The reaction to MWA’s delisting of Harlequin has been overwhelmingly positive. I wish I could share with you the dozens of emails I’ve received from authors, many of them published by Harlequin, expressing their support for the MWA’s action. But here’s just a small sampling of the positive reaction from authors around the blogosphere…
Author John Scalzi wrote:
Good on the Mystery Writers of America for keeping Harlequin’s feet to the fire on this.
DellArte Press is still a Harlequin imprint — one that **Harlequin is steering rejected authors toward**. You are still telling these rejected authors that even though their manuscripts are not good enough for you to pay them, they are good enough for them to pay you.
….and Kessler applauded the MWA’s actions.
bravo to MWA, which is standing behind its authors. The group spells out very clearly exactly why Harlequin’s actions have gotten it delisted — and further kudos for the organization making it extremely clear how Harlequin broke the rules
Author Maya Reynolds was also bothered by the ethical issues raised by Harlequin’s pay-to-publish operation.
It simply is not kosher for Harlequin to reject writers while at the same time referring them to its self-publishing arm. Furthermore, it is inappropriate for Harlequin to imply that their editors will be “monitoring” the self-published releases with an eye to possibly offering a contract with a traditional Harlequin imprint. This is not an arms-length relationship. It offers false hope to writers while benefiting the Harlequin bottom line.
Author Nick Kaufmann writes:
The Mystery Writers of America (MWA) has stepped up as the first to put its money where its mouth is over the Harlequin Horizons/DellArte Press debacle […] It’s interesting to note that MWA’s actions, quite appropriately, offer protection from consequence to Harlequin authors who signed contracts before this nonsense began.[…]It’s a ballsy move, taking the delisting of Harlequin from threat to reality, and I applaud MWA for it.
On Twitter, author Stacie Kane wrote:
I applaud the MWA for this; not because it doesn’t effect me but because it DOES effect ALL OF US
Author Laura Kinsale tweeted:
HQ’s reply to MWA splainin self-servin “shiny innovative new book industry, where YOU pay US” makes me ill. Truly ill.
Prior to the MWA’s decision being announced, literary agent Kristen Nelson says that she voiced her concerns about the pay-to-publish program directly to Harlequin editors:
one editor did try out the spiel about how publishing houses need to shift models in this bad economy but I wasn’t having any of that.
I said vanity publishing was predatory—plain and simple and that needed to be understood. That Harlequin had a reputation that they are now putting in jeopardy and that the writers organizations had every right to speak out strongly as their whole purpose is to protect writers.
Not surprisingly, the strongest criticism of MWA’s action has come from self-published and vanity press authors. For example, Henry Baum writes:
What’s so troubling about this is that the traditional publishing mindset has won the “battle” this week. And there shouldn’t even be a battle. The move by the MWA to drop Harlequin from its roster is particularly infuriating. It’s like they see the creeping influence of self-publishing and want to bat it down.
The MWA, SFWA, RWA, and HWA — all of whom strongly condemned how Harlequin’s pay-to-publish venture is integrated into their traditional publishing business — aren’t threatened by writers who’ve paid to be published. What these organizations are concerned about is a vanity press industry that preys on the desperation and gullibility of aspiring authors and publishing companies that engage in unethical and predatory publishing practices.