Harlequin and Thomas Nelson Publishing Hullabaloo

Everywhere you look right now writing professionals are sounding off about the new partnerships of Harlequin and Thomas Nelson with Author Solutions, to create the new self-publishing spinoff companies of Harlequin Horizons and WestBow Press.

Immediately Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America and Science Fiction Writers of America issued announcements to their memberships removing Harlequin from their list of approved publishers and stating that books published by them will not be eligible for membership or qualify for sponsored awards. Although Harlequin has now responded by promising to remove the Harlequin name from the H.H. imprint this doesn’t appear to have placated anyone.

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In a parallel to Harlequin’s self-created dilemma, Chip Macgregor summed up the Thomas Nelson situation by saying,

The folks at Nelson probably wish they hadn’t decided to use the name WestBow. They used it for expediency (Thomas Nelson already owned it; WestBow was the name of their fiction program a few years back), but that creates real issues… Can a WestBow author now say, “I’m published by the same imprint that publishes TED DEKKER”? Yeah, they can. (And yes, the Thomas Nelson authors are livid about this.) My guess is that they’ll change this.”

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Why all the controversy? Well, there are a lot of opinions out there but most seem to be based on the perception that Author Solutions, “a vanity/subsidy press that relies upon payments and income from aspiring writers to earn profit, rather than sales of books to actual readers,”* and whose brands also include AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Trafford, Xlibris, and WordClay, is equated with a less reputable, less ethical branch of self-publishing. The concern is that there will be no “quality control” on the titles that are expected to flood the market looking like they’ve been endorsed by a barely disguised big name publishing company and that will affect the reputation of authors and the status of books previously printed by the original publishers before the company names became tarnished .

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I’m not without an opinion on this but I think the most thorough discussion is found on the Writer Beware blog. Among others who are also weighing in are Rachelle Gardner, the Grayson Agency, Kristen Nelson, Chip MacGregor, Janet Reid and Nathan Bransford.

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It may be a while before this one blows over!

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