Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Harlequin Survey

Harlequin just sent out a survey to its authors, seemingly asking for sincere feedback.

Maybe it has to do with their current lawsuit. Maybe it has to do with their recent financial woes.

Or maybe, just maybe, they really want to try and improve their relationships with the one group of people who are essential to their survival.

On the surface, this is smart. I don't know if the survey is truly anonymous or not, only that it is hidden from the public and each author can only complete the survey once because the survey is electronically linked to that particular author. This is done with tracking software, and those trackers could conceivably reveal who said what, even though the HQ email stated it is anonymous and confidential. My guess is the survey might intimidate some authors, preventing them from speaking the truth. Bashing the hand that feeds flies in the face of common sense, even if that hand is asking for honest answers.

Hopefully, some gutsy authors answered honestly. I know one author was gutsy enough to send me screen shots of the survey.

Are you there, Harlequin? It's me, Konrath. And I'll answer your questions honestly.

If you really want to know what your authors think of you, I'm friends with dozens of them, and have been going to writing conventions for over a decade. I've spoken to hundreds of HQ authors at RT. I've listened to so many tales of woe and hardship and mistreatment that the Big 6 look like angels compared to you.

Can you handle the truth? Because here it is. Do yourself a favor and really heed my responses.

Here are screenshots of the survey, followed by my answers.

I have been a published author for 11 years. I have not been published with Harlequin, though my agent has submitted some of my work to your mystery imprint, MIRA. MIRA rejected those titles, which have gone on to earn me in excess of a million dollars via self-publishing.
I have three series, and many single titles, in both print and digital. I used to be with legacy publishers, but now have my rights back and am self-publishing those titles exclusively.


Just self-publishing. That's how I made the million. Though I do have several books with Amazon Publishing imprints, because their contracts are so much better than anyone else in the industry.

  • Cover art is very important to me, as both an author and an avid reader. 
  • Marketing support is no longer needed in a digital world, except for prime placement on Amazon.com and free ebook announcement websites. Those are the only two marketing efforts I've seen that directly translate into sales.
  • I don't find publicity important at all. I've found no correlation between press and sales.
  • I find editors very important, but don't need regular communication.
  • Proofing and copyediting is very important.
  • Author control is very important.
  • Editorial guidance is not very important to me, but I've written 28 novels and don't need much help anymore. But I still need editors to vet.
  • Publisher knowledge can be very important, if they use that knowledge to make me money.
  • I don't believe most readers can name who publishes their favorite authors. HQ is unique in that it is bought as a brand. But usually the author is the brand. I put that in bold because it is such an important point.
  • I never cared about who published whom. Most publishers are interchangeable.
  • Transparency is essential.
  • Books should be available in all formats.
  • Books should be distributed as widely as possible.
  • Fair monetary compensation is essential to keep me happy. In fact, I think it may be the number one concern of the vast majority of authors.
  • I didn't become a writer because I felt a need to belong.
  • A strong brand is very important. But visibility and competitive pricing are more important.
  • Editorial expertise is very important.

  • I've seen some very good HQ cover art. And some not so good.
  • I've talked to many, many HQ authors who never got any marketing support whatsoever, except for the ones who became giant bestsellers. And then HQ capitalized upon that celebrity by re-releasing their backlist books with new titles to trick fans into thinking it was the their latest thriller. Tsk tsk tsk.
  • Publicity support? Seriously, out of all the authors you publish, how many have you gotten any publicity whatsoever? Reviews in RT don't count.
  • I've heard many HQ authors love their editors. I've heard a few have had problems, but that seems to be the case with any publisher.
  • I've heard authors have very little control, because many series and imprints have restrictions and rules. While I understand different guidelines for different imprints, I've heard of editors rejecting stories or insisting on rewrites in ways that cause the authors a lot of stress and unhappiness.
  • HQ has knowledge of selling trends? If they did, they'd be making a fortune with ebooks like I am.
  • HQ has a very loyal readership base in print. Where's that loyalty in digital?
  • HQ has the worst reputation among writers out of every publisher I know, with the exception of the recently departed Dorchester. But now that they're gone, you're Number 1!
  • Transparency? How about allegedly licensing rights to yourself in order to avoid paying authors full royalties? Was that transparent?
  • I know a few dozen HQ authors who don't have audiobooks, and none who do.
  • HQ has incredible distribution.
  • HQ has the worst royalty rate, and some of the lowest advances, in all of publishing.
  • HQ throws great parties, and treats authors very well at conferences and conventions.
  • HQ has a terrific print brand, directly linked to its distribution network and loyal fans.
  • HQ has knowledgeable, professional editors. But knowledgeable, professional editors can be hired for a set fee.
It is 2013. The benefits that publishers have traditionally supplied, including editing, cover art, jacket copy, formatting, can proofing, can all be hired out for fixed costs. There is no need for any author to sign to HQ for ebook publishing. I can reach just as many, if not more, ebook readers on my own than Harlequin can.

With print, HQ still has its large distribution network, which has value. But that value is fading as more bookstores close and more readers embrace ebooks. And that distribution network doesn't benefit authors much when they are making literally pennies per copy sold.

Other publishers have 8% paperback royalties and 25% ebook royalties. HQ is far below industry standards. As a self-published author, I make 70% ebook royalties.

Think about this long and hard: Writers no longer need HQ to reach readers. They can do it themselves, via Amazon.com, and make a lot more than HQ pays them.

Why should any author stay with HQ? Because you throw great parties? Because they have a desire to see their book in Walmart (for as long as Walmart still sells books)? Because they want to (ack) experience a sense of belonging?

HQ was once the only game in town when it came to serial romance. But you are becoming obsolete. And the one group that could save you--your authors--has been paid so poorly for so many years that they are eager to pursue other avenues.

I'm very unhappy with HQ, and I don't even work for you. I'm unhappy with your royalty rates and low advances. I'm unhappy with the sneaky, underhanded way you allegedly licensed rights to yourself. I'm unhappy with how you've strung authors along for years, contract to contract, with barely a cost of living increase. I'm unhappy how you keep their rights forever because you claim you sold one ebook in Bulgaria, even though there have been no other sales in years.

I think you prey on the naive and needy, treat your authors poorly, and the best thing for the world would be HQ gone.

But I do like your parties.

I've heard so many authors complain about HQ that I've lost count. Those who defend HQ do so like apologists, crediting their success with the meager support HQ gave them.

 Here are the benefits HQ should provide:
  • Rights returned upon request for titles older than 18 months, or which haven't sold over 3000 copies in a six month period. Seriously, that's not a lot of copies. My book Whiskey Sour has sold 4000 copies this month, and it's only the 12th. 
  • Paperback royalties at 8% of list. Like the rest of the industry.
  • Ebook royalties at 35% of list. Like the rest of the industry should.
  • Minimum $20k advance per book. 
  • Transparent, monthly royalty statements, like I get self-pubbing. And like Amazon Publishing does.
  • Monthly royalty checks, like I get self-publishing.
  • Author input over title and cover art. An author should be allowed to say, "That stinks, try again."
Now all of that might seem ridiculous to you. But it is what authors can get without HQ. If you want to keep authors, you'd better offer them something better than they can get on their own.

Fellow authors are my key source of information.

Good on HQ for sending out this survey, but I'm pretty sure agents and authors have been complaining about these things for decades. And nothing has been done, because authors didn't have a choice. They either accepted your unconscionable terms, or didn't get published.

That is no longer the case.

Let me put it this way: Harlequin sells eggs, and all of their chickens are unhappy and leaving. You won't be in the egg-selling biz much longer unless you give them a reason to stick around.

HQ doesn't have brand power anymore, because you don't have a lock on digital distribution like you had one on print distribution. So you'd better start understanding that authors aren't interchangeable cogs who can be easily replaced.

A romance reader walking into a brick and mortar store went to the romance section and saw a limited number of series titles, most or all of them Harlequins.

A romance reader looking for series romance on Amazon has a much wider choice available, and HQ no longer dominates. In fact, you get lost in the mix, especially with a lot of savvy authors running their own promotions.

HQ needs savvy authors, because authors are now the brand. And the only was to get them is to treat them very, very well.


























Naivety.
No other options.
Battered Person Syndrome, preventing them from leaving.

Really. HQ is that bad.
Besides the above, settle the ongoing lawsuit fairly and retroactively compensate your authors for past royalties using current industry standards.

There is no HQ without authors.

I want to know how many HQ authors make a living wage, and what that average wage is.
I want to know how many HQ authors write two or more books a year and still have to keep their day job.
I want to know how HQ can justify its treatment of authors.
I want to know how HQ expects to last the decade.
I want to know why HQ can't find the same success with ebooks that it did with print.
I want to know what will happen to all the book rights HQ has if it declares bankruptcy.
I want to know what you've done with the many millions of dollars you've made exploiting authors.
Most of all, I want to know how you folks sleep at night. Because I wouldn't be able to.

Don't pretend you've been in the dark all this time. You've known all this all along.

But now, finally, authors don't need you anymore. They have a choice. A choice that will allow them--in many cases for the very first time--to be adequately compensated for their work.


Respond on my blog, in the comments section.

As harsh as this blog post has been, I wrote it to help your authors, and help you. If you don't listen, you won't be around much longer. Because you won't have any authors left.

Kudos for sending out this survey, HQ. But read between the lines. Separate the placation and fear from the honest, reasonable complaints. Listen closely to those who are giving you advice, even if it is unflattering.

I debated whether or not to play the gender card, and ultimately decided I should. So here it goes:

The only reason you've been able to exploit writers for this long is because the overwhelming majority of your writers are women.

Not because women are weak. But because women are strong. And you preyed upon women's greatest strengths.

You preyed upon their unwavering loyalty.

You preyed upon their need to support their families.

You preyed upon their power--as the stronger sex--to grin and bear it even when being treated unfairly.

You preyed upon their amazing ability to nurture, their indomitable spirit that helps them persevere during tough times, and their awe-inspiring capacity to forgive.

Shame on you, Harlequin. Now make things right.

113 comments:

S.W. Vaughn said...

I would LOVE to see Harlequin answer this...

You there, Harlequin? :-)

Bob said...

LOL. At the SDSU conference in 2011, I mentioned in a workshop that HQ was the Darth Vader of publishing in terms of their contract terms. I meant no disrespect or animosity, since I don't have a contract with them. It's business and they slant the business their way, which is what good business people do.

As long as they can get away with it.

I was sitting in a corner eating lunch, minding my own business, because I always mind my own business, and some woman walked up to me and asked if I was Bob Mayer (I had a nametag that said so, but you never know, those impersonators are all over the place at conferences, in fact, I'm attending RT as Joe Konrath this year and there will be stories to tell abou that). I said yes and she demanded to know if I had called HQ the Darth Vader of publishing. I said yes. She asked why and that she was an editor from HQ. I said "Because your contracts suck." She said: "They're the industry standard." I said, no, they're not because I've worked with four of the big 6. I told her the contracts sucked, that's the way it was, and go bother someone else, because frankly, I didn't give a shit.

I don't know, maybe she wanted me to apologize for speaking the truth. But unless they pay my bills, frak it.

I don't get upset at this stuff; the whole Hydra thing, HQ contracts. It's business. Caveat Emptor. Writer beware. But let's call things what they are when they are.

Okay, back to polishing up my next submission to Mira. Hope they like it.

Harlequin said...

Mr. Konrath, thank you for taking the time to fill out our survey.

Your points are well taken and we are listening. The market for books is changing and Harlequin needs to change to keep up with the market. And with authors. We will do our best to live up to the standards you, and many of our authors, ask of us, going forward.

Now, if only this were really Harlequin, things might be better. But this isn't really Harlequin, and things are pretty bad and are getting worse in the world of traditional publishing.

Anonymous said...

Hi HQ, explain to me why you create shell companies to minimize the royalties paid to your authors?

Joe Konrath said...

But this isn't really Harlequin

Damn. I got excited for a second there...

Joe Konrath said...

If you go to conferences as Joe Konrath, Bob, you can borrow my T-shirt with the bullseye on it. ;)

I agree that it is business, and all businesses exist to make money for themselves, and their shareholders. I also stated that I'd stop taking publishers to task for bad behavior, now that I have my rights back. That's why I haven't touched the Hydra silliness.

But Hydra isn't asking for input. It seems like Harlequin actually is. So I blogged.

Remember when we were newbie writers, and we had to be told what we were doing wrong so we could improve?

Lots of newbies can't take the criticism. Those that can take it, and use it, become professionals.

Much as I want to stop being that guy who rants against the industry, I decided that if they really are seeking feedback, they need to hear it from someone unafraid of repercussions. Someone who can call them Darth Vader, as you did.

We'll see if they run with it or not.

Bob said...

The problem is, HQ has a legion of wanna-bes who will sign a contract with HQ with their own arterial blood regardless of what's written in it.

I've offered three times higher eBook royalty rates to authors to publish their backlist and watched them run scared back to their agent, who then leads them to sign a lousy deal with a publisher, just to get a couple of thousand dollars of advance while giving up their entire future and a load of money.

Fear is ruling publishing right now. But I'm okay with that as I've been trained to flourish in a fear-filled environment.

Who Dares Wins.

terri patrick said...

I believe RWA was begun by HQ authors who realized they were not being treated well 30+ years ago. Now that organization is in turmoil as "the voice of romance writers" with too many limits as to what defines a romance writer.

Donald Maass stated HQ's audience is not only shrinking but aging and dying.

RWA leadership has some challenges now to retain its original mission of supporting the writers instead of being the training ground for HQ authors.

Angry_Games said...

It seems the publishing industry is finally being taken to task in the age of the internet. Not that there haven't been these kinds of stories before, but with the internet, the exposure of such stories is much more likely to generate the storm(s) required to force change on the industry, or else they'll face what the music industry has had to deal with over the last decade, which is artists (aka the industry's money maker) leaving in droves to promote themselves.

Mr. Konrath is one of those shining beacons in the darkness for writers to keep in their sights so they don't crash into the rocks and sink to the bottom. He is a good contrast to authors like Scalzi who still believe that publishers are worth sticking with (though be aware that Scalzi takes publishers to task just as much as Mr. Konrath does).

The problem I see when reading comments in a lot of blogs is that there are still some new/aspiring writers that refuse to believe that there is no other way to 'make it' unless signed by a publisher. Worse, a lot of them still refuse to see how badly their careers (financially and otherwise) can be damaged by blindly signing on with some of these publishers.

I was ready to shop some of my work around to publishers as I'm confident enough in the work that someone would be interested, but for the last few months I've read as much as possible about the shifting of the industry (thanks again Mr. Konrath! Your blog is the most influential to me, though not the only one I read by any means), and I've decided I would rather take my chances with KDP and other self-publishing options.

I'm a realist and understand I probably won't be the next Scalzi or James or King, but if a few people read my work and I can make a few dollars, I'm happy to be able to attempt it.

I'd still love to hear your thoughts on the RH's Hydra/Alibi/etc. nonsense.

Jude Hardin said...

It's business and they slant the business their way, which is what good business people do.

As long as they can get away with it.


But wouldn't it be nice if, all of a sudden, there was a publisher that compensated its authors fairly? A publisher with contract terms substantially ABOVE industry standards? A publisher that values its authors' input on everything from cover art to--

Wait. I just remembered. There IS such a publisher.

And it seems to me they're doing pretty well.

Joshua James said...

Great, great post, Joe. I can't think of anything else to say on it.

And I've finally SP'd a book on Amazon under a pen name and have sold over a 100 books in less than three weeks... I'm in debt to the inspiration you've given me.

Thank you.

Walt said...

As a spouse of an author of many Harlequin novels and who also happens to have a book published by one of Amazon's new imprints now doing very very well in Kindle sales for this week, I can speak to this a bit. I used to carry around a toy microphone that could record and play back ten seconds of audio. I once got my wife to say at one exasperating moment, "Harlequin is the devil!" I pretty much ripped off the REC button on the little thing, and would often whip that toy out to play to my author wife, in her own words "Harlequin is the devil!"

You see, Harlequin has in their employ, for lack of a better term, Sirens. You know, the Sirens that would lure sailors to their doom? Those. Harlequin editors are skilled at saying just the right thing to keep their stable of authors submitting.

Harlequin gave my wife a start, and for that I thank them. But Harlequin has made some very poor decisions in the last several years concerning how to treat their authors, the creative force that drives their income. Getting Harlequin to change their ways will be a bit like trying to reform The Devil.

Anonymous said...

I submitted to Harlequin a few years ago. (As in sent a story, not submitted like BDSM)

Then I started hearing things like this blog, and knew they were not for me.

All the time I say thank you that I got a rejection letter.

Alan Spade said...

Let's play the devil advocate just for a moment.

Some authors could still think : "I could be published by HQ because they still have a very good physical distribution network.

It would help me build a name and when I'll have thousands of readers, I could self-publish and then harvest the rewards of my years of slavery.

Like Ann Voss Peterson did, in a way (even if she did not planify it, as Joe didn't planify what happened to him)."

It would be a very risky calculation, in my opinion, because of the exclusivity clauses of HQ contracts. Or they could state in the contract that if you self-pub, you have to use another name.

Yes, I fear they will still fool many authors, but whith the shrinking of bookstores (and perhaps with the trial to come), the sirens will be less and less attractive.

Morgan Eckstein said...

The survey just screams, "We have no clue about what is going to happen in the next ten years." I think that they believe that their current business model is still going to be in play ten years from now.

David L. Shutter said...

"I'd still love to hear your thoughts on the RH's Hydra/Alibi/etc. nonsense"

As would I but y'know what; there's nothing new, original or ground breaking about the Hydra/Alibi scheme, no matter how hard Ms. dobson tries to slant it with "profit sharing" as an equitable business model. It's paying absurd fees to hand over rights forever and it's only the latest in a string of these efforts by publishers.

I'd love to see Joe fisk this but honestly, I can close my eyes and see the blog post, Joe's covered this ground that many times.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

"Like Ann Voss Peterson did, in a way (even if she did not planify it..."

I actually planned to submit Pushed Too Far to the big 6. It was never intended for Harlequin (too long, predominantly thriller). But in the end I didn't send it anywhere, just self published it. Definitely the right call! :)

I think it's encouraging that Harlequin is asking these questions. I hope they really listen to what their authors tell them and improve as a result.

J. A. Self said...

I'm not sure whether those checkbox questions were meant to be comprehensive or not. The second one was humorously lacking of good answers. Like anyone needs or trusts a publisher to keep them informed these days!

Rich Grimshaw said...

Damn. I sure like your writing, Joe.

McAuthorPants said...

Loved reading your responses to the survey. Thought I'd mention that several of my HQ books have come out in audio format within the past year. (Not to argue the larger point...just a bit of data.)

(Sorry about playing McAuthorPants. My anxiety levels are high enough these days!)

Kaz Augustin said...

I had no doubt that the survey WASN'T anonymous, but I don't care. I gave them my honest opinion which, in years of seeing what happens to honest opinions on feedback forms, doesn't matter a damn. Harlequin will only pick the responses that conform to their world view (some sops to say they're "listening to their authors") and carry on as usual.

@Alan Spade: Yeah, that's exactly what I thought when I signed with Carina Press back in 2009: they've got a great distribution network, one that I -- as a lonesome author -- can't compete with. Wrong. To give it its due, though, CP is a slightly less evil version of its momma because the rights can revert in reasonable time (7 years, with certain low sales threshold conditions that I already met in the first year!) and it didn't demand right of first refusal on my next novel.

I'm now self-publishing, natch (ahem, Sandal Press) and loving it!

And you're right, Joe. Even if I only had one answer or option I wanted to make, that damned survey kept me there until I filled out every single box on every single page. Soooo happy I only have one novel with them.

Anonymous said...

RH is now offering a 50-50 profit split for both print and digital profits; no advance to author, just a 50% share of the net profits (gross less costs). Or, the author can still choose the old model (advance plus some kind of split). Author's choice.

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/56316-random-house-modifies-contracts-for-its-digital-imprints.html

RJ

Pepper Phillips said...

Gross less costs...in ebooks, wouldn't that be paid off quickly? After paying for the editing, covers, formatting, etc., there shouldn't be any more costs. But I imagine that they will have some Hollywood accounting going on, where there are always 'costs'...
I prefer doing it on my own. I know my costs are fixed when I publish the book. Just get over that number and it's all profit.

Anonymous said...

"because of the exclusivity clauses of HQ contracts."

Alan Spade, I have been a Hqn author for a long time, and have never had an "exclusivity clause." My option clause is very minimal in its restrictions - next work of a "similar nature" with the same word count, so it's very easy to get around, and I have indie-pubbed, including reverted backlist, with no problem.

Just wanted to set the record straight on that!

This said, you bet I let it rip about my "unhappiness" when filling in their survey!

Joe Konrath said...

Good for RH. It's a positive step in the right direction, and shows they are paying attention to authors.

That said, a 50% split of profit sounds good on paper, but actually isn't what I'd call a good deal. It's 35% of the price the publisher sets, minus the author covering all the costs of production, and if desired, marketing.

I don't know what RH charges for production costs, but I bet it is higher than the $1500 I pay, per title, to get art, editing, proofing, and formatting. And then I keep 70% of profits self-pubbing.

So 35% plus pay costs vs. 70% plus pay costs and have complete control. No brainer.

My agent Jane Dystel has a service where she takes 15% and pays for all costs, essentially doing what RH does (which I called "estribution" years back.)

So with Jane, she paid for everything for Timecaster Supersymmetry, and I keep 55% of list price, that I set.

For authors who don't want to hire editors, artists, and proofers, Jane's deal is better than RH's. Plus, with Jane, I keep the rights.

The deal-breaker for me with the new RH deal is this:

Hydra, Alibi, Loveswept, and Flirt acquire rights to every book for the term of copyright, subject to an “out-of-print” clause, which provides for the author to request reversion of his or her rights three years after publication if the title fails to sell 300 copies in the 12 months immediately preceding the request.

In other words, they'll own the book forever.

Hell. Fuck. No.

If I ever sign a publishing contract again, I want to be able to end it when I want to end it, and get my rights back. I will never have my books held hostage by a publisher, especially since I know, for certain, that I can sell more of my books than they can.

And I'm betting the SFWA still won't allow Hydra authors into their little club, because Hydra makes authors pay costs.

Let me jump in and say that when I was a newbie, I joined a lot of writing organizations.

I let my memberships lapse, and haven't rejoined, and haven't regretted it.

I don't care about their awards. I don't care for their rules.

In the past, these organizations helped authors bond and teach each other what they knew. That has been replaced by something called the Internet, and you can still attend writing conferences without being a member of anything.

Plus, I'd never want to be a part of a club that excluded my peers for whatever reason. Us vs. Them sucks. I gave up that shit in high school.

Let's recap:

RH contract still bad.
Jane Dystel's deal worthwhile if you want someone else to do all the work.
Writing organizations are passe.
Awards are silly.

That said, if someone wants to start an all-inclusive writing organization for self-pubbers, and wants to name their annual awards The Konrath Awards, I will join as long as I don't have to pay anything.

Ripley King said...

The survey looks to me like a tool. One used for weeding the garden. I see a lot of dropped contracts in the near future.

Frank Sergeant said...

I was shocked, shocked I say, to read all this.

Shocked at my own reaction. I quite enjoyed your post and the many comments. It's my own reaction that surprised me. I had not realized how cynical I have become.

I believe the mostly like reason for HQ's survey is to manipulate the survey takers (to convince authors how very much they really do need HQ) and/or to gather "evidence" to support some positions they have already decided to take -- that the actual answers provided will not influence their plans at all.

Well, that's too cynical even for me, right?


Frank

Anonymous said...

Frank, many Harlequin authors have already boldly gone way further than this in our cynicism, so you can stop feeling shocked at yourself.

Anonymous said...

"If I ever sign a publishing contract again, I want to be able to end it when I want to end it, and get my rights back."

I agree. Fixed terms such as 7, 10 or 15 years make more sense from the author's POV. The old concept of "in print" is no longer valid, plus it's hard to determine up-front what the magic number should be. Thus a finite cap of time makes more sense. That's what I do with all my audiobooks (7 years or 10 years). Luckily I've retained all my ebook rights except one which got transferred with the print. I would never again sell anything for the life of the "copyright," not to mention that the courts are always tinkering with that concept.

That said, the RH contract does allow the author an option to get print distribution with someone else taking the initial risk of loss. There's a value to that, which obviously then comes out of the author's e-book end of the equation (but not as severe as before)

RJ

Alan Spade said...

There's distribution, and there's diffusion. I wonder if RH deal include the books being displayed face up in the bookstores.

If you want a good deal with a trad publisher, you have to look to Hugh Howey and what he did with Simon & Schuster : http://www.huffingtonpost.com/hugh-howey/how-wool-got-a-unique-pub_b_2852547.html?utm_hp_ref=books

The process was very, very difficult, though, and not everybody is a bestseller.

On a very different note, a video that could make you smile : http://vimeo.com/61275290#

Matt J said...

I think Amazon has proven (though we must be vigilant; they have become a Titan, after all) that it is not only the right thing to do to be fair with authors and allow everyone to profit - it is also Good Business! Why is it so difficult for so many powerful companies (and people) to be happy with the profit and wealth they are making? Why do they have to then engage in either predatory or downright illegal business practices in order to pad their already full pockets even more? Does absolute power really corrupt absolutely? I don't get it.

Pete Morin said...

I wonder if they deleted any of the authors who are litigants from this survey.

I certainly would hope so, as contacting them directly might be regarded as an ethical no-no (something for which they seem to have a blind spot).

Teresa Hill said...

Long-time HQ author here. I stopped working with them in 2011. Just couldn't let myself give them the rights to my work forever, and that's what it is with their current contracts. It will be forever.

I'm pretty cynical, but my first thought when I saw the survey was that they were trying to tell us silly authors, "Don't you realize how much we do for you?" :)

Had fun filling it out and my basic response to them was: Instead of asking us how important the things you do are for us, you should be asking, as a publisher, what you do for us that we can't do for ourselves or buy for ourselves?

I can buy good cover art. I can write good cover copy. Have been doing it for years. I can hire a great editor. I can hire help distributing my books. And it's all within my control.

It's a crap shoot with publishers. They might do a good job for you, but they might do a lousy job. And if they do a lousy job, you're stuck. They make the decisions. They still own your book forever.

Oh -- HQ's great print distribution network? It's not so great anymore. Print runs are down across the board and so are earnings per book. Authors know. We see the royalty statements. We talk to our friends.

Unless HQ changes things drastically, earnings will keep going down, because they obviously haven't figured out how to sell in the digital marketplace.

Anonymous said...

Your post asked what HQ authors make. Google Brenda Hyatt's "Show me the Money" page for a voluntary salary report. It's used primarily by romance writers (the link comes up from time to time on RWA loops).

I'm not a HQ author.

About six months after my last e-book was published, I finally got a written (paper) rejection for that same book from HQ--about 2 years after I'd submitted it (printed on paper and snail-mailed to Canada because they couldn't accept a doc file attachment). We're talking 2011 folks...

I have friends who write for HQ, some who are happy (or at least content, or possibly who just don't complain for fear of reprisal). One of them wrote 2 full novels for her "option" book (after selling them her first) before they agreed to let her submit just a proposal for them to reject. I think it was book idea 4 or 5 that they finally bought, about 2 years after her first book was published. She either won't or can't self-publish those others because of characters that overlap with her published work and the contract terms she agreed to.

William Ockham said...

The most revealing thing about that survey is the branding. Did you notice the bit that says "reader panel"? That means they repurposed a tool they use for reader surveys and didn't bother to rebrand it for the author survey.

They are either too cheap or too lazy to create web assets specifically for this effort. How important do you think the results are for Harlequin, given this level of attention to detail?

bettye griffin said...

Thanks for sharing this. I was nodding my head in agreement, until I got to the part about paying a $20K minimum advance; then I laughed. While I'm sure the advances can be much higher, and would make the publisher more attractive to writers, an advance is one thing that a self-published author can't give themselves...

Joe Konrath said...

She either won't or can't self-publish those others because of characters that overlap with her published work and the contract terms she agreed to.

She can change some stuff around so HQ can't identify it.

In fact, I often wonder what would happen if authors took their HQ backlists, changed names, locations, professsions, titles, and other small stuff, and republished them on their own, if HQ would ever know...

Hibijibi said...

Wow! My first visit to your site (referred from a comment on Nathan Bransford's Facebook page) and I'm a fan already! And I never read romance novels or Harlequins. Good for you.

David L. Shutter said...

"She can change some stuff around so HQ can't identify it"

As hugely popular as indie romance is, a new cover and pen name would make it all but impossible to detect. Even if her old editor stumbled across it, HQ has to prove it.

"because of characters that overlap"

Wow, that could be really vague if it's just characters and not not a whole work in question.

Funny, that would make for a neat little trend.

Sue Swift said...

Thank you.

Karen Sandler said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you (from a recovering Harlequin author).

Rob Cornell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jude Hardin said...

In fact, I often wonder what would happen if authors took their HQ backlists, changed names, locations, professsions, titles, and other small stuff, and republished them on their own, if HQ would ever know...

All that would take time, and then the author would have to constantly worry about that one ardent fan from twenty years ago recognizing the chop job.

Instead of lurking around in the shadows hoping you don't get caught, why not spend your time writing something new. It's probably going to be better anyway, and you're definitely going to feel better about yourself.

I believe in living life with no regrets. Just forget about it and move on.

Joe Konrath said...

I believe in living life with no regrets. Just forget about it and move on.

Some HQ authors have ten, twenty, even more than fifty backlist titles.

You think forgetting them is the way to go?

I could have forgotten my JD books. I didn't. And they are earning me $15k a week now that I have them back.

I don't think regret, guilt, worry, envy, or jealousy, are helpful emotions. But getting your IPs back so you can make money from your hard work--that's not about regret. It's a reason to fight, and fight hard.

Trust me. I know.

Jude Hardin said...

You think forgetting them is the way to go?

I think you can let past mistakes consume you, own you, cripple you. Or, you can shed that hair shirt and allow your current self to shine.

I could have forgotten my JD books. I didn't. And they are earning me $15k a week now that I have them back.

How many stomach ulcers and gray hairs did they earn you while you were stressing over them?

I would love to have the rights back to POCKET-47, but I'm not going to dwell on it. I love that book, and it's mine, no matter who is making the lion's share of the profits from it. But I'm a better writer now than I was then, and I'm going to focus my energies on getting new stuff out and growing as an artist.

It's kind of like in 1990 when John Fogerty stood at Robert Johnson's grave and, at that moment, decided to start performing all the old CCR songs in public again. He'd lived in bitterness for years and years over signing bad contracts with Fantasy, and suddenly he was free. He has been a much happier person since then.

If you can get your rights back, great. But don't lose your soul in the process. And DEFINITELY don't try to slap some makeup on an old title and try to pass it off as something new. That's just poor form in the extreme. It's never going to make you anything but miserable, even if you manage to avoid getting caught.

Ripley King said...

For every HQ author out there that wants to rework their backlists, the find and replace feature in your word program is an amazing tool. You could change every name in minutes, change cities in seconds, and there's nothing like a good (new and final) edit, taking about a week (more or less) at the most. Ideas and titles cannot be copyrighted. Become brand new, and a new brand.

Steven Womack said...

Joe and Bob!

You two are my heroes. Thanks.

Steven Womack


Tori Scott said...

Twelve years ago, I really, really wanted to sell to Harlequin. I came close, but didn't quite make it. Now, after 18 months of self-publishing, I wouldn't sign on with Harlequin for anything less than a mid-six figure advance. I'm making a very good living on my own.

I sold one book several years ago to what I thought was a reputable publisher and would rather see that book die than have to deal with that publisher any more. I haven't even tried to submit anything to Montlake because I no longer trust publishers, not even Amazon.

I won't try to get an agent, either, because I don't trust them any more than I do publishers. I'm happy where I am for now, in control of my own little enterprise.

One result of my experience with trying to sell to Harlequin? My two book a day Harlequin habit went to a zero book a year Harlequin habit. Look how much money I've saved! Now I buy books from Indie authors.

Joe Konrath said...

How many stomach ulcers and gray hairs did they earn you while you were stressing over them?

The things worth doing are the things that are very hard.

Very hard things sometimes bring gray hair and ulcers.

Personally, the thing I'd regret most was running away from the fight.

Heather Justesen said...

My former publisher, a small press sent out a much shorter, but similar type of survey a couple of years back. I declined to participate because there wasn't even a pretense of anonymity, but I understand they actually made a few changes after reading the results, so good on them. Not so sure HQ will do the same.

Either way, very, very happy to be self-pubbing now.

Alan Spade said...

Jude said : "And DEFINITELY don't try to slap some makeup on an old title and try to pass it off as something new. That's just poor form in the extreme."

If you have a book which sold poorly and you, as the author, have the feeling it never got its chance and deserves better, not only you have the right to do what must be done to give it a chance, but it is your duty as your own publisher.

"What must be done" have to follow your own ethics, but if the book have been read by a hundred readers five years before, making it appear as new under another pen name does no harm at all.

You are the first and ultimate guardian of your work, after all.

Jude Hardin said...

If you have a book which sold poorly and you, as the author, have the feeling it never got its chance and deserves better, not only you have the right to do what must be done to give it a chance, but it is your duty as your own publisher.

We're talking about illegally re-releasing books that a publishing house owns the rights to, Alan.

I don't see anything wrong with republishing an indie book under a different title and pen name, but it would be wise to make all that clear in the description. You don't want to risk selling it to the same person twice. Some readers would trash you with one-star reviews over something like that.

Shelly Thacker said...

"A sense of belonging"? Seriously, Harlequin? Are you a publishing house or a sorority house? Wait, no, I know you're not a sorority house -- because I joined one of those in college, and they didn't demand 94% of my income for the rest of my life + 70 years. They did have cool T-shirts, though. Do you have cool T-shirts? Maybe authors would sign with you if you offer them cool T-shirts.

You certainly don't have much else of value to offer.

You know what's more important to me than "a sense of belonging"? A sense of freedom. A sense of self-respect. A sense of owning all rights to my work and determining my own future. It's called being an indie author. I'm in the driver's seat now, with both hands on the wheel, and no traditional publisher will ever trick me into settling for the passenger seat again.

Sorry, Harlequin, but none of the "benefits" you offer hold any appeal for savvy authors in today's digital environment. Try that T-shirt idea, though. I won't even charge you a royalty.

smokingpigeon said...

It would matter less to HQ that their established authors are leaving if HQ had not invested so heavily in branding their series not just by cover but by content, working over every MS until it met series guidelines.

When an editor spends four or six or ten revisions with an author, not just once but for many MSS, to train the author to meet series guidelines, that is an investment in the author. (As HQ has so often reminded us, hoping to make the author feel important.) Even authors trained in series A must retrain for series B.

The flip side of that is that HQ's investment in series-trained authors is now a financial trap that corners HQ, not the authors.

If HQ doesn't want to abandon their long-successful series programs, they have to be able to hang onto some number of their series-trained authors. When those authors walk en masse, that represents the loss of a significant investment of overhead. The bottom line goes ouch.

Joe Konrath said...

that is an investment in the author.

I hate that terminology, and what it connotes. As if writers are assembly line workers who, once trained, can be exploited because their job taught them valuable skills.

If Harlequin chooses to buy a book formt he author, and that book needs a lot of editorial work, that's Harlequin's overhead, built into the cost of doing business, and the author shouldn't be forced to bear the financial burden of their "training" by accepting lower-than-standard royalty rates, piddly advances, and sub-licensing silliness.

This is yet another way to prey on women's sympathies, like a lousy boyfriend who, whenever you try to break up with him, reminds you that he was there for you when your cat died.

Authors shouldn't be guilted into sticking around because they feel their publisher "invested" in them.
Bullshit. It's a business relationship. Once it isn't beneficial, leave.

In HQ's case, I question if it was ever beneficial. Learning on the job isn't worth it if you wind up being forced to work for the company store. I'd rather train on my own, then use my skills as I see fit.

Alan Spade said...

"We're talking about illegally re-releasing books that a publishing house owns the rights to, Alan."

But what is legal and illegal, Jude ? A contract that stated the publisher owns the copyrights for the duration of the copyrights and does not state that if the book goes out of print, rights are reversed to the author, would that kind of contract be declared legal by a court ? Really ?

If your book have not been in bookstores for months, and you have properly warned your publisher you want your rights back, and you do not have a response in the appropriate delay, I say do what you want with your book.

When the moral right is yours, it's not up to you to sue your publisher. It's the contrary.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

Harlequin did not train me to write for them. I invested in myself; with a BA in creative writing, many hours at the keyboard, and buying and reading the books in the line I targeted. That investment adds up to thousands of dollars and years of work. Money and time that all came from me.

I have no doubt that the editors gave some writers a lot of feedback. Others received little (I would be in that camp). That is not unique to Harlequin. But as Joe pointed out, editing is supposed to be part of the publisher's contribution.

Harlequin does do a lot of outreach to unpublished authors, holding writing classes on their website, etc. The purpose of that is to increase the supply of writers. Large supply of writers and a limited demand for manuscripts means they can pay writers less and replace authors more easily.

That's why they engage in this "training," to minimize author power.

Of course, now things have changed. Authors have more options. And Harlequin must change, too.

Jude Hardin said...

But what is legal and illegal, Jude ? A contract that stated the publisher owns the copyrights for the duration of the copyrights and does not state that if the book goes out of print, rights are reversed to the author, would that kind of contract be declared legal by a court ? Really ?

If you sign away the rights for a book, then yes, it would be illegal for you publish a different version of that book on your own. And yes, the publisher will sue you over it.

Better to forget about it and write a new book.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

"That's why they engage in this "training," to minimize author power."

Quoting myself here. :) By author power, I mean power in negotiations. Few authors, and those authors can demand more. A lot of authors fighting for one publishing slot, and the publisher has the upper hand in negotiations.

Simply supply and demand economics.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

Never a good idea to violate contracts. I won't be doing that.

But I'm not going to forget my 25 books, either. If they come up for reversion, I'll send in my request. Not much gray hair involved in doing that. No ulcers. :)

And I will be writing many more books. Writers write, you know. At least that's what I've heard. ;)

Jude Hardin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christine Henderson said...

I like a lot of what you had to say, but to expect them to pay a $20,000 advance on a new book! I think that's not reality - especially for a new author.

I was considering sending in a mss to HQ, but after reading their narrow guidelines for plot it wouldn't fit.

Hard competition for HQ will be the Romance eBook clubs that now charge readers a flat fee to read as many titles they want each month like Netflix. I just don't know how authors get paid with that type of program.

Anonymous said...

I am (WAS) a Carina Press author (no advance). One book was enough to convince me never to sub there again. I get 15% royalties on my ebook. But because I protested having my editor completely rewrite whole pages of the book (which I rejected, but was overruled), for not accepting certain edits and cuts (which were overruled, and as a result, my book is several thousand words shorter than the original – less silly stuff like character development, motivation, and plot), and for protesting the cover, which in no way resembles my story, I was labeled a “difficult” author. My punishment was to have my book buried among the new releases. It was never touted. I will never see it in print, and it won’t go to audiobook. If I ever decide (which won’t happen in my lifetime) to send them another book, I will have to deal with the same editor(s) , even though I repeatedly requested a different person.

I still have to wait several more years to get back the rights, yet my book continues to be one of their best selling books (my last check, despite the paltry 15% rate, was four figures). You would think they’d want another story from me.

By the way, did you know HQ moved its offices lock, stock, and bookkeepers to Switzerland? If an author sees a major discrepancy on their statements (now arriving barely twice a year), they have no recourse, since hiring an international lawyer is too expen$$$ive.

Flatly saying, Harlequin, and all its “versions”, is nothing more than an author mill.

Alan Spade said...

Every writer is different. And I agree the writing has to be given the priority.

But when you think the publisher couldn't possibly win a trial, because the contract was sooo abusive, when you feel you are being screwed, when you feel you'll never get back your rights if you do nothing, yes, it's definitely worth fighting.

Of course, a trial should always be an extreme recourse, but sometimes, you have to show you are ready to go for it to win.

Laura Resnick said...

Bob wrote: "I don't get upset at this stuff; the whole Hydra thing, HQ contracts. It's business."

I get mad. I get furious. Because I despise misplaced focus and all of the sheer WASTE that it creates.

When I think of the strategizing, effort, and focus that went into creating a shell-company to hide royalties from Hq writers and of the focus and fiscal resources involved in fighting the lawsuit over it now that they've been found out… I get outraged, because I think of how much better off EVERYONE—Harlequin, as well as writers contracted to Harlequin—would be now if, instead of focusing on lining its pockets by cheating writers and fighting a lawsuit over it, Harlequin would instead invest that focus, energy, and money in publishing and selling books.

And what if the major houses accused of antitrust violations by the DoJ, all of whom have now settled out of court with the DoJ (=and= most-or-all of whom have also settled with 30+ US states that filed class action suits on the same basis; =and= whose practices are also being investigated by the EU)… had instead invested that focus, that that effort, and that MONEY in—oh, say, for example—selling books and improving their business models in the digital age?

I get furious in every instance of this crap because I always wind up thinking about how much better off we'd all be, including even the prepetrator(s), if they'd just focus on doing their jobs competently instead of focusing on screwing writers, screwing readers, screwing Amazon, etc., etc.

Laura Resnick said...

Terri Patrick said: " Donald Maass stated HQ's audience is not only shrinking but aging and dying."

Interesting. I wondered about this. I wrote a dozen Hq books when I was in my twenties, and it didn't escape my notice that most Hq readers whom I met in those years were 20-30 years older than me. And that was 20-25 years ago. I wondered back then if Hq's series romance imprints would find ways to attract readers my age and younger—because, if not, then nature would indeed gradually eliminate its market.

Trish Jensen said...

I think Harlequin is going to cull the starry-eyed or brown-nosing responses to use in court. "LOOK how happy our authors are!" Since no one has access to the complete list of responses but them, they can provide a VERY skewed position that the majority of their authors are thrilled to be writing for them. Harlequin forgets that those still in this battle who have happily reported exactly HOW honest they were with their responses will also happily hand over a copy of their responses to the Plaintiff's attorney.

Jude Hardin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jude Hardin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jude Hardin said...

But I'm not going to forget my 25 books, either. If they come up for reversion, I'll send in my request.

Oh, absolutely! I will too, but I'm not holding my breath.

There's quite a discussion about this post over on the Kindle Boards, btw.

Joe Konrath said...

It amuses me when I'm discussed on other forums.

And by "amuses" I mean "bores."

And by "other forums" I mean "elsewhere cowards post because they are too scared to post here."

Failsies.

James Everhart said...

Well, irrespective of how much they give in terms of percentages, I knew one person was able to buy a new suv with the money she made from selling one book to them. It can't be all that bad. Just follow the formula; if you can stomach it.

Jude Hardin said...

It amuses me when I'm discussed on other forums.

I was wondering about that myself. If someone has something to say about this post, it seems like this would be the place to say it.

Jim said...

I have read every comment here and a page on the Kindle boards. I stopped reading that board because... well, I was disappointed in the number of comments on that page that took exception with Joe's comments HERE- and frankly got bent out of shape over not content, but style. I have to agree with the OP here about finding stuff like that 'boring'.

The reason this blog gets checked every day by yours truly is right up at the top of the home page. "Is it possible...?"

I've been trying to learn how to write a decent book for a year now, and it's coming along. One day I'll earn my living doing this, and I am enjoying the process. I've come across a lot of blogs, but this blog, for a host of reasons, is a source of perfect information for me to use.

I think the paradigm between major publishers and authors can change. I read a blog that was referenced earlier in this thread about Howey's experince:
It's a story of hope for all authors.

As usual, the posts on the threads here are an education in themselves. Thank you all for adding to the conversation!

Joe Konrath said...

I knew bringing up gender would set people off. And I knew that some folks cannot see the forest for a single tree.

I had three friends vet this blog before I posted. Two liked the ending. Once said to cut it, not because it was wrong, but because it was giving ammo to my detractors.

Like I care about my detractors. I piss a lot of people off, but still manage to sleep well at night.

Actually, that's not entire true. Sometimes I have trouble sleeping, because of a lumpy mattress. It's lumpy because I stuffed it with stacks of $20 bills.

Back on point, what kind of tool comes to this blog, reads it, then goes to another forum to leave comments? If you have problems with my blog, say it here, and I'll patiently explain to you how you're wrong. ;)

David L. Shutter said...

"I was wondering about that myself. If someone has something to say about this post, it seems like this would be the place to say it."

Have to agree with that.

Regina Richards said...

I wish I could say you were wrong on the gender issue, but you are exactly right.

I can't tell you how often I've heard female writers defend the way they are treated financially by telling me their poor publisher is barely making a living. Er, excuse me? Haven't they noticed they're working their butts off in front of a computer to make those publishers a living while THEY themselves aren't making a living?

And yes, I self-pub.

Alice Roelke said...

It sounds sappy, but I teared up a little bit when I read what you wrote about women. I found it very validating to be called the stronger sex for the reasons you listed. :)

(For what it's worth, I've never written for Harlequin. Even though I've written romance, I can't seem to write the sort of things they want.)

I am definitely looking into self-publishing because of some of your posts, so thank you!

Richard Carman said...

That's a gutsy blog Mr K. I have worked in publishing for getting on for thirty years, am a published author and recently-started blogger, and it is a slow-moving, slow-thinking industry in many ways. I'm glad to see you've done well out of it however - the more people do well out if it, whether self-published or otherwise, the better the industry will do as a whole. I can't help feeling the publishers who aren't getting to grips with changes in the industry are like the medieval monks who made the beautiful illustrated manuscripts of the time. And then, suddenly, "shit - someone has invented PRINTING!! - what are we going to do now?" If we don't keep abreast of change, change will wipe us away. Good luck with the work still to come!...

Ellen Brickley said...

Interesting post, Joe. Just chiming in to say I'm a die-hard feminist and I have no problem at all with what you wrote about women. Society teaches women to put up and shut up and prioritise the needs of others over their own needs, and sometimes that's a good thing but mostly it's really, really not.

Joe Konrath said...

Society teaches women to put up and shut up and prioritise the needs of others over their own needs

Society teaches men to take what you want, even if it hurts others. Which is why men start wars.

As a gender, women are the better of the sexes. They are why the human race still exists.

STH said...

"Society teaches men to take what you want, even if it hurts others. Which is why men start wars.

As a gender, women are the better of the sexes. They are why the human race still exists."

That’s true and very well said. Also, that Kaley Cuoco is hot AND funny at the same time. So there’s that, too.

Anonymous said...

Has anybody heard of reselling E-books?

http://pogue.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/14/reselling-e-books-and-the-one-penny-problem/

Desmond X Torres said...

and Poge's post has just what to do with this topic?

Jude Hardin said...

Society teaches men to take what you want, even if it hurts others. Which is why men start wars.

As a gender, women are the better of the sexes. They are why the human race still exists.


There are good women, and bad women. There are good men, and bad men. I don't think it's very useful, or even fair, to characterize one gender as better than the other. It would be closer to the truth, I think, to consider PEOPLE on a case by case basis.

Joe Konrath said...

I don't think it's very useful, or even fair, to characterize one gender as better than the other.

And I think, in a discussion of gender, if we look throughout history and total up all the human beings that men killed, tortured, and raped, and then total up all the human beings that women killed, tortured, and raped, there will be a wide margin.

I also think, looking at this wide margin, it is not only possible, but necessary, to draw conclusions upon which gender is kinder.

I'm willing to accept "kinder" as one of the criteria for "better." You may draw your own conclusions.

HQ has preyed upon women, and has done so by appealing specifically to their gender, and many of the traits their gender exhibits.

I've heard a lot of noise about how that statement is sexist, but haven't seen any good arguments about how I'm mistaken.

Toni Kenyon said...

"Like I care about my detractors. I piss a lot of people off, but still manage to sleep well at night."

Quote of the day! :)

Jude Hardin said...

And I think, in a discussion of gender, if we look throughout history and total up all the human beings that men killed, tortured, and raped, and then total up all the human beings that women killed, tortured, and raped, there will be a wide margin.

In that sentence, you need to replace the word men with the phrase soldiers enslaved and/or brainwashed by despots with agendas.

The majority of men throughout history weren't killing, torturing, or raping anyone, just as the majority of men don't do those things now. The millions and millions of average dudes in the villages were just trying to get by. Of course, you don't read much about them in the history books. History is marked by the wars and battles and conquests of the few, not the ordinary lives of the many.

If, historically, women had been trained as front line soldiers, they also would have been forced to participate in acts of violence. In fact, as women assume more and more combat roles today, I think you'll find that they can kill and maim and torture just as effectively as their male counterparts.

David L. Shutter said...

The majority of men throughout history weren't killing, torturing, or raping anyone, just as the majority of men don't do those things now. The millions and millions of average dudes in the villages were just trying to get by

Luv ya Jude, but I have to take a bite at this.

While brain washing may be appropriate way to explain cults and other small movements, I think it's an extremely generic, and dangerous, label to place on the root causes behind national movements that led to history’s greatest atrocities. As is the notion that all participants are only following orders or aligning with popular movements at the direction of one or a few leaders.

Just a few of the majors:

Nazi Holocaust - Supported by popular anti-Semitic and nationalist beliefs held by the common citizen. Hitler and Goebbels didn't create any of these ideals; they only said out loud what they knew millions of people were already thinking.

Stalin's Great Purge - Popular movement against anyone considered an "Old Bolshevik".

Pol Pot's (Soloth Sar) Democratic Kampuchea - Pot promoted himself as a Hero of the proletariat to gain power. Once he controlled Cambodia nearly 3 million citizens died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge.

Nanking massacre - Chinese were considered sub-human by Japanese soldiers. Period.

War in Darfur - Similar to Nanking and Cambodia, genocide carried out against citizens over ethnicity.

Islam Extremism - The most radical groups want to supplant existing states, promote religious purity and maintain existing Islamic hegemony’s. Extremists believe every non-Muslim need to be purged from the Earth. Just as with every other example; charismatic leaders have no shortage of followers.

Two uniformed soldiers taking shots at each other in a designated combat zone is one thing. But every case of wholesale, industrial slaughter of humans in history has been based on a single or a group of leaders capitalizing on the popular beliefs of a group.

Would love to hear B. Mayer weigh in on this.

Jude Hardin said...

Two uniformed soldiers taking shots at each other in a designated combat zone is one thing. But every case of wholesale, industrial slaughter of humans in history has been based on a single or a group of leaders capitalizing on the popular beliefs of a group.

Okay, but I think you missed the point. With the advent of modern weaponry, women can be trained to kill people just as easily as men can. One sex is not inherently kinder than the other, as Joe seems to think.

There are just as many kind men as there are kind women, and I think that has probably been true throughout history.

Joe Konrath said...

There are just as many kind men as there are kind women

2 million men in US prisons.

100,000 women.

Men are more violent, Jude. Not just during war. For every one Aileen Wuornos there are a thousand Ted Bundys. More husbands murder wives than vice versa. Poll the world, see how many men have punched someone vs. how many women have.

There are differences in how men and women react to situations, some nature-based and some-nurture based. Men are more violent, and quicker to escalate confrontation.



David L. Shutter said...

Okay, but I think you missed the point. With the advent of modern weaponry, women can be trained to kill people just as easily as men can. One sex is not inherently kinder than the other

I strongly agree...and disagree.

I've met scores of female fighter and attack helicopter pilots. All are extremely capable, and willing, to expending munitions or gun down enemy troops in the open. Many already have as females have been flying combat platforms (fighters/attack helicopters) since the early 90's. Females have been in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan depite being in support specialties. 19 yr old Monica Lin Brown was awarded the Silver Star for VALOR during a convoy ambush. Women have now been leared for combat specialities in the Army and USMC. Believe it's only a matter of time before they're allowed in SPECWAR. Their numbers will be small but they're coming. Sniper title holders are gents like Vasily Zaytsev, Carlos Hathcock and the sadly departed Chris Kyle, but women have been strongly represented historically in sniper ranks of Israeli, Russian and Asian militaries. In fact, women who are so inclined can make for perfect snipers; methodic, patient and calculating.

So absolutely, women are every bit as capable as men in these areas.

And, of course, they can be just as evil.

Drug Queenpin Griseldo Blanco rivaled Pablo Escobar in wealth, ruthlesness and body count.

Indira Gandhi, Imelda Marcos; there are political bad girls as well.

But the larger picture I alluded to was that histories greatest attrocities are all, to a one, the cause of a single or small group of male leaders. All of which, hitorical analysts and phycologists will tell you demonstrated egotistical, paranoid and meglomaniacal bahavior. While females may have shared the views of these dictators and supported them, no female leader has ever done what Hitler, Stalin and Pot have done, or even come close to it.

We can say that historically, women have not had the positions of power and authority to promote these movements. But until a women leader does, history's darkest and bloodiest moments are all sausage fests.

Funny how we got here from HQ contracts!

Jude Hardin said...

Men are more violent, Jude.

You've obviously never been on the wrong end of a woman's wrath. ;)

Rob Cornell said...

You've obviously never been on the wrong end of a woman's wrath. ;)

Dude, even I know that is false. He's married, right?

Jude Hardin said...

Great comment, David. I agree with everything you said.

Someone should write a thriller with a female despot as the villain. Does anyone know of a novel where that's the case?

STH said...

Although women certainly can be “trained” to function like men in combat, I suspect that the biological, evolutionary justification for why men, in general, are physically stronger is that without those qualities, we would be almost unnecessary.

Men have evolved to be more aggressive and combative because that’s what we’ve got to work with. And ever since, way back in simpler, dumber times, men could use physical power and aggression to control the societies in which they lived, the human race has lived under the impression that this was the way things should/must be.

Now, physicality is less important. Barring the much anticipated apocalypse, and leaving the race to continue developing as it is, the female mentality will likely take on more and more of a leadership role. And crazy ways of thinking like “hey! Why don’t we try something that DOESN’T kill millions of people and destroy the environment we have to live in” will come to the forefront.

That will be an excellent thing… until the pendulum swings too far. By that time, it may become clear that the male of the species is as necessary as a hood ornament or liquid soap dispenser with sperm inside.

Eventually, the James Francos and Johnny Depps of the world will be relegated to the salt mines like drones working for the queen, and only specimens deemed close enough to the Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson paradigm will be permitted to mate.

See ya there, boys!

Jude Hardin said...

He's married, right?

Yeah, but I think he lucked out. He has nothing but good things to say about Maria.

(you can pay me later, Joe)

Rob Cornell said...

He has nothing but good things to say about Maria.

This just proves my point. He fears her wrath too much to speak ill of her! Smart man. :)

Internet Troll Disclaimer: I am, of course, kidding.

Michael W. Sherer said...

Joe,

I've had two books published by HQ (after short stints as hardcovers). They apparently think so little of me that I never saw this questionnaire until someone posted a link to this blog on Facebook.

I agree with everything you said about HG except one. Parties? What frickin' parties. HQ never invited me to any damn party.

Mike Sherer

David L. Shutter said...

"Men have evolved to be more aggressive and combative because that’s what we’ve got to work with. And ever since, way back in simpler, dumber times, men could use physical power and aggression to control the societies in which they lived, the human race has lived under the impression that this was the way things should/must be.

I agree, in part. But perhaps a more salient cause for the historical power difference is the prominence of religious ideals.

You think Taliban rule sounds tough? All of Europe and the early America's were just like it at one time or another. Wife pisses you off? Get your bro's together and publicly stone her to death. Just tell everyone she was a witch or something.

In western society's (European nations doing all the army building, expansion, colonization and, enslavement and industrializing) from Post Roman times up until the 20'th century, society's were set up to follow religious laws. And since the men were the one's writing the laws, surprise, women were not only inferior and subordinate to men by nature, but because god made them that way.

Even today, listen to any conservative, evangelical preachers; unmarried, heathen women are responsible for everything! The impending collapse of society is all their fault.

STH said...

David said...
"But perhaps a more salient cause for the historical power difference is the prominence of religious ideals.”

Interesting. But I think religion gets oversold as the “cause” of… anything really. If you are in the war business (whether attacking or defending, whether you are the evil empire or plucky rebel group) religion is a great tool to get people fired up. To get the weak to dig in like tics, or to get the strong to kill everything that moves without remorse.

But wars and genocides are caused by things like where the food is, where the oil is… resources and who is going to control them.

Imo, of course.

David L. Shutter said...

Interesting. But I think religion gets oversold as the “cause” of… anything really

Well, there's a couple different topics going on now. I bought up religion as a root justification for centuries of womens's subjugation. But if you're asking me about religion as a cause for wars, then I have to say that religion has and is the main cause for a lot.

Crusades, inquistitions, witch trials, ongoing middle-eastern turmoil, Pakistan-India conflict, the list goes on and on.

But wars and genocides are caused by things like where the food is, where the oil is...

Completely agree that war has often been a form of venture capitalism. One of the opening lines of "Blood Diamond", scene with the summit on conflict zones, hits it on the head: "Whenever a valuable resource has been discovered in Africa, the local population has died or been displaced in massive numbers."

In my very humble opinion as a history buff, and as no kind of expert, I don't think wars ever start for a single reason save for a few examples. But has religion often been used as an accelerant? Absolutely.

Frank Zubek said...

Bravo. Thanks for all you do.

Justin Jordan said...

" I don't think wars ever start for a single reason save for a few examples."

Nope, every war happens for the same reason: competition for limited resources. Not always in the obvious, "you have it, I'm going to take it" sense.

Often times (especially now) they're of the "I think you're going to try and take it so I'll kill you frist"

But it always boils down to two entities wanting the same thing. Religion and politics are the justifications, not the reason.

Tiffany N. York said...

I know I'm in the minority here, but as a relative newbie having only published one romance through a small press, I have to admit I'm writing my current one geared toward HQ.

I want to build a fan base, and HQ has an established base of readers. I'd like the name behind me. From what I've seen, many, many writers have started with HQ, and when they go elsewhere, the fans go with them.

This is vital in a sea of self-pubbed works.

I also see a lot of best-selling authors who publish with one of the big 5, yet still continue to write for HQ. Why is this? Loyalty? These women certainly don't need the lesser sum they receive from HQ, so there must be a reason.

I think exposure is the best way to get recognized, and in my humble opinion, HQ has that in spades.

Jude Hardin said...

I have to admit I'm writing my current one geared toward HQ.

Why not gear it toward Amazon's Montlake imprint? You'll get exposure, plus a decent contract.

Anonymous said...

Sharon said...
This was awesomely awesome!

Hope Welsh said...

Wow, I'd love to have your agent, Joe!

For a lot of authors that write romance, "Harlequin" used to be the place to be. It made you an 'author' to readers.

Now? Not so much. But, although I haven't sent them a book in years and years--I'd probably sell them one at some point if I had a story in my mind that would fit their line...why?

Because there are still a lot of readers that don't feel any publisher not from NY is worth reading. LOTS of bad, bad indie fiction out there--and it's getting harder to sell.

Harlequin has a following--so while I realize I'd be throwing away one book--at least it'd get my name out there. Call it publicity (as they are shipped to doors each month)

But would I want a career there? Probably not.

I couldn't wait to get my rights back to the publisher I DID sell to. It made more in one month than it'd made in three years. (They priced it too high)

So, call me an indie. Guess that's where I'll probably be staying.

The first refusal would throw me off. A 'like' book could be considered any romance you write!

Joyce Dade said...

I am astonished reading this post. It is humbling to read how one person can without fear or malice cover so much ground and with so much eloquence and insight, speak for so many who are unable to speak for themselves in such a context for all the obvious reasons. Thank you for this response to a questionaire that has come far too late to compensate for injustices of the past. I am a solid fan of yours, Mr. Konrath and grateful for your courage of conviction and truthful, generous and illuminating analysis of the publishing world as it undergoes rebirth. Thank you so very much for your fearlessness and for the truth in no uncertain terms.

jentaltyauthor said...

Well, if Bob Mayer gets to go to RT as Konrath then he must wear the wings I heard Konrath wore last year and then I get to as Bob.

Frank Bukowski said...

Awesome post, buddy.

Tricia O'Malley said...

Thanks for your thorough response to this survey. I will be self-publishing my first novel soon and often have anxiety around my decision to do so. It seems as though many people not associated with the industry or agents/lawyers that have been in the biz for a long time stress that you *must* go with a traditional publisher. Yet authors are the ones producing a strong rally cry for self-publishing. This blog post gives me faith and supports my decision to move forward on my own path. Thank you for the time and care you take with educating your readers.

Anonymous HQ Author said...

"Your post asked what HQ authors make."

As an HQ author, who has probably written my last book for them, I can tell you that for a category romance of about 50,000 words, I got a $6,500 advance. But because the books tend to fly off the shelves of your local Wal-Mart (or used to, at least), the average book would net me about 15-20K over a period of a year or two. Not bad for a month's work.

That said, it galls me that I'll never get any of those books back. So I guess I was more or less writing for hire.