Now, I'm not a huge ra-ra cheerleader of the RWA because of their mule-headed stance on legitimate e-publishing houses and their reluctance to embrace that business model. In fact, I let my membership lapse because frankly, I felt they were taking my money, sending me a highly overpriced magazine once a month, and patting me on the head and shooing me to stand the corner to be quiet with all the other red-headed step-kids they didn't want to acknowledge have decent careers with indie houses who embrace e-publishing as a viable career. I also chafe at their less than supportive view of erotica and GLBT writing.
However, that said, I do give the RWA props for standing up to Harlequin on this issue.
Self-publishing and vanity/subsidy publishing are two TOTALLY different animals. And the blatantly misleading PR Harlequin was doing to claim Harlequin Horizons is anything but vanity/subsidy publishing is horse-hockey.
In self-publishing, an author keeps ALL the profit. Period. In vanity/subsidy publishing, you not only pay to get published, you don't keep all the profits. And according to some reports I've read, Harlequin plans to point rejected authors toward Harlequin Horizons, which is not only a conflict of interest, it's an unsavory bait and switch tactic used by unscrupulous businesses in the publishing industry for years. The overall fear expressed by most is that unknowing authors will be snookered into thinking they're "getting published" by Harlequin when the truth is, they won't be, they'll be paying to get published by a vanity house and not marketed as a Harlequin author.
Okay, so that all said, let's start the wrap-up!
Jackie Kessler has a GREAT summation post that should be your first stop on the issue.
The original RWA letter can be viewed on Ann Aguirre's blog here.
The SWFA's response to the issue.
The MWA's response.
Pub Rants has a great series of posts, including the latest update that now Harlequin is backpedaling at light speed. Read them First, Second, and Third.
Here's a different take on it from the Behler Blog.
I think the fact that Harlequin is now backpedaling at light speed means they not only didn't think this thing through all the way (never a good sign when a business does that) but they overestimated the desperation of romwriters to get published when there ARE other (much cheaper) legitimate alternatives out there.
For example, you can use a company like Lulu.com and if you can supply your own decent cover, and if your book is well-edited, you can basically publish your book in their distribution stream (meaning it will make it to Amazon.com and other outlets like that) for the price of the ISBN package. (I want to say $99, but I could be wrong on that.) You can literally publish for FREE if you simply want to publish it as an ebook or make the paperback available directly for sale immediately without an ISBN.
That's only ONE example. (I've used Lulu.com for software tutorials before, I do my own covers, and I love the quality of their product.) There are other companies out there like CreateSpace and others that are much cheaper than the "options" offered by Harlequin. AND with those other options, YOU keep 100% of the profit.
So...newbie writers...DO YOUR RESEARCH. Don't be so desperate to get published that you shell out lots of money without knowing what you will receive in return.
There are plenty of great indie publishers out there you can submit to, legitimate publishers who have mastered e-publishing and their print lines and you can actually earn royalties without shelling out a dime.
Legitimate publishers do NOT ask you to pay to get published. Legitimate publishers do not send you a reject letter with a suggestion or referral that you try "this other company" for editing/publishing whatever. Period. Full stop. The money flows TO the author, not away from them.