Yesterday, Harlequin announced their new Harlequin Horizons program, a joint venture with Author Solutions, “the world’s leading self-publisher.” Basically, you can now pay to have your unpublished romance novel published by Harlequin...Horizons. The reaction from authors, both aspiring and those published by Harlequin, has been fairly negative.
What seems to concern published authors the most is that this new venture actually uses the Harlequin name, and that associating Harlequin with self-publishing will hurt the brand. I’m not sure how legitimate this is, only because those self-published books aren’t going to be popping up at B&N or Borders any time soon. The Harlequin brand will still mean something to buyers. And as they’ve said, the books will have their own HH branding.
My personal concern, and one that is shared by unpublished authors, is about what seems like a conflict of interest. Are we moving to a place where authors will have to pay to play? In the follow-up FAQ to their original announcement, they say, “All standard/form/template rejection letters will include a short note about Harlequin Horizons as a self-publishing option for the aspiring author.” And in the first announcement, they describe Horizons as, “an innovative and original approach to discovering new authors to add to our traditional publishing programs.” It’s hard to say exactly how all of this will work until they start operating, but I’m very wary of this idea.
How do you feel about this? Is this just the future of publishing that we all have to deal with?
Harlequin has sent out an announcement that they'll be changing the name of their self-publishing program to something without "Harlequin" in the title. The power of the internet at work. Doesn't quite solve the conflict of interest problem, though...