July 6, 2016
Harlequin branches into “literary” territory
by Kait Howard
There’s something timeless about romance novels, where flushed cheeks, ripped bodices, and happily-ever-after endings—not to mention solid sales—have kept the Toronto-based publishing company Harlequin successful—despite a disappointing period in 2004–05—for decades. And yet a recent move by MIRA Books, a Harlequin imprint, seems to indicate that the publisher is, erm, lusting after new markets.
Last week, the Associated Press’s Hillel Italie reported that MIRA has launched a new line of titles with a “literary” bent. Called Park Row Books after the former location of the publisher’s New York City office, the new line will be “dedicated to ‘though-provoking and voice-driven novels’ that have ‘mainstream appeal,’” the publisher told Italie. It’s a part of the business that Park Row’s executive editor, Erika Imranyi, says MIRA has been “growing… for a very long time,” but which Loriana Sacilotto, a vice president at Harlequin, told Publishers Weekly’s John Maher they’re hoping to “aggressively grow.”
Of course, the term “literary fiction” has always been loosely defined (for more on the murkiness of genre categorization on the industry sales tracking system, Bookscan, see Lincoln Michel’s helpful piece at Electric Literature). Park Row will be launching with the publication of Benjamin Ludwig’s debut, The Improbable Flight of Ginny Moon, which it’s describing as a combination of Emma Donoghue’s Room and Mark Haddon’s bestseller of a similar title, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Ludwig’s novel was originally titled Forever Girl, but—is it just us, or do the editorial calculations seem glaringly obvious—echoing Haddon seems to have won out over the impulse to get on the “girl” book train. Anyway, with those comps one wonders whether “commercial fiction” might be the better label.
In an interview last month, MIRA editor Liz Stein, who’s been brought on as editor of the Park Row line, described her mandate to keep focused on “acquiring more literary books,” citing increased growth across the industry from “women’s fiction…as well as mainstream fiction with a science fiction twist and female-driven psychological suspense.” No happy endings required.
Kait Howard is a publicist at Melville House.