Media Relations: media commentary and criticism

Monday, November 09, 2009

ex libris

-- ex libris -- harlequin is publishing WHAT?

So Harlequin is going to be publishing Gay and Lesbian romances. And, like, smutty books.

No, really.

No ... really.

Carina Press

Carina Press is a new digital-only publisher that combines editorial and marketing expertise with the freedom of digital publishing. With a long history of digital marketing and editorial experience, the Carina Press team is committed to bringing readers fresh voices and new, unique editorial.

Our philosophy is: no great story should go untold!

Carina Press will publish a broad range of fiction with an emphasis on romance and its subgenres. We will also acquire voices in mystery, suspense and thrillers, science fiction, fantasy, erotica, gay/lesbian, and more!

Our first books will hit the digital shelves in Spring 2010. Stay tuned!

Carina Press FAQ

As Carina Press is a division of Harlequin Enterprises Ltd, how is it different?

At the very basic level, Harlequin is a traditional print publisher with a robust digital-offering, while Carina Press is a digital-only publisher.

Both the contract and distribution channels are very different:
- The Carina Press contract does not include an advance or DRM, and authors are compensated with a higher royalty.
- Unlike Harlequin there is no guaranteed series distribution (no standing order, no direct mail, no overseas translation markets).
- Carina Press titles will be sold direct to consumers through the Carina Press website, and we’ll be securing 3rd party distribution on other websites....

All content © Harlequin Enterprises Limited

"Acquire voices" ... well, whatever.

Most likely, to the extent that gay romances get published, they're going to be M/M romance rather than gay -- that is, aimed and oriented at their women readers, rather than at the gay market. Developing a new client base would be massively difficult, after all, and they've had Torquere and Samhain and Dreamspinner and Ravenous Romance and (somewhat accidentally) Cleis Press to show them that yes, there are lots and lots of women out there who will read stories of men in love and/or gettin' it on. And Carina, as long as people know that it's a Harlequin imprint, would be a desperately hard sell to gay bookstores and gay male readers. After all, we've long been conditioned to run screaming into the woods at the very sight of a Harlequin romance, because gooshy books that women like are icky! Icky icky icky! (We men are delicate flowers that wilt at the mere mention of women's literature and/or romance. Be gentle with us.)

(For the record, I have, somewhat accidentally, wound up with three Harlequin audiobooks. One was actually pretty enjoyable, although the pace of the reading kept the wacky hijinks from coming off quite the way the author probably intended. The other two, I must admit, were rather dreadful. Not because they were romances -- strangely enough, I like a good romance, meself -- but because the authors didn't seem to trust the characters or the story they were telling. They kept introducing extraneous obstacles, because if the characters actually just, you know, talked to each other, the stories would have been about half the required word length. It was very frustrating. But one digresses. For the record, I've also quite deliberately bought some from Ravenous Romance, including some gay(ish) and a couple of straight ones. Overall, not bad, although I do have Issues with some of the writers. But that's fodder for another entry.)

It really will be interesting to see what writers and what types of stories wind up getting published by Carina. The no-advance policy may deter some people from even trying to sell to them; it depends, in part, on what the royalty rate actually is. Judging from and Amazon's Kindle books, the price of your average e-book will be noticeably lower than that of a paperback, so it might wind up that you get a smaller amount of royalty moneys than you would from a traditionally published book, with or without advances, anyway.

The other interesting point, from a purely business perspective, is Harlequin deciding to make their books DRM-free. If they also pick one of the more open formats -- which, if they're not using DRM, they might as well do -- that will enable their books to be used on the Kindle, the nook (Barnes and Noble insists on the lower-case "n", and I'm certainly in no position to kvetch), netbooks and laptops or most PDAs and smart phones. There should be the potential for a surprisingly large market. It is, however, a highly unusual business decision; most of the current e-book publishers are pretty solidly in the "DRM! DRM! Oh, dear gawd, do not put something out without DRM lest we die! die! Die right here and now! Aieeee!" camp. Harlequin may be one of the few major publishers to decide not to copy-protect their works. This will, of course, lead to a certain amount of piracy, but it may also lead to slightly higher sales, as well, assuming that the model for the music industry is somewhat valid.

I have to admit, I am rather curious as to how Harlequin's M/M books will turn out. My main issue with the M/M romances that I've read is that the men frequently aren't particularly realistic, but then, I'm never quite sure how realistic romances are supposed to be. After all, they're a fantastical sort of literature, entirely by design. It seems rather pointless to harp at fantasies for not being real. I suppose my particular taste in romantical literature would be for more real men, though. Somehow, that seems to make for a story that works better.

But that's an entry for another day.

Questions? Comments? Brickbats?

Posted by iain at 07:23 PM in category ex libris