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August 17, 2004

Harlequin Raking In Less Dough

by Ron Hogan

NYT reporter Edward Wyatt observes a slump in Harlequin romance sales that has already reduced the imprint's profit margin from 21 to 17 percent, then notes that successful authors at Harlequin would probably leave the house when they can command big money elsewhere. He also touches upon how new subgenres focusing on minority groups like Latinas, African-Americans, and psychics are undercutting the appeal of the traditional romance novel, before turning his attention to chick-lit, including Harlequin's own Red Dress Ink label:

Red Dress has had some moderately successful books, but it has not broken into the mainstream like other specialized chick-lit imprints... It is not clear how aware even some booksellers are of the imprint. At a Barnes & Noble store on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, a table marked by a big sign reading "Chick Lit" contained 45 paperback novels, none of them by Red Dress or any other Harlequin imprint.

Who wants to be the one to explain to Mr. Wyatt how payola, I mean co-op, works? And how looking at an entirely paid-for table in a Barnes & Noble isn't the best means of judging what booksellers are aware of?

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