Thursday, August 20, 2009

Presents and Presents Extra

When I asked abut the new covers and scheduling, Jill made what I think is a very good and interesting point in her comment. She said:

I also think that Harlequin could do a lot more to distinguish Presents and
Presents Extra in North America. They have very different "feels" and that is
not reflected in the covers or the titles.

Well, basically, Jill, my response is ‘Me too’ - but it’s the main Presents schedule that I wish Marketing would get to grips with and make a lot clearer. I understand that some sort of changes are in the pipeline. And not before time in my opinion – there are a lot of readers out there who have been confused and puzzled by the way some books have been published in Presents over the past year or so. It’s a situation that has had meant that some people have bought books they weren’t truly happy with. Books that didn’t give them what they wanted. And has left others not really know which books to buy to get the sort of read they’re looking for.

It’s also sometimes meant that some people have found new authors they’ve fallen in love with, authors they want to read more of – which is the good side of this and I suspect that might have been the original plan behind the new way of publishing Presents Extra. But it’s a bit more complicated than the thought that the main Presents run at the beginning of the month have stayed exactly the same, while the Presents Extra are the ‘different’ ones. And as I have a book coming out in Presents Extra in October I’ll take this opportunity to explain things as they stand now. And thank you Jill for asking the question to lead me to doing this.

OK, so all the Presents/Presents Extra books are originally bought by the London UK editorial offices – that is, they are read, edited and acquired by Harlequin Mills & Boon UK. They are published in the UK first and then, either the same month, or later in the year, they are published in America. The books that are published in the Presents line-up in USA used to be acquired solely from one line in the UK - the Modern Romance line. (The books with the blue covers that you see in my sidebar etc.) But these days, the books that are put out with a Presents cover are acquired from two different lines. (With some exceptions but I’ll come to that in a minute.) So now the Presents/Extra books are acquired from the Modern Romance Line and the Modern Heat line.

And the first complication starts to come in because the Modern Heat used to be called the Modern Extra and the name of the line was changed in 2008.

So in the UK and in Australia, these books are brought out under a separate line title – in Australia they are sold as Sexy Sensation, with a distinctly different cover design. In the UK you have to look a little harder for that ‘Heat’ addition to the cover but it’s there. Personally, I think this is a very good – and necessary distinction. Because the editorial content of these books is very different in tone and in execution from the classic Modern/Presents style editorial. You’ve only got to look at the writing guidelines for each line – specially the checklists for the type of alpha hero they are looking for - to see this:

Mills & Boon Modern Romance®
Commanding: he’s always in control and calling the shots – except when the heroine finally tames him…
Demanding: he’s come a long way since his emotionally or financially impoverished childhood; he wants it done, and he wants it done now!
Arrogant: he believes in himself and the reach of his influence, totally – until the battle with his feelings for the heroine begins…
Passionate: sensual and sexy, he uses his charm and power to get what he wants, though his need for the heroine may ultimately prove stronger
Status: impossibly wealthy, probably self-made; often has celebrity status in the media. The ruler of all he surveys, be it a company or a country
Mills & Boon Modern Heat®
Young: he’s aged between 25 and 35 and has yet to settle down
Confident: he knows what he wants and has a good idea of how he’ll get it; he knows he’s attractive and relishes challenges – he might have a extreme hobby
Easy-going: he plays as hard as he works, knowing how and when to have a good time. He doesn’t sweat the small stuff…
Accessible: he’s very approachable, but his physical presence and his confidence and charm make him stand out from the crowd
Status: he hails from all walks of life and can have any level of success and wealth

For me the difference between the two is more than this - it’s a difference of mood and intensity – and very definitely of conflict. To me the hallmark of the classic Presents is that high-octane, white heat of emotional intensity that some people love and others hate and its one of the reasons why Modern/Presents has been so successful and why the line often sparks off so many debates about the books and the heroes. If you want to know more about what I think are the differences between these two lines, I wrote about it here:

So, to my way of thinking, it’s important to indicate which type of read a book is. This has been done in the UK and in Australia. In America, the Modern Heat editorial was originally published in the Presents Extra line-up, which marked them out as slightly different and so readers knew what they were getting – but all that has been changed. Just when everyone thought they knew that Extras were different, they aren’t any more! The Modern Heat books have been put in with the main run of the Presents titles at the beginning of the month, and the Presents Extras are precisely that –extra Presents out in the middle of the month. Presents/Modern-style stories written by Presents authors and put together in themed collections. (My Kept For Her Baby is out under the heading ‘Dark Nights with the Billionaire’ which, I’ll be honest, I don’t quite understand – but that’s marketing for you!)

The exception to this is when the Presents Extra line up is used to bring out some Medical titles and then the name of the series – Posh Docs, Mediterranean Doctors etc - will usually reveal that this is what has happened.

So it’s all a bit confusing to readers at the moment. I understand that in the near future there are plans to indicate on the covers what sort of story each book is but I don’t know quite what or when that’s going to happen. Speaking personally, it can’t come soon enough because if I was buying a Presents title I’d want to know that I was going to get the reading experience I was looking for. And if I wanted a Modern Heat style story I’d want to know where to look for that too. So I hope all this will soon be sorted out to make it clearer.

Until then, what can you do to check which sort of story a book is? Well, the obvious thing is to go by the author – authors you know have written classic Presents style books before will be the ones who will give you the same sort of read, no matter whether they come out in Presents or Presents Extra – Kept For Her Baby is a classic example. And the other titles in Extra that month are by Carole Mortimer, Lee Wilkinson and Janette Kenny – classic Presents authors.

In the main Presents line up at the beginning of the month, authors like Heidi Rice, Kate Hardy, Trish Wylie, Nicola Marsh . . .have all be published in Modern Heat first. You can check out the Modern Heat books on the Mills & Boon web site if you want to. They’re in with the Modern titles but they have that read ‘Heat’ on the front cover to indicate their style. Or putting Modern Heat into the search box on will show you the authors who write for this line. Then you can make your choice.

So does this help – or confuse you even more? I think it just goes to show that, as Jill says, it’s time there was some way of showing that a book started out as a Modern Romance or a Modern Heat because they do have that different ‘feel’ and some readers prefer one and not the other .

Of course, now that I’ve explained all this, things will probably change all over again and nothing will be clear.
But the one thing I can promise you is that Kept For Her Baby is a classic Presents story – but you need to look for it in the Presents Extra line up that’s out on October 13th.

Just look for that fabulous cover and you’ll find it.


Jill said...

Kate, thank you for clarifying.
I only read very specific authors in HP ;-) and then I followed over some of my favorite Harlequin Romance authors (Ally Blake, Trish Wylie, etc.) into Modern Heat. I liked them and wanted to try more Heat authors, but it was hard to tell who was writing what.
I consider myself a well-educated consumer (read your blog along with many others) and I was still confused about what was going on.
Thanks again!

Speciality Cruises and Tours said... only one adjective to describe Presents.......intensity, passion, all of it! So if any of you were into marketing what would you suggest to improve the covers?

I've noticed that the male models lately don't live up to the alpha image and I'm not going to mention the covers. It just susprises me when I see muscled chest, athletic legs and I see a "skinny male" doesn't make for a sensual cover.

Too bad we can't start up a blog with inputs concerning such inputs. I don't think most people know that an author has little say about the cover and title of their book. Is that correct?

This post was excellent, you always clarify everything.


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