Nobody Knows Marketing Like Romance Authors

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From Jane Friedman:

KRISTEN TSETSI: What did you like to read when you first got into book reading, and how did you veer into reading—and then writing—romance, whether paranormal or, as a few of your novels are, darker?

KITTY THOMAS: I used to love the Goosebumps books as a kid. I wanted to be RL Stine. I was a snob about romance for the longest time, even in my Goosebumps days. Even in 8th grade, romance novels weren’t “real books.” I have no idea why. I guess internalized misogyny, which is really fancy talk for… the culture disrespects it because it disrespects the feminine. I picked up on that even though nobody sat me down and told me they weren’t real books. There was just this sneering derision about them. And a lot of eye rolling around Harlequin novels.

And I certainly don’t want to crap on Harlequin novels, but romance is so much bigger than one publisher, and yet they were all lumped in together as one thing.

As a side note, I was also a snob about Buffy the Vampire Slayer (I didn’t realize it was poking fun at itself and such a smartly written show). Ultimately I became a romance author because I couldn’t find the TV remote to change the channel and got sucked in to the Buffy and Spike drama. (I think it was a rerun of season 4.) I was beyond upset that Buffy and Spike didn’t end up together. I mean it was A. Thing. with me.

So when Buffy and Spike didn’t end up together (I know, spoiler, but the show is SO old. You know, Old Yeller dies at the end, too), I ended up writing fanfic to soothe my battered soul over it. Then I realized that I actually DO like romance and that maybe the love story is all I really care about, after all. (Now romance is all I really read: paranormals, dark, romcoms, sometimes alien/sci-fi.)

So I started reading paranormal romance and then writing it. But Pauline Reage’s Story of O was what inspired Comfort Food, my first darker book. It just made me mad that all these erotic books had to moralize, and the couple couldn’t be together in the end because it was “wrong.” Screw that. When you’re an island unto yourself, who cares what society thinks?

What does paranormal romance (PNR) offer that traditional, human-on-human romance doesn’t, both to the writer and the reader?

I think PNR filled the gap for bodice rippers when those started disappearing off the shelves. Publishers decided that because of sexism bodice rippers were no longer socially acceptable. I totally love when an organization makes a blanket decision about what women shouldn’t be allowed to read because it’s sexist. Ummm, did they not pause to self-reflect and consider that maybe policing women’s fantasies and acting as though we can’t handle our own reading choices wasn’t itself sexist?

It’s not as though these books were written by and for men. They were written by and for women, and then roundly rejected by mostly male-led publishing companies.

Of course now there is dark romance, so in some ways that’s the new bodice ripper. But people still do like their vampires and werewolves.

What do you think the new trend (if that’s the right word) in romance might be? Or, maybe, what would you like it to be, if you could choose?

Well, one new trend I notice popping up is reverse harems. This is where you have a story with one heroine and multiple males. But it’s not a triangle. It’s not like she’s going to “pick one.” It’s “Why not have all of them?” And it’s not two guys and a girl. That’s menage. This is usually three or four, sometimes five males who are all in a relationship with the heroine. Though honestly I think three is the perfect number for these books. After that it starts to get unwieldy. Usually this is also a paranormal romance.

A common trope is werewolves who all share the same fated mate, though I’ve seen it done other ways. I’ve also seen it done without the paranormal element. I’ve got one called The Proposal in my dark wedding duet. The heroine has decided she’s tired of men stringing her along and wasting her time when she wants to get married and have kids, so she starts rotational dating. She’s chosen to remain celibate and just date a man harem until somebody gives her a ring.

Amazingly this actually works, but as she upgrades her man harem she doesn’t realize she’s dating three men who all know each other and have decided to just share her, like forever.

I don’t think I have to explain why this sort of thing is a fantasy for women. LOL! I trust the intelligence of your readers to work it out. Though the interesting thing is reverse harems aren’t erotica. They may have sex in them, but they are romance where by the end there is a functioning and happy polyandrous unit, so it’s not just about the sex. It’s also about the feelings.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

For PG, the romance category is terra incognita. Mrs. PG has written quite a number of Regencies in years past and prior to closing down his law practice, PG provided services for several romance authors, including some who were very successful, but PG is still a naïf where romance is concerned.

For the record, if PG were to rank his author clients based upon the level of business savvy he sensed during his discussions and email interactions with them, several romance authors would be at the top of his list. They ran their careers very effectively and asked PG questions that most published authors would not have considered.

He had no question in his mind that these women (he knows men write romance as well, but these were women) were operating with more business savvy than any of the numerous traditional publishing executives and lawyers with whom he had held business/legal discussions.

Incidentally, in the OP, PG enjoyed the term, “upgrades her man harem” quite a lot.