Publishing Innovator of the Year: Harlequin
"Wherever women are, we are,” says Malle Vallik, director, digital content and interactivity for Harlequin Enterprises. You’ll hear this mantra uttered by other Harlequin executives, but it is much more than corporate speak. It is part of a “deliberate strategy,” says Vallik, and the driving force behind Harlequin’s evolution over the past 60 years. “We were the first publishers to take books into the supermarkets and to mass merchandisers because that’s where women shopped,” Vallik says. The company—which publishes more than 120 titles each month in 28 languages—was also one of the first publishers to launch a full-scale e-book program (dating back to 2005) and the first to make its entire front list available in e-book format, as well as offer “enriched” e-books with interactive content. It was one of the first in the industry to launch mobile content, and has been a pioneer in offering short-form content via e-books and mobile platforms.
Its mission “to be wherever women are” has even led the company into some unusual marketing venues. “Over the past few years, our partnership with NASCAR turned some heads!” says Brent Lewis, Harlequin’s vice president, Internet and digital. “A huge number of NASCAR fans are women, providing great exposure for Harlequin, and Harlequin is now publishing NASCAR-based romance stories.”
It is for such innovation that Book Business named Harlequin as the Publishing Innovator of the Year, honoring the company at an awards dinner March 23, at the New York Marriott Marquis Times Square, during the Publishing Business Conference & Expo.
Success With a Bit of Spice
One of the Toronto-based company’s most successful innovations to date is its Spice Briefs (short-form e-books) program.
“The launch [in 2007] of digital-only short stories for women has been a tremendous success,” says Lewis. “The program has been expanded beyond its original editorial of erotic romance (Spice Briefs) to include paranormal romance (Nocturne Bites) and historical romance (Historical Undone!). Digital short stories have enabled us to successfully entertain women with new stories, but have also enabled Harlequin to expand its brands, find new authors, [and] experiment with new editorial concepts cost-effectively.”