Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thursday Talk-Time - Going Digital at Harlequin

Please welcome back Malle Vallik, Director of Digital Content and Social Media at Harlequin! She's passing through with an inside look on what (and who) makes up the digital division at the world's largest publisher of romantic fiction!

What is a Digital & Internet Team?

Most writers and readers have a pretty good sense of what editors, publicists and marketers do at a publishing house, but when it comes to the digital division most people have at best a vague idea that it’s a website and something called search engine optimization. To help clarify the situation I thought I would introduce you to Harlequin’s Digital & Internet Team.

Our team is divided into three areas:

· Digital content and social media (lead by Malle Vallik)
· Digital commerce & (lead by Eleanor Elliott)
· Digital marketing (lead by Sulemaan Ahmed)

I asked the director of each area to describe their responsibilities.

Digital Content & Social Media

We are the most public face to the author community: Jayne Hoogenberk, Amy Wilkins, Jenny Bullough (back from maternity leave on October 5) and myself. There are a number of freelancers who help us in community and other social networks.

Jayne, quite frankly, is one of North America’s top community experts. She keeps our wonderful community engaged and connected. There are lots of fascinating discussions about books; online editor pitches for aspiring authors; and a multitude of events like the Holiday Open House. Jayne also looks after our Myspace and Facebook pages. Most recently she has become our inhouse video expert creating our first series of book trailers – you can find them at our YouTube channel (

Amy keeps our entire eBook program running smoothly, including creating bundles, adding backlist and researching content for our enriched eBooks. She finds images for our bundle covers, writes copy, deals with metadata, and oversees the freelance proofreaders. On top of that she manages both of our blogs, executed our most recent blog tour with Senior Editor Natashya Wilson for the launch of HarlequinTeen, and is our Twitter Queen ( . As well she helps with our Audible downloadable audio program.

Jenny will be taking on a few special projects when she returns from maternity leave.
I’m incredibly proud of the many social media education workshops we’ve held with authors over the past year. We also have author podcasts. Our ongoing mandate is to think about what is next for digital content – mobile? gaming – and to continue to explore these opportunities. & Digital Commerce

There are 10 people on the eHarlequin team 5 on the marketing side, and 4 on the website maintenance team – plus me!

The marketing team is responsible for all the web design, on-site promotions, and the eNewsletter program. This team is also responsible for eBook sales, both on eHarlequin’s eBook Store, and on other eTailers like Amazon, Sony, and Fictionwise. In addition, we’re constantly working on new projects designed to address the needs of our customers – some of the newest developments are the Coming Soon page, the mini-series index, our new Search feature (which is much more extensive than the old search), and our soon-to-be debuted Express Lane for customers who know exactly what they want to buy each month.

The maintenance team makes sure that all the books (covers, back cover copy, excerpts, etc) go up on-site, and that all of our content like Online Reads, Author Profiles, and Learn-to-Write articles go up as scheduled – and are (hopefully!) error free. Every month there are over 120 new books on the site, 50+ new pages of content, between 4-8 active promotions, over 2 million email messages sent (across a multitude of eNewsletters), and over 140 eBooks put up for sale on our site and others. This team manages the scheduling, copy-editing, HTML coding, quality control, and whatever else it takes to keep the site up and running every day.
We’re also supported by a fantastic team in the IT department who work on all the ‘guts’ of the website (databases, servers, etc).

One thing I’m very proud of is our BizRate rating – a rating assigned by shoppers after they complete a purchase from us. We’ve been rated by over 150,000 shoppers since we opened our virtual doors, and our overall rating is ‘Outstanding’. Customers can view our current rating at any time (it’s on the homepage on the bottom right)

If you ever want more information or have any questions, please contact me:

Digital Marketing

The digital marketing team supports all of Harlequin’s initiatives in the digital space outside of the great website Eleanor and her team make happen.

We’re the newest group and 3 people strong. We promote eHarlequin and various retail initiatives and authors. Tactics include banner ads on targeted websites, Google ads, Facebook advertising and developing viral campaigns to support an imprint or author. A successful recent example is the Harlequin Teen sweepstakes.

Another part of our mandate is to establish new partnerships and therefore new ways to promote Harlequin as a brand. I particularly like our relationship with Harrrah’s . It was a real win-win – our Harlequin brand received prominent exposure to Harrah’s customers. Harrah’s customers got the opportunity to sample our editorial.

Ashley Hennessy manages the author affiliate program which is a simple program to join and use. As a Harlequin author you will receive preferred author-only commission rates for all books sold via your link (not only your titles). Please contact Ashley at if you want to join or have any questions. You can also contact me at any time,

I hope this paints a much clearer picture of what the Digital & Internet team does. Questions? Do you have other question about the digital teams or see opportunities we are missing?


  1. Malle --
    Thanks so much for dropping by and giving an insight into the digital team.
    As the medium is changing so rapidly, it is hard to keep on what is new but I am comforted by the thought that Harlequin is at the forefront.

  2. Hi Malle

    This is really fascinating. It's so good to know that all this work is going on behind the scenes to promote our books! And I'm always impressed by how good the website looks and how well it runs.

    And will be dropping Ashley Hennessy a line pronto to find out how to join the affiliate program.

  3. The affiliate program is great.

    And thanks Malle for coming back to visit with us once more!

  4. First, I encourage all authors to join the affiliate program. Ashley is great to work with!

    The world of digital is truly fun and innovative. There was a very nice piece in the NYT yesterday about eBooks and libraries (I'm quoted on page 2!)

  5. Hooray on getting into the NYT. I also think it is good that Harlequin are willing to work with libraries offering ebook downloads.

  6. Hi Malle,

    Thanks for all the information you've provided. It's fascinating (and great!) to see all the initiatives underway.