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Discourteous Discourse & Why Erotica Is Killing the Romance Genre

Is criticism or questioning always discourteous? Can we have intelligent disagreement or will it also devolve into a catfight. Alternatively, is all female centered disagreement automatically termed a catfight? Karen S brought to the blogosphere’s attention the interview of Jill Barnett over at The Book Bitches. I have some thoughts about Ms. Barnett’s comments (the author of the delightful Bewitching) that I am going to expound upon below. But in my attempt to get a clarification, I was smacked down by the blog owner, in the nicest way possible.

Mrs. Barnett is a very gracious lady, I doubt she will come here and “have it out” with anyone over what are her views and personal opinions –" neither would I allow it.
She has her way of thinking and expressed it very eloquently in this interview. She is entitled to it and need not explain herself to anyone here (if she wishes to do so elsewhere that's her prerogative). . . .
I am very much for free speech and all that, but I WILL NOT have one of these tasteless bloggers-readers-authors catfights in my home. I hope you understand :)

Every blog owner has the right to run her blog in whatever way she wants. Viscious Trollop has a right to put the kabosh on discussion she does not want to continue on her blog. I completely respect that and my question below is no reflection on The Book Bitches or the way that they chose to run their blog. But the blog owner’s response raised a question even beyond the ones generated by Ms. Barnett’s comments:

Is any challenge to an author’s opinion considered tasteless and an opening salvo in author/reader catfight?

I would hope not. If an author offers up an opinion, she should be open to comment and criticism of that opinion (even if she herself chooses to abstain from discussion). I am sure that we can have disagreement without it spiraling downward and being labeled a catfight. If we cannot, what does that say about us as women? Nothing good.

So what did Ms. Barnett say that I found a bit controversial?

I am a huge believer in writing to your own vision and truth. I write Jill Barnett books. I write commercial fiction books, which are stories about people and about honest emotion and life and love. . .

These two facets you mentioned, chic lit and erotica, now attached wrongly to romance, and the dull uninspired limits placed on the historical romance genre by publishing houses is the reason we have lost 75% of our romance readers. Romance has always sold strongly before, so a new genre attaching itself to romance only helps the new genre. But it is the brilliant writers within a genre who make it more than merely genre, who elevate the content and a story and character and who rise to bestsellerdom. . . .

Even for top sellers now inside the genre, the print runs are 70% less than they used to be. Readers buy an author's voice, her way of storytelling, not a type of book. There is little room for voice inside erotica and erotica gets old fast. Chic lit is its own genre. However, paranormal series books are very popular, selling better than chic lit and erotica, and are written by authors whose vision is and always was to the paranormal, authors like Christine Feehan and Laurel K Hamilton and Sherrilyn Kenyon. Their visions and voices are successful. Readers recognize honesty.

My query to Ms. Barnett would be this. How many erotica books are you reading? What have you read in the past? How do you know that the rise of erotica is driving away readers? Where are you getting your numbers? Why categorize erotica outside the romance genre? If readers are moving away from traditional romances to spicier romances, aren’t they still buying romances? What is it about hot sex that limits an author’s voice?

To me, the statements by Ms. Barnett are provocative and challenging. The comments suggest that those readers who enjoy the erotica or romantica or whatever we are calling it don’t care for a “voice” or “honesty”. They suggest romance authors who write spicier romances are the downfall of the largest selling genre in publishing history. The comments urge that all books with a certain explicitness must automatically be discounted as being voiceless. It’s an opinion that ignores the fact that sales have been declining in the romance genre before NY Publishers ever started rolling out its erotica lines. Ellora’s Cave and Samhain didn’t put print books into the stores until about a year ago.

I find it especially ironic that Ms. Barnett would hold up Laurell K Hamilton as an author whose visions “is and always was to the paranormal” since even LKH has publicly acknowledged she is writing erotica, the very genre that Ms. Barnett is decrying as partially responsible for the downfall of the romance genre. I wonder if Ms. Barnett has read LKH in the past five years. These types of broad generalizations condeming erotica give credence to the complaints that other authors have made regarding being marginalized within RWA even though what the authors are writing are books that fall closely within the definition of romance provided by the RWA.

Jill Barnett does get it right when she says “Readers buy an author's voice, her way of storytelling, not a type of book.” I think, ultimately, what is driving readers away is the lack of a quality romance regardless of the genre. Jayne and I are perfect examples of this. We’ll read anything so long as it is good.

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

24 Comments

  1. Tara Marie
    Jul 17, 2006 @ 08:11:38

    First I will say some of Jill Barnett’s older books will always have a home on my keeper shelf.

    I think you’re over analyzing what she said.

    Chick Lit and Erotica are not part of the romance genre, though are marketed to romance readers. Erotica and Erotic romance are 2 different genres. She never once said Erotic Romance isn’t part of the romance genre. Maybe she meant Erotic Romance, but she never said it.

    And, she is correct in pointing out that

    the dull uninspired limits placed on the historical romance genre by publishing houses is the reason we have lost 75% of our romance readers.

    Now I can’t say whether or not 75% of historical romance readers have given up the genre, but just go over to the AAR ATBF message board and read Gemini’s comments about historical romance and you realize that many readers are disappointed with what is being put out by the publishing houses, Avon in particular.

    Readers buy an author’s voice, her way of storytelling, not a type of book. There is little room for voice inside erotica and erotica gets old fast.

    Now, this may annoy some people, assuming she meant erotic romance I have to agree with this to a point. 10-15% of what I read falls under what has been marketed as Erotic Romance. I find there are authors like Emma Holly that have a distinctive voice, but by and far I find the storytelling and voice gets lost in the sex. I read one over the weekend which was one sex scene after another pulled together by an incredibly weak plot and boring storytelling. I find this to be the case more times than not and that’s rather disappointing. I know, I know, I’m reading the wrong books, right? I actually think I am reading the wrong erotic romances, and need to do a better job in choosing them.

    Is any challenge to an author’s opinion considered tasteless and an opening salvo in author/reader catfight?

    Ah, now there is a question. If we act like adults a challenge to an author’s opinion doesn’t have to be considered tasteless. But, unfortunatly when fangirls become involved and authors and readers become defensive it will eventually become one of these tasteless bloggers-readers-authors catfights.

  2. Nonny
    Jul 17, 2006 @ 08:27:31

    The early Anita Blake books weren’t paranormal — they were urban fantasy. I’m not quite sure why she wants to attribute them to romance, because for the first half of the series, the romance was not the driving force of the plot. Even nowadays, I don’t think it is. LKH, at this point, is writing more paranormal erotica than anything else.

    Honestly, her opinion sounds like it’s coming from someone who has only read the average or bad chick lit and erotica novels. Frankly, I think there’s a lot of them out there. (Granted, there’s the whole “90% of everything is crap” rule, but chick lit, at least, IMO, has been growing very stagnant as a genre lately.)

    As for opinions and catfights, I think it depends. When it’s an author’s own blog, I think asking for clarification isn’t much of an issue. (Depending on author.) With something like an interview, though, there’s going to be more fan involvement, which can result in catfights cause of readers jumping to the “OMG!! How DARE you QUESTION my FAVVVVVORITE author’s opinion?” factor.

    I think, though, that the blog owner overreacted. I’m still mildly peeved by that note.

  3. Tilly Greene
    Jul 17, 2006 @ 08:28:08

    We all have opinions, and discussion is a great way to learn about other aspects of an issue so we are more fully informed. Unfortunatly, I think some people choose to put their views out there in such a way as to get a rise out of others [going for the any publicity is good publicity]. I don’t watch TV that is full of shouting and finger pointing, why would I want to read it? It is ugly and I’ll use my spending money elsewhere, thank you very much. Yup, I might miss out on some great reads but it is a risk I’ll take.

    I have been reading romances for about 25+ years, starting with Sweet Savage Love, and my tastes have changed over the years. I thank the book Gods and Goddesses daily for ebooks! These independent houses bring out an abundance of choice, more than the big corporate run publishing houses, who by default are tied to the search for the next book they feel will be a bestseller and the fiscial benefits that go with it, and not necessarily what readers are looking for.

    For me as a “reader” I could care less what genre or how a book is categorized as long it is something that takes me away and puts me there in the book so I forget where I’m sitting while I read it.

    As always, great topic ladies :-)

  4. sybil
    Jul 17, 2006 @ 09:51:06

    I find it funny. The site is called book ‘bitches’, the admittedly few times I have been over there and read a bit of posts they seem to try and present the bloggers as honest, in your face ‘bitches’.

    Of course the site seems to have changes since they went to two bloggers vs the four I think there were.

    And I can understand wanting authors to feel comfy if you expect to promote your blog off of them. But at the same time if you are only going to allow ass licking and no questions of the authors you are nothing but a fangirl haven. Not that there is anything wrong with that, avon’s message board is doing fine like that.

    I didn’t see your post so I can’t say if you were seemed to be baiting the author. I do have to say I agree you are reading more into the statement than was there and that the author was blaming cookie cutter historical novels as much as digging at erotica.

    The ‘erotica shouldn’t be linked to romance’ part does lead me to believe the author doesn’t think erotic romance is ‘romance’ which I wouldn’t say it right. So I go back and forth between thinking she should be thrown in with beverly chick or not.

  5. Bev (BB)
    Jul 17, 2006 @ 10:12:44

    Okay, I can’t get past the 70% less comment.

    70%???

    Like . . . cut way more than half?

    How can that even be possible across the board and publishers still remain in businesss longterm?

  6. Nonny
    Jul 17, 2006 @ 10:14:52

    Bev said: How can that even be possible across the board and publishers still remain in businesss longterm?

    Yeah. I have trouble buying that exact figure, too.

  7. Jane
    Jul 17, 2006 @ 10:24:00

    TM & Syb: I could definitely be reading too much into the comment but is erotica really being attached to the romance genre or is the hotter romantica that’s intruding? I wish we all would be more precise in our terminology because it does lead to confusion.

    TM: It is hard to pick the right books, even within an author’s backlist. Case in point: Evangeline Anderson. I read two books by her this weekend. One was great and the other verged on pornographic for me.

    Nonny: LKH is writing erotica and that is why I thought holding her up as a standard for anything was a bit strange.

    Tilly: It does come down to the fact that a good book is a good book is a good book.

    Syb: I thought it was a bit ironic, too, that I was getting slapped down on a blog by the Book Bitches, lol, but that is totally their right. I can’t remember my exact post (I encouraged VT to delete my original comment since she thought it was too provocative and tasteless(?)) but it was no more than I stated here.

    Bev: I think it comes down to this. Editors may be saying to the authors: Your numbers are down and I can’t offer you the book contract you had in the past. You need to sex up your books in order to get better numbers. Of course, the author feels frustrated because that is not what she wants to write. The blame should be placed on the publishers because even though sex does sell, so do good books and requiring an author to write outside their “voice” does no one any good.

  8. Bev (BB)
    Jul 17, 2006 @ 10:36:15

    Um, Jane, that makes no sense to me, though. If an author needs to sex up her books, shouldn’t that take place during editing? What I mean is that Barnett was specifically talking about print runs being cut by 70%. Even using your assumption, that’s a drastic number, mind-boggling number that I have an extremely difficult time swallowing.

    And this is why I really tend to avoid discussions about publishing issues – we’re never talking to the right people. The publishers, themselves, I mean. Somehow, I always have this niggling suspicion in the back of my head that authors might just have their own axes to grind. And rightly so, but it’s still never an overall picture that they present.

    Not that we’d ever get that from the publishers either. ;p

  9. Karen Scott
    Jul 17, 2006 @ 12:15:48

    Jane, because this industry is geared towards women, it’s very difficult to have discussions that don’t become emotive, and end up with tears and tantrums at bedtime. The Changeling Press saga was a perfect example of this.

    Having worked in both, male and female environments, there is definitely a marked difference with regards to how each sex deals with pointed questioning or criticisms. On the whole, I think men deal better. Women seem to find it hard to get beyond the feeling of being personally attacked.

    Long ago, at a place where I used to work, we were having in-house issues that were affecting productivity/profitability, so basically I called a meeting to address some of the issues. Two of the employees were men, and three of them were women. Now the men just nodded and accepted that things had to change, but two of the women approached me privately (in floods of tears for God’s sake), and told me that they felt it was unfair of me to target them in front of everybody else. Needless to say, I had put my Pollyanna face on and soothe their wounded feelings. God that hurt.

    The funny thing is, it was a general “let’s pull our socks up, and get things sorted” but somehow they managed to make it all about them.

    I think open debate (without name calling if possible) is a good thing, but they do tend to get labelled ‘catfights’, and ‘blog wars’ here in Romanceland, and as long as women rule, that probably wont change.

    I tend to avoid getting into ‘debates’ on other blogs, which is why I didn’t bother commenting at the BB’s site.
    I don’t even bother commenting on RTB these days because being quite a contrary person, my opinions are likely to enrage certain sections of the crowd. Much better to take it to my own site, where I can tell people to go and screw themselves if they piss me off. *g*

    With regards to Jill Barnett, personally, I think she was lumping erotic romance with erotica, which is a mistake that a lot of authors are still making.

    However you cut it, she categorically stated that she thinks reasons x, y and erotica are to blame for the reduction in romance readers. And she also said that new genres attaching themselves to romance only ever benefits the new genres themselves.
    In other words, romance loses out when things change, and darn it, why can’t we go back to the good old days, when heroines were virgins, who didn’t know their clit from their tit, and rape was called forced seduction?

    Like I said in my post, she’s not the only author who feels like this.

  10. Robin
    Jul 17, 2006 @ 12:28:49

    I’m glad I read the comments first, especially Kristie J.’s comment on the BB site, before I actually read the interview or I might have missed what otherwise seems kind of a throwaway clause: “and the dull uninspired limits placed on the historical romance genre by publishing houses,” and focused exclusively on the references to erotica and chick lit. Basically, if you look at that sentence, it’s sort of a mess on a lot of levels, which I think it part of the problem in sorting out exactly what Barnett means.

    FWIW, I think she means it all: I think she realizes that historical Romance has become so much rehashed and diluted gruel, but I also think she feels that erotic Romance (and IMO she had to have meant erotic Romance here, since erotica is not nearly the market that Romantica is, certainly nothing to pair with the success of chick lit) is cutting into the historical readership. Lots of excellent points have been raised here and at the BB blog about all the ways in which unfair assumptions are being made in that assertion. One thing that strikes me, too, after reading the ATBF board yesterday, is how IIRC at least one author over there indicated that mainstream historical Romances published today that do not feature sex between the H & H just don’t sell as well. And being a reader of primarily historical Romance myself, I can certainly corroborate an assertion that almost all the mainstream historical Romance written within the past 10 or 15 years that I’ve read features relatively detailed (if uninspired) sex. The vocabulary might be more euphemistic, but a decent amount of attention is paid to the actual sex between H & H. Are there bland Romantica writers? Sure, just like there are bland writers of any Romance sub-genre (really, what percentage of writers in the genre do readers think are outstanding? More than 10, 20, or 30%?). I DO think that there is a distrust or dislike of Romantica among SOME mainstream Romance authors, and I think that skews some of the analysis. Because if the mainstream historical Romance reader IS reading more Romantica, doesn’t that say far more about the state of historical Romance than about Romantica (or chick lit, for that matter)? Maybe the real issue here is one of novelty, as in, readers appreciate some element of novelty even within a genre where they feel they can count on certain elements as constants (focus on a central love relationship with a HEA ending). And it can’t have escaped anyone’s notice that a decent amount of the Romantica published is itself historical Romantica (we don’t even have to start parsing through whether, for example, Pam Rosenthal or Lisa Valdea are so much more explicit than Lisa Kleypas or Liz Carlyle, although that might be an interesting discussion, as well).

    As for Jane’s primary question regarding author’s opinions and the right of a reader to challenge them without being called rude, IMO, an author can choose not to respond to any question or challenge, but regardless of whether her views are solicited in the form of an interview or blogged spontaneously, once an author’s views are voluntarily out in the public sphere, IMO they automatically become part of the ongoing discussions about the genre as a whole, and are just as fair game as the author’s books. IMO, the trouble does not arise when you have one defensive or seemingly combative comment from either an author or a reader; it arises when other posters are content or even enthusiastic about building on those tones, happy to toss more kindling onto the fire. What I find most frustrating as a reader is the cross-current comments such as “Romance is only about entertainment and shouldn’t be taken too seriously,” v. “this book represents my heart and sould and shouldn’t be criticized by readers who don’t know what it’s like to write a book.” I realize that sometimes the comments are not made by the same authors (but on occasion they are), but the message in both seems to be the same: critical thinking, especially if it sounds like criticism to the author, isn’t welcome. And then we end up right back where we started IMO, with authors being the only ones who can “legitimately” speak and readers acknowledged only in so far as they are cosumers and fans. I know that some people worry that the Internet is tainting the relationship between authors and readers, but I think it’s simply revealing that both groups are diverse and intelligent and opinionated. Now, if only the market itself would better reflect those same qualities, we might have as much to celebrate as to debate.

  11. Zeek
    Jul 17, 2006 @ 12:49:19

    And being a reader of primarily historical Romance myself, I can certainly corroborate an assertion that almost all the mainstream historical Romance written within the past 10 or 15 years that I’ve read features relatively detailed (if uninspired) sex.

    I totally agree and is why I can believe what JB said as true.

    Look, this typa thing happens everytime that a new order begins to take over. There is nothing new under the sun after all. (And I’m speaking of the flameups AND the romance vs. erotica thing, because the flame ups are caused because it’s not just fangrrrls speaking up anymore.)

    The new order comes off arrogant and the old order complains about the arrogance and “how things ain’t what they used to be”.
    I think there’s room for both, because there’s still an audience for both. No need to bash eachother up over who’s better or who sucks more.

    Believe it or not I happen to be on your side on this one though …

  12. Robin
    Jul 17, 2006 @ 13:00:16

    I totally agree and is why I can believe what JB said as true.

    Except I got the impression that she was saying that Romantica has actually forced historical Romance writers to get “sexed up,” when my reading experience is that mainstream historical Romance was pretty sex-focused long before erotic Romance moved into the neighborhood. In fact, I’ve read a couple of books from the 80s lately that seem fresher and more sexually raw than a lot of what I read in currently published Romance.

    I agree with you, though, about the responses regarding the “old order” and the “new order” — sooooo true. Now, if only everyone would realize that these changes in the genre don’t just come out of nowhere but evolve over time, we might be able to avoid that tired old ‘us v. them’ dynamic.

  13. Bev (BB)
    Jul 17, 2006 @ 14:03:32

    [quote comment="2255"]I agree with you, though, about the responses regarding the “old order” and the “new order” — sooooo true. Now, if only everyone would realize that these changes in the genre don’t just come out of nowhere but evolve over time, we might be able to avoid that tired old ‘us v. them’ dynamic.[/quote]

    Yeah, but we are an us and they are a them, so I’m not sure what exactly we’d be avoiding. Disagreement? Not likely. Confusion. Hehehe. I wish.

    And I can’t help thinking I really am reading the wrong books if everyone believes most romances have more sex in them because I keep thinking they’re cutting back again.

  14. Michele
    Jul 17, 2006 @ 14:15:35

    Re: Jill Barnett’s comment about print runs. It depends on her reference point. If she started writing in the boom days of the genre, then the figure she quoted is probably not that far off.

    The print runs back then were huge in comparison today. I have had print runs drop 50% between one book and the next, which is why Michelle Jerott no longer exists.

    This is a weird, funky business at times, and even more so since the industry changed due to mergers in publishing and distrubtion and how people buy books, as well as due to the competition with books from other mediums of entertainment. Like video games.

  15. Shiloh
    Jul 17, 2006 @ 14:53:41

    They suggest romance authors who write spicier romances are the downfall of the largest selling genre in publishing history. The comments urge that all books with a certain explicitness must automatically be discounted as being voiceless.

    It’s also being suggested that just because a book is erotic, that means… to some… that it isn’t romance. I’m not going to mention that some of the most popular romance authors around today were writing ‘ahead’ of their time ten years ago by putting out romances that were steamier than the book sitting next to them on the shelf. :)

    As long as erotic romance is being written, we’re going to keep seeing this issue come up. It’s one I was bored with a year ago.

    It’s sad though, with romance being the ugly red-headed step-child of the industry, you’d think we’d get along better as a group. But it seems we are our own worst enemy.

  16. Robin
    Jul 17, 2006 @ 23:52:13

    Yeah, but we are an us and they are a them, so I’m not sure what exactly we’d be avoiding. Disagreement? Not likely. Confusion. Hehehe. I wish.

    But who’s the “us” and who’s the “them”? Doesn’t the composition of those categories change depending on the issue? Obviously there are differences of opinion and different positions will affect perspective (i.e. authors may have a different POV on certain isues than readers do). And I think debate and disagreement are really good things, because they keep us challenging the status quo. Where I think things go awry is in sweeping categorizations like erotic Romance is a certain way and historical Romance is another way, because those generalizations are often artificial and unstable under even a little scrutiny, as well as being unnecessarily divisive, IMO.

  17. Bev (BB)
    Jul 18, 2006 @ 11:02:47

    [quote comment="2264"]Where I think things go awry is in sweeping categorizations like erotic Romance is a certain way and historical Romance is another way, because those generalizations are often artificial and unstable under even a little scrutiny, as well as being unnecessarily divisive, IMO.[/quote]

    Sometimes those labels are necessary, though. Like when I was ranting just last week about the frustration of running across reviews of so many good sounding books only to find out they’re erotic romance or even erotica, which as yet, I haven’t started reading. Theoretically, maybe we should read everything “good” that comes our way, but practically it ain’t going to happen. I can’t help thinking that if numbers really are down, they may actually be done because those labeling lines have blurred so much that readers keep getting something different from what they expect. Now, that, I can see as a problem of all kinds of things incroaching on romance and vice versa for that matter.

    We can’t have the “labels” for one function without them crossing over into others, so I’m not sure how we’d ever avoid these controversies in the first place.

  18. Bev (BB)
    Jul 18, 2006 @ 12:24:38

    Jill Barnett does get it right when she says “Readers buy an author’s voice, her way of storytelling, not a type of book." I think, ultimately, what is driving readers away is the lack of a quality romance regardless of the genre. Jayne and I are perfect examples of this. We’ll read anything so long as it is good.

    You know, this particular paragraph has been nagging at me but, initially I almost missed what it was that bothered me about it. It wasn’t until after I responded to Robin’s last comment that it hit me what was getting under my skin. Then, once I figured it out, I hesitated to comment for fear I’d get carried away. I still may have to take this to my own blog to expand on my thoughts, but here they are in a nutshell.

    I tend to believe I’m a relatively average romance reader and, frankly, I do pick books by type and the primary type I pick first and foremost is romance. I don’t read anything so long as it’s good. I have to be interested in its content first. Once I’m familiar with an author, then sure, I’ll decide whether I like their voice or way of storytelling enough to look for them specifically, but first they have to hook me for it to happen repeatedly. If not, I’ll around look for another author writing the same type of book I like.

    Same thing with publishers. Sure there are some crappy books out there that I buy anyway because the publishers sell me on what’s supposedly inside the book. And they better come across with what I’m expecting more often than not or I will start taking notice.

    It’s not always a matter of quality, either. I’ve been reading books for over forty years now and have read AND enjoyed quite a bit of so-called crap during that time. I make no apologies for that. Why should I when for the most part the books do entertain in the way they promised?

    So, all that said, I guess the reason I raise a skeptical eyebrow when people start talking about how readers are being driven away from romance is that I don’t see it. And I probably won’t believe it until there are NO romances on the shelves, print or electronic. Sure the types of stories being told have changed somewhat but they’re still being sold. Quite a lot, apparently. Otherwise some other genre would now be the largest share of the market and those other genres wouldn’t be attempting to attach themselve to the romance label, either.

    Hmmm, interesting. I actually managed to keep it short. Relatively, anyway. ;p

  19. Jane
    Jul 18, 2006 @ 12:34:20

    I do think that there are numbers of readers who are a) reading outside the genre more and b) who are reading on the fringes. To a traditional romance writing, that may mean a decline in sales, particularly if you do not have a strong voice. Even authors seem to be leaving: Kleypas and Brockway are two recent examples, even though Kleypas is going to continue to write historicals. The Publishing bus has not seen a growth in numbers. Perhaps that is because until recently, the fringe sub genres like romantica are online sales.

    And I guess, if you like a book, Bev, to you it is good, right? I mean, isn’t that how we as readers judge a book? Which takes me to the Long Tail argument in that so long as there is a publisher willing to make a story available, there will be an audience.

  20. Bev (BB)
    Jul 18, 2006 @ 13:29:02

    I do think that there are numbers of readers who are a) reading outside the genre more and b) who are reading on the fringes.

    Thing is, though, Jane, that I’ve always read more than romance. Heck, I was reading romantic suspense before it was called that. Not sure what it was called exactly but it wasn’t called straight romance, that much I know. I’ve also always picked up mysteries and the occasional sci-fi/fantasy novel, so I suspect the above has always happened. I mean I seriously doubt romance readers have read only romance through all the years it’s been published.

    What is different isn’t that but that there is so much other, um, intriguing stuff to choose from, and I’m not just talking about erotica there, as well as places to find them, i.e. the Internet. Now, that has changed my reading choices and ultimate decisions. Where twenty years ago as a reader I might wish I could find a certain type of story but literally couldn’t because it wasn’t offered, now I bet I could if I looked hard enough. Or come pretty darn close. Okay, well, at least in the ballpark. ;p

    But all that still doesn’t mean I’ve given up or will ever give up on the tried and true romance formula.

  21. Jane
    Jul 18, 2006 @ 13:45:48

    [quote comment="2293"]I mean I seriously doubt romance readers have read only romance through all the years it’s been published.[/quote]

    I’m not giving up on the tried and true formula either, but I didn’t start really reading outside the genre until about three years ago. I think the 90s were a halcyon time in romance reading and during that period I rarely read outside the genre. Now, my reading is about half and half, if you consider chick lit, paranormals like the Luna books and such, as outside the genre.

  22. Robin
    Jul 18, 2006 @ 14:52:09

    Sometimes those labels are necessary, though. Like when I was ranting just last week about the frustration of running across reviews of so many good sounding books only to find out they’re erotic romance or even erotica, which as yet, I haven’t started reading.

    I think we’re talking about two different types of labeling here. You’re referring to the types of labels that tell a reader what to expect generically, and I’m referring to the value judgments that label certain generic categories. IMO there’s a big difference between saying that erotic Romance is generally more sexually explicit or frank in its use of language than so-called mainstream Romance and saying that erotic Romance is nothing more than poorly written porn for women (implying both that porn is bad and that women don’t get turned on by the sex in mainstream Romance).

  23. Bev (BB)
    Jul 18, 2006 @ 15:43:11

    [quote comment="2298"]IMO there’s a big difference between saying that erotic Romance is generally more sexually explicit or frank in its use of language than so-called mainstream Romance and saying that erotic Romance is nothing more than poorly written porn for women (implying both that porn is bad and that women don’t get turned on by the sex in mainstream Romance).[/quote]

    Okay, I have to get some actual work done so this is going to be my last comment for a while. Or at least until I get bored again. (Doesn’t that make you just sooooo happy, Jane. ;p)

    Ahem, anyway, I know what you’re saying, Robin. Same labels in come cases, but completely different uses of them. Much confusion resulting.

    The only thing is, it’s nothing new. I’m pretty sure we all realize how easily that last part could be reworded and have been said twenty years ago about romances, period. And was probably said in the 1800s about a lot of books women were reading then. The tune doesn’t change. The only thing that’s changed here is who’s singing it. And seems to me that what has everyone in shock is that it’s authors doing the singing, not the preachers from the pulpits. Then again, if established romance authors twenty or thirty years ago had a forum like the Internet, would some of them have said something along those lines about the new bodice rippers popping out of the woodwork?

    Makes one wonder.

    I guess my point is that the only labels that really count in the long run are the ones that tell readers what to expect. Those are the ones we need clarity on regardless. And personally, I’d rather use my energy clarifying those and not waste it on the literally neverending target practice that just shifts focus to a new arena periodically.

  24. Jane
    Jul 18, 2006 @ 16:09:37

    Are you kidding, Bev? I love it that you comment. Comment away.

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