I haven't been a really good blogger lately but university is taking all of my time. I promise I'll have a few reviews coming soon. :)
Today Anna Pullman stops by to share a brief history of the Mills & Boon publishing company. Enjoy!
Romance through the Ages: A History of Mills & Boon
2012 marks the 104th year of Mills & Boon novels being published, sold and devoured by the masses. Even if they’re not your cup of tea all the time, very few book lovers out there could admit to never having curled up in their favourite leather recliner, a saucy Mills & Boon in one hand and a hot cocoa in the other. Mills & Boon produce the perfect comfort reads, best enjoyed with a box of chocolates or a hot milky drink.
With over a hundred years of history behind them, Mills and Boon is a company who knows when they’ve found a bestseller and a tale which will truly transport the reader into a romantic paradise or real life drama. With a female audience in mind, Mills and Boon have mesmerised and entranced them in their millions with each new release, available both through subscription, for those who can’t wait a single day, and retail purchase. The company has come a long way from its humble beginnings to find its place as the king of all romance publishers.
In the Beginning
When first founded in 1908, Mills & Boon didn’t have its sights set on the amorous romance market. They initially published general fiction with books on every subject but their first publication gave a telling nod to what would become their future. Sophie Cole’s Arrows from the Dark was its name and prophetically, it was of the romance genre. It went on to have great success with over 1,000 copies sold and the writer continued to produce book after book for the company, totalling 65 in all.
In their first few years the company was very much a family business, with Charles Boon recruiting the closest members of his family to get involved. They didn’t spare a penny when it came to getting big name writers on board although Charles was equally interested in promoting talented new writers. It was due to this interest that the company started adding personal touches such as sending out souvenir chapters free to any customer, which cleverly led to even more sales. By 1914 and the advent of war, Mills & Boon were a respected company believed to be going places.
In the Name of Love
The 1920s were a difficult and austere period for many businesses and Mills & Boon weren’t exempt. Bankruptcy was frequently on the cards and the world slumped and at the end of half of the 20s, the stock market crashed. It was through the difficult period that Mills & Boon found their niche. The general public as well as the business sector were suffering due to the economic climate and longed for escapism, which Mills & Boon could offer through their romances. It was then they decided to focus all their efforts on hardback romance novels.
The Golden Age
Despite the Great Depression gripping the country, Mills & Boon still considers the 1930s their golden era with sales records being made on a regular basis. Library loans were much more popular than purchasing books but regularly scores of women would take out one Mills & Boon and return within a few short days to swap it for another. Their were appetites never fully sated, exactly what the publisher’s wanted.
Paperback Revolution & Big Name Merger
Mills & Boon continued to have success with their brightly coloured, immediately identifiable hardback romance novels and a smattering of paperbacks but by 1968 paperbacks started to become more popular. It allowed for standardisation in the publishing and the novel covers could equally be carbon copies, each featuring their own romantic heroine.
Changing attitudes to women and sex led to the signing of even more new writers, including those who specialised in erotic tales such a Violet Winspear. Her stories shocked the older, more conservative Mills & Boon readers but brought in a newer, younger crowd of fans.
The 1960s also saw Mills &Boon becoming closer to the Canadian Harlequin Enterprises company with whom they merged in 1971. The merger led to massive growth and expansion with the Mills * Boon brand, as it had become, going global.
What about now?
To this day, Mills & Boon remain the world’s top publisher of romance fiction, with a huge 50 new titles being produced on a monthly basis. They have ten product series appealing to different readers including Medical and Historical. Each product group appeals to a different audience adding to the magic of Mills & Boon. The next series in the pipeline is said to be called Nocturne and will deal with paranormal and supernatural romance.
Despite being a company with a lot of history, Mills & Boon don’t dwell on it and have released many of their titles in eBook format too. You’ll be hard pressed to find any woman out there who wouldn’t happily settle down with a Mills & Boon once in a while.
Thanks for sharing, Anna!