It was one of the early self-publishing service imprints to be launched by a major publisher in the USA. Back in November 2009, the launch of DellArte Press (Harlequin Horizons as it was then) — an imprint of romance publisher Harlequin — was operated under a partnership agreement with self-publishing service giant Author Solutions Inc. The launch of DellArte Press quickly followed a similar partnership Author Solutions had with Christian publisher Thomas Nelson. While self-publishing service imprints are now nothing new for the big five publishers, the reception to such imprints was very different in 2009. While Thomas Nelson escaped much of the backlash with its WestBow Press imprint, Harlequin drew considerable negative feedback from the traditionally published author community, particularly those published by Harlequin itself.
The imprint never quite took off at a time when other print-centric self-publishing services were booming in 2009. In its original incarnation as Harlequin Horizons, Harlequin came under considerable pressure from USA-based writers’ organisations and publishing watchdogs. Preditors & Editors changed its listing for Harlequin to that of Vanity Publisher. The Romance Writers of America (RWA) briefly revoked Harlequin’s rating and benefits which it generally extended to all traditional publishers. The Mystery Writers of America (MWA) also took up the gauntlet and Harlequin, after several weeks, announced a change of name and some contract terms. The direct association with the Harlequin logo was removed from the imprint’s website, and Harlequin Horizons quickly became DellArte Press. In comparison, Thomas Nelson’s WestBow Press (also an Author Solutions partnership), which launched in October 2009 and would later be subsumed into HarperCollins, has published over 6000 titles; DellArte Press has published just 16 titles in 6 years!
I’m actually doubtful the current lawsuit against Author Solutions scheduled to go ahead later this year had much to do with the lack of success of Harlequin’s DelleArte Press. I just don’t think the publisher’s heart was ever in it and the later launch of digital-only imprint Carina Press also helped to shift the publisher’s focus. Some might even argue that the Harlequin Horizons debacle taught the publisher a thing or two about how best to develop new imprints.
So it came as no surprise to learn today that Harlequin has pulled down the shutters on DellArte Press for good. The news comes just seven months after Writer’s Digest also decided to pull the plug on its association with Author Solutions Inc. and self-publishing imprint Abbott Press. Writer’s Digest subsequently went on to form Blue Ash Publishing with Bookbaby.