Japanese readers are voracious. I don't think I've ever seen so many people reading. Mind you, they spend A LOT of time on trains. Ex pat Australian, Belinda Hobbs, Managing Director of Harlequin's Tokyo office (with Elliot, left), said that some of her staff have a one and a half hour commute each way, each day, so they have plenty of reading time, I guess. But, until this trip, I don't think I'd ever seen so many people reading while standing in line on the platform.
(BTW, they are wonderful at standing in line -- for HOURS if necessary! You should have seen the lines waiting to try the simulator at the railway museum!!!!)
They also read standing up, with the book an inch from their nose in really tight peak hour crushes on the train.
Their books are produced in a sensibly small format that is easy to hold and they have these wonderful little plain covers to put over the book. Everyone uses them. Ostensibly, these covers are to keep the books clean, but it also hides the publisher's cover and people can read anything they like in public without any embarrassment. I think that's so clever!!!
Belinda and her enthusiastic team took us to a lovely lunch in a Thai restaurant. (Even though Japanese food is wonderful, they love foreign cuisines as well!) There, I met my very sweet Japanese editor, Miyoko Kobayashi ( and presumably the editor for all Image books, pictured right).
Miyoko told me that the Secrets We Keep trilogy will be released in Japan next May, June, July and my RITA book, Claiming His Family, will be out next August.
Miyoko and others commented that both Elliot and Belinda's husband treat their wives very nicely and they decided they would like Australian husbands!
At this lunch, I also learned that there are quite a lot of very popular Japanese romance authors. At least, they call themselves romance authors, but their stories often end unhappily. They are extremely popular, however, more popular than the Harlequin books. But our happy-ending stories are slowly making inroads. Our books are especially popular as downloads for cell phones -- selling amazingly well, apparently.
I gave Belinda at copy of Sizzle, Seduce & Simmer, with messages from Australian authors and she loved it (of course!). Is very interested in having it translated. I guess it needs to do well in ANZ first. Fingers crossed.
At this lunch I also learned the Japaneses romance readers love hard working heroines, but strong Alpha heroes. They don't seem to like particularly feisty heroines. No surprises to learn that Betty Neels is as popular here as everywhere else.
I also went back to the offices -- four floors of a skyscraper in inner Tokyo, where I met the rest of the team and signed books, which was fun. After we left, I was on my way back down the street and in the middle of a pedestrian crossing, when a sales manager came running after me, asking me to sign a cover flat for a reader who had lost her home in the earthquake in July, which I was, of course, very happy to do.
Yesterday, I was sent a translation of that reader's response, part of which said...
"Your company's kindness towards your reader just made me really happy. I imagine Harlequin staff are people full of love and joy, just as your books are.
It must be wonderful to have a job like yours that can make people happy. Your books have always made me happy, and I look forward to reading many more of your books in the future. "
That just about sums up my experience of the company, too.