Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Harlequin Behind The Scenes...

Where in the world did May go? Honestly. It was April a minute a go.

I had the very cool opportunity to go down to Harlequin's direct to consumer distribution center outside of Buffalo last week as a part of their employee appreciation day. I had lunch with the customer service reps who handle all the phone calls from subscribers. For those who might not know Harlequin offers their books on subscription, so every month, should you subscribe you get deep discounts and all the books from a line you subscribe to right in your mailbox. This system not only sets them apart from other publishers, but is a huge part of my royalty check.

Numbers for the subscription service have gone down over the years, due in large part to the aging demographic (average age of subscriber is around 63) but they still manage to ship out THOUSANDS OF BOXES A DAY!!! Granted they also do Internet orders, but still, I was totally gobsmacked. And the fifty some men and women I talked to handled thousands of calls a day too. This place was hopping.

The distribution center sits right in front of the printer - so books are delivered to the back of the building - packed into boxes and shipped out the front. Harlequin is undergoing what seems like a huge effort to cut down their waste. A lot of authors are reporting that they can turn in manuscripts via email (which is a huge savings for the author!) and now this distribution center has bought a printing press capable of printing a few thousand copies of any book. So while the print runs may have gone down in an effort to save on returns, they are able to print and ship in a matter of hours thousands of extra books, should they be needed.

I was hugely impressed by this. Hugely.

We've talked about how the return system is so wasteful and antiquated - Harlequin loses millions every year due to the return system. And the impact of this system on the environment is enough to make anyone shudder. But it's sort of like a huge barge in a small river, hard to turn around.

I was really proud to be a part of Harlequin last week. And I got free books - so seriously, what's not to love?


Kwana said...

Sounds like a great and eye opening visit.

Maureen McGowan said...

Very cool. BTW... was the average age of 63 a joke to make a point or an actual stat?

Kendra Leigh Castle said...

Hi Molly! Just stumbled onto your site (apt, right?), and this was such a heartening post to read! I just sold to Harlequin (I'll be writing for Nocturne), and I'm pretty much inhaling all the information about them that I can, LOL:-) They seem to be great about being on the leading edge of a lot of the electronic movement in the industry, too...I'm so happy to have gotten in with a house that's this adaptable, and it's great to hear about other authors' good experiences. Also, lucky you, with the free books! I love me some free books. Great post!

Amy Ruttan said...

Very neat!

I can't believe this is the last week of May.

Wondering if June will drag on though.

Sinead M said...

Amy, doesn't every day drag when you're preggers and in your third trimester?

Molly, sounds like a great visit. Glad it went well.

Kendra congrats on your sale.

Kendra Leigh Castle said...

Maureen, I don't know about the actual age stat, but I can report that with every box you get...a free spoon! I was kind of disappointed. My mom used to get a free wine glass a month with hers, some of which I still have. I think my daughter stole the spoon. And I could use some more wineglasses. Maybe I'll start a petition:-)

Maureen McGowan said...


I remember hearing that at one point Harlequin was the biggest distributor of glass in North America. Must've been when they were giving away free wine glasses to their subscribers.

I meant to say congrats on your sale, too!

Kendra Leigh Castle said...

Wow, I didn't know that! I'm notorious for breaking wineglasses (and actually, so are my parents), but these things have lasted forever. Best cheap glasses evah! The collection of teaspoons...not so much.

Thanks for the congrats, Sinead and Maureen:-) It's been an exciting couple of months.

M. said...

Cool field trip!

What happens at the huge Harlequin building at Don Mills and York Mills? That would also be a cool place for a jaunt, maybe. Like for a writing group, or something. :-)

Molly O'Keefe said...

ACCCKKKK! I swear to god - days are whipping by me right now - the summer can not continue this way! Kendra! So nice to meet you, feel free to stumble around here anytime. I used one of the free spoons as a babyfood spoon until it broke - they just don't make free crap like they used to.

Amy!!! How are you, momma???

I'm so oddly stressed out I'm back to having David Cook sex dreams, I swear I thought I was over that man.

Maureen McGowan said...

Oh, Molly. Why are you stressed? Let's walk. Let's talk.

And forget those David Cook dreams. I vote you have more of those dreams about me having sex with Idris Elba.

Scratch that. Why can't I have a dream about me having sex with Idris Elba??

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