Jackie Kessler has written a very good overview of the situation here (my thanks to Janet Reid for directing me towards Jackie's thoughtful piece).
The Romance Writers of America has stated that as Harlequin is now providing vanity publishing services, Harlequin will no longer be eligible for RWA-provided conference resources (I can't provide a link to the statement, as I'm not a member of the RWA). Harlequin's response appears in full on agent Kristin Nelson's blog and includes this assurance:
"...we are changing the name of the self-publishing company from Harlequin Horizons to a designation that will not refer to Harlequin in any way. We will initiate this process immediately. We hope this allays the fears many of you have communicated to us."It's something, I suppose: but renaming the imprint doesn't stop it being a vanity imprint, so most of the problems with it still stand.
The Science Fiction Writers of America has condemned Harlequin's new imprint (its statement also appears on the Writer Beware blog):
"The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. (SFWA) finds it extremely disappointing that Harlequin has chosen to launch an imprint whose sole purpose appears to be the enrichment of the corporate coffers at the expense of aspiring writers."The Mystery Writers of America has issued a statement which includes the following pointer:
"Offering these services violates long-standing MWA rules for inclusion on our Approved Publishers List."Literary agent Rachelle Gardner sees raw submissions every day, and understands how bad many of them are: she expresses her concerns about the implications of such schemes here; literary agent Ashley Grayson voices more concerns in this blog post, and makes this rather lovely comment:
"The offer is reprehensible: For between $600 and $1,600 you can pretend to be a published author. You won’t be, really published, because no commercial publisher liked your book well enough to bring it to market. They will just pretend to offer it for sale if you pay the costs."Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware has asked why people are getting so riled up about this particular vanity-publishing scheme when other similar schemes have barely raised a ripple.
Finally, a big gold star goes to writer Stacia Kane, who seems to have spent the whole week explaining why Harlequin Horizons is such a bad idea. I've lined up one of her many comments to appear as a blog post here in a couple of days: it's a treat. She's been absolutely inspiring, and I applaud her.
Edited to add some more linky goodness:
John Scalzi: Writers’ Organizations to Harlequin: If You’re Not Going to Act Like a Real Publisher, We’re Not Going to Treat You Like One
Making Light: RWA Walks The Walk
The Examiner: Harlequin Horizons to change name to appease its critics
Dawn Metcalf: What's New on the Horizon?
E-Reads: Harlequin, "Surprised and Dismayed" by RWA Action, Defends Decision But Moves to Change Program Name