Sunday, 1 August 2010



Daring men, svelte women and a perfect setting... enough to keep the romance blooming over the decades for millions of starry-eyed readers — girls and ladies across the continents — who swear by the Mills & Boon titles. And this loyal readership has remained unaffected even though the characters have changed keeping pace with the society at large.

Clare Somerville, general manager, India, UK and Export Sales of Mills & Boon shares the secret behind the fan-following. “The stories are entertaining, dreamy and uplifting,” she tells me during our recent interaction while she was in the city. “Besides, the availability of the books and the easy pricing also help. We ensure that there’s a dedicated space for the M&B in a bookstore which becomes a destination for the readers. We also follow the typical FMCG marketing strategy to reach out,” Somerville explains.

When asked, Somerville says that there has been “an evolution in the concerns, needs and sexual behaviour of women that get reflected in the M&B titles.” That means, the ladies in M&B stories are “no longer the subservient lot as they used to be, say, in the 1950s”. Modern ladies are “upfront, they have fulfilling career, and the heroes no longer dictate the terms.”

Incidentally, M&B titles have a short shelf-life of about 30 days; new titles are introduced every month and old titles are moved out from one geographical location to the other. “In India, readers often pre-book the titles to avoid missing a story. Also, we come out with the anthologies,” Somerville says in this context.

The Harelquin Mills & Boon launched its ‘India operation’ officially in 2008. In the last two years, the publishing house has “doubled” its sales, Somerville informs. “Earlier, we didn’t have any marketing support in India and had to export the titles to India. Now our titles are printed in India for the local market and things have become much better. We are happy to be in India,” she adds.

Talking about the future projections, she says that there are plans to add up more series to the existing four — Modern, Desire, Romance and Special Moments — in the Indian market. “Currently we come up with 14 titles in a month in India. Series expansion will mean more titles for the Indian readers,” she informs. And M&B is “open to the idea” of translating its titles into the Indian languages.

The M&B has had a successful tie-up with the National Trust buildings in the UK under which the stories are set in those buildings and sales from the M&B titles help to raise funds for the Trust. Somerville “can’t say whether similar tie-up is possible in India,” but she sounds excited about the “talented Indian writers” who are likely to contribute to the M&B titles. “We ran a writing competition last year and Milan Vora’s short story called Love Asana won. It’ll be published as a full-fledged novel this year,” she confirms.

So ladies, get ready for more of passion, mush, intimacy and rest of all that turns on your dreams.