Romance

Fond First Times… Our first experiences with romance novels

12 May 2018

From All About Romance:

Most of us remember when we first started reading romance, who introduced us to it or how we discovered it ourselves, and – perhaps even – which book we first read. Did we read romance in secret or with a group of friends or other people? Did we hide our reading from others – did we need to? – or were we open about our choices? And overall, what made us fall in love with romance novels?

. . . .

As a child and young adult, I received books on cassette tape through The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. For the most part, librarians did a good job choosing age-appropriate books to send out to patrons, but one of them mailed me a copy of Velvet Angel by Jude Deveraux. I was around fourteen at the time, and I remember being utterly captivated by my very first adult romance novel. It swept me away to a time long past, and I hated to put the book aside to return to more mundane things like chores and homework. My parents were never big readers, and they never paid much attention to the books the library sent me, so I didn’t have to worry about them disapproving of the novel, and after I sped through that one, I requested a bunch more similar romances. I’m not sure why the librarians agreed to send them my way, but I’m so glad they did. Those historical romances have a special place in my heart, even though I haven’t read a Deveraux book in years.

. . . .

When I think about my early days reading romance, there are two experiences that come to mind. Both occurred when I was around thirteen years old. The first was in grade 7, when I shared a locker with a friend. She would bring some of her mother’s Harlequins to school, and she let me borrow them. I remember being thoroughly shocked but intrigued by a Presents plot where a young woman was lusting after an older man who was technically her new step-brother after their parents married. Who knew it was ahead of its time, given the current craze of step-sibling romances!

During those same teenage years, I spent time during the summer at my grandparents’ house in Northern Ontario. They lived across the street from their local library, which had racks upon racks of historical romances, and with (what seemed to me) the entire collection of Barbara Cartland releases. I read as many of them as I could in the two weeks I spent there, and then, the next summer I did the same thing. I was very clever at hiding the romances I was signing out by having some other innocent looking books (like Nancy Drew) stacked on top.  I’m sure my grandma knew what I was up to, but she never said anything.

I don’t recall discussing romance books with any of my friends. No one was into reading as much as I was, though we did have some favorite soap operas that we watched, where the romance storylines were clearly the most popular. With the exception of a hiatus I took when my kids were born, romances have always been a part of my life.

Link to the rest at All About Romance

Romance author trademarks the word ‘cocky,’ sending other romance writers into an uproar

7 May 2018

From The National Post:

Here is a list of just some popular romance novel titles: Cocky Bastard, Cocky Chef, Cocky Biker, Cocky Fiancé, Cocky Cage Fighter, Cocky Client, Her Cocky Doctors, Mr. Cocky, My Cocky Cowboy, The Cocky Thief and, my personal favourite, simply, Cocky.

Notice a pattern? Yes, romance literature loves a rugged, arrogant heartthrob. And a double-entendre.

 But with an entire 17-book series based on a pair of, well, cocky bastards, writer Faleena Hopkins decided to trademark not just the title of her series, Cocker Brothers of Atlanta, but the word “cocky” itself.

It’s worth noting that Hopkins’s trademark for “cocky” is as a word mark, meaning a text-only logo treatment of the word. Hopkins has a specific font and style for her use of the word, so if others use that same style, they’d have a problem.

. . . .

Despite this, and what looks like a misunderstanding of her own trademark, Hopkins has been sending various romance authors, including Nana Malone, Jamila Jasper and Claire Kingsley, who have used the word “cocky” in their book titles, copyright notices and cease-and-desist letters, even regarding those books that were previously published.

On Twitter, Hopkins defended herself against claims of copyright bullying, saying, “Copying a series to be found in keywords is the money grab. They keep their money and everything if they retitle. I am taking nothing.”

Link to the rest at The National Post

Romance – Indies vs. Traditional Publishing

26 April 2018

From a commenter on TPV:

The current buzz in author loops which serve romance: that traditional publishing and agents are ceding the ground to indies because they can’t compete financially. In response, they are steering their stable to women’s fiction, especially bookclub women’s fiction, because these books still command semi-reasonable advances and are comparatively print-centric.

If true, that will be a seismic shift in the publishing landscape.

Also, most romance writers are skeptical about their readers being willing to follow authors to a different genre. So if women’s fiction flops, you can see where things are headed in the next few years or months…

Do Romance Authors Receive Worse Treatment from Publishers Than Anyone Else?

25 April 2018

PG is trying to extricate a client from a nasty publishing contract with a large romance publisher. Both the client and the publisher shall remain nameless.

PG is frustrated. The client is frustrated.

PG has conducted extrications from enough publishers to have come to a conclusion.

Across the broad range of different types of books and different varieties of publishers with which PG has dealt, as a group romance publishers are the worst. Worst contracts, worst behavior, worst attitude towards writers.

A public event PG can talk about began in 2012 when a class action was filed against the company on behalf of Harlequin authors who signed book contracts with Harlequin between 1990 and 2004. The suit was filed in 2012 and settled in 2016. You can find information about the settlement of the class action at Harlequin Class Action Settlement.

The lawsuit was based on Harlequin’s practice of sublicensing e-book rights through a Swiss subsidiary, which resulted in authors receiving 3% to 4% of net profits from their works rather than the 50% Harlequin agreed to pay in its publishing contracts.

PG has previously blogged about this case. You can see prior posts, including some court documents, by Clicking Here

Basically, the story was that HQ didn’t mention ebook royalties in its publishing contracts. Those contracts included a catch-all clause which essentially said HQ could license other rights and split the proceeds on a 50/50 basis with the author. The contracts also included a provision which said if HQ licensed the other rights to an affiliated entity, the royalties paid to the author had to be equivalent to market rates for licensing those other rights to a company not affiliated with HQ.

When ebooks appeared on the scene, rather than asking its authors to sign new contracts or ebook addenda to their existing contracts, HQ decided to license ebooks to a related Swiss company for a royalty of 6% of the cover price. The Swiss company then sublicensed each book to HQ print and ebook companies to distribute, so HQ-Switzerland kept 94% of the ebook proceeds and paid 6% to HQ-SorrySucker.

Under the “other rights” clause in the publishing contract, the author would be paid 50% of the amount of the license fees received by HQ-SorrySucker. HQ-SorrySucker paid the authors 50% of 6%. Even English majors know that results in a royalty paid to the author of 3% of the cover price each ebook.

This was at a time when Amazon would license ebooks from authors under KDP for royalties of 70% of the cover price. If HQ-SorrySucker had taken the normal route taken by other publishers, HQ authors would have received royalties at the rate of 35% of the cover price.

The following is from an Amici (the plural of Amicus or Friend of Court) Brief filed in the case by Romance Writers of America and the Authors Guild:

In the spring of 2011, Amicus The Authors Guild began receiving reports from its members that their e-book royalties from Harlequin were extremely low. These members believed Harlequin was self-dealing by licensing e-book rights to one of its corporate affiliates for 6% of the cover price (i.e. suggested retail price). Because the royalty payable to the author under the “all other rights” clause is 50% of the amount received by the publisher, a 6% royalty to the publisher results in a royalty to the author of only 3% of the cover price – far below the customary range for sales in secondary media. The Authors Guild contacted Harlequin to voice these concerns and to request a copy of Harlequin’s inter-affiliate license agreement. Harlequin declined to provide the document on the ground that it was proprietary.

During the same timeframe, Amicus RWA was also in communication with Harlequin regarding e-book royalty issues. Harlequin  provided to its authors, RWA, and other industry participants the following explanation of Harlequin’s inter-affiliate licensing practice:

Our authors contract with Harlequin Books SA (“HBSA”), our related Swiss company.  HBSA licenses  the right to publish an author’s work in print and digital to our operating companies and to third-party publishers, which then bring books to market in their country (incurring costs of translation, production, distribution, marketing, branding, etc.). In return, HBSA receives a license fee.

The NAR [net amount received by the Publisher] is the license fee. For editions where the author is to be paid 50% of NAR, the author’s royalty is therefore 50% of the license fee received by HBSA. The license fees are expressed as a percentage of cover price. Historically they ranged from 6% to 8%. The author’s 50% share of that fee would then equal 3% to 4% of the cover  price.

As noted, the publishing contracts at issue require that in any affiliate licensing arrangement the “Publisher” must receive license proceeds that are “equivalent to the amount reasonably obtainable by Publisher from an Unrelated Licensee for the license or sale of the said rights.” Based on their considerable reservoirs of knowledge and industry data sources regarding royalty rates in the publishing industry, the Amici confidently represent  to this Court  that  the  6% to 8% royalty that Harlequin Enterprises elects to pay to  its Swiss “Publisher” subsidiary is a small fraction of the proceeds that the “Publisher” could obtain from an unaffiliated licensee in the open market for e-books.

. . . .

Generally speaking, a book publisher makes money by exercising the rights that it has licensed from the author of a given work, through the sales of books or sub-licenses of publication rights in various sales and distribution channels.

Historically, the primary sales channel for print book publishers was through retail book stores. In the modern era of e-books, publishers sub-license their digital copyright rights to online “e-tailers.” The most well-known e-tailers of e-books are Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple, but there are many others in the field.

There is no hard and fast rule or convention in the publishing industry on the royalty rates or license fees paid by e-tailers to publishers for e-books. There are, however, numerous sources ofdata on the market’s behavior. In the experience and collective knowledge of the Amici, publishers are almost universally able to extract from an e-tailer at least 50% of the cover price of an e-book. A 70% split for the publisher is quite common and can be obtained even from industry power­ houses such as Amazon and Apple.

It is clear to the Amici that if the Harlequin’s Swiss “Publisher” subsidiary operated as a normal market participant, it could readily license the new e-book versions of its backlist for license fees of 50% to 70% of the cover price of each work sold. In this scenario, the 50% royalty payable to authors under the 1990 to 2004 publishing agreements would be 25% to 35% of the cover price of each work sold. Instead, however, the Swiss “Publisher” licenses the e-books to its parent, Harlequin Enterprises, for 6% to 8% of the cover price, and the authors’ 50% royalty is thus only 3% to 4% of the cover price. From the perspective of the Amici, it appears that Harlequin Enterprises has simply siphoned off 42% to 64% of the cover price before the money reaches the Swiss “Publisher” subsidiary, so this amount will not have to be split with the authors.

PG has calmed down now, but he still wonders whether romance authors are treated worse than other authors by the publishing establishment.

PG does know Amazon loves romance authors and it shows its love by paying them money.

PG has never had a client ask him whether he thinks the author can make more money from HQ than from Amazon.

PG was not a math major, but he could probably figure out his answer to that question without a spreadsheet.

8 Pride and Prejudice Sequels For The Discerning Jane Austen Fan

21 April 2018

From Bookriot:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a reader who finishes reading Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice is in want of more to read. We already prepared one list of what to read when you want more Pride & Prejudice… and we still want more! What was married life like for Lizzie and Darcy? Whatever became of Mary and Kitty Bennett? Did Georgiana Darcy or Caroline Bingley ever find love… perhaps with one another? How would the story unfold in a contemporary setting? Or with teenage characters? Luckily, there is no shortage of options for the P&P enthusiast. Here are some of our recent favourite Pride and Prejudice sequels.

Pride And Prescience: Or, A Truth Universally Acknowledged by Carrie Bebris

Interestingly, many storytellers imagine Lizzie and Darcy’s married life will find them solving murders. In this, the first of the Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mysteries, the newlyweds begin their new amateur sleuthing career with a mystery involving their in-laws, the Bingleys. As the series progresses, the Darcys encounter mysteries involving characters from other Austen novels, too!

. . . .

Miss Darcy Falls In Love By Sharon Lathan

Darcy’s younger sister Georgiana played a small but notable role in the original novel; here, she takes centre stage. Embarking upon a concert tour of the continent, Georgiana finds her heart torn between two men she meets in Paris. Set in post-Napoleonic Empire France, this is a riveting love story that enters a world of passion where gentlemen know exactly how to please and a young woman learns to direct her destiny and understand her heart.

Link to the rest at Bookriot

The Billion-Dollar Romance Fiction Industry Has A Diversity Problem

15 April 2018

From National Public Radio:

The romance genre is a juggernaut that continues unabated.

It’s a billion-dollar industry that outperforms all other book genres, and it’s remarkably innovative, with a strong tradition of independent and self-publishing.

It’s also an industry that’s been grappling with a diversity problem. The RITA Award, the top honor for romance writers awarded by the Romance Writers of America, was awarded this week, and the organization acknowledged that in its 36-year history, no black author has ever won the prize. According to the RWA’s own research, black authors have written less than half of 1 percent of the total number of books considered as prize finalists.

“It is impossible to deny that this is a serious issue and that it needs to be addressed,” said the organization in a statement. “Educating everyone about these statistics is the first step in trying to fix this problem. We know there are no perfect solutions but ignoring the issue is that not acceptable.” There’s certainly no lack of black readership: A Pew Research survey from 2014 found that the person most likely to read a book of any genre is a college-educated black woman.

Alisha Rai, the south Asian author of the three-part Forbidden Hearts series and nearly a dozen other romance novels, has been reading and writing the genre since she was a teenager. She tells NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro about her own experience with readers, publishers and writing about race.

. . . .

On systemic issues in the genre

I’ve heard horror stories from other authors [of color] about, you know, sitting at a table at the RWA national conference and people who are there will get up and walk away from them. In a lot of ways, it’s like going to a water cooler and being turned away from that water cooler. And when you’re in this industry, it’s a very solitary life. We write, and we keep to ourselves in a lot of ways; we’re a little bit like hermits. And this is our way to see our colleagues, is to go to these meetings and conferences. When you feel like you’re not a part of it, it’s very demoralizing.

The organization is composed of so many people, it is hard to get everybody together and moving in the same position, and I understand that progress can be slow. … This is the first year that I’ve even joined RWA, because I felt sort of a tentative hope that maybe we are moving forward, maybe I wouldn’t feel so left out constantly.

. . . .

On her own experience with publishers

Getting published was pretty tough. My first book was more sort of on the sexier side, and the heroine was south Asian. … You sort of fall into an internalized trap, all of my characters [before] were always white, and my heart just wasn’t in it. So I felt like, this wasn’t a book I hadn’t see anywhere, so I want to write it. … I shopped the book around [with different publishers], and I was told to change the characters’ ethnicities. “We can take this if you can edit it.” … It is disheartening to hear, “Well, we can’t really connect to her, but we can if you make her white.”

Link to the rest at NPR

PG suggests the problems of the romance industry must be laid at the door of the traditional publishers in the romance industry. They have decided and continue to decide which authors are published and which are not. Which material will be included in those books and which will not.

If asked which segment of the traditional publishing business has treated its authors the worst, without hesitation, PG would name romance. Exhibit A (there are others) would be Harlequin, which settled a large class-action lawsuit by its authors for substantial underpayment of royalties over several years.

Romance publishers are the single best reason for authors to self-publish. There’s a lot of money to be made in romance and indie authors are earning far more of that money than their traditionally-published counterparts.

Romance community be warned: Amazon is stripping rankings from titles

29 March 2018

From Hypable:

A big blow to the romance community has surfaced as romance and erotica authors are having their titles on Amazon stripped of their ranks and reviews.

Towards the end of March, the romance community began to notice romance and erotic novels being stripped of their ranks and/or reviews, without an explanation.

Although Amazon has yet to make a statement about what’s going on, it’s clear that any book that contains adult content could be stripped. Of course that’s devastating to both authors and readers. Both of these things allow authors to successfully sell their works and helps readers to find titles they would be interested in.

In an effort to try and save their reviews and rankings, some romance/erotica authors have taken to removing any keywords that might cause their titles to be stripped. For those that have published in the erotica category, it might prove even more difficult to protect their books from these changes.

Since Amazon isn’t being transparent about what is happening, it’s not clear why these novels are being stripped. Many authors believe it could be in response to the FOSTA bill, while others believe it could be an internal update from Amazon to push these books off the ranks.

The Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) was touted as a bill to make everyone safer by creating accountability for internet companies. However, the bill was met with great backlash for many reasons, including the amount of censorship it would allow.

As the Electronic Frontier Foundation explains, the bill will “force online platforms to police their users’ speech more forcefully than ever before.”

One of the first major impacts of the bill was that Craigslist pulled down its personal ads section. And shortly after, the romance community started noticing abnormal activity on Amazon regarding erotica titles, as well as romance titles.

Link to the rest at Hypable

We Need More Books Without Romance

5 March 2018

From Electric Lit:

The genius of the Bechdel test is that it doesn’t sound like a challenge. How difficult can it be to write a movie with two named female characters who talk to each other, just once, about something that isn’t a man? Clearly, though, it’s more rare than it sounds. You really have to think to come up with examples of movies that pass the test — and it’s only when we’re forced to provide them that we realize it shouldn’t be this hard.

Such was my experience brainstorming novels without romantic subplots. In January, “Tired Asexual” wrote to Slate advice columnist Dear Prudence, looking for suggestions of books that didn’t include the pursuit of romance. Helpful readers responded with a short list, many from young-adult fiction, but, surely, the list of eligible novels had to be much longer.

. . . .

For my own test, I developed the following criteria:

  1. The novel is not young adult fiction or science-fiction/fantasy. (There are plenty of YA books without romantic subplots, both because intended readers are younger and because recent YA authors are more likely to incorporate characters along the sexuality spectrum.)
  2. The novel is not “about” romance, and romance — or yearning for romance — isn’t a major plot point even if it’s there. So, maybe there’s a couple, but their relationship is taken for granted and the book doesn’t focus on its evolution. Maybe someone goes on a date, but dating doesn’t move the story forward.
  3. The novel has no explicit sex scenes or sexual themes (including sexual assault, even if it’s not described).
  4. The novel doesn’t present romantic love as necessary and central to flourishing. This last requirement is crucial. Even if there are no sex scenes and nobody goes on a date, if the main character is constantly thinking about how he should be dating or what a loser he is without a romantic partner, the novel is disqualified.

Go ahead, see what you come up with.

Link to the rest at Electric Lit

For the record, PG is in favor of romance and romance novels.

That said, he does not require romance in books he reads. There is little romance in accounts of the battle of Iwo Jima or the invasion of Gallipoli and even less romance in Title 17 of the United States Code.

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