Friday, July 20, 2012

Harlequin Fail Part 2

Three authors have just filed a class action suit against Harlequin. Here's the full complaint.

It's about time.

For those who read a guest post by Ann Voss Peterson last month, you were aware Ann wrote a book that Harlequin published, and she made 2.4% royalties per copy sold. One of the reasons for this was:

First, while most of my books are sold in the US, many are sold under lower royalty rates in other countries. In this particular contract, some foreign rights and -ALL ebook royalties- are figured in a way that artificially reduces net by licensing the book to a "related licensee," in other words, a company owned by Harlequin itself.

Now I'm not a lawyer, but I'm pretty sure this means Harlequin contracts state they'll pay authors 50% for foreign and ebook royalties. This 50% is based on the amount they receive. But then they took those rights and sub-licensed them to another company for 6%, which means the author got 3% of the wholesale price, not 50%.

Confused? Here's an example.

Harlequin has an ebook it lists for $3.99. It sells that to Amazon at a wholesale price of $2.00. The author should make $1.00 for each $3.99 ebook that Amazon sells.

But instead of selling direct to Amazon, Harlequin sells the ebook to Company X for 12 cents. So the author only gets 6 cents. Company X than sells the same ebook to Amazon for $2.00, but because they are a sub-licensing company, they don't have to pay the author anything.

Sub-licensing is common. My publisher, Headline in the UK, sold book club rights to my novel AFRAID. The book club paid Headline a flat fee, and HEADLINE gave me 50% of that fee, according to my contract. The book club wasn't required to pay me royalties on each book club edition is sold. Just like Company X isn't required to pay authors anything.

This is all fine and legal. So why are authors suing Harlequin?

Because Harlequin and Company X are the same company.

In other words, it is sub-licensing the rights it holds to itself. Then it only has to pay the author 3% instead of 50%.

That's seems pretty shitty. It also doesn't seem like something a judge or jury will casually dismiss, even if Harlequin made sure it kept the two companies separate through an umbrella company.

No publishing company would ever sub-license rights for a paltry 6%, unless it was selling the rights to itself. Does Harlequin really expect a judge to believe that it sells a $3.99 ebook and only makes 6 cents? And according to the complaint, the 6% was not equivalent to the amount reasonably obtainable from an unrelated party, as required by the publishing agreements.

Ya think?

Hey, Harlequin! You poor dears are getting ripped off by sub-licensing e-rights for only 6%! How about I give you 9% for all of your e-rights sub-licenses? I'm a nice guy willing to help out, and you'll make more money!

What? You won't do it? Why not? I'm giving you a waaaaay better deal!

Do publishers have such a sense of entitlement, and do they believe that authors are so beneath them, that this is a fair and honest business practice?

Hopefully, not only will Harlequin have to pay its authors what it owes, but the judge will slap huge damages on the bastards.

Here's how Harlequin responded to the suit:

The publisher wishes to make clear that this is the first it has heard of the proceedings and that a complaint has not yet been served.

"Our authors have been recompensed fairly and properly for their work, and we will be defending ourselves vigorously," said Donna Hayes, Publisher and Chief Executive Officer of Harlequin.

Now that's not much for me to fisk. But it still reeks of bullshit.

this is the first it has heard of the proceedings

Huh? Again, I'm no lawyer, but I'm pretty sure that before a class action suit is filed, the plaintiffs and their lawyers approach the defendant and request to settle. That's Law School 101.

Our authors have been recompensed fairly and properly for their work

I'm not sure what Donna's definition of "fair" is, but I'll guess a jury won't think it is fair that a writer earns 6 cents on a $3.99 Harlequin ebook sale when that same ebook would earn a non-Harlequin author 70 cents on a 3.99 ebook.

In other words, Harlequin authors make only 9% of what the other authors make.

I suggest Donna Hayes back up her statement and stand by her words. Immediately, and retroactively, going back to when she was originally hired by Harlequin, she should take a 91% salary cut. Who cares what other publishing CEOs make annually? If Harlequin is fair in paying its authors 91% less than the rest of the industry, it should pay its executives accordingly.

If you'd like more info about the case, visit http://www.harlequinlawsuit.com.

118 comments:

Nick Thacker said...

Wow. Amen, Konrath. Preach it, brother! That's obscene, immoral, unjust, and surprisingly believable after reading your blog for awhile.

I'll be staying up to date with all of this--thanks for bringing it to our attention!

Claire Ryan said...

After the DOJ price-fixing thing too... Harlequin ain't having such a good time of it. Shame they brought it on themselves.

Break out the popcorn, people, and let's settle in for the fireworks...

Anonymous said...

Right freakin' on! That is nothing more than a shell game/three card Monte rip off! How can any author EVER sign a contract with Harlequin again? I've decided to self publish largely because I've had two businesses that tanked. The two things I learned from the experience was #1 Know who your partner is because they can ruin you. When you contract with a publishing company they in effect become your partner. I don't see anything that these asshats bring to the partnership if they are ripping off their writers like that. The second thing I learned is that you have to be hands on with your business. The second business I had was successful while I was at the helm but the moment I turned it over to someone it tanked. As a writer when you control the price of your books, or control your sub contracting you take charge of your business. Harlequin has proven they should NEVER be trusted with that kind of power. If I ever go through traditional publishing it will be with one that is reputable. The big houses have proven to me that they aren't up to the task.

Tristan said...

The big publishers need to reform, fast, or they gonna get reformed... hard.

Dianna said...

That's pretty messed up. Funny part is, I took an introductory HIGH SCHOOL law class last year--and what do you know, they taught us that before a class action suit is filed, the plaintiff and defence meet to try to settle.

Funny, huh?

~Dianna

Nadia Lee said...

Claire,

Harlequin is not involved in the price-fixing suit. Harlequin sells all its titles -- print & e -- wholesale.

Dustin Scott Wood said...

"That seems pretty shitty."

That's because it is.

*Puts on lawyer hat - Yes I have one, and this is merely my own opinion and shouldn't be construed as legal advice as it is in no way intended for such (that last part required by the bar association.)*

Contracts between entities generally have to operate at what's known as "arm's length." In other words, the parties must operate with their own self interest involved concerning the transaction. In this situation, if Harlequin is selling or licensing content back to itself in order to subvert paying a higher contractual rate to the author, that's not operating at arm's length.

If I'm a baker, and I agree to pay you $1.00 for every pound of flour, but only $0.50 for every pound I sell to someone else, I can't then have my son open a bakery next door to mine, sell all your flour to him at a lower rate, and keep a higher profit margin for myself while shafting you - that wouldn't be operating at arm's length (not a perfect example, but it's close and I'm at work right now.)

Anyway, I think the plaintiff's here have a fantastic case against Harlequin and I wouldn't be surprised if Harlequin ended up settling this out for a significant chunk of change to keep it as quiet as possible.

*takes off lawyer hat*

Gretchen Galway said...

Judging by the tone of their initial response, they don't sound sensible enough to settle quietly. They've had too much power (and had too little respect for their authors) for too long.

Sasha said...

I know next to nothing about the law but does the fact that they're asking for damages mean that it's a civil case? Rather than reporting them to the police for fraud, which would presumably be a criminal offence with potential jail time?

Henry said...

Harlequin is bad news for writers, IMO, (also, I wouldn't lump them in with other majors.)

They're owned by a major middlebrow newspaper. They operate out of suburban offices. Spendthrift, low overheads.

They'd run their paperback romance juggernaut almost like a subscription service, sending romances out to readers on a regular basis on a payment plan.

They also have (or had) a smaller line putting out men's action paperbacks. This 'department' consisted of one rather unpleasant gentleman working in the basement as editor of the series.

Essentially he'd pay 15 grand to a freelancer for all rights to a series novel, not exactly ghostwritten as their name appeared on the copyright page, (but only there in tiny print.) They'd turn that into a mass paperback and feed it into the direct marketing machine. Not sure if I remember what each paperback did in terms of print run but I'd guestimate a 100K at least, selling for around 5+ dollar price point. (They must have an enormous backlist to monetize on Amazon, etc from now till forever.)

Since the ghostwriters sold all rights, no royalties were/are due at all. Royalties, however, went to the original creator of the series who did one hell of a sweet licensing deal, IMO.

So no surprise on this end with shenanigans you describe. If there's one group of writers that could benefit the most from self-pubbing it's those hardworking romance gals. For them it really is a no-brainer, IMO.

Regards,
Henry

Anonymous said...

The statement that Harlequin knew nothing about these proceedings is patent bullshit. The authors in question and their attorney approached Harlequin last year, and as of October of last year, Harlequin officially refused to discuss the matter with them any longer.

Harlequin bet that the authors wouldn't bother to file a class-action lawsuit. They lost that bet, and I'm hoping they'll lose a lot more.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised Harlequin doesn't move to write-for-hire contracts. Just pay a flat fee for all the rights to the work. It might not be something a lot of writers would go for but at least it would be above board and legal.

And aren't most of the media tie-in novels write-for-hire contracts?

Ann Voss Peterson said...

"They're owned by a major middlebrow newspaper. They operate out of suburban offices. Spendthrift, low overheads. "

They are owned by Torstar, but Harlequin has editorial offices in Toronto, London and New York City. Their New York offices are in the Woolworth Building on Broadway in Manhattan. Not exactly low rent suburban offices.

"They'd run their paperback romance juggernaut almost like a subscription service, sending romances out to readers on a regular basis on a payment plan."

This is called a book club. A lot of publishers have them, though few are as extensive as Harlequin's. Harlequin novels are also in bookstores and big box stores like WalMart and Target in the US and are sold in retail outlets all over the world.

The contracts are NOT work for hire in the romance genre (just to be clear).

I think some people feel the need to convince themselves that Harlequin is different from other publishers in order to bolster their desperate belief that this could never happen to a "real publisher" or a "real author." This is bogus.

Romance is the biggest selling category of genre fiction. Harlequin is the biggest publisher of romance. There is NOTHING formula about these books, no template. There are reader expectations like in any other genre. That's it.

I don't think Henry meant any offense, but he and others should not make the mistake of thinking that Harlequin is so different that it doesn't matter or that what they have done with these older contracts won't be done by other publishers.

Ruth Harris said...

Penguin's purchase of Author Solutions = More Of The Same.

Here's David Gaughran's take: http://indiereader.com/2012/07/penguins-new-business-model-exploiting-writers/

ryllina said...

Wow, that is so shady on Harlequin's side. I read a lot of romance, but I will not be purchasing from them anymore. I hate to not support the authors, but I can't feel that bad since such a tiny portion of the proceeds go to them anyways. Bring on the self-pubbed romance novelists!

T Ludlow said...

I wonder how long it's being going on?

Before the Internet it must have been easy to manipulate authors and ration the information they received.

Now, come the Digital Revolution, Harlequin are paying the price of free data exchange.

I don't see the company surviving this. Once word spreads how many more of their authors will take the same steps? All of them I hope. They'd be fools not to. I hope they are seething.

Merrill Heath said...

I look for Amazon to start a romance imprint (if they don't have one already) and go after some of the Harlequin writers.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

Merrill-- Montlake is Amazon's romance imprint.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Amazon's romance imprint in Montlake.

Lovelyn said...

Yet another sign of the downward spiral of the publishing industry.

T Ludlow said...

There's a fortune to be made here. Soon there'll be hordes of disgruntled Harlequin authors roaming about looking for a new publisher.

It'll be like 'The Walking Dead', except with middle-aged ladies.

Jill James said...

If the self-publishing revolution has done nothing else, it has made authors aware this is a business.

Writing a book is an art, publishing a book is a business.

Andrea said...

Joe - have you seen the article posted on www.thephoenix.com that quotes you extensively? You probably have. It's absolutely ridiculous, and the guy is all over in his arguments about traditional verses self-publishing. He vehemently argues that self-publishing in no brings in money for the author, and that traditional publishing is the only way to make money. He totally ignores the fact that many traditionally published authors don't have success and never go anywhere.

The article is titled The Dead End of DIY Publishing. They even have a really nice picture of you. :-)

Here's a link to it, for anyone who's interested in having a nice laugh over someone who has been slighted by Joe Konrath and all other self-published authors:

http://thephoenix.com/Boston/arts/140931-dead-end-of-diy-publishing/

:-) Thanks, Joe, for all you do!

Joe Konrath said...

Joe - have you seen the article posted on www.thephoenix.com that quotes you extensively?

I try not to read what others write about me. It just doesn't interest me.

If anyone wants to challenge something I've said, they can do so here on my blog.

Sasha said...

Just went over to have a look at that article on thephoenix.com and saw this interesting statement:

"Amazon has started a publishing division, Amazon West, to put out proven titles from self-published authors."

Can't find any more info and don't know what to make of it, but potentially interesting. Is this old news?

Joe Konrath said...

If anyone wants to challenge something I've said, they can do so here on my blog.

Unless they are a pinhead I have banned. Then they'll be deleted without being read.

Seriously, why would someone want to hang out somewhere they aren't wanted?

Joe Konrath said...

Apologies to commentors. I had to turn on comment moderation.

I've had to do this before when some clod becomes obsessed with me.

If you'd like to leave a comment, I'll get it live ASAP.

Sasha said...

Thanks, Joe, for still allowing comments from those of us without Blogger or Google accounts. I am sorry that you have this extra work.

Joe Konrath said...

It's no extra work. I'm writing all day, so I'll be at my computer.

This has happened many times over the years. It's an unfortunate part of hosting a popular blog.

If the folks who disliked me put all of that effort into their writing instead of obsessing about me, maybe they'd be making as much money as I am.

Stephsco said...

I found your blog from Kristen Lamb's post today. I took note of this lawsuit today as well; having joined up with Romance Writers of America recently, Harlequin royalties in general are a pretty hot-button topic. Lots of of HQ writers are looking to get out and find other publishers or self-publish. Hearing the dirty side of the book business has definitely enlightened this newbie writer!

William Kendall said...

It amounts to indentured servitude.

Obviously a whole lot of Harlequin execs are having a rotten day.

P.S. Power said...

News like this will tend to drive the new ebook market. Why wouldn't a Romance author with a decent name just write up a couple of books for themselves and put them up, just to see if it will work?

Having a name already they'd probably find it well worth their while.

Christopher Wills said...

Great story Joe. Also it looks like your view is becoming more mainstream across the pond where we are often a few years behind. On the BBC News website today there is a report of a British Crime writer, Denise Mina talking about publishing. She says; "People are very frightened in publishing at the moment." This is unusual because she said it at a prize giving ceremony where she was awarded 'Crime Novel of the Year'. She is a traditionally pubished author and so things must be changing if she feels she can put her head above the parapet beside yours. She also says a couple of other things about ebooks that are worth reading.

The page is at
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-18921480

apologies if the link doesn't work but I'm no IT expert.

Steve Peterson said...

Hopefully this will open some eyes amongst authors who are still sipping the publisher-provided Koolaid. I hope the authors win handily over Harlequin.

Although their book club isn't really a subscription per se, the thought occurs that we could be seeing some interesting ebook clubs arise. Heck, a group of like-minded authors who produce enough (like, say, Konrath, Crouch, Strand, etc.) could band together and do this. Digital perks could be provided to members easily enough... once you take physical products and mailing costs out of the equation, many things become possible.

I think there would be a lot of people who would sign up to get new ebooks regularly without having to keep checking on when that new Konrath novel is coming out.

Jude Hardin said...

I don't think Henry meant any offense, but he and others should not make the mistake of thinking that Harlequin is so different that it doesn't matter or that what they have done with these older contracts won't be done by other publishers.

Ann, were you writing for Harlequin during this period (1990-2004)? I'm thinking if Harlequin has to pay all the authors what they owe them for all those years, it could amount to tens of millions of dollars.

Laura Resnick said...

""this is the first it has heard of the proceedings"

"Huh? Again, I'm no lawyer, but I'm pretty sure that before a class action suit is filed, the plaintiffs and their lawyers approach the defendant and request to settle..""


Yep, they did try to settle. They tried long and hard.

This filing of a legal complaint comes after months of attempts to negotiate with Harlequin via legal counsel, whose fees have been paid by dozens of involved writers (all part of the "class") pooling their financial resources. The writers' legal representation has been trying to reach an agreement with Harlequin since =last year.=

So if Harlequin is "surprised" by the lawsuit, then it was apparently dropped on its head recently, with tragic results. This is much like expressing surprise when you're ticketed after ignoring multiple warnings NOT to park in that no-parking zone where you're trying to park.

Harlequin's Donna Hayes' statement also describes the plaintifss as former Hq writers. Er, NO. They are current, not former. Since Hayes is apparently fuzzy on these concepts, let me explain.

–I- am a FORMER Hq writer; I am –former- because I got all my rights reverted to all books that I ever licensed to Hq, and I have =no= contracts still in effect with them. (That's also why I am not part of the "class" in this lawsuit. I got all my rights reverted before Harlequin launched any sort of digital program, and so my works were never subjected to the egregious fiscal practices specifically described in the complaint.)

By contrast, the plaintiffs named in the lawsuit are authors who have contracts CURRENTLY IN EFFECT with Harlequin, and whose works =are= being subjected to the egregious fiscal practices described in the agreement. As explained in a post yesterday by one of the authors in the class (one who is not a named plaintiff), these writers would be =delighted= to be "FORMER" Harlequin authors—but to make them "former," Harlequin needs to revert their rights to them, rather than retaining their publishing rights in order to contiunue subjecting their intellectual property to these egregious fiscal practices.

But, wait! There's more. The named plaintiffs are not involved in =new= contracts or =new- releases with Hq for obvious reasons: Wriers with -new- contracts and -new- releases fear retaliation from Harlequin for their involvement in this lawsuit, i.e. attempt to be paid fairly by this company, so they don't want to be named. However, though not -named- in the conplaint, many members of the "class" are what even Ms. Hayes, with her flawed understanding of current/former, would presumably describe as "current" Harlequin writers.

If Ms. Hayes assumes only these three writers are involved in the lawsuit, then she has not been paying any attention (which certainly seems to be the case, based on her "surprise") to a YEAR of writers trying to negotiate with Hq over these issues through their legal counsel, -and- she is also presumably unfamiliar with the phrase "class action" lawsuit.

Anonymous said...

I have no regard for this type of corporate behavior, but how exactly is this - in principle - a fail? Don't corporations always push the envelope in search of profit? Like Amazon and sales tax, etc? Don't all entrepreneurs do the same? ... like self-pubbers, perhaps, who agree that a great cover is a requirement, yet aim to pay the smallest flat fee to the artist? If HQ get busted, then it's a tactical setback, but it was a sound strategy.

Laura Resnick said...

Here's a quick four-point analysis of the legal complaint from a lawyer who'll be speaking at the RWA National conference next week. He concludes: "So if you're keeping score, that's: authors 4, Harlequin 0. Like I said, Harlequin hasn't had a chance to present its side yet. But it's tough to see how they come out the other side of this smelling like roses."


http://legalminimum.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/four-quick-thoughts-on-harlequin-e.html

Anonymous said...

Hi Joe,

You mentioned you would be posting an update on your 99 cent sale weekend, I was hoping you would follow up on it. Things seem a lot different for 99 cent books since Amazon changed the list algorithms a few months ago. How did it go?

Jude Hardin said...

If HQ get busted, then it's a tactical setback, but it was a sound strategy.

If the judge rules it a breach of contract and awards the authors millions of dollars, then it wasn't a very sound strategy, was it?

Screwing the people who create the product you sell is never a sound strategy, IMO. It might work for a while, but eventually it's going to come back and bite you in the ass.

Archangel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christa Wick said...

It's been several years since I read the article, but I remember that another publisher had this practice and they were sued over a decade ago. I want to say Dorchester, but that may be because of their more recent bad behavior.

Alan Spade said...

I have a question : if the Harlequin authors involved win the case, will their contracts be automatically broken ? Would they own back their rights ?

With the current state of publishing, I can see a fantastic motivation for other authors in the same case (with the same prejudice with other publishers) to return against their publisher : not only for the direct money, but to break their enslaving contract.

But we are gregarious people, and in order to find the courage to do so, I would advise them to regroup and to unite.

Laura Resnick said...

@ Archangel: "I hear as distant thunder from the publishers side that 'the authors knew what they were doing when the signed the contract.'"

Um, the authors are ALSO saying that they, the authors, knoew what they were doing when they signed the contract. Their legal complain doesn't allege that they signed an unfair contract or signed it unwittingly; their legal complaint declares that the publisher is IN BREACH of the contract they signed with it. Their legal complaint declares that the publisher is in violation of its own contractual terms.

Ellis Jackson said...

It's thanks to dodgy companies like Harlewuin that more and more people are switching over to indie publishing. Not just nobody authors, but real, recognised writers too. It's a complete sham and if the industry weren't so damn one-sided in favour of the publisher then this would have come to light a long time ago.

Sasha said...

Thanks, Christopher Wills, for that link to the Denise Mina story. She has lots of interesting things to say about how self-pubbing will help get rid of the class divide in writing, the length of books and therefore the structure of books.

Anonymous said...

I can understand HQ getting away with this for newly signed debut writers who are usually naive and overly thankful for having a publishing deal, but some of these authors have been writing for years. Where are all the agents in all this. What are these people doing for their 10%?

Jim Self said...

The natural response everyone seems to have to this situation is to ask, "Is that even legal?"

Folks, never trust your business partner to treat you fairly. You expect everyone to try to grab as much of the pie as they can, right? So make sure your slice is protected. This is the whole point of contracts, to give each party a level of protection. Never, ever depend on the ethics of strangers. You aren't going to know how trustworthy they are until they have a chance to screw you, and then it's too late.

Bec Waterhouse said...

Wow, this whole thing makes self publishing seem like less of a risk to me.

Jacob Chastain said...

WOW.

It is hard to believe... that so many people didn't see this coming.

In the majority of cases, big business, especially ones who try and shape the market themselves (like the big 6), screw over the small guy. The funny part about the publishing business though is that the writer ISN'T the small guy, or shouldn't be, at least.

The lawsuits are good, maybe something will come out of it, maybe there won't be. But what anyone who knows of this case, and who happens to be a writer, should realize the truth embedded deep within the stupidity. Which is, YOU own your material, your art. YOU are the reason there is a market. As long as anyone other than YOU makes decisions about what to do with what YOU own, this shit will continue to happen.

And Joe, I'll see you at the top soon.

Jacob Chastain said...

Bec Waterhouse said: Wow, this whole thing makes self publishing seem like less of a risk to me.

...What risk?

No cost to get started, and if there is, it is because you decided to hire people to do work for you.

No overhead.

High revenue, much, much higher than Legacy Publishing.

... Did I miss something?

Henry said...

@Ann Voss Peterson

Patronize much?

Thanks for the lecture.

Have you worked for Harlequin or Torstar (or any publisher), have you ever even been to head office?

Have you sat in on marketing meetings on the eighth floor? Funny, I don't recall having seen you there.

I don't think you know a damn thing about Torstar's corporate culture. Trust me, I do.

But do go on with the lecture, you sound so very . . authoritative. Lol.

Adrian Staccato said...

Hopefully the plaintiffs win this one. But in the world of law, you never can tell. The Harlequin executives will probably hire a high-powered lawyer to help them weasel their way out of this. A shame.

jry said...

Did anyone notice the other self publishing (this time more about physical books) article about Book Expo America Williamson wrote the same day and think it strange?

http://thephoenix.com/Boston/arts/140932-self-published-come-to-bea/

Anonymous said...

Jude said, "Screwing the people who create the product you sell is never a sound strategy, IMO. It might work for a while, but eventually it's going to come back and bite you in the ass."

That's how supermarkets and giants like Tesco in the UK or Walmart in the US operate - they screw the people who create the product they sell. And their collective asses are still unbitten after many decades.

Joe Konrath said...

I don't think you know a damn thing about Torstar's corporate culture.

She didn't claim to. She mentioned where they had offices, and the rent in Manhattan isn't cheap.

Her tone wasn't patronizing. But yours is confrontational.

And dude, if you work for Harlequin like you seem to insinuate, shame on you. They're as close to evil as publishing gets.

Becca Mills said...

This sub-licensing-to-yourself thing has got to qualify as one of the biggest asshole moves in publishing, ever. I hope those authors take Harlequin to the cleaner.

Becca Mills said...

Anonymous @ 12:47:

"That's how supermarkets and giants like Tesco in the UK or Walmart in the US operate - they screw the people who create the product they sell. And their collective asses are still unbitten after many decades."

Yeah, good point, but here's the thing: right now there really isn't a cheaper place to get something than Walmart, so Walmart has a lot of power, and producers have to toe whatever line Walmart sets.

But you just never know how the market is going to change -- and it can happen amazingly fast, too. Publishing houses like Harlequin used to have the same kind of power Walmart has, b/c they were the only game in town. Now -- quite suddenly, really -- they're not the only game in town, and their practices are coming back to bite them.

What will Walmart do when Amazon starts meeting its same-day-delivery goals, eh?

I'm not saying companies should get all squishy-gooey and pay producers a whole lot just to be nice. That kind of pie-in-the-sky hope is silly. But there's a difference between driving a hard bargain and getting into the kind of dishonest, predatory practices Ann Voss Peterson described in her guest post here a while back. If your behavior is too egregious, you burn your bridges, and when the market changes in some way you hadn't foreseen, you're screwed.

Diana said...

I hope Harlequin gets all that's coming to it. Traditional publishers are on the way out - not right now, but eventually.

Sariah Wilson said...

I truly hope this costs Harlequin millions of dollars. I'd love for it to be so costly, their financial overlords forced them to close down. They are, by far, one of the absolute worst, most predatory publishers out there.

Archangel said...

@Laura Resnick

thanks Laura. I stand corrected then and I just took down my comment, so that wont continue to be read. I do hear the distant thunder however. Perhaps some in pub are offside themselves.

:aura, is there a site or a filing that is public that shows the actual contract so we can read the entire contract authors were signing?

But/ and, I wonder if there were different contracts for different authors depending on the year, their own skills or their agents skills at cross outs, negations, changes to %s and additions... as occur with the 'big six'. How can we know all authors in this class action have exactly the same contract?

Every contract I've signed from same pub is different than the one before, some a little bit, some a lot. I'd say across the board in my experience with 32 different publishers worldwide, though boilerplates may be offered first-- even those changed from year to year, from my experience esp in the early 1990s when Alberto Vitale (before Newhouse Bros sold to Bertalsmann) suddenly decided to squat on what was then called 'electronic' everything back then. Even though he was let go by the Bertalsmann shift, I just read recently he still brags about being 'the first' to capture what about ten years later would become 'ebooks..

drcpe

Clytie said...

I filled out a Harlequin survey a while back (I like filling out surveys, for some odd reason), and was surprised to receive a box from them in the mail. Inside the box were several paperbacks...and a bill. It was a monthly bill: I was going to receive several unordered paperbacks per month and be billed for them.

I contacted them and objected. They said signing up to their "subscription offer" was in the terms and conditions of the survey. Unfortunately for them, I read T&C. It wasn't.

Their next excuse was that this was "proactive marketing". Right, you send someone something they never asked for, and demand money. :S

Sounds like standover tactics to me.

So I'm not really surprised at Hq's dishonest behaviour with authors. If you'll screw your customers, you'll probably screw your suppliers.

Mary Stella said...

Henry,

Unless you consider Manhattan to be suburbia, you're mistaken. Harlequin has major offices in the US, Canada and England with other offices in multiple countries. They are easily one of the most major of publishers with numerous imprints and lines.

Alan Spade said...

Harlequin en mal d'amour... http://emmanuelguillot.over-blog.com/article-harlequin-attaque-en-justice-aux-etats-unis-108399318.html

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

Can't find my comments - am I being delted? Don't know why.

T Ludlow said...

Guidance on whom might be eligible to join the class action:

“If you signed a contract with Harlequin Enterprises B.V. or Harlequin Books S.A. between the years 1990-2004, you might be a member of the class. You would need to examine your contracts from that time period and determine whether the contracts mention a specific royalty for electronic or digital rights. This can be found under the “Royalty” section of the contract and will be listed as either 6% or 8% of cover price. If your contract does not contain a specific percentage for electronic or digital sales, then chances are you qualify as a member of the class.”

Jay Allan said...

Bargaining hard with suppliers is not the same thing as putting a deliberately deceptive practice into place. Walmart may be tough on suppliers. They may say, "we will only pay a dollar a unit," and the supplier may not make money at that, but it is an honest transaction.

The Harlequin thing is a deliberate attempt to obfuscate and to create a sham transaction to avoid paying the normally contracted royalty rate.

If you cannot understand the difference you have no understanding of how markets and transactions work.

Joe Konrath said...

Can't find my comments - am I being delted?

I haven't deleted anything. Blogger sometimes eats comments. Just rechecked awaiting comments and all of them have been published.

Mira said...

Good post, Joe. Loved your point about Donna Hayes taking a 91% pay cut.

So good to see authors standing up for their rights and not letting themselves get taken advantage of without making any protest. I hope this spreads to other areas of publishing. Like pitiful royalty rates and rights grabs.

This class action suit is a good start, I appreciate that they are paving the way!

Ann Voss Peterson said...

"Ann, were you writing for Harlequin during this period (1990-2004)?"

Hi, Jude. I have ten books contracted under these terms, including the book I gave as an example in my earlier guest post.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

Wow Henry, I guess you -did- mean to offend. Sorry for misunderstanding your intentions.

"Have you worked for Harlequin or Torstar (or any publisher), have you ever even been to head office?"

No, and as Joe said, I never claimed I have.

But while I was never an employee of Harlequin, I HAVE published 25 books with the company between 2000 and 2011. And I never followed any template, nor was I given a formula.

And I HAVE visited the Harlequin editorial offices that span the entire 10th floor of the Woolworth Building in Manhattan. I have also met editors who work in the various Harlequin offices in other countries.

I did not say anything in my first comment that I don't have direct knowledge about. And while I didn't set out to patronize you in that first comment, if you'd like to be offended by this one, have at it.

Anonymous said...

HQ authors didn't sue sooner because they didn't KNOW about HQ's shenanigans until a year ago. Since then, as Laura Resnick has said, they've negotiated with HQ for a resolution...without success, obviously.

The basis of the suit is that the authors were promised 50% for the license or sale of any right not covered by a specific royalty rate in their old contracts. There is an ongoing argument whether this All Other Rights clause covers the LICENSING of all rights or of the SALE AND LICENSE of the actual books.

Presumably HQ believes it's for the license, not for individual book sales. Authors then received 50% of a license between HQ and itself that turned decent money into pennies.

Why didn't the authors know?? Idiots, right? Well, not quite. Here's my understanding of how it happened. 1) Their contracts read 50%. That's how the authors read it; that's how their agents read it. No one thought to question when it said "sale or license" precisely what that meant. 2) When finally questioned, HQ told the authors they'd receive 50%, without bothering to add 50% of WHAT. When asked that question they were told to read the appropriate clause in their contract. 3) The royalty statements did NOT show unit accounting, just 50% and a total so it was a little tough to do the math in order to call them out. 4) Once the truth finally got out, they then "encouraged" authors to sign an amendment covering those old contracts so they'd receive 15% on digital rights instead of the pennies from this HQ to HQ license paid them, extolling the benefits of the amendment over the crappy terms of the original contracts. 5) HQ's stupid meter needed calibration since the majority of the authors didn't fall for #4 and insisted HQ honor the terms of the original contract, as written. That's my understanding of how they got from point 1 to point Z.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

" No one thought to question when it said "sale or license" precisely what that meant. "

Actually the fact that this is a license doesn't change anything here.

The contract states that authors are entitled to 50% of "the exercise, license, or sale of said rights." So that's not an issue.

But the contract (same paragraph) also states that the amount received for the sale or license to a related licensee (branch of Harlequin) be equivalent to the amount "reasonably attainable" from an unrelated licensee.

So in a nutshell, the courts will have to decide if 6% is the amount reasonably attainable from a non Harlequin owned company for e-rights.

At least that's how I understand it. I am not a lawyer. I'm speaking with authority about the wording in the contract because I have one sitting in my lap right now.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

"Related licensees" include companies that are set up separately but still owned by Harlequin, so branch of Harlequin isn't totally accurate.

And that definition is in the contract as well.

Laura Resnick said...

Anonymous wrote: "I can understand HQ getting away with this for newly signed debut writers who are usually naive and overly thankful for having a publishing deal, but some of these authors have been writing for years. "


I say again, read the complaint. It doesn't say "we signed a bad contract" or "we didn't realize what we were signing." It says, "We signed for e-royalties of 50% of net, and the publisher has engaged in a creative-accounting shell game to avoid us paying us that rate."

I don't agree that the writers were foolish NOT to include a legal clauses saying specifically, "And you won't wiggle out of paying me what's specified here by using a shell company to hide assets from me," etc. One can't think of everything.

Laura Resnick said...

Archangel wrote: "How can we know all authors in this class action have exactly the same contract?"

-You- (using a generic "you") here don't need to know it, so measures to prove it to you seem very, very unlikely.

The people who'll need to know it are the ones who are part of the lawsuit, such as the plaintiffs, their lawyers, the judge. Presumably, to demonstrate one is part of the class, one will need to submit the relevant contracts to the attorneys representing the class.

Laura Resnick said...

Archangel wrote: "How can we know all authors in this class action have exactly the same contract?"

Oh, P.S. They didn't need to sign the exact same contract to be eligible. They needed to sign the exact same 50% e-royalty clause.

And a house's royalty rates tend to me MUCH less variable in a house's contracts with multiple authors. Most writers get stuck signed what publishers and their agents tell them is "industry standard" for royalty rates, rather than this being a widely-negotiated clause of any house's contracts.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

Can't find my comments - am I being delted?

I haven't deleted anything. Blogger sometimes eats comments. Just rechecked awaiting comments and all of them have been published.


Thanks for clearing that up, but forgot what I commented. LOL

Laura Resnick said...

Ann Voss Peterson wrote: "I HAVE published 25 books with the company between 2000 and 2011. And I never followed any template, nor was I given a formula."


I published 11 books with the company 1989-1994. And I =did= follow a template and =was= given a formula. The formula was so excruciatingly specific that my editors told me things like, "You have to add another sex scene, because books in this imprint have to have two fully consummated sex scenes. You only had one here." When I switched imprints, we also discussed how many fully consummated sex scenes had to be in books in that imprint: They wouldn't object to however many I wanted to include, but only one was required for that imprint. And so on.

There were also specific guidelines (these were public, for writers who wanted to submit; not a private secret) for each Hq-owned imprint. The guidelines were 200-500 words and they covered things for each individual imprint such as: the length the book had to be, the setting, the tone, sexuality level, the type of story, etc.

Subsequent imprints, after my time (and when new market pressures were clearly taking their toll at Hq 10-12 years ago) got even more specific. There was one imprint whose books were to mimick the structure/theme of Nicolas Sparks' THE NOTEBOOK, another imprint that featured "kick-ass heroines" (i.e. action-adventure), another wherein all the books had to be based on epistolary structure (letter-writing), etc. (Most of those imprints didn't last long.)

The obvious difference between Ann's experience (where she was never given or aware of a formula) and mine (where the formula was discussed with me often, in specific detail, by my editors) is a very common divide among Hq writers—specifically, among writers who were very well suited to writing for Hq, as I gather Ann was, and writers who weren't—as I was not.

If you were/are a writer who just naturally fits in well with the sort of material Hq or your imprints are publishing, no one NEEDS to discuss the formula with you, because you're a natural.

If you were someone constantly experiencing formula-fail with your manuscripts, as I was, because you really weren't in your milieu as a writer, then the editors had to take you aside over and over to explain the formula to you, point out the specific places you'd failed it, and discuss the specific things you needed to include in your work to fit in.

Hq could be steady income, which was very rare in this profession, so I =really= wanted to succeed there. Therefore, I tried very hard to learn, understand, and satisfy the formula... but I just wasn't suited it to. Readers noticed, sales sagged, and I was let go after 11 published books there. (No hard feelings. Hq paid me to spend my late twenties writing full-time and learning my craft. I've always felt I got a good deal, overall. I also made sure I got all my rights reverted a decade ago.) Happily, I wound up finding my milieu and continued writing full-time ever since, rather than having to get an honest job.

Some Hq writers look at me in puzzlement (or as if they'd like to shiv me) whenever I say there is indeed a formula in many of Hq's imprints, and it is often excruciatingly detailed and specific. This is a common difference that separates a large number of Hq writers who were good at it, compared to quite a few of us who go acquired because we were good writers, but who weren't well-suited to the work and found that our entire Hq careers were spent bumping up against the formulas over and over and over.

Colin M said...

This is my first time blogging. I’m more of a reader that writer at this point. Although I write a lot of health education material for my patients, I have not tried any fiction or anything more than a few pages—maybe someday. I am a big fan of e-books and have found the shift in the industry fascinating. Regarding this latest post, is anyone truly surprised that a large corporation has stooped to these tactics? Especially given that Harlequin is owned by a newspaper giant- also likely a dying industry; I’m disappointed but not surprised. I suspect that this will get settled and go away. If it goes to court, win or lose, will likely depend on which judge oversees it. Regardless, consumers have a short memory and will go on buying Harlequin books –I bet their sales won’t drop more that 5% no matter what the outcome of this case. It is also quite possible that there will always be new authors that can be enticed by the big publishing companies so that won't hurt the company much.

I suspect that the biggest impact this case will have is through awareness to writers through forums like this. The more writers who get pissed off with the current system, the more who will switch to self publishing. These writers make their books available for $3.99 for and e-book instead of $12.99 and their audience will follow. As more and more big name authors lower their price, the public will switch their buying habits and then companies like Harlequin will fall. It may take a bit longer but they’ll get what’s coming to them.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

Hi, Laura!

The definition of formula is "a set form of words for indicating procedure to be followed" also "a recipe."

I disagree with the idea that Harlequin has a formula for their series lines. Formula implies the books are easy and all you have to do is follow certain steps to write one, and that is simply not the case.

The reason I brought up the formula myth in my previous comment is that I've had people say to me that the books take so little thought and talent to write that a computer can be programmed to write the stories, and that the authors don't deserve to be paid more than a pittance, since they're not -real- authors, they're just following a formula. Maybe you believe that, but I'm guessing from some of your other comments that you don't.

In my experience, the tight restrictions make writing the books much more difficult and often times very frustrating. Also in my experience, these restrictions are caused by the very specific way they market each line. Not just a book for a sexy line should have at least X number of sex scenes. It can get much more restrictive than that.

I was lucky in my career with Harlequin Intrigue. I had editors who let me take a lot more risks than most authors are allowed. But even so, writing for them was akin to trying to dance ballet in a straight jacket. It was not at all a matter of following a set number of steps and pulling a book out of the oven.

Anne Francis Scott said...

I agree with Becca. Harlequin has burned some serious bridges by biting off too damned much of the hand that feeds them. Yet they continue to insist that their authors have been compensated fairly. Total denial. Unbelievable!

Wait . . . Do you hear that? I think it’s the sound of a giant falling. They do, you know.

David L. Shutter said...

And in a quasi-related story...

http://www.thebookseller.com/news/doj-rejects-bnauthors-guild-objections-settlement.html

Funny, two guys we know got their names mentioned in there.

Anonymous said...

I've written many books for Harlequin and I agree with Ann that there isn't really a set formula. More a set of guidelines that are attuned to what the readers like or dislike. Like movie studios and TV networks, Harlequin does a lot of audience research to find out what works and what doesn't.

One of those guidelines is the happily ever after ending, or HEA as those who write the books call it. And each imprint has certain dos and don'ts that involve settings and the professions of the lead characters, etc.

But I've never encountered a situation in which I had to write a book that required more than following those loose guidelines. I've been given a lot of leeway as to story content and development and have never, in all the books I've written, been asked to change anything major.

I actually think the only real difference between writing category romance and writing for any other publisher is that Harlequin tells you up front what they require. Other publishers simply rely on an editor to "guide" you after the book is done.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

"So in a nutshell, the courts will have to decide if 6% is the amount reasonably attainable from a non Harlequin owned company for e-rights"

Quoting myself here, because I want to point out that the lawsuit is actually much more complicated than this nutshell. :) I am not a lawyer, and I don't understand many of the complexities. But all of it is laid out at the website http://www.harlequinlawsuit.com/
The complaint itself is there, as well as a FAQs page and information about the law firms handling it.

Anonymous said...

Joe, looking forward to your comments on this:

http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57477699-93/amazons-the-villain-not-apple-e-book-sellers-say/

Anonymous said...

Wish there was an Idiot's Guide. With...what? 7 claims? The 6% seems to be the 6th one. Do they put those in order of importance? If so, should we assume the first 5 have greater weight? I feel like I'm missing some of the true significance of the suit.

Seriously, where's the Fing cliff notes?

bettye griffin said...

This seems terribly unfair, and I was always suspicious that my last title for them was a good seller in eBook format but earned me nothing. I wish them much success!

Joe Konrath said...

Seriously, where's the Fing cliff notes?

Coming soon. I'm working on it.

Leonard D. Hilley II said...

Wow . . . that's so shameful and underhanded.

Leonard D. Hilley II said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laura Resnick said...

"Maybe you believe that, but I'm guessing from some of your other comments that you don't."

No, indeed. I've always equated writing for Harlequin to writing for television: there were very specific requirements. That didn't make it easy or something that a monkey could do; it made it something very specific that not every good writer was necessarily suited to doing, whether in terms of temperament, talent, sensibility, or pace.

And, certainly, I think more myths persist about what it's like to write for Harlequin than persist in almost any other area of the book world. I've been in the room at various sf/f cons where writers who have no idea what they're talking about (as well as audience members) spouts ludricrous nonense about how none of us actually existed (we were all middle-aged men writing under "house" names, so 20 different people were "Ann Voos Peterson" or "Nora Roberts," etc.), or we were given drafts by editors and told to fill in the blanks, blah blah blah.

Best of all, I've been ON panels and discussions where this sort of stuff is sprewed, and when I point out that, er, =I wrote= for Hq for 5 years and am still friends with many Hq writers, and these comments are NONENSE, I have been "corrected," in public, by people who've never had any connection whatsoever with the company!

Laura Resnick said...

"Funny, two guys we know got their names mentioned in there. "


So did I...

And there go my 15 minutes of fame already! Gone in a heartbeat.

David L. Shutter said...

Laura

Sorry, I'm apologizing to you again, yes I did see your name, and Lee Child's, mentioned after reading further.

Laura Resnick said...

You can never make it right. NEVER!

Archangel said...

@ann voss peterson

thank you for this realistic, and clear info. I'm glad to hear from a very accomplished author close in with many years exp. at H, and at present. I hope someday we can hear also from the plaintiffs in first person too. Maybe not until suit is over however, just to hold the container lid tight.

"Quoting myself here, because I want to point out that the lawsuit is actually much more complicated than this nutshell. :) I am not a lawyer, and I don't understand many of the complexities. But all of it is laid out at the website http://www.harlequinlawsuit.com/
The complaint itself is there, as well as a FAQs page and information about the law firms handling it."

I had one question given 'formulae' assertions... couldnt it be that some editors rode others more tightly than other authors. Perhaps the editor's trust in the writer would have something to do with who was held to some 'formula' or not?

thanks
drcpe

David L. Shutter said...

@ Laura:

LOL, I'll have to send brownies then.

Laura Resnick said...

Brownies? Did you say brownies!

Hmmm... Yes. Brownies could make it right.

Julie Kramer said...

"If Harlequin is fair in paying its authors 91% less than the rest of the industry, it should pay its executives accordingly."

I love that line ending your column.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

drcpe--

Thanks. But there isn't a recipe to write the books (formula), just restrictions. Lots of them. And I think that's mainly what Laura was talking about.

And I also think you're exactly right that some editors were more willing to let their authors take risks than others.

I also have to say that the risks I took didn't always pay off, not for me nor for my editors. In fact I'm not sure that any of the risks I took actually benefited my sales or my Harlequin career. But I was very fortunate to have editors who weren't afraid to let me take those risks (that kind of stuff impacts their careers too, you know). And as a result, I'm proud of the books I wrote, and for me personally, that's the most important achievement.

Re the lawsuit: people who are named plaintiffs can't say much in these situations. Even members of the class wouldn't be wise to say too much I am a member of the class, among many others. These three authors are not alone in this complaint.

Joe says he's working on his Cliff's Notes version, so look for that.

Laura Resnick said...

"Re the lawsuit: people who are named plaintiffs can't say much in these situations."

Yep. I know that at least one named plaintiff has been specifically advised by the attorney not to comment at all on the case. I'm assuming (though I haven't asked) that all -three- named plaintiffs have advised this. And this is, as far as I know, SOP for a lawsuit in play that's being handled intelligently and responsibly.

Joshua Simcox said...

If I wasn't married, I'd totally ask Ann Voss Peterson on a date.

--Joshua

Archangel said...

@joshua simcox wrote: "If I wasn't married, I'd totally ask Ann Voss Peterson on a date."

You have excellent taste JS, but/and seeing her lovely self and great gifts, I have a feeling you'd have to stand in line... a really really long line. (smile)

drcpe

Joe Konrath said...

If I wasn't married, I'd totally ask Ann Voss Peterson on a date.

If you read her books, you'd ask her to marry you. She's a fabulous writer.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

I'm flattered, you guys, but get back to work.

T Ludlow said...

If I wasn't married, I'd totally ask Ann Voss Peterson on a date.

If you read her books, you'd ask her to marry you. She's a fabulous writer.


There's a great story here...I know, I'll call it The Blog of Hearts.

Now, where can I find a publisher...?

Joshua Simcox said...

"If you read her books, you'd ask her to marry you. She's a fabulous writer."

I agree. Just finished "Pushed Too Far"--it's a terrific read.

--Joshua

Anonymous said...

I am a current and long-time Harlequin author and would like to make a couple of points, submitting anonymously for obvious reasons.

1) Although we may not be saying much publicly, there are A LOT of Harlequin authors fully standing behind the named authors in this action, so any attempts by Harlequin/Torstar management to suggest that the named authors are merely disgruntled outliers is false.

2) Please, readers, don't boycott the product in a misguided attempt to support the authors' case. Keep buying! Buy more! Discover for yourselves that the corporation's attempt to treat us as easily replaceable piece-workers is as misguided as its assertion of "surprise" at the suit.

3) Most of the Harlequin authors I know do not remotely fit the cliched stereotype we see repeated over and over - daffy women penning purple prose for hobby income. We are, as a group, highly motivated and savvy career authors, sometimes the sole or major bread-winner in a family, often with previous (or sometimes concurrent) careers as lawyers, doctors, military officers, accountants, teachers, etc. This class action suit simply would never have reached this point if we had fit the cliche.

Archangel said...

@"Anonymous: Current and longtime Harl. author." Thanks for saying dont boycott the line, see the authors as accomplished professionals they are, and dont buy into the bs that the lead dogs in the law suit are outliers for they are supported by many H authors.

nice to hear from another from the front line. Ann too has been most generous in being as you are: very clear, concise and professional about how to help.

Thanks. Will do.

Walter Knight said...

When Harlequin pays an author an advance, isn't the author basically letting the book go?

Laura Resnick said...

"Most of the Harlequin authors I know do not remotely fit the cliched stereotype we see repeated over and over - daffy women penning purple prose for hobby income. "


As you say! I wrote 11 romances for Harlequin under their Silhouette imprints (under the pseudonym Laura Leone).

I was then and am still a full-time, self-supporting writer. I have lived in multiple countries, have crossed the African continent overland, and have worked in Jerusalem as a journalist. I have a cum laude bachelor's and am ABD on my master's degree. I am published in sf/f and non-fiction as well as in romance.

And most of my Harlequin-writing friends, of which I have many, are as far from that familiar and dismissive stereotype as I am, or much farther.

Laura Resnick said...

Walter: "When Harlequin pays an author an advance, isn't the author basically letting the book go? "


I signed for 11 books with Harlequin, 1988-1993, and have all rights back to all of those books. I also signed a fresh deal with Hq in 2003, and have all those rights back in full, too (though for unusual reasons, in that case).

These days, with digital rights in play and publishers clinging to rights so hard their knuckles bleed, it depends on how the market evolves, what court cases arise and how they play out, and also how negotiations change. Writers at all houses are now walking away from bad terms, because there are other options available to them for earnings from their work. The more that writers walk away from bad terms, the more it -may- evolve that even a house like Harlequin winds up realizing it had to negotiate terms with writers rather than just present egregious "take it or leave it" contracts.

Deb said...

I don't know anything about the general market lines, but at Christian fic conferences we're told not to expect one cent beyond the advance for a Love Inspired or LI Historical title. Apparently very few earn out. This doesn't mean I'm not 110% for the authors getting paid fairly when they DO earn out, or when HQ issues an e-book.

50% of cover was equitable and fair. 3% in an e-book market is ridiculous. Plus, it was the way they did it that frosts me. I'm neither an accountant or a lawyer, but I can add, and those per-copy payments to the authors were just rubbish.

Frank Coles said...

I had a deal like this offered to me by a Hachette company for a relicense of one of my UK books in the US, it was 10% of net price (£2.25)received by the UK publisher at my end. That's £0.25 per book sold for me or 35 cents per book at today's exchange rates.

I would have expected the book to sell at around $11.55 or thereabouts. You can extrapolate from there.

When I tried to get them to tell me what the actual cover price would be, or where they stood on ebook rights (i.e. I'd keep them) it all went strangely quiet.

I wonder what that could mean? ;)

David L. Shutter said...

Laura

Sorry if I missed it elsewhere, but as you're traditional and a non-indie, where are your 11+ former HQ books published at now?

Ann Voss Peterson said...

"When Harlequin pays an author an advance, isn't the author basically letting the book go?"

Walter-- Harlequin contracts are royalty contracts, just like most other publishers offer. Once an author earns out the advance (which every one of my books has done in the first statement after it was released), that author keeps earning royalties for copies sold. The advance isn't a flat work-for-hire payment, it's an advance against royalties, just like most publishers offer.

Harlequin's reversion clause is tough, but many authors have gotten their rights back, as Laura has. To date, I am not among them.

Cher Gorman said...

I'm stunned by these revelations. I had planned to participate in an open pitch at HQ in May but after reading this blog have asked that my name be removed from the list. There is no doubt in my mind that publishing with them would NOT be in my best interests. The book I had planned to pitch to them will be self-pubbed.

Thank you, Joe and Ann :)

Cheryl Gorman

frank k said...

Hmmm! Judging from the complaint, they don't seem to have completely thought it through. Given that they pull down about $550,000,000 per year, they have the money to make a very bloody fight of it. They are supposed to control 85% of the market,correct? If that is the case, you might as well get someone with a lot of money on their side. It sounds as if they have run afoul of certain provisions of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, that means the Feds can be involved ... they have money ... Harlequin will settle.