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Ask the jennifers
 

Ask the jennifers

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  • First, a little explanation about the workshop, the Jennifers, and romance. We are both big romance readers and, when you are an admitted romance reader in a library, anytime someone mentioned romance – the question often ends up coming back to you. For the outside reader, romances are either scary, trashy or both. We are going to talk about the subgenres and some considerations about recommending in a subgenres. If there are publisher concerns, we’ll tell you in the presentation. Check your handout for recommended authors. We have lots of authors because Jennifer and I each have our hidden gems – plus we wanted to include the big names. Also on the handouts is a typed copy of conversations we had. Since the length of this workshop doesn’t allow for everything we want to say, we hope the discussion will give you an idea of what romance readers talk about and look for when they’re reading – or at least Jennifer and I. Now, onto the meat of the workshop. What is a romance? A romance is a book, novella, or short story where the MAIN plot line centers around the growing love story between two people and has a happily ever after. Let’s talk about the second rule first. There must be an emotionally-satisfying happy ending. If the hero or heroine dies, it’s not a romance. Romeo and Juliet is not a romance. Love Story is not a romance. Nicholas Sparks does not write romances. The two principle characters must have a “promise me forever” moment at the end. Now the first rule, the principle story must being the developing romantic relationship. A romance can have dragons, fairies, vampires, serial killers, lord and ladies, whatever. BUT, the main thrust must be the romance. If the main part of the story is a search for a serial killer and the romance is only a tiny bit of a plot, it’s a thriller with romantic elements but not a romance.Why is this important: a reader who identifies as a romance reader WANTS those two things. If they don’t get them, they will be unhappy. It’s like giving a mystery reader a book where the crime is never solved or a thriller reader a book where the serial killer doesn’t get caught.Who are your readers? Romance dominates the fiction market for both print and ebook. Romance has nearly twice the market share in sales compared it it’s closest rival, religious/inspirational. The Romance Writers of America has very good statistics about their readers and the market share, but the readers are everyone. Mostly women, although there are some men who read romance. Readers are NOT lonely women living alone with their cats (although they can be). They are more likely to be in a serious relationship. They also read a lot. Far more than the average fiction readers. You want them to check out your books. They will be good for your circulation numbers.
  • A contemporary romance is defined as one set after 1945. While there are some recently-published romances clearly set earlier than they were published, for the most part, you can assume a contemporary romance is set the year it was published. If the author is really good, it will feel like it is set this year, even if it was published a couple years ago. They can range from sweet (sex happen before closed doors, if it happens at all) to very steamy. The plots can range from a small-town romance to big city glamour and everything from ranches to resorts in between. Readers are looking for a character and situation they can relate to. Even if I have no experience in a Texas Honky-tonk, I want to feel like I am there and be swept away by the feeling of a happily-ever-after romance that could be happening at a honky-tonk RIGHT NOW – allowing, of course, that all readers know these books are fiction.
  • Jennifer B.
  • First off, I think Inspirational romances have the best covers, especially because inspirational romance models get period-accurate costuming. That’s a complete aside. Inspirational romance have everything regular romance does (happy ending and focus on a relationship), except sex (can happen, only between married couples and it happens behind closed doors). There should still be sexual tension—a man and woman who are attracted to one another and waiting for the moment they can consummate their relationship. For an inspirational novel, that consummation will always be after marriage and off screen (if it’s there at all). There are historicals, Regencies, cowboys, Romantic Suspense, etc. I even found the one Amish-Vampire inspirational romance. Our library has it under horror and I’ve not read it yet to confirm if it has a happily-ever-after. What Inspirationals do have is a romance and story that involve God and spirituality. This can be light (Deeanne Gist’s are very lightly Christian) to heavy. In theory, an inspiration romance (according to RWA) can be any religion. Any reality, these are mostly Protestant Christian. Generally, these are more gentle reads. Even if they include darker elements, the violence is not as descriptive. Good publishers are: Bethany House, Avalon Books (no sex or violence, though not neccesarily. Christian), Harlequin Inspired, Heartsong, The White Rose (from The Wild Rose Press), Waterbrook Press, and Zondervan.
  • This where we lump all non-category romances that take place before 1945. This is a hodge-podge of areas, the most popular being Victorian and Georgian (during the reigns of George I, I, and II, but not when George III was nuts). There are also historical cowboys and medievals have diminished in popularity, but used to be a huge part of the market. For the most part, these novels are on the darker-side (lighter historicals generally end up being Regency-set). This is not to mean there is not wit, Jo Beverley is a very clever writer and plays with words, but they are rarely laugh-out-loud funny. How important historical accuracy is to a reader varies by the reader. What readers do want is a world they can believe in. For the most part, books are also set in England or the United States (cowboys). Different time periods and settings do pop up, especially in the smaller presses or e-only presses. There is an increasing number of books (I can think of two) that are set at least partially in British-India.
  • Jennifer B.
  • Jennifer B.
  • Jennifer L. Category novels go by many different names. RWA and Harlequin (aka Mills & Boon aka Silhouette) calls them series novels, which gets confusing when people talk about a series in mass market or trade paperback (like Erin McCarthy’s NASCAR series or Sabrina Jeffries Hellions of Halstead Hall series). A series in this term means a shorter (the longest are 75,000 words compared to the shorted mass market being about 90,000) written and published under strict guidelines. A certain number under each line is published each month and the books are given both titles and numbers. They are only published for one month and are sold until copies run out (ebooks are available longer). Readers can buy individual titles or subscribe and be sent the entire month’s worth of published titles for a certain line (so get a box of three-four Harlequin Historicals every month). Lines are very specific in their amount of sex, settings, tone, types-of-characters, etc. Think of category novels like a burger. When you order a burger, you are getting a protein (turkey, chicken, beef, veggie) between two buns. Anything else that happens is up to the cook/author. Blue cheese, no cheese, fry sauce, salsa, overcooked meat, the option of getting the burger cooked medium. Within the strict confines of a burger, the options are extremely varied and the result can be really awesome or terrible. The confines also allow for a surprising amount of variation (Harlequin Historical and Love Inspired Historical include time periods not often found elsewhere). A reader may know authors in one line and know nothing about other lines. Eharlequin.com has writing guidelines for all their lines which give you a very good sense of what a reader will expect out of each line. I also recommend you sign up for Harlequin Ambassadors. Every month or so, Harlequin will send you five free books that you can give out. The other amazing thing about Harlequin is that they really know their reader and they are more experimental than other legacy publishers (not small press, not e-only). They quickly figured out that readers would pay for backlist ebooks and have republished many of their older, beloved novels in e-only format. They are a huge publisher. According to their website they publish over 110 titles a month in 31 languages in 111 international markets on six continents. I have Harlequin Historical novels in Finnish sitting at home. The books often get made fun of because they have goofy titles and the people don’t understand the talent it takes to write a novel under such strict guidelines, but the men and women who write for Harlequin series are very talented. The books are popular because they are good and, like a burger, they scratch a very particular itch.
  • Jennifer B. GLBT romances fall into two categories, with a lot of overlap between those categories. The first are romances written by gay authors for a gay audience, often (but not always) called gay romance. The second are romances written by straight women for straight women, often (but not always) called either M/M or F/F romance. There is overlap in readership, overlap in writers, and some writers who are completely anonymous and no one knows if they are male, female, gay or straight. The romances come in all forms from the alpha-character paired with the innocent to the sweet, tender romance with little sex. While some of the GLBT books do come out in print, most of them are e-format only. It is good to be aware of both the good authors and the major publishers so you can recommend them to interest patrons. Some of publishers are Carina Press, Sanhain, Loose ID, Dreamspinner, MLR Press, Torquere Press, Aspen Mountain Press, Ellora’s Cave, and Cobblestone Press.
  • Romantica or Erotic Romance is the name given to books with a more erotic feel. The novels must still have a happy ending and the focus must still be on the developing love story between the two characters. The difference is that sex plays a much more significant role in the development of the relationship and the description is very blunt. No beating around the bush with euphemisms here, or, if they do, there are lots of places where no euphemisms at all are used. There are erotic romances from all sub-genres,--historical, cowboys, contemporary, etc. One nice things about the small presses is that they are more willing to take risks so you will get more interesting settings and heroes, like bull riders and the PBR circuit. Good publishers to know for this subgenre are: Carina Press, Sanhain, Ellora’s Cave, Loose ID, Kensington Brava, Harlequin Spice, Kimani Nights, Berkley Heat, and Avon Red, plus many small presses and e-only publishers.Don’t forget to mention SB Sarah coming in Feb.!
  • I love the online romance community. Reading what people talk about online give you a very good sense of how readers think about their books. These are not outsiders reading and reviewing the book s– these are avowed romance lovers writing thoughtful reviews and commentary. Each of the blogs has a different feel and different focus. The only good thing about the online community is that they review e-only and small presses, as well as self-pubbed books. A lot of authors (real authors who have/had legacy publishing contactors) are self-publishing, either under a pseudonym or their writing name (which may or may not be their real name). There’s a ton of self-pubbed crap, but there’s also good stuff out there and the online community will help you weed through it. Finally, before we take questions, I have to plug one of our programs. The blogger Sarah Wendell, from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, is coming to Southwest Regional Library on Sunday, Feb 12nd and talking about her book, Everything I Know about Love, I Learned from Romance Novels. She’s a great presenter and very articulate about romance novels. Now, questions. . .
  • I love the online romance community. Reading what people talk about online give you a very good sense of how readers think about their books. These are not outsiders reading and reviewing the book s– these are avowed romance lovers writing thoughtful reviews and commentary. Each of the blogs has a different feel and different focus. The only good thing about the online community is that they review e-only and small presses, as well as self-pubbed books. A lot of authors (real authors who have/had legacy publishing contactors) are self-publishing, either under a pseudonym or their writing name (which may or may not be their real name). There’s a ton of self-pubbed crap, but there’s also good stuff out there and the online community will help you weed through it. Finally, before we take questions, I have to plug one of our programs. The blogger Sarah Wendell, from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, is coming to Southwest Regional Library on Sunday, Feb 12nd and talking about her book, Everything I Know about Love, I Learned from Romance Novels. She’s a great presenter and very articulate about romance novels. Now, questions. . .

Ask the jennifers Ask the jennifers Presentation Transcript

  • I don’t know . . . Go Ask Jennifer!Everything you ever wanted toknow about romances and theirsubgenres, but were afraid to ask.
  • Contemporary
  • Romantic Suspense
  • Paranormal
  • Inspirational Romance
  • Historical Romance
  • Traditional Regency
  • Historical Regency
  • Category
  • Multicultural Romances
  • GLBT Romances
  • Erotic Romance/Romantica
  • I don’t know . . . Go Ask Jennifer!What’s online?
  • I don’t know . . . Go Ask Jennifer!Questions?