Friday, November 20, 2009

Promise or Peril?

This week there has been an uproar in the writer's world following the announcement by Harlequin Enterprises to team up with Author Solutions to form a new entity, Harlequin Horizons. Manuscripts already rejected by Harlequin can now be published in print -- via this new self-publishing arm. The key words here are self-publishing. Which means the author pays; footing the entire cost of printing, editing, etc.

I'm certainly not saying that self-publishing is bad. I just feel that, although not exactly misleading aspring writers, this is taking advantage of the vulnerability and desires of those writers. All form rejections coming from Harlequin will now have a short note offering Harlequin Horizons as a self publishing option for the author. The carrot they're dangling is the line stating that if a Harlequin Horizons self-published title does well, Harlequin might just then pick the manuscript up for mainstream publication.

Now I spent many years as an aspiring author, and I can tell you it's an emotional roller coaster. There were always those out there who would make promises, allude to possibilities ... and on and on until you feel that if you don't take this chance, don't outlay the cash, you'll be missing out on your shot at a major publisher. And it might work that way for a very few. Truly, the publishing business is a lot of being at the right place at the right time. I get that. I also know that if you've been rejected by your chosen publishers, there might be a reason. A person simply cannot assume their work is ready for publication. To be a good writer, you have to dedicate yourself to the craft, to always stretching and improving your skills. Having a sub-standard novel out there (believe me all of my first works were sub-standard in one way or another, even though I didn't know it at the time -- I pressed and learned) isn't going to do a thing to get a major publisher to look at your work. I feel money is better spent on classes, workshops, instructional books ... things that will give you better tools to use in your quest for publication.

Another word of caution. That carrot, the one that says if your self-published book does well you could be picked up by a major publisher, is more than a little misleading. For a print book to sell well, it has to be where readers can find it -- this is especially true for first time authors.
Without the backing of a publisher and distribution system, how are those books going to get out there? Print books do not fly into reader's hands by themselves.
You need to ask yourself these questions: Are you willing to spend full time marketing your book? Are you going to face even more rejection by knocking on bookstore doors trying to get them to let you in? Are you going to devote every day to selling books out of your garage? It's tough out there and it really burns my biscuits to see writers' dreams being manipulated for profit.

Harlequin has been the backbone of the romance industry for years. I understand the markets are changing, the world is changing. I know this is all new and it will be interesting to see how things shake out. All I have to say is the old addage "Buyer Beware." You CAN make your dreams come true. Just move ahead with your eyes open and your brain (not your heart) engaged.

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