New column: Getting to the heart

Book publishers produce approximately 30,000 new titles each year. From a business standpoint, that's 30,000 ''new products'' annually. Only a few hundred of those titles become big sellers; others break even, while yet others sink into anonymity.

Using standard sales and marketing strategies for the new products each year is virtually impossible. Without product identification, market testing, audience research, and big advertising budgets, publishers have been at a disadvantage in the marketplace.

Something is shaking the shelves in the publishers' marketplace, however, and it is Candlelight Ecstasy Supreme. Neither a confection nor the latest room freshener, it is a line of paperbacks - romance novels - from Dell Publishing Company. And these novels are bigger and better than those which preceded them in Dell's Candlelight Ecstasy Romance line.

Even to the untrained eye, these books are immediately identifiable. ''Candlelight Ecstasy Supreme'' curls sinuously across the top of the cover. Beneath the banner, a man and woman are entwined in a passionate embrace. He is handsome, forceful, and clothed. She is beautiful, compliant, and usually decollete. The titles are not memorable, but they are certainly compatible: ''Lovers and Pretenders'' or ''Warmed by the Fire.''

The audience? The buyers - primarily women from 18 to 49 - who have made the romance novel one of the largest-selling categories of books. The market tests for Ecstasy Supreme are already done, established by the heartwarming response to Dell's first series, Candlelight Ecstasy Romance. The marketing campaign for Ecstasy Supreme will ''build on the incredible brand loyalty developed among these women by Candlelight Ecstasy Romances - the No. 1 bestselling romance series,'' the ads say, in two major bookstore chains.

And, Ecstasy Supremes will be longer - 288 pages - and will provide more complex plots and more developed characters. This winter, there will be four novels published each month. Enough for the insatiable reader, one guesses.

Whether or not Candlelight Ecstasy Supremes will outsell all others 3 to 1 remains to be seen. At $2.50 a book, the price is certainly affordable. All that remains to be added is the shopping cart.

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