Thursday, March 26, 2009

Harlequin Teens

I've been meaning to post this little snippet for awhile now, so when PW ran a story, it was just the kick in the pants I needed.

The publisher Harlequin, best known for their romance novels, is hoping to slice themselves a piece of the YA pie (mmm, pie) with a new line aimed at teens. I would be inclined to snark, but two things stop me: one, that I read a lot of romance myself and that would just be hypocritical, and two, that the ladies from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books would hunt me down and gut me. I'm scared of the smart bitches, y'all.

While the Harlequin Teen line does seem to be focusing on the girls, they don't seem to be (as one would expect) solely teen romances. Instead, the line is going for
a spectrum of genres including fantasy, contemporary, historical, science fiction and—no surprise—romance.
They're also hoping to get market info directly from the girls via a website that asks for direct input. We'll see how that works out.

They have actually done YA before, with Kimani Tru, a not-totally-romance offshoot of their African-American romance line. Kimani Tru hasn't set the world on fire, but from what I've seen of their titles, they've done an all-right job appealing to teen girls.

So what do you think? Are they going to get a nice big piece of the pie, with whipped cream on top? Or just the icky, dry pieces of crust?


Anonymous said...

My issue with Harlequin Teen is about branding and reader expectations. I've thought about blogging about this, too, but I've been hesitant because I haven't had the chance to read any of the books. (Although, if anyone from Harlequin happens to find this post and my comment, I'd love some ARCs! Digital is fine!) But as far as what I've read about the line, I definitely have qualms about the branding. Which is strange, because overall, I think Harlequin is very smart about branding and imprints.*

I commented about this at YPulse last month. Basically, while I admire what they say they're aiming for, I don't think calling the imprint Harlequin Teen is the best move. Because having Harlequin in the name, I think, implies romance, and it doesn't seem like that's their goal. The single title imprints they've had success with have a distinct identity, and in some cases, they've dissociated the imprint with the Harlequin name. I think that's what they should be doing here. Either publish only YA romances as Harlequin Teen books or change the name to reflect the breadth of the books. I'm not in marketing, and who knows, maybe they do know what they're doing after all. But the Harlequin name has such reach that even teens are aware of the name, know they publish romance novels, and some teens are already reading them. I think the name is setting up readers to expect a romance, and while they may get it in some cases, they sure as hell won't in a The Book Thief or Thirteen Reasons Why-type book. The books may be good, but if you're expecting a romance, it can be hard to look past your original expectations.

Sorry for the long comment, but this is something I've been thinking about recently.

*And which is not to say that I think other YA imprints have strong brands, other than Little Brown's Poppy, which was, after all, created to capitalize on the success of Gossip Girl, the A-List, and the Clique. Besides Poppy, what else is there? Maybe Scholastic/Push, Random House/David Fickling, Front Street, Candlewick when it comes to non-paranormal fiction, and Penguin/Firebird?

Bibliovore said...

Don't apologize for a long comment! I like them all sizes.

You bring up some good points as regards branding. I started reading romances at the age of 12, and even then my little brain went, "Harlequin = romance." Which is good for their romance lines, but may hurt their non-romance books. Even if a book *says* it's a paranormal, I think a romance-lovin' reader will still expect a YA HEA to be included, and a romance hatin' reader will skip over it entirely. But that website sure is a whole lotta pink and flowers, so maybe they are aiming for the more romantic end of YA. In that case, why not say so?

Firebird is a good example of a strong fantasy/sci-fi YA brand. Did they build on the strength of Tor (as I recall, it was Tor/Firebird at one time) or did they build that from the ground up and hook up with Tor later?

Anonymous said...

I gotta tell you, in my urban library the Kimani Tru books are like gold. Teens will come in every day to see if one has been returned. They're doing something right with those!

Anonymous said...

I don't know about it's origins, but right now, Firebird is completely different from Tor. Firebird is Penguin, Tor is an imprint of Macmillan. Although I should have added Tor Teen as another imprint with a distinct brand.