Harlequin Digital Innovations

Business Week covers eBooks in their current issue with an article by Spencer Ante, Averting a Digital Horror Story.

Harlequin’s CEO Donna Hayes is quoted: “Harlequin CEO Donna Hayes says electronic books account for about 6% of total sales now, but she expects that to double in a few years. She says digital sales appear to be adding to the company’s revenue, rather than cannibalizing traditional sales. Harlequin’s revenues rose 7% over the first nine months of the year, while U.S. book sales were up 3.6%.  ‘It has grown our business so far,’ says Hayes.”

The article covers a few of the key issues facing publishers (pricing, eBook release dates) and some innovations. They mention the prequels we have been publishing for authors like Gena Showalter, Susan Mallery and Rachel Vincent to name just a few, and which have had a definite success factor on the author’s print sales.

I thought I would highlight some more of our digital innovations:

  • We have launched 3 digital-only programs Spice Briefs, Silhouette Nocturne Bites and Harlequin Historical Undone. In each program we have published new authors, authors new to Harlequin as well as established writers
  • Both Briefs and Bites have had stories published in print
  • The success of these programns led to the launch of Carina Press, a digital-only publishing house
  • We have published a dozen enriched eBooks like Deanna Raybourn’s Silent in the Grave. Each title has had different unique content: behind the scenes, photos, deleted scenes, recipes, etc. We’ve learned that while readers like this extra content, we are a little ahead of the times. Readers are more interested in figuring out eBooks rather than advanced eBooks. You have to walk before you run
  • We gave away almost 3 million book downloads in 2009 to celebrate our 60th anniversary. A book from each of our 16 series. There are new books you can download throughout 2010 at www.TryHarlequin.com
  • We have a book widget (browse the book) available for every single title and some of our series titles. Authors and readers can grab the code and paste the widget to their own sites and blogs.
  • We publish our entire frontlist in all eBook formats. Our mission is to offer women great stories in whatever form they want to consume it. Our stories are available anytime anywhere.
  • We create bundles of stories, whether it is an entire series like the One-Click-Buy Presents or a miniseries like Maureen Child’s Kings of California.
  • We listen to our customers and have created several bundles from customer requests.
  • We value the various bloggers who review romance novels and reached out to them to create Blogger Bundles. I’ll write more about them in an upcoming post, but you can check out Dear Author’s Unsual Heroines, We Write Romance Selects Presents, and Super Librarian’s The Harvey Girls.
  • We publish our eBooks simultaneously with our print books (or more specifically on the 1st of the month) and they are priced lower than the print version.
  • I mentioned prequels above. These generally connect to an upcoming miniseries and offer a quick taste of original content that matches the miniseries. In 2010 we will also be publishing brequels (I’m not convinced I like the word) which is, again, a short story that is part of a miniseries, but in between. Check out what Courtney Milan and Julie Kagawa have to offer.
  • Often, we give these stories away for free for a period of time. They are a great way for a reader to sample a new author with no commitment. We know the editorial will win the reader.
  • We are also sampling our novels on Facebook through Living Social and their book sampling app.

Click image to view full cover

That’s just a few of our digital initiatives. Naturally we’re working on mobile, more sampling and lots more. And we’re always keen to hear from authors and readers and those in the industry. What are we missing?



  1. Amy

    “Both Briefs and Bites have had stories published in print”

    And in April 5 Undones will be combined into a Harlequin Historical print book.

  2. interested in the blogger bundles…

  3. Absolutely true about the walk before running, it’s confusing for reading trying to go for the digital if they aren’t the bleeding edge techines. It’s something coming up over and over again at our book club meetings and my casual conversations with readers. They want books but they don’t want it too much more difficult than picking up a book and opening the page to get to their story. The tide is turning with the addition of easier to use readers.

  4. Dawn Peitersen

    Thank you so much for sharing! Very informative and interesting to see the increase and advancing in the digital world.

  5. I am taking notes. this is impressive.

  6. workpressite

    LOVE IT!!!

  7. Hi Malle,

    I received your name from Brian Henry after attending one of his publishing workshops and he told me to contact you about my novel “Sex and Samosas”. Fantasia, the company I worked for and the one the novel is based on, is willing to buy thousands of copies of the book to sell for me and they will be on board with the promotion of it as well as it will benefit their company greatly to do so.

    It is the story of one woman’s journey into self discovery as her whole life changes after she attends an adult novelty toy presentation. I have told it with a humourous angle and from an Indo-Canadian perspective as Indians may have written the Kama Sutra but if you ask a newly married Indian bride, they didn’t bother to read it when it was done.

    Brian Henry wanted me to tell you that he strongly recommends me (his words!!) and my novel (340 page count currently).

    I look forward to hearing from you and can provide you with the manuscript for your consideration.

    Jasmine Aziz

  8. Any quite good reading the following, thank you! I became shopping for aol when I came across publish, I’m going to increase ones nourish to Yahoo Viewers, I anticipate additional within you.


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