Thursday, November 26, 2009


There is a sucker born every minute. I know. I’m one of them. I have spent money on exercise videos that told me if I breathed correctly I would lose weight. I’ve spent money on pills, neck slimmers, special teas… you name it. I can’t stop myself. Despite being an intelligent person, despite knowing that if I simply ate less and drank less wine and jogged – I would serve myself much better. But still I continue to throw my money away on the idea of a quick and easy solution.

I once signed up for dating service. I’ve spent a lot of money in this venture as well, but this particular service was supposed to be very exclusive and consequently was very pricey. The woman sat me in a room and told me that after talking to me she already knew of someone for me. That I needed to be ready for what was about to come. That the likelihood was that I would be married and pregnant within the year. (This person I was to meet was very interested in having children.) All I had to do was sign on the dotted line. And of course hand over a check. Yes, I thought I could buy “the dream” of love and happiness. Like I said - I was the sucker. There was no “one” person. There was the typical series of fix ups with people I had nothing in common with like any other dating service I had ever used. Lesson learned. Shame on me.

But there is no getting around the fact that when you prey on people’s dreams, when you cash in on hope, desire, desperation… it can’t feel good. Going for a person’s weak spot to make money, it’s just not very nice.
This is my opinion of Harlequin Horizons. I get it, it’s a business and as long as there is a sucker born every minute, why not part them from their money. And while I think it’s not nice, I also think it’s up to the sucker to learn her lesson. I have when it comes to buying love. (Not exercise equipment).

That said I wonder if the anger over this venture doesn’t stem from something else. Are authors really this upset for the suckers that might fall into HQ’s evil clutches? Or is there something else driving the fire. Could it be that, what we’re really bothered by is the fact that this lessons our accomplishments as writers? For both the published and trying to be published. What we thought made us unique – either being published or going through the struggle of rejection – can now “sort of” be had for enough money. If I stood in a room of people who knew nothing about publishing and said I write for HQ Silhouette Romantic Suspense and someone else in the same room said … “Me too. I write for HQ Horizons.” Would anyone really know the distinction?

And so I have to say that for me, having been a sucker all my life - I hope writers don’t follow this path of being parted from their money for an illusion of the dream. But also I acknowledge here, in public, that part of what has bothered me about this, is my ego. Today my accomplishments feel less important because anyone (with the cash) it seems can be “published.”

And it’s at that moment that I have to remind myself – I don’t write for pats on the back. I don’t write for money (which is a good thing since I’m not making much) and I don’t write so I can stand up and say I’m published. I just like to write.


Sinead M said...

Great post, Stephanie. I'm also a sucker for exercise equipment. It's such a wierd thing. If someone were to stand in a room and say they were published by Horizons, I think I'd feel a little bad for them.
They'd obviously been suckered a little.
But the romance industry has changed so much since I went to my first conference.
Then, if someone said they were published, it was by a NY publisher, and they were few and far between at the conference.
Most of us were struggling to be published authors.
Now, it seems like most people I meet are published, but so many by E-publishers and, now also by Horizons and all this is doing is changing the term 'published' into something very different than seven years ago.
I'm a little saddened by the change

Eileen said...

I like the books with the special eating plans that let you lose weight without ever feeling a hunger pang. I have about fifteen or so of them and my doctor would still like me to lose 10 more pounds (probably closer to 12 after today, Happy Thanksgiving, everyone).

I do know what you mean about the ego thing. I was doing an interview and after much discussion about my books and my life, the interviewer asked if I was self-published. I'm not totally proud of this, but I was insulted. I didn't tell her that and I hope that I didn't let on although my mother has always said I have a glass face.

I know that some great writers got their start by self-publishing. I'm sure there are a ton of books out there that are self-published that are awesome. I still feel like there's a stigma attached to self-publishing and to e-publishing still to some extent.

My answer to your question about whether the average person will know the difference between HQ Horizons and HQ Silhouette Romantic Suspense is this . . . They'll know the answer when they go to the bookstore to buy the book. I doubt Horizons is going to have much in the way of distribution and if the books aren't returnable, bookstores are going to be leery about stocking them, especially in the present economic climate.

Kimber Chin said...

As someone who reads books from a lot of different sources (NY publisher, small press, ePublisher, self published), the way books are published is NO indication of quality. (It IS an indication of mass appeal though)

Those with no distribution system (i.e. they are not in bookstores) have to work harder and usually put more of their own money into selling their books. That means authors have to REALLY believe in their books. There are some crazies, sure, but often there's a reason why these authors believe in their books.

I like the weird and strange (but well written, has to be well written) romances. There are some real gems out there that wouldn't be available if not for the different publishing avenues.

Maureen McGowan said...

I get that ego thing, Stephanie, totally.

I like to say that I don't care about that stuff, but while I don't care intellectually, and when I give it any rational thought all that matters to me is getting my stories out to as many readers as possible, emotionally it hurts when people lump everyone who's had a book printed and bound into the same group. And when I try to explain the difference I come off defensive or angry or even just boring... (because most people just don't care about all the nitty gritty business stuff in publishing.)

BTW Apparently the new vanity press is now Dellarte Press or something like that. (Presumably from comedy Del'Arte (sp?) that is the kind of theater tradition the "harlequin" character comes from.)

Maureen McGowan said...

Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving to Molly, Stephanie and Eileen.

(Maureen suddenly realizes she and Sinead are in the minority as Canadians on this blog.) :-)

Simone said...

Not being published, I can't comment on the ego thing.

But there is a reason authors, both published and unpublished, were so crazy upset about this. And that's because we've all been there.

I'm a rational, laid-back person. But I've had envelopes that come in the mail that I'm truly terrified to open. I've had form rejections put me in the dumps for weeks.

Crazy, crazy. When you're submitting you're just unbelievably vulnerable.

It's a little like duping people who are desperate to have a baby, or something. People who are at a vulnerable point in their lives, and their defenses, normally good, are down.

Sure, those suckers can learn. But it isn't just suckers who will fall for it. It could have been any of us... so we take it personally.

Bob said...

I think this is a valid point and something a lot of traditionally published authors don't want to state publicly: it does lessen our sense of accomplishment to sit in a 'booksigning' with 50 other people, 40 of whom self-published. A month ago in Surrey I saw Susan Wiggs, a #1 NYT bestseller sit in such a room. Her 40-something books publishing, 20 years struggling and working in the business was somewhat diminished to the casual observer-- since 50 people were there, what was the big deal?

I remember when books-signings were an indication of something achieved, not money spent.

On the flip side, as Terry Brooks told me, don't sit next to Diana Galbadon at a booksigning. It was a rather humbling experience for another #1 NY Times bestselling author.

I went into a local B&N one time and met the manager. I said I was a local author and I could see the shadow pass over her face as she wearily said "Sure, bring in a few copies of your books and we'll see what we can do." I excused myself, went to the racks, and came back with a two foot high stack of my books. Her face cleared up and she said "Oh, you're a real author!"

I think it's someone's choice to spend money on self-publishing/vanity publishing and many of them defend what they did vehemently. But I do think every once in a while, those of us who have slaved in the trenches for decades also get to defend what we've accomplished.

I re-iterate what I've stated before: instead of spending money on self-publishing (this is for fiction, non-fiction is a different matter), spend the money on workshops and conferences to learn the craft and business of writing.

Rebecca Royce said...

I like the books that let you solve the problems of the universe within their two hundred fifty pages. Great post.

Simone said...

Whoa - Bob Mayer posted at the same time as me *checks back to see if I sounded like a goof*

This is interesting stuff. Great post, Stephanie.

Stephanie Doyle said...

Hey all - I was busy stuffing my face full of turkey so I couldn't respond.

This is the thing about this topic... I agree with Kimber, good books can be found anywhere. I agree with Bob, after writing and working and trying to "build" a career after ten years - the idea that someone gets to raise their hand and say they're "just like" me is hard to take.

I was a little scared when I posted this that I might take heat from authors. But I needed to be honest.


Molly O'Keefe said...

I'm with you Steph - outside of RWA - published is published, isn't it? And we sound like the a-holes when we start drawing distinctions. But they're real - and Harlequin opening a self-publishing venture muddies those waters even more.

turkey is good.

Eileen said...

Turkey rocks. Stuffing reigns supreme though. Wait. Maybe it's the sweet potatoes I like best. No. I forgot about pie! I love pie!

Anyway, I don't think we have to draw distinctions. At your average cocktail party, people might not know the difference, but I'm seeing more and more distinctions drawn in other ways.

The Sacramento Public Library does a huge progressive dinner fundraiser every year. They invite 40 or so authors and we move from table to table. Then there's a booksigning afterward. The first year I did it, there were several people who had self-published books. Last year, there were none. From what I gathered, the bookseller didn't want to handle books that were non-returnable so authors that had self-published were not included.

I saw it again a little bit at my last book release party. The bookseller there was explaining to my sister that there were things they would do for me that they wouldn't do for someone who had self-published or was from a small press.

It really brings me back to the beginning of Steph's post. There's a sucker born every minute. People who buy into this won't know how many doors have been shut in their faces before they ever start.

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