Mystery Writers of America Delists Harlequin

Today, Mystery Writers of America announced its Board’s unanimous decision to remove Harlequin and all its imprints from MWA’s list of Approved Publishers, effective immediately, as a result of Harlequin’s recent rollout of DellArte Press, a pay-to-publish division.

The official announcement is below.

MWA Board member Lee Goldberg’s blog includes the announcement, as well as the text of MWA’s official decision, and a letter from Donna Hayes, Harlequin’s CEO, in response to MWA’s expressions of concern.


The Board of Mystery Writers of America voted unanimously on Wednesday to remove Harlequin and all of its imprints from our list of Approved Publishers, effective immediately. We did not take this action lightly. We did it because Harlequin remains in violation of our rules regarding the relationship between a traditional publisher and its various for-pay services.

What does this mean for current and future MWA members?

Any author who signs with Harlequin or any of its imprints from this date onward may not use their Harlequin books as the basis for active status membership nor will such books be eligible for Edgar® Award consideration. However books published by Harlequin under contracts signed before December 2, 2009 may still be the basis for Active Status membership and will still be eligible for Edgar® Award consideration (you may find the full text of the decision at the end of this bulletin).

Although Harlequin no longer offers its eHarlequin Critique Service and has changed the name of its pay-to-publish service, Harlequin still remains in violation of MWA rules regarding the relationship between a traditional publisher and its various for-pay services.

MWA does not object to Harlequin operating a pay-to-publish program or other for-pay services. The problem is HOW those pay-to-publish programs and other for-pay services are integrated into Harlequin’s traditional publishing business. MWA’s rules for publishers state:

“The publisher, within the past five years, may not have charged a fee to consider, read, submit, or comment on manuscripts; nor may the publisher, or any of the executives or editors under its employ, have offered authors self-publishing services, literary representation, paid editorial services, or paid promotional services.

If the publisher is affiliated with an entity that provides self-publishing, for-pay editorial services, or for-pay promotional services, the entities must be wholly separate and isolated from the publishing entity. They must not share employees, manuscripts, or authors or interact in any way. For example, the publishing entity must not refer authors to any of the for-pay entities nor give preferential treatment to manuscripts submitted that were edited, published, or promoted by the for-pay entity.

To avoid misleading authors, mentions and/or advertisements for the for-pay entities shall not be included with information on manuscript submission to the publishing company. Advertising by the publisher’s for-pay editorial, self-publishing or promotional services, whether affiliated with the publisher or not, must include a disclaimer that it is advertising and that use of those services offered by an affiliate of the publisher will not affect consideration of manuscripts submitted for publication.”

Harlequin’s Publisher and CEO Donna Hayes responded to our November 9 letter, and a follow up that we sent on November 30. In her response, which we have posted on the MWA website, Ms. Hayes states that Harlequin intends as standard practice to steer the authors that it rejects from its traditional publishing imprints to DellArte and its other affiliated, for-pay services. In addition, Harlequin mentions on the DellArte site that editors from its traditional publishing imprints will be monitoring DellArte titles for possible acquisition. It is this sort of integration that violates MWA rules.

MWA has a long-standing regard for the Harlequin publishing house and hopes that our continuing conversations will result in a change in their policies and the reinstatement of the Harlequin imprints to our approved list of publishers.

Frankie Y. Bailey,
Executive Vice President, MWA


  1. As I understand it, SFWA has already done something similar. My question is this: What would Harlequin have to do for MWA and SFWA to reverse their delisting decisions?

  2. That truly is unfortunate. Hopefully Harlequin will take a serious look at its policies, though the cynic in me doubt it. There is a lot of money to be made from unaware and ill-informed authors.

  3. After Harlequin's response it was just a matter of time before this happened. I wonder how long it will take for the RWA and SFWA to go the same way…

  4. I wouldn't be surprised if their list of authors shrinks in the next few months, too. As soon as folks can, they will walk away.

    I keep seeing people saying this but really it is an unrealistic expectation. A lot of Harlequin's authors write category romance. If you want to write category romance there is only one game in town. Most commercial fiction author's write one book a year, if that. Category romance authors can be writing as many as three. All of which will earn out their advances. If they can change their writing style from 55K novels, to 80K+ novels then they might leave. If not they are stuck. All the other publishers got out of the category romance business more than 20 years ago. They don't have the editors, or distribution in place to take these authors on.

    Harlequin accounts for over 50% of the romance market in the US. And probably a high percentage of the rest of the world as well. They are one of the top ten publishing companies in the world.

  5. Writers who believe in their work want publishers who believe in their work.

    Vanity presses, Self-publishing, publish or fee; or whatever you want to call it, is just plain wrong for an established house.

    There is a market for it, sure. There is a need for it, yes. But taking an established, traditional publisher in that direction, says they care more for their pockets than their stable of authors.

    I wouldn't be surprised if their list of authors shrinks in the next few months, too. As soon as folks can, they will walk away.

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