We Celebrated 60 Years All Year Long!
by Sulemaan Ahmed, Olga Kwak, Lori Meyers, Karen Queme, and Michelle Renaud
How do you celebrate sixty years of pure reading pleasure? All year, of course!
And you’d better believe that we did—there were so many ways that we celebrated in 2009 that I had to enlist the help of several people to write this post. Like all good families, we gathered together and put together a celebration of our sixty years in publishing that won’t soon be forgotten. It took blood, sweat and tears, it filled our heads day and night, but ultimately, it was worth it. It’s not every year you get to celebrate such a milestone, after all. It’s hard to see how we’ll top this anniversary off, but I suppose our centennial is coming along…
And I’m sure you’re not entirely surprised. After all, we did mention it (once or twice…). In honour of the end of our celebrations, I’d like to take the time to show and tell you just how much celebrating we did.
As always, it should begin with the books. We began 2009 with a monthly series spotlight. Each month we chose a different book series to spotlight in order to showcase the variety of great reads Harlequin has to offer, starting with Silhouette Desire. If you saw that little red sticker on your book, chances are you purchased a book in the month we were spotlighting it!
On top of that, we did something extraordinary—we started giving away free books. If you’re a member of our Readers Service, this is not news to you. We’ve been sampling books for almost as long as we’ve been in business. Probably because we’re so confident that you’ll love our books, we don’t mind giving you a couple to try at your leisure. That said, we launched HarlequinCelebrates.com (now rebranded as TryHarlequin.com), an online library of sixteen free downloadable Harlequins, one from almost each series we carry. They were also available on eHarlequin.com and through various online retailers, eBook and mobile partners.
We wanted to provide a free book to every woman in America and Canada and to highlight the breadth and depth of the Harlequin Series editorial with no strings attached. No DRM. No purchase necessary. No registration. No email sign-up. Just click and download a book.
Our goal was 2 million downloads for the year. We did better than that. We had over 3 million downloads. And that 3M figure is just for the downloads we can track. That does not take into account the pass-along or viral factor.
We would be remiss not to mention the great support generated by the various bloggers, authors and Harlequin fans out there who spread the word about the 60th anniversary. When you blow by your download target and things go viral there is a reason for that. We thank each of them for it.
We also had terrific media partners such as MSN and Women’s Day where the 16 titles were promoted to their customers. On the other side we had digital partnerships with Kraft and Harrah’s to promote our 60th anniversary. In fact, the Harrah’s online relationship resulted in an offline partnership where our 60th art exhibit ended up as a main attraction in the Paris Las Vegas hotel (but more on that in a minute).
In March, June and September we published the Harlequin Famous First Collection. It featured some of the first Harlequin books by New York Times bestselling authors of today such as Debbie Macomber, Diana Palmer and Linda Lael Miller.
In October we published the Harlequin Vintage Collection—a selection of six vintage books from earlier Harlequin days. And, because we could sense that everyone was feeling the vintage vibe, our Digital Commerce team created a stationery collection based on vintage covers. So now anyone can have a keepsake of their own for the 60th anniversary.
But, of course, we didn’t make it all about the books. We love parties, and what’s a better cause to break out the bubbly than sixty years of sexy, romantic, sometimes suspensful, and always pleasureable books?
In May we kicked off the festivities with an art exhibit in New York entitled The Heart of a Woman: Harlequin Cover Art 1949-2009. The exhibit includes over 100 works of art, some pieces which have not been seen in close to sixty years! By presenting sixty years of cover artwork, the exhibition offers a unique insight into the profound changes that have occurred in women’s lives over the past six decades—changes that have been captured and reflected on the front of harlequin novels—from shifts in private desire to the politics of gender.
Isn’t she a beauty? The entrance to The Heart of a Woman exhibit in New York City.
If you missed the show in NYC, it’s not too late. Currently, the exhibit is showcased at Paris Las Vegas, in partnership with Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. Las Vegas is known as a place for quick escapes so the tie-in to Paris Las Vegas and Harlequin was a natural match—after all, we’re the kings and queens of quick escapes! The exhibit will run until the end of February 2010, so do check it out if you happen to be in the area.
In Toronto, Canada, we sweetened the deal even more: Harlequin teamed up with Peek Freans Lifestyle Selections to take a Taste of Mischief with our very sexy cover models. The boys took to the streets in the heart of Toronto at Yonge & Dundas square, dressed as the dashing heroes straight off of Harlequin Intrigue covers, to hand out Peek Freans cookie samples with a coupon for a free ebook download.
Two of our sexy Harlequin Heroes pose for a candid shot on the streets of Toronto.
As you can see, we went whole-hog on the festivities. Thank you to everyone who helped us put together an anniversary celebration we won’t soon forget. I leave you now with one final reminder of why Harlequin is pure reading pleasure: celebrity book readings.