Two things are happening in our world that bring me back to thinking about identity.
1. Astronomers are arguing over Pluto and it’s neighbors, trying to determine if they can be identified as planets, or as something else. )Apparently, Physics is not the only branch that suffers from mutually exclusive foundational principals. Wheh!)
2. Harlequin is discontinuing the Bombshell line.
The astronomical bodies, to be declared planets, need to contain certain elements central to landing the identity of ‘planet’. One of those central elements is being ‘round’. There are more elements, but this one is a major player. Without round, you can NOT be identified as a planet. With Round, you may or may not be identified as a planet.
Harlequin released Bombshell, an action adventure oriented line that did not require an HEA to romance (I think). The books may or may not have been romances. Generally, you can NOT be a romance without some quasi form of the HEA. However, you can be a book with an HEA, and not be a romance. What they all seemed to have in common was a larger amount of heroine screen time, with action adventure plots, and aggressive heroines.
Okay, I’m getting the gist of that identity, but it’s still a little murky to me.
Then, Harlequin shelves them with the rest of the category romances.
So, is this an action adventure lite romance, or is this a straight category romance?
If it’s NOT a category romance, why shelve it there. You’re confusing the identity. Unless you meant it to be traditional category? Or not?
I think that’s the issue. What’s the real identity? We know the guideline identity, but I think the marketing portrayed a different identity, that appeared at odds with what you found between the covers of the book. I don't think this was ever intended, however. I think that you always take risk when you push boundaries. But it does make one think, when you try to determine why the line is ending, why perhaps it was inconsistent, etc.
To me, I think a failure at clear identity may have doomed the line from the start. Had they gone with single title, no rack job shelving, they’d be open to many more potential consumers. And the strict category romantics might not have been confused in expectations either. (as some decried when the books first came out). Then again, single title carries a bigger risk with additional promotional costs built in. So you're in a catch 22.
This is terrible, because a number of talented authors have books lined up for that line, with a readership waiting to read. But, the line is closed after the January releases. Then again, the publisher is a business, and needs to be responsible and make unpopular decisions. What I found interesting were some of the posts on list at the publisher: a few people admitted that while sorry, the either never bought, or bought very few bombshells. They didn't elaborate why, except for an Aussie, who cited poor and spotty distribution down under. Understandable, of course. And, this makes a case for really getting busy with serious e-book distribution of categories, but that's another topic all together. So, folks are sorry to see it go, yet they didn't shop the line. Why? Who can say.
Is it the line’s fault for not producing? Or the producer’s fault for not packaging to a stronger identity?
Perhaps there’s a bit of ‘branding’ in this, to steal a trendy marketing term.
All in all, it makes me think harder on what I can do to maintain strong identity, and in the end, no matter what I do, elements are still beyond my control. Just like Pluto, a round body with gravity, and a moon. It has elements of planet identity, but, in the end, the Astronomers marketing it’s concept have the final say.