Natasha Oakley - British Romance Author

Writer of tug-at-the-heartstrings, feel-good romance for Harlequin Mills & Boon

Monday, January 28, 2008

Courtesy of the Times ...

I give you India and some Fun Facts! The links are here and here.

I've known about the India market for quite a time, but this is what appeared in the Times (on the 24th I gather). The 'Romance' line is likely to feature quite heavily, apparently.

Mills & Boon starts a local love affair with India
Rhys Blakely in Bombay

It is the consummation of one of the longest — and most breathless — romances in global publishing: a new chapter will start for Harlequin Mills & Boon next month when it sets up shop in India. Readers in the sub-continent — including, apparently, a significant number of men — have been swooning over the romantic novels since the days of the Raj. However, the Mills & Boon books found piled high on India’s bookstalls find their way into the country even though the publisher has never had a long-term distributor.

All that will change on February 4, when titles such as the recent Virgin Slave, Barbarian King begin to print in India for the first time and Mills & Boon, which celebrates its centenary this year, becomes the latest Western publisher to target India’s 300 million English-reading consumers. In 2005, the Indian Government allowed foreign groups to own non-news publications wholly for the first time, triggering a rush of interest. Last October, Condé Nast, the American publisher, launched Vogue India, the first 100 per cent foreign-controlled magazine. GQ, its men’s equivalent, is expected in a matter of months.

Mills & Boon, which sells nearly 200 million romantic novels a year, believes that its wares — with their virginal, vulnerable heroines and tall, dark heroes — hit a unique chord.

“India is crazy about true romance,” Andrew Go, the head of the Indian operation, said. “Look at the basic Bollywood plot: boy meets girl; conflict; happy ending. We carry across that trend. We say we sell four books a second, Actually it’s 4.4. If I can take that to five, I’m a hero.”

India has the potential to hit Mr Go’s target: the popularity of the country’s lending libraries is declining as India’s burgeoning middle class opts to buy rather than borrow.

The full Mills & Boon portfolio will not be unleashed. Steamier series will be held back, but there are also suggestions that titles will be tailored to India, which Mr Go says represents “a new pool of creative talent”. Mills & Boon “has never been prejudiced” on where its writers hail from, he added — which some would say is an understatement. To feed its readers’ voracious appetites, the company carries formulaic advice on its websites for aspiring writers to follow (If only it were that simple, Mr Blakely!). Mr Go expects more Indian authors to join the Mills & Boon ranks this year.

Nevertheless, success in India carries its challenges. Mills & Boon will sell books for just 99 rupees (£1.30) each. “The margins here are lower than anywhere else,” Mr Go said. “No one rushes into India. This is a long-term project.”

And on the 25th came Eight Fun Facts:

1. Thirty five million Mills & Boon titles are sold each year worldwide. Think we have a stiff upper lip? Seven million romantic novels are sold in the UK alone . . .

2. . . . which translates into a Mills & Boon book being put through our tills every 3 seconds.

3. But it’s not just us: Harlequin publishes the books in 26 different languages and they are sold in 109 countries.

4. Over the past 50 years the characters have had phenomenal luck in love. There have been 10,325 weddings (latest statistics show there were 244,710 non-fictional marriages in England and Wales in 2005), a lip-smacking 29,500 kisses (real-life statistics unavailable) and 35,250 hugs (a paucity considering the number of marriages).

5. Some 1,300 authors are employed by the publisher, approximately 200 of them through the UK office.

6. With its monthly readership of more than 1 million, Harlequin Mills & Boon is a UK Top 10 adult fiction publisher.

7. Enduring love? We’re a fickle lot. Mills & Boon series books have a shelf life of only one month. To keep up with demand, they are released in two shipping cycles each month (the first and third Friday, should you be waiting). (Though available from M&B/Harlequin websites and Amazon much longer ...)

8. There are, therefore, approximately 70 titles published every month in the UK

That aside, I'm blogging over at the Pink Heart Society today. My turn to nominate a Male on Monday. Hot on the heels of Burns Night I've picked Ewan McGregor.

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  • At 7:21 am, Blogger Trish said…

    Okay couple of little interesting insider pieces of info to add to this for you - Cos I'm NATURALLY INQUISITIVE and gather gossip/info as a hobby...

    1/ Mills & Boon has a higher brand recognition in India than COCA COLA!!!!!!!!!!

    2/ Why? Weeelllll cos for years all the books that didn't sell in the UK had their covers removed and were shipped by the container load once a year or so to India to the penny markets where they were scooped up by avid readers...

    Mine of information me ;)


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