Day-Old Books (Slightly Stale)

I’ve had a number of Twitter conversations lately in which readers bemoan some of the narrow conventions of the Romance genre. There’s the lack of variety in settings: have another small-town contemporary or England-set Regency! There are the rules that limit who and what characters can be: rakish dukes, SEALs, and werewolves, alpha males all, often paired with less wordly, powerful women. Why wouldn’t publishers give us something different, we asked? Why did small e-publishers and self-publishers, too, often seem reluctant to depart from the tried and true?

The writers who joined our conversation (though they sympathized to some extent) reminded us that authors and publishers hope to make money. They give us what’s sold before, what they expect to sell again. If self-published authors aspire to make a living from their work, they’re going to do the same. Readers like who want something different are a minority, and a minority doesn’t make a best-seller.

I have mixed feelings about this. There are certainly a lot of readers who love alpha heroes, say, and a lot of romance readers with strong opinions about what they will and will not read. On the other hand, isn’t publishing notorious for its lack of market research? Do they really know who romance readers are and what we want? Might more variety draw new readers to the genre? I’m not sure. But it was with these conversations in mind that I read Sandy’s AAR blog post on “New York Publishing and 50 Shades” and the comment thread. 

I’m already on record as agreeing with a lot of what Sandy says: romance readers say they find something fresh and different in 50; people who focus on “better hot books” in recommending follow-up reads are missing the point; it would be nice if the success of James’ books opened a space for some different things in romance.

But ironically, some of the very things that romance readers find fresh about 50 are elements many romance readers say they hateThey are the things that set the books apart from genre romance (because, let’s face it, we’ve seen alpha billionaires and naive virgins before, if not exactly like this): for instance, the first-person narration; the internal monologues; the fact that the romance isn’t complete in a single volume. I think if a romance editor had been offered this manuscript, she’d have been crazy to publish it. And she’d have been listening to her readers in saying no. There are romance readers who love this book, but they clearly aren’t the majority of buyers; it’s not even clear that they’re a majority of romance readers.

So yes, I think that New York (and other) romance publishing is offering us some stale, formulaic books. I think it is failing to grasp exactly what appeals to many readers about 50 because it’s grabbing onto the media’s “Moms like it hot” narrative. But I don’t think the fact that a 50-style success came from outside New York is a reason to bash New York as offering us only stale, day-old doughnuts books. I’ve found some New York offerings that feel fresh to me lately: books by Ruthie Knox, Miranda Neville, and Cecilia Grant, for instance. Are they as different as 50 Shades? Well, no, not exactly. But that’s because they are genre romance, and 50 is not, really.

There’s also an aspect of E.L. James’ success that is not at all fresh or unique: it was unpredictable. Some books are pretty reliable best-sellers (hi, Nora Roberts and James Patterson!). But big, giant hits like the 50 Shades trilogy, The Da Vinci Code, the Harry Potter books, or Steig Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy . . . it’s hard to say what made that particular book a hit. They all have things that are fresh-seeming, true, but they also all have familiar elements. They all have their vocal detractors among readers of their genre, too, because no book works for everyone, and some readers wonder why X book they think is way better didn’t break out instead. Because James’ books have *gasp* sex, and because of their fanfiction origins, the uproar is louder, sure. But it’s not entirely different in kind. Publishers have tried to copy the success of all those other books, too, which has meant the publication or rediscovery of some really great books, and also a lot of crappy knock-offs. We’re seeing those trends already in romance. I hope we get the better with the bitter.

I wasn’t going to comment on the other thing that struck me about this post, but the direction of the comment thread changed my mind. Lately, I’ve felt that in some on-line conversations, any criticism of 50 Shades has been received as “reader-shaming,” any dissenting opinion viewed as having a malicious or envious motivation. So I found it a bit of a double standard to dismiss “what to read after 50″ lists as uniformally stale, weak offerings. Some of those lists were generated by readers recommending books they love. They may have got the taste of 50-readers wrong, but why is bashing their beloved books just fine when bashing 50 is not allowed? (For the record, I think criticizing books, even saying “I hate this; it’s crap” is fine. Saying readers with different taste are idiots is not).

But then someone appeared on the discussion thread–a post on romance-readers’ site, remember–to say that the book “isn’t ‘fresh’ to anyone who knows romance novels” and that its readers are too dumb to make it through better, more complex books. Ya know, on second thought, fans are entitled to a little hostile defensiveness. Luckily, follow-up comments by smart, thoughful romance readers like Evangeline and pamelia, who eloquently explained what they love about James’ books, proved this commenter wrong without even mentioning her post. As my kids would say, pwned!

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31 Responses to Day-Old Books (Slightly Stale)

  1. jillsorenson says:

    I only read the first page of 50, but it didn’t feel fresh at all to me. The heroine’s focus on her unruly hair and the looking-into-mirror character description struck me as very cliched. But there are other elements that seemed fresh when I heard about them. I’ve tweeted about how unusual it is in a bdsm romance for the heroine to dislike her sexy spanking or discover that she’s not actually a sub! Too often, the sex in romance is perfect and the hero never makes a mistake. This diminishes the need for communication and negotiation.

    I’ve also said before that I think part of 50’s popularity can be linked to the war on women. This is a book that makes men uncomfortable. Maybe buying and reading 50 is a small rebellion against the denial of reproductive rights.

    As far as NY being stale: ugh. I’ve made some recs of high-emotion, compulsively readable erotic romance in “What the read next” threads. Maybe I’m part of the problem, missing the boat, riding my dinosaur etc. The non-NY books exploding on Goodreads are those with controlling, extreme alpha heroes. I can’t view this direction as fresh or modern. And, as a NY writer of romances with some non-conventional aspects (different settings, cultural backgrounds, character types) I feel frustrated with the “stale” accusations.

    • lizmc2 says:

      One of the things I was thinking about as I wrote this was your tweet about how Tempted by His Target, your Mexico-set Harlequin Suspense, is the lowest-selling of your books for them. I’ve read 3, I think, and that is definitely my favorite and in my view the best. It makes me sad to think that readers might be ensuring “stale” by not buying different–but who knows if the setting (which I loved) is why it sold less? It’s just as easy to blame readers as it is to blame publishers for sameness. The truth is there’s probably enough blame to go around.

      I share pretty much all your feelings here. As someone who isn’t a fan of uber-alphas, I really hope the legacy of James’ hit isn’t just waaaay more of those!

      • jillsorenson says:

        No, I don’t think it’s fair to blame readers. They’re the ones making the exciting new discoveries! I just feel that some of the criticisms directed at NY books can be applied to small and indie pubbed ones as well.

        As far as what sells, who knows? Some of these trends have major staying power, so it’s hard to tell authors not to follow them. That’s one of the reasons I tweeted about my book. The setting might have had no impact on sales, but I’m always interested in what’s working and what isn’t.

        I also think readers are responding to *storytelling* talents over technical writing skills. That’s another thing to look at.

  2. Tamara says:

    The bad writing, amount of explicit content, and everything else about 50 Shades is irrelevant to its success. 50 Shades is giving Twilight fans more Twilight. That’s why it sells. No other reason. Twilight fanficcers with novel length fan fics could probably have similar success. Readers DO want more of the same. They want more Twilight-style stories. They want Bella and Edward in any form they can get them. There’s nothing new or fresh about 50 Shades. It’s just Twilight with sex.

    Books like Cecilia Grant’s should be heading the bestsellers. High quality, fresh, beautifully written, compelling romance. I haven’t read Ruthie Knox or Miranda Neville yet. Thanks for the recommendation.

    • lizmc2 says:

      I really can’t agree with this, because I don’t see the evidence. I’ve only read the Kindle sample and some on-line excerpts of 50, and didn’t read more because the writing was, by *my definition*, mediocre (and the story doesn’t appeal to me). But other readers clearly have different tastes. I can’t even wish everyone shared my “excellent” taste, because I’ve learned so much from those who differ, including that my tastes are broader than I thought. Moreover, our tastes overlap as well as differ. One of my reader friends who loved 50 also, like me, loved Cecilia Grant and Miranda Neville. These are NOT people who only like Twilight, even if there’s a big contingent of “Twimoms” who are also loving 50.

      I think it’s highly likely that high ratings by Twific fans first moved these books up the Amazon rankings so others noticed them, but clearly there are not millions and millions of Twific readers (the estimates I’ve seen are that Master of the Universe got something like 60,000 readers at its peak). Lots of 50 readers have read Twilight, and lots of others have not. There are other published Twifics (like Gabriel’s Inferno) which have had some success, but nothing like James’. Some readers move on to those books, others have no interest.

      It’s my understanding (from Anne Jamison’s amazing blog on teaching fan fiction) that some of the elements that feel fresh to romance readers are common in fanfic. But that doesn’t mean James didn’t bring fresh things to her books, either (many, many readers, even those who didn’t like it, cite the e-mail exchanges, for instance).

      I might think that 50 is not very good (judging on the very limited amount I read, as readers do when deciding to buy) but it obviously has struck a chord with many readers because it tells a story they love in a way that appeals. I’m not going to condemn other people’s pleasure, even if I don’t understand or share it. And I’ll keep talking about books that delighted me, in the hope they work for others (if not, sadly, 10 million others).

      • I don’t think that saying 50’s popularity is because it’s giving people more Twilight is saying that the people reading it are Twific fans. I think it’s saying that the dynamic of Twilight appeals to readers. After all, the writing in Twilight itself was pretty terrible, and vampires were hardly new territory, yet the series sold like crazy.

        Something about Twilight speaks to people despite shitty writing. 50 Shades takes that same story and just skins it differently.

    • lizmc2 says:

      Er, I feel like in my first response to Tamara’s comments, the hostile defensiveness of fans was rubbing off on me, for some reason, Not every fan of 50 has read Twilight, but I totally agree that it’s the shared romantic dynamic that draws readers to them. It’s still a mystery why this *particular* iteration is the one that became a blockbuster, though.

      • lizmc2 says:

        I am posting this for DA Janet/@redrobinreader, because WordPress wasn’t letting her post it:

        Do you think it’s a mystery in general, or a mystery considering so many of its fans are not Romance readers? Because that was also the situation with Twilight, even though the Twi series is very much shaped by the conventions of genre Romance.

        I have a bunch of related, but not necessarily logically connected thoughts on this, and will try to articulate them with some clarity (no promises on that, tho ;D):

        1. IMO just because some readers don’t read genre Romance does not mean they do not like or even crave its conventions, just in other forms (romantic films, for example). So I have to wonder how many of these readers ARE, in fact, responding to the generic Romance conventions, even though they don’t realize they are.

        2. I think the sex has a lot to do with it. I think there has been a gradual opening up, especially over the past ten years or so, for women in terms of seeking out more open expression of their sexuality and their sexual freedom, and IMO 50 Shades has been released at a time when it can capture and focus that trend. That the overt sexuality and power dynamics are delivered via some common Romance conventions adds to the appeal, IMO.

        3. I understand some people describe this book “fresh,” but I really wonder if that’s the accurate descriptor. I wonder if it’s more an issue of transcendence — that is, those who are really engaged in the books are connecting to a convergence of several compelling things: erotic content, power dynamics that implicate many questions about how women see themselves and are seen in current Western social contexts, and conventional romantic tropes and devices. I absolutely, positively think the fact that the book is Twi fan fic is critical here, and that James managed to mimic successfully the same alchemic mixture that made those books so powerful for so many readers, while applying that magic to another type of relationship conflict that feels relevant for many women, even and perhaps especially those who do not practice or know much about BDSM.

        4. There is a bit of mystery to all cultural phenomena that capture the current zeitgeist, and that’s how I see 50 — as a cultural phenomenon — and that’s how I think we need to evaluate its popularity. I don’t think its master craftsmanship we’re talking about here, at least not technical mastery; IMO it’s James’s ability to tap into the Twi magic and add another level of appeal to it. However, I think if we took a wider view of where women are right now, of how sexuality and sexual freedom are very much at the center of many of our cultural debates, and of how power dynamics between men and women are very much an issue for women in every area of our lives, I think we could probably get a number of good insights into the 50 Shades popularity.

        • lizmc2 says:

          Wow.

          1. Yes. I looked for romance everywhere before I became a romance reader.

          2. I suspect romance readers may be responding to different things than many non-romance readers. I’m guessing the sex is a bigger deal for non-romance readers. I read a piece–in the Guardian, I think–pointing out that because it is first-person narration, Ana is never objectified. If a reader’s previous experience of erotic material is visual porn, that may be a very fresh and welcome experience. I don’t think that’s new for romance-reading fans, though.

          3. A lot of the things said about “readers” are not true of all readers, especially of romance readers who love the books, and that may be part of why so may conversations go sideways. I don’t get why some people seem so annoyed by the introduction of Twilight into these discussions. Of course not all 50 readers have read Twilight, and some may not have liked Twilight, because they are not the *same* story. But the inspiration James drew from the emotional
          /romantic dynamics and resonance of Meyer’s story is a matter of public record, acknowledged by James (and noticed positively by many readers). Obviously there is overlapping appeal.

          4. I absolutely agree about the cultural phenomenon. And that’s what I’m commenting on, since I haven’t read the books. I’ve read plenty about them, informed and uninformed. I find the phenomenon fascinating for many reasons. Any massively popular cultural phenomenon is revealing about our cultural preoccupations. To discuss that doesn’t mean we’re making assumptions about every individual reader.

      • Robin says:

        Okay, I just lost a long comment due to these freaking login issues with WordPress.

        I find that first person argument fascinating, because although I think it’s problematic, both in regard to Anna and in regard to subtle dynamics of objectification, I do think the POV makes a difference in making the reader feel empowered, which is critical here, IMO. For me, the best thing about 50 (and I’ve only read the first book so far) is the mainstream dialogue it has prompted about women’s sexual fantasies, and the open appreciation of female sexuality, especially to so many women who don’t even know that for decades women like Nancy Friday have been creating archives of women’s stories (people like Roiphe, who apparently thinks this is all brand new). Whatever our opinions are of the book, I think the public discussions it has engendered are extremely promising and positive.

        On the flip side, I think the personal nature of much of this is why we’re seeing so much backlash against people who are criticizing the book. While I believe we need to separate reader shaming from good old literary criticism, it may take a while for the defensiveness to wind down.

        That said, I think it’s absolutely critical to talk about this book as Twilight fan fiction, not only because it’s been acknowledged by James, but also because this book IS fan fiction, so it’s familiar to those who read fan fic, and also because even if 50 readers are not Twilight fans, James’s work emerged from Meyer’s, and how can that not be fundamentally relevant when discussion the book itself?

  3. VacuousMinx says:

    @Tamara: If you don’t love Miranda Neville’s novels, I’ll buy you a different book of your choice as compensation. She is right up your alley. Her books are SMART. And by that I don’t mean “look at me, I’m a smart author” kind of smart, but “my readers are smart and I’m writing in a way that recognizes that” kind of smart. If you know what I mean.

    On this blog, I’m just going to say it: there IS such a thing as bad writing. I don’t need to read 500 pages by an author to determine that. 50-100 does just fine. I’ve read the same 100 pages in the first two versions and the Kindle sample of the third. The voice and prose style are the same; editing is minimal from the fanfic to the Vintage versions. It’s not good writing, in the most basic sense: word choice, sentence structure, the way the scenes unfold, etc.

    But that doesn’t mean it’s not a good READ. And what makes a good read isn’t all that dependent on quality writing. I have friends who thought Da Vinci Code was a great read; these are people that read Thomas Mann for enjoyment. I couldn’t get past the excerpts. It didn’t work for me.

    Trying to understand why 50 works for so many readers is like trying to understand why two people would fall in love with each other when you would stab your eyeballs out with a spork before you’d go near either of them. It’s impossible to figure it out, and it doesn’t matter, because it’s not about you.

    • lizmc2 says:

      I agree with you that there’s such a thing as objectively weak writing–I am a writing teacher after all. I have to admit that the hardest thing for me to understand is people who describe the books as “beautifully written” (I think they are responding to the powerful effect the story has on them). It’s much easier to grasp that people have different taste in stories.

      I just can’t get past writing I find bad to enjoy a story (though I often can with TV/movies, where technical craft is outside my expertise). I don’t think the fact that other readers can makes them stupid; they’re just different.

      You made me think that a lot of the criticism of 50 (especially outside of Romanceland, but even within at times) *does* make it “about me,” like it’s a personal *offense* that readers could like something the critic thinks is bad. No wonder readers take that as an attack on them, not the book.

      Also, I totally agree on the appeal of Miranda Neville’s books. I felt a similar way about Ruthie Knox’s debut.

      • VacuousMinx says:

        I guess what I find strange, five months into this debate and counting, is that 50 fans are still getting so outraged about the putdowns. I know one of the reasons given is that romance readers of all people should be sensitive to doing unto others what is constantly done to them. But when readers (and authors!) put down wallpaper historical readers, or category romance readers, I don’t see many people rushing to the defense of the latter groups, and whatever defenses are made don’t last long. And while the attacked readers may be outraged for a while, eventually they either tell the critics to eff off or they shrug their shoulders and ignore them.

        This particular battle seems joined for eternity, and I don’t understand why. I understand the initial sense of attack and hurt. But it seems to be re-experienced with every criticism in a way that other attacks are not.

        • lizmc2 says:

          It’s probably for the same reason I keep doing posts like this even when I’ve vowed to stop talking about The Book. The comments are *everywhere*

  4. Meri says:

    Excellent post, and I’d like to thank Jill Sorenson for leading me to it (and Jill, I did buy Tempted by his Target, and it was fantastic).

    I strongly disagree with Sandy’s contention that 50 Shades = fresh, NY-published books = stale. I have not read 50 Shades, but from everything I’ve read about it, it seems to me that parts of it are unique but a lot of it is not. Honestly, I just think E.L. James got lucky and it was the right time for her books, and eventually it snowballed; past a certain point, it’s probably the books’ success that has been driving sales more than their content or quality. But when “everyone” is talking about a book, a lot of people will want to be a part of the conversation. And I’d say the same about past hits like The Da Vinci Code or the Millenium trilogy – they’re not necessarily the best in their genre, and their success doesn’t mean there are lessons to be learned for publishers or for other authors.

    Re the NY part of Sandy’s argument, I am surprised that a veteran romance reviewer would make such a generalization. Sturgeon’s Law probably applies (maybe not 90%), but nonetheless, if a reader is willing to go to a bit of effort and, you know, read synopses and excerpts and reviews, it’s not that hard to find genre books that are different and unconventional.

    • lizmc2 says:

      Thanks Meri, and welcome. I completely agree about luck as a factor in all these cases. Somehow a book/film/show gets noticed, it spreads by word of mouth, and for some reason it takes off. Once something gets big enough, it’s temporarily self-perpetuating: people read or watch it because everyone else is. Some will love it, some won’t. Some will probably buy it and never read it (I saw a study once on the percentage of best-sellers that are never actually read by people who buy them, and it was surprisingly high).

      To be fair to Sandy, I think it was more some of the commenters who were dismissing EVERYTHING put out by NY as stale, and I’m not sure they were completely serious either.

      • Meri says:

        Thanks for the welcome – I’ve been here before, but in my lurker role…

        I’m not surprised that bestsellers often don’t get read; if a book is bought because of its bestselller status and not because it appeals to the reader in itself, I can see how it might end up being overlooked or discarded. Before I accepted that I’m more of a genre reader, I used to end up with books I had little interest in, too.

        I do think Sandy’s post was dismissive of NY publishing and by extension, NY-published books. As for the comments, I get the sense that at least some of them were serious. I’m not sure why it’s necessary to criticize other books in order to enjoy 50 Shades (or maybe more accurately, to explain/justify one’s enjoyment of it) but it seems to me that some readers do feel that way.

        • lizmc2 says:

          I suppose when you’re a veteran genre reader (which I emphatically am not, when it comes to romance), finding a book that feels fresh gets a lot harder. When I start to feel frustrated with the staleness of the genre, I go read other things. I still wish there weren’t so many “rules” floating around, whether they come from readers, writers, editors, contest judges, the ether….

    • jillsorenson says:

      You’re welcome! Glad you enjoyed Tempted. 🙂

      I agree that it isn’t hard to find romances that are different. Ruthie Knox has already been mentioned. I loved her debut. Some smart, well-written books are getting the hype they deserve and that makes me feel hopeful. I guess she’s not a traditionally published author though. I don’t know what to call Loveswept, which is a digital first arm of Random House. NYe?

      But I can also see Sandy’s point about staleness when I think about all of the samey PNR and Regency covers. Liz’s recent post about Bared to You’s 50 makeover hits on this. NY is chasing trends right now, not creating them.

      • lizmc2 says:

        You’re right about chasing trends, but given how unpredictable hits are, I think the next big thing as just as likely to come from NY as from outside. They just may not predict the hit.

        As Ridley pointed out at AAR, Twilight came from NY. Without NY, there’d be no 50. And without NY, there wouldn’t have been the distribution that made 50 a 10-million seller. At least they can run with a trend when they see it, I guess.

      • Meri says:

        I can’t argue that there aren’t a lot of traditionally published mediocre books; I try to avoid them… But it’s worth pointing out that NY-published romances were successful before Twilight and 50 Shades, and I think the genre in general will remain successful when people move on to the next hit. Maybe not on the same scale, but I don’t think chasing this specific trend will result in a huge sales boost for most lines and authors – if anything, chasing trends is what leads many readers to feel like they’re reading the same thing over and over again, and makes things more difficult for authors who think and write outside the box.

        I wouldn’t mind if 50 Shades has an effect on cover art, however.

  5. Kaetrin says:

    I have an auntie who only reads “NYT best sellers”. That’s her only prerequisite to reading. I bet she picks up 50!! She’s quite snobby about it – like she only reads the GOOD books – after all, if they’re NYT best sellers they must be good right?

    I haven’t read 50 and don’t plan to. It doesn’t appeal to me. I’m not sure I agree with the idea that it’s fresh. There are 1st person romances out there. Plenty of alpha/asshole heroes (Harlequin Presents and many PNR/RS books too). I remember seeing a tv show about crime fiction and the panel discussing Steig Larsson. They basically said there’s plenty of books by Scandinavian crime writers that were just as good or better and couldn’t explain why his made it big when others moulder away. I think the 50 phenom is like that.

    I’ve been pondering lately what about a particular book makes us passionate defenders when others we wouldn’t bother posting or commenting about. I haven’t come to any firm conclusions yet but there must be some alchemy involved I think!

    • lizmc2 says:

      Well, I’d say your auntie is on to *something*: best-sellers appeal to a lot of people. That doesn’t mean they’ll appeal to any particular reader, though! That seems like a risky way to pick.

      And on the passionate defender question, I wonder if the sense of belonging to a *group* of fans makes people more likely to speak up than if they feel they are a voice in the wilderness.

  6. LoriA says:

    I think one reason NY publishing has a problem with people crying for something fresh and new is that everyone has a different idea of what they think is fresh and new. So readers cry “we want something new!” and the publishers try something, and it doesn’t work. Because too many people wanted something else.

    OTOH, a few friends and I started discussing all the romantic SF novels we’d enjoyed (this was back in the 90s), and we shared our favorites. Though several of us were romance readers, we also enjoyed books we considered to have romantic elements, but which would not qualify as genre romance. Eventually, publishers did figure out there was a market. But first, they tried publishing “futuristics,” which appeared (to me!) to be written by and for people who had little background in science fiction (or fantasy). We were told that part of the reason the books didn’t sell was because of distribution problems. (Some distributors thought certain books wouldn’t sell in certain markets, so they wouldn’t carry them.) But I wondered if perhaps there were more readers out there who were familiar with F&SF.

    I’d guess some of my background also differs because there wasn’t such an obvious romance genre when I started digging around through the library (and the bookstores) looking for books to read. I liked romance, but I found it in a lot of different forms. I’ve continued to read in different genres, so half the time I ignore it when the romance books don’t offer what I want. (I don’t read nearly as much historical romance as I once did.)

    • lizmc2 says:

      I think you’re absolutely right that fresh means different things to different people, depending on what (else) you read.

  7. Cecilia says:

    Ha! You’re still thinking about these books despite not having read them! So am I.

    Having thought about it long enough now, I can tell you unequivocally that I, as a writer, do not desire the kind of success E.L. James has experienced. There seems to be an assumption in the various “How 50 Shades Proves NY Publishing is Getting it Wrong” discussions that we’d all like to be #1 on the NYT list; that we’d all like to cross over to non-romance readers and reach the broadest audience possible, etc.

    I’m sure my publisher would be happy if that happened to me, but it’s not what I aspire to. I don’t care for the kind of spotlight James has been under (this has got to be true for a lot of writers, right? Socially awkward introverts are overrepresented in our ranks, I’d bet). I don’t want my sex scenes excerpted without context in Newsweek magazine for people to snicker at. I like romance readers, I like writing for them, and I get my hackles up at the idea that that audience is insufficient, and that I should be aiming beyond it.

    I don’t think “more” is always better, either in terms of copies sold or money made. I think there’s such a thing as “enough” money; “enough” readers, and that there’s probably a point of diminishing returns.

    The author Rose Lerner, in a workshop I went to, used this dinosaur cartoon to illustrate a point about going out on a limb of freakishness (I paraphrase) when writing sex scenes. I think the cartoon is actually applicable to pretty much everything about writing, and writing romance in particular. Somewhere between selling zero books, and selling at the level of 50 Shades, is a sweet spot in which you’ve got a big-enough group of readers who feel like your books are speaking directly to them in a way other books perhaps have not.

    So even before the discussion about whether NY is getting it “wrong,” I’d say there’s a discussion to be had about how we define “right.”

    • lizmc2 says:

      *hangs head in shame* I broke my resolution. Just like it’s easier not to eat ice cream if there’s none in the house, it would be easier not to talk about The One Book to Rule Them All if no one else was doing it. Still, I blame only myself for not Looking Away. Back on the wagon.

      I can’t imagine what it would be like to suddenly have that level of fame (which pretty much always, in any field, seems to come with some mockery and haters). I wouldn’t want it either. Since the number of writers who experience this kind of success is vanishingly small, your attitude seems extra sane!

  8. Oh, ha! Didn’t expect to see my comment highlighted here. I don’t need to repeat myself, lol.

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