Harper Voyager Open Submissions – pros and cons

Harper Voyager is the global science fiction and fantasy imprint of Harper Collins. They are calling for submissions from all authors between October 1, 2012 and October 14, 2012. The successful authors will have their books edited, published as an ebook and marketed online by Harper Voyager, apparently one a month for the forseeable future. Harper Voyager are also hinting that some books may also be published in print. Authors who are not contacted within 3 months of submission will have to consider themselves unsuccessful.

Those are the facts I gleaned from the Harper Voyager submission guidelines.

The one thing that is missing from the guidelines is any mention  of contracts, payments or royalties so until stated otherwise we have to assume that standard publishing industry contracts will apply. That was easy to write but the truth is I have no idea what standard publishing industry contracts actually are or what an author gets out of them. So I did what any netizen would do and asked Google.

My search brought up http://jakonrath.blogspot.com.au/2012/07/harlequin-fail-part-2.html .

This is J.A. Konrath’s blog and in this article he talks about a lawsuit being brought against Harlequin. I don’t want to digress into a general discussion about the business practices of another publisher so if you are interested you can find more information at : http://www.harlequinlawsuit.com/

The reason I’m bringing up the Konrath article is because at one point he is explaining about how authors are paid and uses the following example which may apply to all publishing contracts.  “Harlequin has an ebook it lists for $3.99. It sells that to Amazon at a wholesale price of $2.00. The author should make $1.00 for each $3.99 ebook that Amazon sells”. This implies that contracted authors make 50% of the wholesale price of their ebooks.

If the publisher keeps the other 50% then, as there are no printing or distribution costs involved in ebooks, we would have to assume that some of that money is for overheads such as editing and marketing. Now I know that editors have to be paid, along with cover designers etc but I’m a little baffled by just exactly what kind of marketing any publisher can do for ebooks. For print books there are reviews, interviews, book signings etc but online marketing is not the same beast.

When was the last time you came across professional advertising for an ebook? I’m no expert but what little I know about marketing suggests that authors have to do their own. Now I suppose Harper Voyager probably does have a Twitter account, maybe a Facebook presence as well but… honestly? I’ve never looked them up in an effort to find a great new ebook. I have been on the TOR site but I haven’t looked for their recommendations either. So I would really like to know just exactly what kind of online marketing Harper Voyager is capable of performing. Will they be spamming Twitter? Or is there some other avenue I know nothing about?

The reason I am making such a big deal about the marketing aspect of online publishing is that I suspect Harper Voyager will be getting the lion’s share of the benefits.

Author benefits

1. Professional editing

2. Professional cover design

3. Status of being traditionally published, sort of.

4. Possible increase in visibility and author recognition amongst readers.

Author disadvantages

1. A huge drop in the financial rewards accruing from their ebooks.

If these authors become successful then the benefits will far outweigh the one, obvious disadvantage. However the cynic in me says that out of all these authors only a very few are likely to hit the sweet spot with readers and so only a very few will actually become successful. But what of all the others? The ones who don’t become successful? The ones who end up selling about the same number of books as they would have done if they’d self-published? Clearly the loss of sales income will hurt.

Publisher benefits

1. A huge pool of new material to pick and choose from.

2. Minimal overheads

3. The possibility that a few of their chosen authors will become successful at which point those successful authors will graduate into print which will be highly  profitable for the publisher.

4. A way to make the ebook revolution work for them instead of against them.

Publisher disadvantages

1. The headache of reading through a huge slushpile of books that don’t ‘make the grade’, however they define that benchmark.

From a publishing point of view I see this move by Harper Voyager as being very clever indeed. For very little effort they will be able to cherry pick the most profitable new work out there as well as gaining a reputation as being a forward thinking company. If everything works according to plan they will be able to transition into the growing ebook market ahead of the other traditional publishers and that will increase their market share. All at very little cost.

There is however a third group who need to be mentioned here – the unsuccessful authors whose work is rejected by Harper Voyager without even a pink slip. What of them? Will they really be the ones who didn’t make the grade or will at least some of them simply be those who are considered too different, too ‘hard to sell’, even in ebook form?

Part of me sees this Harper Voyager open submission as an opportunity. Another part of me sees it as a trap.

Some months ago I finally stopped sitting on the fence and decided that I wanted to be a self-published indie author. Everything I had learned about traditional publishers was a negative and I was angry at the bean-counter, chase-the-unholy-dollar-at-all-costs mentality of the Big Six publishers. I saw being an indie as a sort of badge of courage. Hell, I saw it as me, striking a teeny, weeny blow against all corporate evil. It was a good feeling. Now I’m conflicted.

If I stick to my guns and follow the plan [hah] to become self-published then am I doing so because it’s the smart thing to do or am I just being a coward and shying away from [likely] rejection? On the other hand if I don’t take the gamble and submit then will I be ignoring a once in a lifetime opportunity?

My gut tells me to stick to my guns but it’s also telling me that I’m a wimp who’s too scared to try and fail. I’d really appreciate your take on this whole thing.

Not so cheerful,




About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

20 responses to “Harper Voyager Open Submissions – pros and cons

  • Candy Korman

    So what have you decided to do?


    • acflory

      I should get the MS back from Laurie in about a week. If I can finish the editing before the end date of October 14th then I’ll submit. 🙂

      I know I won’t be selected but I figure I can’t be a real author without at least one rejection under my belt so there’s that, plus I know that I would feel like an utter coward for the rest of my life if I wimped out…:D

      It was an awfully hard decision to make though and I really appreciate all the advice I received from you all.


      • Ilil Arbel

        No, you don’t know you won’t be selected. You have a good chance that the editor who picks the books knows a good thing when she sees it. Your book is going to be one of the best submissions, and certainly one of the most original ideas!


        • acflory

          -hugs- That’s the secret little maybe I have locked away in my head but I know that even if I wrote the best story EVER, luck and business would still be the other two legs of the tripod. So… I will submit but I won’t let myself hope too much because disappointment tends to come in direct proportion to how much hope I’ve invested in something. 🙂


          • Ilil Arbel

            Submission to publishing houses must be done with complete emotional detachment. WRITING is an emotional experience. PUBLISHING is merely business. If they don’t accept it, these days there are a million other options for the publication to be accomplished. If they do accept it, it’s worth it financially. That is all. The book does not lose or gain literary value by what an editor (who may be competent or incompetent) thinks. I guess my views have been forged by years in the publishing industry, but they are based on truth. 🙂


          • acflory

            You’re right and my head knows, it’s just something in the region of my stomach that still has some outdated notions. 🙂


  • littlemissobsessivesanatomy

    now i do not have any idea how these things work..and i guess any advice from me would be a bad idea for you…but maybe you can go for Harper… being self published author is something you can do when you want…but this thing is i guess just for a certain time period…maybe u can try Harper…if you get published consider it as a stop to recognition, building confidence and just a first step…and maybe then you can also follow you guns….

    dont know, please dont jump on to your final decision base don my crazy advice..,. 🙂


    • acflory

      Thanks Littlemiss. Your advice is not crazy and you’re in very good company with my other online friends. For now I’m just going to let all these ideas and different points of view just simmer for a while – the submissions don’t open until October 1 anyway – then I’ll make up my mind. -hugs-


  • lorddavidprosser

    You already have the advantage of testing the waters with readers and found they liked the book tremendously. That should give you some confidence.OK, books are a matter of choice so whoever reads it as a submission may not like it in which case you have the indie route waiting for you. But if you were selected, the kudos could be tremendous. They could do press releases which could bring your name to the fore and instead of selling 100 downloads at a $3 profit to you it could be 10,000 downloads at $1. Smaller profit, bigger sales.If they then decided to take the book to print copies you would at least have much less work to do and the books go on sale in shops instead of as a POD. The profits to you are low on this so you want volume of sales but they have to push you hard as an author so the public like you and the book or they lose out.

    If you don’t like the lack of profit from sales you can always go indie with the next book when your name is already established and well known.

    A rejection may hurt and you could feel your work itself has been thought inadequate. WRONG, it’s as I said before, all a matter of taste. Others have been rejected and still gone on to success the indie route. Others have chosen the indie route from the outset and been a success but those are few. If you choose that route then luck will play a bigger part than hard work and it will be hard work publicising your book. Between all the social groups like Facebook, Gather, Twitter and now Pinterest you’ll spend a lot of time on the net. You’ll probably be looking to be interviewed on blogs or having blog posts be written about you, perhaps even guest posts. It’s constant. Having said that, you’ll do the same with a publisher of ebooks because you’ll ant the same success.

    You know how good your book is, an editor might help iron out any missed rough spots, and a publisher will surely have a good editor onboard. At the end of the day the decision rests with you. If you go ahead ( and I hope you will) there will be a huge volume of submissions so you must be ready to accept a rejection knowing it’s not a slight on your work, and forge ahead on the indie route.
    Sorry this is so long. Hugs


    • acflory

      I love long comments. 🙂

      I do feel like a weathervane at the moment though. When you and the others present the pro side of the case I recognize that you’re right and that a big part of what’s holding me back is fear. But there is still that other side of me that was not just happy to be indie but actually looking forward to it.

      lmao – and then there’s the pragmatist who says ‘Get a grip, your chance of being accepted is tiny so don’t be so inflexible and go for it, just to show you’re not afraid’.

      Maybe I should just toss a coin – heads I do, tails I don’t?


  • Patricia Awapara

    I feel the same way as you do. Not sure if i risk it. Besides, I did my covers and I rather safe money and find an editor on my own. I don’t know much either. Maybe an agent is another way, but I still wouldn’t know. I wish you luck!


  • Carrie Rubin

    Interesting read. I went with a small publisher–mostly e-book but also POD paperbacks. Given the small number of books I’ll likely sell, I suspect I could have “made” more money if I had self-published than going through a publisher and just getting a royalty. But I never expected to make money on my book. I merely wanted to get my foot in the door. And although many self-published authors put out good products and are successful, unfortunately there is still a bias against self-publishing. I experienced this at my local bookstore. I asked about getting my book in the store. Her first question was, “Is it self-published.” As soon as I said, “No, I have a small press publisher” her face softened and she said “good” and started telling me how they’re happy to have local authors sell books in their stores. To me, that reaction confirmed I’d made the right decision. But that’s me; others may have a very different take.

    Whichever avenue you choose, I wish you luck.


  • Ilil Arbel

    Andrea, it’s a huge advantage to be published by an affiliate of Harper. And fifty percent is more than what they used to pay for print book. I would jump on this opportunity. What have you got to lose? If they say no, you go indie. No need for soul searching…


    • Ryan Holmes

      Fifty percent may be more than they used to pay, but 50% of $2 is not equal to 40% of say $10 or more. One has to sell a crap load more e-books to make up for the pennies the author gets on the dollar. Harper is increasing their profit by eliminating printing and distribution costs – likely 80% of their total overhead. Get a good agent!


      • Ilil Arbel

        Get a good agent? Isn’t it a little simple? Do you know how difficult it is to get a real agent these days, and how many of them are not entirely agents, but some sort of a hybrid who charges for their so-called editing and “improving” your plot because they can’t make a living by being agents, due to the fall of so many publishing houses? And do you know how many good agents have gone out of business? I am in the publishing business, so I know a lot of crooks pretending to be agents… one has to be a lot more worried about agents than about publishers.


      • acflory

        I agree Ryan. The only advantage to the author is the [potential] exposure and the label that says ‘endorsed by a real live publisher so must be good’ -cough-

        Given how hard it is for indies to market themselves and gain that exposure the financial loss is worth it in the long run… if they’re selected and if their book sells.



  • pinkagendist

    You know who could fix all of that for you? A good agent!!! 😀
    There are good ones out there. Would you like me to ask around about your area of writing?
    I’ll exclude myself from the equation and just give you an example of Mike’s experience. A good agent is the difference between first class or economy travel. The difference between royalties or pay-outs. They have experience, they can guide your choices…


    • acflory

      -hugs- You’re a sweetie, you really are and I accept what you’re saying about agents making the difference but…. I’m not ready for that step yet. My problem is lack of confidence. If I go indie and find that readers like what I’ve written then I’ll know that I haven’t just been fooling myself. And if they don’t like what I’ve written then the rejection of people I don’t know will be a lot less painful.

      Boy, talk about baring your soul. lol Now the world and Pinky know what a wimp I am!


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