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Old 07-23-2012, 07:40 AM   #61
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Originally Posted by Kali Yuga View Post
The question is how many of those titles were sold as ebooks and in significant amounts.
Are you suggesting a scam (legal or otherwise) is okay unless the amount of money is big?

Harlequin has been selling a *lot* of ebooks.
(But not as many as they want to. The indie publishers are eroding their business which is moving *strongly* to ebooks.)

The scam, regardless of the amount of money involved is simply a bad business practice; in the current climate they are already losing customers, if they start losing *experienced* authors with established careers and newcomers are warned off they are not going to be industry leaders for long.

It doesn't matter if they're saints or devils: They are shooting themselves in the foot for what you, yourself, claim is no significant amount of money.

How smart is that?
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Old 07-23-2012, 02:51 PM   #62
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Originally Posted by speakingtohe View Post
Take mineral rights for example. If the sales contract says that the seller will retain rights to 20% of the moneys derived from these mineral rights, does this dissapear on resale of the property without your agreement? Maybe it does and I am unaware.
It's not a good comparison. Contracts dealing with land use rights are a whole different ball of wax, because they generally involve both contracts and easements or other covenants that run with the land.

Perhaps a better analogy is when David Duchovny sued Fox for selling rerun rights to the X-Files to FX, a sister company, for less money than they would have gotten on the open market. This reduced the amount of money he received as his contractual entitlement for such deals. That's basically what the authors are accusing of Harlequin here, but they claim Harlequin far more brazen, and that the Swiss company was basically set up for just this purpose (as well as avoiding taxes).
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Old 07-23-2012, 04:58 PM   #63
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Originally Posted by fjtorres View Post
Are you suggesting a scam (legal or otherwise) is okay unless the amount of money is big?
It's up to the court to decide whether the contracts are being honored. If so, then it's not a "scam."

You incorrectly stated that "all" Harlequin authors are affected, but that's not the case.

It's only people with contracts active between 1999 and 2004 that were sold as ebooks. It's unclear how much is actually at stake.


Quote:
Originally Posted by fjtorres
Harlequin has been selling a *lot* of ebooks.
(But not as many as they want to. The indie publishers are eroding their business which is moving *strongly* to ebooks.)
Actually, Harlequin was one of the first publishers to convert their front and back catalogs to digital. They increased ebook royalties across the board from 6% to 15% a few years ago, including on all older contracts.

They've also been raking it in for the last few years, including increased sales during the recession. They got hit a bit in Q1 of this year, mostly due to drops in print sales, and also due to declines in European sales. As an international company, they're also affected by currency issues.

It's also worth mentioning that they are still one of the biggest publishers in the world, and they are still on the wholesale model, instead of pushing for Agency. Most of their books sell for around $4. Yes, obviously they are total bastards, and people are fleeing the brand as a result....
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Old 07-23-2012, 05:26 PM   #64
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The interesting thing here is that Harlequin should be the darling of the anti BPH crowd. They jumped on ebooks early , their prices are low and their books are (I believe) DRM free-which makes them damn near the perfect publisher, from a Mobile Read POV.
Apparently, it may have achieved some of its success by having its authors enter in some dodgy tax -shelter deal. Oh well...
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Old 07-23-2012, 05:36 PM   #65
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Originally Posted by fjtorres
To prevail, Harlequin merely has to convince the court that licensing an ebook that sells for US$4.99 for $0.50 is a perfectly reasonable thing to do.
No, they have to convince the court of their interpretation of events. It is utterly irrelevant if you think the authors got a bad deal.

The plaintiffs are not saying that the contracts were unconscionable. They're saying the correct royalty rate ought to be 50% rather than 3% or 6%.

Oh, and yes, a 10% royalty rate may be a bit low, but it's really not that awful. Especially since Harlequin pays halfway decent advances.


Quote:
Originally Posted by fjtorres
As wikipedia notes, Harlequin practices have been frowned upon for years....
In 2009, they started a vanity press called "Harlequin Horizons." (Yes, so many people wanted to be published by Harlequin, that they were willing to pay for the privilege and no real distribution.) The RWA and others called them on it, so in less than a month they renamed themselves "DellArte," and removed all references to Harlequin on the website.

That's hardly an example of "practices frowned upon for years."


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Originally Posted by fjtorres
The real issue here is not so much whether Harlequin's practices are legal (unless you are one of the affected authors, poor souls) but that the practices are now public.
They've been public for a long, long time.

Romance writers blog; prospective and practicing romance authors participate in web forums. Thousands of authors have worked with them, and plenty are willing to talk about their experiences.

Even authors who are critical of Harlequin recognize that they have excellent editors, a good art department, high sales volume, pay advances, and do a lot of the sales work for you.
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Old 07-23-2012, 05:39 PM   #66
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Originally Posted by stonetools View Post
The interesting thing here is that Harlequin should be the darling of the anti BPH crowd.
They should. But there's no pleasing the people who don't have the slightest idea how the business actually works.
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Old 07-23-2012, 05:39 PM   #67
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Originally Posted by stonetools View Post
their books are (I believe) DRM free
I think only the books from their imprint Carina Press are DRM free.
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Old 07-23-2012, 09:21 PM   #68
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Originally Posted by Soldim View Post
So, in principle, it is not limited in it's business to Harlequin -- whether the do business with other companies on the publishing level I don't know. It's rather unlikely they don't do business with financial institutions outside of the Harlequin group.
Yeah, and?

If Harlequin had given them the rights for free, would that still be OK?

As I understand it, the case is likely to hinge on whether Harlequin were receiving a competitive rate from their subsidiary or could have licensed the rights for substantially more money elsewhere. I have a hard time believing that they couldn't have got more than 6% for those rights from a company which wasn't a subsidiary.
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Old 07-23-2012, 10:54 PM   #69
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Originally Posted by charlesatan View Post
This agreement was before eBooks. How is income from eBooks relevant now?
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Old 07-23-2012, 11:13 PM   #70
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Originally Posted by MidnightBlue View Post
This agreement was before eBooks. How is income from eBooks relevant now?
If you'd gone back to the previous page, you would have read:

Quote:
The 1990-2004 standard form publishing agreements provided that the Plaintiffs were to be paid 50% of the net receipts of the "Publisher" from the exercise, sale, or license of digital rights to their works.
And e-books were around well before 2004.
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Old 07-24-2012, 01:00 AM   #71
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Originally Posted by stonetools View Post
The interesting thing here is that Harlequin should be the darling of the anti BPH crowd. They jumped on ebooks early , their prices are low and their books are (I believe) DRM free-which makes them damn near the perfect publisher, from a Mobile Read POV.
Apparently, it may have achieved some of its success by having its authors enter in some dodgy tax -shelter deal. Oh well...
Their ebooks are not DRM-free, and for a long time, they were only available as .lit. They do have low prices and regular bargains.

They carved out a niche for themselves by taking an approach most other publishers wouldn't remotely try--subscriptions. This converted to ebooks amazingly well. Most buyers had no idea that the authors were getting paid substantially less than authors signed up with other publishers; the authors didn't notice for a long time, because a fairly prolific Harlequin author could make a decent living, and they knew that most authors couldn't. There was no way to compare publishing deals to find out if a prolific romance author could do better elsewhere; there was no "elsewhere."

An author who challenged any aspect of the contract would be frozen out, stuck without a job, sometimes without the right to continue using their name on future books. Now... authors have other career options, and that brings with it the power to seek reparations for the harms done to them. Even if the lawsuit's not successful, they're not throwing away their future careers to be part of it.
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Old 07-24-2012, 01:56 AM   #72
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Originally Posted by Elfwreck View Post
Most buyers had no idea that the authors were getting paid substantially less than authors signed up with other publishers; the authors didn't notice for a long time, because a fairly prolific Harlequin author could make a decent living, and they knew that most authors couldn't.
It would disagree with the statement that the authors were getting paid substantial less than with other publishers. There's maybe less pay-out per book sold, but due to it's marketing, reputation and subscription based sales Harlequin sold (and sells) relatively large volumes. I know one Harlequin author, and she netted between 15 and 20 k$ per book -- writing two books a year for Harlequin which took about 6 weeks each including the editing stages.

Over 30 k$ for three months of work doesn't sound like a miserable salary to me, and I think that apart from the top 2% or 3% most (aspiring) authors would go for it.
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Old 07-24-2012, 07:48 AM   #73
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Originally Posted by Elfwreck View Post
Most buyers had no idea that the authors were getting paid substantially less than authors signed up with other publishers....
Harlequin is on par, if not better, than most other romance publishers. They pay royalties, which isn't common.

The only authors that do better, really, are the ones that sign with one of the Big 6. And they probably don't have nearly as many authors on their payroll.

By the way, Brenda Hiatt has done a survey of romance payouts since 2001. There's actually quite a bit of info out there about writing for Harlequin.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Elfwreck
An author who challenged any aspect of the contract would be frozen out, stuck without a job, sometimes without the right to continue using their name on future books.
This is incorrect.

Harlequin does not negotiate contracts -- as one might expect for a genre company that publishes 120 titles a month. (By the way, Harlequin reverts rights to the authors after 5-7 years, unless they are reprinted.) If you don't adhere to the terms of any contract, there are going to be some consequences.

Harlequin does not control pseudonyms. There's no problem if you want to switch to another publisher once you've fulfilled your obligations.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Elfwreck
Now... authors have other career options, and that brings with it the power to seek reparations for the harms done to them.
Getting a bit melodramatic, aren't we?

This has nothing to do with authors allegedly fleeing for self-publishing (something that doesn't seem to be the case). It's about ebook royalties for books published between 1999 and 2004, that were sold as ebooks.

Since Harlequin in 2012 gets around 13% of its revenues from ebooks, you might want to moderate those sweeping claims.
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Old 07-24-2012, 09:52 AM   #74
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Soldim View Post
It would disagree with the statement that the authors were getting paid substantial less than with other publishers.
...

Over 30 k$ for three months of work doesn't sound like a miserable salary to me, and I think that apart from the top 2% or 3% most (aspiring) authors would go for it.
Focusing on the dollar amounts instead of the percentages is part of the confusion. I should have said, "paid lower royalty percentages than most other publishers." And the contract may have been similar--6-10% depending on the situation/edition--but the *amount* given to the authors was often 3-6%, after Harlequin got done with their number-juggling.

Which may have been legal (we're about to find out, for some of it), but was still less than other genre contracts. Twenty years ago, there was pretty much no other option for those authors; now there is.
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Old 07-24-2012, 10:28 AM   #75
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Since Harlequin in 2012 gets around 13% of its revenues from ebooks, you might want to moderate those sweeping claims.
That would detract from the narrative, which is that publishers are EVUUUUL and that writers must flee the publisher's plantations for the "freedom" of self -pubbing.

In reality, of course, many romance writers would like to write for Harlequin so as to take advantage of its wonderful brand and guaranteed payment. They would prefer not to be stuck out in the wilderness of Smashwords, toiling in obscurity beside 100,000 amateurs.
It's one of the reasons why aspiring writers would agree to "unfair" contact terms with Harlequin. The self pub alternative is often worse.
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