Friday, October 16, 2015

Do you read romance novels?

Ok so this is a movie review but it's very relevant to writers and so I have to tell you about it.

I have to admit that I've held on to a rather condescending attitude towards the romance genre. Until now. I just saw a really eye-opening documentary, "Love Between the Covers" by Producer/Writer/Director Laurie Kahn. She also did the docs "Tupperware" (loved it) and "A Midwife's Tale" (haven't seen that one).

From the film's website:

Love stories are universal. Love stories are powerful.  And so are the women who write them.
While romance novels and their signature covers are ubiquitous around the world, the global community of millions of women who read, write, and love them remains oddly invisible. Love Between the Covers is the fascinating story of five very different authors who invite us into a vast female community, running a powerhouse industry that’s on the cusp of an irreversible power shift.

The first author profiled is Mary Bly, a Harvard graduate and professor of English at Fordham University, who writes under the pen name Eloisa James. Mary, the daughter of renowned poet Robert Bly, is a best-selling author and "rock star" in the genre.

We also meet Len Barot, well-known author of lesbian romance fiction, writing under the name Radclyffe. She saw a need to support this genre and founded Bold Strokes Books, one of the world’s largest independent LGBTQ publishing companies.

I love fiction because it’s fiction. Fiction is not real and it’s not supposed to be. Fiction is a dream. Fiction is a desire. Fiction is hope.
— Len Barot/Radclyffe

Beverly Jenkins wanted to see more representation of "people like her" in romance novels. She is considered the pioneer of African American romance. She has built a loyal and large community of readers, some of whom participate in her southern heritage tours to historic sites featured in her books.

Best friends Susan Donovan and Celeste Bradley, highly successful authors in their own right, decided to team up and have become a best-selling dynamic duo.

And we watch as aspiring romance author Joanne Lockyer navigates her way through self-publishing her first novel, sharing the thrill with her as she opens her first freshly printed new book.

Here are just a few of the surprising things I learned from watching this very entertaining film:

  • all the major publishing houses produce romance novels in addition to their other genres. Romance is considered publishing's bread and butter.

"Romance is the behemoth of the publishing industry; it outsells mystery, sci-fi, and fantasy combined."

  • founded in 1980, Romance Writers of America has over 10,000 members and 145 local and on-line chapters. They host an annual convention that is visited by several thousand readers and writers.

The power has shifted. Authors are the future of publishing. And romance authors have been the most innovative, the most experimental, the most forward looking in this ebook revolution.
— Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords

  • these authors rely heavily on social media to communicate with their fans, sharing excerpts of projects and building large followings and friendships. 
  • e-readers are a boon to this industry, as romance readers are avid consumers, no sooner finishing one book than downloading another.

Maybe you are a loyal reader yourself. Do you have a favorite romance writer? I'm off to the library...

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