UTA: As of 11/25 (From what I can tell) Harlequins Horizons is now called ‘DellArte Press’.
For my readers following the 30 Day contest, winners names will be posted in the next day or so.
Most romance writers have probably heard about the deal with Harlequin. They’ve opened a self-publishing arm, called Harlequin Horizons. ‘DellArte Press’ (we’ll call it HHz here, because it’s easier.)
I don’t like it.
Here’s a few reasons why…
I’m not paying somebody to publish work that I spent weeks/months writing.
- There is this big mistaken belief out there that only known writers get published. Wrong. Most writers started out as unknowns. The ones who aren’t unknown? They are usually celebs writing bios, politicians writing bios, etc.
- I did the self-pub thing once, before I started writing with Ellora’s Cave and I will tell you…that book? Sold less than 100 copies. It sold less than 30. Could it have done better if I had marketed it? Yes. But if I had spent time marketing that one? I wouldn’t have written the next one…HER BEST FRIEND’S LOVER ended up at EC and it sold more than 1500 copies the first month it was out.
The shiny exterior is just that…a shiny exterior.
- The shiny, spiffy looking website does a lot to put stars in the eyes of a writer who might not have done his/her research, but all those stars and shininess doesn’t change the fact that most self-pubbed books don’t sell well. The figure I heard? Most sell under 100 copies. Less than 100 copies.
- Get past that shiny exterior and break things down… you pay a minimum of $599 just for the very basic set up. That doesn’t include editing.
- If you want to get editing…basic edit of the first chapter will run you about $300+. FYI? You need the book edited. Want the whole book edited? Runs $0.035 cents a word… A category length book is about 50000-60000. That’s several thousand…just to get it edited for grammar/spelling. And if you’re writing a more traditional length book? Those are about 90-100k.
- Most books need more than just a basic grammar/spelling edit. They need content edits. If you want the better edit, instead of just the spell-check version?
$0.042 per Word.
To those who aren’t sure how traditional publishing AND epublishing works? I don’t pay a red cent to publish my books. I pay for promo stuff, like websites, contests. But editing? I pay zero. Set up fees? Zero. I get paid. And I started out unknown.
The unpublished author often dreams of being a writer. If you’re a romance reader and try to submit to HQN? If you get rejected, after they reject your work, they refer you to HHz, where you can pay them to get a book out. Instead of the other way around.
Another thing a lot of aspiring authors might not realize, most writers get a few rejections under their belt before they sell. Selling the first book? Doesn’t happen often. Rejections are part of a writer’s life. It’s also how we learn, grow, improve our craft. So like we need edits…we also need to a few rejections, IMO. It’s how we learn. I had five rejections before I landed with EC. I learned from each of those rejections. If I had just kept focusing on the self pub thing, I wouldn’t have landed at EC. I built a readership at EC that helped lead to contracts with Berkley and Ballantine.
- Harlequin has openly stated that they will be including little notes in the books they reject, referring the writer to HHz
- Should a writer decide to go the route of self-pub/vanity pub, if she wants to see a return on her money, she’s going to have to INVEST a lot…up front, with no guarantee of seeing profit.
- Should the writer want to really see a return on the money, she’ll have to be her own publicist/marketing department/etc. She’ll spend hours and hours and dollars and dollars and weeks and weeks promoting that one book…instead of writing another, one that may well even be better, one that may well sell to a traditional pub or an epub.
It will be almost impossible for a writer to make a profit there, because they take 50% of net. What’s net? Net is what is left AFTER cost. From the questions answered over at the Dear Author blog…
Malle: The content is completely owned by the author. Royalties are 50% net from both eBooks and print.
Why does this suck? I’m going to let Allison Brennan answer that, because she did so on her group blog and she did it far better than I could.
You have a trade book printed at $15 cover price. You think that $15 is yours?
There is a cost to printing. Notice that Harlequin Horizons only pays you 50% of net proceeds. What is net? Hmm, don’t know. In traditional publishing, the retailers generally “pay” half the cover price. So a $15 book is $7.50 to the retailer and $7.50 to the publisher. Out of the $7.50 to the publisher, they pay for printing, overhead (editorial, cover design, marketing, shipping, etc) and $1.125 per book to the author at a 7.5% standard royalty rate for trade.
There is a cost to print the book POD (which is higher per book than a mass printed novel), e-tailers who sell (i.e. Amazon) take a portion, etc. But let’s be generous and say that the net proceeds are $10 on a $15 book. You, the author, get $5. Yeah! You’re already making nearly five times more money per book than the schmuck who goes the traditional publishing route.
Except, you need to sell 1,660 books to recoup your hard outlay to get that book in print. That doesn’t include your website, ads, etc where you need to try to SELL your book to the public because your book will not be distributed. How will people find your book on Amazon? You need to drive them there. How? LOTS of money, time and hard work.
I also seeing this as a way of capitalizing off Harlequin’s established name, but in a way that doesn’t benefit current HQN authors and won’t benefit future HHz authors. More from Jane’s post at the Dear Author blog on this,
I emailed Malle Vallik to ask her three questions which pertained the biggest question I had about brand dilution:
- Will the books be sold through the eharlequin store?
- Will there be any HH branding on the book, either on the cover or in the copyright page?
- Are you (Harlequin) concerned about brand dilution?
This is Ms. Vallik’s response. She said she would be around to answer a few questions.
1. The books will not be branded Harlequin.
2. The books will be branded HH (see nice logo on website) attached
3. The copyright is not associated with Harlequin.
So the authors who opt to choose HHz? Many of them will initially be directed to HHz thru eHarlequin’s site… there are links to it all over their writing guidelines area. Or they will get little referral notes in their rejected MS from HQN. The HQN brand will catch their eyes. Yet we’re told they won’t be branded as HQN authors, and they won’t get their books listed on the HQN website. So for the HHz authors? That sucks.
For the traditional HQN author? It sucks because they worked damn hard to become an HQN author… and now anybody can buy it. Those who opt to go with HHz, they would be silly NOT to tag themselves as a ‘harlequin’ author. They ARE a harlequin author…thru HQN’s self pub arm. Instead of earning it, working hard, anybody can buy it.
More about those who opt to go with HHz…they’ll spend a lot of time and money trying to earn back what they invested in one book. What if they’d spent that time writing another one instead? Perfecting the craft instead of taking a short cut?
Is this is option that will work for some? Sure. If you really want to see a story of yours in print. If that’s your dream and you just want to have a way to get the book to your friends and family.
If that is your goal, yes…it can work.
But if you’re writing a book and hoping to write for a living? This isn’t the way to go, because the chances of making it happen this way? IMO? Slim to none
The info above, ie: the costs, editing fees, etc, came from HHz’s website or eHarlequin’s site.
Anything quoted was credit and linked.
This post is about my opinion and nobody has to share it. If you think self pub can work for you…good luck and best wishes, sincerely and truly. However, since I have been very vocal on twitter, facebook, other places discussing my thoughts, figured I might as well post them here as well.
ETA: I want to clarify that my issues are not with POD or self publishing. I don’t have problems with true self-publishing. True self publishing…where the author fronts the costs and the risks, but keeps all the profit. Vanity pubs, though? Well, that I have a problem with and if a writer invests the money in set-up, pays for distribution, etc…and then still has to share the profits? (And it’s a pretty big chunk of the profits) THAT, I have a problem with.
Another ETA: I wrote this post prior to the announcement that HQN would be changing the name of HHz. The name is being changed. Also the links redirecting writers from eHQN’s site to the HHz site have been removed.