Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

It Is Not Enough to Write a Good Book

Over at the Smart Bitches, a controversy is raging over the appropriateness of the outfits worn by Marianne Mancusi, Liz Maverick, and Sherrilyn Kenyon at the Literacy Signing. The Literacy Signing was attended by over 450 authors. It is open to the public and the goal is to sell as many books as possible to fund literacy. Over $56,000 was raised. It is the only event open to the public but not the only event open to the press. There is a press room at RWA and it has a table full of books for press people to take.


Many things were bandied about such as dressing in costumes leads to greater disrespect for the romance genre to the costumes being unprofessional to some very distasteful. One commenter, Author Deborah Smith, accused the women dressing as pedophile luring schoolgirls. One of the last of the 100+ comments was made by Corrina, an aspiring author.

I think what we’re discussing is the balance between them and where the line is drawn and if we can choose that line for ourselves or if the publishers will decide its so important that they’ll choose it for us.

This was what the real crux of the argument is. When publishers spend so little on the promotion of their books, the onus is on authors to create their own buzz. To be not only writers, but marketers and publicists. To be personalities so that their books sell enough to actually be able to write another book rather than go back to accounting or underwriting or the law or whatever it is.

In my interview with Jane Dystel, of Dystel & Gooderich, she wrote:

Yes, I believe the industry is run by sales and marketing and business types — no editors. This means that there is a strong likelihood that the quality of the books will decrease. I fear that eventually the only things that will be published are currently well known bestselling names and commercial fiction.

Books to publishers are interchangeable widgets. Some publishers do not value their writers. They don’t foster growth within the writer’s career. They don’t give marketing dollars nor do they give marketing assistance except to the big names. This is not the editors fault or the publicity departments fault. It is the vision of publishing that is handed down by the presidents and vice presidents who are so far removed from the grind and glory of writing that publishing is nothing more than a factory line of paper and glue.

Part of why I continue this blog, not why I started, but why I continue it is that we can promote the books that we love. So that I can natter on non stop on how much I liked Eve Kenin’s Driven, Elizabeth Hoyt’s The Serpent Prince, Claudia Dain’s The Courtesan’s Daughter. I promote these authors’ books because I am selfish and want them to keep writing and I fear for these books that if they don’t find an audience, I will be left with one bland Regency historical after Navy Seal after Vampire book after another.

Nora Roberts commented that authors are not their fictional characters and dressing as them blurs that line and leads to a disrespect of the genre. I hear where you are coming from, La Nora. I do. I understand that after striving for respectability, the big ass swan hat being featured in the news the next day is not the image you want of romance. But what are authors to do?

Some authors don’t want to be pushed into that. Some authors want to be able to write the best book and just have their work stand on its own. In today’s market with a burgeoning publishing schedule, a decreasing market, and increased entertainment avenues, authors cannot simply write a good book and have success come to their doorstep.

A good book, on its own, will not sell itself. A good book with a gimmick might.

The fear is that if Mancusi and Maverick succeed with their marketing strategies, to become successful the burden for creative marketing becomes exponentially higher and more terrifying, particularly the more introverted the author is.

It is not Maverick and Mancusi’s fault for dragging romance down to the point that they need to a gimmick to sell their books. It’s the publishers fault and their failure to properly fund marketing for the books.

Romance and respect is something I long for as well. If anyone would read the 100+ comments at the Smart Bitches, they couldn’t help but be impressed at the level of discourse. The criticism of Maverick and Mancusi seem to stem from the fear that this is what will be demanded of an author to be successful, that their work cannot stand alone.

I believe that, except for a tiny few, this is true. It is not enough to write a good book.

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


  1. Jessica Inclan
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 16:02:37

    An author historically has adopted a persona. think of Lord Byron. Think of Oscar Wilde. Flamboyant, out there, full of props.

    I once saw Joyce Carol Oates creep out onto a stage, dressed entirely in white. She was promoting her novel Zombie. It all worked.

    Anne Lamott used to bring her dog places. And her kid. Both were featured in Operating Instructions.

    This all might be annoying (especially if you have to get water for the dog while Anne was on stage), but is it demeaning to their work? These are “literary” writers, and no one takes them to task.

    For the literacy signing, I put on a dress and put on makeup. that might be the same thing as a big ass swan hat, but slightly more subdued.

    anyway, it doens’t make me feel any one way or the other. I was rather jealous of Liz Maverick’s fine form in thigh highs.

    Jessica Inclan


  2. Sandra Schwab
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 16:09:04

    I was actually quite pleased with the coverage RWA National got in the Dallas newspaper — it was all in all a positive article, and the accompanying picture did not take anything away from that, imo. It showed Sherrilyn Kenyon (with the black-swan head) and Julie Kenner and her daughter. The little one is obviously transfixed by funny black bird on the other woman’s head and leans over as if to touch. For me this picture spellt “fun conference, fun signing, good entertainment”. Yes it was a big hat, but Sherri pulled it off beautifully. And there are few people who are better than her at making readers feel at ease and special.

    As to Liz’s and Marianne’s costumes: it’s certainly an unusual marketing strategy, but it’s something that seems to work for them. Indeed, it’s something that’s used by other authors / publishers, too: for several years members of the Beau Monde, RWA’s special interest chapter for Regency romances, have appeared in Regency costume at the signing and handed out Beau Monde bookmarks. And when the new German edition of Dorothy Dunnett’s House of Niccolo was launched last year, somebody in costume handed out info material at the publisher’s booth at the Frankfurt book fair.

    Yes, it’s no longer enough to write a good book. But we’ve known that before haven’t we? After all, why do authors do all that self-promotion otherwise? Why do we build websites, send out newsletters, put together a blog, podcast, MySpace page, booktrailer, website banner; pay money for advertisements in print and online media; and send out dozens of ARCs, bookmarks, teaser booklets? Why did I spent the last three evenings before I went to the US with burning 100 CDs? Because we want to get people to talk about our books, we want to stand out of the crowd.


  3. Jackie
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 16:15:45

    It is not enough to write a good book.

    I wholeheartedly agree.

    But it’s not about having a gimmick. It’s about getting noticed. It’s about getting noticed by your publisher, so they see you’re a team player. It’s about getting noticed by the booksellers, because there’s nothing more important than having a bookseller hand-sell your book. And it’s about getting noticed by the readers, because without them, what the hell are we doing this for?

    I think that authors in romance today are starting to get hit with the reality that’s hit the other genres: publishers may not give you three or four books to hit your stride (read: rake in the sales) before politely not renewing your contract. Sound paranoid? Ask Marianne Mancusi about her YA vampire series, and she’ll tell you otherwise. Authors get dropped if the numbers aren’t there.

    Of course, it’s easy to play the blame game and point at the publisher for not being supportive, while we lament over a lack of publicity, etc. But I think that it’s better for authors to take their careers into their own hands and do what they can to self-promote their work. It’s hard. It’s scary. It’s time-consuming. But in the end, it could be what makes a difference.


  4. nath
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 16:15:55

    I’m not going to enter the debate or anything, but I just wanted to say that the first time I saw on this blog pictures/posts of Sherrilyn Kenyon, Liz Maverick and Marianne Mancusi wearing outfits like that, I thought it was normal… I mean, did you ever go to an anime convention? Do you know the word “cosplay” where basically, fans dress up as their favorite anime/manga characters? some of these costums are AWESOME!… I mean, you don’t see that very much in romance, since well most characters wear normal clothes and there’s no real images for the readers to base themselves on… but yeah, just to say that I thought Maverick and Mancusi were cosplaying as their characters and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it.


  5. Robin
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 16:18:15

    Part of why I continue this blog, not why I started, but why I continue it is that we can promote the books that we love. So that I can natter on non stop on how much I liked Eve Kenin's Driven, Elizabeth Hoyt's The Serpent Prince, Claudia Dain's The Courtesan's Daughter. I promote these authors' books because I am selfish and want them to keep writing and I fear for these books that if they don't find an audience, I will be left with one bland Regency historical after Navy Seal after Vampire book after another.

    And thank whatever deity applies for that, Jane!

    re. marketing, as I commented in response to your post at SB’s, I think it’s shameful that editing and publisher support for the vast majority of authors is absent from publishing. I hope for more small publishers with interest in making the *fiction* and the *books* primary. But truly I do not believe that creative marketing has to involve a conflation of characters and authors as it so often has in Romance. Yeah, it’s well-tried, and I certainly can’t blame authors for utilizing it, but it still frustrates me, especially if it seems that authors feel compelled to spend more time marketing than writing.


  6. Jane
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 16:18:15

    Nath, I thought that too. Cosplay is huge in anime and manga and that is what the Shomi line is all about. Look at the covers. They are trying to draw in a younger crowd who may not read romance. Yes, it might alienate existing romance buyers, but heck, manga and anime buyers are huge and manga and anime are love stories.


  7. Nora Roberts
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 16:23:52

    Since I’ve been in the business, it’s never been enough to write a good book. This is nothing new. It is the most important thing, the priority, the crux and the holy grail, but it’s not enough and never has been.

    I dragged my butt to the mall and signed stock when a new book came out, and did signings where three people wandered by. And did it all again for the next book, and the next. I made connections with booksellers and librarians. I went to RWA, and to lots of regional conferences. I did bookmarks and paid my boys to help me stuff envelopes. I did interviews with local media, and whatever else I could get where they snickered at Romance at every opportunity.

    I took ads that I paid for myself. I answered every reader letter that came my way. My first publilc speaking appearance was at a nursing home. And I’ll tell the story of THAT one some time. If I was asked to speak or appear anywhere, I went–and nearly always, virtually always, at my own expense.

    And while I was doing that, I was trying to write the very best books I could, raise two boys and do the stupid laundry. And I never wore a costume.


  8. Kalen Hughes
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 16:26:45

    a controversy is raging over the appropriateness of the outfits worn by Marianne Mancusi, Liz Maverick, and Sherrilyn Kenyon at the Literacy Signing.

    Not exactly. Or that’s not how I see it (or maybe that's just not the part of the huge trail I as following). The discussion is more about the wearing of the outfits OUTSIDE the literacy signing. If they had been limited to just the literacy signing I doubt many people would have said much beyond “That was one big swan on her head!”


  9. Jane
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 16:31:31

    Kalen – I didn’t see Kenyon dressed up anywhere outside the literacy signing. After the LS, she was dressed completely like anyone else (better than some who though business appropriate was jeans and a sweatshirt). M&M dresssed up on another day but that was because (I believe) that they were being interviewed on Other than that, they wore what I believe to be business appropriate attire.

    Nora – I stand corrected. And I have said before that it seemed clear that some people, such as yourself, got to be bestsellers because of your devotion to your fans that you still display today.


  10. Ali
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 16:38:31

    I know this isn’t meant to be the topic of this post, but can we all lay off sales people in publishing houses please? I’m a sales rep, and everyone else I know in this industry is in it because they love books, and they love selling books. Books are not widgets, and I don’t know anyone who believes that. We work our asses off to make sure as many bookstores as possible get the books their customers want and need. End rant.


  11. Bev(BB)
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 16:46:03

    I mean, did you ever go to an anime convention? Do you know the word “cosplayâ€? where basically, fans dress up as their favorite anime/manga characters? some of these costums are AWESOME!…

    Ah, but I suspect that’s where the breakdown comes in here. What if it had been “fans” or rather readers who’d been the ones dressed up at the author’s tables and not the two authors? Would the situation have then been viewed differently? Or the same? Would this still be about “promoing” the books as Jane is talking about or just having “fun” with the product? Would we be crossing the line from professional to fandom as some have suggested elsewhere?


  12. Bev(BB)
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 16:47:56

    Happy dance, happy dance. I can post here. Miracles do happen. :D


  13. Keishon
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 16:47:58

    That’s evidenced by so many authors who are missing today that it’s not even funny. As a reader I know it is not enough to write a good book. A good book without an audience leads to a short writing career or a career in a different genre altogether. Very fustrating.


  14. Robin
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 16:55:03

    I'm a sales rep, and everyone else I know in this industry is in it because they love books, and they love selling books. Books are not widgets, and I don't know anyone who believes that.

    Oh, good; you’re the perfect person to ask about this. Why is it that I keep hearing about how for publishers it’s all about “the bottom line,” and about how other forms of fiction are financed on the back of Romance and how authors have to pay for and perform their own marketing and are pestered constantly about their numbers until or unless they break or are dropped and that there aren’t enough editors to do all the necessary work because editing isn’t a priority? I know that’s a lot of questions, but I’ve been saving them up, lol!


  15. Ann Aguirre
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 17:45:28

    Wow, not only is my writing process the same as Nora’s, we have the same ideas about building a readership as well. I’m a long way behind in the journey, but it gives me some hope that I’m not as clueless as I feel most days.

    I answered every reader letter that came my way.

    I do this also. My volume isn’t overwhelming, but I think it’s important to show people it matters that they took time to write.


  16. Nora Roberts
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 18:04:53

    ~I mean, did you ever go to an anime convention?~

    This was not an anime convention. Different culture entirely.


  17. Sandra Schwab
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 18:19:03

    Nora Roberts said:
    And I never wore a costume.

    Perhaps the costume thing is simply a matter of personality and can be seen as an extended version of putting cutsey stuff on one’s table when signing.

    Robin said:
    . . . I think it's shameful that editing and publisher support for the vast majority of authors is absent from publishing.

    For the Booksellers Tea Dorchester staff, too, dressed manga-style in order to hand out teaser booklets for the Shomi line. And I’d be quite happy, Robin, to send you one of the very long letter with revision requests from my editor. :) All in all, I don’t think publisher support is really absent from publishing and they often support their authors in ways that are not necessarily visible at first glance. E.g., for my May release Dorchester sent out ARCs, included the book in their group ad in RT, and our PR person helped with submitting an article to RT. In addition, copies of the book were handed out at RT and at the Book Expo.

    And when you look at other publishers you can see similar things happening: e.g., there were huge amount of ARCs for “Garden Spells” to be found in the goody room at RWA National, and Sherry Thomas was signing ARCs of a book that will be coming out in April 08!

    So publishers do spend money on author and book promotion, however, there’s simply a limit to what they can spend on indivdual authors.

    (I hope I’m still making sense: it’s half past one in the morning …)


  18. Nora Roberts
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 18:25:35

    Nora Roberts said:
    And I never wore a costume.

    Perhaps the costume thing is simply a matter of personality and can be seen as an extended version of putting cutsey stuff on one's table when signing.

    I guess I don’t think so, because if SK had been giving out little black swans, no big.

    As for M&M–and GOD I feel like Mother Superior picking on free-spirits. They were in costume at other times than the Literacy event. Their choice, their deal.


  19. ilona
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 18:30:20

    I liked the swan hat.

    Would I wear one to sell books? No. I would wear it for fun, though :)

    Would I ever dress up as a character from my own book? Absolutely not.

    That said, I still very much like the swan hat.


  20. Emily
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 18:32:38

    When did professional, respectable and bland become synonyms? I know high powered professionals who go to work every day dressed like Bela Lugosi, and polite presentable people I wouldn’t trust to plant sit.

    I think it is time romance got over its cultural cringe and learned to love the kitch, striped nylons and heaving bossoms included.

    According to some very reputable psychologists the sign of real maturity is the ability to play. It is self-conscious teens who are always worrying about the what everying thinks and how they are being judged.


  21. Ayalyn
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 18:37:41

    I really love reading romance and erotica because I want to be entertained and forget the fact that the real world can SUCK.

    I love fantasy play, so if I ever have the chance to go see one of my favorite authors at a book signing, I would like it to be fun and not boring with a plain, dull, and boring author just sitting there signing books.

    That’s just me..why can’t it be FUN?


  22. Nora Roberts
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 18:47:07

    ~I would like it to be fun and not boring with a plain, dull, and boring author just sitting there signing books.~

    I like to think I’m fun, not boring, plain or dull. But I’m still not wearing a costume.


  23. sherry thomas
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 18:48:06

    I honestly don’t see what the brouhaha is about. Is it because I’ve celebrated my 29th birthday only three times? I thought Marianne and Liz looked really cute. And if I had a Shomi book, I’d join them and have a ball.

    Nora put on a mean leather jacket for her J.D. Robb books, while in her other books she wears Armani. I think Marianne and Liz are just taking it a bit further.

    Nora, if you would come and smite me for my insinuations, it would be an honor, ma’am. But is there anyone else feeling that this might just be a generational thing, that the younger writers and readers, more used to out-of-the-box promotion, read much less into it?


  24. Nora Roberts
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 18:55:56

    The leather coat and the jacket–both mine. I wear them in my real life. I would wear both to a conference if the weather called for it.

    I would NOT wear the long leather coat indoors at a booksigning or event. Silly. And I’d get sweaty.

    The Armani. Mine, too. I don’t wear anything for promo I wouldn’t wear IRL–and in fact that I don’t already own. That’s my choice.

    While it may be a generational thing–I’m OLD compared to these young women–I saw LOTS of young writers at the convention. I only saw two in costume.


  25. Bonnie Vanak
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 19:16:33

    An observation from a PAN workshop I attended:

    Shannon Aviles, Karen Rose's publicist/media specialist, mentioned the swan hat. She pointed it out as an excellent means of author branding. SK's readers like that stuff at a booksigning. She said, “Whatever comes out of your books, if you want to live that, live that.� The point behind author branding is name recognition.

    Ms. Aviles said, “Nora Roberts is an icon like Coca Cola. Everyone knows Nora Roberts and Coca Cola.�

    I thought it interesting in the light of the recent Book Expo conference. The Christian Science Monitor had an article on how the trade show had several costumed characters trying to draw bookseller attention, including a man dressed like God. The writer thought all the costumes silly, but they drew bookseller attention. Costumes seem to be a growing trend in publishing conventions. I liked the swan hat for the booksigning. Not sure about running into God, though. Too much Catholic guilt. :-)


  26. Robin
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 19:36:03

    But is there anyone else feeling that this might just be a generational thing, that the younger writers and readers, more used to out-of-the-box promotion, read much less into it?

    I think I’m more in the age range of the “younger readers,” and I don’t see this as a matter of professionalism (or not). I think out of the box promotion is fabulous. But I’m still suspicious of any marketing that capitalizes on the IMO over-personalization of Romance authors. I’m open to being talked out of seeing M&M’s strategy as part of that long-time trend, but as of yet have not been. And FWIW, I don’t like suggestive author photos either. There’s already such an IMO mis-perception that Romance is simply fantasy fiction for women, that forging a visual link between authors and their characters just seems to perpetuate this image (and I’m talking internally and externally here).

    And when you look at other publishers you can see similar things happening: e.g., there were huge amount of ARCs for “Garden Spells� to be found in the goody room at RWA National, and Sherry Thomas was signing ARCs of a book that will be coming out in April 08!

    I understand that Bantam Dell is one of the very best publishers for author support. And you are obviously having a great experience too, Sandy, at Dorchester, which makes me extremely happy for you. But I hear other stories (from trustworthy sources and in significant numbers) that all is not well across Romance publishing, and that talented authors in some BIG houses are paying for and printing their own ARCs, barely being edited, and otherwise carrying the burden of their own publicity. And, of course, being dropped when their numbers are down. It’s good to know not every publisher is following a factory farming model, though.


  27. KS Augustin
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 19:47:16

    I side with Ali, the sales rep, here. I used to run an sf&f bookshop and the reps were the nicest, most enthusiastic people I ever had the pleasure to meet. Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to snag *some* big names for signings at my indie store. I was always happy to have the reps around, sharing their opinions about future releases.

    HOWEVER…once that rep gets promotions up the ladder to VP, then things start to change. The questions become: which books sell, which ones can we drop? Will changing the cover help sales or should we just let the book go oop? I can’t tell you the number of times I spoke to reps about the unbelievable frustration in having only books 2, 3 and 5 of a series in print. (Having complete series available in the shop was of particular importance to me.) The reps were sympathetic, but they couldn’t really help. And no amount of shouting that I did to anyone else further up the chain resulted in any change.

    Off-topic, I know, but just wanted to let Ali know that people do appreciate reps! :)


  28. Jane
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 21:20:42

    Ali and KS – I apologize to you if you thought I was railing on you but I wasn’t. I was more talking about the leadership of publishing houses because its the leadership that makes a difference. As a sales rep, you can only do what you can with the tools and resources you’ve been given. As a reader, I completely appreciate the job you do.

    I do appreciate publishers too, but I feel like it could be less of a numbers thing with them. I heard alot about this at the conference – that you are only as good as your last numbers, even if your previous numbers had been high. It’s like no slumping is allowed and that seems tough.


  29. Suzy
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 21:43:42

    I just wanted to pop in and say thank you to everyone who’s shared an opinion about wearing costumes to a professional event. I’ve learned quite a lot about the business of marketing by reading your comments.

    I don’t have a book published. But when I do, I will be considering some of the comments that were made, especially those made by Nora Roberts. If you want to learn how to market a book, then study from someone who is successful at it. I think the idea of wearing a costume may draw attention, but in the end, it takes a lot more than that…

    Nora Roberts said:
    I dragged my butt to the mall and signed stock when a new book came out, and did signings where three people wandered by. And did it all again for the next book, and the next. I made connections with booksellers and librarians. I went to RWA, and to lots of regional conferences. I did bookmarks and paid my boys to help me stuff envelopes. I did interviews with local media, and whatever else I could get where they snickered at Romance at every opportunity.


  30. Rebecca
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 22:24:44

    The RWA Literacy signing has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for to benefit literacy programs over the years it has been in existance.

    No other writing org has anything quite like it.

    I want to say thank you to all the authors and publishing houses and rwa members who make this event happen!

    You rock!


  31. Nora Roberts
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 23:03:21

    ~“Whatever comes out of your books, if you want to live that, live that.� ~

    I don’t understand this one tiny bit. Live what comes out of your books?

    No thanks. I think I’ll live my actual life and WRITE books.

    If I’m a brand like Coke (and how could I object to the comparison?) it’s not because I wore costumes or lived something that came out of my books. This is NOT how you become a brand-name author.

    So again, I don’t understand what she meant.


  32. Robin
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 23:11:06

    Rebecca: I think you should put the rest of your post back.


  33. Bev Stephans
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 23:24:53

    Okay Nora, I’m old! I think all authors must do what they feel they have to promote their books. You did what you felt you had to do and the costumed ones did what they felt they had to do. I like your books. I like their books. If the fans felt comfortable with it and no one has addressed that yet, I guess maybe it worked.


  34. EC Sheedy
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 23:39:34

    So late to this costume party! And because everyone is heading out the door, I’ll be brief. IMO a costume or swan might sell one book–or even two. But after that it’s all about the writing. Even Nora’s early hard work managing her career would have been for naught if her books weren’t what they were. Fabulous.

    But costumes at pro events? Nah . . . I don’t think so. But I was wrong once before. 1901, I think.


  35. Karen Scott
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 01:47:26

    Just one question, if somehow we managed to turn the tide, and get the respect we so desire from outside the genre, what would we actually gain?


  36. Nora Roberts
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 05:55:44

    As I just posted on the SB site, SK’s fans weren’t the only ones there. 450 authors. It wasn’t her signing.

    What we gain if we gained respect outside the genre? Myriad opportunities we’re routinely denied. Certainly in the media. Do you think it’s because they don’t like my face that I’ve been on The Today Show once in 27 years? No, it’s because I’m a Romance writer. We’ve discussed reviews and solid attention in national media–reviews–before. We’d get those–and good or bad, reviews garner attention for an author and the book. Perhaps in some bookstores or retail venues Romance novels wouldn’t be hidden in the back, or the section condensed or eliminated. Many of us would find it the exception rather than the rule to be dismissed callously and casually as froth or porn for women. Libraries would be more open to stocking us.

    There’s more, but that’s a solid start.

    Plus we’d have to find something else to complain about, which would make a nice change.


  37. Mary Jane
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 07:28:28

    I am a little confused… Isn’t it appropriate for some attendees to be a little different at this conference? As people who love this genre, we realize that there are many different ways to tell the HEA story. And it seems to me that there are many different personality types who create these stories. So, a little fun, a little non-conformity seems normal.

    Now, if they were REQUIRING everyone to wear costumes, that would be silly…


  38. Laura Florand
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 07:34:47

    It seems to me as if the issue this question keeps coming back to, both here and on Smart Bitches, is whether an author is responsible for supporting the genre or her own books. That is a very weighty responsibility for most authors, to put the good of the genre before what they consider (whether right or wrong) to be the good of their own books.

    I keep thinking of the Sweet Potato Queen. Her books are hilarious, of course, but she has used her persona to draw even more attention to them: always showing up in her outrageous Sweet Potato Queen costume or, lately, sometimes somewhat more subdued versions of the same. It probably wouldn’t work for me–I don’t have that kind of personality. But it works very well for her.

    If she wrote romances, it’s clear she would draw considerable flack. But she doesn’t. So–because you write romances, is it fair to say you are responsible for how your image affects an entire genre?


  39. Nora Roberts
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 07:53:24

    An enormous black swan on your head is a little different? We have different gauges.

    If this had been the wardrobe for an individual signing by the author, I’d still think it was silly–but that’s about it.

    It wasn’t.

    You ARE a representative of the genre when you agree to sign at RWA’s literacy event with hundreds of others. It’s not all about you and your particular readers. You are a representative of the genre when you give interviews during the RWA’s national conference, which very likely the RWA’s press room had set up for you. You are a representative of the genre if you agree to speak at national in a workshop promoted by RWA and given in a venue RWA has arranged.

    If you don’t choose to be a representative of the genre, no problem at all. None of us are required to be. But don’t use RWA as the platform for your promotions.


  40. KS Augustin
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 08:15:00

    No offence taken AT ALL, Jane! :) Just wanted to share the lurve with Ali.


  41. Casee
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 09:37:17

    Have you been to Sherrilyn Kenyon’s myspace page? Her website? Seeing how she portrays herself on various sites, I am not surprised that she showed up dressed how she was.

    I can’t say whether it was right or wrong. The costume did turn me off enough that I wasn’t interested in getting in her line. We all know that this is a genre that doesn’t get the respect it deserves. If I was an author, having a fellow author dressed in what is essentially a Halloween costume would most likely bother me.

    This wasn’t a signing on a book tour for Kenyon only. This was a signing that represented the entire genre. While her readers might think it was fun to see her dressed like that, I don’t think that they’re looking at the bigger picture.


  42. Eilis Flynn
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 10:11:22

    What Mancusi and Maverick decide to do is their own business. But dressing up as their characters should not be compared to anime cons, or comic cons. Ever gone to those? The creators don’t dress up. The creators are the LAST people you ever see dressing up. They’re too busy writing and networking to even think of it!


  43. JC Wilder
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 10:15:26

    When did it become a crime to be a ‘character’? Remember the days when your parents would say, “Oh that Bill, he’s such a character.” Quirky is good – embrace it.

    Nora wrote: You ARE a representative of the genre when you agree to sign at RWA's literacy event with hundreds of others.

    I respectfully disagree with you, Nora. I am a representative of my work, not my genre. That’s the same as saying that every computer programmer is a rep of their line of work and they must wear pocket protectors and have duct tape on their glasses. It’s the uniform ya know. :)

    I don’t dress in costume for signings – the readers are lucky if I don’t show up in my pajamas! I think its fabulous that Sherrilyn continues to dress up – she’s been doing it for many years and no one can argue with her success. If Stephen King were to dress up like a vampire for a signing, everyone would be pointing out his individuality – not pointing fingers at him for being a poor representative of his genre.


  44. Nora Roberts
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 10:30:54

    Your Uncle Bill being a character is one thing. He can wear the lampshade as a hat at the party. But if he wears it while he’s in a professional, public arena, I bet there’ll be a much different reaction.

    And again, WHY does it come down to–either we’re quirky and free or we’re in uniforms with pocket protectors? Has the great in between just gotten sucked into a vacuum?

    If you’re using the platform of a professional conference, and benefitting from all the work done to organize one, getting the press generated from that conference, then it’s NOT just about your work and yourself.

    If that computer programmer went to the Dell equivilent of RWA national (if they had such a thing) and wore an enormous black swan on his head to meet customers, I don’t think anyone would find it fun and quirky.

    And maybe ask yourself why King doesn’t dress in costumes for public events. And he’s still, well, the King.


  45. Jane
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 10:36:50

    Okay, so now readers are responsible for the big picture of genre respectability? Then we have to stop buying, en masse, all books with man titty on it. Refraining from dressing up like characters or enjoying a NYT BESTSELLING AUTHOR (which so many people seem to forget) in costume isn’t going to make a blip in the respectability map.


  46. Leah
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 10:46:58

    This isn’t too much about costumes, but I wanted to stick up a little for editors here:

    The numbers game starts with the booksellers, not the publishers. For the most part, their buying is based on the previous book’s sales. And with consolidation of the wholesale market, stores going out of business, and more competition within the genre all the time, it can be tough even for an author deemed successful to grow. Bleak, I know. Many of the buyers do see the books as product, though there are also very supportive folks who will go against the numbers if they feel the book itself is strong. It’s our job here on the publisher’s end to present the best possible package (both editorially and cover-wise) to the buyers and come up with ways to keep enhancing those numbers.

    As for promotion and marketing, keep in mind that publishers spend a lot of money that isn’t necessarily directly visible to the author. Yes, ads and ARCs are fantastic – and we try to do them whenever possible. But even more importanly sometimes is front-of-store placement, special incentives and discounts to the booksellers (sometimes to help overcome previously poor sales numbers or grow an author who seems to be plateauing), advertising directly to booksellers in publications from Baker & Taylor and Ingram or programs like Booksense, or RT’s Booksellers That Care. Ads to the reader won’t be at all effective if the books aren’t visible in the stores in the first place–and that’s our number-one priority.

    And one last thing. Of course publishers want to work with authors who are willing to help out with promotion. But everyone goes about it different ways. There are those who are incredibly media-genic and those who aren’t. But the successful ones manage to find their own way–whether it’s through really savvy Internet marketing (like Katie MacAlister – who rarely ever goes to conferences or signings), by following up fabulous word-of-mouth buzz with directly responding to readers and doing outreach with booksellers (like Christine Feehan, another one who didn’t do signings for a long time) or finding their own niche and really working that target group (like Debbie Macomber’s knitting series). Some people dress up. Some people don’t. Everyone has their own thing, and we respect that.

    Ok, end of rant! This somehow ended up much longer than the quick little comment I’d planned on.


  47. May
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 11:00:17

    I don’t get this.

    I don’t see anything wrong with what Mancusi, Maverick and SK do.

    It’s not for every author. Some authors are simply way more introverted than others. That may mean that they are unable to do certain types of promo. Therefore authors who can have an advantage.

    It’s ridiculous to expect them and their publishers to not use this advantage, even if it means that in the long run, better written books don’t sell as well and their authors can’t get more contracts.


  48. Bev(BB)
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 11:08:05

    You know, the way everyone is going on about this, one would think they had been dressed in full battle armour a la Trekkie conventions. Instead of just a couple of rather innocent outfits that one might’ve passed on the street without even noticing.

    So, okay, the swan hat, which I have yet to see a picture of, might’ve been a bit much, but is this really the first and only time anyone has ever dared to darken the hallowed halls of the RWA convention with costuming of any kind as a promotional gambit? Ever? I find that very difficult to believe.

    And just as a matter of reference and curiosity, what the heck does a swan have to do with her books anyway? I’ve been scratching my head over that one for two days and still haven’t figured it out. I will give you that a promotional item that has to be explained to someone who should know what it’s there for is decidedly odd choice, people, i.e. I read her books. Just saying.


  49. Margaret
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 11:08:37

    I think everyone has made their position clear. And from what I’ve read I think Mancusi and Maverick have responded very professionally.


  50. Laura Florand
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 11:27:11

    Actually, at SIGGRAPH, etc., I’m sure if any company thought it would benefit its sales and image, black swans would appear on employees’ heads. They probably wouldn’t benefit sales & image (which is a separate question), so instead lots of T-shirts, baseball caps, and flashy onscreen graphics are the rule. Emphasis on the product seems to them smarter marketing.

    Which might be true in this case, too, but that isn’t the debate, is it?

    And no one in question is an employee of the RWA. I guess that’s the central point of this debate, as far as I can tell. What is owed by individual authors to the RWA collective, within the confines of the conference?

    Booksellers often talk about how authors need to put on a show, do something special to reward readers for making the effort to come out. Nora, I don’t think this need applies to you at all! Not anymore. For almost everyone, just meeting you is pleasure enough, and that’s a really wonderful tribute to all your work.

    But for the others–I know this has been reiterated many times, the need to put on a good show. And it IS true that sales on one or two books can make or break most authors’ careers now. I think you got more chances to build an audience when you started. (Maybe not? You can correct me if I’m wrong there.) VELOCITY of sales (how fast an author’s first book flies off the shelves in the first six weeks, with complete indifference to the long term overall sales) can make or break it, from what I’ve heard and seen. So if people want to put on a show…I still think more power to them.

    But if it bothers enough authors at the RWA, then the conference organizers could establish rules against this, I guess. I thought it was fun, though.


  51. Nora Roberts
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 11:39:52

    A show? Like a song and dance? Or a fun and interesting Q&A at a signing event. I certainly am called on to give the latter, and am happy to do so–sans costumes.

    I’m not going to give a workshop–which it would amount to–on the Romance Wars of the early ’80′s, and how hard it was to stand out, to build a readership, to compete–and how many lines and authors came and went. Just let me say it was just as hard then as it is now.

    My husband’s a bookseller. I’ve never heard him advise an author to put on a show.


  52. JC Wilder
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 11:53:13

    Nora wrote: And again, WHY does it come down to-either we're quirky and free or we're in uniforms with pocket protectors? Has the great in between just gotten sucked into a vacuum?

    In some ways it has. We exist in a society that is so worried about their kids being made fun of or if their feelings will get hurt – where unpublished became pre-published and politically correct is the norm. What is new and different is pushed down so that it doesn’t ‘offend’ anyone or rock the boat. Anything in between is now seen as being morally wrong.

    Nora wrote: If that computer programmer went to the Dell equivilent of RWA national (if they had such a thing) and wore an enormous black swan on his head to meet customers, I don't think anyone would find it fun and quirky.

    I take it you haven’t been to very many computer conferences / conventions. :) I worked in the IT world for many years and on the rare occasion I managed to convince any developer to dress up they invariably showed up in polyester pants, a clip on tie and lovely white sweat socks with their tennis shoes. No one notices this because the salespeople who meet with the public invariably know nothing about software design – that’s why they were hired – to be that public face.

    I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree on this. If you choose to wear a leather jacket to a signing and that’s how you feel comfy – good for you. Because I wear a velvet blouse and vampire teeth, that does not make me any the less of a professional – I’m simply not a leather jacket kind of girl. Now suede, that’s another story! :)


  53. Laura Florand
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 11:54:17

    Like the Sweet Potato Queen, Jill Conner Browne. :) She’s often held up as an example. She IS amazing at it, I have to say. But a fun Q & A works, too. It doesn’t HAVE to be a costume; it’s just good to make it somehow special to the readers. I remember SEP’s last signing with the Charms candy and just her pure energy and enthusiasm, which all made it a lot of fun.

    It’s just–everyone’s show is different. For some people, costumes work. They probably wouldn’t for me, but then I always worry my students will show up anyway. No costumes for me! But something very Parisian in style, maybe yes. That’s not too different, is it?

    But the real issue I think you’ve said is whether it should be at RWA. I don’t know! It seemed fun to me. I thought it was a smart idea on Mancusi & Maverick’s part, and I feel bad for them now.


  54. Jane
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 11:57:04

    The pictures are linked here. If you click on Liz Maverick up at the top of the post, you’ll see Maverick and Mancusi. If you click on Kenyon, you’ll see the hat.


  55. Nora Roberts
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 11:57:17

    ~Mancusi & Maverick's part, and I feel bad for them now.~

    So do I. I didn’t like or agree with their choice, but they didn’t deserve some of the very harsh comments I’ve read.


  56. RfP
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 12:14:58

    My greatest interest is that this was a literacy signing; reading is on the decline; and genre fiction, which is the only growth area, gets no respect. That larger background gives the signing and its press coverage far greater significance.

    Obviously I think we all should be concerned for the greater good. But we also should be concerned for selfish market reasons.

    Jane’s quote from the Jane Dystel interview:

    I fear that eventually the only things that will be published are currently well known bestselling names and commercial fiction.

    The Washington Post cites a study that found “In 1994, over 70 percent of total fiction sales were accounted for by a mere five authors.”

    I found some scary statistics on the decline in reading. Romance looks like the only bright spot, but overall there’s a shrinking market–that can’t be good for ANYone, authors, readers, lit fic, sci fi, romance.

    A recent NY Times article asked if too many books are published:
    the demand for trade books is dispiritingly flat. For authors, are better chances at being published eventually canceled out by the likelihood that their books will get lost in the crowd?

    another editor… protested that there’s a place in the world for so-so books — minor works by major writers, for example — most worry that too many readers feel burned after taking a chance on an unfamiliar title and getting stuck with a dud.

    “So many books,” said one editor… “And in three weeks, they’ll be replaced by a whole new batch.” The chains… “have been cutting back on the midlist”.

    “Everyone is reading the same 20 books”


  57. Jess
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 12:52:30

    Having read these comments, and about 65% over at SBTB, I have to say that the only thing I’m seeing is the same ol’ BNF vs LNF arguments you see in fandoms transfered to the romance genre. It’s the exact same argument you see every day, down to the extreme examples. And like those times, it makes me lose respect for people that I admired before. Pity, too.

    Actually, it’s a straight throwback to the Claire regime of Potterdom. Something tells me that this might be my last visit here for a long while. That’s an even bigger pity, because blogs like this remind me about my favorite authors books coming out. I tend to forget when my personal life gets crazy, so it’s a nice little sunshine moment.


  58. RfP
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 13:03:48

    What do these mean?
    BNF vs LNF and Claire regime of Potterdom

    I’m scared to google anything Potter–not because I’ll be spoiled; because I’d get 99999999999 hits.

    I don’t think this argument is something to lose respect over. People feel strongly about what romance, and its image, are all about, and they’re willing to talk about it. The only comments that make me queasy are the ones that sound jealous or personal, but I find the discussion overall pretty interesting.


  59. Lila
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 13:17:52

    I see both sides of this debate. How that hat didn’t compress SK’s neck is a bit of a mystery.

    But I have a question for Nora. I always thought the author pic of you on the back of your JD Robb books was you in costume, wearing Eve’s long black coat, which I found to be ridiculously awesome. Am I the only one who thought that?


  60. Nora Roberts
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 13:27:06

    Am I the only one who thought that?

    No, because I’ve gotten this once or twice before.

    It’s J.D. Robb–just a different spin on me, for the more urban, grittier series. I don’t get the other, honestly, because I look NOTHING like Eve. It’s my coat–and I gave her a long leather coat in the series. For me, beginning and end of similarity.

    The clothes I wear in my book cover photos are always my clothes–and usually worn a lot long before any photo session.


  61. Lila
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 13:42:59

    In that case you’re just badass for owning that coat without it being an intentional pull from the book.

    I wish that there was more ‘wrap up’ about what actually went on at RWA. I’m e-published, lost my ‘in' as a PAN member when they yanked Samhain’s recognition, and I really wish someone were reporting what was going on now.

    Several people have reported how supportive the whole event is, especially the publisher parties, and it would be great if there were more reports on that. I feel like Jane and Candy and Sarah were all doing that before this latest drama broke.

    I doubt I’ll be going to RWA anytime soon, as I dislike putting myself in a situation where I will be treated poorly, and do not have the self control not to confront someone who talks down about ebooks, so I want to know more about the good stuff, I already hear plenty of the bad.


  62. Tracy MacNish
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 14:02:11

    Addressing the argument that it’s not enough to write a good book, I’d just like to say that no, it isn’t enough. A writer needs to write lots of good books, year after year, and based on those books, develop a following. A book isn’t a widget to me, or to my readers, or for that matter, to my editor and agent, who both have impressed me with their love and respect for romance as a whole.

    Even if it were a widget to some publishing big-wig, I’m not putting on a clown suit to sell it. I’ll pass or fail on the merit of my books, thanks very much.

    As a writer with only two books beneath my belt and another two on the way, I know what it is to feel like a tiny speck in the industry, and I understand the nearly desperate feeling of wanting my books to find the right audience and not quite knowing how to make that happen.

    The fact of the matter is: no one here knows who I am, but they won’t soon forget who wore a swan hat or a manga outfit. So for what it’s worth, I feel that costuming isn’t professional and doesn’t reflect well on the genre, but I can completely understand the temptation to try to generate buzz.

    The issue raised that good books aren’t enough is what I am concerned about, because that’s the only thing I have control over.

    Opinions about their outfits aside – are the books good? Because if they are, the buzz is nice but it’s only so far-reaching. And as for branding, that’s something created by consistency, not by an outfit or a gimmick.

    To date, no one has ever asked me if I’m going to write a real book, and no one has ever said anything derogatory to me about romance. However, I know that this is because of the women who have been fighting this battle for thirty years with professionalism, intelligence, and pure grit – and buzz and publicity aside, it wouldn’t have worked if they’d been wearing a costume.


  63. Margaret
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 14:17:25

    Opinions about their outfits aside – are the books good?

    I have Liz’s book, Wired, tbr. FWIW, I know it received a starred review from Publisher Weekly.


  64. Nora Roberts
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 14:50:28

    Tracy, will you marry me?


  65. Ava Rose Johnson
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 17:31:01

    This all strikes me as an over-reaction to be perfectly honest. I think it’s each to his/her own.

    Emily put it great when she said

    According to some very reputable psychologists the sign of real maturity is the ability to play. It is self-conscious teens who are always worrying about the what everying thinks and how they are being judged.

    And I didn’t think Kenyon’s costume was that OTT at all. It was something my mother would wear to a funeral, lol


  66. Rebecca
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 17:38:12

    A focal point that has perhaps been lost in most of this discussion is that the Literacy signing is a fundraising event. And fundraising is a serious business.

    Over the years RWA has hosted a Literacy Signing, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised. Local literacy groups located in the city the conference is hosted benefit.

    More readers, more market share. A win-win.

    Think of it: Hundreds of THOUSANDS of dollars for Literacy. Made possible by the faithfully donated books from publishers, faithful attendence by hundreds of authors who attend and willingly sign books and chat up readers, and by the faithful readers. Readers who pay FULL PRICE for books that could be purchased at a deep discount elsewhere.

    There is a history to this event, an event that no other writing organization can match. Not in time, not in money, not in generousity of spirit and not in reader devotion.

    For many, the Literacy signing is the institutional face of RWA. It IS the organizations biggest institutional advertisement.

    When a canadian film crew attended nationals to film a documentary, they filmed at the Literacy signing.

    Raising money for charity is a serious business. Now, on the fun side, HQ has a pj party, there is the death by chocolate party, the BeauMonde hosts a popular proper attire only event where costumes are indeed worn. Meg Cabot one year signed at a publisher book giveaway while wearing a tiara and using a pink feather pen. I didn’t hear any grousing. When Meg gave her speech at luncheon at the convention, she didn’t remove her cool pink/red color splash in her hair..yet she dressed professionally..but with a Meg touch.

    All these events are not the institiutional,” I”M a powerhouse org with clout” to get authors their copyrights back face of RWA. These events are the “nourish the writers spirit and have some fun “side of RWA.

    Yes, it’s hard in the biz these days. But it has ALWAYS been hard in the biz. Look at the chapter in ” On Writing” where Stephen King talks about having to chose to continue to write or to go to work to buy groceries for his young family. I KNOW there are authors out there facing similar issues today.

    RWA needs clout to lobby publishers on issues near and dear to authors hearts and wallets!

    Clout is not only expressed in the number of members of the org, but in the monies raised by this event. Those dollars show staying power. Not many orgs could pull this kind of event off.

    Take a look at those authors who remain published these days. Flourishing. Look at the scope and range of their work. Look at the different genres they write. They are the survivors.

    They aren’t still around because of luck. Or chance. Or funky promotions.(and might I add…I think everyone has at least one promotional idea that didn’t go as planned! ) So very many formerly well known authors are out of print. The survivors are around because they treat this business like a business. Nothing is personal-it’s a business.

    No, there isn’t a best selling authors dress, or suit or pants or skirt. That isn’t the point.

    When a beyond multi pubbed author suggests rethinking wearing costumes to a image branding event for RWA…you might want to look at the history of the event..not see it as an attack on personal choice. It wasn’t.


  67. Nora Roberts
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 18:08:09

    Rebecca, thank you, seriously, thank you for your entire post–from a professional and a personal level.


  68. Aoife
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 19:40:05

    I’m coming very late to this discussion, but here’s my 1/2 cent: When I first saw the pictures of Mancusi and Maverick, and the amazing swan hat worn by SK, my reaction was along the lines of “Well, I guess Romance hasn’t come as far as I thought it had.” It reminded me very much of the bad old days of Barbara Cartland, and pictures of authors who should be old enough to know better dressing up as their virginal 18-year-old heroines. I’ve been reading romances for over 40 years and that is the face of Romance for most of the non-romance reading population. Why anyone would want to perpetuate that stereotype is beyond me. I’m finished ranting now. Carry on.


  69. Lynne
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 20:16:47

    I’ve been going to SF&F events like Dragon*Con for years, so costumes don’t really have much of an effect on me anymore. I can see how some might believe that a fan-oriented occasion like a large book signing would be an opportunity for dressing up, but I can also understand how others might feel costumes give an unprofessional air to the event.

    I wouldn’t wear a costume, though, and the main reason is I wouldn’t want others to feel like I was attempting to hog the limelight. I know publishing’s a tough biz and a gal’s gotta do what she can to promo her books, but I think the place for that is at a launch party or at a smaller or individual signing.


  70. Emily
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 21:43:59

    I still don’t get how dressing funny is specifically a betrayal of romance genre. Because these days there is nothing fun and kitch about romance anymore? I really do think romance is going through its awkward phase and I hope it gets through with sense of humor intact.


  71. Robin
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 21:52:47

    I still don't get how dressing funny is specifically a betrayal of romance genre.

    I don’t see it as a betrayal of Romance at all. But I don’t see it as having fun and playing, either. I see it as calculated marketing, that far from being novel and rebellious, is instead making use of a long-time strategy of over-identifying Romance authors with their books and — ironically — taking away from the integrity of the work as anything more than FANtasy fulfillment. By themselves, M&M aren’t, IMO, ruining the genre or dressing against some professional standard; in fact, I think they looked very cute. But overall, I had basically the same reaction Aoife did in terms of seeing their self-styled edginess as consistent with long-time genre marketing trends.


  72. azteclady
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 22:05:35

    You know the old real state ditty? “location, location, location!” Well, I keep harping on how the RWA’s literacy signing was not the appropriate venue, venue, VENUE for the costume play cum marketing/promotional stunt. It was neither SK’s nor LM/MM’s individual signing or book release. And in that sense, it was not professional–IMO, YMMV–to wear a costume.


  73. RfP
    Jul 19, 2007 @ 23:27:19

    Emily: According to some very reputable psychologists the sign of real maturity is the ability to play…. I hope [romance] gets through with sense of humor intact.

    Have you read the posts and watched the videos of the let-hair-down silly fun that went on at other RWA functions? (Non-public functions, that is.) Clearly a lot of fun was had. And a lot of business done.

    Lynne: I wouldn't wear a costume… I wouldn't want others to feel like I was attempting to hog the limelight.

    My gut says that’s a large part of the controversy. Was the signing a group hike for charity or an individual race to the top.


  74. Jane
    Jul 20, 2007 @ 09:25:56

    RfP – I thought alot about your last comment because it made sense to me as a fairness issue. But as I was thinking about the Literacy SIgning, there is actually a lot of promo that goes one. Stephanie Bond, before the signing doors opened, went around and handed out shopping bags that had her logo on it and a swizzle straw and something else inside.

    Avon had t shirts with their authors cover. Many authors had bookmarks, candy, cover flats, and other giveaways. S ome stood while others sat (that might not have been a promo thing). If it is just about the books, with no promo, then I think it would be easy for RWA to draw the line. Costumes would automatically be excluded as promo like opportunities.


  75. Tracy MacNish
    Jul 20, 2007 @ 09:44:30

    The swan hat – fuggheddaboudit.

    The Manga girls – looked adorable and fun, and like they were dressed up to draw attention to their new Shomi line of books. And whether or not it’s appropriate, that horse has been ridden hard, put down, and thoroughly kicked.

    It’s their career, and what anyone else thinks is right or wrong, doesn’t really matter. No one here is the Behavior Police.

    What I find concerning is the lack of discussion about WHY they felt they needed to do it, the collective sense that as Jane wrote, it isn’t enough to write a good book.

    This is the rub – because reports that the midlist is dying and romance is getting less respect and therefore, shelf space, and, and, and….. next thing you know newer writers are feeling desperate to get people to notice them.

    I have an idea that I love my job as much as Liz Maverick and Marianne Mancusi, and that they take their writing every bit as seriously as I do.

    I also have the idea that if people would worry less about getting respect and focus on what truly EARNS it – hard work, good books, intelligent discourse, and professional behavoir, we would not be having what amounts to an absurd conversation that begins and ends with, “I wouldn’t do it, and so they shouldn’t, either.”

    (Oh, and Nora, will we share shoes (I’m a 7 1/2)? If so, I do.


  76. Deborah Smith
    Jul 20, 2007 @ 12:18:07

    Hi. I’ve written to the site owners privately but want to publish a note, here, too. WHOA. I never “accused” any of my fellow authors of luring pedophiles. The pedophile discussion had already begun when I made an off-hand comment about it. In retrospect, I should have known better, because it’s a loaded term and was instantly seized upon as a slur aimed at specific authors, rather than a discussion of the bigger issues. I posted a number of comments about professional image — as did about Nora Roberts, Jennie Cruisie and others. Some of the personal attacks against those of us in the anti-costume crowd got pretty ugly, and then devolved into a kind of debate about feminism and what constitutes “authentic” sexual behavior. It wasn’t pretty, and revealed a deep chasm between what some see as the Old Guard and the New Guard. However, there was never any intent, at least on my part, to cast aspersions at specific authors, just as I feel sure Nora and others were not attacking the authors in question. It’s really a shame when a debate turns into a vendetta based on a very, very small part of the discussion, taken entirely out of context.


  77. Jane
    Jul 20, 2007 @ 12:22:19

    Ms. Smith, I linked directly to your comment so that the readers can see for themselves what you wrote but for those who did not follow the link, here is the entirety of the comment.

    For every perky little author who dresses like a pedophile-luring schoolgirl or wears a swan hat or shows her rack or whatever in the vague hope of becoming a bestselling author that way, there are a hundred who a)don't wear costumes, b)are fat, middle-aged and flat-chested c) don't even go to conferences, in costume or not, and d)are hugely successful. So, like everything else in the world of extravagant self-promotion, the message continues to be: the best self-promo is sitting yo' ass at home and writing another good book.”

    and you went on to say

    Hey, you wanta go to a fan convention and dress up, no problem. But to go to a conference specifically for your professional peers and dress like a self-promoting cheescake is, well, like a pediatrician showing up at the AMA conference wearing a bunny suit. One could argue that said pediatrician is just promoting the business of being a kiddie doc, right? No. He or she is at a professional conference for other doctors. Not appearing at the local Chucky Cheese to drum up business.

    To the someone who said “pedophilia� is out of line when connected to grown women dressing like school girls. Nope. A fetish that depends on infantilizing adult women is about promoting sex with underage girls.

    And if you do a word search of the comments, yours is the very first that used pedophile or a derivation from that.


  78. Karen Scott
    Jul 20, 2007 @ 12:32:02

    Back-tracking only really works, when there’s no evidence to prove the initial f*ckwittery.

    Just sayin’.


  79. Deborah Smith
    Jul 20, 2007 @ 15:14:49

    Ms. Smith, I linked directly to your comment so that the readers can see for themselves what you wrote but for those who did not follow the link, here is the entirety of the comment.


    Anyone who reads the thread of that discussion will note that what I said was a joking comment in very general terms, responding to a slew of comments on the authors in question and the state of author publicity in general, unlike posters who called the authors “tarts” and also “creepy.” Please do link to THOSE posters’ comments, as well, so your readers can see what preceded my note. I will be the first to say that I misspoke — in jest — but at least I used an honest term to coin the discussion that was, to that point, being cased in very subtle but no less hurtful “nice” terms that women often use when they’re politely eviscerating other women. Those posters were making specific comments directly aimed at the authors, while I was not.


  80. Karen Scott
    Jul 20, 2007 @ 15:52:11

    Anyone who reads the thread of that discussion will note that what I said was a joking comment in very general terms

    How is using the term ‘pedophile-luring school girls’ even remotely funny?

    I’ve always figured that mentioning pedophilia and presenting it as a joke is generally considered bad form.

    My bad.


  81. Angela
    Jul 21, 2007 @ 06:35:02

    I’m with the person who said some of the fury stems from outrage that Marianne and Liz “hogged” the limelight. Okay, they probably are getting a lot of attention and website hits, but the book sales will be the test of whether or not their gamble paid off. Granted, their gimmick to promote the Shomi line would seem better used at a sf/f or manga convention(the very audience Shomi wants to lure to romance), but I don’t think the world is going to end if an author gets a great contract, or hits a best-seller list, or gets tons of buzz,etc when You(universal you) don’t and are slaving away trying to make it.

    The way I see it? It isn’t enough to write a great book, but from what I see on the shelves these days, the majority of them aren’t great books and from blog-hopping on author blogs, a lot of unpublished authors are writing copies(whether consciously or not) of what’s on the shelves or what an editor/agent says may be the next trend–not exactly conducive to writing great and unique books or a positive and creative atmosphere. (Makes me wonder how many unpublished authors leave Nationals not worried about what the next author(pubbed and unpubbed) is writing, or what Editor X said is selling.)

    That is what is killing the genre and why it will not get the respect a majority seems to crave. Even though Nora Roberts novels haven’t hit my g-spot (*g*), I respect her because she apparently is able to hit the mark every time one of her novels is released–no piggy-backing on trends or fretting over what Susie Q. Author is writing, but setting her own trends while respecting her readers and the genre.


  82. RfP
    Jul 22, 2007 @ 03:47:46

    “from what I see on the shelves these days, the majority of them aren't great books and from blog-hopping on author blogs, a lot of unpublished authors are writing copies(whether consciously or not) of what's on the shelves or what an editor/agent says may be the next trend”

    Angela, that’s a point that cuts through these other debates. There’s a lot of diversity of subgenres, but within each subgenre there are tons of near-identical books. It’s the “Wall of Books” effect in the NYTimes article I quoted above: every trend is represented by such high volume. On top of the fact that not every book can be fantastic, even if it is unique.

    Given how jaded I get as a reader, I understand the wish to make the Shomi books (all books) stand out as something different. Honestly though, I’m SO sick of hype. It seems like every book has won some award, and has amazing quotes from other romance authors (which I’ve learned not to trust). And the cover copy too often either sounds just like 40 other books, or gives a false impression of the book. (I find chick lit cover copy especially deceptive.) And then if I buy a hyped-up book and find an unedited mess… I get even more jaded.

    It makes it hard to impulse buy. I do more and more research online, reading samples before I buy. (I squint to not read the hype on authors’ websites.) I also use the library when in doubt.

    I think the hype has crescendoed (or become more obtrusive) in the last few years. I presume there’s market research saying most readers like the hype, but I’ve hit saturation point.


  83. Liddy Midnight
    Jul 22, 2007 @ 15:20:07

    Hmm…my reaction when I heard about the swan hat was, “Guess no one had trouble finding her in the crowd.” I have a greater problem with the sexy publicity pix some authors use. And I have to wonder, was the interview scheduled ahead of time or did the crew seek her out because of her attire?

    BTW, does anyone here know Sherrilyn Kenyon? Sherri is delightfully unfettered by most of society’s constraints on the ridiculous side of fun. The first time I signed at an RWA Literacy Signing, she was seated across the aisle from me, with a full set of Dark-Hunter character dolls on hand. She’s the very first person I would expect to appear wearing such an outfit.

    I’ve seen you enough, Nora, to know that you are always professional, polished and damned near perfect. (I’m not stalking you, honest, no matter how that sounds.) You are one of the last people I’d expect to see in a costume. Included in that category are SEP and Catherine Coulter. It’s a matter of personality and personal presentation.

    Alas, I have to confess that being much closer to Sherri than Nora in my attitudes. I would say I’m close to M&M as well, but should I attempt that type of garb at my present age and weight, men and women would scream in terror and small children be sentenced to lifetimes of post-traumatic therapy. That’s a bit much to have on my conscience. Ah, but in my youth…


  84. Lynne
    Jul 22, 2007 @ 16:57:10

    I hear ya about the hype, RfP. If the blurb about the author or the book crosses a certain threshold of “Oh, puh-leeze!” for me, I’m less inclined to buy it. I guess I just don’t like the feeling I’m being manipulated. If the book is that good, let me come to that conclusion on my own instead of beating me over the head with it.


  85. Jenns
    Jul 25, 2007 @ 11:14:13

    I know I’m here late in the game, so to speak, and that I’m a newbie to these here boards, but I’ve got to say that I’m against the whole costume thing. Fine, if you do it at your own signing, on your own time. Not okay if you dress up when the entire industry is being represented. Sure, maybe you’ll have your fifteen minutes of people noticing you and paying just a little more attention. But don’t the costumes at the conference (a business thing) seem like a lampoon? It’s so easy for anyone to say, “They don’t take their work seriously, why should we?”
    If you want to camp up, that’s fair. But do it at your own signings, and on your own websites. Romance writers have enough trouble as it is.
    Please believe me when I say that I’m not maligning these writers in any way – not personally, not their books.
    But I think there should be consideration for other authors, as well.


  86. Dear Author: Romance Book Reviews, Author Interviews, and Commentary » Blog Archive » What It Means to Be a Fan
    Jan 20, 2008 @ 06:39:47

    [...] must be her fangirl. Anyone who paid attention to the costume controversy of 2007 would know that I disagreed with Roberts on her stance on the [...]

  87. sandeeps
    Mar 19, 2008 @ 22:06:48

    What an interesting way to get people interested in reading! Book trailers are like movie trailers, but for books! You can find them all over the internet now, but here is a site that’s featuring them on YouTube.


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