What are some upcoming trends for 2014?
Engaging readers with a book beyond the book itself will be something more and more publishers try through transmedia publishing, in which a story unfolds across multiple platforms beyond print and ebook: social media, video and mobile. A great example of this is The Chatsfield, a collection of eight romance novels based on a hotel of the same name. Beyond the complete stories in print and ebook formats, readers can discover new characters and storylines through Facebook, YouTube, blogs, short stories and Twitter. Readers can explore the hotel interactively and engage with characters who will respond to them, and audience participation will even help shape the narrative. It’s the ultimate in creating an involving and entertaining reading experience and potentially the future of storytelling!
Publishers are also becoming increasingly diligent at connecting with readers outside the reading experience. The rewards for achieving this are diverse—gaining reader loyalty, increasing discoverability of titles, and securing valuable feedback and insight from readers. At Harlequin, we are fortunate to have a long-standing relationship with readers through the strength of our brand and what it has come to mean to readers.
Additionally, I believe we will see more alliances between publishers and other companies as a way of extending their brands and imprints to reach new audiences and demographics. Our Cosmo Red-Hot Reads from Harlequin’s digital-first program is a good example. In the past we’ve also had partnerships or co-promotions with organizations as varied as NASCAR, The Bachelor, Sandals Resorts, Caesar’s Entertainment, Kraft and Big Fish Games.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
Our variety of imprints means that we’re open to a broad range of editorial. We’re growing our hardcover and trade programs. As such, we’d love to see more commercial literary fiction. We’ve already had success with titles like Jason Mott’s The Returned and Heather Gudenkauf’s The Weight of Silence. We’d also like to see more thrillers of all kinds but psychological thrillers in particular, which sell as well in our overseas markets as they do in North America. In nonfiction, our primary focus is on health and wellness for women. We’ve had great success with cookbooks and would be happy to see more. We would like everyone with a manuscript that women would love to read to consider us as a house to publish their work.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
We’re not averse to looking at anything. If it is something that women want to read, then we want to see it. Harlequin is the world’s leading publisher of romance fiction, but we also publish a broad range of editorial for women, including nonfiction, young adult, commercial literary fiction and more.
Speaking of topics that I never want to see again, in a broader sense, I’d love to see the media stop referring to romance fiction as “bodice-rippers.” It’s a generic term used to define the genre, but it’s misrepresentative and insulting to women. Publishers release romance titles ranging from contemporary to historical, inspirational to erotica, new adult to paranormal, small-town tales to international dramas and so on. Romance fiction is a $1.6 billion genre, popular since Samuel Richardson and Jane Austen in the 17th and 18th centuries. It’s an enormous and enduring genre of fiction that doesn’t deserve derisive sniggering, especially not from the media—it’s simply an incorrect and obsolete term.
What is unique about your corner of the industry?
One thing that certainly sets us apart from every other publisher is the unique relationship we have with our readers and authors. It’s a real community, and we’re engaged in a constant dialogue. Our readers are very active on the boards and in chat rooms. The authors are also online there responding to them. When we’re doing a good job, they let us know. And when we’ve done something they are unhappy with, they let us hear it. We weigh every suggestion, idea and concern expressed to us. We consider ourselves very fortunate to have such an extraordinary relationship that provides us with invaluable and immediate feedback.
How do e-books factor into your publishing strategy going forward?
Prominently. Romance readers, in particular, are adventurous—they were among the first people to embrace the format, and they are open to anything. So it has allowed us to try innovative concepts such as Cosmo Red-Hot Reads from Harlequin, our digital-first program with Cosmopolitan magazine. Obviously, e-books help us to reach a broader readership since they don’t have the restrictions of a physical book. As a publisher, we strive to make that wider audience aware of what we have to offer. We also like the fact that e-books allow readers to discover an author long after her traditional print publication is no longer in stores or to find the backlist of an author that has just become a new favorite.
Anything else you’d like to add?
We’re incredibly excited about the future and our new relationship with HarperCollins. I’m confident the union will strengthen both companies and open a whole new world of opportunities.
Loriana Sacilotto has been the executive vice president of global publishing and strategy at Harlequin Enterprises since 2004.