Shuffling the Lines

July 13th, 2004 · No Comments
by Booksquare

We start a morning a bit bleary eyed and puzzled. Actually, we start every morning this way, but we are still trying to understand the two desserts we were served last night (we ordered one and were given one with a little burning candle on it — dessert two arrived sufficiently after dessert one and moments after we declared we’d never eat again. Which surely explains why we did.). So we had to read our first item multiple times (sorry, no link at this point). Harlequin Enterprises, which has been on a tear lately, launching so many lines and imprints, they’re poised to take over the entire women’s fiction (and some men’s) ocean.

Yet today, we hear they’re also doing some judicious cutting. Temptation will no longer be published in the United States. We hear sales for the line remain strong in other countries; some sort of arrangments will be made to continue publishing in those markets. The comedy line (HQ really doesn’t have an excellent track record in this area) Flipside will be discontinued. Blaze will add two titles per month; Intimate Moments will lose two titles per month. The Historicals line will go direct mail only. And the American line (still, bizarrely, overseen from the Toronto office) will be revamped. No new titles will be purchased in the foreseeable future.

We are not particularly good at math; less so after a wild evening of desserts, but all of this adds up to a net loss of books per month. Our sources suggest these moves are due to changing reader tastes. Okay, that sort of makes sense. Whether or not your read their books (and you may because they publish more than romance), HQ is a major player in the publishing industry. It’s also a very marketing driven company. So we will form a hypothethis or two until we get actual facts or something to support us:

  • Sexy books remain hot. This fits in nicely with what we’ve been saying about the growth of the erotica markets.
  • Funny books are tough to sell. We think this is because HQ was trying to fit the chicklit sensibility into mainstream, middle America scenarios. Also (and we learned this during our motion picture career), U.S. funny doesn’t necessarily translate internationally. There was a lack of focus here that we think contributed to the demise of Flipside.
  • Too much of the same is bad. We think that’s the Intimate Moments problem. We never read the books because they were just too…well, we never read them. Formula can be good — too much of the same formula is bad. We’ve curtailed our romance reading significantly because there has been too much sameness for quite some time. Readers like to know what they’re getting, sure, but when that becomes predictable, it’s bad.
  • As for the rest, we don’t know. The Historicals were always badly positioned. The American line? Haven’t even seen one in years — but we have this amazing ability to wipe any book cover featuring a baby from our mind. We also don’t notice dusty mantels.

We imagine we’ll have more on this soon.

Update: Here’s a little more information from eHarlequin.

File Under: Publishers and Editors