Hard on the heels of the announcement that the self-publishing portal Pronoun was to close, Macmillan has announced on twitter that its consumer-facing romance website Heroes and Heartbreakers is to close too.
While the Pronoun closure surprised few, the closure statement on Heroes and Heartbreakers is unexpected.

Publishers Lunch quotes Macmillan as explaining,

As the digital habits of readers and consumers evolve, our strategic direction for reaching them evolves as well. Macmillan will be saying goodbye to the Heroes and Heartbreakers website by the end of 2017 and going forward will focus on engaging romance fans via our e-newsletter – which has a robust, growing circulation – and on social media.

Publishers Lunch asked Macmillan if further digital property closures were on the cards and were told not, but the announcement of two terminations in the space of a few days does raise questions about Macmillan’s direction.
Owned by Germany’s Holtzbrinck, Macmillan isn’t short of cash, but Pronoun was obviously haemorrhaging money, and it seems now that Heroes and Heartbreakers too wasn’t paying its way.
The big question is whether the decision to close Heroes and Heartbreakers is just part of a review of Macmillan’s digital properties and it was found to be not pulling its weight, or is this reflects further inroads into Big 5 romance sales by indie authors and A-Pub and romance is no longer a keystone of Macmillan’s publishing portfolio.
In July 2016 Data Guy reported to the RWA that 89% of romance sales were digital, mostly going to indie authors, and while we can argue the detail (for example, the digital sales include an unknown number of 10-100 page romance ebooks that have no comparable print editions) it’s clear Big 5 romance sales have been hit.
The next Author Earnings Report is imminent and Data Guy has promised it

will drop jaws throughout the industry

What he has already shared, while not quite jaw-dropping, will certainly raise eyebrows in some quarters:

  • US consumer ebooks purchase dollars in last 6 months (this in October 2017): $1.6 billion
  • Amount accounted for by all traditional publishers (including tiny micropresses): $950 million
  • Amount accounted for by “major” traditional publishers (Big 5 and next tier down like Scholastic and HMH): $ 750 million

Whether Data Guy will break down numbers by genre this time around remains to be seen, but when it comes to romance data, it would be instructive to see romance broken down by page count and sub-genre, and some historical context.
Because the real story here is just how much mainstream publishing is losing romance market share to indie authors and A-Pub, as opposed to how much the romance market has expanded thanks to digital availability of titles with no mainstream publishing counterparts.