At this year's Book Expo America, set in New York City's Jacob Javits Center at the end of May, there were several publishing marriages between real life and romance. E-books were still the rage, but in an industry that is struggling to continue to meet public demands and stay ahead of the digital curve, e-books were last year's news (literally).
This year was all about new partnerships: between Western publishing and the Arab world (can someone say Abu Dhabi International Book Fair?), between the American Booksellers Association and Google (400,000 digital books), and publishers going outside their usual realm of influence to capture more market dollars.
At the top of the stairs leading into BEA's main exhibition hall was a 60-foot banner advertising Tosca Reno's new book, Your Best Body Now. Those who regularly visit bookstores will probably recognize her as the face of the "Eat Clean" franchise, published by Robert Kennedy Publishing. But probably only industry junkies would notice that Reno's new publisher is Harlequin.
The romance publisher has spent the past couple of years restructuring and has started a new venture into nonfiction with 13 new titles, including Reno's book and a selection of other women-friendly titles, such as Queen of Your Own Life by Kathy Kinney and Cindy Ratzcliff. Harlequin also has a new teen imprint, getting in on the popularity of YA (young adult) publishing.
Harlequin's Craig Swinwood, executive VP of retail, told Publishers Weekly that the company asked what else it could offer women, since it had already built an "emotional brand relationship" with them. "We're for women, about women, and by women, for the most part, and that's really what these [new] lines are all about."
At the same time, HCI, a nonfiction house best known for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, has branched into the romance market. It doesn't sound like the most logical of moves until you consider the twist HCI has put on it. Its True Vows series--including Meet Me in Manhattan by Judith Arnold--looks like genre fiction and it reads like it, too. But True Vows is part of a new subgenre called RB Romance, or Reality-Based Romance. In the books, dialogue is embellished for dramatic effect but the bare bones of the stories are based on real-life romances. At the end the reader eats wedding cake, just as they did at Book Expo, which HCI served along with signed copies of bound galleys (reviewer copies).