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dolores haze
07-23-2007, 09:57 PM
The dust is now settling on a fascinating debate that erupted in romance genre blogland in the wake of the Romance Writers of America's annual conference. Major writers in the genre, midlist writers, aspiring writers, readers, bloggers, reviewers, editors, academics - frack even Harry Potter- weighed in with their opinions on the image of the romance writer, with multiple tangents thereof and a surprising amount of vitriol.

If I may I'd like to throw out a couple of questions to all the readers and writers of various genres in these forums. Please feel free to answer all, some, one of the questions, or make some other relevant comment.

1) Is there one overwhelming image of the romance writer? And if yes, what is it?
2) With romance genre novels taking up such a large share of the market, are writers in other genres resentful of this? What is the reason for romance novels being so popular?
3) if you were to advise romance writers on how to improve their image, what would your advice be?
4) is there a connection between image and sales? Specifically, would you wear a costume if it would help you sell more books?

There's no right or wrong answers here, folks - I'm just seeking a little edification. Thanks.

Roger J Carlson
07-23-2007, 10:07 PM
1) Is there one overwhelming image of the romance writer? And if yes, what is it? I don't know. I don't have one.

2) With romance genre novels taking up such a large share of the market, are writers in other genres resentful of this? What is the reason for romance novels being so popular?Do romance novels take up that large of a share of the market? If so, I assume it's because a LOT of people like to read romances. Am I resentful? No. If more people read romances, then they should sell more.

3) if you were to advise romance writers on how to improve their image, what would your advice be?Don't worry about image. Worry about writing.

4) is there a connection between image and sales? Specifically, would you wear a costume if it would help you sell more books?As a SF/Fantasy writer, costumes aren't anything new to me. Look at all the SF and Star Trek conventions. Yes, I'd wear a costume if it would increase sales. Question is, would it?

rugcat
07-23-2007, 10:23 PM
1) Is there one overwhelming image of the romance writer? And if yes, what is it?Yes. A middle aged, slightly silly woman. (Hey don't shoot the messenger--you asked.)
2) With romance genre novels taking up such a large share of the market, are writers in other genres resentful of this? What is the reason for romance novels being so popular?As a genre witer (urban fantasy) I have no resentment toward romance writers at all. More power to them. (Except for the paranormal romance writers who are moving in on my territory.)

3) if you were to advise romance writers on how to improve their image, what would your advice be?I don't think they need to. Whatever they're doing seems to be working, at least in terms of sales. If they're looking for respect, they might try being a bit less..gushy as people. Just as we fantasy writers could stand to be a bit less...geeky.
4) is there a connection between image and sales? I think so. In fantasy, Neil Gaiman is a superstar because of his writing, but he's also young, good looking, and comes across as an interesting and thoughful guy. That doesn't hurt sales at all.
Specifically, would you wear a costume if it would help you sell more books? Not in a thousand years. Wait, how many books?

ChaosTitan
07-23-2007, 10:51 PM
Is this referencing the outfits that romance authors Liz Maverick and Marianne Mancusi wore last weekend to promote their Shomi books, isn't it? Some folks get into a lather over silly things like thigh-high stockings. Kudos to them for thinking outside the box when it comes to promotion.

If anyone is curious about the bruhaha, visit these blogs:

Smart Bitches (http://www.smartbitchestrashybooks.com/index.php/weblog/on_the_presence_of_bloggers_and_costumes_at_the_rw a_nationals/)

Galley Cat (http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/authors/a_glimpse_of_stocking_scandalizes_romance_writers_ fans_63417.asp)

ChaosTitan
07-23-2007, 11:11 PM
Let me answer these questions, as well.

1) Is there one overwhelming image of the romance writer? And if yes, what is it?

I'm fairly new to romance, and I read a fair share of paranormal romance. Authors like Gena Showalter, Liz Maverick, and Marjorie M. Liu, who are all very lovely women. I suppose, if anything, that is the image I have of the (paranormal) romance writer.

Is there a particular image romance writers want and are not getting?

2) With romance genre novels taking up such a large share of the market, are writers in other genres resentful of this? What is the reason for romance novels being so popular?

I think it's impossible to know if writers of other genres resent the success of romance novels. Not unless you asked them one by one...

I like reading romances, because I am assured that HEA. I don't always want to read a book with a happy ending, but if I'm in the mood for one, it's there.


3) if you were to advise romance writers on how to improve their image, what would your advice be?

I don't think their image needs improving, persay. There is always room to reinvent and make it fresh. I think Liz and Marianne did just that by dressing in those costumes. Put some fun into your life. Hell, if I thought I could pull off spandex, I'd love to dress as one of my characters for a booksigning (after I, you know, publish and stuff).


4) is there a connection between image and sales?

Sometimes book sales can transcend the image of the author. Look at Anne Rice. She constantly pisses off her fans, but people continue to buy her books.

I think it's important, for any novelist, to keep an open relationship with fans. How they view you will impact your sales.

Specifically, would you wear a costume if it would help you sell more books?

Certainly. Costumes are fun! :D Speaking as a reader, if I passed by a table and the author was dressed up in a manner that caught my attention, I would be more likely to stop and see what their book is about. I might not buy it, but it would capture me for a moment. And maybe the next person that costume captures will buy a book.

Birol
07-23-2007, 11:16 PM
Those were costumes? There was a bruhaha over those outfits?

This is a joke, right? I'm on the writers' version of candid camera?

Simon Woodhouse
07-23-2007, 11:31 PM
1) Is there one overwhelming image of the romance writer? And if yes, what is it?

If you've seen the movie Fried Green Tomatoes, picture the character Kathy Bates plays. I wish this wasn't how I see romance writers, because it's a really awful stereotype, but I am being honest.

2) With romance genre novels taking up such a large share of the market, are writers in other genres resentful of this? What is the reason for romance novels being so popular?

I'm not resentful of the market share romance novels take people want to write it and people want to read it, it's the perfect example of supply and demand. As for why romance novels are so popular, I can only answer that as someone who's never read one. I get the impression that some publishers of romance produce rather formulaic novels, and I guess it makes certain readers comfortable to know what they're going to get.

3) if you were to advise romance writers on how to improve their image, what would your advice be?

I don't have any, but I'd like someone to advise me on how I can improve my image.

4) is there a connection between image and sales? Specifically, would you wear a costume if it would help you sell more books?



No, but I would wear a custom if it would make my writing better.

Saanen
07-23-2007, 11:38 PM
Those were costumes? There was a bruhaha over those outfits?

This is a joke, right? I'm on the writers' version of candid camera?

That's what I thought. The outfits are cute. I'd like a pair of the pink-striped stockings myself, although I probably wouldn't wear a miniskirt with them. Frankly, seeing a couple of romance writers who didn't have big hair (my own mental image of the typical romance writer--sorry, I don't have control over my writer stereotypes) and who do have a playful fashion sense increases my respect for the entire genre.

I don't read romances, although my great-aunt did used to make a modest living writing them when she was alive. My own genre is fantasy/SF and if I think about romances at all it's a slightly whiny wish they'd quit horning in on specfic in the latest romance subgenres. But I'll be fair--it's rare that I write a story where a romance between two characters doesn't come into play as a subplot. :)

When I worked in a used book store, we used to entertain ourselves on slow days by reading the dirty bits aloud out of romance novels. Hilarious!

Shadow_Ferret
07-24-2007, 06:16 AM
1) Is there one overwhelming image of the romance writer? And if yes, what is it?
Yes. A hack.
2) With romance genre novels taking up such a large share of the market, are writers in other genres resentful of this? What is the reason for romance novels being so popular?
No, not resentful. Lots of lonely women with nothing better to do with their time or money.
3) if you were to advise romance writers on how to improve their image, what would your advice be?
Write something else, something non-formulaic and original.
4) is there a connection between image and sales? Specifically, would you wear a costume if it would help you sell more books?
No. No.

Elodie-Caroline
07-24-2007, 01:31 PM
LOL hahaha :D -- See my accompanying photo? That was taken September 2006. I write romance/thrillers, I look and am nothing like Kathy Bates in FGT... or (the worst of all looking of romance writers) Barbara Cartland come to that.

Thanks for the bloody good laugh though!


Elodie


1) Is there one overwhelming image of the romance writer? And if yes, what is it?

If you've seen the movie Fried Green Tomatoes, picture the character Kathy Bates plays. I wish this wasn't how I see romance writers, because it's a really awful stereotype, but I am being honest.

Rosamund
07-24-2007, 03:48 PM
1) Is there one overwhelming image of the romance writer? And if yes, what is it?
I have no idea. I certainly don't have one in my head; in fact, I don't have any image of a romance writer in my head.
2) With romance genre novels taking up such a large share of the market, are writers in other genres resentful of this?
Not in the slightest.
What is the reason for romance novels being so popular?
I have no idea, but I would assume that it is along the lines of romance being something that most people can relate to and want more of in their lives.
3) if you were to advise romance writers on how to improve their image, what would your advice be?
I don't know, I'm afraid. I don't know what the 'image' is, so I have no idea how to improve it. 4) is there a connection between image and sales?
Not really, for me at least, as I have no idea what these 'images' are.
Specifically, would you wear a costume if it would help you sell more books?
You bet I would. More sales equals more royalties for me. It would depend on what the costume was, of course. No chain-mail bikinis, for instance. :)

Twizzle
07-24-2007, 04:51 PM
if your books sell, people enjoy your writing, and you are okay with yourself, who cares? And...the key is they are successful--perhaps you change the image, you tinker with the success.

and yes. I'd wear a costume. I'd tattoo my website on my forehead. I will do just about anything legal to promote my book once it's done. :)

jodiodi
07-24-2007, 05:44 PM
As someone who, for lack of a better definition, writes 'romance', I find the stereotypes hilarious. Especially the 'hack' one. I had no preconceived notions of writers of any genre since I usually combine genres when I write. I've never written a straighforward romance in my life. There's always got to be death, violence, fantasy, horror or a combination of all of them in whatever I write. If there's a romance, so be it; if not, oh well. My books also don't always have a HEA ending 'cause life isn't like that. As for formula, every genre has some basic formula. It's all in how you present it.

As for costumes, I'd wear something if I had the body for it. Unfortunately, I have too much writing to do to have time to work out on a regular basis.

swvaughn
07-24-2007, 05:47 PM
Those were costumes? There was a bruhaha over those outfits?

This is a joke, right? I'm on the writers' version of candid camera?

Sadly, it's all true. Nora By-God Roberts even weighed in (heavily) on the subject. I spent a few hours reading through all the comments on Smart Bitches (yeah, I know...).

If the authors in question hadn't said "these are costumes", I don't think anyone would have given it a second thought. But they're condemned for it -- and I don't think any of the commenters there actually read the post by one of the authors in question, who begged them to stop publicly chastizing them after the first three hundred or so comments and stated she'd learned her lesson, she'd never wear a costume again, at this point she never wants to show her face in public again...

The whole thing is just unbelievable.

dolores haze
07-24-2007, 06:45 PM
Thank you everyone for taking the time to respond. My questions were indeed inspired, ChaosTitan, by the SmartBitches thread. Thanks for posting the links. I was in two minds as to whether I should post them. I didn't want this thread to turn into a rehash, but at the same time thought that many, many important topics were raised in that thread - topics much more important than what people choose to wear.
There is no need for responders to apologize for honest answers regarding romance writer stereotypes - it was honesty I asked for, not political correctness.
I couldn't find the hard figures, but the generally accepted estimate is that romance genre novels represent about half of all books sold. The genre is particularly notable for sub-genrefication (is that a word?) As some responders alluded to, romance is currently nudging into other genres: sci-fi/fantasy, horror, suspense, erotica, etc. The line between, for instance, a sci-fi novel with a romantic sub-plot, and a romance novel with a sci-fi setting, grows increasingly blurry. Another example - Maverick and Mancusi were promoting a new line of manga inspired romance.
I think the responses thus far have been very interesting. I apologize that it is so time consuming to cut/paste the questions - I really didn't think of that when I was formulating the questions. Thanks again to everyone who has taken the time, and please keep responding - my desire for edification is not yey fulfilled.

grommet
07-24-2007, 07:28 PM
Thanks for starting this thread, Dolores!

I also spent the weekend reading the whole thread at Smart Bitches and found it fascinating. Not being a romance writer, I didn't realize that they felt like they had an image issue. I really felt for both sides, though more so for Liz and Marianne.


1) Is there one overwhelming image of the romance writer? And if yes, what is it?

I think a lot of the stereotypes everyone has already listed come to mind. By that same token, though, I tend to picture horror writers as lonely men who wear all black and stare inappropriately at you from their cafe tables, and sf writers as the comic guy from "The Simpsons." And we all know Mystery Writers sit around smoking pipes in their well-allocated drawing rooms, contemplating the perfect murder while petting a purring cat nestled on their lap. And since I have neither a pipe nor a drawing room (and three unwieldy dogs instead of cats), I think I know that none of these stereotypes are likely very accurate.

Somebody posted an article in the smart bitches thread from a 1980's interview with several romance writers. The photos were a hoot, and clearly served to emphasize the various stereotypes (including the perpetual "bachelor" who lives with his mother and writes under a woman's name). I think there was a time when writers wanted to create the idea that they were just like their perceived readership.

I have a friend who was a very successful romance writer for years and she definitely doesn't fit the stereotype and seems quite resentful of the writers who embraced it.


2) With romance genre novels taking up such a large share of the market, are writers in other genres resentful of this? What is the reason for romance novels being so popular?

Gosh no. There's room for everyone. Who knows why they're popular? Perhaps it's the comfort of knowing they'll be a happy ending, or living vicariously through characters whose love lives are more interesting than our own.

Yes, it would be wonderful to earn the royalties I know some romance writers are raking in, but they did it through their hard work and I'm not about to slight them for that.


3) if you were to advise romance writers on how to improve their image, what would your advice be?

That's a toughee because I don't see a problem since I'm not in the genre. I really think the covers do them a huge disservice, though I'd hate for Candy and Sarah at smart bitches to run out of material. But I think focusing on craft and writing the best books they can, and RWA publicizing, as an organization, those books that surpass the standard formula would help a lot (which is what I think Liz and Marianne are trying to do). There's a lot of great romance writing going on, but oftentimes those writers feel obligated to divorce themselves from the genre because of what that association implies. And think about what we as readers do. I was about to say I've never read a romance before, and then I realized I loved Diana Gabaldon's books. Romance seems to suffer from what a lot of popular fiction suffers from and that's the notion that if it's popular it's poorly done or anti-intellectual.

And I have to say, after reading the thread, I was really dismayed by how judgmental some of the writers were, including La Nora. That can't be helping.


4) is there a connection between image and sales? Specifically, would you wear a costume if it would help you sell more books?

Hell yes and I have. My book is set in a specific era that I love and I embrace any chance to don a vintage dress (something I've done long before I wrote the books). I even had folks show up to my book launched dressed in a similar fashion. It was terrific fun.

grommet (http://www.kathrynmillerhaines.com), who's much too long-winded this morning

Sassee
07-24-2007, 11:09 PM
1) Is there one overwhelming image of the romance writer? And if yes, what is it?
30+ year old female.

2) With romance genre novels taking up such a large share of the market, are writers in other genres resentful of this? What is the reason for romance novels being so popular?
More endorphins are produced in the body while reading Romances. People get addicted to the endorphins and tend to seek out more books to get that natural high. As far as I know, I don't think most authors are resentful that another genre is doing better than theirs.

3) if you were to advise romance writers on how to improve their image, what would your advice be?
I don't think it needs improving. I just think people need to stop thinking of all romances as smut in writing.

4) is there a connection between image and sales? Specifically, would you wear a costume if it would help you sell more books?
Absolutely.

pepperlandgirl
07-24-2007, 11:20 PM
Well, to be fair, the black swan hat didn't help (http://www.rwanational.org/galleries/Dallas07-gallery/Kenyon_Sherrilyn_edited.JPG), and I think that's what really got under Nora Roberts' saddle.

I love the perception of romance writers as women in their thirties, or middle-aged, probably housewives. I sold my first romance when I was a 22 year old college senior....

Birol
07-24-2007, 11:43 PM
1) Is there one overwhelming image of the romance writer? And if yes, what is it?

My only stereotypical image of romance writers is that they are women. This is probably fed by the fact that the majority of names on the spines of the book are female and from discussions I've seen online where male romance writers indicate they have, or have been advised to, use female pseudonyms.

Beyond that, I figure most of the writers are just people. Some are short, some are tall, some are fat, some are thin, some are in happy marriages with kids and families, some are perpetually single, some travel, some like people, some don't, some are nice, some judgmental, and so on. You know, the whole hodgepodge that is humanity.


2) With romance genre novels taking up such a large share of the market, are writers in other genres resentful of this? What is the reason for romance novels being so popular?

Honestly, I don't know what market percentages for each genre. If there was a reputable source of data -- maybe something with a pie chart -- I'd be interested in looking at it, just for curiosity purposes. Also, when we talk about market share, are we talking about books sold, books published, both? Beyond the passing curiosity this question elicited in me, I've never given much thought to the market shares each genre can claim. At this stage in my career, it's not important to me; I don't know if it will ever truly matter to me.

I'm much more interested in reaching the audience interested in what I'm working on at the moment and what that audience thinks of my work.


3) if you were to advise romance writers on how to improve their image, what would your advice be?

Er... What image is that exactly? Does it need improved? How does it need improved?


4) is there a connection between image and sales? Specifically, would you wear a costume if it would help you sell more books?

Don't know exactly. Whether or not I would wear a costume depends on many things. Some things are more important than selling books.

Saanen
07-24-2007, 11:52 PM
Well, to be fair, the black swan hat didn't help (http://www.rwanational.org/galleries/Dallas07-gallery/Kenyon_Sherrilyn_edited.JPG), and I think that's what really got under Nora Roberts' saddle.

Clearly Nora Roberts was jealous, because that is the coolest hat I've ever seen. Not very practical for everyday wear, of course, but very, very awesome. :D

grommet
07-25-2007, 12:42 AM
And what's even more awesome is that owner of said swan hat is now selling buttons that say "I honk for Swan hats."

grommet (http://www.kathrynmillerhaines.com)

Susan Gable
07-25-2007, 02:24 AM
Clearly Nora Roberts was jealous, because that is the coolest hat I've ever seen. Not very practical for everyday wear, of course, but very, very awesome. :D

I wanna know if the hat had its own seat on the airplane. I mean, seriously, what kind of hat box do you need for something like that, and do you check it with the rest of your luggage???

How did she get the swan hat to the conference? Inquiring minds want to know!

Susan G.

veinglory
07-25-2007, 02:30 AM
I am totally uninterested in the qualities/identity of the authors of the books I read. I have only met a few, the one I liked wrote books I can;t stand and the one I hated writes books I love. Oh well.

ChaosTitan
07-25-2007, 03:05 AM
and I don't think any of the commenters there actually read the post by one of the authors in question, who begged them to stop publicly chastizing them after the first three hundred or so comments and stated she'd learned her lesson, she'd never wear a costume again, at this point she never wants to show her face in public again...

:Jaw:
Seriously? That makes me want to rush out and buy every book either of those girls ever wrote (I already own two of Liz Maverick's books, and I :heart: her Crimson City series).

Unbelievable.


Well, to be fair, the black swan hat didn't help (http://www.rwanational.org/galleries/Dallas07-gallery/Kenyon_Sherrilyn_edited.JPG), and I think that's what really got under Nora Roberts' saddle.


Liz and Marianne are getting raked over the coals, but someone wore *that* and it wasn't condemned as a nutty costume?

:crazy:

Elodie-Caroline
07-25-2007, 03:32 AM
I reckon that some people think that romance writers are middle-aged, shrivelled up old prunes who are well past their sell-by dates and aren't getting any LOL :D


I love the perception of romance writers as women in their thirties, or middle-aged, probably housewives. I sold my first romance when I was a 22 year old college senior....

pepperlandgirl
07-25-2007, 03:44 AM
:Jaw:



Liz and Marianne are getting raked over the coals, but someone wore *that* and it wasn't condemned as a nutty costume?

:crazy:

Actually, the Swan Hat received much, much, MUCH more vitirol then Liz and Marianne.