Monday, November 23, 2009

Harlequin, You're Brilliant!

“We need to be more controversial.”

This is what Robert says to me at dinner tonight. My response? Sure. Just post the following sentence:

______________________________is the greatest president we’ve ever had.

Yep. Post it once a week and fill in random names of presidents. That ought to generate enough controversy to fill a thousand blogs. That’s what I responded, but would that satisfy him? Nooo. Seems our blog is supposed to be about publishing, not politics. About the wonderful world in which we ensconce ourselves 23, maybe 24, hours a day…


Most agent blogs that get linked to over and over include information aggregated, disseminated, and a bunch of other kinds of –ateds from other publishing entities and self-proclaimed professionals worked into a posts that offer readers incredible and fascinating insights into the world of writing for publication at large. There are people in publishing, and those who pretend to be in publishing, who take their valuable time to coordinate all these ideas and put the effort into making them into sometimes remotely understandable blog posts. What do they get for it? Hits? Writer love? The intrinsic reward of knowing they’ve contributed to the cause of empowering writers and making the world of publishing a better place?

Poodle piddle.

I don’t know what they get from it. I know I get a headache. I get a headache because we constantly get people e-mailing us about why we don’t blog more like those other agents, editors, and publishing professional posers. What they really mean is “Give us some more free information about how to get published.” Blah.

Blah. Blah. Blah.

Our blog’s purpose is so that writers can get a sense of who we are and maybe get some publishing tips along the way, not to provide insider information to fledgling authors looking for a shortcut to success. If we do offer information, we’re not being altruistic. We’re selfish, because we’re hoping writers will learn enough so that we’ll stop getting queries like the four I got today that made me wonder if, by ridiculous query #4, there was someone out there writing fake queries just to see what I would do. That’s how extremely low level they were.

So-and-so just bought such-and-such! Mr. Fake Agent has his fingers on the pulse of NYC publishing! Ms. Bookbritches, editor extraordinaire, just bought three books from a new author after meeting her in a coffee shop.

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Whatever.

Looking for insider information? Become an insider. I did. I fought hard for it, too.

Looking for controversy? There’s this new-fangled contraption called the Internet. Lots of controversy on there.

But Robert wanted me to come up with some controversial stuff, so I said I’d do my best. As it turns out, Harlequin Enterprises and a bunch of other agents, editors, and writers did most of the work for me, which supports the claim in publishing circles that if you wait long enough, SOMEONE will do it.

If you want the scoop, click here or here or here. Or just take my word for it that Harlequin has decided to start a subsidy publishing endeavor called Harlequin Horizons, or, by the time you read this, it will be something else as they’ve decided to drop the Harlequin name from the company to distinguish it from the parent company. To read more about that, click here.

Have you sensed the irony yet? Click, click, click. lol

A number of people have weighed in on this, not the least of which is the RWA, who revoked Harlequin’s status as an eligible publisher. People have speculated on Harlequin’s bold move, and most who are for it state so, but with qualifiers. Personally, I think Harlequin is freaking brilliant…with no qualifiers. First Carina Press is unveiled, and now this. Someone at the company has realized that status quo is dead and gone. Society has officially entered into “Jetson,” and it’s never turning back. It couldn’t if it wanted to.

Publishing is going forward, with or without the consent of those who would deem themselves the decision-makers. Readers are the REAL decision-makers, and I think too many of us in publishing have forgotten that little vital piece of information or choose to dismiss it because we know how fickle readers can be, and it is too scary to contemplate that our livelihoods might be based on the fancies of the population at large.OMG.

Let’s face it. Publishing is a money-making endeavor, but those we make money from, because it’s a creative enterprise, are notoriously unpredictable. ADMIT IT! I’m a reader; you’re a reader. Haven’t you ever had a literary itch to scratch? For example, one time I was desperate to read a Nancy Drew mystery from my childhood. Is a publisher supposed to make a living off people like me wanting a bit o’ the mystery now and then? Multiply my whim by a zillion and you’ve got yourself a dry skin condition the Hecatonchires can’t scratch (it’s a mythology reference…look it up).

So publishing aims for the middle of the Bell curve, that group that it can identify readily because there are always certain concepts that sell in entertainment (which is why you see them over and over and OVER again). Occasionally, publishers will get crazy and follow a book off the charts because it’s taking them somewhere they can make money. Eventually, however, everyone comes back to the curve and settles there until someone drags them off it again because it’s familiar. It’s the Way It’s Always Been. Because of this, along with misguided efforts of writer advocates and organizations, the industry hasn’t really been able to innovate until now, and that’s only because it had to. This method doesn’t work really well in education, and it certainly doesn’t work well in publishing, or the whole framework wouldn’t be ready to fold.

Each of us has to decide whether we want to jump on the bandwagon or let it run over us. Me? I want to drive it. Why? Traditional publishing is like traditional education—it only serves a few. Granted, they may be a brilliant few, but look at all the others who are left behind. Look at the talent left by the side of the road because it doesn’t fit some paradigm that has no logical connection to the real world and the technology-enriched society that humankind has evolved into.We can do better. And imagine the possibilities if we did.

And by the way, Thomas Jefferson is the greatest president we’ve ever had.


Scott Jensen said...

Sharene, you need to write a humor book about being an agent and publishing. Your blog post was genuinely funny. As the saying goes, behind every joke is a kernel of truth. Yours had a whole head of corn there. And you don't have to try to be ha-ha funny. You just have to write about the crazy, bizarre, and the incredibly stupid things that agents, publishers, published writers, and wannabe writers do.

Now if you could do all that in a week-in-the-life style of writing, it might get made into a comedy movie. Something like "The Producers". Not writing about what actually happened during a specific week but putting all the madhouse that you know of into one week. "Chapter One: Monday"

Great post!

Keli Scrapchansky said...

Yes, exactly. I've been following the Harlequin controversy and wondering when someone would realize that yes, indeed they are brilliant. I don't want to self publish, but so what. I'm not the only word peddler around here.

Kim Baccellia said...

Very true! If anything Harlequin is the talk of Twitter and other agent/editor blogs right now. And not in a positive way.

It always has bugged me how just a few can decide what we want to read. Or stop any new ideas because it's not what a few decide is right. I know self-publishing isn't for me but then again I know others who this works for.

I'm curious to see what happens with Harlequin. And if others will join.

Ebs said...

With revenues declining for just about all industries, and publishing already facing a great many challenges, Harelquin found a new business model that has the potential for excellent ROI. Is it fair to the budding author? Well no. But then, whoever said publishing was fair?

BTW - Jefferson was great but John Adams was better.

T. D. McKinney

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised at the whole Harlequin situation. However, if it works, go with it. You can't stop a speeding train with a penny on the tracks.

And Ronald Reagan was the greatest president ever!