harperlegendU.S. publishing is a diversity disaster zone. Could a new “digital-first” imprint from the HarperOne division of HarperCollins help correct that?

HarperLegend—Web site here—is going out of its way to accept manuscripts from unagented writers (terms here). In other words, your career might depend a little less on whether the second cousin of your roommate at Vassar went to school with a reader at a literary agency. This could especially benefit writers of color or those from low-income families.

“HarperLegend seeks to discover and publish new authors of visionary and transformational fiction in the digital first format,” the Web site says. That means “visionary fiction, spiritual novels or just stories of change.”

The most successful titles will also end up as paper books. And those more than 25,000 words long will be print on demand titles.

While this is not the perfect arrangement—no advances, though e-royalties reach 50 percent after the first 10,000 copies sold—I also see lots of good possibilities here. The site and a Publishers Weekly article about it do not mention diversity. But in breaking away from the standard agent scenario, HarperLegend could offer plenty of upside in this regard. I’m glad to see a Big Five publisher doing something right. I just hope that prices will be sensible, especially considering the limited budgets of younger readers.

marktauberSomething else I’ll be curious about is HarperLegend’s policy toward DRM. Among the listed “benefits” for writers are “anti-piracy” efforts. Um, no, folks, if you mean standard DRM. You want to make these new writers as easy as possible to enjoy on a variety of reading platforms, especially cell phones. In the case of obscurities, the real problem won’t be piracy. It will be to find an audience. If nothing else, “social DRM” could be used as opposed to the standard encryption-based DRM. Ask Baen, ask Tor, about DRM vs. none. “None” wins by a longshot.

Publisher will be Mark Tauber (photo). Hmm. Same guy I worked with years ago from afar when contributing to an Internet-related anthology? If so, that’s a positive.

Update: Nope, definitely not the same guy. The last names are not quite spelled the same. Still, maybe this is a good omen.

Related: When will books reflect the population?, my Baltimore Sun article from April 2014.


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