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Harlequin invites writers with self-publishing venture

Harlequin Enterprises Inc. has teamed up with a leading self-publisher that allows aspiring authors to put their own romance novels in print.

Harlequin Enterprises Inc. has teamed up with a leading self-publisher that allows aspiring authors to put their own romance novels in print.

The new division, Harlequin Horizons, is a partnership with U.S.-based Author Solutions, a world leader in the self-publishing industry.

The self-published novels won't be sold under the Harlequin brand, but Harlequin, which sells about 1,500 romances every year, is hoping it could become a grooming ground for future authors.

The Toronto-based publishing house proudly points out that at least 50 of its authors have come from the ranks of its readers over the past decade, said Malle Vallik, director of Harlequin's digital content and social media.

"We're one of the few publishing houses that still reads every manuscript in the slush pile," said Vallik. "A lot of our readers are aspiring authors. Some people just have a dream to be published."

Self-publishing, or indie publishing as it is known now, is the fastest-growing segment of book publishing. Author Solutions estimates it will produce 25,000 titles this year across its various brands, up from 21,000 a year ago.

Earlier this month, Author Solutions partnered with Nashville-based Christian publisher Thomas Nelson to form the self-publishing division, WestBow Press. It will offer editing help, marketing and distribution services to authors writing books that focus on inspirational themes.

Like Harlequin, Thomas Nelson said its twin goals are to boost revenues and search for up-and-coming writers to add to its roster.

A natural fit

The internet is largely credited with giving amateurs a chance to make it big without the help of the established publishing houses. Blogs now become books and then movies; amateurs are plucked from obscurity after posting their manuscripts online; and established authors develop their stories online using audience feedback.

Vallik said the partnership with Author Solutions is a natural fit for Harlequin, which has a long history of openly inviting readers to give romance writing a try.

Vallik is herself a published author, having written seven romances while she was an editor at Harlequin.

"I was inspired by the slush pile — people who sat at home and wrote their manuscript from beginning to end, and then had the guts to send it to us. It took me two years," Vallik said.

In the old days, publishing your own novel was pretty much an admission that you couldn't get a wink of interest from even the smallest publishing house. It was called the vanity press and you had to have a lot of vanity to use it.

No more. Amateurs today can very proudly pen and publish their prose, no matter how purple.

At HarlequinHorizons.com, writers-to-be can pick from one of five package deals. A basic package goes for $599 and offers, among other features, five free paperback copies in a softcover format, personal assistance and customer support and standard cover creation.

The top-priced Booksellers package goes for $1,599 and includes editorial reviews of the manuscript, a book signing kit and a standard publicity program.