Among the things I received yesterday from Mills & Boon was a reasonably detailed history of the company. In it, it is made very clear that the company has ALWAYS been very keen to find new authors. BUT it has never been easy. There has NEVER been a golden age for unpublished authors where everything gets published. EVER.
In 1912, 1000 slush manuscripts were submitted, of that no more than 6 were actually published by Mills & Boon, according to a Charles Boon interview with the Daily Citizen. 75% of the manuscripts were by women and 95% by unknown authors. In other words, even way back then, it was not easy to become published with Mills & Boon. I think the statistics have become slightly worse for new authors but there again, the computer and other aids to writing have happened. I think about 1 in 1,000 is taken on. I know the editors would dearly like to find more new authors. There is always a shifting pool of authors -- because authors are real people and real people have real problems and sometimes their direction in writing changes. But every month, HM&B has to fulfil its promise to the readers.
The only thing a would be HM&B author can do is to concentrate on writing the best possible novel that fits the guidelines. And if you really want to know what the important part of the guides are: look at the strap line. For example Historicals is Rich vivid and passionate, brings the past to life. Modern Heat is sizzling, stylish sensual -- the ultimate temptation. Modern is glamorous and sophisticated, seduction and passion guaranteed. Desire is passionate, provocative and powerful. Intrigue is danger, deception and desire. And so on. Figure out what these words mean in the context of the novels and you will figure out the promise HM&B makes to its readers. It is all about fulfilling that promise.
M&B has known for a long time what their particular niche market is -- romance fiction. They do not publish guys with gear who go books. And as Alan Boon once explained to an agent -- we would, indeed, have to turn down Shakespeare if he sent one along. In other words, Mills & Boon publish Romance Fiction and if they are offered other types of fiction, no matter how good, they will not publish it. The Mills & Boon brand is Romance Fiction. The parent company may publish other sorts of fiction, but what is published with the Mills & Boon logo is Romance.
It is that focus that has made the company's success. Know your market is maxim that works well for writers.
It will help improve your chances of being published. Think where will most of my readers come from. Cross over books are fine, but they are hard to market. Ultimately, you are writing for a core market.
All the branding of the HM&B lines does is to identify the core markets and to state via the strap line what sort of promise the reader can expect to be fulfilled.