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And we thought that e-book authors were the only ones particularly gifted with the ‘Shaft-Me’ device. *Jokes*

I know I’m coming in a bit late on this, however apparently, HQN recently sent out a letter to their authors basically telling them that they were going to be digitising their backlists. This is a good thing obviously, but the problem is, they only want to offer them 15% net royalty payments. (How is net calculated again?) Apparently the standard within major publishers is 25%, which quite frankly seems pretty low to me anyway, for a vastly less expensive way to produce a book.

Here’s the letter, taken from E-Reads.Com:

Dear Author,

The landscape of digital publishing continues to evolve at a fast pace and Harlequin is at the forefront of this evolution. In 2007 Harlequin was the first publisher to simultaneously publish print and digital editions of our entire frontlist. Since then we have also digitized and brought to market our backlist and now have a current catalogue of over 11,000 ebooks!
The Harlequin brand has always offered an advantage other publishers don’t have and this is especially true for ebooks. Our digital marketing efforts focus on building the Harlequin brand to drive the sales of your books through newsletter programs, advertising, search engine marketing, social media properties, the Harlequin website and leading ebook retailers. All this means better search and discoverability by online shoppers and an endorsement of the quality of the read, which is critical in the midst of the online clutter.

Harlequin has been closely monitoring developments in digital publishing, including author compensation. As you know, until now Harlequin’s position has been that digital royalty rates as a percentage of cover price is a more transparent way to pay authors than as a percentage of net receipts: authors know exactly how many copies they sold at what price and their compensation is not affected by unspecified costs. Over the past several months we have worked to ensure a smooth transition from the current percentage of cover price calculation to a net receipts calculation while maintaining the same transparency. As such, Harlequin will be amending digital royalty rates.
Effective January 1, 2012, series authors who are actively writing for Harlequin will receive a digital royalty rate of 15% of net digital receipts for each digital unit sold in the English language, United States and Canada, frontlist and backlist. This will include books in Harlequin’s digital backlist program, Harlequin Treasury.

Given that these are more favorable terms than those in your existing contract(s), this notification will be considered the amendment to those contract(s). If you wish to maintain the existing terms of the contract(s), please let us know by Friday, July 15th, 2011.

The contempt that HQN has for its authors is clearly evidenced in that letter I think. They’re fully aware that their prominence within the genre gives them the power to do what they like. That’s why they can afford to be “transparent”.

I’m not actually surprised, I think Nora Roberts knows a thing or two about what viperous snakes they can be when it comes to protecting their interests. She had a massive falling out with them years ago when they tried to shove their dicks up her arse I believe.

If I was a HQN author, I’d probably tell them to go fuck themselves, but if I was a HQN author with a mortgage, I’d probably consider the mortgage payments and the visibility that they give authors via their huge promo machine.

HQN authors should band together and and demand that Harlequin re-visit these Ts and Cs, but we all know that authors aren’t the most militant types out there. Which means they’ll probably just bend over, and take the royal shafting being doled out by HQN, and just accept this response via Dear Author as the gospel truth without checking out there own contracts to see if the calculations work.

And quite frankly, even if the calculations show an increase, it doesn’t change the fact that Harlequin are offering way below the industry standard, and have been for years when it comes to dead-tree books. The thing is though, HQN authors are probably just happy to be writing for, arguably, the first name in romance when it comes to publishing.

The Royal shafting has been happening for years within HQN, I guess this is just one more penis being added to the process.


  • Why do I have a feeling it’s going to get worse for authors and their publishers? With Borders closing and B&N probably closing more of their stores in favor of the Nook and how well that’s doing, publishers are going to find more ways to make money.

    Scary times in publishing. Makes me wonder why any writing would want to publish with the big 6, as they say, and not just self-publish or stick with digital?


  • Because the Big 6 has the time and resources to market and produce books while not every author wants to handle or is capable of handling the non-writing side of publishing.


  • DS
    July 25
    12:13 am

    Harlequin and Elizabeth Lowell also had a falling out. It’s why some of her early series aren’t finished. It’s just business though– Harlequin knew about business and their authors didn’t.

    And it’s not just Harlequin. Was it here I read that Loveswept didn’t have a reversion of rights clause in their contracts?


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