Harlequin: Ur doin it rong

Harlequin, I see you’ve set up a, um, POD?/vanity?/subsidy?/self-pub? (no definitely not self-pub) arm of your company.

Congratulations. I think that’s brilliant.

However, you have negated that brilliance by the simple fact that you have obviously not gone about researching the industry any more than anybody you hope to make a customer.

What I do not think is brilliant is the following:

1. Partnering with AuthorSolutions, Inc.


  • Do you know that they use Lightning Source to print their books? Do you know you could get your own account with Lightning Source and do the same thing, only cheaper for you?
  • Do you know you could’ve set up your own in-house programs and packages? You should’ve; you have the resources right at your fingertips.
  • Do you know that the rates you’re quoting are outrageous if one went piecemeal to freelancers for those services? And if you do (which I don’t think you do), you would’ve gotten a bigger cut of it had you not partnered with AuthorSolutions Inc. You already have editors and artists and such. Use them. Hire a couple more if you don’t have enough.
  • Do you know that AuthorSolutions Inc. doesn’t have the best reputation on the planet even amongst subsidy publishers?
  • Do you realize that the 50% “royalty” you take from your customers could have been at a much higher dollar amount if you had set up your own shop?

Bad, bad business decision, just from a P&L standpoint. Geez, you’re cutting off your margins to spite your bottom line.

2. Attaching your brand.

I shouldn’t even have to explain this.

UPDATE: As of 11/19/2009 4:12 PM, Harlequin has decided to rename its vanity press division something other than Harlequin whatever. Pub Rants got the scoop.

3. Thinking/branding it as self-publishing.

Self-publishing involves setting up shop as a business and outsourcing the tasks you can’t do yourself. What you’re doing is a service company promoting way overpriced service packages.

4. Your website really does kinda suck.

Oh, sure. You’ll get a lot of customers, and that’s okay. I see nothing wrong with it. I just think you coulda gone about it a different way.

And this is what surprises me. Harlequin, you’re brilliant. You’ve made nothing but all the right steps in all these decades of publishing. You flourish where others founder. You took a great (welcome) leap with Carina, but this? This displays the business sense of a kindergartner.

It makes me think your parent company is setting all this up and making you (and by extension, Malle Vallik) take the fall.

15 thoughts on “Harlequin: Ur doin it rong

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  • November 18, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    A lot of companies make the mistake of having bad Websites. It usually has to do with a mid-level manager authorizing the site based on what he/she “likes” in a Website, without regard as to whether or not it’s usable, easy to navigate or even comprehensible.

    Such things drive Web designers nuts.

  • November 18, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    If you look at Harlequin’s website/storefront, the contrast is so extreme as to be laughable. That’s one reason why I don’t think this is actually Harlequin’s doing. This is not consistent with any way Harlequin has ever done business.

    If they’re going to brand it Harlequin, it needs to LOOK like Harlequin. All they had to do was copy the template and create a new database.

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  • November 18, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    It’s typical, when a business doesn’t understand how something works, they contract with the first company that offers them a “don’t worry about it, we’ll do it for you” package to get the job done.

    Well, actually, it’s typical for smaller businesses. For someone the size of Harlequin, with the resources Harlequin has at hand, it’s kind of embarassing. heh

  • November 18, 2009 at 7:31 pm


    (I don’t know why you keep getting caught in my spam trap. Kismet doesn’t like you. *rimshot*)

  • November 23, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    Love this post! And squee! I just noticed “Stay” is out now. Your cover is lovely! I’ll be ordering this soon!

  • November 23, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    Oh, aso love your new (to me) blog layout. Damn it’s pretty. 😀

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  • November 29, 2009 at 8:45 am

    I read in PW that the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers association is lambasting Harlequin to remove itself from the association with the POD/Self-Pub operation.

    Their eligibility requirements lists the publishers to whom an author must have made a book or short story sale to. Of course, there are no self-publishing entities listed.

    I’m curious why writers would object to opening up the field a bit? My take on Indie Publishing has always been that the market and the marketing acumen of the author will determine whether a book will sell, leaving books that are not market worthy to languish. Without the extensive market hype that a big, mainstream roll-out can give it, a book has to stand on its own merits. It seems to me that Indie Authors have a great deal of pressure on them to create really good books, otherwise, they are wasting their money, and who can afford that?

    Let me pose a hypothetical here.

    A sci-fi writer, whose unusual voice and subjects has had no luck when submitting to agents — the current book sales market is very restrictive — so they opt to self-publish (as many, many now revered sci-fi writers have done in the past) to get the stories out and let the books stand on their own.

    How does this impact other published sci-fi writers? Why would any writer be threatened by the creative actions of another? Whay would a writer be threatened by a publisher needing to branch out to acquire additional markets and sales? Times are tough — they require new ideas and forms we haven’t seen before in order to survive.

    Isn’t the goal to allow every form of good creative writing to find its market if it can? I guess not. Is being mainstream published the only thing which determines if writing is any good or a story worthy? I guess so.

    That leaves thousands of good writers out in the cold, possibly forever.

    “Last one in, make sure the gate’s closed!”

  • November 29, 2009 at 9:58 am

    I’m curious why writers would object to opening up the field a bit?

    The argument is that these people are potential victims for a snake oil salesman (Harlequin) and must be saved from themselves. It’s a bit broader and deeper than that, though.

    the marketing acumen of the author will determine whether a book will sell, leaving books that are not market worthy to languish.

    Now, more than ever.

    Why would any writer be threatened by the creative actions of another?

    No idea. I’m still scratching my head over that myself.

  • November 29, 2009 at 10:45 am

    I’ve gathered the impression that in the UK, especially, there must have been a great deal of predatory POD publishing, as most discussion sites treat it as if it were a disease! Here, in the US, it seems writers that choose that route know what they’re getting into, for the most part, and even if book sales are terrible, come out of it having learned a great deal.

    I know I have, and see the small investment as having strengthened me for the coming battles ahead!

  • November 29, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    The SFWA is notoriously out-of-touch when it comes to this type of thing.

  • December 1, 2009 at 9:50 am

    The SFWA is notoriously out-of-touch when it comes to this type of thing.

    Out of touch or attempting to protect its territory?

  • December 1, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    I’m sure there’s disagreement over the causes, but my perception is that it’s both.


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