Lisa Milton is to join HarperCollins as executive publisher of its Harlequin UK publishing division, with Tim Cooper, UK managing director, departing. The development follows the relocation of the company from its Richmond base to HarperCollins’ office at London Bridge over the summer with the intention of Harlequin becoming a second commercial fiction publishing business within the group.
Milton, who left Orion abruptly in July after a restructure, is to join on 2nd November, with Cooper leaving at the end of October. HarperCollins UK chief executive Charlie Redmayne said Cooper and he had come to a mutual decision that the business no longer needed a general manager, after its integration into HarperCollins. Cooper, who joined Harlequin in 2003, said: “I am very sorry to be leaving Harlequin. It has been a really difficult decision but I feel that I have achieved all that I set out to and that the time is right to take on new challenges.”
Harlequin UK will now be run as a distinct division within the larger HarperCollins UK business, with Milton reporting into Redmayne. Redmayne said the appointment of Milton made a “statement” to agents and authors about the group’s ambitions for that business. He said that HarperCollins would now invest in Harlequin UK in order to broaden its publishing base and establish it as as “heavy-hitting commercial fiction publishing business” competing for acquisitions against other fiction publishers as well as its own HarperFiction division, led by executive publisher Kate Elton.
Redmayne said he approached Milton after she left Orion, where she was Orion General m.d. As part of the restructure at Orion, Katie Espiner publisher of The Borough Press and HarperVoyager at HarperCollins, is to join as its m.d. on 21st September. Redmayne said he wanted to bring in an executive who could set out a publishing vision for Harlequin, and attract the big authors, while building on its current business model.
Redmayne said: “If I look at my competitors like Penguin Random House, they have multiple commercial businesses, so when they are going for authors, they can put them into a number of different businesses. I have one commercial fiction publishing business and that is run by Kate Elton, and that to a degree restricts me. So my intention is to have Harlequin doing all the things it has done well up to now in terms of women’s fiction and romance, but to also extend it out into being another big heavy-hitting commercial fiction publishing business.” Redmayne said the business would be looking for authors and books beyond its current remit, including crime and thrillers, and including single titles.
He said Milton brought with her “fantastic publishing experience", as well as knowledge of retail and book club businesses. Redmayne said he needed to bring in someone to "go and meet some of the challenges of series publishing, which is a tough market, but also to think about the vision of the future in terms of the fiction”. Under Milton, he said Harlequin would go after “the big books in a way that historically it has not done”. Redmayne said he would like to treble the size of Harlequin UK so that it matched the size of HarperFiction. “If I could build another business like HarperFiction and take share off my competitors, I will be happy with that.”
He confirmed the two divisions would compete on books, but sensibly. “We don’t see it as competing necessarily, we see it as offering two different publishing visions. I am not wholly in favour of driving my own prices up, but if the two divisions value the same book differently, then there will be two offers.” Milton will also sit on the executive board of HarperCollins UK along with publishers Kate Elton, David Roth-Ey at Fourth Estate and Ann-Janine Murtagh from HarperCollins Children’s.
Milton said: “I'm very excited to be joining such an incredible group. Harlequin is a dynamic, thriving company with an extraordinary track record of publishing great fiction at the forefront of digital innovation. As a passionate fiction publisher, and with the strength and expertise of HarperCollins, I'm looking forward to increasing sales of our existing authors, as well as attracting new ones and broadening the scope of the list.”
About 25 roles were made redundant when Harlequin UK relocated during the summer, with Harlequin UK now having about 30 staff, not including the separate Harlequin “global acquisitions team”, which reports into the Harlequin Toronto office. In June, Donna Hillyer, former editorial director of Harlequin UK, left her role in order to concentrate on freelance editing and consultancy.
HarperCollins will now “look to bring in editorial expertise” outside of its traditional areas, Redmayne said, but he added that it would be up Milton to set the pace. “Our intent is to grow this business, and add value to what Harlequin already does. Harlequin is a hugely important part of HarperCollins and this appointment shows our commitment to it.”
HarperCollins acquired Harlequin in 2014 for around £200m, with the aim of using its international offices to expand HarperCollins’ global reach. The group has already shifted a number of its overseas units to become general trade publishers under the HarperCollins banner, and has begun acquiring world rights, including foreign language, most notably in the case of Karin Slaughter. Redmayne said the investment in Harlequin UK that would see it operate as a more broad-based fiction publisher was “consistent with this global strategy”.