Featured Publisher: Harlequin
Harlequin is probably the most well-known and successful romance publisher in the world. And by romance we mean everything from teen romance to right sexy romps. Harlequin’s story started in May 1949, when it opened doors as a reprinting company, reprinting books from authors who had very little to do with romance, such as James Hadley Chase and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Over the years, it has gradually built an empire that practically owns romance internationally.
A great deal of its success has to do with an early relationship with Mills and Boon, which is pretty much the name in romance. Incredibly, the partnership was literally based on a handshake. Every year Richard Bonnycastle would travel to London to meet Alan Boon for lunch and they would shake hands on another 12-month deal.
Initially, Mary Bonnycastle (Richard’s wife) and Judy Burgess (the couple’s daughter) insisted that the books adhere to a strict ‘decency code’ – if it contained more than a ‘chaste kiss’ it didn’t get published. But the public was hungry for more and so, caress-by-shiver-inducing-caress, the books evolved into the bodice rippers we have today.
The company has expanded its presence from North America (mostly Canada) to Europe and Asia. It has offices in Tokyo, Sydney, Paris, Warsaw, Athens, Budapest, and Stockholm, and many more, and its books are available in countless other countries. It’s also grown its list of imprints, each of which specialises in a specific type of romance (with varying levels of explicitness).
Some of its imprints include:
- Harlequin Blaze: the sizzling hottest of the imprints
- Harlequin Nocturne: for those with a thirst for supernatural and paranormal romance
- Harlequin Intrigue: suspenseful thrills and spills, and romance, of course
- Harlequin Historical: good old fashioned bodice rippers as we know them best
- Harlequin Teen: catching them young
- Harlequin Nonfiction: health, fitness, self-help, and memoirs all with love and romance in mind
Harlequin accepts author submissions, but pay careful attention to the writing guidelines because some of the imprints accept unsolicited manuscripts, while others will only consider manuscripts from agents. Also, some accept electronic submissions, while others only consider mailed hardcopies. The Writing Guidelines section is comprehensive and should answer any questions that you have about the process.
In the interests of transparency, ensure that you are absolutely clear on the terms and conditions of any contract offered. There have been some rumblings about Harlequin’s royalty rates, especially when it comes to ebooks, so go into any deal with your eyes wide open.