Friday, October 15, 2021

Research Opportunity: PhD Funding for Research on Mills & Boon (in partnership with them and the University of Birmingham)

For those not on Twitter, who or are but missed it:

Here are more details, from the description of the research project (available here):

This project will explore how the UK’s biggest publisher of popular romance fiction, Mills & Boon, engages with its readers. Undertaking archival research and interviews, the project’s focus is specifically on readers in the Midlands and readers from diverse backgrounds who have historically not read Mills & Boon’s fiction.

Founded in 1908, Mills & Boon sells a novel in the UK every ten seconds. Mills & Boon has a long history of engagement with its readers and is particularly interested in researching the relationship between readers and the publisher. In 2016, the publisher’s Consumer Insights team conducted an in-depth piece of market research which looked at perceptions of the brand amongst readers and non-readers in the UK through qualitative, quantitative and ethnographic lenses. This report indicated that there were particular communities of active romance readers who did not routinely engage with Mills & Boon. This CDA project continues the research work of the 2016 report to explore why some romance readers (primarily younger readers, readers of LGBT+ romance, and BIPOC readers) do not engage with Mills & Boon, and how the publisher might reach these communities of readers.

Mills & Boon’s close relationship with readers is arguably unique in British publishing, yet the specific strategies, intricacies and histories of this engagement have yet to be explored in-depth. Despite huge sales, academia has been slow to recognise the cultural impact of genre fiction and its industrial practices. This project is also timely. In 2020, Black Lives Matter protests around the world led many organisations including publishers to reflect on their approach to representation and diversity. Reaching diverse audiences matters; this project’s focus on readers in the Midlands, a diverse region with high reader engagement with Mills & Boon, allows for new regionally-specific findings to emerge as well as comparison against the national picture.

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