Over the years we’ve worked on the digital side of publishing we’ve seen how Mills & Boon have continually shown great appetite for embracing new ways of engaging readers. They’ve done this quietly and effectively and are now in the enviable position of having innovated their way to significant digital experience.
So we were delighted when they asked us to create a website to launch Romance is Not Dead / New Voices, a competition to find the next Mills & Boon author, at the beginning of September 2010.
Hosted at www.romanceisnotdead.com, aspiring authors are asked to submit the first chapter of their Mills & Boon novel for a chance at winning the ultimate prize of seeing their book published by Mills & Boon, an editor for a year and an Apple iPad. The winner will be chosen by public vote and a panel of judges including Heat editor and author Sam Delaney and Sunday Times bestselling author Penny Jordan.
As well as the writing prize itself, there are some deep strategic aims at play here as well. Mills & Boon has recently undergone a major rebrand and New Voices is part of a bigger focus on engaging consumers with Mills & Boon by supporting existing buyers and by “attracting new readers and changing some of the negative perceptions they have got about it”.
We suggested that a tight integration with Facebook Connect and Twitter would help amplify the opinions of the readers who were already using social media, as well as delivering valuable demographic and other analytic insight.
In the first two weeks, the website saw 27,000 unique visits and 824 entries from 4,000 users, who have made a phenomenal 6,500 comments, making it the biggest ever competition for Mills & Boon and Harlequin.
Mills & Boon have also seen a knock-on effect on social media, with their Twitter followers and Facebook fans both increasing by 5% in the first five days. In fact, so keen are the New Voices entrants to talk, they’ve created their very own Facebook group for the die-hard fans. Aside from search engines, the New Voices site is now the biggest driver of traffic to the Mills & Boon website.
The overall winner will be announced on 1st November 2010. First prize is publication of their book by Mills & Boon, an editor for a year and an Apple iPad. Three runners up will win a consultation with a Mills & Boon editor, a Sony eReader and a hamper of Mills & Boon books.