Market: Harlequin opening a digital-only subsidary

The big news in the romance blogosphere yesterday was that Harlequin/Mills&Boon are opening a digital-only press, Carina Press, which will cover a much broader range of genres than the print divisions do. They’ll be publishing more than romance, and in romance they’ll be publishing material that wouldn’t fit into the print lines. While it doesn’t explicitly say so on the website, apparently that will include LGBT, multiracial, and other “non traditional” romances that have already proven popular at the established digital publishers. It will also include things which you might think at first glance would be perfectly traditional Mills & Boon fare, but which don’t actually fit into their existing lines — e.g., if you’ve got a cross-genre, it won’t be necessary to ramp up the romance to make it fit. The other print-related restriction that’s gone is story length — they’ll consider a much wider range of manuscript lengths.

Part of the big news is that they’ve recruited Angela James, former editor-in-chief at Samhain. This is a smart move. Angela has several years of experience at one of the biggest players in the current digital publishing market. This matters, because while Harlequin have been doing well at digitising their print lines, what this represents is a direct move into a different style of digital publishing. Carina Press is digital-only, DRM-free, and following the model of no advance but high royalty rate — the same model that has become a flourishing niche market over the last decade by being able to cater to genres with a readership too small for mass market but large enough to support excellent small press sales.

Will it succeed? Maybe not. But this is Harlequin we’re talking about. They’ve survived in business for a century by giving the market what it wants, and they’ve already got good experience in what it takes on the technical side to put together an ebook and sell it. I want to see their royalty rate and contract[*] before signing on the dotted line, and I want to see them in business long enough to look viable before I risk a full-length manuscript with them, but yes, I’m interested.

[* Harlequin is an actual example of “big publishers screw over their authors too”. They’ve improved over the years, under pressure from the RWA and others, but their contracts have at times been examples of Publishing Evil.]

ETA: apparently I can’t read, in spite having read the guidelines looking for *and* *expecting* *to* *find* a statement that LGBT was welcome. It’s certainly there now. Insufficiently caffeinated this morning, obviously.

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Book log: October 2009

Read in October:

WJ Burley — Wycliffe and the Dunes Mystery (reviewed 24/10/09)

Poul Anderson — The High Crusade (reviewed 31/10/09)

WJ Burley — Wycliffe and the School Bullies (reviewed 31/10/09)

Gregory Benford — Timescape (DNF, reviewed 11/10/09)

Wycliffe Omnibus, containing the following novels:

Wycliffe’s Wild Goose Chase
Wycliffe finds a gun discarded on the beach at the bottom of his garden. Soon afterwards, the body to go with it turns up in one of the village businesses. Some digging finds an obvious suspect for murder, but Wycliffe starts to suspect that all is not as it seems, and that he’s being sent on a wild goose chase.

Wycliffe and the Quiet Virgin
Wycliffe goes to stay with an acquaintance in a remote Cornish village for Christmas, and find himself mixed up in first a missing teenager case, and then the double murder of her parents. Digging into the past finds a lot of family secrets, some of which go back to a previous unsolved case.

Wycliffe and the Cycle of Death
When the current head of a family of booksellers is murdered, the family closes ranks. Then one death appears to lead to another, and Wycliffe is offered a nice convenient scapegoat. But he’s not convinced, even if the press are…

(Yes, I’ve been on a bit of a Wycliffe kick. This is because The Works, a specialist remainder bookshop chain, has been running the books in their 3 for 5 pounds section for the last couple of months, and every 2 or 3 weeks there’s a new pair of titles, plus something else I’m happy to try at that price.)

And I started on Galaxy Volume 1, the first part of a two volume anthology put together in 1980 to celebrate the 30th birthday of Galaxy magazine.