Just to satisfy my own curiosity, I went to Author Solutions's website to find out exactly what Harlequin Horizons will be charging the poor schmucks Harlequin refers to them. It was...well, astonishing, frankly. A sampling after the jump:
Just for fun, I checked to see what an Author Services publicity package looks like. I went to AuthorHouse.com, their largest imprint. You can figure Harlequin Horizons will be basically the same except for more red frilly crap on the website. You know what you actually get if you pay the extra eight hundred dollars it costs for the cheapest package that includes a "marketing kit"? "Personalized bookmarks, business cards, and postcards for your direct marketing efforts!" But don't worry--the "Discovery" package ($1399 USD) also includes:
-Copyright registration (cost if you do it yourself: $35)
-A "personalized back cover" (Lulu.com lets you do this for free)
-A "book buyers' preview"--they'll put chapter samples in the Ingram Title Database (which booksellers will ignore, because the book is from a vanity press)
-Submission to Barnes and Noble.com's See Inside feature (free)
-Submission to Amazon's Search Inside and Google's Book Search (free)
-Up to ten images allowed in the book (how many romance novels have 10 images inside? Other than pornos, and hilariously, that's one of the few things you can't publish with AuthorHouse)
-35 complementary copies (15 paperback, 10 hardback) to guarantee that absolutely everybody who might want to read your book can get a copy for free, saving you the hassle of making back even the tiniest fragment of your investment
Plus the above-mentioned business cards and bookmarks you could print at home for the cost of cardstock ($16.49 at Office Max) and ink. By the way, even the $1999 "Pinnacle" package doesn't include any kind of copy editing. That's going to cost you another $499 for the "basic" edit (the first 2000 words only) or $.029/word for line editing ($1450 for a 50,000 word book). Of course, if you actually want advice beyond "you should have used a comma here", in the form of three opportunities to talk to an "editorial consultant" about "structural ideas, thoughts, and suggestions", that'll run $.089 per word ($4450).
There's more. If you want a website, that's $399 (plus monthly hosting fees). But don't expect an actual web designer--all AuthorHouse provides are the templates.
But that's Web 1.0. If you're hip, you want the Web 2.0, "Social Networking" package. I'm going to let Author Services speak for itself here:
When you purchase our Social Media Setup Service, we will send you a questionnaire to get the latest about you and your book. With that information and any visuals you provide we’ll populate the following:Price?
1. A blog using the wildly popular and easy-to-use WordPress platform.
2. A Facebook profile for your identity as an author.
3. A Facebook page for your book.
4. A MySpace page for your book.
5. A Flickr account that is integrated with your social network.
6. A FeedBurner account to help you deliver your blog to the masses.
7. A Shelfari social book account.
8. A Goodreads social book account.
9. A LibraryThing book-cataloging account.
10. A Twitter micro-blogging account.
Once all of the pages and sites are in place, AuthorHouse will send your log-in information to you, as well as easy instructions on how to update your information.
Seven hundred and ninety-nine dollars. For a fucking Facebook page! Can you believe this shit?
Oops, sorry. Broke character there for a minute.
For $200 a month, you can be an AuthorHouse front page feature, so other poor gullible schmucks can click past your book on their way to pouring money down the vanity press rathole.
For $500 apiece, they'll send an advance copy of your book to Clarion and Kirkus Reviews, where some poor miserable bastard is actually paid to review books from Author House.
For $750, they'll send a press release through Newswire Plus, who'll fax it to dozens of newspapers all over the country, who will promptly crumple it up and throw it in the garbage, because it says "AuthorHouse" on the letterhead.
For $2500, they'll send 10 million "promotional" emails to whatever nimrods weren't smart enough to uncheck "Check here if you wish to receive periodic email alerts about new products from our partners" the last time they ordered a 20 pound bag of Chicken & Gravy Kibble from Pets.com.
$2,650.00 gets you a 40 word ad in the New York Times Book Review. Hilariously, the sample PDF was blank when I clicked on it.
Uh-oh, AuthorHouse wants the manuscript in PDF format but you have a word file. No worries! AuthorHouse will convert it for you for $29.
Finally, if you're in a hurry, AuthorHouse can rush the formatting and editing process for $500. Because why the fuck not?
That's as far as I got before I got disgusted enough to close the tab. And don't forget, the base price is $599. That gets you basically nothing but a printed book, which you could get from Lulu for the cost of printing (using their cost calculator, HI would cost about $13.50 per copy in trade paperback form at most; likely a lot less, because the manuscript is presently formatted in Courier New, double spaced, huge margins, which is standard manuscript format but obviously nobody prints books like that).
With AuthorHouse, and the rest of Author Solutions' subsidiaries, you can easily run up a five digit number for printing and "services". In fact, I added up the services that a traditional publisher would provide for free, as part of the contract, and I got $9749. That's without the most transcendentally ridiculous ripoffs, like eight hundred bucks to set up a bunch of social networking accounts and linking them to a Wordpress blog. Folks, that's an advance. In fact, for a first novelist, that's a pretty nice advance; I suspect it's a lot more than what Harlequin pays. For that price, you could go to a traditional printing press and run off a substantial print run. You'd end up with a huge pile of books in your garage, but at least you'd have tangible product. The overwhelming majority of the services offered by vanity publishers are worthless. You can't call it fraud, because they deliver the services paid for, but AuthorHouse's website strongly implies that paying for these services will bring commercial success, and it just won't.
By the way, in case anyone thinks I'm trying to shill for Lulu, they offer the exact same overpriced services with the exact same bullshit promises on the rest of their website, so they're hardly saints. But at least the basic product is reasonable.
What a bunch of shit.