Saturday, November 21, 2009

Weighing in on the Harlequin Situation

We weren't going to talk about this because there are so many people out there talking about it. So. Many. Computers around the world are crashing from all the yelling. But my feelings about this situation have solidified over the last day.

First I have to say - The Harlequin Horizons endeavor as it was originally set up was predatory. And sleazy. It blurred the lines far far too much. The fees are outrageous and the 50% royalty on a book someone paid for - was like...I can't actually think of what it was like, it's that bad. That said - I think Harlequin's forays into alternative publishing is smart. They're losing money like the rest of the industry and they have the resources to make Carina Press a valuable asset to the romance publishing world. Harlequin Horizons? I'm sure they were trying to figure out how to leverage their greatest asset - their slush pile. But unless they clean up the lines between Horizons and Harlequin proper -and the pay rates - it's just a big stinky mess.

Now - I also don't argue that RWA needed to do something. As an organization with the mandate to protect writers - it was their job to step in. However I feel more and more that they responded to the hysteria - rather than the problem.

Thomas Nelson also partnered with ASI - has the same language on their website that everyone was so upset about on Harlequin's website (again, it was worth being upset about - bad bad Harlequin) But Thomas Nelson is still RWA approved (last I checked). And now RWA has to backtrack and figure out how to handle this new monster in the romance world. This is exactly what happened with e-publishers. RWA took a stance, had to backtrack - infuriated a lot of writers, made everything incredibly complicated and ARBITRARY! A thousand dollars and you're legitimate?

As other writer organizations make public statements regarding their disgust over Harlequin Horizon's and Harlequin in turn backs off (Harlequin removing their critique service seems like a direct response to MWA) I'm wondering if there wasn't a more tempered and thought out way to handle this that wouldn't change an author's pan status, their ability to enter the Ritas next year sign books or speak at the national conference with their Harlequin Editor.
I'm supposed to be protected by RWA, too.

I for one am hoping and am fairly sure that this will be cleaned up in a little while - and we can all get back to actually working.

Here we go....


M. said...

Thanks for sharing some insight. Decreases my confusion.

MJFredrick said...

As I understand it, you should still be able to enter the Rita (though later than the approved publisher authors) and have PAN status. Not sure about the booksigning. But isn't HQ now on par with, say, Samhain?

I do hope something can be worked out.

Molly O'Keefe said...

This is part of the recent PAN loop statement by RWA...

• Anyone who entered the RITA's this year is good to go. No one will be disqualified.
• Next year, all HQ books are ineligble for the RITA.
• All recent PAN membership requests from HQ authors are on hold.
• It won't affect current or provisional PAN members.
• At the Lit. signing in Nashville - books that came out 2009-10 can be signed. But since the publisher donates the books for the signing, she said we'd have to check with our editors.
• Harlquin can attend Nashville at it's own expense. RWA isn't going to provide a Spotlight forum, a room for author signings, or editor appts.
• Workshop proposals with authors from HQ are still under consideration and can be accepted, as long as the proposed workshop isn't presenting a panel that includes an HQ editor or representative.
• HQ books can no longer be advertised in Romance Sells.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Again - not saying that RWA didn't need to do something and this is all in keeping with the hammer they dropped. I just questioned whether that hammer needed to be dropped 24 hours after Horizon's was introduced and dropped like this...

MJFredrick said...

Whoa! That's going to cost RWA some bucks. Even not having editors at the conference is going to affect attendance, but all those books OUT of the Ritas? Wow.

Sinead M said...

Molly, I think you're right. RWA did need to do something, but this does need to be resolved in a way that allows the paid authors of romance's largest publisher to be represented by their author advocates.

I have no doubt this will be resolved long before next RWA nationals.

Eileen said...

I'm a little afraid it's going to be resolved AT Nationals. I think you've really sized the situation up perfectly, Molly. Something had to be done or said, but this feels like we're punishing Harlequin authors for something they had no control over and no say in.

Maureen McGowan said...

Yes... All this unfairly punishes Harlequin authors -- and editors (who I also expect had little say in this).
Still, I do think RWA had to do something and while the Thomas Nelson thing appears to have slipped under their radar (although with that one the name isnt' the same, and the main publisher wasn't referring rejected submissions to it...) there's no way they could ignore Harlequin. When a mouse misbehaves, sometimes you don't notice at first, but when an elephant does the same thing...

Also think the "they should have just come to talk to us first" thing goes both ways. I don't buy that Harlequin didn't know this would be an issue, or that they were seriously crossing a line writers groups might have a problem with. While it seems the backlash caught them by surprise, I suspect it's not because they didn't realize it would be an issue, I expect it's because they assumed the writers would bend over and take it. (Oh, that was rude!)

I just hope it gets resolved quickly. I'm 99.9% sure it'll be resolved in a way where Harlequin is still "eligible" or whatever new term RWA comes up with. Just very glad I'm not on the RWA board right now. Those ladies have some serious hard work ahead of them.

Maureen McGowan said...

Just read the post about this on AAR.

Can't stop laughing at this:

"At least he [the Thomas Nelson CEO] admitted they might have made a mistake. I’m still waiting for Harlequin to say “Our bad.” Instead, in their response to RWA’s statement, they come across like the evil other woman in a Harlequin Presents."

Molly O'Keefe said...

Maureen - I don't think the THomas Nelson thing went under thier radar - I think people on the board knew about it (hell, I knew about it??!! Or you knew about it and told me - either way - it was known) but because you're right, the referring rejections thing was different as was the name - there were not thousands of women on the internet going ballistic.

But if you're going to punish the elephant like that - then you have to punish the mouse. And let's say the situation for Thomas Nelson is different and the referals and name differences are the crux of the issue than RWA's responsible approach was to say - stop being abusive and predatory change the name and the referal situation (in keeping with the publisher we have on our approved list who is doing much the same thing with the same sleezy company) or you're out.

I don't think Harlequin had to vet this out with RWA - that makes no sense, and I don't think that RWA needed to have closed door conversations with HArlequin - but I think in keeping with fairness and honoring the members they have who are effected by such a sweeping decision - there needed to be a shot across the bow or something. Something that did not feel totally reactionary...

Molly O'Keefe said...


Stephanie Doyle said...

It's taken me a while to get caught up on this too. As a business person - I see what HQ was doing. New revenue with no impact on their work force. Easy money.

As a writer looking at it - it's skanky. There is just no way around that.

And I agree that RWA had to do something.

But...what I'm worried about is who will blink first. It could very well be at the end of the day that HQ could care less about RWA.

So what if they piss off every writer in RWA, MWA, SFWA? You really think editors are going to be sad about NOT being allowed to do appointments at National?

Really what does HQ risk? That they'll lose writers? Please. If every RWA writer stopped submitting manuscripts - I imagine there about 20,000 other authors willing to take our spots. Authors who've never heard of RWA.

So I'm worried. RWA acted. They had to... but that doesn't mean that Donna Hayes can't just shrug and say oh well. Money is what counts in business and HQ's decision on how to respond will revolve around the bottom line.

If that ends up being the case the only one who loses in this will be the writers and RWA.


Maureen McGowan said...

Shrugging is kind of what I was expecting back from Harlequin, Steph. Other than the editors and authors, would the higher ups really care? Hard to say.

And with the Thomas Nelson thing, Molly... All I meant was when it happened they might have thought, "Oh, oh. There's issue we're going to have to deal with." And it was a little mouse scurrying around in their walls. But with Harlequin, they had to react.
Did they have to do it so quickly and publicly? Perhaps not. But all they did was carry out their rules as they are written.
Rules, which I expect will have to be rewritten..

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