Friday, January 28, 2011

Only Bonnets and Bonnets Only

Nick Harrison made an interesting comment on his blog concerning an author he rejected a few years back, “Alas, Harvest House has not had much success with genre fiction (other than Amish historical romance), so I had to say no.”[1] Realizing that I have a few books at home with Harvest House on the spine and knowing that I don’t read Amish historical romance, I kind of wondered at this. So, to satisfy my curiosity, I went over to to see what Harvest House had to offer. The first seven books they displayed were Amish and so were the last two of the remaining five. What were the other three? All were books written by Lori Wick, including The Princess, a book that I own.

I’m not sure what to make of this. I’m sure the folks over at Harvest House are scratching their heads as much as I am, wondering why Amish is the only thing they can manage to do. It becomes almost comical when you do a search for Harvest House books that aren’t Amish. Ten of the first twelve are by Lori Wick. You can have a great career writing books for Harvest House if you write Amish books or your name is Lori Wick. It really got funny when I tried searching for books at Harvest House that aren’t Amish and aren’t by Lori Wick. The result kept coming back “Your search did not match any products.” I did eventually get it to work, but the list was still heavily loaded with pastels and those that weren’t didn’t look particularly interesting.

I wonder if the problem Harvest House has is that they have begun to believe that they can’t do succeed with anything except bonnet fiction. If we examine what Nick Harrison said, he rejected an author because she presented him with something other than bonnet fiction. It’s a catch-22. You can’t succeed if you don’t try, but you don’t want to try if you haven’t succeeded. If their covers are anything to go by, Harvest House is putting all of their energy into Amish fiction and taking limited risks away from that, hoping that the risk will pay off. But the risk doesn’t pay off, in part because the best authors are looking for publishers that will do a better job promoting the book and in part because they aren’t putting enough into the books to make them stand out.