A lot apparently. Until reading this Bookthingo entry, not much consideration had been paid to the actual titles of Mills and Boon. Sure, the Ruthless Greek Boss, Secretary Mistress (yes-that is a real title) might induce an eye-roll and be duly avoided as sexual harassment storylines are not my thing but to learn that Harlequin has a list of key words that influence sales while remarkable is somehow not surprising.
So what words seem to induce sales? Judging by the March and April 2010 list we can easily deduce that the following have some currency:
Y Greek (be interesting to see what impact the Greece’s sovereign debt crisis will have on this one)
Y Boss (this is creepy…Sexual Harassment Act anyone?)
Y Housekeeper (seriously…did feminism achieve nothing???)
Y Secret Child/Son (the supremacy of primogeniture… never a daughter)
Although undermining any credibility as a subgenre, there is one advantage, without lingering in the aisles of Kmart or Big W and been scorned upon as a bogan or flushing in shame as you browse along the shelves at the library a quick glance can tell you what the basic plotline will be. These titles certainly lack the ambiguity of the 1970s titles.
But do the keywords have the same effect across the territories? The Australia Council Report A National Survey of Reading, Buying and Borrowing Books for Pleasure research observed that 10% of book sales are determined ‘on the basis that it is by an Australian author’. The report is quick to note that this group of people are more likely to be of a lower socio-economic background or from a rural community. We all know what the inference of this is. The Australian MB imprints are careful to note the Australasian status of an author. So the question is does the words ‘Australia author’ generate more sales independent of the keywords.