This is an essay I wrote back in October of 2019 for my publishing class, Marketing for Book Publishers. The assignment was to explore the packaging and positioning of a recent release.
Discretion by Karina Halle is the first book in The Dumonts series. The Dumonts series is a three-book deal Karina Halle signed with Montlake Romance, an imprint of Amazon Publishing. Karina Halle is a New York Times bestselling author of fifty novels in the contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and horror romance genres. Looking at Discretion’s packaging and positioning by Montlake Romance, and the larger Amazon publishing team reveals a book that was deliberately designed as a follow up to what fans of Karina Halle and the romance genre agree upon as how a novel within the romance genre should be packaged and positioned.
Amazon made the decision to publish the book as a trade paperback, foregoing the decision to publish the first edition in hardback. This choice is aligned with those of publishers who publish equivalent romance novels such as Forever, Atria, William and Morrow. Montlake positioned the book as valuable as an e-Book by selling it at a low price on the Kindle Store and by placing the book in the Kindle Unlimited program. The package design is the same across all markets, as Amazon is selling an English language version across its various global sites.
In terms of cover design, Montlake Romance went with the work of Hang Le (Halle), an industry leader in romance novel cover design. Hang Le has done many covers for Karina Halle before including, My Life in Shambles, Nothing Personal, The Swedish Prince, After All, Before I Ever Met You, and A Nordic King to name just a few (@byhangle). Leading romance authors such as Sierra Simone, Sarina Bowen, Melanie Harlow, Jay Crownover, Emma Chase, and Jennifer L. Armentrout (@byhangle).
Hang Le’s style is to make a series or an author’s books have a coherent style through the use of similar fonts and placements. In the case of Karina Halle, many of her books designed by Hang Le follow the style below
The covers of The Dumonts series that have been released so far are Discretion and its sequel Disarm.
There is a consistency of font choices with Karina Halle’s name appearing in Bodoni and the respective titles appearing in Versus Regular (“WhatTheFont”). The font choices are perfect as Bodoni’s history sees it used all over high fashion magazines, and the story features the Dumont family that works within Paris’ high fashion industry. The cover image for Discretion, is in line with both Karina Halle’s cover history, as well as many of the covers of bestselling romance novels. The classic imagery of featuring the male protagonist on the cover can be seen across the genre. Discretion’s cover model is Mitchell Wick and the photo was taken by Wong Sim (Halle).
The back cover features the lede “There’s rich. Then there’s filthy rich,” then the book description, and some imagery of the French Riviera where the book is set. The lede on the physical edition of the book differs from the lede online. On both Goodreads and Amazon, the lede is as follows, “From New York Times bestselling author Karina Halle comes a delicious saga of wealth, luxury, and scandal—and the wicked secrets of success behind an envied family dynasty.” (Goodreads and Amazon.ca)
The lede on the trade paperback edition has problems connecting to the image on the cover. The man pictured on the cover does not immediately scream wealth to me, maybe him pictured in a suit with an expensive watch on his wrist. There is even a scene in the book where the male protagonist, Olivier goes to a masquerade ball. If that scene was depicted on the cover it would have better reflected the wealth of the Dumont family as stipulated in the lede. The use of the word filthy here has a double entendre. Olivier Dumont is filthy rich, being the son of a wealthy family dynasty. The word is also supposed to allude to Olivier’s talents in the bedroom. A staple of the romance genre, the man is experienced in the bedroom and brings great pleasure to the female protagonist.
Turning the tables now to look at the online lede, which is longer and eludes to symbolic capital. Within the online lede of the description Karina Halle is highlighted as a New York Times Bestselling author. This mention is an appeal to Karina Halle’s symbolic capital, as your book appearing on the New York Times bestseller list is a great honour. It demonstrates to a larger audience that your book is reaching a wider audience, as Everett Rogers would say the book is reaching the early majority or even late majority, not just the innovators and early adopters. (Broadhurst) Karina Halle made the New York Times Bestseller list back in March of 2016, when she hit the number three spot on the E-Book Fiction list (“The New York Times Best Sellers”). This lede is longer first explaining that Discretion is first in a saga, as it is the first book in a three-book series. The choice not to display that the book is the first in the series on the cover is deliberate. In order to attract a wider readership, the series is one of related standalones with different protagonists set in the same world, in order to encourage readers to read any of the books in the series in any order. This lede also mentions the nature of secrets which is a big part of Discretion. The cover model can be seen as quite mysterious, the nature of him in profile rather than staring at the reader in a straightforward manner illustrates that he has something to hide.
Discretion is positioned as a suspense romance book by Amazon. As a piece of genre fiction, the story is not positioned for a literary fiction crowd, rather it would be categorized as commercial fiction. The focus for Discretion is ultimately on the story, rather than on the writing style placing it firmly in the commercial fiction category. Discretion perfectly fits within the contract theory of genre fiction outlined by Catherine Sheldrick Ross (Broadhurst). It honours the rules around a happily ever after or HEA and a meet-cute that are essential requirements in a romance story, requirements that the reader expects the author to fulfill.
The book description eloquently displays how Montlake Romance is positioning Discretion. Following the different versions of the lede is the book description:
“The Riviera means indulgence—if you’ve got money. For Sadie Reynolds, a down-on-her-luck student, the Riviera means dingy hostels and back streets. When a wrong turn puts her in jeopardy, the last thing she expects is to be saved by the most handsome stranger she’s ever locked eyes with. When she later wakes up in a luxury suite with a Mediterranean view, she’s in the tender care of her rescuer: Olivier Dumont, France’s most eligible bachelor, billionaire hotelier, and heir to the Dumont fashion fortune.
Olivier also owns his reputation for scandal. But Sadie is unlike any woman he’s ever met. Her humble persona and wild innocence promise real passion. He’s promising Sadie something too: anything she wants. From Bordeaux to Cannes to Paris, Sadie’s past in America is swept away and replaced with a fantasy too good to be true.
Pulled into Olivier’s orbit of wealth, glamour, and excess, Sadie discovers that the Dumont dynasty comes with a legacy of wicked secrets. And Olivier’s secrets may be the most damning of all…” (Goodreads and Amazon.ca)
The description of Discretion positions it as a book that will fulfill the task of the escape. Clayton M. Christensen discusses how “we ‘hire’ products for a specific ‘job’ (Broadhurst).” Discretion, other books by Karina Halle and many stories within the romance genre are “hired” for the “jobs” of independence and escapism. The independence of a mother taking time away from her busy life and family, the book provides escapism taking her away to a foreign place, to a life of luxury she can only dream of. Sadie, the protagonist is the gateway to this escapism as she is a young woman who is rescued by a dreamy French billionaire.
Discretion has been positioned without endorsements from other authors or any leading publications such as Publishers Weekly, Booklist, or the New York Times Book Review. Positioning within the romance genre tends to follow the weak theory of positioning. As John Phillip Jones stipulates the average consumer is intelligent but apathetic (Broadhurst). The same is for the book consumer, so spending lots of money, time, and effort on glowing endorsements is not effective in the industry. The huge majority of romance novels feature endorsements from readers either from Goodreads reviews or book blogs rather than industry elites. Though many authors still end up endorsing books through social media buzz, rather than having endorsements appear on the physical package.
The trade paperback edition of Discretion from Amazon lacks any mention on a suggested retail price or SRP. This may deliberately relate to how Montlake Romance has positioned the book. Discretion within the Canadian market was only easily available through the Amazon website. No physical copies were available in any of Indigo stores in Vancouver’s lower mainland. I could find one store in the Toronto area that may have had one copy of the book. The only route Indigo had for purchasing this book was through their online store, for the price of $18.95 (Indigo). While on Amazon.ca the trade paperback costs $15.35 and the E-book only $1.99 (Amazon.ca) Amazon has positioned this book deliberately to be read by many as a part of the Kindle Unlimited program. The Kindle Unlimited program offers unlimited access to over a million E-books that can be read on the Kindle or on the Kindle App for the price of $9.99 a month (Amazon.ca). This program is positioned for the avid reader and Discretion along with the romance genre in general is as well. Speaking from experiences I have had with romance readers online they read so many books and that gets expensive. So, a program like Kindle Unlimited is so popular within the genre as a way for romance readers to save money while still getting to read all the steamy stories they love.
Montlake Romance has positioned Discretion to an audience of Karina Halle fans and loyal romance genre readers. The physical package has its issues, at least the copy I was sent the image and lettering on spine does not properly line up with the physical width of the spine. This book was not positioned to be bought and sold in a physical trade paperback, the E-book is priced at a reduced rate and is available in Kindle Unlimited. These choices display how Amazon has positioned this book in the Canadian market as a fun, adventurous, escapist e-book read.
Amazon.ca. “Discretion (The Dumonts Book 1).” Amazon.ca, Amazon.com Inc and affiliates, www.amazon.ca/Discretion-Dumonts-Book-Karina-Halle-ebook/dp/B07MYXWMQW/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1RABYVY8NI5H&keywords=discretion+karina+halle&qid=1571086941&sprefix=discretion%2Caps%2C215&sr=8-1.
Broadhurst, Jamie. “Harry Potter and the Perils of the Blockbuster.” Pub 350, 11 Oct. 2019, SFU Harbour Centre, Vancouver. Lecture.
Broadhurst, Jamie. “Readers and Genres.” Pub 350, 20 Sept. 2019, SFU Harbour Centre, Vancouver. Lecture.
@byhangle, Hang. “byhangle.” Instagram, www.instagram.com/byhangle/?hl=en.
Goodreads. “Discretion (The Dumonts, #1) by Karina Halle.” Goodreads, Goodreads, Inc., www.goodreads.com/book/show/43806074-discretion?ac=1&from_search=true.
Halle, Karina. Discretion. Seattle, Montlake Romance, 2019.
Indigo. “Discretion, Book by Karina Halle.” Indigo, www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/discretion/9781542008532-item.html?ikwid=discretion&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=4.
“The New York Times Best Sellers.” The New York Times [New York], 5 Mar. 2016, www.nytimes.com/books/best-sellers/2016/03/05/.
“WhatTheFont.” My Fonts, My Fonts Inc., www.myfonts.com/WhatTheFont/.