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HarperCollins Goes Indie?

HarperCollins Publishing LLC is one of the “Big Five” publishing houses, alongside Hachette, Holtzbrinck/MacMillan, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster.  If you’ve been a starving artist for any length of time, I’m sure you’ve thought about papering your walls with all of the rejection notices you’ve received from traditional publishers, over the years.  In… [Read More]

HarperCollins Publishing LLC is one of the “Big Five” publishing houses, alongside Hachette, Holtzbrinck/MacMillan, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster.  If you’ve been a starving artist for any length of time, I’m sure you’ve thought about papering your walls with all of the rejection notices you’ve received from traditional publishers, over the years.  In fact, those dark days might have been the catalyst for you going ‘indie’ in the first place, once you learned about self-publishing as an option.

Well likewise, HarperCollins is assessing their option on self-publishing, as they continue to witness a decline in book submissions.  As many of us have experienced in varying degrees, over the course of the last decade, there’s been a growing movement from legacy to self-publishing — aided by the introduction of digital publishing platforms like Kindle, iBooks and Smashwords.

Testing Online Tools

With a goal to boost book sales and reach larger online markets, HarperCollins has dabbled with online tools over the years.  They started with a browsing feature on their website, where customers could read selected excerpts from books before purchasing.  These excerpts are also available for mobile phone users.

This was followed by an innovative approach to slush-pile management with the introduction of the Authonomy website that allowed members an easier means to submit manuscripts.

From 2009 to 2010, they operated the short-lived Bookarmy, a social networking site designed for book lovers.  Both Authonomy and BookArmy have since ceased operations due to a competitive and tough economic climate—but nonetheless, this type of online engagement demonstrated how a major publisher sought out additional ways to reach new authors, versus resting on their laurels.

Then, in October 2013, the company announced a partnership with online digital library Scribd.  The official statement noted that the "majority" of the HarperCollins US and HarperCollins Christian catalogs would be available in Scribd's subscription service.  Chantal Restivo-Alessi, chief digital officer at HarperCollins, explained to the media that the deal represented the first time a major publisher had released such a large portion of its catalog.

HarperCollins Goes Indie?

Going Toe-to-Toe with Self-Publishing Platforms

In November, following their successful Scribd partnership, Harper Collins launched a new imprint to publish ‘debut authors’ digitally.  This was their first major attempt to attract indie authors and steer them away from submitting to Kindle, iBooks, Smashwords or any of the other self-publishing platforms available today.

HarperCollins Goes Indie?Titled ‘HarperLegend,’ the new imprint is actively seeking submissions of 50-60,000 word manuscripts that are ‘transformational.’  Topics can range from Christianity to Eastern religions or general spirituality or they can involve personal growth, wisdom literature, fables, historical fiction, fantasy fiction or even paranormal fiction.

What’s In It for Indie Authors?

HarperLegend’s royalties are 50% after the first 10,000 copies are sold and start at 25%.  They do not pay advances against royalties, but according to Goodreader reporter Michael Koslowsky, ”if the book sells over 15,000 copies there is a great chance that they will decide to publish your book in major bookstores and you will receive standard print royalties.”

As far as distribution, all HarperLegend books will be available globally at all the major online eBook retailers and formatted for every eReader device.  Then for all manuscripts with a 25,000-minumum-word count, your book will also qualify as a print-on-demand at those same retailers.  Also the eBook will be available initially in English, followed up by translations into other languages by Harper’s foreign rights team.

As an added benefit, and differing from Kindle and others, HarperLegend will assign an editor to each writer. This will be a go-to person you can communicate with by email, phone or Twitter.  Each editor will assist with all subsequent steps that move the publishing process forward.

Marketing, Publicity, Sales & Rights

Some of the other benefits of HarperLegend’s hybrid approach provide indie authors with useful tools and services that would cost extra on other self-publishing platforms.  They include the following, free of charge:

  1. Book Marketing Kit.  As a signed author, you will receive their custom guide on creating visibility, engagement and sales of your book and yourself before and after your book goes on sale
  2. E-galleys available for the retailers to read in advance of publication
  3. Inclusion in a HarperLegend digital catalog
  4. E-galleys and press release sent to key media including relevant reviewers as well as promotion in their proprietary newsletters and social media properties, as appropriate to category
  5. Targeted social media advertising
  6. Consideration for key pricing and online bookstore promotions
  7. Consideration from and representation by subsidiary and foreign rights division
  8. Consideration for representation by the HarperCollins Speakers Bureau for live events

It’s an Option  

It’s an eye-opener to realize the world of traditional publishing has finally acknowledged the needs of Harper Collinsthe indie author.  The approach initiated by HarperLegend will most likely be duplicated or even improved upon by the others in the “Big Five” in the years to come – I would speculate

This is a big win for authors, because not only do you have another option when you make your decision to self-publish – with HarperLegend, you get to work with a big muscle publishing company.  There you will receive the attention of experts who come part and parcel with the expertise you may lack as a first-time or even a veteran author.  For an indie author, it’s definitely a step in the right direction — obtaining the best of both worlds

Readers & Writers: I look forward to your feedback, comments and critiques, and please use BookWorks.com as your resource to learn more about preparing, publishing and promoting self-published books. My blogs appear bi-weekly on the 1st and 3rd Fridays of each month.


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11 thoughts on “HarperCollins Goes Indie?”

  1. Odin Wallace says:

    Thank you. I have been exploring the options of self-publishing and promoting my own books. I signed up for the free – core membership. Thank you, Ron Callari. Enjoyed reading the article!

  2. Profile photo of Ron Callari Ron Callari says:

    Thanks Odin – glad you enjoyed it.

  3. All I could think while reading this was, “Look before you leap!” While Harper Legend sounds interesting there doesn’t seem to be much that the indie publisher can’t and must already do themselves. Publication is not the biggest issue – that is the relatively easy part. Marketing and promotion are another story and that is where Harper Legend seems to be lacking. They give you a do-it-yourself publicity kit – indie publishers should already have that. Inclusion in the Harper Legend catalog is not the same as the Harper-Collins catalog and for how long? One month, two, three? For an unknown author it could take a year or more of hard pushing to get traction. With most traditional publishers it’s 90 days and then, “Next!” Yet they still retain your rights and the author is left with no advance, no love from their publisher, all the work they would have done anyway and, 25% royalties and the fat-chance promise of 50% if you knock it out of the park. Getting a book into bookstores is becoming less crucial these days so I’m not sure why signing with a traditional publisher makes sense if that is your goal. Better to develop your own marketing expertise; no one is going to champion your book like you can and no one is going to pay you what you’ll pay yourself.
    Donna Drew Sawyer
    Author, Provenance: A Novel

    1. Profile photo of Ron Callari Ron Callari says:

      Thanks for the insightful input Donna – would be great if we could get someone from HarperCollins camp to weigh in and perhaps debate some of the points you have highlighted?

  4. john says:

    What about copyright, then? Hey?

    1. Profile photo of Ron Callari Ron Callari says:

      John, good question. For some insight into copyrighting your eBooks – let me refer you to one of my previous posts that addresses that topic – ” The New Plagiarism: Protection for Indie Authors”: https://www.bookworks.com/2015/09/the-new-plagiarism/

  5. Thanks a lot for the article, Ron!

    And very good point, Donna!

    Indie Author,
    Lola Smirnova

  6. Diane Tibert says:

    The question of copyright also came to mind while reading this. Not the standard copyright of my work; I understand that. But what does Harper Collins want in return for their ‘services’? If they are doing eBooks only (unless they see money in printing the book), would I be able to make print copies and sell them and keep the cash? I assume they want the exclusive right to e-publish, so how long do they get it? Three years? Ten? Indefinitely?

    This is the most important piece of the pie: the rights to my story.

    Other things include: Do authors get a say in their book covers? Do they have equal control of the story, or would they have to change it to fit the big fives’ mold?

    As Donna said, we can do the rest ourselves. Marketing is a challenge, but it’s not impossible. So what real substance are they going to offer us?

    1. Profile photo of Ron Callari Ron Callari says:

      All good points Diane, and along with the issues Donna brought to our attention, I am reaching out to Harper Collins for an interview and potential follow-up to this posting. Your questions will be added to this dialogue if and when I receive an affirmative response from HC. Thank you for your input.

      1. Phyllis Butler says:

        Hey Ron- I saved this article from December. Any new input from HarperCollins re copyright,
        cost of print on demand etc. on their ‘Legend’ publishing arrangement?
        RSVP

  7. Rene Edward says:

    Good article and ideas. Now, how about fixing that broken link to “Harper Legend” so we can get the information.
    Thanks.

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