As anyone who has scanned through Kindle lists and eBestseller lists must be very aware, romance is one of the categories that has seen very strong ebook adoption.
As the folks at Digital Book World muse, eRomance makes sense when you think about it. The books are a very quick read. Certain authors are hugely popular, and their readers can't get enough of them. And -- as with the infamous Fifty Shades -- the "plain brown wrapper" of the eReader cover is less embarrassing than the raunchy graphic that may on the cover, so the reader is more likely to be happy to read in public.
Just one problem, as they say. Harlequin, the largest and most prominent publisher of romance books in the world, might be getting left behind. It reported results yesterday and the net is that its ebook revenue growth failed to make up for print losses.
Other publishers are facing this at this juncture in the ebook revolution. However, in Harlequin's case the gap is wider. The rise of self-published romance ebooks (they hit the DBW Ebook Best-Seller list nearly every week) has provided competition that Harlequin/Mills and Boon have never had to battle before, and they are hurting.
Let's have a look at what Harlequin offers. According to a famous Harlequin author I once interviewed, the royalties on print books (which were all that were available, back then) were 2% of the cover price and each author was limited to four books per year per pen name. That's fine, if you sell 20 million copies (as this author had, at the time of the interview), but it was a long, long wait for new authors to make that kind of money, if they ever did. Now, wannabe romance writers have the very attractive alternative of self-publishing on Kindle -- the usual price set (by the author, not Amazon) is $2.99 and the royalty rate is 70%. Obviously, Harlequin/Mills and Boon would have a job to compete with that -- and are currently being sued by their current authors over ebook royalties.
The company is certainly not folding their tents, however, struggling gamely, instead. In Dec. it formed an ebook partnership with Cosmopolitan magazine and earlier this week it made its ebooks available for purchase by libraries through Ingram.
Is that enough? We shall see ... but I wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't. Could we be witnessing the slow demise of a giant?