Archive for the 'Harlequin' Category

Bestseller lists

Due to a change in sales tracking, six Harlequin Presents titles made the USA TODAY bestseller list this week.

Congratulations to those authors on the January 3rd list:

#108 RUTHLESS BOSS, ROYAL MISTRESS by Natalie Anderson
#112 CAVELLI’S LOST HEIR by Lynn Raye Harris

These authors’s success makes me wonder: If sales had been tracked differently before now, how many other Harlequin series authors would be USA TODAY bestsellers? If online sales, from Amazon and others, were added to the mix would that change who we saw as bestsellers?

And, does anyone know of an ebook bestseller list that isn’t retailer-dependent?

In any case, no matter how they are tracked, here’s to many more bestselling series romances in 2010.

Horizons: The final word

I am distressed. Like, feeling-an-ulcer-boiling-up-in-my-gut distressed.

Even though this blog has my own given name on it, and it includes a sweet little “this ain’t Harlequin’s blog” disclaimer on the right sidebar, and I spent my precious library time posting about how this blog is my personal opinion blah, blah, blah, I’m still worried people might be mistaking my thoughts for those of the Harlequin PR office. (Yes, I tend toward paranoia.)

I’m not an executive, a director, a manager or even a senior person at Harlequin. I just work there, happily, and love publishing, a lot. Naturally, I thought it’d be interesting to discuss exciting developments within my favorite publishing company as one publishing professional to others.

Alas, that plan isn’t working for me.

I’m too much of a nervous Nellie. Even though Harlequin has a permissive blogging policy, it still feels weird to go from 16 page views to over a thousand on the back of a blogosphere fury. To lower my stress, I’m holding off on discussing Harlequin on this blog. (At least until the Horizons furor dies down.) That way I can assure my bile-filled stomach that I haven’t accidentally said something that someone else will take as coming directly from Harlequin.

I love my job and I want to keep it. Also, I hate ulcers.

So. I’m going to publish this little piece and then play around in the comments that have piled up over these last few days. I will respond to as many as I can, though I will not answer any questions specifically about Harlequin or Horizons.

I will, however, change the comments to unmoderated so you guys can better discuss things amongst yourselves, if you want to hang around. And, I will continue to discuss self-publishing, vanity presses, e-publishing and any other crazy mode of non-traditional publishing that catches my fancy. Because, in spite of the naysayers, I think they are interesting ideas that deserve further thought and discussion.

Horizons: Going over the edge

Bloody fingers! Bloody fingers! (And I’m still chewing.)

I cannot express how frustrated I am not to be able to further the conversation about Horizons right this very minute. NYPL has given me a computer reservation that lasts less than half an hour, with page-load times that could barely beat molasses in January. That’s just enough time for me to approve all of the passionate, insightful and thought-provoking comments I’ve received so far, and not enough time to respond to any of them in any depth.

The one thing I do want to say in my limited time is that on this blog I am not acting as a “representative” of Harlequin, as some commenters have indicated. (My disclaimer on the right-hand side says this clearly.) This is my personal blog filled with my personal opinions about publishing, an industry I care deeply about.

I actually started this blog not long ago because of the many, many articles, posts and tweets I have been reading this year about self-publishing, vanity publishing, e-publishing, and other new and changing options and distribution models. I have a collection of links waiting to be posted that have nothing to do with Harlequin. It’s just that the company made some exciting announcements recently. Since my goal is to discuss how publishing works now and how it is evolving, I couldn’t very well ignore the winds of change that were fluttering the papers on my day-job desk.

If the only thing you know about me is that I work at Harlequin, you might think I’m touting the party line. An understandable mistake since this blog is so new I haven’t even filled in my About page! Honestly, nobody read my ramblings until yesterday when Angela James kindly alerted everyone to my presence on Twitter. (Thanks, Angela. I think.)

So, please forgive me for not being able to address your comments right now. I’m ready to discuss the future of good writing, wherever it may be published. As soon as I can get my hands on a real computer.


[Update, 11/22/09: It was pointed out to me this weekend that this page did not originally include the disclaimer found on my home page. The template now includes the disclaimer, and in case you don’t want to look to the sidebar: This post does not necessarily represent the opinions of Harlequin.]

My computer crashed on Tuesday, and I have been culling together random moments of very slow access via the public library and the handmade-by-my-brother-in-law, Linux-run, back-up machine that doesn’t allow me to do anything I normally do on-screen.

I’m about to gnaw my fingers off in frustration!

What a week for my little laptop to go belly-up. First, I come back to the office on Wednesday (not having been able to check my email on Tuesday, see above) to find an announcement about Harlequin Horizons, Harlequin’s new self-publishing initiative. All well and good.

(I haven’t yet posted all of the info I’ve been collecting about self-publishing and POD, but these kinds of new and changing publishing models are a current passion of mine. My initial reaction to the release, as someone working in a completely different HQ division who had no access to the information about Horizons until yesterday, was unadulterated excitement.)

But then I received emails about author reactions. I received some phone calls laced with disappointment. My Google alerts went crazy. One author called the announcement of Horizons a “Harlequin s**tstorm.”

Now, this morning, I log on to an ancient public library computer–on which I’m about to run out of time–and find that RWA has officially pulled Harlequin’s eligible publisher status. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!

I have so much to say, and yet the clock is running out. Two things, quickly:

First, the press release makes this venture sound, to me, much like a licensing agreement. Harlequin provides the “Harlequin” and Author Solutions provides the service and maintenance. As a separate division run by a partner company and distributed on a wholly separate model, Horizons is sort-of like (at least to my MBA-less mind) GE’s ownership of NBC. Related, but not by much. As such, RWA’s decision to equate Horizons with all of the thousands of Harlequin’s traditionally published books seems sort-of like deciding not to buy that nice new fridge because you don’t like Leno in prime time.

That said, Harlequin as a brand is beloved by many and known around the world. Harlequin has history; it’s part of people’s intimate lives; Harlequin–at least for me and many readers I know–was there when boys went from being icky to delicious and when love and sex were first lighting up the hormones. So, it makes me tear up a little to read the heartfelt emotions on some author blogs. There is an honest sense of betrayal here that has nothing to do with the future of publishing and everything to do with a love of reading, romance novels and the (paid) writing life.

When I can get my darned computer back together–or hack out a little more time from the public library–let’s discuss some of the issues others’ have raised:

What does Harlequin the company, which may or may not be synonymous with the Harlequin brand, already include?

MIRA and HQN, imprints that many non-category readers don’t associate with Harlequin when they see them on the shelves; manga and overseas sales that many North Americans don’t have contact with; a variety of category romances that are often misrepresented as being all one type of read (ex: everyone thinks all romance is like Presents, or that Harlequin Romance the series is the same as Harlequin romance the brand); and lots of other initiatives that have come and gone. Will a new company under the Harlequin umbrella change how readers see the brand?

Where does self-publishing stand today as an alternative to traditional publishing?

It’s growing.; Amazon’s self-publishing option, which they monitor for “best picks” that they then publish more traditionally in their Encore imprint; Greenleaf Book Group, which has some stellar books out now and several more in my TBR pile, calls themselves a publishing “incubator” but basically charges the author money for publishing and distribution services; Smashwords; West Bow Press–really the list keeps going.

Those watching the industry closely cannot help but see these kinds of services as a part of publishing’s future. (As a consumer, I find this very exciting. No longer are the books I want to read hemmed in by marketing guidelines. If I want it, I can probably find it published by someone.) Beyond the obvious differences in money (author advance vs. author fee), there is a huge rights difference. Authors keep all or most of the rights in self-publishing, which can offer unlimited opportunities for the right person. (The kinds of unlimited opportunities that might not happen in traditional publishing.)

Does Horizons offer false hope to aspiring authors?

This is the most eye-roll-worthy comment I’ve seen so far. Some have pointed to Horizons’ web copy, which mentions that Harlequin will monitor sales and hopefully find new authors through this program, and called it misleading. To me, the claim seems delightfully honest. Harlequin wants more bestselling authors; here’s a new way to find them. Most, if not all, of the self-publishing services I’ve seen (Author Solutions’ companies, Smashwords, Amazon, etc.) monitor sales and give special attention to the books that sell best. Harlequin is simply stating up front the hope that a few strong new voices will rise above the many. (New voices, I should add, that probably wouldn’t find an audience if forced to stay within the strict marketing plans and editorial submissions processes of traditional publishing.)

Also, when authors pay to use a service, I believe they are smart enough to do due diligence. Self-publishing is very different from traditional publishing, and anyone who chooses to pay good money for their book to be published will know the difference.

What does the rise of self-publishing in general say about the role of editors or the curation of book and author lists?

Editing is an apprenticeship skill: a little creativity, a little diplomacy, a little marketing, a little problem-solving. If everyone can publish anything they want, any time they want, is there a role for those of us who can make stories go from good to great? For those who relish the difference between a cleanly written manuscript and one that makes us laugh and cry? For those who want our favorite books in the hands of as many readers as possible? Maybe yes, maybe no. Sometimes the crowd’s choice can be much better than what is selected by the traditional model.

As an editor, as a former aspiring writer, as a voracious consumer of content in many forms, this brouhaha excites me.

It makes for a good story.

Now it’s the bozo-behind-me’s turn to use the computer. *Sigh.*

Round-up: Carina Press shakes things up

The press release went out earlier this week, and it seems news of Harlequin’s digital-only imprint is making the rounds. The excitement is contagious.

Daily Finance: Harlequin launches digital-only imprint. Will other big houses feel the romance?
Quill and Quire: Harlequin tries for some online love with digital publishing venture
Galleycat: Angela James to helm digital press at Harlequin
Juno Books: Harlequin launches digital-only publishing house
Smart Bitches, Trashy Books: Carina Press
Publishers Weekly: James tabbed to run Harlequin’s e-book-only Carina Press
Mobility Site: E-books, content calvalcade
Icarus Publishing asks, “Will Carina Press someday publish manga?” (scroll down)
The Tainted Archive: New imprint seeks writers

And for those who like original sources, Isabel Swift has posted the full press release.

One reporter, from said, “Those submitting to Carina Press should be aware that no advances are being offered and, more troubling, there will be no DRM protection. [Emphasis added.]”

Personally, I find the idea of DRM-free books to be just what the customer ordered. Imagine finding new authors to love by borrowing e-books from a friend! Those with concerns may want to read more about the DRM debate on Booksquare, here and here.

In addition to Carina’s potential influence on big publishing’s digital prospects and DRM decisions, the comments at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books raised another question: Will Carina’s launch inspire the Romance Writers of America to embrace digital-only publishers? Might e-book advocates no longer need to host rogue discussions of digital publishing trends?

It seems that RWA will at least think about laying out the welcome mat. Their latest press release, which has no date but uses language that suggests it was released after the word on Carina, says the board will devote a major portion of their upcoming meeting to discussing the “emerging trends” in publishing.

Even with no books yet on the Web site shelves, Carina Press is already changing the game.

Looking for Fat Cats in Santa Hats

Alex Colon, who works with Harlequin’s non-fiction group, has a special request for all you cat and Claus lovers out there.

So we came up with an idea for a new blog. This blog is so new it doesn’t even exist yet. This blog is Fat Cats in Santa Hats, and we need your help to create it.

The premise of the blog is simple – every day we are going to post a new photo of a cat in a Santa hat (or some other festive holiday wear). These photos may or may not appear on the blog accompanied by silly captions, but we won’t figure that out until we have a healthy amount of photos to launch the blog with.

So we ask you: if you have a cat, especially a fat cat, won’t you please go home tonight, give it a nice meal, maybe a hair brushing (if your cat likes that), and dress it up in a Santa costume and take its photo before it runs away?

Also, even though the blog will be named Fat Cats in Santa Hats, we are open to photos of cats of all shapes and sizes.

All photos can be sent to alex_colon AT harlequin DOT ca

Sex diaries vs. HEA

I heart New York magazine, intensely. And their critical breakdown of the sex lives of New Yorkers, as portrayed in their online Sex Diaries, was a must-read.

Wesley Yang laid out the plagues of being single in the city:
1. The anxiety of too much choice.
2. The anxiety of making the wrong choice.
3. The anxiety of not being chosen.
4. The anxiety of appearing overly enthusiastic.
5. The anxiety of appearing delusional.
6. The anxiety of appearing overly sincere.
7. The anxiety of appearing prudish.
8. Internet-enabled agoraphobia.
9. Separation anxiety.

All this anxiety made me anxious, and I have been monogamous for lo these many years. And the piece also made me sad, thinking of tender NYC youth playing games, telling lies, trolling bars hoping for hook-ups, afraid to care too much.

How antithetical to the fantasy of romance, I thought, where high emotion is expected, encouraged. In the romance novel business, there may be lies, games, sneaking around, and ennui but the conflicts all eventually end in true love. The readers of the Diaries and the readers of romance must live in such different worlds…

But then I read #10:
The anxiety of being unable to love.

And yet perhaps the most surprising psychological attribute of the Diarists, despite weeks upon weeks of guarding their vulnerabilities from the brutality of the marketplace, is their romanticism… [Love] is nonetheless something that the Diarists keep referencing, despite the impression they convey that it is an ever-receding ideal. It’s an odd, negative sort of tribute—a vague longing for something all but lost, but perhaps worth clinging to nonetheless.

We’re all the same after all. Anxiety = conflict; sex = chemistry; love = happily ever after.

For those who prefer to read about NYC lonelyhearts, check out the Sex Diaries. For those who can admit they believe in love, check out the free e-books at


I work as an editor at Harlequin, but the posts on this site are all mine and don’t represent my employer's positions, strategies or opinions.
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