Harlequin Firsts in Publishing

Founded in 1949 as a paperback reprinting company, Harlequin became a global success story and shaped a worldwide industry dedicated to satisfying women’s desire for romance. Progressive and innovative from the start, Harlequin earned a reputation for doing things first in the publishing industry.

1970s

Harlequin pioneers the series romance model that others will follow. The series model uses a monthly publication schedule and releases a set number of new books every month for readers. Harlequin launches the first series romance line, Harlequin Presents, in 1973. 50 years later, Harlequin Presents is still our #1 series globally!

In this decade, Harlequin is also the first publisher to sell books in North American supermarkets where women shopped, revolutionizing sales of romance novels, and develops the “Booktique” spinning rack used to display books in stores.

Harlequin is the first publisher to standardize the length of its books, an efficiency breakthrough that allowed a set number of books to fit in cartons and on shelves.

Harlequin is the first publisher to use nationwide TV advertising in the mid-1970s. Sales soared and Harlequin became a household name across North America.

The Harlequin Reader Service launches in 1970 and quickly evolved into one of the industry’s earliest and largest book clubs that mails books directly to readers’ homes every month.

1980s and 1990s

Starting in the early 1990s, Harlequin strikes the first of multiple production deals for TV movies that air across North America. Some early Harlequin TV movies were Treacherous Beauties (1994), Diamond Girl (1998) and Change of Place (1998).

In the mid-1990s, Harlequin launches a line of “reading gear,” such as cozy socks and oversized shirts with big pockets to stash books, to help readers snuggle up with good books.

Other firsts for Harlequin included launching the first Spanish-language series romance in North America, and becoming one of the earliest publishers to have a digital presence with the launch of Romance.net.

Five years before Facebook debuts, Harlequin is the first major publisher to start a digital community for romance readers when it adds community forums to Romance.net.

2000 to today

In 2000, Harlequin creates its own ecommerce website, where readers could buy both print and ebook versions of their favorite books. The next year sees the launch of Red Dress Ink, making Harlequin the first publisher with a dedicated chick lit imprint.

In 2007, Harlequin is the first traditional publisher to release 100 percent of its new titles as ebooks, and in 2010 becomes the first publishing house to launch a digital-first imprint, Carina Press.

Moving decisively into digital publishing leads to another innovation: Harlequin’s Online Reads gives readers new chapters by Harlequin authors daily—a return to the serialized stories first popularized by Charles Dickens.

Today

To date, Harlequin has sold over 6.8 billion books, and we look forward to reading with you in the future!

Want to dive more into the history of Harlequin? Click here to discover more information about our origins!

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