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Archive for the ‘Romance (General)’ Category

If you’re published, but are already on book number two and haven’t hit the bestsellers lists, chances are you’re what’s termed a midlist author. To publishers, midlist authors are the least exciting category of writer. Their first books weren’t hotties. They’ve been bought again because they did okay their first time out, but are often pushed to the back of the bus in favor of those at the top, or the next potential hottie to come along.

Editors and publishers have been shouting about the death of the midlist since dinosaurs were harnessed to run printing presses, sometime in the mid-1980s. Publishing industry pundits at the time urged their readers to cup a hand to their ear and listen for the death knell, as corporations began gobbling up publishing houses and sought to “trim the fat” off their operations.

Why should we publish people who aren’t going to be runaway bestsellers? was the prevailing corporate wisdom of the era.

In truth, I suspect that the history of the midlist over the last twenty-five years could provide hours of lively debate. Is it less than it once was? The proverbial mere shadow? Or is it even stronger today?

Lori Devoti’s “The Death of the Midlist” revives the old arguments at Romancing the Blog, with news that two publishers are supposedly sending their midlists to the gallows. In addition to providing an excellent Midlist for Dummies-style primer, Devoti asks an important question.

…when I heard these two publishers were eliminating their mid-list I thought, “How?” Are they dropping everything that isn’t an A to them? Are they getting out their crystal ball and only buying the “big” books? Or are they just gouging out the middle? Keeping the A’s and the D’s but dumping those darn B’s and C’s?”

The answer, I think, would be yes. If publishers wanted to cut their midlist, there are a number of ways they could put the squeeze on the middle. They might raise the criteria for purchases of an author’s second and subsequent books, requiring higher sell-through rates or even a back-to-print order before an author was bought again. They could contract fewer new authors, selecting just a handful at a time, those they perceived as having the potential for mass appeal; whereupon they made those lucky few into bestsellers.

Where would all the unwanted authors go? It’s a sure thing that they wouldn’t stop writing, or attempting to see their books published. I know I wouldn’t. My guess is that more and more of them would turn to eBook publishers and even self-publishing as an option.

Which makes me wonder, will the large New York houses decide not to eliminate the midlist, but transform it instead?

What are the chances they’ll release most of the dinosaurs from the printing presses and put them to pasture, or swamp, or the Brontosaurus graveyard, and choose not to print, warehouse and distribute midlist books? What if they looked forward a decade, to when print book sales will be on the wane anyway, and came to the conclusion that the midlist should be eBook-only?

In this scenario, print would be reserved for two categories of books, the A-list, and those whom publishers visualized as having the potential to A-list, whether they be first-timers, or long-time eBook only midlisters who have found a large enough audience to merit the luxury.

Devoti makes a good argument in her post when she wonders how the buying public would react to a total evisceration of the middle:

…my guess is a lot of authors who live on the mid list would just disappear. This would be okay for a while. There is a never ending supply of new hopeful writers, but eventually wouldn’t that get old? There are a lot of really good books on that mid list. (Seriously, none of us believe only best-sellers are good, right? Or even all best-sellers are good.) If you could only pick between the new and the big, I truly think you would miss what used to be in the middle.

Regardless of what choices corporate publishing makes, to transition their B- and C-list authors to another format, or allow a great migration of the same to smaller eBook-only houses, my belief is that the midlist will never truly die.

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A survey of more than 8,500 U.S. libraries shows that nine of the ten eBooks most requested for download in August in the adult fiction category were romance novels. Historical romance author Lisa Kleypas not only tops the chart, she dominates it.

  1. Devil in Winter, by Lisa Kleypas (HarperCollins)
  2. Vision In White, by Nora Roberts (Penguin USA, Inc.)
  3. Again the Magic, by Lisa Kleypas (HarperCollins)
  4. Because You’re Mine, by Lisa Kleypas (HarperCollins)
  5. The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho (HarperCollins)
  6. Worth Any Price, by Lisa Kleypas (HarperCollins)
  7. Suddenly You, by Lisa Kleypas (HarperCollins)
  8. Dreaming of You, by Lisa Kleypas (HarperCollins)
  9. Brighter Than the Sun, by Julia Quinn (HarperCollins)
  10. All About Passion, by Stephanie Laurens (HarperCollins)

You may notice another factor at play in this list compiled by Overdrive.com, the Internet library search tool. With nine eBooks in the top ten, HarperCollins currently commands this market, aggressively wooing America’s library eBook patrons.

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morethanwordsDo you have a sister, friend, mother, or teacher you admire, who is dedicated to improving life in her community? Enter her name in this inspiring awards program sponsored by Harlequin. Nominations are open to women living in the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico.

More Than Words

We are soliciting nominations of ordinary women who have made extraordinary contributions to their communities. Five women will be chosen as award recipients each year, and Harlequin will make a donation of $10,000 to their chosen causes. A collection of short stories inspired by their lives will be written by a selection of our most acclaimed authors. These stories will be published and shared with our readers, with proceeds from the book being reinvested in Harlequin’s charitable initiatives.

How fabulous is that? Your favorite person and her cause spotlighted in a romance from Harlequin. Check it out at eHarlequin.com, and watch the video about last year’s recipients. Better hurry though, the deadline for online nominations is September 4, 2009.

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intertwinedFrom Diedre Knight’s blog comes another fun piece, this one about the creation of a Harlequin Teen paranormal romance cover.

As an author who would love to see someone make this much fuss over one of my books, the production of the cover for Intertwined by Gena Showalter is both fascinating and a major motivational carrot. The cover artists spent more that a month working on this single cover.

Intertwined will be available for the Kindle and in other eBook formats on September 1. Oh, and I guess it will come out in paper, too.

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If you thought all academic types sneered at romance fiction, think again. Check out the world’s first major conference on the study of romance fiction, taking place from August 13-14 in Brisbane Australia.

ABC News has some excellent video coverage of the conference, including a brief interview with an adorable, curly-haired romance fiction geek (Dr. Eric Selinger), who champions the genre. The book covers they show for the romance novels sold in Australia look a little old school to me, even ones by more recent novelists such as Emma Darcy, but hey.

You can find more about Popular Romance Studies: an International Conference at the University of Pennsylvania’s English Department website.

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While we’re on the topic of racy romance novel covers and the looks we sometimes get while reading the words between them…

Superagent Deidre Knight at The Knight Agency, posted a link to this funny yet insightful rant on her blog.  “It Ain’t Your Mama’s Romance,” which you’ll find at Chicks-n-Scratching: Chicks Who Write Romance and Love It, tackles four of the biggest snipes leveled at romance writers and readers.

Second of the complaints about romance: “It is all sex.”

The article’s reply: “And this is a problem…why?”

I won’t spoil the rest of the article by listing the other three complaints and the Chicks’ snappy rejoinders. Follow the link above to the original post. (Knight’s blog can be found on her agency’s website.)

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It may not be a scientifically designed or executed poll. No professional pollsters called up households across America to pester them for their opinions, but here at KR, at least, it’s official. When asked “Are You Embarrassed Reading Romance in Public?” a resounding 63% say, no. Only 7% stated that they were worried what people would think.

It’s a question that definitely resonates with romance readers and writers. I posted links to the poll on various writers forums, including  Absolute Write Water Cooler, where a week later, the discussion continues.

Below, are a variety of responses, representing the No, Yes, and Sometimes Embarrassed camps.

Nope! Don’t mind the bodice-ripping or even the waxed mantitty…Oddly enough, the only ones I might hesitate to lug around in public are the real old-school, white cover-couple-in-clasp Har/Sil’s. They just seem so…old. But, yeah, considering a good portion of the world doesn’t read AT ALL, I dare someone to challenge me about WHAT I’m reading!

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Heck no. I’ve taken Harlequin Presents, Silhouette Desires, and even Kensington Aphrodisia books with their super steamy covers into the waiting room of my OB/midwife. Since I’m there, like, every week now that I’m pregnant, I need something interesting to read. You can only read so many baby magazines before you gag.

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YES!! This is a major reason why I love my Kindle and my romance novel readership has gone way up. No way would I want someone seeing my “Lord of Scoundrels” or “Wed Him Before You Bed Him” book covers. Some of the cover art is very embarrassing and more information than I want total strangers to be able to glean about me.

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No way. I read them proudly because I refuse to let someone else’s opinion make me feel bad about my personal tastes…I read ebooks because I have thousands of books rotting in storage already. I have no room left for physical books. It’s so much easier to load a few novels on my PDA and stick that in my purse than it is to stick a few books in my purse.

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I actually had one guy try to hit on me at a Starbucks once because of what I was reading. I guess he thought partially naked guy on the cover = me wanting to jump in the sack with him??? Nowadays, I’ll take a mystery or thriller with me instead. It sends a different message and tends to keep the weirdos away.

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I like romance covers. Really I do. I adore bare, six-pack laden stomachs and rippling pecs. That said, I don’t want someone I normally work with in a professional setting (like my office) seeing that I read steamy books…For me, it’s less about being embarrassed, and more about keeping a professional appearance and distance between myself and my co-workers or casual acquaintances.

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I don’t mind being seen reading smut, although I don’t think that the daily bus commute is either the time or place for damp panties… it’s the mushy crap with the period costumes I find embarassing. I find most of the covers as embarrassing as softcore porn DVDs.

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I think it’s up to the publishers to change the perception if they want it done, not me. They should stop making them so tacky if they want to expand the fan base into readers of women’s fiction and literary fiction. It’s certainly possible. I loved Diana Galbadon’s first book. I would not have bought it if it had the standard lurid romance cover on it. I wouldn’t have looked at it twice.

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I’m not embarrased at all to read romance in public, in fact, I love to do it! I flaunt the fact that I like to read dirty books, and sometimes I find the dirtiest passage and make my friends read it just to see their reactions.

It’s an open, very frank discussion, which, as one commenter pointed out, publishers would be smart to follow. You’ll find many more thoughtful, and irreverent, responses in the threads at The Cooler.

Are You Embarrassed Reading Romance in Public?” will remain active through August 30, so if you haven’t already chimed in with your opinion, please do!

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