Avon Publications began as a paperback book and comic book publisher in 1941. It is recognized for having pioneered the historical romance category and continues to bring the best of commercial literature to the broadest possible audience. As of 2010, it is an imprint of HarperCollins, publishing primarily romance novels.
Avon publishes the best and brightest stars of today and tomorrow in contemporary, historical, and paranormal; in print and eBooks. They’re all Avon Books and that means romance. And we bring the top talent every month.
Avon Books was founded in 1941 by the American News Corporation (ANC) to create a rival to Pocket Books. They hired brother and sister Joseph Myers and Edna Myers Williams to establish the company. The first 40 titles were not numbered. First editions of the first dozen or so have front and rear endpapers with an illustration of a globe. The emphasis on "popular appeal" led Avon to publish ghost stories, sexually-suggestive love stories, fantasy novels and science fiction in its early years, which were far removed in audience appeal from the somewhat more literary Pocket competition.
In 1953, Avon Books sold books in the price range of 25¢ to 50¢ (for the Avon "G" series, the "G" standing for "Giant") and were selling more than 20 million copies a year. Their books were characterized by Time Magazine as "westerns, whodunits and the kind of boy-meets-girl story that can be illustrated by a ripe cheesecake jacket." Avon's 35-cent "T" series, introduced in 1953, also had strong mass-market appeal and contains many outstanding examples of the then-popular juvenile delinquent story. The T series also contained many movie tie-in editions and the stand-bys of mysteries and science fiction.
Avon was bought by the Hearst Corporation in 1959.
In 1972, Avon launched the modern romance genre with the publication of Kathleen Woodiwiss' The Flame and the Flower, the first single-title romance novel to be published as an original paperback. The novel went on to sell 2.35 million copies. Avon followed its release with the 1974 publication of Woodiwiss's second novel, The Wolf and the Dove and two sexy novels by newcomer Rosemary Rogers, Sweet Savage Love and Dark Fires. The latter sold two million copies in its first three months of release. By 1975, Publishers Weekly had reported that the "Avon originals" had sold a combined 8 million copies.
In 1999, the News Corporation bought out Hearst's book division, and merged Avon with HarperCollins. Avon's hardcover and non-romance paperback lines were moved to sister company Morrow, leaving Avon as solely a romance publisher.