.

I can understand RWA's new stance but to extend that to the other traditional imprints under Harlequin is ridiculous. I mean, isn't that where most romance writers are published, at least under an imprint of Harlequin? A good number of authors are Harlequin published--what, are they now "illegitimate" because of it?

Argh. I'm slightly peeved about this whole thing. From both sides, really. Ticked mostly at Harlequin for doing the vanity press thing and ticked at RWA for lumping all Harlequin imprints together.

Hopefully things get better after the dust settles...
Angie Muresan said…
I had no idea, Jessica. I will go and check out those blogs that write about it.
I think referral fees for an agent is unethical.

As to the self-pub branches of these two big companies, they are in it for the money. They just try to make it look like it's for the author's advantage.

Jennifer Shirk did a post on this today, too.

Audience of ONE
I mean "are" unethical. Sorry.
* said…
Hmm, I don't think I know quite enough to make an educated statement here, except that my gut says this, "Not a good idea."

I'm seeking traditional publishing for my WIP...
Nancy J. Parra said…
Thanks for posting this info. I hope all writers understand that they should never, never pay to have their work published. Instead they should be paid for their hard work! Cheers!
Julie Dao said…
I've read a little bit about this today so I know the basics of what's going on, but wow! What next? I would much rather have my book published and get paid. Paying to get published is sort of cheating, isn't it? Cheating yourself mostly. I read somewhere that Harlequin is encouraging the people they reject to check out this new venture. It sounded almost like they were telling people to give up. I definitely need to read more about this because I'm not quite sure I understand all the details. Great post, thanks for the information!
anita said…
I agree with Dara's comment whole-heartedly. These poor authors who pubbed with Harlequin by going the traditional route and having their work accepted the hard way, don't deserve to be at the butt of this. They shouldn't suffer because of an ill-wrought decision on the publisher's part. The other imprints should be exonerated on the grounds that those particular authors worked their tushies off to get where they are. They didn't "buy" their way in. I understand RWA wanting to punish Harlequin's skeezy business dealings, but why hit the authors?

I'd also like to point out that there's a diff. between self-pubbing and vanity-publishers. With self-pubbing, the writer gets 100% of the royalties when their books sell. With vanity, not only does said writer PAY to have their books printed, but they also have to give a cut of their sales to the publisher. Very shady.

There's a saying we all should know at this point: "Money flows TO the writer." That's the way this business is supposed to work; and even if the writer chooses to self pub, they're basically just paying for printing, paper, and book-cover fees because they don't have the printing press and equipment to do it themselves. But the money from the sales flows to them. For Harlequin to choose to join forces with a vanity press?? That's foul and fain.

On an even more unsettling note, the company that Harlequin signed with is Author Solutions, one and the same that Thomas Nelson signed with. This is going to cause a lot of flack ... people pointing out that the Christian Market should be above taking advantage of writers like that.

The whole thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Bleck.
I wonder whether it's purely a decision to take advantage of a lucrative market or a movement away from royalty publishing altogether.

Years ago, I worked with stock analysts, who talked about the risk/reward of companies. Are publishers looking to put the risk squarely on the writers' shoulders, while they take the rewards?

anita said…
oh! I just realized you explained the differences between self and vanity pubbing way early on in this discussion, Jessie! Oops.

That's what I get for not reading ALL of the comments before I go spouting off. Heh.

Good job, lady moderator. :-)
No problem, Anita! You just confirmed it for me. :-) I agree, the vanity press is disturbing. At least Nelson is being an outright self-publisher, that I know of. I could be wrong on that. I also don't completely understand the RWA thing. From my understanding, only H has been removed from their list, not N. Which is odd to me. I guess more info will come out later.

Susan, I really hope not. If that happens, well, thank goodness for technology. It may be that we'll have to pay for our own books and do all the marketing ourselves but then we'll get all the royalties too. I'd still prefer for traditional to remain the same though.
Terri Tiffany said…
I've been reading about this and my first reaction when I heard about Harlequin was not good. But as a business owner, I understand their wanting to jump in on a piece of the pie--but I think many writers will be lulled into thinking they that it is the same.
Julie, what a great way to say it. I'm not sure it's exactly cheating, because self-pubbing can be smart for people with platforms (non-fiction, mostly). But about giving up, YES, that is what it seems like. Great insight.

Nancy, that's what we want writers to know, but unfortunately most new writers don't realize that. And now I think publishers may be muddying that knowledge for newbies.
Linda K, great questions. I hadn't even thought of those aspects!

MaryBeth, leery is a good word, imo.

Katie, wow, I hope that book doctoring requirement never happens. *shudder* Who knows though, with the advent of all this technology, where publishing will lead. I think the comparisons to the music industry are pretty good.
Terri, I agree.

Jennifer, it's definitely about the money.

Me too, Kristen. I'd rather stick with traditional to.

Patti, you're right, there's no credibility in self-publishing for a fiction writer. For a non-fiction writer, the credibility comes from the platform. That's why self-pubbing works for non-fiction writers. But fiction, it's just paying for your words to be in print.
LOL Erica! I'm not sure there is a difference. Great analogy!

Dara, although I agree with RWA for condemning harlequin's shady venture, I'm not sure why they've lumped everything together. There probably is a reason, but I think it's a pretty risky move for them to make considering that many romance writers are harlequin authors.

Hey Jeanette, the referral fees seem unethical to me. If an agent does want to refer someone, I think in their letter they need to state that they're being paid to do so. Heh. For some reason I didn't see Jennifer's post in my dashboard. I'll go check it out.

Terresa, my gut is feeling funny too. LOL
What most scares me about this is that people will get the publishing branches mixed up in their heads and those that get self published say in Harlequin Horizons that may prove to be of less quality with little editing done will put a bad name to all Harlequin lines. It could really backfire on these houses if they aren't careful to pick only the best of the best.

BTW, Jessica, I'd love you as my neighbour. Think of the brainstorming story chats we could have over tea and pumpkin spice scones. Oh, to dream!
Oooh, that sounds like a wonderful dream. :-)

I think that will definitely happen with Harlequin. I'm kind of relieved that Steeple Hill has a different name. Until I tried to look up the publisher online, I had no clue they were affiliated with Harlequin.
Tana said…
I thought I read somewhere that H backed out of the endeavor? I hope so. Not a good idea. Not. At. All.
Tana said…
HI Jessica, Just hopping back to say I left a huge rant on Rachelle Gardners blog and feel a bit winded. I really want authors to achieve their dreams, not get ripped off in any form. We work too hard.
Deb Shucka said…
I'm watching and waiting and praying - while change in the marketplace is inevitable, it's too bad that it seems like it's always about someone making money at someone else's expense.
Genny said…
Thanks for the industry updates!
Hey T. Anne, I did read that Harlequin is removing their name from the venture, but I'm not sure that means they're not still involved. I'm going over to read your rant. :-)

Your welcome, Genny!

I agree, Deb. Change isn't necessarily bad, but this just seems shady.
I need to catch up and read about all this! I've been outta de loop for a few days ....

I do know publishers need to re-think how they do business, same as booksellers will have'll be interesting to see how things progress. I hope us authors are not trampled upon (even more) in the process!
Pen Pen said…
They're getting referral fees?! I didn't even know that! I'm not sure how I feel about all of it...but it's probably concerning me on some level. I've always looked at the movie industry and seen that there are unions in there that limit good work. If ur not in the writer's union, ur not gonna get a great script in there-and how could new and innovative writers force their work into the sight of what seems to be a very closed off union?! The same is true with the directors who get work and the big production companies. I usually like the movies coming out of the 'Toronto Film Festival' from indie movie makers more than the main stream since they seem to be under so many constraints and we just see movies over and over again by the same writers/directors/production companies. Writing has big publishers and everything, but I don't see the indie writers in exactly the same way. Many more indie-or "self published/vanity" writers seem to be able to get in the game even when they're talent just isn't there. So- You're having to wade thru so much more product in the book game now than you do with movies. Because of the mass of work I have to go thru with no real direction or organized, one stop "judgment"(like movie reviews for indie movies), I feel like too many novels are being published too easily-and I'm wary of picking up a those self-published/vanity titles because of the lack of scrutiny on them. That makes me sad, since I'm sure some incredible writers who just haven't been published mainstream are in there, but how would ANY of us find them?!
So- I actually think many more writers are turning to selfpublishing/vanity cuz they can get their work out there, but many more READERS are looking to the major publishers now to work as someone who can tell them that YES-this novel REALLY is worth reading-and we've read it, scrutinized it, and published it because it's good. Of course, most writers are aware that the publishing industry ISN'T the objective, wise mode of book judgment we hope it is many times(hello, 'Twilight'!), so that's a stumbling block in it. I'll be interested in seeing where everything goes in the industry.
But- It all just makes me MORE likely to look for traditional publishing so that my writing-if published- does not come under AS MUCH doubt as the self-published/ vanity writers. :)
I didn't realize all that about the movie industry. Interesting.
I agree with you about books though. While the average reader probably doesn't pay too much attention to publishers, I do think they'll still be looking for traditionally pubbed books, once they realize stuff.

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