HarperCollins Publishers Tangle With Amazon

Late last week, news came that HarperCollins Publishers were planning to challenge Amazon over the renewal of their contract with the book-selling monster. This past fall, after a fierce and public battle, the large publishing house, Hachette, won the right to set the prices for their books, rather than surrendering that right to Amazon. Some industry watchers believe that HarperCollins will pull all of their books from the Amazon web site if they are not able to strike a satisfactory deal for the new contract. If that should happen, it would significantly reduce the inventory of books available at Amazon, since HarperCollins is one of the world’s largest publishers. Readers of romance novels may, or may not, recognize the parent company name, but all of them will recognize Avon and Harlequin, both of which are currently owned by HarperCollins.

This could be bad news for Amazon, since HarperCollins is already set up to sell eBooks via their own web site and has made deals with both Scribd and Oyster. It has been suggested by some publishing experts that if HarperCollins does a new deal with Amazon, their terms will include access to the online bookseller’s customer data. Such information would be of tremendous value to the publisher, since it will give them more detailed profiles of those who are buying their books.

Should they gain access to that customer information, will HarperCollins use it not only to sell their books to consumers, but will they also use it to determine which books they will publish? Might they also use that same information to direct how the books they publish should be written? Which begs the question, will inspiration and craft be replaced by data sets provided to authors?

More details about the HarperCollins Publishers deal with Amazon can be found at these sources:


5 thoughts on “HarperCollins Publishers Tangle With Amazon

    • It is true that there is a certain amount of formula when it comes to all genre fiction, but, at least so far, I have not seen any tightly targeted guidelines offered on the submission pages of the web sites of the romance publishers which I have reviewed. Typically, most of them seem to present a list of those actions which they believe their readers would find objectionable. For the most part, I have to say that I have found the things on those lists would also be personally objectionable to me. I would be revolted and disgusted to find a number of those actions included in any romance novel I read.

      That being said, one of the most common objectionable actions made it very difficult for me to find a publisher for my first romance novel. Through most of Deflowering Daisy, the heroine is married to a much older man. A man who married her solely to get her away from an abusive step-father. There had never been any intent on the part of this older husband to consummate the marriage, since he had been so deeply in love with his first wife. Nevertheless, most publishers rejected my manuscript because of the apparent adultery in the story, an act which is on their list of prohibited actions.

      Ordinarily, I do not care for stories which include adultery involving the heroine and her hero, either. But, partly because I am stubborn, and partly because the only character in the story who would have the wisdom and the ability to bring Daisy and David together was her husband in a chaste marriage, I did not re-write the story, and, eventually I found a publisher. But it took a lot of searching.

      I have worked in the publishing industry, in one capacity or another, for more than twenty years, so I have a healthy respect for what publishers can do for an author and their books. A smart, dedicated editor can make any book better, and a publisher’s established distribution channels can ensure a book is available to a wide readership. When it comes to non-fiction, an editor who is specialist in the subject area will take great pains to ensure accuracy before the book goes to press, so I can have faith in its contents by the time I find it on the shelf at the library or the local bookstore. Granted, such editors may be less important when it comes to works of fiction, but as a lover of words and the English language in particular, I know that a good editor can ensure the book I read pleases me with its lyrical language and proper punctuation. Sadly, those features seem to be rather lacking in many of the self-published books which I have seen, so the idea of self-publishing still gives me pause.

      Polished writers can probably do very well self-publishing. However, I, for one, feel the need for a good editor and I would certainly appreciate having access to the distribution channels offered by an established publisher. But I do hope that publishers will never come to the point that they start specifying plot lines, character types and settings from which they expect an author to produce a book which will sell based on data-mining results. Heaven forefend!!!



      • Those self-publishers who belong to a small group who are also able editors, content editors and grammar nazis are in a win-win situation… because a badly edited book does not reflect the abilities of the writer. [and I’ve been ready to blue pencil some of the stuff that comes out of Harlequin so it’s not just indies who are badly edited! anachronisms left and right.]
        I was rather put off editorial direction when I was told my Renaissance mysteries ought to have sex in them and make it Elizabethan because everyone has heard of that. From more than one publisher.

        • Good Grief!!!!!!!!! I find it very hard to believe that no one has heard of the Renaissance. I mean, REALLY??? I would be willing to bet that they are just lazy and are trying to force your stories into one of their existing categories because it is convenient for them. I know sex sells, but I just don’t see how it is appropriate in a mystery, particularly set in the Renaissance. Unless, of course, you are writing about the Borgias! No wonder you self-publish!!!

          I do agree with you when it comes to Harlequin, I have read more than one of their books which seemed to have slipped through both editorial and proof-reading. Some of the errors have been quite egregious, like different hair or eye colors for a character, or, in a few cases, different names for the same character in different parts of the book. And, though I may be beating a dead horse, their historical covers have become so dreadful that I have missed books in a series because the cover was so awful I did not even take it off the shelf in the bookstore. I am trying to keep an open mind now that they have been acquired by HarperCollins in the hope that things will get better.


          • couldn’t get much worse!
            On the whole I stick with their authors whom I know to do a pretty good job of self edting and research to begin with… though even so I’ve caught a few errors that should have been picked up by a content editor. If you publish Regencies, you employ a historian who knows the period, right?
            I admit my experiences were about a decade ago, but after the third similar rejection slip I gave up. I knew nothing of self-publishing then, but I have to say when I subsequently discovered it, I gave a squeal of delight and didn’t even consider seeing if the market had changed.

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