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Article: World's Biggest Romance Publisher Turns into World's Biggest Scam Artist

  1. World's Biggest Romance Publisher Turns into World's Biggest Scam Artist

    5 Comments by pepperlandgirl Published on 18 Nov 2009 07:18 PM
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    World's Biggest Romance Publisher Turns into World's Biggest Scam Artist


    Harlequin Enterprises is the biggest publisher in Romance and one of the biggest publishers in the world. They are the gold standard when it comes to romance, and romance is the biggest selling genre right now. Over 500 romance novels are published every month, and while the rest of the publishing world is hitting hard economic times, romance publishers continue to turn a profit every quarter. Harlequin included. But Harlequin is a corporation, and the one thing that corporations are always looking after is the bottom line. So who can really blame Harlequin for expanding into new forums and new publishing models? They recently opened an epublisher that will take advantage of the current trend of digital publishing. They also announced a brand new program called Harelquin Horizons.

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  3. #2
    Banned
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    There's something so outrageous to me in taking people's money for this. Taking advantage of people's hopes and providing nothing real in return is just cruel.

  4. #3
    MOON GIRL FIGHTS CRIME Myrnalene's avatar
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    Great article.

    What bothers me the most about this loathsome practice is that authors rejected by the traditional publishing arm of Harlequin will be encouraged by the publisher to submit to Harlequin Horizons. I would imagine even slightly savvy writers who have heard the arguments against self-publishing might be swayed by a recommendation from the most powerful publisher in the romance business. They are banking on their being able to use their reputation as a respectable house to pull this off. How totally immoral and gross.

  5. #4
    Curmudgeon OtakuLoki's avatar
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    Some words on the concept of paying royalties on the net profit a work generates.

    This is a hugely bad idea for the author - in effect it's offering the publisher, with regards to HH, free reign in it's accountancy practices. Which doesn't sound like much - until you realize how skewed accounting can destroy any paper profit, until there's no net left at all from any single work.

    First off, there are the costs of setting up the print run: There are going to be physical costs, ink, paper, labor, and even with the lack of editing that is mentioned in the article there are still going to be labor costs involved with a number of things that normally considered part of the editing process: typesetting and formatting, mostly, but still real costs.

    Fine. And honestly, I can't contest any of those costs as being real costs towards producing a book.

    But, let's say, against all odds, that this book becomes the next Harry Potter, and takes off. (Or for a better example - the next Joy of Cooking, which had begun as a self-published work, before it took off.)

    Well, HH will still have other costs they can apply against the income from that title. There's the depreciation and maintenance costs on the printing presses, and other physical hardware required to produce the books. And since 99.9% of the other books published under this imprint will not make money, HH will be free to apply all of the depreciation to the income from this one title, to show there haven't yet been any net profits.

    Right there, that's enough costs to eat up any potential profit from a thousand book print run.

    But it's only the first of many accountancy tricks that could be used to make any apparent gross profit disappear.

    For anyone who thinks that I'm being alarmist, consider the experience of Peter S. Beagle. He's an author who has had several well received books, and one run-away hit, back in the 70s: The Last Unicorn. Unusually, compared to the number of fantasy and SF titles that make it as best-sellers, it was also picked up to be made into a movie, which was, while not a blockbuster success, moderately successful. As a measure of its success, the film has been available in home formats for a while, and even had a 25th anniversary edition of the DVD released.

    In spite of this, Beagle hasn't seen one cent in royalty payments from the copyright owner - because he was to be paid from the net profits, and the company has been using every trick in the book to show that it's still losing money on the title.

    For a run-down on what happened, check out this link. The short version remains, however, if you're going to be paid on the net profits for a creative work, it's going to be very hard to prove that there were any net profits at all, unless the company you're working with feels inclined to be generous.

    For myself, the idea of a vanity press being generous is so unlikely as to be knee-slappingly funny.

  6. #5
    The Queen Zuul's avatar
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    This is just utterly grotesque. The sad thing is that there are a lot of people out there who aren't very savvy and will be sucked into this and will be hurt. As OtakuLoki says, paying royalties off of the net profit is a fantastic way to screw authors over.

    Honestly, folks would be better off doing actual self-publishing than this. They'd probably sell the same amount of books (a pitiful handful) and they'd be able to keep the profits.

  7. #6
    Oliphaunt dread pirate jimbo's avatar
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    Paying on net profit is such a scam. IIRC, there were a number of interested parties in the Michael Keaton/Jack Nicolson "Batman" who agreed to get their residuals from net profits on the movie, which is ranked in the top ten highest grossing movies of all time. Warner Bros. has to date successfully insisted that that movie has never shown a profit, so they've never paid out a nickel in residuals. Bastards.

    Very disappointing, this scam. Pay to be published and then accept a piece of the net action? Harlequin should be ashamed.
    Hell is other people.

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