Rupert Murdoch Just Bought Harlequin

I really wish I had something deep and insightful to say, but all I’ve got is, “Holy crap, Rupert Murdoch just bought Harlequin.” I wouldn’t care–wait, yes, I would, that’s going to have an impact on my industry–except that that means that Rupert owns seven of my books. The chances he’ll notice are slim, but still . . .

I suggest the article in the NYT because most of the rest are full of bodice ripper jokes and insights like, “Rupert Murdoch is getting a divorce, maybe he’s looking for love?” Morons.

I’ve read everything I can find on this, and nobody knows what’s going to happen. Which means it’s publishing as usual: whatever’s going on, it’s not what went on yesterday.

The world is just going to hell, that’s what I think.

40 thoughts on “Rupert Murdoch Just Bought Harlequin

  1. I don’t have a very clear idea in my head what Rupert Murdoch stands for, but I do think he’s probably a savvy businessman, and he also values entertainment. I think that’s one reason why newsies despise him so much — doesn’t he have a reputation for turning the news into, well, something more engaging and perhaps less ethics and fact based?

    I thought he owned FOX . . . maybe through several layers. And whatever one thinks of Fox’s news, Fox has turned out some stereo-type busting entertainment.

    I could be totally out of touch — I have no idea what it might mean for the romance industry and publishing in general.

    1. In the UK, at least, he has a reputation for using the media he owns to push his own agenda. This is more evident in news outlets – when he bought ‘The Times’ in the 1980s it rapidly lost its reputation for balanced and authoritative news coverage. This was when I was starting my publishing career, and I’ve avoided working for HarperCollins, for instance, because I don’t like his practices. But it gets trickier to avoid him as he buys up more publishers.

    2. I shouldn’t think he’d be bothered about fiction. It’s pretty standard to have to publish your proprieter’s friends’ novels; and I was caught in the middle, years ago, when, as an editor, I inherited a controversial book on the Middle East which the VIPs suddenly woke up to and tried to bury, because their friends were upset about it. I suddenly saw how the news is being created/manipulated. There were bomb threats and Government U-turns and secrets and lies. I was out of my depth.

      (By the way, Jenny, I’d be a bit careful re libel. In the UK you have to be pretty careful what you write. Trust you’re OK, being in the US.)

        1. I think individuals have been convicted, but not as yet the management/organization. I’m pretty sure some of them are on trial at the moment (Rebekah Brookes, for example, editor of The Sun). But it’s all dragged on for years, and then there’s the Leveson Inquiry into the press invading people’s privacy, which overlaps. I’m a bit confused.

  2. Hmm the Murdoch’s are big news here in Aussie and while there business ventures don’t always pan out I thought the three reasons for the purchase listed in the Forbes article were plausible. I don’t know about the world going to hell just yet – but it does highlight that adaptability is a key survival skill for writers/publishers as much as anyone.

    1. The Forbes piece is interesting: thanks, Ash. Publishers are all having to reinvent themselves at the moment. Writers, too, of course – and other creatives / content generators.

    2. Absolutely. Everything in publishing changes every fifteen minutes anyway, and the business reasons for the buy are sound. But it does change the landscape again.

      1. Jenny not at our level. On an apple pie, we get the smallest piece. The distributors get the most. And the publisher surprisingly also very little though more than you. And now with electronic printing publishers are getting nervous. The goal posts are all moving. I think in reality, who owns what is irrelevant to the author. Murdoch was demonised in Britain. They tried to crucify him and you only have to see how remote he actually was from the actual people who ran the papers in that jurisdiction.
        In reality, the owners of Harlequin for whatever reason was heading for disaster, so they sold. Murdoch had the mullah so he bought.
        The trendies will try to paint this black news because they traditionally hate Murdoch. Trendies are very good at hating.

        1. I don’t get this obsession with levels, and trust me, my piece is not small. The bookstore gets a 40% discount on the cover price, the distributor gets a cut, production gets a cut, that’s all true, but my percentage, like all authors’ royalties, comes off the cover price, not the net, and it’s not a small percentage. My publisher is not my enemy, and I don’t think the world in general sneers at my work.

          I don’t even know who trendies are.

  3. When I read the news Harlequin had been sold, I admit… the first thought in my head was Well… it’s a good thing I didn’t start that book I was going to pitch them yet. LOL. I saw this because I had just finished revisions on a project I was going to send them when they restructured everything — dropping lines (one I was aiming for, of course) and rewriting all the line requirements. That made finding a home for that project a PIA. I wonder if they’re going to revise the guidelines again with this purchase.

    1. I doubt it very much. Getting published is getting harder and facing more threats with the move to electronic printing… if anything, I’d say, as an optimist, that being part of Newscorp won’t affect you. You’re the bottom of the barrel. Cry only when and if, but in the meantime just do what you do best. Write!

      1. No, she is not at the bottom of the barrel. Jeez.

        Authors don’t have levels, they have careers. If you start comparing where you are in terms of someone or something else, you’ll get paranoid and angry for absolutely no reason because comparisons are meaningless.

        You write the books you were born to write. You design the career that best fits your life. You find the agent and editor who are right for you. That can take twenty years, but you own your career the way you own your life, and as long as you don’t give that power away, you’ll be fine.

        The idea that there’s an external list with levels that you have to climb is a mistranslation because there are levels of publication (lead title, mid list, etc.) but that has nothing to do with your career or your books. Ten years from now when somebody pulls the book off the shelf, that person will not know where your book was on the order form or on the bestseller list, she’ll just know whether she likes the book or not. So worrying about levels is a waste of time.

        Concentrate on the books you want to write, and then figure out how much of your life you want to give up to your career. When you get that figured out, that’s your path (not your level), that’s the career and the life you want. How long it takes to get what you want, and how much rewriting of your career plan you’ll have to do as your life changes, those are the unknowns, but you get to decide what you want and how you’re going to get it. If you want superstardom, be prepared to sacrifice a big chunk of your life to get it, probably more time promoting than you do writing, at least for the first ten years or so. Most of us decide we want lives more than we want superstardom, but that doesn’t mean we have a level we’re stuck at it. It means we have career paths we’ve chosen.

        Julie is not at the bottom of any barrel. Neither am I. Trust me, I’ve been doing this for twenty-three years now, and there is no barrel.

        1. Thanks for this, Jenny. I’m just about to self-publish my first book, and if I listen to all the marketing-led people out there I think I’d give up before doing it. Instead, I’m focusing, as you say, on doing things in the way that works for me, even though it doesn’t fit. (My book is about gardening, but isn’t a how-to or a text-only essay. And I want to have a go at fiction next.)

          Lani gave me another good idea to focus on the other day: in response to a film-maker who was envying others who seemed to have the right connections to be successful, she said what creatives need to focus on to be successful is creating more content. Which immediately made me happy, because of course that’s what I want to do.

          1. The problem with publishing is that there are so many different opinions because there are so many different experiences. And the problem with that is that the only experience that counts is yours, and it’s going to be different from everyone else’s.

            Lani, of course, is absolutely right. Without great content, all the connections in the world won’t help you. And with great content, you’ll make connections. People always get that turned around.

        2. “If you want superstardom, be prepared to sacrifice a big chunk of your life to get it, probably more time promoting than you do writing, at least for the first ten years or so.”

          So how does this work with someone like Nora Roberts, who writes a bazillion books? Did she get superstardom from writing lots or did she promote lots? Or both?

          I have no real thoughts on Harlequin being bought out.

          1. Nora’s a phenom. She consistently wrote great stories, and she was prolific, but she also kept writing. I don’t know how long she’s been writing–Krissie just celebrated her fortieth year as a writer so Nora must be near that–but she’s steadily built up a huge backlist. Still, a lot of people have done that. Nora is just a storyteller that millions of people love. She’s like J.K. Rowling and Stephen King and every other publishing superstar. I don’t think her kind of career is the kind you can plan for.

  4. See, this is the kind of news that makes me feel much more cheerful about still not having finished that manuscript. It’s just another upheaval that I don’t have to worry my pretty little head about. 😉

  5. When I realized that Rupert might now own HQ, I thought to myself: what is one sad, embittered lonely old divorced guy decided to buy all all the romance publishers in the WORLD, and then he decided to join the Taliban and his goal was to bury the romance novel FOREVER!! and then the world became a cold and lonely place, were love words were unspoken long enough to be forgotten (the superman fortress of solitude except our whole planet is encased in it) and it’s the end of the world as we know it. there was only one that could stop him and that was a guy named jeff, who was just a silly prankster who spied on reader tastes via his secret instrument of doom, the kindleator. anyway, that’s what went through my brain. I wonder what mr. mills and ms. boons would think of all this???

  6. Beware of the bias. And don’t believe all you read. Keep and open mind and avoid the politics – for it is deep rooted – and there is a deep rooted disdain for anything even remotely labeled as non literary. As popular fiction writers you will be despised. And from there come the jokes.

    No, you won’t win a literary prize. You never will because commercially viable doesn’t sit well with the literary fraternity.

    Basically what I am saying is, as the bottom of the barrel, you won’t notice the difference. If anything I’d guess that with Newscorp, it might be a little more homogenous – ie. US/UK/CAN/AUST will combine and your novels will reach bigger audiences.
    So until you actually do see differently, basically it’s business as usual.

    1. I’ve never thought of myself as bottom of the barrel. Even when I was unpublished, I knew I was top of the line. Also, there may be some people who have disdain for romance fiction, but it’s the most popular form of fiction in the world, so clearly a majority of readers don’t. I’ve never once felt despised. And my novels are already in in the UK, Canada, Australia, along with most other countries. Romance fiction goes everywhere.

      Yeah, some jerks look down on us. That’s their problem, not ours.

      1. As a bookseller, in our (generalist) bookshop, romance was the section with the biggest turnover. Can’t afford to despise that, even if we wanted to.

  7. I was at an RWA chapter conference when the news hit. There was lots of confusion and anxiety. I guess that’s sort of the status quo in publishing anyway. Makes me really happy I’m with a tiny, boutique publisher!

    1. I was with a tiny boutique publisher. They tend to be eaten up by bigger publishers in the long run. In my case it was Scholastic. All that meant to me was we joined the book club and simply sold more copies. And the boutique publisher name still is kept as part of that company’s portfolio.

      1. There are a lot more boutique publishers now because there was a void to fill, and they’re doing very, very well.

  8. I should just add having just gone to see the NYTimes headline, look at the heading…

    Not hard to see the disdain, the put down, the arrogance, the hatred and the snobbery that surrounds the so-called literary worthiness of an author.

    What ever happened to enjoyment? Whatever happened to a love of Jane Austen? So what if a story with a HEA is not kosher according to the gospels of the desperately politically correct. They seek to trivialise me in order for them to feel superior about themselves.

    I write comedy. I love romance. Romantic comedy is my natural bent.

    How many comedies win ANY prizes. Comedy isn’t agony, angst and guilt ridden. It simply makes people laugh. Hell in a world full of ready made misery what the hell is wrong with simple entertainment?

    1. My favorite comedies often involve some agony and angst and guilt, so I wouldn’t set comedy in total opposition to… not-comedy. Even my favorite teen romantic comedy, 10 Things I Hate About You, has a ton of angst, ’cause, y’know, teenagers. Ditto When Harry Met Sally… or Love Actually or most of the other rom-coms that have had some staying power. The same is true in book form: “Fast Women” is one of my top 3 Crusies, and it’s full of agony, angst, guilt. You know you’re getting to a happy ending when people can resolve those things, but sheesh, without any of that stuff, most plots are just a series of things happening.

      1. Comedy is the best way to handle difficult subject because laughter often comes from the shock of the truth. And underlying almost all comedy, I think, is pain. We laugh to release the tension of painful things.

        Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.

  9. I look at it as further consolidation of the media, which benefits no one except Murdoch and his shareholders. As far as book publishing is concerned, what we’ve seen with consolidation is more focus and distribution of the top twenty bestsellers and little support for the midlist. Any media consolidation alarms me because soon we’re in danger of having more media outlets with a political agenda. It should bother every citizen that Murdoch’s citizenship was expedited, and that his ownership of a network license allowed him to have such a deleterious impact on public discourse in this and polarization in this country.

    1. Yes, but as the Big Six consolidate, the boutique publishers that Penny and Gin talked about are flourishing. E-publishing is huge. Publishing has blown wide open. Nobody knows what’s going to happen next. This is . . . interesting, but it’s not the apocalypse.

  10. While I agree with your comments, Jane Austin is not the equivalent of romantic genre writing. At the time Jane Austen was writing, her writing was the equivalent of Scott Fitzgerald’s. She was writing on contemporary manners and morals, not romance. The romance was a bonus.

  11. Penny, those are journalists looking for a lede and a snappy headline. They’re not deep, and they don’t matter because they don’t buy books. Enjoyment is alive and well and so is romance.

  12. Penny, the best vengeance is living well, so enjoy writing your stories, make money from them if that’s your interest, and don’t let the a–holes get you down.

  13. Jenny, why is the world going to hell?

    Argh, consolidation and by the evil Murdoch. Actually, it makes lots of sense for there to be consolidation in publishing because economies of scale can actually be achieved. Perhaps this puts pressure on your publisher, but it was going to happen. Harlequin was a good looking acquisition. NewsCorp is in the business of acquiring properties across publishing platforms.

    Great content is going to be even more appreciated as we come out of the muck of anyone can publish anything any time. Publishers that curate will rise to the top and globally, they must compete with a portfolio of great writers and content producers. Ones leveraging multiple channels with a following will be more appealing. That’d be the likes of you. I’d never have found you if you didn’t have this blog. You are leveraging the new digital landscape of publishing. Like HarperCollins did with This is the Land of Crusie!

  14. I think all of you who write romantic fiction are to be lauded for the talented people you are. Keep the faith in all of us enjoying your work, your engaging wit and opinions, that it won’t matter who publishes your efforts, the rest of us will have your backs at the stores or online. You will absolutely never be the bottom of the barrel.

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