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Old 05-09-2012, 12:03 AM   #1
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Harlequin author Ann Voss Peterson earned $0.11 per book sold

A Newbie's Guide to Publishing: Harlequin Fail
http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2012/0...quin-fail.html

Short excerpt:

Quote:
If you do a (very) little digging into publishing companies, you'll discover that while the industry standard royalty rate for mass market paperback sales is 8% for US retail, Harlequin pays its series authors only 6%.

The royalty goes down from there.

All Harlequin series authors know that US retail royalties are going to be lower than industry standard going in. We also know that Harlequin pays rather low advances. My largest and most current advance was only $6,500 per book, but here's the kicker; the books are widely distributedand sell a lot of copies. I have NEVER failed to earn out in my first royalty statement. That's right, ALL of my books have earned out and then some.

So why can't I afford to write for them any longer?

Let me share with you the numbers of a book I wrote that was first published in January, 2002, still one of my favorites. My life-to-date statement says this book has sold 179,057 copies so far, and it has earned $20,375.22. (bold text by Joe) That means the average I've earned is a whopping 11 cents per copy. If you use the cover price to calculate (the number used in the contract), which was $4.50 at the time of release, I've earned an AVERAGE of 2.4 % per copy.
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Old 05-09-2012, 01:40 AM   #2
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Thanks Top 100! I've bookmarked this to give me encouragement in my quest to self-publish.
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Old 05-09-2012, 07:13 AM   #3
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Well, this is a company that was briefly classed as a vanity self-publisher and is responsible for a good chunk of the talk about how "getting published is expensive."

That having been said, I'd bet some of the audience reactions to Harlequin repackaging their old stuff was because the author wasn't using their social networking resources well enough. A post on facebook or an author blog saying, "Hey, everyone, Harlequin's re-releasing my old stuff and you can pick up anything you missed!" should help defuse it.
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Old 05-09-2012, 07:40 AM   #4
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Do you think they would be interested in a violent skinhead romance? I was thinking I might be able to get a bidding war going with them and Mills & Boon. There's millions of 50 year old ex-skinbyrds with nothing to read.
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Old 05-12-2012, 09:10 PM   #5
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And not atypical for the traditional publishing business. I am sooooo glad there is a new game in town!
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Old 05-14-2012, 05:47 AM   #6
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Interesting read but I think JAK's rant at the end is pointless rabble-rousing. Like so many other popular figures who made a name for themselves with a single issue, he's starting to believe his own rhetoric.

Peterson had ten years with Harlequin and will probably do VERY well self-publishing, but someone fresh to the game, isn't going to have the accumulated marketing that being a Harlequin author gives her.

How can you object to the royalty Harlequin was paying when no-body else was fighting to publish those books and make the investment?

Old publishing is dying, at least let it die in peace.
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Old 05-14-2012, 06:54 AM   #7
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Well two things, she was likely 'locked in' to a bad contract -- this is reprehensible and taking advantage of artists just as the music business has and most other commercial art firms have done in the past

and two the old publishers clearly will not "die in peace" as you put it. They are doing everything they can to stop the advance of 'new publishing' as is evidenced by the collusion in the agency model and refusing to allow ebooks in public libraries among other things.

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Old 05-15-2012, 09:00 AM   #8
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Okay. So you're saying she shouldn't have written those books? It takes two parties to make a bad contract valid. If a writer signs the contract put in front of her, and neither she, nor her agent if she has one, pipes up about improving the terms, then whose fault is that?

Let's say that Harlequin aren't prepared to negotiate on contract terms (unusual - the first contract you see is rarely the best one. Particularly after ten years working with them.) and adopt a take it or leave it attitude. She loses out on the work because she's priced herself out of the job. Somebody else comes along and accepts the same contract. How much of your anger are you going to direct at the second author? Capitalism is not a meritocracy. God knows, it is not.

Two people are potentially competing for the same contract (obviously it'll be many more than two people) and Harlequin has to decide who they'd rather have. All things being equal the better writer gets the job. If their first choice won't accept the terms, they move to the next writer. If neither of them sign then Harlequin changes their terms until somebody bites. The terms change to reflect the market rate. There is no obligation upon Harlequin to pay more than people are willing to work for. There isn't even the concept of a minimum wage under these circumstances.

Do you typically pay more than the asking price when going to the mall?

When a business makes a decision out of self-interest, it is demonized. When the little man does the same he is lionized. Both are taking what they consider to be the rational, logical decision. Business is never going to win that popularity contest.

She did the sensible thing. Stuck with the company that was paying her more than anyone else was offering until she had enough of a name to strike out on her own.

I don't really understand how the old publishing model is doing anything whatsoever to get in the way of the new publishing model. They barely intersect, and typically only when an old, moneyed, publisher decides to heap fame and riches upon a previously self-published author. Old publishing is only doing harm to itself. Nothing Harlequin does can stop you writing a romance and putting it out as an e-book, but if their own terms are unacceptable to their existing writers, they're clearly going to lose more talent. I suspect they'll take another look at their standard terms and make them more attractive to counteract both this and whatever negative publicity may be generated. They won't be doing it because their former terms were evil or reprehensible, they'll be doing it because market forces have determined that they have to in order to remain competitive.

EDIT: Something I was hoping someone might pick up on, was the similarity between writing romances for the likes of Harlequin and franchise novels like Star Wars etc. As I understand it they also suffer from lower royalties (split with the franchise owner I imagine) leading to many NYT bestsellers probably making a good deal less than you would imagine.

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Old 05-15-2012, 03:31 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dadioflex View Post
Capitalism is not a meritocracy.
Agreed! When I was growing up I was taught that it is.

Last edited by GA Russell; 05-15-2012 at 07:21 PM.
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Old 05-15-2012, 04:42 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Top100EbooksRank View Post
A Newbie's Guide to Publishing: Harlequin Fail
http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2012/0...quin-fail.html
"That means the average I've earned is a whopping 11 cents per copy."

Adobe earns $0.22 for every ADE copy-protected ebook sold.
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