If you follow the writing - especially romance writing - community at all, you will have heard of the new partnership between AuthorSolutions and Harlequin: Harlequin Horizons.
Some people are worried that:
1) This venture will dilute the Harlequin brand. In other words, that a reader will pick up a Horizons book and think that all Harlequin books can be measured by it. Because obviously it will be crap, right?
I would hope that, for the prices they are charging, a Horizons book will not be crap. Although it looks like one might be able to skip the editing and go straight to publishing. In that case, hopefully the customer has already edited and proofed the book beforehand, like with their critique group or something. I'm just saying, just because it's a vanity press doesn't necessarily follow that it produces crap.
But say that some Horizons books are bad - we've all read poorly edited or typo-ridden books from major NY publishers, haven't we? I've noticed a lot more of this in the past few years. Doesn't stop me from reading more books by that publishing house.
2) This allows a writer to bypass the "paying your dues" stage and go directly to the "Harlequin Author" stage. The "I suffered for years to be published so you have to suffer for years too - no shortcuts!" mentality, forgetting that they could have gone the vanity press route themselves if they'd wanted. Not everyone wants to wait, and that's okay. The more choices open to authors, the better it is for authors. All authors.
3) This only helps rich people to be published and will lead to publishing being an elitist industry. Huh? Aside from polo, what is more elite than publishing? They've got their own word, for pete's sake - literati. Historically, being able to read was pretty elite. Not sure this has ever truly changed.
4) This is selling a dream that won't come true. Okay, here I agree. The website prose is a little too too, with phrases like "Dare to Dream" and "Gain Exposure to a Wide Audience" and "Compete in the Marketplace" and "Have you always dreamt about being the center of attention at a book signing event featuring you, the published author?"
Because, lemme tell ya, very very very rarely will you be the center of attention at a book signing event. Mostly you'll be asked where the bathroom is. Or if you work there. Or you'll be politely ignored as customers scoot past with averted eyes. At least, that's what I'm reliably informed. I've never done a solo book signing. (I do the giant Romantic Times one, which is a total hoot and I recommend it big time.)
But I do know that you won't get wide exposure nor be able to compete in the marketplace - at least, not in the way you dream of (unless you have very grounded, realistic dreams) - with such a program for the simple reason that your book will not appear on bookstore shelves.
Now, if you realize that, and you understand this most likely will not lead to quitting your day job, then all is fine.
However, you should also realize that you can do much of this yourself, for little or no cost. Check out Patricia Simpson's very cogent account of her experience. Her article is really the final word on self-publishing. Read it, learn - and be inspired. :)