Lots of people read romances. And the paranormal romances are clearly a cousin of genre writing -- and sometimes it is a pretty artificial division. I read Marjorie Liu's stuff, and Meljean Brook -- these are authors I know from Clarion and online, respectively.
Growing up, the brand name Harlequin seemed synonymous with Romance to me -- I guess in terms of sales, for good reason. But recently Harlequin decided to announce a new venture, essentially mining their slush pile for an in-house vanity press operation. For God's sake, Publisher's Weekly ran a news flash with a straight face. I heard about this first via Nick Kaufmann via Nick Mamatas.
But now Scalzi and Making Light have lit in, because -- Thank God! -- the RWA (Romance Writers of America), MWA (Mystery Writers of America) and SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) have all condemned the move. In particular, RWA is to be commended, seeing as they have the most to gain and lose in this effort:
One of your member benefits is the annual National Conference. RWA allocates select conference resources to non-subsidy/non-vanity presses that meet the eligibility requirements to obtain those resources. Eligible publishers are provided free meeting space for book signings, are given the opportunity to hold editor appointments, and are allowed to offer spotlights on their programs.
With the launch of Harlequin Horizons, Harlequin Enterprises no longer meets the requirements to be eligible for RWA-provided conference resources. This does not mean that Harlequin Enterprises cannot attend the conference. Like all non-eligible publishers, they are welcome to attend. However, as a non-eligible publisher, they would fund their own conference fees and they would not be provided with conference resources by RWA to publicize or promote the company or its imprints.
Sometimes the wind of change comes swiftly and unexpectedly, leaving an unsettled feeling. RWA takes its role as advocate for its members seriously. The Board is working diligently to address the impact of recent developments on all of RWA’s members.
So far, it sounds as if Harlequin sounds hurt, but has removed the name Harlequin from the new venture. It has not, however, decided to skip becoming "Romance Publish America".
Why This Is Evil
Self-publishing is when you hire someone to print your work -- it is very useful for certain limited interest publications, gifts and small runs of things for family & friends. Vanity publishing is when you hire someone to pretend you're a professional author -- they make you believe that your book is "just like" something which has been vetted and marketed by a real publisher.
As annoying as rejection is and as big as slush piles get at real publishers, you really can't judge your own work all that fairly. For someone else to say, "hey, this is good, we can work with this, and we'd like to pay you this much to publish your work", is setting the minimum bar level.
In real publishing, money goes to the author.
If I put up a story on this LJ or on my website, http://dr-phil-physics.com , I'm doing this for fun and/or to give people a taste of my writing for free -- especially given that some of my real publications are hard to get. And I've been using unpublished stories so as not to interfere with those who have published me. But I know these are not vetted, edited works. They are my words and I can give them away if I feel like, provided they're not under contract elsewhere.
For you to pay Harlequin, or its minions, hundreds or thousands of dollars to produce books that likely will not sell and will never get promoted to "the real publishing arm" is a scam. The bait-and-switch aspect of slush piles and rejection letters is just too vile to support. Harlequin's management should be ashamed of themselves and grovel at the feet of their authors, their readers and the writers' organizations like RWA and beg their forgiveness and vow to sin no more forever. Period.
So far, no. Clearly we are misunderstanding Harlequin.
And this has to be CRUSHED IN THE BUD, lest in these dangerous financial times, other legitimate publishers begin to start thinking -- hey, I've got this fucking big slush pile, too, and maybe, just maybe, it wouldn't be so bad if I followed Harlequin's lead. And don't get all sanctimonious that hey, it was Harlequin that did this, one of those Romance publishers, complete with the eye rolling of superiority. Because it could happen to anyone in any genre. No, really. It could happen elsewhere.
NO. It'd be BAD. It's not RIGHT. And you people all know it. Preying on the wallets of those with hopes and dreams of becoming published authors is WRONG. And EVIL.
So just STOP IT. NOW.
And please, PLEASE, PLEASE... Don't Fall For This Shit Yourself.