Harlequin Begins Vanity Press

Anyone who knows anything about vanity presses knows that they’re not respected on several levels when it comes to publishing and being published. A vanity press is called thus because it caters to a would-be writer’s vanity. In other words, a work may be published without any editorial process taking place. This means any piece of drek, shopping list, or untethered ramblings will be printed if one has the funds to bring it to fruition.

Vanity presses often take advantage of unsuspecting new writers who aren’t aware of the full process. For a fee the press will publish your book. Or you have won a contest and your poem/story will appear in the lovely print edition and you can order a copy for $34.95. The publisher doesn’t pay you for your work and basically puts your work, no matter how bad, into the volume so that you, your friends and family will buy copies to show that you’re a published author, not realizing that this isn’t the real realm of publishing.

What happens is that writers are paying the publisher and that’s who buys the books. It isn’t readers interested in the story, just a very small group or just the writer. Little to nothing is spent on marketing and what is, is aimed at the person who submitted the work.

In the past I submitted poems to a poetry contest, only to find out I had “won” and that it was a vanity press. I withdrew my pieces and never looked at those “publishers” again. Self-publishing is also considered vanity press even if someone else (a printer or book packager) puts the book together. A person who pays on their own (as opposed to so-called winners) to have a book edited, laid out, printed and bound is usually considered to be vanity publishing unless they’re trying to put out other books besides their own. They might still have to go through the very hard work of marketing and distribution. Without these important elements, the books sit in the basement.

Small presses should not be confused with vanity publishing. Those who venture on their own to publish their books do so for a variety of reasons. The book may have been turned down by agents and publishers, or the person may want to get a message out there or just sell on their own for whatever reason. Sometimes a self-published book is picked up by a major publisher. But that is a very rare thing. Otherwise, a person makes a cost outlay of anywhere from $1000 to $10,000-plus for editing, production and publishing of their book and if they’re lucky, they may recoup what they put into it. Often they don’t make back their cost so the pay to play.

It is alarming and very odd when a  well-established publisher decides to start another imprint whose sole purpose is to be a vanity press. Harlequin is the biggest romance publisher in the world and has a huge sell-through rate on their titles. They shouldn’t be hurting for money. But they decided to team up with a print-on-demand vanity press call Author Solutions. After outcries from the Romance Writers of America (RWA) and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) Harlequin has taken the name of Harlequin Horizons off of the imprint.

Harlequin reported amazement and as of today changed the name to DellArte Press Book Publishing Services. However, RWA said Harlequin books would not be eligible for any awards and SFWA said all Harlequin books/stories would not count as eligible as a membership fulfillment unless they removed themselves from self-publishing. I doubt the name change will be enough for RWA and SFWA.

I can’t help but wonder why Harlequin even needs to get involved. They’ve been branching out into supernatural and SF romance and shouldn’t need to dupe dewy-eyed writers into parting with money to see their names in print and in hopes of getting to be a Harlequin author. Letting a would-be author think they have a chance of getting their story picked up by first self-publishing it is disingenuous. I checked out DellArte, which has little price packages that start at $599 to $1,599, but that only gets you 5 to 25 free copies, and after that you’re paying extra. That doesn’t cover a full edit at all either and even at $342 (editing services)  it will give you a partial review of a chapter or two. You’ll pay for other copies and I’m sure by the time you’re done you’ll have forked out at least $5,000. If the cover price of a trade paperback (the size they’re advertising) is $14.99 (very cheap and probably higher) and you get it at say, 40% off of cost (the regular retailer discount), that means you make $6 and would need to sell around 833 copies to break even.

Not that many if you’re marketed like Stephen King. But chances are there is little marketing and you’ll have to do most on your own. DellArte offers in the upper end of prices a standard publicity program, which really amounts to a written press release. You still have to do the marketing and distribution is probably all in your lap. So you’re in the same seat as if you went out and found a printer on your own. I’d be interested to know why Harlequin even thought they needed to do this. For various takes on this, follow the links.

 http://www.sfwa.org/2009/11/sfwa-statement-on-harlequins-self-publishing-imprint/

http://www.dellartepress.com/

PublishersWeekly

I also wrote them as if I was a new author with my book ready to publish in 1-3 months. They said someone would get back to me and what I received was a computer generated reply, which follows:

Congratulations on starting a new chapter of your life by exploring self-publishing. We are glad you contacted DellArte Press to start your publishing journey.
 
DellArte Press is designed to help aspiring romance and women’s fiction writers publish their books and achieve their dreams. No matter what the end goal for your book is we have the resources and staff to help you reach that goal. Our professional support team will walk with you every step of the way, so please let us know how we can assist you.
 
Your first chapter in publishing is to explore our Standard and Specialty Publishing Packages. Please visit our Publishing Packages page on our Web site to see how each package uniquely meets your publishing needs. We also offer additional services you can add to your package to give your book the professional and polished edge it deserves.
 
We’re here to help you select the best package for you, and we’ll be in touch soon to discuss your specific book and your goals. If you are ready to get started right away, you can call us at(877) 217-3420 or e-mail
customersupport@dellartepress.com.
 
Publishing with DellArte Press offers several advantages:
Discovery Opportunities – Titles published through DellArte Press will be monitored for possible pickup by DellArte’s traditional imprints
Global Distribution – Extensive distribution networks through Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com and others ensure that your book can be purchased by anyone, anytime, anywhere
Creative Control – It’s your book from start to finish
Professional Editors – Choose to utilize our editors to ensure your book is error free
Effective Marketing – Hire a publicist, have a video book trailer created, set up an author Web site and more
Accessible Support – Easy access to our professional support staff so you’re never left to answer questions on your own
Next Steps: Define Your Desire
 
Your next step is to define your goals and desires for your book. Whether you want to publish just for fun or to achieve commercial success, we can help. One of our Publishing Consultants will work with you to determine the best options for your publishing needs so your goals are met. In the meantime, if you have questions, please call (877) 217-3420 or visit our Web site at
www.dellartepress.com.
 
We understand that your time is precious and you may not always have a lot of time for yourself. We encourage you to indulge your passion for writing and begin the next chapter of your life as a published author. We look forward to working with you to help make that dream come true.
 
Sincerely,

The Dell Arte Press Team
DellArte Press
1663 Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403
Phone: (877) 217-3420
Fax: (812) 355-1561

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6 Comments

Filed under entertainment, news, Publishing, Writing

6 responses to “Harlequin Begins Vanity Press

  1. Seeley deBorn

    Colleen,

    Thanks for posting this. Did you follow up with them to find out what DellArte’s “traditional imprints” are?

    SdB

    • colleenanderson

      According to the article, Harlequin changed their Harlequin Horizons imprint with Author Solutions to read now as DellArte, so that the word Harlequin wasn’t associated with it. I would presume this means it’s a brand new name and of course it’s romance writing, but you pay for all the packaging, making it still a vanity press in which probably Harlequin and Author Solutions split the $.

  2. Hi Colleen,

    I found your blog through a link that an anonymous reader left on mine.

    HQ isn’t hurting financially, but TorStar, which owns HQ, is struggling badly, apparently. So it does make sense, from a corporate viewpoint, that more HQ profits via what is now DellArte, would help HQ, which then in turn would help TorStar.

    • colleenanderson

      Interesting and thanks, Cindy. It’s still a pretty odd way to go about it and questionable to enough writers organizations.

  3. Pingback: Get the word out-vanity presses, assisted self pub, etc. « Trivial Pursuits

  4. Darci

    As an aspiring romance writer and Harlequin reader, I heard through the publishing grapevine that DellArte’s first release is a Christian women’s fiction. It received excellent reviews. I heard DellArte was so impressed with this debut author that they decided to absorb the costs. I’ll believe it when I read it.

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