Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Blacklisted Publisher

I wasn’t going to write about this, but it keeps coming up. Actually, I wrote about it once, changed my mind and deleted what I wrote, but if you haven’t heard, Harlequin continues to get blacklisted by writers’ associations. The board of the Romance Writers Association (RWA) blacklisted them several days ago and in response Harlequin change the name of their vanity press to DellArte. I’m not sure if that appeased Michelle Monkou and company over at RWA, but it didn’t appease Lee Child and company on the Mystery Writers of America (MWA) board of directors. They voted to bar Harlequin from consideration for their Edgar award.

I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around this thing. The publishers are supposed to be the publishing experts and yet, last year more books were published by POD companies than by traditional publishers. It’s no wonder that publishers are beginning to try to move into that market. But what is it that these association boards hope to gain by blacklisting publishers? That’s a hard question to answer. I’m sure that they will make the claim that it is in the best interest of their membership to shun publishers with predatory practices that allow the publishers to make money from manuscripts they have rejected.

When you consider that Harlequin puts out approximately half of the romance novels produced in America, just how meaningful would it be for an author to win the RITA when Harlequin doesn’t even show up? It is inconceivable to me that if this matter were put to a vote with the members of RWA that blacklisting Harlequin would pass easily, if at all. Essentially, this move would be telling more than half the published membership that their books will not be considered because their publisher has a vanity press.

So, if the association would be divided or opposed to this move, then why is it that these boards are unanimous? I somewhat understand the MWA, since they have little to lose by rejecting Harlequin, but the RWA risks losing all creditability by rejecting Harlequin. Certainly, they should express their concerns about how Harlequin does business and they should educate their members about the nature of self-publishing and vanity presses, but in whose best interest is it to take such a hard line stance? Like I said, I’m still trying to wrap my mind around that one.

Question: Do you see any personal benefits from the boards of these associations rejecting Harlequin? Are the people on these boards protecting your interest or their own personal interests?

And while we're on the subject, here is a video that responds to the same issue:

To be clear, I don't endorse AuthorSolutions and I'm not sure that I agree with everything in the video, but he does make some good points. This thing about saying someone isn't an author until they receive at a $1,000 advance is uterly ridiculous. I certainly agree with that. But even while we might support self-publishing, let's keep in mind that there is a big difference between publishing a book and selling it to a significant number of people.