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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