Monday, December 07, 2009

Author Solutions CEO Responds to Harlequin/Nelson Flap

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

Kevin Weiss, President and CEO of Author Solutions Inc., has issued a video statement addressing the responses by RWA, SFWA, MWA, and NINC to ASI's recent partnerships with commercial publishers in launching pay-to-publish divisions.

According to ASI's press release about the video statement,

Weiss takes exception to these guilds' position that only traditionally-published books can succeed. "There are plenty of books in traditional publishing today that just don't make it; it's a hits business," Weiss said. "It's why the publishing industry is going through a transformation today and the consumer has everything to say about what is good content and what isn't good content. To say that in order for a book to make it in the marketplace it has to blessed by a traditional publisher doesn't make any sense in 2009."

Which of course is not at all what the various "guilds'" statements said, but oh well. Weiss also scolds the "guilds" for being backward-looking, but does not address the conflict-of-interest and deceptive advertising concerns raised by several of the statements.

(Both Harlequin and Thomas Nelson are mentioned in the video, but the press release names only Harlequin--likely because Nelson has not, to date, been the target of the same level of criticism. This is unfair, in my view--I see no reason why, since Harlequin has been pilloried for DellArte Press, Nelson should be getting practically a free pass with West Bow Press.)

24 comments:

Lee Goldberg said...

The reason West Bow has not been an issue for MWA is because the Thomas Nelson has never been on our Approved Publishers list. My guess is that they were on the lists for SFWA or RWA either.

Robin Bayne said...

It seems to me, as a Christian writer, that there is more acceptance of using a self or subsidy publisher for those who want to get their message out. Perhaps it's because we believe if our work reaches only a few people, it may still touch someone in need.

I see more writers going this route on various Christian loops, which may be why the Nelson program hasn't received much bad attention. Of course, most of us know NOT to choose that route if we want to make an income.

Julie said...

Heh. For a "publisher," that guy doesn't have much reading comprehension...

Jill Edmondson said...

I agree with you about the conflict of interest, and am disgusted by the sneakiness of it all.

It's one thing to have POD an dVanity and whatever, it's quite another to disguise it as something that it's not.

I only hope that serious writers steer clear of these charlatans and stick to their gunes, hold fast to their integrity.

Keep trying, you will get published - maybe sooner than later, maybe later than sooner, but don't give up!

Cheers, Jill
"Blood and Groom" is now in stores!
Check out the trailer here: http://ow.ly/FGOm

Victoria Strauss said...

Lee, SFWA doesn't have approved publishers, and its statement covered only Harlequin, but I'm assuming that if a Nelson author applied for SFWA membership, SFWA would take the same position as for Harlequin. Not a lot of SF/fantasy publishing at Nelson, though.

I'm told that Nelson was on the RWA-eligible list, and has now been removed--but RWA's public statement mentioned only Harlequin.

Robin, I think you're right about there being more acceptance of fee-based publishing among Christian writers, and that this (as well as other things) explains the lack of outrage over West Bow among Christian writers. However, West Bow poses the exact same conflict of interest and deceptive advertising issues as does Harlequin--so it seems to me that writers and publishing people who are outraged over Harlequin should be equally outraged over West Bow--not just because of the similarity between the two programs, but because of the possibility that more publishers might add similar fee-based divisions. That doesn't seem to be the case, however.

Anonymous said...

Thomas Nelson has already contacted Preditors & Editors (P&E) about its rating but after being informed that P&E would correspond only by writing and not by telephone, Thomas Nelson hasn't followed up.

David Kuzminski, Editor
Preditors & Editors (tm)

P.N. Elrod said...

I discussed this last night with another writer who has sold to HQN and heard from various newbies hoping to sell to them.

The instant HQN announced the Hh deal (now DellArte) the newbies all wanted to know if that would be a good move for them.

Shiny-eyed and excited at the prospect, they did not read the fine print and assumed their vanity-print books would BE IN STORES in a rack right next to the HQN titles.

After all, they're paying for that space, right?

NOT kidding. That's what they were thinking.

I hope they've wised up since then, but I'm disgusted by HQN sending the their slush pile rejects over to DellArte.

It's like your sweet granny can't give you a job, but tells you to go pay a fee to that brothel next door and they'll set you up.

HQN is perfectly aware of the conflict of interest, but apparently will continue to ignore that gorilla lounging in the parlor so long as the cash pours in.

Better believe that OTHER publishers are ALSO watching this shameful, but profitable move.

Anonymous said...

@Victoria RWA's public statement mentioned only Harlequin.

As far as I was aware the RWA did not and has not made any public statements. The RWA made a private statement to members about Harlequin. Members then chose to post the message all over. Subsequent messages have been very explicit about not forwarding.

Anonymous said...

Freudian slip?

Through strategic alliances with leading trade publishers, ASI is making it possible for publishers to monetize unpublished manuscripts, develop new literary talent efficiently, and provide emerging authors a platform for bringing their books to market.

Monetize unpublished manuscripts. Hmm, pretty much sums up the debate in my mind.

Plus, if this company has such great PR people and packages, wouldn't you think they'd be able to tailor their own press releases to the target market?

Lee Goldberg said...

This is interesting... even self-published authors aren't fooled by the Authorhouse statement and how it evades the central issues.

http://mickrooney.blogspot.com/2009/12/asi-ceo-responds-to-harlequinthomas.html

Victoria Strauss said...

Monetize unpublished manuscripts. Hmm, pretty much sums up the debate in my mind.

Yeah, and that's the main attraction of the scheme for commercial publishers.

Adding clickability to the link Lee provided above. Mick Rooney is a savvy observer of the self-publishing scene, and keeps a close eye on developments therein.

Julie said...

@Lee:

That's because even self-published authors know the difference between self-publishing and vanity publishing.

Anonymous said...

Thomas Nelson hasn't caused the same outcry for two reasons, which are really two sides of the same reason:

1. The average writer has never even thought of submitting to them.

2. Those writers who do submit to them are part of the subculture that Thomas Nelson serves.

The combination of 1. and 2. means that most people who could raise a fuss don't really care, and the remainder are too loyal to their own group to object.

Michael said...

I did not give Nelson a free pass, and neither should anyone else.

I said that Christian publisher Thomas Nelson needs to go back to the seminary and take a course in morality and ethics.

http://bookmakingblog.blogspot.com/2009/10/we-need-11th-commandment-new-christian_15.html

Michael N. Marcus

author of "Become a Real Self-Publisher," http://www.amazon.com/dp/0981661742

author of "Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults), coming 4/1/10. http://silversandsbooks.com/storiesbookinfo.html

http://BookMakingBlog.blogspot.com
http://www.SilverSandsBooks.com

S. M. Carrière said...

Of course they would ignore the real issues and try to spin people away from them - if too many people knew too much, there might be a severe backlash.... or there might not be, since people would do just about anything to see their books in print.
I'm very disappointed in HQ right now.

Janny said...

I ranted about West Bow months ago when it happened, as well...but then again, I am also not averse to kicking up fusses in the business. Many of my Christian brothers and sisters in the writing biz seem to think that "humility" dictates we not call a spade a spade. I don't subscribe to that misguided idea of humility. :-) I think BOTH of these moves are disgraces, and if anything, Thomas Nelson's is WORSE.

JB

Deb said...

Agree with Janny. It's neither worse nor better that a Christian publisher of some repute goes this route. Both are simply deceptive and as such, wrong-headed.

There is, however, a tendency among us C-fic writers not to say anything if we can't play nice. This is unfortunate and deprives newcomers of the chance to know what's what.

Victoria Strauss said...

What I think is that the discussion of Harlequin should have included Nelson, and vice-versa. Mixing pay-to-play with commercial publishing is problematic in principle, not because one publisher does it. But that's what the discussion suggests: it's bad because Harlequin did it, and as for Nelson, that's just the Christian market, it's different and they're different, so oh well.

Robin Bayne said...

I agree Deb, I think that's why there is a perception of acceptance.

P.N. Elrod said...

In the quoted statement he used "traditional" three times in regard to publishers and publishing.

What a nice, reassuring, and wholly meaningless word.

I am NOT a "traditionally" published writer.

I am a COMMERCIALLY published writer.

My books go to commercial houses who pay real money for my words.

Looks like someone's been reading the PublishAmerica website for marketing tips.

Victoria Strauss said...

Unfortunately I think we're fighting a losing battle against "traditional." It's used more and more frequently now in journalism, and even by publishing people who ought to know better. Very frustrating!

Minka's tail said...

This is off topic a little, but it pertains to Harlequin and their marketing of dreams to would-be writers.

They recently had a contest on their website, open to everyone, no experience or agent needed. I entered, and so did 500 others. I knew it was a long shot to win, but I had fun writing the chapter and synopsis and didn't expect more than that. Other women on their forum were really, really hopeful. One woman checked her e-mail a dozen times a day, one woke up at 3:00 in the morning to see if she won. I think they genuinely thought Harlequin would adore their manuscript and pluck them out of obscurity.

Well, you can guess what happened. The person who won (the American division) was a published author with about 12 books out, at least one I've seen at B. Dalton. The second place American is also published (2 books) and the top Brit is friends with one of their published authors. Only one of the four winners was a talented nobody, as far as I can determine.

Is this fishy? Maybe. For one thing, it raises the specter of collusion. A published author would have agents and editors, who may know agents and editors at Harlequin. Who knows if the judging was fair?

Even if these semi-famous authors did write the best, well, why wouldn't they? They've had years of being edited, marketed, inside information (I would guess) about what sells and doesn't, that the typical person isn't privy to. I don't think they should have been allowed to compete against the masses, at least not in the same division. Would it have hurt Harlequin to have two or more divisions, based on publishing experience? And why would someone who probably has an agent and contacts want to enter a contest against hopeful newbies, anyway? Is publishing that bad right now economically?

Harlequin definitely encourages would-be authors, but then seems to buy manuscripts from the same group of people. I think this is all a marketing ploy to get people to either A: Buy more of their books (so they can study them in hopes of copying their formula--it worked for me!) or B: Pay 500 dollars to self-publish. Either way, it's seems, if not illegal or unethical, just a little wrong.

christine tripp said...

Unfortunately I think we're fighting a losing battle against "traditional." It's used more and more frequently now in journalism, and even by publishing people who ought to know better. Very frustrating!


Just to touch on the topic of using the term "commercial" as opposed to "traditional".
I am a recent convert and very happy to now call what I do commercial but I'm not surprised that it's a bit of a losing battle to change terminolegy in the industry. In the arts world at least, commercial always had a "lesser then" connotation.
"Commercial Artist" was (and I guess still is) a term a "fine artist" would use for say an animator or an illustrator working in the advertising/greeting card markets. It appeared these illustrators were selling out, creating art only for a weekly pay cheque, as opposed to creating art for arts sake. The term has always carried with it a stigma. Example: you can attend Commercial arts college, or you can attend University for a degree in fine art. One certainly sounds more lofty a goal to many, then the other, right?
Personally, I am proud to call myself a commercial artist, and I suppose that means we would called "traditionally published" authors, commercial writers, but there will always be that ellite group that feels commercial is a bad word.

P.N. Elrod said...

Christine Tripp,

I'm happy to be a commercial writer, and never pretended my work was artistic, just hopefully entertaining.

And I am delighted at getting paid for it. Being a starving artist sucks, whatever one's venue of expression.

Take heart. I got this from a H'wood agent:

It isn't selling out.

It's cashing in!

;>)