Romance Writers of America and other writer associations yesterday spoke out against the announcement earlier this week that Author Solutions had teamed up with Harlequin to form Harlequin Horizons, a new imprint for self-published romance authors. RWA has deemed Harlequin no longer eligible for RWA-provided conference resources—meaning the publisher is not entitled to enter any award competitions. Late yesterday, Harlequin publisher and CEO Donna Hayes responded, saying the company was “surprised and dismayed” at RWA’s actions, and that it would change the name of the self-publishing company from Harlequin Horizons to a designation “that will not refer to Harlequin in any way.”
As PW reported Tuesday, Harlequin Horizons was set to recruit writers in two ways: authors whose manuscripts had been rejected by Harlequin would be made aware of the Harlequin Horizons option, and authors who signed with Author Solutions would be given the opportunity to be published under the Harlequin Horizons imprint. All services are on a pay-for-service basis.
An e-bulletin prepared by Margery Flax on behalf of Mystery Writers of America’s National Board of Directors said MWA was “deeply concerned about the troubling conflict-of-interest issues created by these ventures, particularly the potentially misleading way they are marketed to aspiring writers.” The MWA was refering to both Harlequin Horizons and the eHarlequin Manuscript Critique service, also aimed at aspiring writers. MWA said it would consider removing Harlequin from its list of approved publishers, declining membership applications from Harlequin authors, and barring Harlequin books from entering the Edgar Awards unless Harlequin agreed to discuss changing these ventures by December 15.
Russell Davis, president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. is also firmly against the self-publishing program and is asking Harlequin to "openly acknowledge" to would-be authors that books in the program will not be distributed into brick-and-mortar bookstores ensuring “that the titles will not be breaking into the real fiction market.” The organization also wants Harlequin to acknowledge “that the imprint does not represent a genuine opportunity for aspiring authors to hone their skills, as no editor will be vetting or working on the manuscripts.” SFWA is calling for Harlequin not to simply change the name of the imprint, but to "discontinue this imprint and return to doing business as an advance and royalty paying publisher." Until they do, no Harlequin titles will qualify for membership in SFWA.
Hayes’s note reiterated ways Harlequin has supported RWA over the years and said she and her colleagues were “surprised to discover that the RWA sent a notice to its membership announcing this decision, before allowing Harlequin to respond or engage in a discussion about it with the RWA board.”