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Is it just me?

Or is this common practice in an industry I admit I don't know as much about as I'd like?

I admit up front that I know pretty much nothing about what's standard for the Romance genre in our industry, and maybe offers like this are common. The reason I got this at all is because in order to show up for someone's chat in the Luna forums, I had to sign-up, and signing up apparently meant I wanted the eHarlequin newsletter. Either that or, as I was running late, I didn't actually read much beyond the "we own all your words and can quote them whenever we feel like without paying you" part, which meant that I was reluctant to participate freely in those forums, i.e. there could have been an opt-out that I missed, but I was also in the process of missing the reason I was signing up in the first place.

And the small post on accessibility has kind of turned into a state of the genre thing, and is a thousand words long, with digressions and rambling, which I'm not at all certain is pointful because the state of the industry now is actually a year or two old (the consequence of lead-times, among other things).

ETA: I can't think of an sf/f genre publisher or agent who could offer these services, and not be pilloried. I won't go into a long rant about why I think it's not a good idea to submit 400 pages of manuscript this way, unless anyone thinks it's not self-evident. Oddly enough, I probably wouldn't feel as squeamish if an individual were offering the same services -- but submitting to someone specific doesn't carry the weight of a large and well-known publisher behind it. And I think the PiTA factor of offering these services would outweight the dollar per hour value of actually doing the work, on an individual basis.

Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
magicnoire
Oct. 24th, 2006 10:55 am (UTC)
I don't know if manuscript critique services like that are the norm, but I do know that in the romance industry, contest circuits -- where you do pay to enter -- are the norm.
dancinghorse
Oct. 24th, 2006 02:03 pm (UTC)
Yes, that killed any respect I had for "winner of X award." They also expect you to do your own promo, often at great expense, and do things we in sf expect our publishers to do, such as line up blurbs (including sending out the ARC's) and get reviews. Plus you buy your own ads in the romance publications, and those babies ain't cheap.

It's expensive to be a romance writer. The readership is huge and the payoff can be ditto, but I get the impression one is expected to be supported by one's "dh" (Darling Hubby) and in no need of such tiny advances as they usually pay.
mmarques
Oct. 24th, 2006 11:29 am (UTC)
I don't know if it's the norm. I think it's just another way to milk money from those readers who want to be writers (and who someone they trust to critique for free).

Regarding the PiTA factor for the publisher.... Note that they also don't say who they define as a "romance writing expert". Perhaps they have a ton of stuff coming in and have interns trained. They could even use this as the training ground for reading slush. Or the stuff coming in is generally from people who can't find critique partners, and can usually be skimmed quickly to find 2 pages worth of critique comments.
sleigh
Oct. 24th, 2006 12:06 pm (UTC)
Money always flows to the writer. Period.

Run away from anything else.
janni
Oct. 24th, 2006 02:05 pm (UTC)
I dunno, it looks (admittedly there may be fine print I missed) like a fairly legitimate critique service, and they don't seem to be promising publication or anything else other than a professional critique.

And if they do a halfway decent job, their rates are reasonable, too. This doesn't look like a scam to me, unless folks are sending their work in under the mistaken belief that they'll have some sort of in with Harlequin's lines as a result of having it critiqued.

Now, if they begin recommending writers get their critiques before they submit, then I'd be uneasy.
sleigh
Oct. 24th, 2006 07:34 pm (UTC)
I can't agree, Janna. Maybe it is different in the romance genre, but this sets off all my scam alarms. The manuscripts are going to be reviewed by "professional, experienced critique editors to assess the romance novel manuscripts, under the supervision of the Learn to Write director," but nowhere do I see any credentials for these supposed professionals. Are they professionaly-published writers? Are they editors? Are they interns at Harlequin making extra money? Are they English graduate students? It doesn't say -- which means it could be anyone. I note also that "Learn To Write Director" is not a synonym for "Harlequin Editor."

You're going to pay $1/page for this critique by an unknown somebody, which means for a 300-page novel, you're talking an investment of $300. In return, you're going to get a "two- to three-page editorial critique for a complete manuscript."

I teach creative writing classes at a local university. I give two page critiques regularly to my students (for just a short story), six or seven of them every week -- and in addition, I line edit as I'm going through their manuscript and make marginal notes where I have questions, concerns, and issues, all of which this 'service' specifically says they won't do. A two-to-three page critique will usually about an hour to write, once I've read the story. And it only takes an hour because I'm actually thinking about what I'm saying and not giving 'generic' advice.

In two to three pages, you can't possibly touch on anything but "big picture" items when you're talking about something as lengthy and complex as a novel. I daresay you don't even need to do anything beyond the lightest skim of the manuscript to get enough information to find two pages worth of problems on which to comment. My (admittedly skeptical) bet is that these 'professional, experienced critique editors' will spend at most two hours on any given manuscript and critique, mostly because they're probably being paid, oh, a flat $50 fee per critique or the like, with the rest of the money going to the company and the Director's salary. No, I don't know that's the case, but it's certainly my suspicion.

I seriously, seriously doubt that anyone will be getting $200 - $400 worth of feedback from this. This looks and feels to me like a pure money-making scheme. I don't find the rates reasonable at all for what you get in return.

My advice would be to find a good critique group and get the advice for free. It'll be just as valid. Maybe moreso, since they'll be doing it for the right reasons.
janni
Oct. 24th, 2006 07:53 pm (UTC)
And see, everyone I know who's critiqued professionally charges in the $200-300 range, so that seems reasonable to me, since it's comparable with reputable critiquers I know. (I don't know how much line editing they do or don't do.) And as a freelancer (though I've not critiqued fiction, only edited business nonfiction), I'd bid that much for 4-6 hours of work; it would take at least that much to read a novel and write up even a big picture critique on it.

On the other hand, not knowing who your critiquers are is more of a concern.

And I'd always go for a critique group over a professional critique anyway, unless maybe I had a specific issue I was particularly frustrated with, and this wouldn't be the place for that.

So I'm not sure this is the best place to start, but I also don't get the impression it's actually a scam, and I think they likely deliver what they say they do, at what looks to be a reasonable rate.
rolanni
Oct. 24th, 2006 01:02 pm (UTC)
Romance is a Whole 'Nother Country, and Harlequin is its 3,000 pound gorilla...
ciage
Oct. 24th, 2006 05:07 pm (UTC)
I for one am extrodinarally jaded towards romance as a genre (and anything in the Luna line, no offense of course) but honestly, to my knowledge romance novels make up what, nearly half of all fiction sales? I think that they know that their readers are potential writers, but they most likely have to coach them in order for the prose to be readable. Harlequin's submission page in general looks a lot different than the other genre publisher's page, which tells me that they're looking for (and can handle) more writers. A crueler thought would be that that this service is essentially wish fulfillment for an individual writing his or her first book.

I've seen things like this before, but it was with local writing groups. The problem of course, is that if an editor is looking over genre prose, they might specialize in poem or literature and only be able to comment on content and structure. Usually the fees go back into the writing groups and the editor makes very little for their expertise.
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