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BEA Day Four: Harlequin, Entangled, and Closing Thoughts on BEA

Harlequin

Harlequin

I met with Harlequin today and asked some of your questions.

Updated x2: One of the things I totally forgot to mention is that Harlequin and all of its worldwide offices are moving toward simultaneous worldwide launch so no more early releases over at Mills & Boon before they are released here in the U.S.  That’s a boon for readers and authors. For authors, it makes it easier for them to promote their book because social media is not bounded by geography and it’s easier for readers because they can now find their favorite titles available everywhere at the same time.  That said, this is a slow moving process but Harlequin Presents / Mills & Boon Modern is up next.

  1. About 500 Harlequin Treasury titles will be released in July.
  2. DRM is an ongoing discussion. There is no unanimity amongst authors about DRM. I posited that perhaps that is why Tor went DRM free but not the rest of Macmillan. The Tor authors, particularly the big influential authors, have no love for DRM. I asked whether Carina Press titles had suffered piracy at a greater rate than the DRM’ed books and I was told “not to their knowledge” although someone within digital might have a more accurate answer.
  3. Harlequin would love to publish more multicultural books but haven’t received many manuscripts featuring characters of color. They really want to see those manuscripts. They indicated that Abby Green’s The Stolen Bridefeaturing a Bollywood actress was well received.
  4. Superromance titles are going up to 85,000 words
  5. Nocturne and Romantic Suspense will be increasing the word count.  Update to add actual word counts:
      1.  Harlequin Romantic Suspense – Old word count 50,000 to 60,000/New word count
      2. Harlequin Nocturne – Old word count 70,000/New word count – 80,000-85,000
  6. They published 550 authors last year and are always looking for more.
  7. They would like to collaborate with authors on self publishing projects (“rising tide lifts all boats” sort of thing)
  8. All the series lines will receive a refresh in 2013, some more than others.
  9. There will be a number of digital first initiatives from Harlequin, separate from Carina Press
  10. They are very proud of their editorial teams and the editors undergo regular “employee enrichment” including reading writing books, attending continuing education seminars, and the like.
  11. Harlequin will soon be accepting online submissions. The email addresses will be available on the submission pages of the Harlequin.com site.

I asked for a clarification of the lines, particularly Mira and HQN. The “Harlequin Mira” line as it is now called focuses on commercial literary fiction, and women’s fiction, including erotic fiction. HQN is the single title romance line.

Harlequin did have two big pieces of news. First, in February 2013, Harlequin will launch “Harlequin Kiss” which was describe to me as fun, flirty, contemporary with a range of explicitness. I asked what the difference was from Blaze and was told that the Blaze hero is more of the guy next door and the “Harlequin Kiss” line will feature “the modern alpha hero”. (a rich guy with feelings?) The explicitness will be conveyed through the cover art and the back cover blurb. I asked whether it would be similar to the RIVA line from Mills & Boon and was told yes. RIVA has been suspended at Mills & Boon temporarily and will be back in the summer.  Update x3:  The Senior Editor Bryony Green from the UK office will be acquiring manuscripts for KISS.

Finally, Harlequin is going to be running “So You Think You Can Write” worldwide and there will be a reader component. More details to come.

Entangled Publishing’s Success

entangled_logo_3

Today at BEA, I was pointed to this post by Entangled Publishing. Despite my skepticism about Entangled Publishing’s business plan which allowed for everyone in the publishing chain to earn a percentage of a book’s sales, it appears that Entangled is doing quite well. Entangled has sold 435,000 ebooks worldwide in three and a half months, making them on par with Ellora’s Cave who told CNBC at RT that EC moved about 150,000 copies of books per month. Entangled is also distributing mass market titles and three of their adult titles are picked for Wal-Mart.com’s “Summer Beach Reads.” Entangled’s most successful book, Jennifer Probst’s category title “The Marriage Bargain” has sold more than 313,000 with the author earning $375,000 in royalties. Her editor earned more than $45,000, the copy editor and publicist more than $10,000 each and the cover artist made $3,000.

Tempting the Best Man by J. Lynn and Weekend Agreement by Barbara Wallace both sold “just under $18,000 copies”. The remaining titles have thus sold around 86,000 copies in total.

One way in which Entangled has been able to offer such a robust royalty to their authors is by availing themselves of the 70/30 split offered through the Kindle Direct Publishing platform. Where other small publishers work wholesale agreements at a 50% cut, Entangled has used the self publishing platform to leverage higher royalties for their authors. It is a workaround that other small press publishers should look into, particularly when Amazon seems to be asking for more percentage points under the wholesale agreement.

I asked Amazon and they said:

Both authors and publishers use our platforms. If the terms and the tools of KDP and/or CreateSpace fit their needs, we are happy to make their titles available to readers. The print on demand solution solves a risk in holding inventory, making CreateSpace an attractive option for the small publisher. The main objective here is connecting readers with great books. We are focused on providing easy and free tools with great royalty rates to content providers of all types to make more books available for readers.

BEA Closing Thoughts

I was asked whether I would come back and I can’t decide. I really disliked the trade show aspect of BEA. It was incredibly loud and frankly the books offered don’t have a lot of interest to me. That said, I’ve never had a chance to interview the Kobo or Createspace people and I was able to meet bloggers that I would not have ordinarily met, like Allison Book Marks and Thea and Ana from The Booksmugglers.

I wish the BEA Bloggercon was more awesome and maybe if all of us interested bloggers band together with programming ideas, we can help to make it into the conference we would like it to be.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

161 Comments

  1. HelenKay Dimon
    Jun 07, 2012 @ 23:31:03

    A line called Harlequin Kiss and a refresh of the other series lines in 2013? I’m thinking I missed an author meeting or something. Thanks for the head’s up.

    ReplyReply

  2. library addict
    Jun 07, 2012 @ 23:42:28

    Glad to hear Romantic Suspense will be upping the word count. The series has suffered since the word count was cut when it went from Intimate Moments to Romantic Suspense.

    And yay for more Treasury titles. Hope they release some of the ones I want.

    I am not surprised they have the “a rising tide lifts all boats” attitude. Now if only they would do away with their DRM…

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  3. Cindy
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 00:14:48

    I’d love to hear more about some of the digital-first initiatives–does this involve current lines, as in some will be digital first, no initial print run?

    ReplyReply

  4. Evangeline Holland
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 00:35:31

    “Harlequin Kiss” doesn’t sound very strong brand-wise, particularly if the line is going to be a mash-up of Presents+Blaze (Fifty Shades-esque? *g*). But I’m glad to see they are actively seeking MC characters in their non-Kimani Romance lines and that they see self-publishing as helpful for traditionally-published titles, and am eager to see the refreshed lines in 2013.

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  5. Moriah Densley
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 00:39:19

    Informative. This the kind of “insider info” I scour Twitter for. Devoured this. Thanks for posting!

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  6. Kaetrin
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 02:42:11

    I read a Riva recently and it was “kisses only” (and not many). The Harlequin Kiss line’s name suggests “sweet” to me, not sexy.

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  7. Julie B.
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 02:52:59

    @Kaetrin The Riva line is comprised of books published in the US either as Harlequin Romance or Harlequin Presents Extra. I think in Riva, the fun, flirty and feel-good tone, as opposed to the sensual content, is what defines the line.

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  8. Ros
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 04:50:06

    @Julie B.: Exactly. I think it’s a good idea to separate them out in the US, too, especially the ones that were sold as Presents Extras and really aren’t very Presents-y at all. It’s not a mash-up of Presents and Blaze, it’s a mix of Presents and Romance, focussing on the authors who write in a particular style. Although they are alpha heroes, they aren’t billionaires. They’re lawyers or IT geeks – they are the kind of guys I went to university with. If you love Kelly Hunter, this will be the series you buy.

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  9. Renee Rocco
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 04:57:43

    Lyrical Press also operates under Amazon’s 70/30 split, and from what I understand this isn’t unique. I’ve spoken to other publishers of smaller houses and they benefit from this royalties share as well.

    This royalties split has allowed smaller press to enjoy a greater level of sales success with Amazon. For instance, Lyrical has one author who has sold roughly 20,000 copies on Amazon. Her 2012 earnings, so far, are in the lower five figures. We have two other authors who are also seeing a tremendous success on Amazon, and their royalties reflect this thanks to the 70% share.

    Just as an FYI, the way it works with Amazon is, books priced $2.99 and up are paid 70% of every sale. Books priced under $2.99 fall under the 30% share category.

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  10. Cecelia Dowdy
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 05:10:20

    What is DRM? It’s an acronym for…what?

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  11. Ros
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 05:24:44

    @Cecelia Dowdy: Digital Rights Management. It’s what stops you lending your ebooks to other people and switching them from one format (e.g. kindle) to another (e.g. epub).

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  12. Mandi
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 06:34:34

    I went to the first bloggercon…two or three years ago and it just didn’t seem that helpful for my romance blogging circumstances. After reading your tweets and others when you attended this year, I’m still not convinced it is worth my time or $. But I want it to be. If things change, I’d definitely try it again.

    When I attended the trade show that year, I felt it was very much focused on YA. Maybe it’s moved away from that. Meeting other bloggers was a definite highlight.

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  13. Grace Wen
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 07:27:49

    I’m glad Harlequin is launching a US version of Riva. In the past, I had to check the M&B Riva titles and find their US equivalents before buying (I enjoy the Riva stories more than the “typical” Romance or Presents stories).

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  14. Kaetrin
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 07:43:15

    @Ros. I have a couple of Kelly Hunter books on my TBR. They’re put out under the “Sexy” line here.

    I’ve only read the one Riva so I don’t know if it was representative. Its a very rare romance that will satisfy me that has only a few kisses. But I don’t know if all Riva books are kisses only. It sounds like maybe not?

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  15. Julie B
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 07:58:32

    @Kaetrin The sensuality in Riva books varies from author to author. I’d say Kelly Hunter, Natalie Anderson, Heidi Rice, Lucy King, Aimee Carson, Amy Andrews and Anna Cleary write books than are more sensual than those by Jessica Hart, Nina Harrington, Liz Fielding and Fiona Harper, as the latter are published as Harlequin Romance in the US whilst the former are published in Presents Extra.

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  16. Lynn Raye Harris
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 08:10:48

    I actually have a book coming up with a half-Indian hero. It’s Captive But Forbidden, out in July. And I have to say, thus far, I’ve been a bit discouraged at the pre-orders. I probably won’t write another mixed race hero. Not because I don’t want to, but because he doesn’t seem to be very popular with my readers thus far.

    Like HelenKay, I feel I missed a meeting somewhere. I’d heard some of this, but not all, so it’s interesting to see it all aggregated in one place. Gives me something to ask my editor. ;)

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  17. reader
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 09:13:25

    Does Harlequin have any interest in looking at m/m manuscripts?

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  18. Ros
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 09:25:09

    @Lynn Raye Harris: Don’t give up on the mixed race heroes, Lynn! I liked him, but I found the heroine of that book harder to like. One book is a small sample to decide that these books don’t sell as well.

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  19. Linda Thomas-Sundstrom
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 10:04:22

    Thanks for this heads up. I hadn’t heard any of this, and it’s all great information. Appreciate the time you took to get it.
    Linda

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  20. Janine
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 10:38:55

    All the series lines will receive a refresh in 2013, some more than others.

    What does “a refresh” means? A change in the covers? In the writing guidelines? Or something else?

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  21. Jane
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 11:22:23

    @Cindy: I don’t know. They just said “digital first initiatives”.

    @Renee Rocco: Do the terms in the KDP contract which allow them to change your price at any time and require a very broad grant of copyright concern you at all?

    @Mandi: No, it is very focused on YA. A publishing person there said that there was even a greater emphasis on YA than ever before.

    @reader: Carina Press publishes m/m. I don’t think that there has been a strong print demand for it. Running Press tried it a few years ago and stopped after the release of a couple of books.

    @Lynn Raye Harris: I’m sad to hear that you won’t try again with mixed race character.

    @Janine: I understood it was primarily look of the line, word counts. Not sure about the focus of the lines themselves.

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  22. Carolyn Jewel
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 13:18:31

    I asked whether Carina Press titles had suffered piracy at a greater rate than the DRM’ed books and I was told “not to their knowledge” although someone within digital might have a more accurate answer.

    Are you EFFING kidding me?

    ::spluttering::

    Think about that. Publishers (and authors) claim piracy is a harm to their bottom line and justifies the use and additional costs of DRM.

    Harlequin actually has what appears to be a very close to apples to apples comparison of piracy and DRM vs. non-DRM books and they aren’t analyzing the data? They aren’t eager to find out if the costs of DRM are worth the benefits? What the heck? What sane businesss would do that?

    Either they’re lying or they are inexcusably bad business people. Or else the data shows, as the answer suggests, that DRM has no effect on piracy. In which case, get rid of it and save your business thousands of dollars in explicit costs (the $6,000 it costs for a DRM server) and all the hidden costs of lost sales and angry consumers.

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  23. Moriah Jovan
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 13:27:08

    @Carolyn Jewel: Hqn has good business sense. If I had to guess, I’d guess they don’t want to know because it would shift the paradigm without a clutch. Nobody would be able to put that genie back in the bottle.

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  24. Nicola O.
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 13:35:27

    That kind of data might very well be considered proprietary – ie, having in-depth understanding that other pubs may or may not could give them a competitive advantage.

    But then, the honest answer would have been, “That’s proprietary information.”

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  25. willaful
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 14:01:01

    @Carolyn Jewel: Bravo!

    Anecdotally, I see far more piracy of DRM’d books online. Would love to see some hard facts.

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  26. Maili
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 14:33:07

    @willaful: According to my former employer’s findings (between 2009/2 and 2010/11): In order of books that were more likely to be pirated:
    out of print
    print only
    DRMed
    geographical restrictions
    limited availability (e.g. only one format or only one retail avenue)
    social obligation (e.g. “I’ve downloaded some so I’m returning a favour by uploading some of mine”)
    high price
    ego war (among uploaders)

    They have also found that there was a growing number of those who downloaded non-DRMed version of digital books they *already* owned. It was their guess that these people didn’t know how to resolve the DRM issue of their books, so they tracked down non-DRMed version. Number one reason: they wanted to read the book on various devices and/or to share with a couple of friends, like one does with print books. FWIW, anyway.

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  27. Renee Rocco
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 14:51:57

    @Renee Rocco: Do the terms in the KDP contract which allow them to change your price at any time and require a very broad grant of copyright concern you at all?

    Amazon will only change the price I’ve set, at any time, if I adjust the cost of a book elsewhere. If Amazon lowers my set price it’s because I’ve lowered it with another vendor, and as per our Amazon contract I would except them to lower the price of a Lyrical book accordingly. This is why we’re diligent about pricing and sales, to avoid a lowered Amazon price unless it’s pre-planned between the author and the house.

    As for the requirement of a very broad grant of copyright, of course it concerns me – as I’m sure it does with many other publishers.

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  28. Jane
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 14:58:17

    @Renee Rocco: Does a publisher have different terms because at the Kindle site, the KDP agreement says the following:

    5.3.2 Customer Prices. To the extent permissible under applicable local laws, we have sole and complete discretion to set the retail price at which your Digital Books are sold through the Program. We are solely responsible for processing payments, payment collection, requests for refunds and related customer service, and will have sole ownership and control of all data obtained from customers and prospective customers in connection with the Program.

    That section seems to indicate that Amazon can sell the books at any price, not just according to where it is priced at another vendor.

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  29. rebyj
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 15:07:18

    “Superromance titles are going up to 85,000 words”

    Yes! Good news! I like longer books and was disappointed when Superromance books became shorter a few years ago. That line was always my first pick of HQN because they were longer stories so I haven’t purchased as many in the last couple of years.

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  30. willaful
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 15:53:57

    @Maili: Interesting list, thanks.

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  31. Susan
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 16:23:44

    As an aspiring author who is trying to figure out what market I belong in, what is anyone’s best guess as to when Harlequin’s website will be updated with all of this new info? It’s so difficult deciphering all their lines. IMHO, even Harlequin does an inadequate job defining them; sometimes the differences are extremely subtle.

    I don’t want to waste my time studying outdated information.

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  32. Beth
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 16:28:38

    Any idea on what they meant by “collaborate with authors on self publishing projects” ?

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  33. Stanalei Fletcher » Blog Archive » Friday Favorites
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 17:01:52

  34. Lynn S.
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 20:27:30

    Jane, any idea whether the simultaneous launch dates also means same title. For me that’s the worst thing Mills&Boon/Harlequin does to confuse their readers.

    I don’t understand the thinking behind the new Kiss line. If it’s supposed to be the American version of Riva, that seems even more doomed since Riva is currently on hiatus (a/k/a tanking). The Riva titles I’ve read would easily fit within the Modern/Presents line as they are different enough to keep the line fresh, but aren’t radical depatures from the form. They are much closer in feel to Modern/Presents than to Blaze.

    The longer word count for the SuperRomance line sounds like a great idea. Personally, I’d love to see Kelly Hunter write a SuperRomance; the longer, the better.

    Regarding the 2013 refresh, anyone who is thinking about messing with the circle on the Harlequin Presents should just be fired already.

    Also, The new Harlequin Treasury titles are up in the Kindle Store. Just type in harlequin treasury and then sort by publication date. I saw some Charlotte Lamb titles and Susan Napier’s Savage Courtship (Yea! Loved Benedict Savage and his “mildly good looks.”)

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  35. Ridley
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 20:44:19

    @Lynn S.:

    Regarding the 2013 refresh, anyone who is thinking about messing with the circle on the Harlequin Presents should just be fired already.

    Funny. I have the fingers on both hands crossed hoping that element is the first to go.

    It’s such a relic, and while fans may like it, I think it repels new readers. I know I resisted reading Presents for a long time because of the covers. That circle just screams “interchangeable and forgettable reads for people with an 8th grade reading level” to me.

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  36. Lynn Raye Harris
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 21:01:54

    @Ros: Thank you, Ros. :) I’m glad you liked Raj! I know Veronica is a bit different, and I’m sorry you didn’t like her as much. And of course you’re right that one book is not a good indicator of whether these books will sell or not. But I’m feeling very cautious because I’m not sure what it is that’s not appealing to readers about the book at the moment. They wouldn’t necessarily know the heroine might not appeal to them from the cover copy — but the hero is clearly ethnic with a name like Rajesh Vala.

    So I just don’t know. :( I want the book to sell well for a variety of reasons, many of them selfish of course, but if it doesn’t I have to consider what might have caused that. :/ And it is too early to tell, but just checking pre-order numbers, the book is trending at the bottom of the line for that month’s releases thus far.

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  37. Beth
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 21:12:44

    @Lynn Raye Harris:

    I just wonder why anyone thinks its a big deal. HP’s have always had Sheikhs.
    One of my all time favorite Michelle Reid HPs has a mixed race heroine.
    The body guard with a strong heroine may be more the reason that you aren’t seeing the pre-orders, than the race of the hero. It’s just not the usual storyline.
    and I buy way too many HP ebooks a month. My husband has given up showing me the bank statement everyone month. But I RARELY pre-order them.

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  38. Lynn Raye Harris
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 21:13:44

    @Jane: I would like to, Jane. I did enjoy writing about a character far different from me, though I did take the precaution of making him half-Indian so I wouldn’t get everything completely wrong. He’s a little bit of a fish out of water, and that worked for me. But, I have to admit, it’s a financial decision. If the book doesn’t do well, I’ll be a bit skittish to try again. I can’t say definitively that it’s the hero, could be me or my style, but I’ve noticed that certain heroes seem to do better than others since Presents is a very hero driven line.

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  39. Jane
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 21:14:15

    @Lynn S.: That is a good question and one that I didn’t ask. I’ll forward the query on to Harlequin and see if I can get an answer.

    @Beth: Not specifically. One thing I’ve heard from other publishers and agents is that they want to offer advice on self publishing so it doesn’t hurt the author brand but that often this is construed as anti self publishing advice. There are a lot of things to work out in the publisher/author relationship and I think this is Harlequin acknowledging this.

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  40. Beth
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 21:17:57

    @Ridley:

    I think if they really want to bring in new readers, and this is just me, that they need to stop using titles like:

    The Sheikh’s Virgin Mistress Secretary’s secret pregnancy of revenge.

    They need a new naming APP for that.

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  41. Jane
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 21:21:02

    @Beth – the biggest problem that Harlequin has, and one that I really sympathize with, is balancing attracting new readers without alienating and losing the existing ones. Obviously there is money on the table that they are leaving behind if you look at the success of clearly category titles (and bad ones at that) that are published by authors directly or small digital publishers. Yet, there is a huge core of Harlequin’s business that are the Reader Service readers who get their books once a month or who breeze through the grocery store looking for one particular book.

    Even in this thread you see the dilemma. Lynn S loves the circle and Ridley says that it is a buying deterrent. I believe it is a buying deterrent for non category readers as well. But how do you keep Lynn S happy and attract Ridley? I don’t envy Harlequin this task.

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  42. Lynn Raye Harris
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 21:22:48

    @Beth: You could be right, Beth! Like I said, I don’t know for sure it’s the hero, but I do know that certain ones seem to do better than others. My Argentinian did terribly. My sheikhs do fabulously. And I do certainly acknowledge that it could be the story. I’m not sure the cover copy does it justice either. The heroine is a president, but the hero is no less her equal. Though it could just be too different, and maybe that’s the problem. I’m not sure I’ll ever know for sure, but I’m watching it closely. :)

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  43. Jane
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 21:28:48

    @Lynn Raye Harris – thank you for sharing your thoughts. Of course you should be making decisions about your career that are financially driven. I think any smart woman appreciates reading another smart woman. Hopefully, though, one bad experience won’t put you off the idea of non white characters.

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  44. Beth
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 21:28:50

    I don’t envy them either.

    I will admit I buy a lot more of them now that I can download them to my Kindle. I wouldn’t be caught dead buying one in a book store and I’ve been reading them for probably 30 years.

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  45. Lynn Raye Harris
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 21:54:39

    @Jane: Thank you, Jane. And I really appreciate this conversation. Never know whether I should speak up or not as I am fully aware of the way an author can stifle a conversation, but I thought this was an important enough point that I should state my experience with this book so far and concerns. Perhaps Beth is right and it’s the story. Perhaps I should try another non-white character in a more traditional Presents plot. :)

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  46. Sunita
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 22:06:05

    @Lynn Raye Harris: I just wanted to chime in and say that I appreciate hearing about your experiences and your concerns, as an author. It’s no secret that I can be hard on books with non-white characters when they don’t work for me, but I would really hate to see authors stop writing them. I loved the Bollywood heroine in the Notorious Wolfes series, and I hope Harlequin authors keep giving us those kinds of characters.

    I don’t know why this book has less preorders than your others, although it doesn’t surprise me at all that Sheikh books do really well. For what it’s worth, after reading your earlier comments, I went to the Harlequin site and bought the book (I hadn’t looked at the July releases before today).

    I have all kinds of issues with mixed-race characters, but those are *my* issues and I try to separate them out when I’m reading. I know that mixed-race characters are more or less the norm in romance, and I understand (to some degree) why authors choose to write them.

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  47. Lynn Raye Harris
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 22:19:58

    @Sunita: I will be quaking in my shoes now, knowing you’ll be reading the book, but thank you for ordering it. :) I am white — and Southern — so I know that all the research in the world doesn’t quite make up for my lack of experience when it comes to ethnic characters.

    But I found the idea of an Indian hero particularly sexy, and so I went for it. I did make him mixed race in order to make it easier on myself, absolutely. This book was published in India already. I never got any reader mail taking me to task for anything, though I’m sure I’ve messed up something somewhere. I worried about this book, and still worry about it, but yes, I took the risk. If I got it wrong, it wasn’t from lack of desire to make it right. I’ll hope you like it, but will understand if you don’t.

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  48. Kaetrin
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 23:01:46

    @Jane: Maybe it’s more like what they did with Sarah Mayberry and the tie in between Hot Island Nights (Hqn) and her self pubbed Her Best Worst Mistake – I think HQN would have picked up a lot more sales of Sarah’s books and letting her use the characters was a smart move.

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  49. Kaetrin
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 23:02:58

    @Lynn Raye Harris: I’m not sure this will be very helpful to you as I don’t read very much HP at all. But, I love non white/mixed race heroes. That doesn’t put me off at all. Of course, you should write what makes sense to you though. :)

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  50. Kelly Hunter
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 01:02:57

    Kiss, yes. It’s the NA version of Riva. Content will be drawn from Presents Extra and Romance editorial. Many of the current UK Riva authors are slated to write for Kiss. Watching the branding and Kiss cover development process from the sidelines (knowing full well what I’ve just laid down as story) is an exercise in hope and fear. Mostly fear.

    @Lynne S. Thanks for the vote of confidence. I’ve been asked to write longer. Whether it’ll happen without me having to add a killer zombie subplot is anyone’s guess.

    @Lynn Raye Harris I budget for a 30% drop in NA sales every time I write a SE Asian setting, or multiracial or non-white main character. Keeping bank balance, ed, muse and different world readerships happy is definitely a balancing act.

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  51. Beth
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 01:15:58

    @Kelly Hunter:

    Kelly,
    that just blows my mind because Her Singapore Fling has one of my all time Favorite Heroines in it. It is one of my favorite HPs ever.
    So please don’t stop writing the Asian ones. I’ll buy 2 copies next time. :-)

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  52. Ridley
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 01:35:06

    @Beth:

    I think if they really want to bring in new readers, and this is just me, that they need to stop using titles like: The Sheikh’s Virgin Mistress Secretary’s secret pregnancy of revenge.

    Well, to be fair, they did stop doing this. I think their last Mad Libs-esque title was last year sometime.

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  53. Kelly Hunter
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 01:37:14

    Beth, one copy will be most excellent, thank you ;) Those same stories have sold beautifully throughout Europe and just fine in Aus and the UK. Swings and roundabouts…

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  54. Amy Andrews
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 04:14:27

    Well now for sure I’m going to read a Kelly Hunter with a killer zombie plot and Zombie’s just aren’t my thing! Hell I’ll even read it if its an Asian/Argentian/Sheik killer zombie.

    Love reading mixed race characters – would never write one. I dont feel I could do this any kind of justice as its just not been part of my life experience. Have just been asked if I would change a small town Aussie plot with rugby league background to a Texan setting with grid iron and had to say no – I just know I’d balls that up and annoy the entire NA market.

    Its the same with my medicals. I get a lot of pissed of feminists demanding to know why my heroine’s are always (usually) nurses – why not doctors? It’s not some subversive plot the patriarchy has put me up to – I’ve been a nurse for 25 years. I give good nurse. I do good doctor but I give great nurse!

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  55. Ros
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 04:22:26

    @Kelly Hunter: WOW. Just, wow. I adore your SE Asian books. Wife For A Week is top of my all time favourite books ever. And I love the other Bennett books set in Singapore, too. I’m really disappointed to hear that the setting causes such a significant downturn in sales. Presents are SUPPOSED to have glamorous, international settings. What’s not to like about HK or Singapore? Sometimes, readers really disappoint me.

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  56. Ros
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 05:05:44

    @Jane: Surely the branding ought to be aimed at attracting new readers? Even if existing readers don’t love the new covers/brand, presumably they’ll still want to read the books. I can’t imagine anyone cancelling a subscription just because they look a bit different. But if the success of Entangled has shown anything, its that there is a huge potential market for category romance which Harlequin is failing to reach.

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  57. Kerry Connor
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 06:27:28

    Keeping bank balance, ed, muse and different world readerships happy is definitely a balancing act.

    Well said, Kelly. As another Harlequin author who wants to write more diverse heroes and heroines, I definitely understand Lynn Raye’s concerns. I wrote an Intrigue with an African American hero and heroine a few years ago, which had a beautiful cover and received good reviews (including here at DA). Unfortunately it didn’t do very well. It’s my lowest selling book, and since the books before and after it are among my highest selling, that fact stands out even more. My August Intrigue has a Latino hero and heroine, and I’m interested–and a little nervous–to see how it does. Hopefully the fact that he’s a cowboy (which do sell well) will help temper any possible negative effect. I also have a story with an Asian-American hero and heroine I’ve been sitting on for a while, figuring that stories with both (let alone one) are rare enough I should try to build my career a bit before I try to pitch it. But even if it’ll fly, I might have to think about whether it’ll be worth it. I want to tell the story…but at the same time, I need to eat. (Of course the heroine is also pregnant, and I know firsthand those sell well. I guess we’ll see…)

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  58. Julie B.
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 06:29:34

    @Ros Could people’s mistaken perception of Harlequin Mills and Boon be the reason why Harlequin could be struggling to reach new readers? Look at the Sarah Morgan reprints in the UK – they were repackaged with chick lit style covers and they were hugely successful. Readers on Amazon have said that they bought them not knowing that they were Harlequin/Mills and Boon and absolutely loved them. I think HM&B needs to work on altering people’s perceptions of the genre. I’m sure that if some people gave the books a chance, they’d enjoy them!

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  59. Lynn Raye Harris
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 08:34:56

    @Kelly Hunter: Well, darn. Thanks for confirming my thoughts, Kelly.

    @Kaetrin: Glad to hear you like them! And I appreciate you sharing that with me, though you aren’t a Presents reader. They don’t appeal to everyone, I understand that. Just very glad to hear from a reader who enjoys mixed characters!

    @Kerry Connor: I’m sorry to hear that, Kerry. I think I remember the cover of that book, and he was smoking hot. LOL, stick a baby in there, and it’s sales gold. At least in Presents, let me tell you. ;)

    I think many of us want to do different things. But the majority of our readers demand what they demand. The longer we write, the more we learn what that is. You can’t ignore a 30% drop in sales. :/

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  60. Ros
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 08:44:35

    @Julie B.: Definitely. That’s why I think they need to focus the branding on new readers, trusting that the old ones will stick around for the books.

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  61. Maili
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 09:05:42

    @Sunita: I know that mixed-race characters are more or less the norm in romance, and I understand (to some degree) why authors choose to write them.

    Ditto. To be honest, the idea of making a hero or heroine mixed race as a “compromise” is quite upsetting. Because in real life, I oft hear the same thing. As in, “She’s OK, her mother’s white.”

    I also truly don’t believe many realise that portraying a mixed race character is a lot harder (and perhaps more complicated?) than portraying a person of one ethnicity or multicultural background. I think anyone can figure out what it’s like to be part of a multicultural family (ranging from French-English to German-African), but to be mixed race? A different ball altogether, IMO. Not that authors shouldn’t try. They certainly can try. I just wish it’s not so easily seen as a compromise or the easiest way.

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  62. Jane
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 09:06:34

    @Lynn Raye Harris – The challenge is finding the right readers. Right now the market for non white characters is immature and underdeveloped. Perhaps a lot of non white readers believe that there is nothing in romance for them. But the world is changing and non white readers will be the norm.

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  63. Maili
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 09:22:25

    @Lynn Raye Harris:

    I actually have a book coming up with a half-Indian hero. It’s Captive But Forbidden, out in July. And I have to say, thus far, I’ve been a bit discouraged at the pre-orders. I probably won’t write another mixed race hero. Not because I don’t want to, but because he doesn’t seem to be very popular with my readers thus far.

    When I read your post yesterday, my initial reaction to that was a flash of deep annoyance, but chose not to respond. Now I’m in a better frame of mind (read: unlikely to throw a tantrum :D) —

    I’m sad that publishers and authors tend to blame poor sales on non-white characters when they don’t usually blame poor sales on white characters. Perhaps it’s true in some cases, but in all cases? Something’s off.

    I mean if your hero was white and you noticed a drop in pre-order sales, do you automatically think “Oh, it must be because the hero’s white”? I doubt it. So why should you think it was your half-Indian hero that caused the drop? It might be the story premise. I’d be upset if my employer blamed a failed project on my ethnicity. Unless you know all your readers’ reasons for not placing pre-orders, that’s what you basically did to your hero.

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  64. Aimee Carson
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 09:46:34

    Just dropping by to encourage Kelly Hunter to write that book with a killer zombie subplot. Kelly Hunter + Killer Zombies = a sure bet for a fantastic read!

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  65. Sunita
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 10:08:28

    @Lynn Raye Harris: Don’t quake! I’m so glad you gave it a shot. I really WANT authors to write these characters. Of course there are going to be some errors in some books, because there always are when authors stretch themselves. But if authors only wrote what they felt absolutely comfortable with, readers would be the poorer for it. And there is not only ONE authentic experience (or reaction) for any book or character, ever.

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  66. Moriah Jovan
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 10:20:26

    @maili See, this is the type of thing that makes authors who want to write non-white characters not try. She wrote the book, she’s fearing for her paycheck a little because it’s not doing as well compared to her other books, she only has a limited amount of time in which to write a whole slew of other books to pay her bills, and now she’s berated for thinking her lack of presales (compared to her other books) might be because of the hero’s race.

    She is sharing a concern. It’s a concern for all of us who’d like to write non-white characters–as is the concern that we won’t have done it “right” and get lambasted for it. Airing the concern itself is a step toward solving the problem, but even that won’t happen if, every time the bottom line is talked about, someone says it’s insulting. How is it insulting to say, “This is what happened/is happening”? Especially when, in the same thread, an author says she has to budget for 30% less revenue every time she writes a SE Asian hero/location (the fact of which I find absolutely galling).

    *I* might have the luxury of taking the time to write a book fewer people want to read than my other books, but likely *she* does not. That’s an opportunity loss most full-time authors can’t take.

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  67. Lynn S.
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 10:48:27

    @Jane: Regarding the circle, it’s not that I love them; the covers aren’t why I buy books, but that circle is iconic and from a marketing standpoint it seems foolish to make any drastic change to something that has such brand recognition and that stands out in the current sea of color-saturated covers. I don’t think the recent change to the Blaze covers did anything for their presence and the SuperRomance covers simply went from bland to painterly bland. Gosh, I’m awfully opinionated for someone who doesn’t buy based on covers (it must be the Theresa Weir cat effect.)

    @Ridley: Oh you mad dreamer. You do realize if they change it, it probably won’t be for the better.

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  68. Estara
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 11:00:49

    @Moriah Jovan: What I found fascinating about the Kelly Hunter comment was the fact that her SE Asian hero/location only lead to reduced sales IN NORTH AMERICA, not in the UK or Australia. I take that to mean that specifically the North American reader market has a problem with that.

    I wonder if all Harlequin authors are even sold worldwide, or is that more something that UK and Australian authors would know, because they will be published in the US, but not necessarily vice versa? Hmm.

    Admittedly I mostly read single romance titles, but have recently gone on a happy Kelly Hunter and Marion Lennox trip, partially because of the interesting contemporary romance locations, but mostly because they were recommended by fellow romance readers I trust.

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  69. Maili
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 11:06:49

    @Moriah Jovan: So I should continue to sit here and say nothing while I read all other authors blaming poor sales on non-white characters without considering other possible factors and this without providing proof to back up that claim? Ouch.
    And that I can’t raise a concern about the auto blaming? Another ouch.

    “See, this is the type of thing that makes authors who want to write non-white characters not try.”

    Oh, nice. I don’t see anyone saying that after a reader complaining about a trope or whatnot. Like so:

    See, this is the type of thing that makes authors who want to write BSDM not try.
    See, this is the type of thing that makes authors who want to write Alphahole not try.
    See, this is the type of thing that makes authors who want to write secret baby not try.
    See, this is the type of thing that makes authors who want to write WWI setting not try.
    See, this is the type of thing that makes authors who want to write werewolf hero not try.
    See, this is the type of thing that makes authors who want to write rape not try.

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  70. Jill Sorenson
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 11:38:00

    @Maili: I appreciated Lynn’s comments also. We discussed a similar issue on twitter the other day. My Mexico-set Harlequin RS has the lowest sales. I didn’t mention that the heroine is Latina, but I see a strong relationship between settings readers aren’t attracted to and cultural backgrounds they are less interested in. Also, all of my books have characters of color, so I have no basis for comparison there.

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  71. Moriah Jovan
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 11:49:17

    @estara: I noted that when I first read it, but then forgot while I was making my comment. Thanks for reminding me!

    @maili: You should say whatever you wish, but usually one doesn’t get what one wants by poking at the people trying to give it him.

    As for the rest of your examples, I’m not quite sure I understand. Do you mean that there’s a dearth of BDSM, alphahole, secret baby, and werewolf tropes, and that readers are starving for them, and that the ones that do exist are shelved far away from romance so no one can find them, and that the situation must be addressed? Or are you reducing the love story of major characters who are not white to a mere trope?

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  72. Beth
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 11:52:32

    @Estara

    I curious if HPs are even really targeted for North American readers. Since Janet Dailey and Nora Roberts stopped writing HPs, the heroines are almost exclusively British. Occasionally you get an American but they are in Great Britain for some reason or another.

    And frankly, I buy the authors I like. I don’t care what the story is. Sarah Morgan and Michelle Reid are on auto buy. Everyone else gets a sample download from Kindle first.

    @ Maili

    If authors can’t ask the questions so we can have the discussion, how are we going to address the issues at all?

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  73. Maili
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 11:53:11

    @Jill Sorenson: My point is, authors, readers (including myself) and readers still don’t *know* what may be the reason for each book’s failure or success.

    Meljean Brook’s The Iron Duke has a half-Asian heroine so is the success/failure of this book due to that? We don’t know. Christine Feehan’s Mind Game has a half-Asian hero, so is the success/failure of this one due to that? We don’t know. Meredith Duran’s The Duke of Shadows has a half-Indian hero so is the success/failure of this book due to that? We don’t know.

    So how is it that category romance authors seem so sure that their non-white characters are responsible for the apparent failure of their books? I don’t see anyone saying it was because the hero’s ethnicity that Linda Howard’s An Independent Wife failed to take off while her other bookMackenzie’s Mountain took off.

    That’s the sole point: we don’t know why when a book succeeds or fails. At best it’s a speculation. So it’s rather distressing to see how easily category romance authors blame their supposed failures on their non-white characters. It might be true in some cases, but in all cases? Like I say, something’s off.

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  74. Ros
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 12:08:37

    @Maili: You’re right, we can’t know. But we can look at the evidence and make the best judgements we can on that basis. Kelly Hunter’s written several books set in SE Asia, as well as a number in Australia. If she looks at her sales figures and sees that the Asian books sell 30% less than the others in North America, that seems to me pretty significant evidence. I’ve read all those books and they are written very much in Kelly’s usual style, with the same sharp dialogue and strong characterisation and so on. Maybe there is some other common factor contributing to their poor reception, but I can’t think what it could be.

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  75. Marguerite Kaye
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 12:10:22

    @Lynn S.: I can’t speak for Presents, but Harlequin Historical moved to simultaneous publication in US and UK in May, and the titles and the cover art are both the same.

    On the mixed race issue, I have a book out in October which is part of the Castonbury Park series, and has a white heroine and a black ex-slave hero. I was a bit nervous about suggesting it, but my editor at M&B was incredibly encouraging. How it will sell mind you, is a whole other story!

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  76. Maili
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 12:14:33

    @Moriah Jovan: Why is it that no one says “This must be because the hero is non-white” when a romance novel is a success and so many say “This must be because the hero is non-white” when it’s a failure?

    As for the rest of your comments, I won’t respond because I feel you’ve missed my point. My fault, not yours. Trying to explain will only derail this discussion.

    @Beth: I thought I was taking part in a discussion and that I was addressing the issues.

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  77. Maili
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 12:21:42

    @Ros: Yes, that makes perfect sense, which is why I’m happy to accept her guess as a possibility. She – like Jill Sorenson – has more than one book to judge by, basically. I do really love her comment that she makes adjustments in expectations to continue writing similar books, which is why she’s now on my autobuy list. It’s a thank-you gesture as I’m really grateful for that.

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  78. Marguerite Kaye
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 12:25:55

    @Marguerite Kaye: Oops, wasn’t finished. Also wanted to say that like Lynn I was nervous about venturing into the territory of portraying someone from a different culture to me. But I have never agreed with the whole, you can’t understand x, y or z type of history if you’re not from x, y or z background, so I took the plunge and hoped that lots of research would at least mean that I didn’t make any glaring mistakes. There is always the chance that you lay yourself open to downplaying the race issue in the context of a romance of course, and when you add the highly controversial subject of slavery in, then the risk of being accused of trivialising increases. So I’m nervous about the reception my story will receive, there’s no doubt about it, and like Lynn, whether I do another will very much depend on sales, because I have to eat.

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  79. Ridley
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 12:38:55

    @Lynn S.:

    Oh you mad dreamer. You do realize if they change it, it probably won’t be for the better.

    After taking part in their research project for branding this new Kiss line, I’m cautiously optimistic that it could be done well. I noticed in a picture Jane tweeted from BEA that they went with the cover branding that I liked the best, and was seemingly not their first choice. They do a fair amount of market research, so I think the odds favor improvement.

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  80. Sunita
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 13:04:53

    @Marguerite Kaye: There are bound to be mistakes. There always are. The difference (to me) isn’t that there are mistakes, but that what you’ve invested and what some readers’ investment is in the character and/or culture is more fraught. So the discussion becomes more personalized and difficult. It’s a lot easier to criticize an author for using a secret baby trope, and for the author to accept it, than to criticize her for writing a non-white character badly. They’re probably both failures of execution, at a basic level, but one has social and emotional ramifications that the other does not.

    I hate that Kelly Hunter’s marvelous books sell less well in North America when they have Asian characters than her other books. It heartens me that it is not a worldwide issue, and maybe we in the US (because I expect it’s mostly a US effect) will eventually catch up. I would be curious to know if Sharon Kendrick’s Maharaja book sold less well, or Abby Green’s book with the Indian heroine. It would be helpful to have more data points.

    Similarly, if Jill Sorenson is writing Latino characters in all her books, then Mexico as a setting (which didn’t sell as well) is a different issue for readers than having Latino characters. Unless Jill systematically sells less well than other Intrigue authors and we can pinpoint that it is because of that. But I don’t know how we would get that information, because you can’t disentangle other factors that are undoubtedly present in readers’ buying decisions.

    I am seriously bummed that Kerry Connor’s Intrigue sold less well; I really liked that book. I’m looking forward to the August book.

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  81. Moriah Jovan
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 14:53:16

    @maili I may be saying it badly, too.

    My point is that if that’s all the author has to go by, it’s all she has to go by. It’s the publisher’s job to find out *why* those titles aren’t selling as well, stacked against similar books by the same author with otherwise same criteria (except plot and/or back blurb). And I’ll admit that my first (sole) criterion for buying is the back-cover copy (which, by the way, I totally suck at writing).

    But then one has to look at whether the publisher cares *why* it isn’t selling as well, just that that author may only get one crack at it. So (as a friend pointed out to me) an author may be hypersensitive to what data she’s got because it may be her only shot. In other words, all she can do is write the book as well as she can and pray for good results.

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  82. Moriah Jovan
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 15:00:17

    @estara You are BAD for my pocketbook.

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  83. Violetta Vane
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 16:18:41

    I don’t believe in “holding back” on criticism of racial representation in books out of regard for hurt feelings. Why does racial criticism get this special privilege and other topics like, say, gender and BDSM and historical accuracy do not?

    If you make a mistake on your racial representation and offend people? You deal with it. I write outside my own racial and ethnic grouping ALL THE TIME. In fact, I pretty much never write within it. I’m prepared to take my lumps if I fuck up.

    I think it’s great to talk about these issues but I don’t believe in kid gloves.

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  84. Lynn Raye Harris
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 18:32:11

    @Maili: I upset you. I apologize. That wasn’t my intention, but clearly I did. Until you commented, I had no idea that what I said could be taken that way. But of course it could. I failed in that communication. I hope you will accept my sincere apology for it.

    Would I blame a white character for a book’s failure? Absolutely. Presents are hero-driven books. I really didn’t just decide based on one book that my hero could be an issue. I’ve talked to other authors, reviewed my own sales, and tried to figure out what makes one book take off and another not.

    Could I be wrong? Sure. And I did state that in a comment somewhere in this thread. It could certainly be the story — the heroine, the plot, anything BUT the hero. It could. I don’t know, though experience thus far (mine and the authors I talk to on a regular basis) indicates that Presents live and die on the hero. And this one is very different from my usual.

    I had an Argentinian that didn’t do well. British heroes haven’t been the best in terms of sales either. If I hadn’t been given a British hero as part of a continuity, I probably wouldn’t have chosen to do one at this stage of my career. I have no desire to do an American. Greeks, sheikhs, and Italians seem to do really well. At a conference in Germany recently, someone reported that the Cora editors (Harlequin Germany) stated that Russians do not do well in the German market. Now I know why my Russian hasn’t been picked up there yet, though he did amazingly well here and in the UK.

    Different markets prefer different things. It is a balancing act, as Kelly said. I’m working on figuring out that balance.

    I apologize again for not being more careful in my remarks. This book will do well or not, and it will be months before I can compare all the figures and hazard the best guess to why precisely, especially when I compare it to my other books. And now I will bow out of this thread, as I realize this is a site for readers primarily and my presence has already affected the flow of the conversation.

    Thanks for letting me be here, and for the conversation.

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  85. Jill Sorenson
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 18:47:24

    @Maili: You’re right, there’s no way to know for sure. I mentioned setting as a possible factor and I really don’t think ethnicity was an issue for this particular book. But why not share information/ideas we have about sales?

    The authors you’ve mentioned all have strong followings. I wonder if they built an audience before introducing non-white characters. Nalini Singh is another example. My impression is that her books have been multicultural from the start. I can’t think of many authors like her, with that level of success.

    I’ve also heard that the category audience is older. I know that’s not true across the board, but it’s a factor to consider.

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  86. Maili
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 19:56:59

    @Lynn Raye Harris: You have no idea how much I appreciate your reply. I was worried your response may be defensive, so thank you so much for proving my concern wrong. I can’t accept your apology because you honestly have nothing to apologise for. You wrote, I pouted and reacted, you clarified, and I’m now satisfied and smiling. So thank you.

    “I realize this is a site for readers primarily and my presence has already affected the flow of the conversation.”

    Not true. You’ve – probably unwittingly! – opened up an avenue that was could be explored. At least it gave me – and probably the others – an opportunity to air a view or two. So, again, thank you.

    @Jill Sorenson & @Lynn Raye Harris: I agree and I understand. I have absolutely no problem with speculating ethnicity as a possible reason, but only if it’s explained why author comes to that conclusion.

    What I did – and still do – have an issue with is that every time there’s a discussion about sales, almost all authors cited ethnicity as the only reason on poor sales without an explanation. It was like, Author: “my book suffered because my hero’s half-black” and Others: “Aaah, yeah. Of course.” And they moved on without whether it was definitely that reason.

    I’m more likely to be fine with it if author says, “I know for a fact that my readers are American, white, middle class, midwest, conservative, in age group of 50-65 with a proven preference for Sheik and Greek billionaires, so that’s probably why my book featuring half-black Spanish hero failed to reach the level of my usual sales”.

    Anyway, sorry for dragging this on for so long today and thanks for hearing me out. Much appreciated.

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  87. Tina
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 20:51:20

    @Jane: “The challenge is finding the right readers. Right now the market for non white characters is immature and underdeveloped. Perhaps a lot of non white readers believe that there is nothing in romance for them. ”

    …Aaaand this would be me. I gave up on Harlequin a long time ago. And frankly I am thinking there is a ‘too little, too late’ thing with them for me. I was cautiously optimistic when Carina began and I had heard they had plans and were eager to acquire multi-cultural & ethnic romances …….. but……crickets….crickets…… {****glancing at my watch*****}….yeah, stopped checking that website a long time ago as well.

    I also know they do have the dedicated Kimani Press line but, honestly, they’ve blanded that down to the point where it is like the reading equivalent of whey. I once read a piece where someone there talked about the guidelines of what the heroine was supposed to be in the KP line. She had to be college educated and professional/successful. Now, my personal heroine preference is just that. But making all your heroines fit such a narrow template negates a whole host of story possibilities.

    I also find is personally distasteful that there must be an entirely different line to separate AA romances from romances that features characters of practically all other ethnicities. I know Harlequin is old, but dang, they are serving up some separate-but-equal Jim Crow realness right there.

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  88. Evangeline Holland
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 21:47:43

    @Jane: The challenge is finding the right readers. Right now the market for non white characters is immature and underdeveloped. Perhaps a lot of non white readers believe that there is nothing in romance for them. But the world is changing and non white readers will be the norm.

    And this is the result of the racial history of romance–or publishing in general–combined with the segregation and Othering of non-white characters.

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  89. Jeannie Lin
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 23:43:10

    I started typing out a response to the multicultural book/POC characters discussion and suddenly found that it was over 1000 words. :(

    I posted the first part here….perhaps I’ll put the rest on my blog so as not to clutter up the comments:
    ***
    I’ve been following the conversation about multi-cultural characters and it’s an issue that I think about a lot as it’s central to what I write. I really appreciate how Lynn, Jill, Kelly, Marguerite and others with more extensive publishing experience have chimed in to report their comparative experiences. I think that data, though anecdotal, is compelling. From what I’ve heard – mutli-cultural is a hard-sell – this seems in-line with what publishers think.

    Like Maili, I despair that blaming the non-white character for poor sales seems to be the default explanation. Especially during times when many other books without POC characters are also experiencing declines. But given these authors who have a proven track record, multiple books published, and a loyal following, we can’t ignore that factor.

    But I do believe it goes beyond the reader reaction that “POCs are different than me so I don’t want to read them.” Romance readers are overall pretty inclusive and adventurous (I believe and hope), but change is slow. Some authors and books gather a huge following their first time out of the gate — but most authors have to struggle and build their readership over a long career. I’m inclined to agree with Jane’s statement here:

    @Jane: The challenge is finding the right readers. Right now the market for non white characters is immature and underdeveloped. Perhaps a lot of non white readers believe that there is nothing in romance for them. But the world is changing and non white readers will be the norm.

    With one addition that I don’t think the main goal of writing a POC character is necessarily to bring in more readers of that ethnicity or non-white readers. For instance, I feel Chinese readers are more reluctant to read Chinese historical romances in English because – and these are just general comments I’ve seen stated on blogs — they’re wary of mistakes made about their own culture or they’d rather just read a book in their native language if they’re looking for Chinese settings and Chinese characters. Greek tycoons are not meant to bring in more Greek readers. The purpose is to weave these experiences into mainstream fiction so more of the general readership will adopt and enjoy.

    As Jane pointed out – the market is immature. When competing against established markets, it’s no question why we see a drop.

    ***
    The rest was a wordy hypothesis about why and how POC characters have a different impact in different genres, why there are not a bunch of multicultural manuscripts being submitted, as well as some of my thoughts about my books and why the heck Harlequin would even want to keep on publishing them. All words that I should have devoted to the current manuscript-ugh.

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  90. Rosario
    Jun 10, 2012 @ 01:43:38

    @Jeannie Lin:

    With one addition that I don’t think the main goal of writing a POC character is necessarily to bring in more readers of that ethnicity or non-white readers. For instance, I feel Chinese readers are more reluctant to read Chinese historical romances in English because – and these are just general comments I’ve seen stated on blogs — they’re wary of mistakes made about their own culture or they’d rather just read a book in their native language if they’re looking for Chinese settings and Chinese characters. Greek tycoons are not meant to bring in more Greek readers.

    I agree with this completely. Having a South American hero in a Harlequin makes me less likely to read it, not more. However, that is only because I’ve been burnt so many times by portrayals that have been frankly offensive. Settings I know very well, like Argentina (I have lost all hope of every seeing something set in my own country, Uruguay) are unrecognisable and feel like 60 years ago. Heroes are fetishised, with all sorts of bad behaviour excused by the fact that they’re Latino, don’t you know, so they can’t help but be sexist pigs. Oh, and all of them go crazy for the Anglo girls, with women who look like me reduced to the role of manipulative evil ex-girlfriend.

    The thing is, if this hadn’t been the case, if previous experiences had been positive, I definitely would be much more likely to read these books.

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  91. Kerry Connor
    Jun 10, 2012 @ 03:16:44

    I can appreciate Jeannie’s attempt to be succinct. In my post about the disappointing sales of my Intrigue with the African American hero and heroine, I originally mentioned that there could have been other reasons than the characters’ ethnicity than it didn’t do well, but I cut those lines, figuring my post was too long and it would sound like I was rambling. But perhaps I should have included them.

    To clarify, Silent Night Stakeout was the first Intrigue in 12 years with a black hero and heroine (though there was one with a black heroine/white hero 4 years earlier). I knew that going in, and I made sure that for my first story with non-white leads, it had a premise and storyline that Intrigue readers tend to respond to. It had a cop hero, which are popular in the line (there were two others in Intrigue that month) and was a Christmas book (also popular). It had a great cover (IMO). The back cover copy even went out of its way to play up popular tropes that I don’t think were all that dominant in the book itself: the woman-in-jeopardy and protector hero, both of which sell well. It came out five months after a book that I still consider my best (and for which I received the most positive reader feedback), which sold well and of which Harlequin distributed a ton of free promotional copies, all of which should have left readers primed for my next book. And yet, despite all those factors in its favor, it wound up being my lowest selling book. So yes, there certainly could have been other reasons why it didn’t sell well. I would prefer it if that were the case. I’m just not sure what they would be. And it’s not even a matter of readers looking for stories with non-white characters not knowing where to find it (though I did receive a few messages from new readers who gave it a try for that reason), because that should have left the regular Intrigue readership. Which, as it turned out, didn’t respond to the book.

    I’m not even sure it’s about ethnicity, but how interested many category readers (or perhaps Intrigue readers in particular) are in stories or characters that are a little different. I want to write about diverse characters, not just in terms of ethnicity, but nationality as well. Two books before Silent Night Stakeout, I wrote a book with a Russian heroine (a fact mentioned on the back cover). That happens to be my second lowest selling book. Again, there could be other reasons it didn’t sell all that well (the title, the cover). But when the only books I’ve written where the characters aren’t white Americans have sold noticeably less than the others, it’s hard not to notice.

    That said, writing diverse characters is important to me, though I may have to space them out to take into consideration the effect any story element that’s a little different might have on my sales. The economy, the market, and my bank account being what they are, I can’t afford not to. I have to write what the readership wants. Change comes slowly, so maybe that’s how I have to proceed as well.

    But as long as I have the opportunity, I will keep writing multicultural stories, especially—and this is my own issue—stories where both leads are POC. Maili mentioned her problem with mixed-race characters being used as a sort of compromise. I increasingly feel the same way about how often a Latino/Native American/Asian(-American)/Middle Eastern/POC character (usually the hero) is paired with a white character, as though one of them has to be white to give the reader someone to identify with. (It also opens up other issues like the Objectification of the Other). Why does one of them have to be white? Other than romances with African-American leads, why aren’t there more books where they’re both POC? (And I say this as someone who is mixed-race.) It’s one reason I’m determined to write a book with an Asian-American hero and heroine (Seriously, other than an old Second Chance at Love from the 80s and an old Karen Templeton Silhouette, I can’t think of any contemporary categories where both characters are Asian-American–Jeannie’s books and Jade Lee’s concubine book being historicals, of course–and that’s pathetic.). It’s also a reason I’m interested to see how my August book does. Latino heroes and heroines aren’t all that uncommon, but usually they’re paired with a white (non-Latino) love interest. I wanted to write a book where both were Latino, and did what I could to make it appealing to category readers (Texas setting, cowboy hero). If it doesn’t do well, no, it may not necessarily be because they’re both Latino. But I’m definitely hoping it does sell well, for multiple reasons.

    Ummm…yeah. So much for not rambling. Probably why I’m better off lurking!

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  92. Tina
    Jun 10, 2012 @ 09:37:29

    It sounds to me like lower sales anecdotally have a common denominator of POC characters. But you know what the other common denominator is? Harlequin.

    Frankly, my belief is that Harlequin has over the years created a very specific type of story that appeals to a very specific type of readership. If the readers who routinely and loyally read HRs have a comfort zone and an expectation of a type of story even when it comes down to the colors of the people involved, then that is what they want to read and see.

    Just like people who read HRs have an automatic, almost unconscious expectation of what they will get with each story, I would venture to guess that the people shy away from HRs for the very same reason. I believe there is a healthy audience for multi-ethnic stories. I also believe that many in that audience probably does not even consider HR as an option.

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  93. Jill Sorenson
    Jun 10, 2012 @ 09:51:27

    I really could go on & on about this topic, with a lot of navel-gazing and speculation, but I’ll stop here. I just wanted to thank the authors for speaking up and readers for listening/sharing opinions. It’s not easy to admit you’ve had disappointing sales. When I tweeted this news about my Mexico-set book (with a very helpful buy link), one of my editors actually responded, commenting that it was too soon, sales might catch up etc. Then I felt bad for mentioning it and awkward for trying to turn it into a promo op. Authors are encouraged to focus on positives, but I think it’s important to have candid conversations like this one.

    Thanks Jane for this space.

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  94. Laura Vivanco
    Jun 10, 2012 @ 09:58:59

    has over the years created a very specific type of story that appeals to a very specific type of readership

    Tina, Harlequin/Mills & Boon has a huge and very diverse global audience and as Kelly Hunter’s comment indicates, different parts of that market can have different preferences. In addition, I would disagree that Harlequin has “created a very specific type of story.” Kelly Hunter writes for Riva/Presents Extra romances, Lynn Raye Harris writes Modern/Presents ones, Kerry Connor and Jill Sorenson write romantic suspense, Marguerite Kaye and Jeannie Lin write historicals.

    This isn’t a problem which is specific to Harlequin, or even just to romance.

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  95. Anu
    Jun 10, 2012 @ 10:17:09

    @Jeannie Lin:

    For instance, I feel Chinese readers are more reluctant to read Chinese historical romances in English because – and these are just general comments I’ve seen stated on blogs — they’re wary of mistakes made about their own culture [...]

    I am not a HR reader, but I agree with this and with Rosario’s subsequent comment in regards to general romance-reading habits. I’m Indian-American, and I’m very wary of reading h/h with my ethnicity. It’s not because I don’t like reading such characters – I’m more likely to pick up books outside romance with Indian characters (although I’m beyond done with the whole sandalwood/spices/saris genre, UGH).

    However, my habits are different within romance are very different. I love depictions of desi characters by Meljean Brook and Nalini Singh, but they are the exception not the rule.

    I’m just generally wary of how Indian-ness is handled in romance. It’s often either a tool/ or a vehicle to signal how liberal/generous/compassionate the white character is or it’s a general exoticization of the Indian background. So I tend to avoid depictions of Indians in general unless I’ve heard a lot of good buzz. And yet still, I can’t bring myself to read Meredith Duran’s Duke of Shadows.

    So, I have to admit that I’m one of those romance fans that keeps a difficult situation from improving. I set high barriers to entry and rarely lower them.

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  96. Jeannie Lin
    Jun 10, 2012 @ 10:19:11

    I’m with Jill. Thanks for this space. It’s very rare that I can have a business/industry discussion about this issue.

    @Tina:

    It sounds to me like lower sales anecdotally have a common denominator of POC characters. But you know what the other common denominator is? Harlequin.

    It can also be argued, on the flip side, that Harlequin actually has the highest number of sales of multicultural romance since they publish more multicultural storylines than any other romance publisher. Part of this is because they publish a larger range of storylines in general — they’re Harlequin. :) The sales numbers are just lower than their other more common settings and characters.

    Like Jill, I hesitate to comment on my sales. But it can easily be said that Harlequin can replace any one of my releases with a Regency or western setting and probably double if not triple the sales. That’s not to say they’re not making some money off of the books. A big publisher like Harlequin can absorb the risk and loss — it’s much harder to say an author who is depending on writing income can absorb a loss. Especially when lowered sales reflects on their ability to get the next contract.

    I do understand this statement:

    Frankly, my belief is that Harlequin has over the years created a very specific type of story that appeals to a very specific type of readership. If the readers who routinely and loyally read HRs have a comfort zone and an expectation of a type of story even when it comes down to the colors of the people involved, then that is what they want to read and see.

    The Harlequin name carries many associations. I never thought Harlequin would be the only publisher willing to pick up Butterfly Swords because it was so odd. Comments from my readers often remark, “I had no idea this was a Harlequin.” Harlequin’s vast reach and range in the US and overseas is more insider industry knowledge.

    As to reader expectations, I agree with Laura that this is romance genre-wide and not Harlequin specific.

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  97. Jeannie Lin
    Jun 10, 2012 @ 10:25:42

    I also wanted to add that I’m not trying to defend Harlequin or wave the company banner just because they’re “the hand that feeds me”. Actually they aren’t. My day job feeds me. :) I know that they are not publishing multicultural books out of altruism. It’s a move to expand their reach and readership over time. It’s nice that someone considers it a good long term business strategy to publish multicultural books even though it may not be a good short term one. I hope Harlequin has the pockets to invest a significant amount time as it may be a while….

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  98. Sunita
    Jun 10, 2012 @ 11:05:35

    I had a long comment agreeing with Jeannie Lin and Rosario but then Anu posted and said everything I would have, but more eloquently and more succinctly. So, what she said.

    I do read books with Indian settings and characters, because I want to support them and I want them to get better. And they have. But they’ve a ways to go still.

    Anu, I read Duke of Shadows and enjoyed it for the most part. But I’ve yet to read any MM Kaye. It just sounds too much like a bingo card book. I don’t care how great a read it is, an Englishman who can pass for Indian (because of his dark skin) and an Indian princess rescued from suttee are just too off-putting.

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  99. Piper Huguley
    Jun 10, 2012 @ 12:57:06

    Jeannie,

    I certainly hope that you will include the rest of what you were going to say on your blog. I would be interested in hearing your take on these issues. They matter. Thanks.

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  100. Anu
    Jun 10, 2012 @ 14:26:19

    @Sunita:

    Anu, I read Duke of Shadows and enjoyed it for the most part. But I’ve yet to read any MM Kaye. It just sounds too much like a bingo card book. I don’t care how great a read it is, an Englishman who can pass for Indian (because of his dark skin) and an Indian princess rescued from suttee are just too off-putting.

    Heh. When I was 12, I read Shadow of the Moon in a breathless rush. The book is a fond memory, and I have no wish to taint it with a re-read. Back then, I was fell in love with any book that asked me to – I’m not so easy these days ;)

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  101. Janine
    Jun 10, 2012 @ 14:45:35

    I commented on Twitter that it’s always strange to me to hear how popular Greek, Italian and Sheikh heroes are while at the same time, Israeli and Jewish heroes are so absent from the picture. I’d like to believe that that’s solely due to the political tension associated with the Middle East,but since the Sheikh heroes are popular, I don’t know how true that is. I wonder how much of it relates to the stereotype that a Jewish man can’t be tough or manly.

    But after reading Rosario, Anu, and Sunita’s comments, I wonder what’s worse — seeing a protagonist of your ethnic background misrepresented, or not being represented at all.

    I’ve really enjoyed the discussion, though. I’m grateful to all the authors and readers who have spoken so candidly about this issue, and interested in checking out some of the books that have been mentioned.

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  102. Maili
    Jun 10, 2012 @ 15:52:37

    @Kerry Connor:

    I’m determined to write a book with an Asian-American hero and heroine (Seriously, other than an old Second Chance at Love from the 80s and an old Karen Templeton Silhouette, I can’t think of any contemporary categories where both characters are Asian-American–Jeannie’s books and Jade Lee’s concubine book being historicals, of course–and that’s pathetic.).

    Ha! That ‘Second Chance at Love’ book would be Heaven Sent by Jamisan Whitney (no. 423, 1987, pub: Berkeley). Read it when I was fourteen and it rocked my world because until then, I’d never come across a novel featuring a couple who were both of East Asian ancestry. As sad as it may sound, I thought: “Is there a such thing?” even though I’d seen East Asian couples as tourists in real life. I did see Asian couples in HK films, but my young teen mind somehow drew a conclusion that it wasn’t a done thing in the western world as I was so used to the interracial set-up in western films, art, celebrity couples and children’s stories. Even American-born Bruce Lee had a white wife.

    Sweet Dreams YA series never featured one. Neither did American Romance, M&B, Harlequin, mainstream romance/fiction, general YA and more. So realising that this couple were both Asian was a thrill; a sensation I still can recall. Even though I can’t remember a single thing about the story itself. I didn’t realise at the time that it’d be the last time I see this set-up, though.

    As you noted, it’s interracial since then, and usually with heroine as the Asian half–or more commonly, mixed race (always half-Asian and half-white, and the focus is always on her Asian half and almost never on her white half). While I understand this set-up, I still cannot help but feel sad, especially when I think there may be another fourteen-year-old out there. I don’t read many YA novels, but I hope she’ll find one in YA nowadays.

    In any case, I do make an effort to buy a contemporary romance when it features an Asian character. Especially when the hero’s a full Asian (regardless of nationality – British, American, Russian, Italian, whatever, I don’t care). Asian heroes are a rarity in Romance including m/m, f/f and other LGBT romances (draft ratio: 1 half-Asian hero to to 19 half-Asian hero/ines, and 1 Asian hero to 42 Asian hero/ines). So I want to throw in a vote of support through a buy. Of course, I’ll buy yours so I look forward to it.

    To everyone else: thank so much for sharing your opinions and whatnot. I really enjoyed reading those.

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  103. Maili
    Jun 10, 2012 @ 15:58:07

    *Eep. I don’t know where those slashes came from. Please pretend they don’t exist. Thanks.

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  104. Danielle
    Jun 10, 2012 @ 16:00:07

    @Sunita:

    But I’ve yet to read any MM Kaye. It just sounds too much like a bingo card book. I don’t care how great a read it is, an Englishman who can pass for Indian (because of his dark skin) and an Indian princess rescued from suttee are just too off-putting.

    I may misremember this because it has been, oh decades, since I read The Far Pavilions, but I think Ash passes for Indian not because of his skin but because after losing his parents as a child he was adopted by his ayah and brought up among Indians, not the British.

    Have you read any of the Kama Kahani historical romances? I am reading my second right now (Ghazal In The Moonlight) and this one feels a bit like reading an older Harlequin from the other side of the mirror.

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  105. Ridley
    Jun 10, 2012 @ 16:01:41

    @Janine:

    I wonder what’s worse — seeing a protagonist of your ethnic background misrepresented, or not being represented at all.

    Well, speaking as a disabled person who’s read more than her fair share of shitty portrayals, I’d still rather there be shitty books about people with disabilities than none at all. At least you can talk about a bad book. Beats the hell out of invisibility.

    YMMV, of course.

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  106. Rhonda Helms
    Jun 10, 2012 @ 17:55:46

    I’m totally butting in here, lol. I edit for Carina Press and have acquired, edited and released a few multicultural/PoC stories. Someone mentioned on here that she was looking for them but apparently didn’t find any…? Well, here ya go, a few of the ones I’ve edited (these are only what’s released to date).

    BTW, I am VOCALLY, ACTIVELY seeking PoC and multicultural submissions!! PLEASE SEND THEM TO ME. lol. I have regularly tweeted that I want more; plus, I put it in our recent call for submissions. I ask for it all the time and get very, very few submissions for them. We can’t publish what we don’t get! And we definitely want them. :D Okay, begging-editor moment is over.

    –What Binds Us by Larry Benjamin
    –47 Echo by Shawn Kupfer (and its sequel, Supercritical, comes out tomorrow)
    –Rivals for Love by Eve Vaughn
    –Touch Me by Callie Croix

    Carina is ALWAYS eagerly seeking more multicultural/PoC submissions. And from browsing our selections and remembering stories of ours that I’ve read, we also have:

    –Susan Edwards’ 12-book series
    –Kiss of Twilight by Loribelle Hunt
    –I believe Tangled Past by Leah Braemel has a mixed heroine…?
    –Protective Custody by Wynter Daniels
    –Captive Bride by Bonnie Dee
    –I think Shirin Dubbin’s book Dreams’ Dark Kiss has a PoC heroine…?
    –Falke’s Peak by Madison Layle and Anna Leigh Keaton
    –Captive Spirit by Liz Fichera

    Thx for letting me hop on here. I hope that helps those of you looking for find new reads at Carina! And again, writers, send us your stories! We love ‘em. :D

    Rhonda

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  107. Jayne
    Jun 10, 2012 @ 18:02:43

    @Janine: The only Israeli hero I recall reading is in “Below Deck” by Dorien Kelly which also has a Chinese heroine. http://dearauthor.com/book-reviews/overall-c-reviews/c-plus-reviews/review-below-deck-by-dorien-kelly/

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  108. Book/Publisher News: A Roundup Post « The Incessant Droning of a Bored Writer
    Jun 10, 2012 @ 18:08:26

    [...] its fair amount of criticism, it has provided stellar results thus far. Also, according to Dear Author, “…one way in which Entangled has been able to offer such a robust royalty to their [...]

  109. Janine
    Jun 10, 2012 @ 18:08:30

    @Ridley: It was a rhetorical question. I agree with you, in theory — but it is something I can only hypothesize about since I’ve certainly never seen someone of my background (Israeli-American) in the pages of a romance novel.

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  110. Janine
    Jun 10, 2012 @ 18:13:22

    @Jayne: Thanks! I somehow missed that review when it ran.

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  111. Kerry Connor
    Jun 10, 2012 @ 18:26:59

    Janine,
    This is an old one, but another book with an Israeli hero you may be interested in tracking down (and it’s been a while, but I believe the heroine might be Israeli-American, or she might just be American, though definitely Jewish)–Marilyn Tracy’s Echoes of the Garden:

    http://www.fictiondb.com/author/marilyn-tracy~echoes-of-the-garden~37246~b.htm

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  112. Inez Kelley
    Jun 10, 2012 @ 19:41:02

    Stephanie Draven’s Dark Sins and Desert Sands has a mixed American/Middle Eastern hero who is sexy as hell.

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  113. Anu
    Jun 10, 2012 @ 19:42:56

    You know what kind of Indian romance I’d pick up without hesitation? Contemporary desi characters who are products of both the Indian and Western cultures in which they grew up.

    Sunita and other East/South/SE Asian posters, please correct me as you please – but our cultures exert strong influence over us at the same time that most of us are quite comfortable in the broader societies. Marriage is a fundamental aspect of that. I’d love to see a romance-novel take on how the two sides of the hypen intersect – not “conflict” or “clash,” although those too, but most of the time, just the “intersection” of the two cultures generates the story.

    But the general story is familiar to every romance reader; only the specifics have to be filled it. For example, I’m a 33-year-old single professional woman whose parents would like to see her married. Everyone *knows* that story – that woman could be Black, Jewish, Greek, Italian, or Regency spinster.

    But it’s the specifics that draw people in, and I have loads of just those kinds of Indian-oriented stories in my own life. One woman got dumped by her white fiancee weeks before the wedding, picked herself up, joined a desi dating site and found her Indian husband six months later. How would a romance author get her from the dumping to the dating to the guy? An Indian guy I know – his parents held their breath convinced he was going to marry a non-Indian; dude kept his culture at arm’s length his whole life, dated all the colors of the rainbow EXCEPT Indian women, had a devastating breakup with the Black woman who he thought was the love of his life, and then met the type of Desi girl who he didn’t know existed. What was THAT about? Another girl is one of those “perfect” Indian-American children that every parent admires – Chinmaya Mission, classical dance, honors student, popular in school, a doctor now, the list goes ON. She’s decided that when the time is right, she’ll have her mom find the right Indian guy for her – she’ll be too busy with her career, and her mom knows how this stuff works so why not leave it all her hands? This girl is too wonderful to not have all her expectations of life and assumptions about herself upended by a hero that she never saw coming. What does her HEA look like? For that matter, what happened to Gogol in Jhumpa Lahiri’s Namesake?

    The tension between societal expectations and individual desires is at the crux of historical romance’s appeal. Traditional cultures in contemporary society represent a modern take on that same tension. I’d think this intersection of traditional/modern would be a natural fit for romance (or chick lit or women’s fiction, for that matter).

    A story about how today’s Desi men and women negotiate this fundamental part of their lives – *that* I would read.

    But the kind of stories that evoke the East India Company and nabobs – I’m done with that.

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  114. Sunita
    Jun 10, 2012 @ 19:58:49

    @Danielle: It was both. He was raised by his ayah who hid him after the Mutiny, and his skin was darkened at various times so he could pass for Indian.

    I didn’t know about the Kama Kahanis until Kim T. brought them up in her guest post on South Asian romance a few weeks ago. “Older Harlequin from the other side of the mirror” is the way they sounded to me too.

    @Janine: You may have meant it as a rhetorical question, but it’s one my cousins and I used to debate quite a bit. Is it better to have pro-colonial and other stereotypical movies/books/TV series about Indians, or nothing at all? We went with the former, just because then at least Indians were featured. I still remember when Gandhi premiered in India. There was a lot of excitement and pride, even though all of us knew how historically nutty it was in parts (not to mention the white-person-in-every-period-of-Gandhi’s-life-and-on-the-screen). At least they were filming in India, using Indian actors, and portraying Indians as intelligent, interesting people.

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  115. Sunita
    Jun 10, 2012 @ 20:12:47

    @Anu: Hear hear. I married so late that my parents and family had given up on me. My aunt died of cancer when I was in my twenties and in my late thirties my uncle gave me a pair of pearl earrings she had set aside as my marriage gift before her death. He said he wasn’t sure I’d ever get there and he knew she’d have wanted me to have them.

    The tension between societal expectations and individual desires is at the crux of historical romance’s appeal. Traditional cultures in contemporary society represent a modern take on that same tension. I’d think this intersection of traditional/modern would be a natural fit for romance (or chick lit or women’s fiction, for that matter).

    I absolutely agree. But I think this is a storyline that is tough to write for authors from outside the culture. The idea of the arranged marriage that the participants request goes against every stereotype of what an arranged marriage is (and represents). I think a non-Indian author could do it, but I understand why they’d be hesitant to try.

    I still want to read about colonial India, but please, give us a 21stC take on colonialism, cross-cultural love, and the tension between individuals and society. I’m not demanding authors be versed in the work of Edward Said or subaltern studies , but can we please bury the MM Kaye version?

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  116. Janine
    Jun 10, 2012 @ 22:14:50

    @Kerry Connor & @Inez Kelley: Thanks! I’ll check these out.

    You may have meant it as a rhetorical question, but it’s one my cousins and I used to debate quite a bit. Is it better to have pro-colonial and other stereotypical movies/books/TV series about Indians, or nothing at all? We went with the former, just because then at least Indians were featured.

    That is ultimately how I feel, but I can understand your debate with your cousin. At the same time, as a writer I feel trepidation at the thought of writing protagonists of ethnic backgrounds other than the white/Christian background that is common throughout western literature and therefore feels easier as well as less fraught to approach. So I understand where authors who choose not to write minority protagonists are coming from, too.

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  117. Anu
    Jun 10, 2012 @ 23:19:15

    @Sunita:

    I married so late that my parents and family had given up on me. My aunt died of cancer when I was in my twenties and in my late thirties my uncle gave me a pair of pearl earrings she had set aside as my marriage gift before her death. He said he wasn’t sure I’d ever get there and he knew she’d have wanted me to have them.

    Oh, that hurts – Indians have no filters, do they, especially within family. It hasn’t gotten that bad yet, but I’m dreading it already. On the other hand, your experience is reassuring to me, so thank you sharing:)

    I absolutely agree. But I think this is a storyline that is tough to write for authors from outside the culture. The idea of the arranged marriage that the participants request goes against every stereotype of what an arranged marriage is (and represents). I think a non-Indian author could do it, but I understand why they’d be hesitant to try.

    I think it’s all fraught, and those writing non-white characters and settings can’t get away from that. As Lynn Raye Harris, Jeannie Lin, Jill Sorenson, and other authors have noted it’s a risk, period, whether the work is good or not. At least with contemps, there’s the possibility of cultivating living sources to answer questions. How did Meljean Brook do it? I think her husband is Indian? And perhaps she queried desi friends?

    But I’m not sure the success of non-white romances turns on the opinions of the fans that match h/h’s ethnicity or race. As others have noted, the Greek tycoons and sheikhs are written for Western audiences, and it wouldn’t matter whether actual Greeks and sheikhs criticized it (it would, however, be hilarious). Sales are the final answer, and they matter much more than whether a handful of fans think the stories authentic or not. Actually, I’m absolutely sure that the success of non-white stories does NOT turn on any opinions about authenticity.

    I’m not demanding authors be versed in the work of Edward Said or subaltern studies , but can we please bury the MM Kaye version?

    100% agree. Also, subaltern studies – *sigh* college memories.

    @Janine, @Sunita:

    A couple of years ago, NBC network broadcast a half-hour sitcom called “Outsourced,” set in a call center in India. I cringed through a few episodes before calling it quits. “Outsourced” was later cancelled, not because it was bad – there are a lot of bad yet successful shows – but because the show committed the far worse crime of being unwatched. We all know that quality has nothing to do with what media promotes to us – that’s just the way mass culture works.

    I feel no sense of obligation to support unsatisfying cultural products – I think because these days there are too many other options for me to feel tied to one. I’ll give something a shot, especially if it’s Indian, but over time, you learn what works for you and what doesn’t, and it’s a waste for me to continue trying something that just hasn’t worked for me (e.g., Indians in historical romance).

    These days, if the overculture doesn’t satisfy, maybe there are talented Indians online, underground, or on their way up (e.g., Aziz Ansari or Mindy Kaling who ROCKS). If I need an “Indian” fix, I’d go to other places – Bollywood, books, music, blogs, etc.

    It would be nice to find romances that tell the kind of Indian love stories that I want to read, but I guess I don’t think hate-reading bad romance gets me anything more than a good rant.

    Having said that, I really wanted to like that new ABC show, “Scandal,” because it was the first primetime show with a Black woman as solo lead. And I *did* feel guilty when I realized it just wasn’t my thing.

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  118. Suleikha Snyder
    Jun 11, 2012 @ 05:54:21

    @Anu: I’m determined to put out those kinds of stories: desi and American desi people falling in love just like everybody else, with all the hang-ups that go with it, from inside the culture. I have sort of a lofty goal of writing Indian characters in as many romantic subgenres as I can: erotic romance, contemporary romance, paranormal, etc. But I feel like it’s such a climb to find the readership, because the default go-to for those who want to read about the Indian experience written by Indians is women’s fiction rather than romance.

    Reading the discussions at DA of late has been heartening, but also just a bigger piece of the overall puzzle: Where do we find diverse romance? How do we make it “hit”? Would readers rather find diversity in Harlequin category titles than in single title works?

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  119. Ros
    Jun 11, 2012 @ 06:04:11

    I think part of the problem is that diversity is, well, diverse. If I want to read romance featuring white Westerners, I have masses to choose from – I can find secret baby stories, rom sus, historical, category, single title and so on. I can find characters who live ordinary lives, characters who are billionaires, small town, big city and all the rest. I can read about people whose experience of life is like mine and people whose experience is completely different.

    If I want to read romance featuring practically any other ethnic group, I have only a tiny selection to choose from and so the likelihood of finding authors I love, settings I love, tropes I love and so on is much, much tinier. So basically, I do think that there need to be more books I don’t enjoy written with these characters, to increase the chances of finding the ones I do enjoy. That doesn’t mean giving authors a free pass to get things wrong, or that they shouldn’t be called out for writing bad books. But I think it does mean giving them a fair chance. If you’d pass over the book but for the ethnicity of the characters, then maybe there’s no need to read it, let alone review it critically, just because of the ethnicity of the characters?

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  120. Jayne
    Jun 11, 2012 @ 06:57:51

  121. Meri
    Jun 11, 2012 @ 08:19:14

    @Janine:
    Well, the Sheikhs at least don’t have much to do with the real life sheikhs, so I doubt authors would get an Israeli hero right without some familiarity with Israeli culture and society. Probably you’d see some sort of super-commando type – which makes me wonder why there don’t seem to be any IDF veterans in RS books.

    @Jayne:
    I clicked over to the review, and I must say that the probability of someone named Gideon being both Israeli and the right age to star in a Harlequin is slim.

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  122. Sunita
    Jun 11, 2012 @ 09:05:08

    @Suleikha Snyder: To some extent, readers will go where the diversity is. But the large number of subgenres in romance does create a bit of a problem. For example, I think Alisha Rai writes terrific, realistic characters and I’ve enjoyed the two stories by here that I’ve read. But I specifically read those stories because of the South Asian characters and the author; I don’t read a lot of erotic romance as a rule.

    I think Harlequin matters because it publishes so many books, so there are more opportunities for diverse characters given the number of releases, and also, the lines are onsidered (fairly or unfairly) to be somewhat conservative (in subject matter and readership). So if diverse characters are showing up in Harlequin, that’s quite a signal to authors and publishers.

    @Ros: You’re leaving out the fact that a trope is going to play out differently in different cultural contexts. A secret baby plot in a story featuring South Asians should play out differently than one set in white liberal Minneapolis, for example. So no, I don’t think that stories with characters of different ethnicities are interchangeable, or at least they shouldn’t be. I agree that a story shouldn’t be reviewed (and judged) strictly on the basis of whether the ethnic aspects “work.” But if the author is doing her job, those ethnic aspects are woven into the whole story, not just slapped on to the characterizations.

    But I think it does mean giving them a fair chance. If you’d pass over the book but for the ethnicity of the characters, then maybe there’s no need to read it, let alone review it critically, just because of the ethnicity of the characters?

    I’m not sure I’m understanding you here. Are you saying we shouldn’t review books that we’ve picked up specifically because they have minority characters, because we can’t give them a fair review? That is, if I read a romantic suspense that I wouldn’t ordinarily read because it has non-white characters, that’s not fair to the author because since I don’t generally read those books, I’m not likely to review it as well as I’d review a book in a genre I do seek out?

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  123. Janine
    Jun 11, 2012 @ 09:32:28

    @Meri: LOL about the Gideon thing! They are all in my parents’ generation. (Tip for anyone writing Jewish characters: Since in Judaism children aren’t named after living relatives, boys’ names go in and out of style with the generations).

    I agree, they likely wouldn’t be authentic, but the absence of it is still glaring to me — although it may not be meant that way, it feels like a statement that we aren’t worthy of happy endings, or of writing about in a romantic way. I feel the same way about all the miracle cures to infertility in romances — it’s almost like a statement that you can’t be infertile and find happiness, which is contrary to my experience.

    which makes me wonder why there don’t seem to be any IDF veterans in RS books.

    Exactly. I wonder too.

    Or Israeli entrepreneurs in the Presents books. I was at the hairdresser yesterday and they had the issue of Time with the cover story on Bibi. I started skimming it and saw they mentioned that after the US and China, Israel has the most companies on the Nasdaq. If it’s in Time magazine, why hasn’t it penetrated?

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  124. Janine
    Jun 11, 2012 @ 10:31:55

    @Jayne: Thanks. I would much rather read a Passover story though!

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  125. Suleikha Snyder
    Jun 11, 2012 @ 11:06:22

    @Sunita: I enjoy Alisha Rai’s stuff, too! I do tend to read more erotic romance, however, so for me it was definitely a double win.

    if diverse characters are showing up in Harlequin, that’s quite a signal to authors and publishers.

    I certainly hope so! It’s all about the foot in the door. Now I just want someone to blow the door wide open and throw a party!

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  126. Ros
    Jun 11, 2012 @ 11:59:35

    @Sunita: You’re totally right about the tropes playing out differently in different contexts.

    (This is a generic ‘you’, not a ‘you, Sunita’ throughout): I guess that’s sort of what I’m saying. If it’s a book you’re predisposed to dislike because of its subgenre or tropes or whatever, that you’re only reading because of its ethnic characters/setting, then I’m not sure why you’d read it. And it
    wouldn’t be surprising if you disliked it for all those reasons, no matter how good the portrayal of the ethnic setting.

    If you choose to review it then to be fair to the author (and other readers) it would be important to state upfront that it’s not your sort of thing, so that people can read the review in the light of that. Or you might decide that it’s not worth reviewing at all.

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  127. Ros
    Jun 11, 2012 @ 12:02:13

    @Ros: Hmm. “I’m not sure why you’d read it” sounds a bit more patronising than I meant it to. I do get why you’d read it, I just think I would still expect other genre preferences to be a significant factor in whether you’d enjoy it.

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  128. Meri
    Jun 11, 2012 @ 12:30:16

    @Janine:
    Yes, entrepreneurs would definitely be another way to go about it. I think even if an author wants to stick to a US setting, it’s so easy to make it cross-cultural these days – people travel, hi-tech employees often do extended relocations (a friend of mine met her partner while on relocation), many people go abroad for university studies (especially graduate school). As soon as you have two people from different countries and cultures, there’s some built-in conflict right there. To me, that would definitely be more interesting than the “this is just a casual hookup, I can’t fall in love” stuff that’s become all too common in contemporaries.

    I’m not very interested in Hanukkah stories, either; it feels to me like Christmas stories with the tree traded in for a Menorah. Hanukkah’s not even a major Jewish holiday.

    If ever an author decides to try writing a romance with Israeli characters, I’d be happy to offer advice – about names, at least! :-)

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  129. Anu
    Jun 11, 2012 @ 13:11:24

    @Meri:

    If ever an author decides to try writing a romance with Israeli characters, I’d be happy to offer advice – about names, at least! :-)

    Meri’s comment makes me wonder if there are online tools for authors to crowdsource information for their stories, or maybe something like Quora to get questions answered. They could ask about anything from Israeli names to Regency silverware to Indian matrimonial sites.

    You’d have to find a way to determine credibility, but there’s gotta be a way to do this. The fanbase is just too varied and wide to not represent some type of resource. AND commenters may even feel some investment in the book that they in some way contributed to.

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  130. Janine
    Jun 11, 2012 @ 13:31:58

    I think even if an author wants to stick to a US setting, it’s so easy to make it cross-cultural these days – people travel, hi-tech employees often do extended relocations (a friend of mine met her partner while on relocation), many people go abroad for university studies [especially graduate school]. As soon as you have two people from different countries and cultures, there’s some built-in conflict right there. To me, that would definitely be more interesting than the “this is just a casual hookup, I can’t fall in love” stuff that’s become all too common in contemporaries.

    Agreed.

    I’m not very interested in Hanukkah stories, either; it feels to me like Christmas stories with the tree traded in for a Menorah.

    Bingo! That’s how I feel about them too, but I’m never sure if an American-born Jewish reader would share that feeling. My parents never made much out of Hanukkah but they were Israeli. And now that I’m married to a man who isn’t Jewish, my Hanukkah gets subsumed by Christmas, sad to say.

    Ergo, I’d much rather read about a major Jewish holiday. Passover did make an appearance in one of Megan Hart’s works — I can’t recall which, but I don’t think it was one of her better ones. (Dirty was a great erotic novel [and IMO quite romantic] with a Jewish-American hero.. I’ve also greatly enjoyed Alisa Kwitney’s chick lit which has Jewish-American protagonists).

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  131. Evangeline Holland
    Jun 11, 2012 @ 15:22:08

    @Ros: You bring up a very interesting point. I seek out black or mixed heroines, since that’s my ethnic background, but sometimes I feel guilty (?) when I bypass a book with a black/mixed heroine that does not interest me because there’s a major chance it’d be ignored by mainstream readers and I should use my platform to highlight them. Then (writer hat on) there’s the whole burden of representation issue, and the aggravation that the ethnicity of my characters–and most likely me–will be the first thing people see.

    @Anu: Meri’s comment makes me wonder if there are online tools for authors to crowdsource information for their stories, or maybe something like Quora to get questions answered..

    I would love this. I’m writing a contemporary romance after yeeeeeeeears of immersing myself in historicals, and I’m realizing just why I shied away from contemps for so long. It’s much, much easier to get things wrong in the here and now than it is in the past–and the people are alive to call you out on mistakes!

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  132. Beth
    Jun 11, 2012 @ 15:37:16

    Not sure if anyone mentioned Cara McKenna’s Don’t Call Her Angel
    Hero is from Jerusalem Ex military

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  133. Meri
    Jun 11, 2012 @ 16:11:08

    @Anu:
    I like this idea. Readers have such diverse backgrounds and it could be a wonderful resource.

    @Beth:
    I’ve heard about it, and I’ve liked most of what I’ve read from McKenna/McGuire. However, I’m not sure how realistic the hero’s background is; could you give me some more details (beyond the basics)?

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  134. Beth
    Jun 11, 2012 @ 16:53:29

    Meri,

    It’s in my TBR pile. Tori Benson did a review of it on Heroes and Heartbreakers.

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  135. Ridley
    Jun 11, 2012 @ 17:39:25

    @Evangeline Holland:

    : Meri’s comment makes me wonder if there are online tools for authors to crowdsource information for their stories

    Isn’t that called “Twitter?”

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  136. Evangeline Holland
    Jun 11, 2012 @ 18:52:19

    @Ridley: I rarely use Twitter for anything connected with writing. A website like Formspring would work.

    ReplyReply

  137. Books I Got at BEA ’12: Romance Edition | Read React Review
    Jun 11, 2012 @ 19:59:01

    [...] very sorry I missed the Entangled booth. But Jane Litte of Dear Author has a report on them. Share this:EmailFacebookStumbleUponPrint Tags: Andrew Grey, Eloisa James, Geri Krotow, Jill [...]

  138. Kaetrin
    Jun 11, 2012 @ 20:39:24

    @Janine – I’m not sure this counts as an Jewish hero but I read a book ages ago which was very romantic and featured a gorgeous guy who joined the Israeli Air Force and fell in love with a beautiful Jewish Israeli girl. It’s Eagle in the Sky by Wilbur Smith. I think it is very much a romance even though I don’t suppose it was marketed that way.

    The author’s website has this to say :
    “Young David Morgan, gifted heir apparent to a South African fortune, rebels against the boardroom future mapped out for him with sickening predictability by his family. Drawn to the sky as though to his natural element, he trains to become a brilliant jet pilot and, fleeing from his home and all it stands for, sets out to make his own life.

    But after meeting Debra, an attractive young Israeli writer and university lecturer, once more free choice seems his no longer. Drawn to Jerusalem to find her, he is straightway plunged into Israel’s nerve-snapping struggle for survival.
    Mirage pilots as skilled as he are at a premium, and both memories of his own mother and his growing passion for Debra make involvement with this new country’s cause inescapable.
    But excitement and exhilaration are checked by a violent reality, as the war which has drawn David and Debra so close, threatens to tear them apart.
    The story of David’s anguished fight to preserve their love from the destruction and mutilation of war, and replant it in the relative – if not wholly unbroken – peace of the remote South African wilds….”

    I haven’t read it in ages, so I don’t know how well it holds up now and as I’m not Jewish nor Israeli, I cannot speak to it’s accuracy in terms of ethnic representation, but I do remember re-reading this one and it’s one of my favourites of his books because it is very romantic. He’s horribly burned, she’s blinded… oh the angst!! :) I believe David converts to Judaism early in the book – but I may be misremembering – it’s possible he’s Jewish at the start, I can’t remember now! You mentioned above about the rarity of the hot Jewish hero and David’s story arc is very much about how he’s beautiful and gorgeous and then he’s horribly burned and scarred etc.

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  139. Kaetrin
    Jun 11, 2012 @ 20:44:46

    Can I also just say that I’m really enjoying this fascinating discussion. I learn many things from reading romance novels and stuff about how a secret baby trope would be different in a SE Asian culture vs. a midwest US culture is fascinating to me (- even though I’m not a big fan of a secret baby trope generally). I can’t say that I’d read a book because it has ethnic characters (although I totally did with Duke of Shadows), but it wouldn’t put me off if the story interested me either.

    But then, I read and loved (a long time ago now) MM Kaye’s The Far Pavillions and Shadows of the Moon and Trade Winds so I expect I’ve been fed a diet of inaccurate ethnic representations over the years and I need to read things which are more accurate. I love Outlander too and I hear that’s full of misrepresentation of Scottish history…. I’m not sure what that says about me: :D

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  140. Isobel Carr
    Jun 11, 2012 @ 20:49:39

    @Ridley: I see it used that way all the time. It’s great great for quick facts and crowd sourcing ideas.

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  141. Janine
    Jun 11, 2012 @ 21:50:29

    @Beth: That sounds interesting — I’ll have to check the review you mentioned to Meri.

    @Kaetrin: Thanks. Just based on the description, I’d be wary of inaccuracies, and again because of a naming issue. Debra isn’t pronounced that way in Hebrew (it’s Dvora) and even if it were, it isn’t the best fit age-wise unless the book is set in the sixties.

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  142. Kaetrin
    Jun 11, 2012 @ 22:01:39

    @Janine: It was published in 1974 so I think it is set in the sixties. :)

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  143. Anu
    Jun 11, 2012 @ 22:56:38

    @Suleikha Snyder:

    I feel like it’s such a climb to find the readership, because the default go-to for those who want to read about the Indian experience written by Indians is women’s fiction rather than romance.

    Interesting – is there a great deal of Indian women’s fiction? If you wrote a straight contemp with Indian h/h, I would read it.

    It *is* to a climb to find your readers – there’s no getting around the fact that romances focused on non-white and disabled characters have strikes against them right off the bat. Hell, black romances aren’t even on the field, and African-American romance authors have been fighting this battle for *decades*.

    The only thing that I can say as a reader is that if you write a story in the subgenres I read (these days, straight contemps and some PNR), I will read it.

    Reading the discussions at DA of late has been heartening, but also just a bigger piece of the overall puzzle: Where do we find diverse romance? How do we make it “hit”? Would readers rather find diversity in Harlequin category titles than in single title works?

    IMO, you (general “you”) seed every field that’s open it you and see what it grows. Not sure that’s much of a career strategy, though:)

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  144. Anu
    Jun 11, 2012 @ 23:05:58

    @Ridley: I was thinking of a site in which you could organize and store the generated info and really create a knowledge base. But you’re right – Twitter is the natural place to go these days with any kind of info request.

    Reddit might also be a good place to find answers.

    @Evangeline Holland:

    I rarely use Twitter for anything connected with writing. A website like Formspring would work

    I’ve never tried Formspring – is it like Quora?

    It’s worth trying out writing-related tweets, just to test the response. You could create a couple of different accounts if you want to keep the writing separate.

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  145. Meri
    Jun 12, 2012 @ 00:49:05

    Twitter isn’t very searchable, as far as I can tell – and neither is Formspring, for that matter. So that’s maybe more effective if people see the question more or less in real time, and then you could be missing out on a lot of readers who don’t notice a tweet. Like Anu, I think something that can also be used as a database would be really great.

    As far as I can work out from the reviews, the hero of Don’t Call Her Angel is an Arab citizen of Israel from Jerusalem who served in the Israeli military. If I got that right, I’d love to know how McKenna explained it because it’s not a likely combination.

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  146. Maili
    Jun 12, 2012 @ 01:37:42

    @Sunita:

    You’re leaving out the fact that a trope is going to play out differently in different cultural contexts. A secret baby plot in a story featuring South Asians should play out differently than one set in white liberal Minneapolis, for example. So no, I don’t think that stories with characters of different ethnicities are interchangeable, or at least they shouldn’t be.

    I’m a bit wary about ‘should’ for the cases of American (or Australian, Irish, Canadian, British, etc) families. While I strongly agree that it’s not interchangeable (and certainly shouldn’t be), but surely, it depends on each family and/or background?

    I noticed some authors tried their best to infuse some certain cultural references in the backgrounds of their, say, Chinese American characters to highlight their heritage when sometimes it wasn’t necessary, or often “in wrong places”.

    I mean, I’m thinking of Scottish Chinese families. Some made the effort to keep in touch with their ancestral culture while some others – like mine – didn’t at all. Loads of them couldn’t even speak their family languages, often relying on their parents as translators to understand their visiting grandparents. I don’t get Wuxia and I certainly can’t speak Chinese, yet I grew up seeing a Chinese lunar calendar on my gran’s kitchen wall and having Chinese-influenced meals that we didn’t even know the names (in fact, I admit I relied on Candy Tan of Smart Bitches to help identifying). Despite some of our faces, all my relatives have Scottish names.

    In other words, for many families, the influence is there yet is never there. Not that different from, say, Irish American or Italian American families. Some are more set on keeping their ancestries alive while some don’t bother. I don’t see why this shouldn’t apply to families of non-European heritage/ancestry, especially if they were born and raised in a western country.

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  147. Maili
    Jun 12, 2012 @ 01:48:40

    @Anu:

    Meri’s comment makes me wonder if there are online tools for authors to crowdsource information for their stories, or maybe something like Quora to get questions answered. They could ask about anything from Israeli names to Regency silverware to Indian matrimonial sites.

    Here are the only ones I know —

    http://little-details.livejournal.com

    “Welcome to little_details, a community that helps writers with their research and fact-checking. We have a large, diverse membership that can answer questions such as:

    “If I hit my character on the head like so, what will happen?”
    “Will this destroy the Earth?”
    “Can guys have freckles on their penises?”

    All types of fiction writers–professional, amateur, fanfiction, original–are welcome to post questions. Our focus is on factual accuracy rather than general writing advice. If you’re still not sure what we’re about, reading our recent entries page should give you a better idea.”

    http://linguaphiles.livejournal.com

    “Community Purpose: This community is for those interested in languages. Anyone is welcome, from amateurs to professionals. Any topic related to languages, linguistics, grammar, history, etymology, morphology, or any related topics may be discussed. Questions related to one specific language are also welcome.”

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  148. Janine
    Jun 12, 2012 @ 09:20:06

    @Kaetrin: Thanks, but I don’t think I could get over the “Debra” pronunciation.

    @Meri: It happens very rarely but I believe Israeli Arabs are allowed to volunteer for IDF service. I agree it’s an unlikely background though.

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  149. Jane
    Jun 12, 2012 @ 09:21:13

    Sunita suggested that DA host a “Ask the Reader Expert” here at Dear Author. Maybe every Saturday or once a month. Is that something readers and authors might find of interest?

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  150. Anu
    Jun 12, 2012 @ 09:48:54

    @Evangeline Holland:

    I’m realizing just why I shied away from contemps for so long. It’s much, much easier to get things wrong in the here and now than it is in the past–and the people are alive to call you out on mistakes!

    Contemporaries really do present their own challenges. Readers can cut slack in historicals/PNR/other in ways they can’t in contemps because we *live* it. I’m reading a contemp right now in which the use of media and technology rankles me a bit. The author gets a lot right – people following Twitter feeds on their phones – but other things wrong in ways that are puzzling.

    But the good thing is that you-the-author live in this contemporary world – so you can be an expert in the day-to-day just by the fact that you live it. You have access to life via observation and immersion in ways that other genres do not allow.

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  151. Janine
    Jun 12, 2012 @ 10:44:56

    @Jane: I think that’s a wonderful idea. I’m not sure how many people are still following this thread, so if you want more feedback it might be good to ask in a newer post.

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  152. Anu
    Jun 12, 2012 @ 11:30:17

    @Jane:

    Second Janine’s suggestion of a separate post. My main question is: how would this work? The way we’ve been talking about it in this thread, questions are generated by authors, and readers step up if they have something to contribute.

    Are you instead thinking of it as: Policewoman Reader answers questions re: law enforcement-type thing?

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  153. Meri
    Jun 12, 2012 @ 11:33:38

    @Jane:
    I agree with Janine – great idea, but best to ask about it on a newer post; maybe add it to one of the daily midday updates?

    @Janine:
    Yes, there are quite a few Arab citizens in the IDF, but it’s mainly Bedouin and Druze, who AFAIK do not live in Jerusalem.

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  154. Ridley
    Jun 12, 2012 @ 12:27:57

    This has been a wonderful conversation. I don’t have a ton to add, being white and all and not an author, but it’s been fun to read.

    I really hope we do see more multiculturalism in romance in the near future. Not because it’s the “right” thing to do, but because that would best resemble the world I live in. I’m in this for purely selfish reasons. I’ve never lived in a majority white community. My high school was something like 40% white, 35% southeast Asian and 25% a little of everything else. In addition to French, Spanish, Latin and Italian, my public city high school offered Greek, Portuguese and Khmer. I played soccer with a Cambodian girl whose family Did Not Approve of her playing sports, but I also was in a play with a gay Vietnamese boy whose family was supportive. One of my best friends was a girl who came over from Hungary when she was 12, and another was off-the-boat Greek. So the middle-class, uniformly-white, culturally-homogenous world of romance is just weird to me.

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  155. new_user
    Jun 12, 2012 @ 16:35:42

    No one’s culture is monolithic, and racial issues don’t define us or our stories. So just write those POCs, and write them as human. You’ll be fine. Right now, the exclusive representation of my culture is in stereotypes. I’d love to see something more normal.

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  156. Evangeline Holland
    Jun 12, 2012 @ 17:37:38

    @Anu:

    But the good thing is that you-the-author live in this contemporary world – so you can be an expert in the day-to-day just by the fact that you live it. You have access to life via observation and immersion in ways that other genres do not allow.

    Ironically, it’s the specifics of contemporary life that worry at me, whereas historicals can coast along on the general. So Jane and Sunita’s suggestion interests me:

    Sunita suggested that DA host a “Ask the Reader Expert” here at Dear Author. Maybe every Saturday or once a month. Is that something readers and authors might find of interest?

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  157. Lynn S.
    Jun 12, 2012 @ 18:04:31

    Like Ridley, I’ve enjoyed following the discussion (resulting from a Harlequin Q&A post, amazing), but being an American of mainly Swedish decent didn’t think I had anything to add to the conversation that was developing. Now that things are winding down I do want to say that I feel a large part of the American culture involves the jettisoning of ancestral heritage, regardless of race or ethnicity, so that, no matter the color of our skin, a good number of us become processed into some form or another of white bread. If heritage isn’t a part of our lives as children, the most we can hope to gain as adults is an approximation. To all the authors willing to take chances, don’t become discouraged, there are readers out there who are interested in what you have to say.

    Regarding a reader expert post, it sounds like a wonderful idea to me. I think most readers would be more than happy to help out authors in this way. If you decide to do it, I think this is one place a threaded comment section would be helpful.

    @Ridley: I hope your optimism about cover changes pays off. I have no problem if the circle goes the way of the dodo, but still believe the recognition factor weighs in favor of keeping it around. Your “8th grade reading level” made me snort because I’m somewhat afraid, given the success of certain authors recently, it may prove prescient.

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  158. Sunita
    Jun 12, 2012 @ 23:40:51

    @Maili: Sorry it took me to long to respond. You are absolutely right; I should have said “may” rather than “should.” Also, because I was assuming Anu was speaking from a US perspective (I could be totally wrong about this), I was thinking of second generation rather than further back (outside of Sikh farmers in Stockton California, the Indian population was tiny pre-1970).

    I haven’t looked at the figures (lately), but given anti-miscegenation laws and the one-drop rule/convention, there was not much intermarriage in the US pre-1965. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t any, though (my parents and President Obama’s parents being two cases in point), and it’s important not to assume a uniform experience across people and across different minority populations. And once you count in Hawaii (Asians could come to the mainland states from the territory of Hawaii in the early and mid-20th century, so East Asian immigrants had that route after direct immigration was prohibited), it gets even more complicated.

    Which is a meandering way of saying that authors should approach their own characters in whatever way works for them, but it’s helpful if they know what the “standard” or most common experience is for the real-life equivalent of their characters. If only to give a hat-tip to those readers who have that experience in their minds as they are reading. That absolutely does not mean that they have to write characters who only reflect the most common experience.

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  159. Cultivating Tolerance: A multicultural solution
    Jun 19, 2012 @ 04:01:12

    [...] very next day, Jane posted a Dear Author column on BEA, in which she noted [...]

  160. Nadia Lee
    Jun 19, 2012 @ 08:30:18

    @Jeannie Lin:

    With one addition that I don’t think the main goal of writing a POC character is necessarily to bring in more readers of that ethnicity or non-white readers. For instance, I feel Chinese readers are more reluctant to read Chinese historical romances in English because – and these are just general comments I’ve seen stated on blogs — they’re wary of mistakes made about their own culture or they’d rather just read a book in their native language if they’re looking for Chinese settings and Chinese characters. Greek tycoons are not meant to bring in more Greek readers. The purpose is to weave these experiences into mainstream fiction so more of the general readership will adopt and enjoy.

    I’m the same way. You can’t pay me to read romance novels set in Korea or Japan (or have main characters from either country) right now because I was burned one too many times and wasted way too much money. I initially bought them automatically to show my support — I really wanted more non-NA or Regency stuff — but not anymore. If somebody screws up some Regency or Victorian social etiquette or whatever, I don’t care b/c I don’t know and it doesn’t impact my enjoyment of the romance. If somebody screws up something about Japan or Korea, I WILL notice, and I WILL be too irritated to enjoy the story.

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  161. Lana
    Oct 03, 2012 @ 18:02:55

    The more I read about the new Harlequin Kiss line, the more I feel this is the relaunch of the Temptation line that they ended a few years ago.

    ReplyReply

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