Explore significant moments in HarperCollins history
The Growth of Harlequin Romance
Lawrence Heisey, a former soap salesman who had been appointed president of Harlequin in 1971, revolutionized romance publishing by distributing Harlequin romances to supermarkets and department stores, where they would be right at the fingertips of Canadian and American homemakers. The company often gave away one book as a free gift with the purchase of household items such as kitchen cleaners or napkins, hoping that shoppers would become hooked and buy the rest of the series.
By 1975, Harlequin had purchased British romance publisher Mills & Boon, and 70 percent of its sales came from outside of Canada.
Harlequin’s winning plot formula and marketing strategies fostered the company’s spread across the globe. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Harlequin employees gave away more than 720,000 books at border checkpoints across the Eastern Bloc. Just two years later, Harlequin had sold seven million romance novels in Hungary alone and reached $10 million in sales in the Czech Republic in 1992. By 1995, it had released 550,000 copies of its titles in Mandarin Chinese, paving the way for the opening of offices across the world, from Tokyo to Mumbai.