Sunday, October 04, 2009

Presents and Presents Extras

Over on my personal blog, I asked readers what they liked/disliked about the new covers (in the UK) and the new scheduling system - the Presents and Presents Extras in America and a different scheduling of books every two weeks in the UK. One of my readers, Jill made what I think is a very good and interesting point in her comment. She said:

I also think that Harlequin could do a lot more to distinguish Presents and Presents Extra in North America. They have very different "feels" and that is not reflected in the covers or the titles.

Well, basically, Jill, my response is ‘Me too’ - but it’s the main Presents schedule that I wish Marketing would get to grips with and make a lot clearer. I understand that some sort of changes are in the pipeline. And not before time in my opinion – there are a lot of readers out there who have been confused and puzzled by the way some books have been published in Presents over the past year or so. It’s a situation that has had meant that some people have bought books they weren’t truly happy with. Books that didn’t give them what they wanted. And has left others not really know which books to buy to get the sort of read they’re looking for.

It’s also sometimes meant that some people have found new authors they’ve fallen in love with, authors they want to read more of – which is the good side of this and I suspect that might have been the original plan behind the new way of publishing Presents Extra. But it’s a bit more complicatednow than the thought that the main Presents run at the beginning of the month have stayed exactly the same, while the Presents Extra are the ‘different’ ones. And as I have a book coming out in Presents Extra in October I’ll take this opportunity to explain things as they stand now. And thank you Jill for asking the question to lead me to doing this.

OK, so all the Presents/Presents Extra books are originally bought by the London UK editorial offices – that is, they are read, edited and acquired by Harlequin Mills & Boon UK. They are published in the UK first and then, either the same month, or later in the year, they are published in America. The books that are published in the Presents line-up in USA used to be acquired solely from one line in the UK - the Modern Romance line. (The books with the blue covers that you see on my website) But these days, the books that are put out with a Presents cover are acquired from two different lines. (With some exceptions but I’ll come to that in a minute.) So now the Presents/Extra books are acquired from the Modern Romance Line and the Modern Heat line.

And the first complication starts to come in because the Modern Heat used to be called the Modern Extra and the name of the line was changed in 2008.

So in the UK and in Australia, these books are brought out under a separate line title – in Australia they are sold as Sexy Sensation, with a distinctly different cover design. In the UK you have to look a little harder for that ‘Heat’ addition to the cover but it’s there. Personally, I think this is a very good – and necessary distinction. Because the editorial content of these books is very different in tone and in execution from the classic Modern/Presents style editorial. You’ve only got to look at the writing guidelines for each line – specially the checklists for the type of alpha hero they are looking for - to see this:

Mills & Boon Modern Romance® (ie classic Presents books)
Commanding: he’s always in control and calling the shots – except when the heroine finally tames him…

Demanding: he’s come a long way since his emotionally or financially impoverished childhood; he wants it done, and he wants it done now!
Arrogant: he believes in himself and the reach of his influence, totally – until the battle with his feelings for the heroine begins…

Passionate: sensual and sexy, he uses his charm and power to get what he wants, though his need for the heroine may ultimately prove stronger

Status: impossibly wealthy, probably self-made; often has celebrity status in the media. The ruler of all he surveys, be it a company or a country

Mills & Boon Modern Heat®
Young: he’s aged between 25 and 35 and has yet to settle down
Confident: he knows what he wants and has a good idea of how he’ll get it; he knows he’s attractive and relishes challenges – he might have a extreme hobby

Easy-going: he plays as hard as he works, knowing how and when to have a good time. He doesn’t sweat the small stuff…

Accessible: he’s very approachable, but his physical presence and his confidence and charm make him stand out from the crowd

Status: he hails from all walks of life and can have any level of success and wealth

For me the difference between the two is more than this difference in the heroes - it’s a difference of mood and intensity – and very definitely of conflict. To me the hallmark of the classic Presents is that high-octane, white heat of emotional intensity that some people love and others hate and its one of the reasons why Modern/Presents has been so successful and why the line often sparks off so many debates about the books and the heroes. If you want to know more about what I think are the differences between these two lines, I wrote about it here:

So, to my way of thinking, it’s important to indicate which type of read a book is. This has been done in the UK and in Australia. In America, the Modern Heat editorial was originally published in the Presents Extra line-up, which marked them out as slightly different and so readers knew what they were getting – but all that has been changed. Just when everyone thought they knew that Extras were different, they aren’t any more! The Modern Heat books have been put in with the main run of the Presents titles at the beginning of the month, and the Presents Extras are precisely that –extra classic Presents out in the middle of the month. Presents/Modern-style stories written by Presents authors and put together in themed collections. (My Kept For Her Baby is out under the heading ‘Dark Nights with the Billionaire’ which, I’ll be honest, I don’t quite understand – but that’s marketing for you!)

The exception to this is when the Presents Extra line up is occasionally used to bring out some Medical titles and then the name of the series – Posh Docs, Mediterranean Doctors etc - will usually reveal that this is what has happened.

So it’s all a bit confusing to readers at the moment. I understand that in the near future there are plans to indicate on the covers what sort of story each book is but I don’t know quite what or when that’s going to happen. Speaking personally, it can’t come soon enough because if I was buying a classic Presents title I’d want to know that I was going to get the reading experience I was looking for. And if I wanted a Modern Heat style story I’d want to know where to look for that too. So I hope all this will soon be sorted out to make it clearer.

Until then, what can you do to check which sort of story a book is? Well, the obvious thing is to go by the author – authors you know have written classic Presents style books before will be the ones who will give you the same sort of read, no matter whether they come out in Presents or Presents ExtraKept For Her Baby is a classic example. And the other titles in Extra this month are by Carole Mortimer, Lee Wilkinson and Janette Kenny – classic Presents authors.

In the main Presents line up at the beginning of the month, authors like Heidi Rice, Kate Hardy, Trish Wylie, Nicola Marsh . . .have all be published in Modern Heat first. You can check out the Modern Heat books on the Mills & Boon web site if you want to. They’re in with the Modern titles but they have that read ‘Heat’ on the front cover to indicate their style. Or putting Modern Heat into the search box on will show you the authors who write for this line. Then you can make your choice.

So does this help – or confuse you even more? I think it just goes to show that, as Jill says, it’s time there was some way of showing that a book started out as a Modern Romance or a Modern Heat because they do have that different ‘feel’ and some readers prefer one and not the other . Of course, now that I’ve explained all this, things will probably change all over again and nothing will be clear.

But the one thing I can promise you is that Kept For Her Baby is a classic Presents story – but you need to look for it in the Presents Extra line up that’s out on October 13th. Just look for that fabulous cover and you’ll find it.
So what about you? Have you noticed a difference in the type of read in certain Presents titles? Did you realise there were the two types of editorial in the line up now?
I'd love to hear which Presents (or Presents Extra ) books you've been reading recently that you've loved. And I'll get Sid the cat to choose someone from those who've made comments and there will be a signed copy of Kept For Her Baby for the winner
You can find out more about Kept For Her Baby and all my other books on my website here. Or read my latest news on my blog
I 've been to find Sid the Cat and get him to pick a winner from the comments - and the winner he picked is MARY.

So Mary please email me here and I'll organise sending your signed copy of Kept For Her Baby to you.Thank you to everyone who commented there are some really great book suggestions you made!


Caroline Storer said...

Hi Kate. Very interesting blog! Confusion regins all round me thinks! I wonder if HM&B have thought of the obvious answer - which is to keep the same name for each type of book no matter which country it is? Obviously I don't work in marketing so I don't know if this is "dooable" or not! But one wonders....Take care. Caroline x.

Lynz Pickles said...

This has been driving me nuts lately, so I'm glad to see a post about it!

Like you said, the difference is about more than just the hero. It's about the whole feeling of the story and the experience I get from reading it. If I go into a book expecting it and the hero to be fun and easy-going, only to encounter a commanding, arrogant hero whose path to love is full of intense drama, I can guarantee that I'm going to want to throttle him, and that I won't enjoy the book. If I expect that intensity and instead find something more laid-back, I'll be bored and may even stop reading because of it.

That being said, I try to remember that the way the lines are composed and marketed is about the publisher, not the author. It's not fair of me to judge them for the way Harlequin publishes their books, which is why I've gotten into the habit of checking authors' websites before reading their books to see which UK line they were published under.

Two books I've really enjoyed recently were Mistress to the Merciless Millionaire by Abby Green, a classic Presents and The Sheikh's Forbidden Virgin by Kate Hewitt, which had the drama and intensity of a classic Presents but a gentler hero. And though I know it's a Desire, not a Presents, I can't say enough about Maureen Childs' Conquering King's Heart. It was fantastic!

Marilyn Shoemaker said...

I agree with you on both counts; it's confusing and I like to know which line I'm reading.

I think the confusion has also been reflected on a couple of review sites and the author is not getting a "fair" review because of it.

Linda Henderson said...

The Presents/Extra is confusing. I've actually bought the same one twice because of different covers. My favorite reads lately have been The Desert King's Bejeweled Bride by Sabrina Phillips and Antonides Forbidden Wife by Anne McAllister.

Kate Walker said...

Hi Caroline

Confusion does reigh - and I agree with you. I suspect what you suggest is 'do-able' - in fact I know several authors who said exactly that when the publishing schedule was announced. Personally i don't feel it works putting two different styles of editorial into one line. Particularly not a line like Presents that has such a strong 'promise' to the reader - which is really what Lynz is saying

Kate Walker said...

Lynz, it's good to heatr from you and I'm glad that my post helps - I think that the situation has been driving a lot of people nuts which is why I wrote about it.

You are so right about the expectation a reader has for a book and that adds so much to the experience of reading it. Your comments are exactly why I felt I needed to post this blog.

Checking an author's web site before you buy obviousy helps, but I feel you shouldn;t need to have to do that. If the style of content of the book - ie Classic Presents or Modern Heat was indicated on the cover somehow then you could make your choice much more easily.

The two Presents titles you mention are 'Classic Presents' - and both of them are in my TBR pile. I've never read a Maureen Child, will have to look out for that title

Kate Walker said...

Hi Marilyn good to 'see' you. I thought that you would agree. This hasn't to do with thinking a book is good or not or better than any other but more - on my part anyway - wanting the reader to be able to choose the sort of read they want and to have it delivered by the books out in a particualr line.

And you're right about the reviews too - if a Modern Heat book is juudged as a 'Classic Presents' the reader will have a different response to it than if they were reading it as s a different style of book.

Kate Walker said...

Hi Linda- ouch - buying the smae book twice is annoying - and yes, some of the Modern Heat books have been given different titles in America - another problem with this marketing decision.

Thanks for your recommendations. I loved Anne's Antonides Forbidden Wife and Sabrina's new book is also in my TBR pile

Virginia C said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Virginia C said...

Thank you very much for this post. I love the world of Harlequin. However, I must say that "Presents", which I have always considered to be the cornerstone of Harlequin Publishing, has recently left me quite disappointed. Some of the more current books in this series seem to have been written in a hurry with important aspects left out of the story line. Two books by Annie West were the outstanding exception: Harlequin Presents "The Greek's Convenient Mistress", and Harelquin Presents Extra "The Desert King's Pregnant Bride". Annie offers well-developed characters and interesting, fully engaging story lines. To me, that is what makes Harlequin great! gcwhiskas at aol dot com

Emmanuelle said...

How very confusing...*sigh* .
As for recommendation, I just read Confessions of a Millionaires's Mistress bt Robyn Grady and really enjoyed it ;-)

Mary said...

What a great explanation and information that we as readers may not have known. I haven't read a presents in a little while, the last book I read was a "Blaze" called,
Secret Seduction by Lori Wilde.

Pat Cochran said...

My head is spinning!! It's too
bewildering, trying to keep all these books and their contests
straight and trying to know just
what one is reading. I'm going to
read your posting again and see
if I can clear any of the

Pat Cochran

Michele L. said...

I have to agree with you all that I am confused also with the different lines. I recently read two books by HQ Presents and HQ Presents EXTRA. I love the books which were both by the same author but they were written in totally different styles. Whoa! I asked myself is the same author or someone else?

Just as confused as everybody else here in Indiana.

By the way, recently read Lucy Monroe's book, HQ Presents, TAKEN: THE SPANIARD'S VIRGIN and loved it!

Kate Walker said...

Virginia - thanks for commenting and I'm sorry that some of the books have disappointed you. perhaps this Modern/Modern Heat split had something to do with it. I totally agree with you about Annie West's books - i've read both of those. And the fact that one was on sale as just a Presents and the other as an 'Extra' shows that it's not the title of the line that the aothir is in but the author herself that gives you the story you're looking for.

Kate Walker said...

Emmanuelle it is confusing isn't it? That's why I thought I'd try to explain as if readers are aware of the differences they can choose the stories they want to read - Confessions of A Millionaire's Mistress was originally published as a Modern Heat. I've not read that one. Robyn is one of the newer authors

Kate Walker said...

Thank you Mary - I'm glad that the explanation was useful, It is information that readers might not know and for some it may be useful to know about the two different styles of books so that they know which ones to look for. I haven't read the book you recommend but I have read others by Lori Wilde

Kate Walker said...

It is confusing, isn't it Pat? I'll admit that sometimes I'm not too sure exactly which line a book was first published in. There are new authors being published all the time and until you get to know which authors' styles suit you, it can be difficult - Of course, if you enjoy both diffeent styles of writing/types of stories then you're more than happy!

Kate Walker said...

Michele, you've really added to the confusion if the stories are by the same author because there are a couple of authors who write for bith the Modern and the Modern Heat lines - not many but one or two. And the difference can be quite dramatic. I hope that soon there will be some easier way of working out which sort of story each book is. But most classic Presents authors - like your choice Lucy Monroe (and me!) will always write the classic Presents style story.

Kate Walker said...

I've been to find Sid the Cat and get him to pick a winner from the comments - and the winner he picked is MARY.
So Mary please email me kate AT and I'll organise sending your signed copy of Kept For Her Baby to you.

Thank you to everyone who commented there are some really great books suggested!

Mary said...

Thank you so much, Kate!
I sent you an email with my contact info :)