I first caught wind of Harlequin’s new self-publishing venture at agent Kristen Nelson’s blog, where I posted a rare comment. Then today, while monitoring the Twitterverse, I noticed that Ann Aguirre was up to something unusual, so when I got home, I checked out her Twitter stream, which led me to this letter from the Romance Writers of America, taking a tough approach with Harlequin. I went back to Kristen Nelson’s site, where I noticed that she had already put up another post with the same letter from Ann Aguirre’s site, along with her reaction.

Thirsting for more knowledge, I turned to GalleyCat. It had a tidbit on Victoria Strauss comparing Harlequin’s self publishing venture to West Bow Press, so I headed there, but it really wasn’t what I was looking for.

However, it had a linkstravaganza upon the subject, so I found myself following a link to Dear Author that summarizes many of the arguments that authors have against this venture. They also have a response from Harlequin.

And since blog surfing can take you in unexpected directions, I just had to follow this post, also on Dear Author’s site, about Angela James’s becoming the editor of Carina Press, Harlequin’s new e-publishing venture, which I am planning to submit to quite soon. Side trip over.

Once I exhausted the Dear Author links (phew! those girls keep busy), I went to my Google Reader to see if anyone posted any more updates. Nope. So I probably have to wait until tomorrow for more reaction.

My take away? Publishing is changing. Rapidly. Self-publishing is losing its stigma as more and more of us know people who we respect who self-publish. And just today, Nathan Bransford said on his blog that “. . . it’s never been more difficult to find a traditional publisher.”

Never. Been. More. Difficult.

I know this from experience. Right now I’m sort of hunkering down and writing my way through this recession, casting out query letters every now and then for one of my existing novels, and re-polishing up the other. I’m hoping when all these changes stop, and when the economy improves, I’ll know what to do with the novel (number 4!) that I hope will be finished by then.

Is self-publishing tempting? Sure. But those publishing packages are expensive — prohibitively so for me. For those of you looking to self-publish, I’d say to examine your novel very closely before you do so. Make sure your book has the enthusiastic support of relative strangers — people who aren’t close to you and who will be honest. But most of all, be willing to write another novel. If you can write one, you can write another. And your second novel is likely to be worlds better than your first.

Because — and here’s the brutal part — it’s damned hard to convince a reviewer to read your novel. I’m one of the more friendly reviewers for self-publishers out there, and even I require a first chapter first. Why? Because many times, the novel doesn’t seem as ready as those published by debut mainstream writers. The first page tells me if you have basic command of grammar and style. If you have that, I keep reading, looking for other things. Is the writing overwrought? This happens often, as the writer tries to use strong language, and often ends up using too many adverbs and adjectives. Does the dialog flow? One of the reasons I read What Happened to the Indians is the dialog in the opening chapters was very well done. In my review, I said, “Mr. Shannon had three marks of a proficient writer. He had a compelling hook. He could handle dialog. And he could write.”

Like I said, the publishing world is changing. Publishers are experimenting. Sooner or later, something will catch on. In the meantime, I’ll just keep reading and scribbling, and keeping my eye on the publishing blogs, constantly hungry for the latest news.