Best-selling author Patricia McLinn was part of Harlequin’s house of writers, publishing 25 novels with the big house over a 19 year period. Considering that’s more than a novel a year, it’s obvious McLinn was willing to work hard at her trade.
Ultimately, she became dissatisfied with the arrangement and chose to go indie. Why?
McLinn’s decision proved prescient. In 2011 she found herself at odds with Harlequin over royalty payments for ebook rights. Such rights can contain wiggle room if the contracts were signed before ebooks became commonplace. That was the case with McLinn and other authors who believed they were owed more money than the big house claimed. Harlequin, like many other transnational corporations, established subsidiaries in other countries as part of its strategy.
By 2011, McLinn had already gone indie:
“A word about Harlequin contracts – they are essentially not negotiable, with extremely limited exceptions. You might be stunned at the major authors Harlequin could have kept if it had been willing to negotiate a bit. It chose instead to let those authors walk. You either accept the contract as Harlequin writes it or you don’t publish with Harlequin. (The latter became my choice around 2008.) They could do this because of the structure and business climate of publishing at that time… By the end of 19 years with them I was disheartened, depressed, and done. I didn’t think I would write for publication ever again. I didn’t even want to try.
By 2011, however, I was back on track. I was publishing backlist books as an indie, I was writing again and publishing those originals as an indie.”
McLinn, after all, had already established her readership and those readers obviously liked what she created.
Today technology enables an artist, regardless of medium, to connect directly with an audience. There’s little need for a middle man as long as the artist is willing to take on the chores of running a business, promoting a product, and conducting sales campaigns. While a publishing house can take a lot of the nuts and bolts out of the mix for an author, that same house will score the lion’s share of profits.
I speak from experience, although my books weren’t published by a house anywhere near as big as Harlequin. As a writer, I always envisioned the dream of getting signed by a traditional publisher. Having experienced that, I’ve come to the conclusion that if I do another book (and that is likely), I’ll just bring it out myself.
As for the dispute with Harlequin, McLinn and the other authors triumphed. The case didn’t make it to court because Harlequin settled. At her blog, McLinn provided a breakdown on the case, and it is astounding, in part because of the publisher’s legal demands.
McLinn’s decision to go indie says a lot not only about the book publishing world, but about the arts in general. There’s never been a better time to be an indie author or artist regardless of your creative product. The keys to success comprise building an audience, successful messaging to that audience, and creating a product the audience wants and will pay for.
McLinn’s readers don’t seek a publishing house product, they seek a specific author’s work.
Harlequin is one of the largest publishers of romance titles in the world.
(By Kay B. Day/Feb. 27, 2017)