Digital Publishing – What a Long, Strange Year It’s Been

Today is Carina Press’s one year anniversary. Word-Whores is hosting one of Carina’s executive staff, Aideen O’Leary-Chung, Director of Digital Commerce for Harlequin and Carina Press. If you hie over there, you stand to win some pretty fab prizes.

It’s funny that it’s been a year since Carina launched. So much has happened since then. Reading through the various posts (there are 20 in all), it’s interesting to hear the reminiscences of the Carina folks. It makes me remember how it all appeared to us, from the outside.

Today is the anniversary of Carina’s launch – when they debuted their first books to the world. But we first heard about Harlequin’s new digital imprint quite a bit before that. The news astonished everyone because, *gasp* Carina would not be offering advances.

This sent RWA into a frenzy. The Romance Writers of America non-profit corporation is one of, if not the most, powerful writers organizations in the world. The venerable standard of RWA has been, for decades, that to qualify as an approved publisher, they must give their writers advances. This has been a non-negotiable standard that, really, any legitimate publisher could meet. It was a low bar for a very long time.

And then the world turned and times changed.

With the advent of electronic publishing, paying the author up front no longer made so much sense. Instead epubs offer authors much higher royalties (~35% for most as opposed to 8-10% for print). Carina chose that business model.

Well, this turned into a BFD, because Carina was an imprint of Harlequin, which means just a subset of the overall company, and Harlequin has been the queen of romance publishing for longer than RWA has been in existence. And boom! Harlequin could no longer be an approved publisher by RWA.

At the time, no one could understand why Harlequin was doing it. They were accused of vanity publishing (where authors pay to get published). People thought they were completely nuts to potentially compromise their publishing empire for, what? some stupid ebooks??

They sorted it out. I believe (and someone correct me if I’m wrong) Harlequin satisfied RWA by legally separating themselves from the Carina digital arm. Harlequin is approved. Carina is not.

And look what the last year has wrought.

Ebooks are now the only part of the publishing market that’s growing instead of losing money. More and more people have ereaders. Everyone wants to digitally publish. I’d love to see a list of all the epubs started in the last six months.

I set my sights on Carina because they have the forward-thinking excitement and savvy of the electronic market founded on the Harlequin rock of excellent business sense. I’m so pleased that Sapphire will be published by them in October.

Happy One-Year Anniversary Carina Press!

6 Replies to “Digital Publishing – What a Long, Strange Year It’s Been”

  1. I'd put money on that, too, Michelle. It will be very interesting to see how RWA adjusts their policies – because they're going to have to.

  2. I, too, am SO pleased that Carina offered Sapphire a home. It's like I get to have vicarious ebook fun through you. Whether Carina ends up approved or not, it's about the money and advances just don't seem to be where that's at any longer.

  3. I recall part of the RWA/HQN stink was the planned footer note in form rejections that would direct the aspiring author to the digital imprint, which smacked of vanity publishing.

    While those of us on the outside will never know all of the adjustments to the HQN business plan as a result of RWAs pressure, it is nice to see that Carina Press is the end result.

    The growing pains of digital distribution is such an interesting thing to review in hindsight. What was considered a big win for romance authors a year ago is probably being rued now. I suspect many Carina authors would love the additional consumer interest of their book carrying the "HQN" co-brand and are possibly regretting RWAs insistence that it be divorced from the most recognizable name in romance publishing. It'll be interesting to see if the "mother brand" will reappear in the next two-three years as Carina has proven to be anything but a vanity publisher.

    Congrats, naturally, on Sapphire's pending release!

  4. It's true, Marcella. RWA is right to emphasize that a professional writer gets paid professional wages, but how those wages are delivered is changing.

    Thanks Laura!

    Ooh, KAK – you are so sharp! I'd forgotten those bits. How interesting to note that the HQN brand was spliced off and who would argue it now. I bet you're right and the imprint will be reunited with the brand as RWA updates their position.

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