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Harlequin tries for some online love with digital publishing venture

Harlequin Enterprises, best known as a publisher of romance novels in the traditional “dead tree” format, has just launched an online publishing house, Carina Press. According to the Carina home page, the new venture will focus on romance novels but “will also acquire voices in mystery, suspense and thrillers, science fiction, fantasy, erotica, gay/lesbian, and more.” An inaugural blog post on the site provides a kind of mission statement for Carina: “There are hundreds of fantastic stories out there that for one reason or another don’t yet have a home. Our intent is to give them one and provide the authors behind them with opportunities to play an active role in this exciting and ever-changing digital space.”

Indeed, a quick scan of the Carina site indicates that authors will be required to play a very active role in promoting their books: the FAQs page says that authors “have more control over [their] own brand” in the digital arena and that Carina will provide the tools to help authors begin “self-promoting in the digital space.”

Additionally, Carina authors will not be paid an advance, but instead will be “compensated with a higher royalty.” And Carina does not offer digital rights management to prevent authors’ work being copied or downloaded illegally.

According to a Harlequin press release, Carina books will be sold directly to consumers via its own website and various third party websites. The release continues:

“As a digital-only publisher Carina Press is a natural extension to our business; it builds on our digital strength and leadership position. We expect to discover new authors and unique voices that may not be able to find homes in traditional publishing houses,” said Donna Hayes, CEO and Publisher of Harlequin Enterprises. “It definitely gives us greater flexibility in the type of editorial we can accept from authors and offer to readers.”

Angela James, described in the press release as “a well-known advocate for digital publishing,” has been named executive editor of Carina. The “press’s” first books are expected to appear online in spring 2010.