Thursday, November 26, 2009
Old Lady Peabody's Soup: A Publishing Analogy
So many of you may have heard about how Harlequin Publishing has opened up a self-publishing imprint (italic used here to convey the sense of "what in the name of all that is holy and good in this world were they thinking!?"). A lot of ideas have been thrown around about it on the blogosphere, and I'm not going to repeat them here.
But I am going to add an analogy to the mix. (I like analogies; they're fun to create, and they make my wife laugh a lot, even if she's just humoring me 30% of the time.)
Harlequin's creation of a self-publishing imprint is like if Campbell's Soup decided they would let the old lady down the street from their factory, who is half-blind and who owns bottled and canned food that predates the Cold War, bring a big pot of soup that she had fixed up that afternoon with who-knows-what cooked into it down to their factory to start putting in Campbell's Soup brand cans. She would then pay Campbell's a few thousand dollars to thank them for the privilege of having her soup canned in their cans and put on the shelf with their label. The FDA wouldn't know the diff. The customer wouldn't know the diff. And. AND. Old Lady Peabody could go around town saying that her recipe of soup is used by Campbell's, so everyone should buy some of her soup. Weeks later, when a number of househoulds are hospitalized for food poisoning, having ended up with what they thought was the Campbell's Soup brand, they're not going to sue Old Lady Peabody. They're going to sue Harleq . . . er . . . Campbell's.
So, is it ever, ever worth coming out with a self-publishing imprint if you are a well-respected publisher? No. Never, ever, in a million years, quadruple infinity, no reversals. The end.
DISCLAIMER: Campbell's Soup is the best soup in the whole wide world and would never, ever let Old Lady Peabody and her cat-hair-riddled soup into their factories. This was merely a satirical analogy meant to show that a soup company with as highly respected a reputation as Campbell's would be a good analogical focus in comparison to Harlequin. (although they don't put naughty ladies on their soup cans as does Harlequin . . . so it's not the perfect analogy, right? But you do what you can.)