Sometime in the past month Harlequin quietly shuttered its vanity press imprint Dellarte Press, replacing its website with a notice that the business is closing.
Harlequin was the second major US publisher to partner with famed vanity press Author Solutions when Harlequin launched Harlequin Horizons in 2009 (it was later renamed to Dellarte Press). That vanity press service launched only weeks after Christian publisher Thomas Nelson (a HarperCollins sub) eschewed the Ten Commandments and launched WestBow Press.
Operated by Author Solutions with Harlequin acting as a front, Dellarte Press operated on a simple business model: sell authors overpriced bundles of self-pub services while at the same trying to upsell them additional useless marketing services.
As you can tell from my word choice, I have a low opinion of these services; the professional author groups had similar low opinion in 2009, which leads me to Harlequin Horizons' colorful early history, and why it was renamed.
The launch of Harlequin Horizons was not well received. The Romance Writers of America and the SFWA both responded by blacklisting Harlequin. They announced that titles published by any of Harlequin's imprints would no longer count towards an author's membership in the organizations. The Mystery Writers of America made a similar threat (it's not clear if they followed through). And finally, Preditors & Editors changed its listing for Harlequin to that of Vanity Publisher.
As a result of the pressure, Harlequin subsequently renamed Harlequin Horizons to Dellarte Press while also removing much of the Harlequin branding from the website.
DellArte Press has gotten little press in the subsequent 5 years, before it was abruptly shuttered sometime in the past month. The closure was only noticed this past week by Victoria Strauss of Writer's Beware and by Mick Rooney of The Independent Publishing Magazine. Details are still scarce at this time (I'm still waiting to hear back from Harlequin) so I can't tell you why Dellarte was closed or what will happen to the existing contracts authors may have had with Dellarte.
Rooney reports that Dellarte closed because it was a bust; he reports that it only shipped 16 titles in 5 years (I found 17 titles listed on Amazon). I don't see how that could be true, but at this time I don't have any evidence to the contrary.
I would think that the books distributed by Dellarte are now being handled by one of Author Solution's many
tentacles divisions, and thus bear a new publishing imprint, but I haven't been able to confirm that supposition.
In any case, Harlequin is the second publisher to cut ties with Author Solutions; F&W Media's Writer's Digest ended its relationship last June when it closed Abbott Press. A couple months later Writer's Digest opened a new imprint, Blue Ash Publishing, in partnership with the much more palatable and ethical BookBaby.
Author Solutions' current partners include Lulu, Barnes & Noble, Simon & Schuster, and HarperCollins, as well as several different units of Author Solution's parent company, Penguin Random House.