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Romantic Times Responds

RT LogoWhen I spoke with Carol Stacy on Wednesday, she educated me about the Romantic Times reviews. I came away with a sense that RT does the best that they can to ensure that their reviews reflect an unbiased opinion of their reader reviewers. While some reader reviewers have favorite authors, like we do here, that may account for high marks for a book that might not be to the subscriber’s tastes, it does appear that the reviews are no more “biased” than one you might read on a reader blog.

I asked Ms. Stacy if she wouldn’t be willing to share this information with the readers and she complied. She knew that even if she did provide the guidelines that there will always be some detractors and she encourages anyone to email her. She’ll respond. But she won’t engage in a public banter back and forth and so I hope that you can respect that. I encourage you to email her if you have an issue about RT.

We can certainly have debate, if you like, about the quality/credibility of the reviews, policy changes that you think should be implemented to make a better magazine, but any comment that is a personal attack will be deleted.

***

Dear Readers and Authors,

When Jane called to confirm that Kathryn wrote the letter, I brought up a comment she made on her site, questioning the credibility of Romantic Times’ reviews.

I explained how books are reviewed and the process we have in place, which all reviewers must adhere to. She was surprised to learn just how involved the protocols are and invited me to share this information with the visitors to her site because she felt few were aware of them.

I know there is a misconception that our reviews are connected to advertising and I can emphatically say that NO they are not for mainstream publishers.

Before I get to the small press policy I would like to address our mainstream publisher policy, which includes publishers like Harlequin, Dorchester, Kensington, Penguin/Putnam, HarperCollins/Avon, Warner Books, Random House/Ballantine, Bantam/Dell, Simon & Schuster/Pocket, St. Martin's Press, Tor/Forge and ALL of their relevant imprints.

We review (or at least try to get the galley and/or manuscript for) EVERY book that appears in a publisher's sales kit that we feel is appropriate for our audience REGARDLESS of whether it is being advertised.

Case in point is Nora Roberts. By her own admission on this web site, she severed her relationship with the Romantic Times organization more than a decade ago. No contact with her at all. No ads from her. No ads from her publisher.

In those same 10 years, we have reviewed EVERY Nora Roberts book and EVERY J.D. Robb book.

Here is how we select the mainstream women's fiction books that we review:

  • We have a column in the magazine called Publishers Previews that lists books coming out two months BEFORE the issue in hand, i.e., the June issue forecasts books being published in August. To compile the Publishers Previews list, we receive either a sales catalog from the publisher (which we go through and select the relevant books for our readers) OR we receive faxes from the publisher (which contain pages from the publisher's catalog) that highlight those books they deem relevant for our readership.
  • It is the Publishers Previews listing that we use to track down all of the books we want to have represented in our magazine for that month. And WE DO track them down because some publishers do not just automatically send them out.
  • This is all independent of whether or not a book it being advertised. PERIOD. END OF STORY.

Jane raised the question about whether or not our reviewers know which books are being advertised and the answer is NO. I think a few years ago someone from RWA correlated the advertised books in RT with ratings and found that there is no correlation. I am sure RWA has the archives of this article and findings for those who may be interested. But if they do not, it is easy for you to check out on our web site. Go to our search page and look up the advertised book and compare it to the rating.

We are working so far in advance to get books to the reviewers for the appropriate issue that our advertising list is far from complete when the reviews are assigned.

SMALL PRESS AND E-BOOKS AD/REVIEW POLICY:
Since we receive thousands of requests a month (this includes e-mails and actual manuscripts –" piles of manuscripts) from people who want us to review their small press and/or e-books, we realized we had to come up with a policy. Since many small press/e-book authors were already advertising with us, we felt it was fair to include reviews of their books. THIS IN NO WAY GUARANTEES THEM A GOOD REVIEW. In fact many of these books receive less than favorable reviews. Again you can check this out on our web site. As more small press and e-book authors began to advertise we extended the review option to them as well. Thus began the policy that we would review all small press/e-books advertised.

I also came up with an inexpensive way for small press/e-book authors to advertise so that their books would be guaranteed a review –" group advertorials. This is where several authors (typically five or more) share an ad for half the cost of a full-page ad. This has worked very well for small press/e-book authors who, for a few hundred dollars, can get their name in front of our readers and have a review of their book in the
magazine.

This may explain why there are so many Ellora's Cave books reviewed in our magazine. It's because their authors do many group ads and in turn they get reviewed.

I want to reiterate that this small press/e-book review policy IN NO WAY AFFECTS THE RATING of a book. It only ensures a review. I also want say that we have established a policy that regardless of advertising we will not review m/m books at this time, which is why even though Laura Baumbach participates in advertorials her m/m books are not reviewed. The author agrees to be a part of the advertorials even though she understands her book will not be reviewed.

Also I want to reiterate this policy of ad/reviews DOES NOT APPLY to the mainstream publishers' books as explained earlier.

EVERY REVIEWER is given a ratings guideline, which I have included below along with a letter from me explaining what their goal should be when writing the review. Reviews are subjective and although we keep our reviewers in check, i.e. we will question too many 4s and 4 1/2s etc., we respect our reviewers' opinions since they all are readers.

I hope this information will be helpful in helping you understand more about Romantic Times BOOKreviews and our policies.

Sincerely,
Carol Stacy
Publisher

RATINGS GUIDE:

  • 4 1/2 Gold — Phenomenal. In a class by itself.
  • 4 1/2 — Fantastic. A Keeper.
  • 4 — Compelling. Page Turner.
  • 3 — Enjoyable. Pleasant Read.
  • 2 — Problematic. May Struggle to Finish.
  • 1 — Severely Flawed. Pass on this one.

Here is the REVIEWERS’ Guide to rating descriptions.

  • 4 1/2 Gold– In a class by itself. Reserved ONLY for those books that have a WOW factor. A book that blows you away. One that you want to immediately spread the word about to all your reader friends. One you will not part with so you buy another to give to a friend because you are so excited about it. Does not have to be groundbreaking like a 5 was but has to be beyond a keeper. Please be sure to ONLY give this rating to books that are extremely special or it will diminish the impact. “In a class by itself” because that is how a Gold should be perceived by our readers.
  • 4 1/2–Fantastic. A Keeper. (and please be sure it is a keeper). A book you COULD NOT put down. Perhaps it kept you up all night or you found yourself stealing time to get back to it. A book you would HIGHLY recommend without hesitation. A book that stays with you even after you have finished it. A book that is set apart from just a very good book.
  • 4–Compelling. Page Turner– Not a keeper but a very enjoyable book. Completely entertaining and satisfying. One you did not want to put down. One you looked forward to getting back to. One you won’t get rid of but not one that will go up on your keeper shelf.
  • 3–Enjoyable. Pleasant Read…Average. No great shakes but not bad. A so so book that can range from being average to good (note NOT very good book). Not a book you would recommend but if someone asked you about it you could say it was OK. Not compelling but one you will eventually finish.
  • 2–Problematic. May Struggle to Finish. Does not engage. Boring. Hard to finish OR has serious technical problems that made it hard to finish. A 2 is a book you probably would not have finished if you did not have to review it. Problematic says it is flawed but not unredeeming even if you are not recommending it.
  • 1–Severely Flawed. Pass on this one. Should never have been published without major editing. A BAD book. OR it can be a book you would never support because of offensive or objectionable content but if you use this you MUST state the reason. Absolutely would not have finished if you did not have to review it. This says lots and lots of problems. Unredeeming. Don’t waste your money.

(This is the letter I send to the reviewers)

ABOUT THE REVIEWS:

The book reviews are the heart and soul of RT BOOKreviews magazine and it is imperative that we make every effort to strengthen the reviews and make hard decisions when rating the books. If you look through any issue of RT BOOKreviews magazine as an objective reader you would raise an eyebrow as to how many books are rated 4 and 4 1/2 in each issue.

I am not saying that you should give a great book a lesser rating or a bad book a higher rating. I am only asking that you take a minute to reflect on each rating to determine what number it should receive and in MOST CASES I think you will determine it should be lower.

With the “critical–? paragraph as the lead, it is very important to convey what is good (or bad) about a book in specific terms. Phrases like “will keep you on the edge of your seat,–? or “beautiful prose,–? or “a page-turner,–? or “a book to snuggle up with on a cold winter's night,–? or even “will keep you up all night,–? does not say anything specifically about the book. What readers want to know is WHY it will keep them up all night, WHY it's a page-turner or WHY the prose is beautiful, etc.

Your critical paragraph must convey the tone of the book, i.e., suspenseful, humorous, very sensual, etc., and also substantiate why it is getting the rating you've chosen.

It's important to note that although we are asking you to consider giving more ratings on the low end of the scale, we will not accept mean-spirited descriptions that can be construed as a personal attack on an author. For instance, it is not acceptable to say something like, “this author should keep her day job because she can't put two sentences together.–? Or “about the only thing this book is good for is a doorstop.–? You get the idea.

We want to take the high road and explain to readers why the book didn't work without a personal attack or a mean-spirited opinion.

The book summary should be kept to TWO SHORT paragraphs. This is just a summary, and is not intended to give readers a blow-by-blow description of the entire book. Readers just want the gist of the story to see if it is something they would be interested in reading.

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE be sure to check the spelling of characters' names, places and also the title of the book and the author's name. We have been embarrassed on a number of occasions where the publisher and/or author have contacted us with corrections.

Thank you for all of your hard work and dedication, for your commitment to the deadlines and most of all for your loyal support. It is you, the readers, that make RT BOOKreviews so special!

Sincerely,
Carol Stacy
Publisher

***

 

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

46 Comments

  1. Jan
    May 04, 2007 @ 17:46:58

    Interesting. I’ll admit I haven’t read RT in over 5 years. But that was because when I picked it up at the time, the reviews were to me reminiscent of Harriet Klausner’s. I was hard pressed to find any low ones. The magazine could very well be different now and I’d never know. I wonder if RT keeps stats of the reviews the way AAR does so we’d have an idea of the spread of grades these days.

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  2. Margaret
    May 04, 2007 @ 18:02:21

    I may be a lone(some) voice regarding RT right now, but I love the magazine. Not for the reviewer opinion of a book, the book synopsis given are excellent…and it really is the best place for one stop romance book browsing and building a tbb list each month.

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  3. jmc
    May 04, 2007 @ 19:54:20

    As more small press and e-book authors began to advertise we extended the review option to them as well. Thus began the policy that we would review all small press/e-books advertised.

    I also want say that we have established a policy that regardless of advertising we will not review m/m books at this time…. The author agrees to be a part of the advertorials even though she understands her book will not be reviewed.

    If an editorial decision has been made that no m/m books will be reviewed, yet advertising dollars are still accepted for m/m books, then clearly the policy is NOT that all small press/ebook advertisers will be reviewed.

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  4. Jane
    May 04, 2007 @ 21:03:23

    That’s true, JMC. I asked Ms. Stacy about this and she said that originally they did review m/m book just like the other ebook/small presses but it did not receive a good response. She tells everyone, including Laura B, up front that they won’t review the books because she believes that the audience of the print magazine (as opposed to the people who frequent the MB) is not there. I mentioned to her that there seemed to be an increasing number of readers interested in “het” books. I mentioned the popularity of manga and the homosexual tropes there.

    She reiterated to me that her audience wasn’t there yet and that is the business decision they made, but it’s not one that they hide the ball on. Meaning that they tell each author that if it is straight m/m, no review. If it is m.m.f or f.f.m or so forth, they’ll review it.

    I guess I am not sure what to think about taking the ad money. On the one hand, if you don’t think your audience is there, why take ad money for it. On the other hand, why turn it down if you are up front about it with m/m authors. I truly am conflicted over the whole RT thing and this issue. I need to sit down and really think about it. I’ve read alot of opinions and I just haven’t been able to distill it all.

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  5. Emily
    May 04, 2007 @ 21:18:26

    RT clearly believes the MM audience is not there. They may well be right. The proportion of people seeking MM and those who are repelled by it must be roughly similar… not that there are any reliable figures. MM is a niche market. But it is a romance market and the occasion MM next to the MMFs with some MM scenes wouldn’t seem wildly out of place to me. Not my call, of course. Excluding MM is unlikely to cost them anything but it would be a nice gesture.

    If course part of the reason the market is not there may be that long-loyal readers like me have finally decided we just can’t support this publication any longer and others never picked it up for the same reason. Declaring that one’s readers don’t like a certain genre can be something of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    I also must say that if small presses must buy ads to get reviews, for whatever reason that is paying for reviews. One might, instead, employ a ballot or some other method of selecting who to review that does not connect paying money to getting a review. It seems implausible to me that the decision made was not not partly motivated by a desire to increase ad revenue.

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  6. Kate R
    May 04, 2007 @ 21:35:08

    huh.
    Well.
    I don’t know what to think. I wish she hadn’t been so rude at Lauren’s place, but maybe she was having a bad day– Still wish she’d been a better advocate for her clients/advertisers who write m/m. Maybe she actually does believe that m/m and f/f stories qualify as romance.

    I do know this: Paris Hilton is going to jail definitely doesn’t qualify as romance news. Paris Hilton is for sure the anti-romance.

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  7. Kate, sick cookie
    May 04, 2007 @ 21:37:39

    I always read RT. First thing I do is look for the one star reviews. Just like at AAR I look for D’s and F’s

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  8. Jane
    May 04, 2007 @ 21:40:43

    I would encourage you to email her, Kate, or anyone. She said she was willing to respond and I found her to be very open.

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  9. Gwen
    May 04, 2007 @ 21:53:59

    It goes almost without saying that RT can elect to publish what they want in their magazine. It’s their magazine, after all.

    To be honest, I just don’t care if they publish M/M reviews. I don’t go to RT for reco’s on that genre (don’t go there for anything, really). I listen to other readers and read blogs.

    What has me flabbergasted is how absolutely CLUELESS these two women appear to be about public relations. The Internet is a powerful and global communications medium that operates in real-time. And once you put something out there – IT’S OUT THERE. There’s no pulling it back.

    I’m thinking they should listen to Shakespeare’s Falstaff and remember that “discretion is the better part of valor” and just shut the f up. They’re just digging the hole deeper.

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  10. Jan
    May 04, 2007 @ 21:54:35

    Oy! I missed all the brouhaha and just went back and read about it. What a mess.

    You know, a lack of MxM reviews is important to me in deciding where to look for romance recommendations. I think a good romance is just that, no matter what kinds of genders or beings are involved. If I’m paying for reviews I want a source that recognizes that too. So RT isn’t going to be for me.

    In fact, I think I’m best off listening to friends or reading blogs, because I don’t think most major romance sites review MxM, do they? At least, I don’t recall AAR or TRR doing it. I could be very wrong on that though.

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  11. Jan
    May 04, 2007 @ 21:59:49

    [quote comment="27714"]What has me flabbergasted is how absolutely CLUELESS these two women appear to be about public relations. The Internet is a powerful and global communications medium that operates in real-time. And once you put something out there – IT’S OUT THERE. There’s no pulling it back.[/quote]

    That’s true. This has worked its way into all the nooks and crannies of LJ, and probably every other large internet communtiy. Everyone knows Ms Stacy’s name now, and they’ve all read her comments from Laura’s blog. She has, with that one post, gained notoriety and a poor reputation.

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  12. Devon
    May 05, 2007 @ 08:01:33

    Interesting. Those aren’t bad guidelines for reviewers, actually, to help them along. Slightly OT, but during the meanie mean girls discussion that periodically pop up, there always some comments along the lines of “those aren’t real reviews” or “those aren’t ‘professional’ reviews” and I always wonder what they’re talking about, because most of the review journals I’m familiar with use volunteers. Nobody goes to reviewing school. They’re just readers.

    I’m glad that Ms. Stacy is up front about her policy regarding m/m romance, but conflicted about it. Then again I’m not an RT reader, apart from occasionally stealing it from my mom when I first started to read romance (mostly to check out the ads). And now I really, really don’t plan to become one. Definitely ain’t their target audience . I’ll stay online, thanks.

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  13. Michelle
    May 05, 2007 @ 08:39:23

    RT Magazine sure didn’t have any problem printing a hateful and bigoted letter against an ad for M/M. Funny how I got my renewal letter in the mail too, at the same time. I am conflicted about continuing my subscription. I mainly use the magazine to see what is coming out, but for them to encourage and foster hateful attitudes (both in the magazine and on the message board) disgusts me. (By foster I mean they do nothing to police the boards-I once had to email them regarding a post attacking another member(English) for simply not being a member of the U.S. she was posting that the message boards were only for US citizens-give me a break. At least they deleted the message and just replied that the poster was a little over the top-gee you think?) But I still visit the board because occ there are heads up about other boards, contests etc.

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  14. Selah March
    May 05, 2007 @ 10:36:04

    That's true, JMC. I asked Ms. Stacy about this and she said that originally they did review m/m book just like the other ebook/small presses but it did not receive a good response.

    Translation: they received a few outraged letters, and caved.

    She tells everyone, including Laura B, up front that they won't review the books because she believes that the audience of the print magazine (as opposed to the people who frequent the MB) is not there…

    I call bullshit. I’ve been an RT subscriber for some time. You can’t even GET to the reviews online without BEING a subscriber to the print magazine. So how big can the division be between online readers and print readers of this magazine?

    How does that saying go? Don’t piss down my leg and tell me it’s raining?

    Yeah, it’s their magazine, and they can take the money and run if they want. It’s a sensible business policy — they still get the cash but don’t have to piss off the bigots. Not exactly the moral high ground, though, is it? Especially with the owner touting “sisterhood” and undying support for female authors/editors/publishers.

    Who, exactly, do they think is writing and publishing this stuff? In many cases, the same chicks who’re the top sellers at these women-owned small and e-presses they claim to LUUURVE.

    Who do they think is reading it? Where’s the survey for the print readership? They ran one on the website and got a healthy pro-M/M response, but they say the print readership doesn’ t want it…how do they know? Those outraged letters again? Not exactly a scientific sampling. If there’s been a survey, I sure never saw it, and I’ve been a subscriber for a while.

    Makes you wonder…Falk has so many irons in the fire. Did one of her major charity contributers pitch a fit?

    That’s total speculation, but there’s a missing piece to this puzzle. I know what I know about epublishers, and right now M/M is selling like lemonade in the Sahara. I’m just not buying the “our print readership has no interest.”

    Something continues to stink big around this issue.

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  15. Jane
    May 05, 2007 @ 10:45:34

    I know what I know about epublishers, and right now M/M is selling like lemonade in the Sahara.

    Interestingly though, there is a significant epublisher who isn’t interested in promotion m/m books either. I am sure that there is a market and that it could be growing but I am not sure that it is RT’s responsibility for fostering that.

    I think one question I have is why does Laura B and others who focus on m/m books want RT to cave? I.e., why not spend your money elsewhere?

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  16. Sarah Frantz
    May 05, 2007 @ 10:52:25

    I’m with Selah. The m/m market is so hot right now, the only reason e-pubs can keep it in stock is because, well, they’re e-pubs and don’t actually have to print anything. I can’t wait for it to hit brick-and-mortar stores, but it ain’t happening yet. Every single e-pubs’ best-seller list is filled with m/m or m/m/f books, even if they’re not getting reviewed. The “response wasn’t good” was probably a few angry letters or a nice concerted campaign of lots of angry letters from a few subscribers. The thing is, when they started reviewing Inspirationals, the theism-phobes (to coin a phrase) wouldn’t have written in with similar angry letters, because, well, we/they don’t believe that we/they have the right to dictate anyone else’s choices, unlike the homophobic fundies who think m/m sex is Eeebil and a sin and think that everyone should think that and are going to protest until everyone has to submit in some way to their viewpoint.

    And when RT prints letters, they choose which letters to print, so printing a letter about Eeebil m/m ads is their choice and expresses something about their own feeling about the situation. It’s not like they don’t get a lot of letters about other things, I don’t imagine.

    And sure, they can be upfront about it, and it’s their right, because they’re a private institution, but it’s still discriminatory, and it still sucks, and it’s still WRONG, dammit. And they still won’t get any of my money, not that they have been, anyway.

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  17. Sarah Frantz
    May 05, 2007 @ 10:56:06

    I think one question I have is why does Laura B and others who focus on m/m books want RT to cave? I.e., why not spend your money elsewhere?

    It’s a tried and true method of protest, Jane. Because it DOES reach the audience they want to reach–ROMANCE readers!!–and because if you keep bringing it up every time you advertise and everytime you interact with the offending party, you force them to keep making the decision to discriminate, rather than just letting them forget about their policy. It’s very effective in the long run, especially if combined with other economic incentives like other m/m authors NOT using RT to advertise and letting RT know about it. There’s not point in not using RT and not telling them about it if you want them to change their policies. Both methods are good methods of protest.

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  18. Jan
    May 05, 2007 @ 11:00:36

    [quote comment="27746"]Interestingly though, there is a significant epublisher who isn’t interested in promotion m/m books either. I am sure that there is a market and that it could be growing but I am not sure that it is RT’s responsibility for fostering that.[/quote]

    Of course it’s not their responsibility to foster it, but isn’t it their responsibility to reflect the entire romance market if that’s what their reader’s want? The poll the they did suggests they do.

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  19. Emily
    May 05, 2007 @ 11:02:11

    We (MM fans) are interested in RT because the are the main romance reviewing magazine and we are writing romance–also many of us read, buy and/or write other romanc genres and would like to get it all in one place. Stacy may think gay romance in a romance magazine is like yoga in a NASCAR magazine but some of us think love is love is love.

    But if this really is a ‘we will not now or ever consider MM’ situation I will be happy to start a subscription drive for the nearest competition which would probably be Affair de Couer. RT are trying to have it both ways but that won’t play in the long term.

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  20. Robin
    May 05, 2007 @ 11:38:14

    We (MM fans) are interested in RT because the are the main romance reviewing magazine and we are writing romance-also many of us read, buy and/or write other romanc genres and would like to get it all in one place. Stacy may think gay romance in a romance magazine is like yoga in a NASCAR magazine but some of us think love is love is love.

    This is an answer to one of the things I was wondering about: if RT got a backbone, so to speak, and started to review MM – FF Romances, would they gain more readers than they would lose? Is RT a magazine that really does have a more traditional market, and would the long-run circulation actually be higher or lower? If it would be higher, and RT refuses to change its policy, then I’d suggest that there’s either an ideological decision there, or a real fear and unwillingness to take a short-term risk for potential long-term gain. Maybe no one has really done the market analysis?

    As for the ad/review dilemma, I can see MM – FF authors wanting an ad even if they don’t get a review, not only because it’s a great form of protest, but also because it provides exposure in the mainstream industry pub. Although, I have to say, if these readers who supposedly hate MM – FF Romance aren’t protesting those ads, would they be protesting the reviews en masse? That seems a question worth asking. As for the ethics of the practice, I guess that depends on what authors are getting out of the deal. If it’s a way for RT to keep some readers from being pissed off, and advertising authors get adequate exposure, then perhaps it’s both a good and bad thing. If traditional readers really would hie off and drop their subscriptions, the power of RT as an industry powerhouse would diminish, and a review in RT would no longer be coveted. And if that IS the case, then allowing the advertising is a way for RT to backdoor in those less traditional books, giving MM – FF authors a forum in a coveted publication. OTOH, if that ISN’T the case, then it may not matter so much what authors get out of it, because you’re really talking about ideological discrimination rather than a fair trade-off. Is there a way to figure out which is which?

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  21. Selah March
    May 05, 2007 @ 11:39:42

    Interestingly though, there is a significant epublisher who isn't interested in promotion m/m books either. I am sure that there is a market and that it could be growing but I am not sure that it is RT's responsibility for fostering that.

    I can’t speak to why a nameless “signicant epublisher” chooses not to tap a given market. Could be growing? Ask epub authors who write both “het” and M/M. Most will tell you their M/M titles sell as well, if not better, than their het. Add to that those authors who write ONLY M/M, and you have a growing market, no “could be” about it.

    Is it RT’s responsibility to promote M/M? Not if they don’t want to. But then lay off the “we rabidly support small print presses and epublishers, especially those run by women, and just as rabidly support the romance genre” bullshit.

    Unless they’re willing to come right out and say “we don’t think gay fiction IS romance, and we have no interest in reviewing it, whether our readership is interested in it or not,” then they’re hypocrites, aren’t they?

    I think one question I have is why does Laura B and others who focus on m/m books want RT to cave? I.e., why not spend your money elsewhere?

    Because like it or not, RT has the biggest marketshare, and the ads DO sell books. M/M books. M/M books bought by people who read the magazine and are looking for M/M romance. Those same people Carol Stacy says aren’t there in big enough numbers to warrant reviews.

    It’s a business decision (just like RT’s so-called “business decision”) to continue to buy ad space in the most influential market, even though that market treats us less than equally. If it engenders sales, even without reviews, then it’s worth it.

    Does that mean we shouldn’t keep fighting for equal treatment?

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  22. Jules Jones
    May 05, 2007 @ 12:15:51

    I checked the pages about advertising on the RT website earlier this week. I may have missed it, but as far as I can see, it still doesn’t spell out anywhere that the additional promo opportunities offered to those who pay for advertising are not available to m/m authors. (That’s not just reviews, it’s also the opportunity to write editorial material that can be used as indirect promo).

    It’s all very well saying that m/m writers know this. The fact is that some don’t, and RT is basically saying that we have to find out through the grapevine. I would like to know at what stage of the process m/m writers are told that they won’t get the perks. Because it costs money to create an ad before it’s ever submitted to RT, and because it could be embarrassing for someone who’s entered as part of a group promo if she then finds she has a choice of pulling out and letting other people down, or not getting what she thought she was paying for.

    The only such ad I’ve been involved in is one organised and paid for by my publisher, so I don’t have any direct experience. But if I hadn’t been told by my publisher that RT refused to review that book, I might well taken part in a group author ad without knowing that they wouldn’t review my book.

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  23. Bev(BB)
    May 05, 2007 @ 13:05:55

    It's a tried and true method of protest, Jane. Because it DOES reach the audience they want to reach-ROMANCE readers!!-

    I’ve been a romance reader for well over thirty years and have probably used RT twice to actually find books in that time . . . not sure it truly does reach the audience all that well. And the times that I have subscribed to it, I ended up letting the subscriptions lapse because I found it tiresome to wade through all the ads to find reviews. Of course, I hate the hunt and search for content amongst ads in any magazine so maybe I’m just not a print magazine person to begin with.

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  24. Michelle
    May 05, 2007 @ 13:17:59

    Also when you think of it logically, wouldn’t the-I’ll use anti M/M instead of some other descriptions, be more offended by seeing the picture/ad than reading a review? Wouldn’t be easier to skip a review section than avoid a brightly colored ad? So I don’t buy the argument that reviewing the books would lose them readers. Either don’t offend the groups by not even allowing a wisp of M/M pairings or allow ads and review the books. Also could you explain to me why M/M/F are ok by M/M aren’t.? Is it the magic hoho at work again? One hoho and all is forgiven?

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  25. Bev(BB)
    May 05, 2007 @ 13:23:31

    Okay, something has been nagging at me all week and I’ve been waiting for someone else to pick up on it and comment because frankly I didn’t want to go near the m/m issue with a, er, proverbial ten-inch whatever. However, since no one has mentioned this aspect and it’s still nagging at me I have to ask something.

    Just how dumb does RT really think we readers are?

    Here’s what’s itching at me. We could possibly be offended by written reviews of m/m romances but not by ads, however they get in the magazine? Which I assume include covers, usually with lots and lots of male flesh that don’t always hide what the book is about. I mean, come on. Does the excess of male flesh somehow make it okay?

    And then there’s the matter of walking the fence and falling down on it. Painfully.

    I was thinking this the other day when the RT convention thing came up. Assume for a moment that it was actually a businessman who complained. Wonder if they would’ve complained if the poster has been the typical half-naked, supine WOMAN laid out on the bed? You know like they’d normally expect to find at a typical ROMANCE related convention that they might be hanging around to goggle at.

    Ahem.

    People, I suspect this isn’t about homophobia alone. It’s also about sexism. Tends to happen when a lot of objectification of either sex comes into play. Now on the one hand, maybe we should applaud RT for wanting to include more “man-flesh” in the magazine but seems to me they could come up with other more consistently proper ways to do it.

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  26. Bev(BB)
    May 05, 2007 @ 13:25:52

    Great minds, Michelle. :D

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  27. MCHalliday
    May 05, 2007 @ 15:20:38

    So many things are coming into play *cough* with this thread!!
    I like what Emily had to say, “…some of us think love is love is love.” And that’s the bottom line, isn’t it? I am not enamored with MM personally but each to their own! I adore FF and MMF, and lots of readers say they aren’t into it…whatever sparks a piston, is fine by me. I have trouble with a publication that can’t accept we have varied preferences.
    Then Bev commented, “…the RT convention thing came up. Assume for a moment that it was actually a businessman who complained. Wonder if they would've complained if the poster has been the typical half-naked, supine WOMAN laid out on the bed?” And I have to say…not a chance in hell. Sexist, oh yeah! And why the f**k was a businessman (if indeed true, as there are homophobic undercurrents) allowed an opinion at the RT conference, anyway!
    I am no longer going to visit the RT site and will promptly stop their newsletter. I don’t care if it’s owned by a woman (Falk pleading for gender support in her infamous post), I suggest IMHO, she might consider what women desire no matter their preference.

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  28. Erastes
    May 06, 2007 @ 03:44:53

    I’m not quite sure that she makes herself terribly clear. Is she saying that she only refuses to review m/m from small publishers and epublishers? It certainly sounds like it. There are m/m being published by Kensington for one, so I wonder what RT would do if one of the big boys said “Please review the latest from Jamie O’Neill” or Sarah Waters ….

    To state it’s a business decision is crap no matter how you look at it, she was given the results of a poll where 56 percent of the takers expressed an interest in having RT’s review m/m books, and instead of taking this information and running with it as any business venture would – or at the very LEAST running a trial on the website (which is a pointless website as you can’t access it unless you subscribe to the magazine so why would you bother?) they crossed their arms, pouted and said “Oh no! Our lovely poll has been spoiled because a load of m/m writers and readers have participated, so we will ignore the results”

    And I rather object to gay romance being dubbed a niche market, I have to say. Is being gay now considered a niche?

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  29. Erastes
    May 06, 2007 @ 03:59:48

    Oh – and. Ms Stacy says that she’d be happy to discuss this, but she isn’t. I emailed her, (as a member of the advertising consortium that Laura Baumbach represented at RT – manloveromance – and one of the people who had their promotional material confiscated) and she was abrupt and said that she wouldn’t discuss it with me.

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  30. TeddyPig
    May 06, 2007 @ 04:10:19

    “I think one question I have is why does Laura B and others who focus on m/m books want RT to cave? I.e., why not spend your money elsewhere?”

    Jane,

    I was staying out of this discussion because in this case RT can review what it wants and blame anyone they want.
    Blaming their readership for their own magazines continued prejudice and bigotry and hateful practices is nasty and says a lot about what they think of the Romance Community, but oh well.

    Laura B. is still a part of the Romance Community and has the right to attend these events that RT puts on and be treated just like any other author wanting to network and promote her work to the people who attend. So she pays her money to these assholes and expects at least professional behaviour from them.

    That’s the real issue… Carol Stacy and her crew cannot seem to be trusted to provide even that common business like courtesy without bringing their little “m/m romance is not romance worthy” into these events. The simple fact is if they want to screen who attends then they should simply not take the money.

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  31. TeddyPig
    May 06, 2007 @ 04:17:13

    Bev wants centerfolds! Hey Bev, you want three or two pages or the full four page gatefold spread? For research purposes of course… heh.

    ReplyReply

  32. Bev(BB)
    May 06, 2007 @ 04:48:18

    [quote comment="27795"]Bev wants centerfolds! Hey Bev, you want three or two pages or the full four page gatefold spread? For research purposes of course… heh.[/quote]

    Um, no, centerfolds wasn’t my point. But it’s close. So I’ll just spell it out. Doesn’t anyone else think it’s highly ironic that a magazine that is otherwise obsessed with male cover models is getting all this flak over an incident related to one?

    And then they don’t stand up for them . . . like I said, sitting on that fence can get painful.

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  33. TeddyPig
    May 06, 2007 @ 05:56:43

    Bev, I was just joking about the centerfolds. I like the four page spreads myself.

    “I suspect this isn't about homophobia alone.”

    It can not be just homophobia because most of these writers are straight women. Like RT’s fearless leader went on and on and on and on about supporting with positive energy, singing Kum-by-a and a buy an ad and we will review you back gua-RANT-y.

    Since it’s then an issue about the “content” of the books, then it has to be about censorship too.

    Now, to writers and publishers I think this blatantly described practice would be a BIG concern because your ads would then associate you with this type of discrimination.

    So common sense says… if you allow the censorship of a recognized minority, in this case homosexual romance, then… What’s next? African American or Asian or… well who’s next on that justification?

    for business reasons of course.

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  34. TeddyPig
    May 06, 2007 @ 07:25:03

    I certainly hope the RWA has nothing to do with RT if this practice is known.

    Don’t they have Gay members?

    Seems to me, this would be a sticky situation for them as an organization purportedly looking out for it’s entire writer membership.

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  35. Selah March
    May 06, 2007 @ 07:37:36

    Oh – and. Ms Stacy says that she'd be happy to discuss this, but she isn't. I emailed her, (as a member of the advertising consortium that Laura Baumbach represented at RT – manloveromance – and one of the people who had their promotional material confiscated) and she was abrupt and said that she wouldn't discuss it with me.

    Thanks for mentioning this, Erastes. I’d begun drafting a letter — as polite and empathetic to Ms. Stacy’s position as I could possibly make it, because there’s a part of me that feels sorry for her, as I would for anyone who seems so confused and overwhelmed — but I won’t bother to continue working on it. It’s a shame the “openness” and “willingness to respond” she showed to Jane had an expiration date.

    But hell, she’s a busy woman. I bet it takes considerable time and energy to come up with analogies like “gay romance is to romantic fiction as Yoga is to NASCAR.”

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  36. Romanceland brouHA followup | the way there
    May 06, 2007 @ 08:51:48

    [...] upside, Carol Stacy reasonably tells Romanceland the inner workings of Romantic Times reviews and policies. Jane actually takes steps to [...]

  37. Mrs Giggles
    May 06, 2007 @ 08:59:45

    And I rather object to gay romance being dubbed a niche market, I have to say. Is being gay now considered a niche?

    Personally I don’t mind reading m/m – I’ve been a closeted slash fan for a long time now. But, I think from a business point of view, gay romance can be considered a niche market since not everyone reads M/M or gay romances. The appeal of M/M romances isn’t universal. Since “niche market” means “specialized market”, that kinda fits. It isn’t fair to ascribe some kind of negative motivation to the use of the term to describe gay romances because sometimes a spade is a spade.

    Besides, authors of gay romances aren’t necessarily gay (most are straight women), so “writing gay romances” and “being gay” aren’t necessarily one and the same.

    ReplyReply

  38. TeddyPig
    May 06, 2007 @ 18:31:08

    “It isn't fair to ascribe some kind of negative motivation to the use of the term to describe gay romances because sometimes a spade is a spade.”

    Right someone who censors Gay Romances obviously would also have a problem with Gay Authors.

    But I did not go there for reasons that the actual issues at hand had to do with Gay content not Gay Authors.

    I hope no one thinks I (a Gay Man) would feel welcomed with open arms, by Carol Stacy, …

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  39. Mrs Giggles
    May 07, 2007 @ 04:35:40

    Teddy, you are quoting me but we are both actually talking about different things. I agree that it is just not done the way RT/Hyatt treated Ms Baumbach. I said what I did in response to Erastes objecting to the use of the phrase “niche romance”, a phrase which I feel is a harmless one that has nothing to do with how the person using the phrase actually feels about gay romances.

    ReplyReply

  40. Anon 76
    May 07, 2007 @ 12:36:06

    Sigh,

    Now Carol is in deep doo doo for saying she has “gay friends” and calling gay romance a “niche market”.

    Heavens to Betsy. Let’s hang her from the yard arm and flay the flesh from her body.

    As to the vote at the RT site about strictly M/M F/F romances…Have any of you watched American Idol this year and the ballot stuffing?

    Has anyone paid attention to the new voting system on Dancing With The Stars this year?

    Has anyone ever competed in some of these writing contests conducted only on the net?

    I’m just saying…

    As to “niche market”. Yeppers, a true and valid thing. ‘Tis a biz, and people track it on more than just the “come on in and vote” level. Sign up for publications like Publishers Weekly, and you’ll get a real insight into changing markets.

    Regarding the fact that you have to buy RT to see reviews…No. A month or so after the issue hits the stand, you can see the reviews on the website. It is a courtesy to the subscribing public that they not post the reviews until later on the site. You want the goods quickly, subscribe.

    And now…I am waiting to see if someone will take offence to Mrs. Giggles using the term “because sometimes a spade is a spade”. Why? Because it is used in an entirely harmless post, but someone will equate it to her being prejudiced to people of color. After all, in the past, that term was considered extremely derogatory. Will the masses gather up in arms and call her a bigot???

    I certainly hope not. Because this train wreck needs to be cleaned up now.

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  41. Jan
    May 07, 2007 @ 12:53:35

    [quote comment="27893"]As to the vote at the RT site about strictly M/M F/F romances…Have any of you watched American Idol this year and the ballot stuffing?[/quote]

    Get a clue. If one does a poll and immediately assumes a conspiracy when it’s perfectly reasonable that the results are true given what has been proven in today’s market, that women love slash and yaoi, that implies one simply isn’t accepting it because the results aren’t what one wanted to see. Which in this case, implies something about one’s feelings on the subject of MxM romance. Which is backed up by one saying things like MxM romance is to romance like yoga is to Nascar.

    ReplyReply

  42. Anon 76
    May 07, 2007 @ 13:38:30

    Sigh. I do have a clue.

    My comments about those type of votes are in no way associated with RT opinions. They are my observations, based on a number of things, not only in the Romance industry, but in others.

    However…(and Lordy, I’m going to get that whole “You are saying your best friends are gay thing to make us think you are one with us and our genre”) as an editor, I bought some great slash books. Rocking books.

    But…even the rocking ones didn’t often sell well. It is a “niche” and I don’t think some of the authors are using their best potential with RT. Not at this point. There are other avenues, and they should work them like no tomorrow.

    And, sorry, but no matter what, every person from top to bottom is in it for profit. Every author, publisher, editor, review site, agent, blah blah blah, are in it for profit. How it comes about for each is different, but it is a given. All this hoohaw over the net will profit for some.

    Me Jaded? Totally.

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  43. Miki
    May 07, 2007 @ 14:40:24

    given what has been proven in today's market, that women love slash and yaoi

    Say “some” women, “many” women, even “most” women, but please don’t speak for “all” women. That’s like saying all women have rape fantasies or want to read “secret baby” stories.

    We all like different things. Hasn’t that been at least part of the point of this topic? That some of RT’s readership would like to read M/M, so excluding it because some of the others wouldn’t is short-sighted and unfair?

    Personally, I don’t care for M/M or M/M/F (although I enjoy M/F/M). I suspect it’s because I put myself in the heroine’s place (also why I don’t like TSTL heroines), and if I’m in her place, well…I want all the lovin’! *snicker*

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  44. Jan
    May 07, 2007 @ 14:44:47

    [quote comment="27896"]My comments about those type of votes are in no way associated with RT opinions. [/quote]

    Your comments about the votes are the same as those being made by RT representatives, which is that the poll is a result of a conspiracy among MxM authors and / or fans. Since you supported them in this way, I explained why their opinion about the poll was, IMO, ridiculous and a result of their own dislike of the genre, which was shown by other comments they’ve made.

    I’m not saying that you echo what I perceive to be their feelings about MxM books at all.

    [quote]It is a “nicheâ€? and I don't think some of the authors are using their best potential with RT.[/quote]

    Of course it’s a niche. So are inspirationals, which are treated rather differently by RT. Do they sell as well as mainstream romances? How do they know inspirational readers read RT? Because of a poll?

    And of course everyone’s in it for profit. That’s why almost every manga house this side of the Pacific is starting a yaoi line. And it’s why said yaoi lines are and have become the supporting foundations of many manga houses, because they’re proven to sell consistently to a fanbase that can’t get enough.

    And this is a growing fanbase demanding novels. Fan demands and a poll resulted in the publication here of the first yaoi novel in English. The publisher never thought that fans would want it and so hadn’t even considered the possibility. I think American publishers are terribly short-sighted about this, until it’s shoved down their throats. Almost everyone except the Japanese has underestimated the draw of this genre to American women.

    There’s an untapped market of women in the US for MxM romances. If they’re not selling that well yet, that means the publishing houses aren’t aiming them correctly. All of the yaoi fans I know found yaoi unexpectedly, because they came across an ad or an article or a story somewhere that interested them. MxM writers need exposure in these unexpected but related places and not just at the niche readers, in order to expand their sales. Reviews in RT would help the writers gain new readers, so it makes perfect sense to me to try to get exposure there.

    RT doesn’t owe them the space of course. Unless they sell it to them under false pretenses. Which is the accusation, and one to be taken serious since their formal policy apparently says nothing about how there is an exception out of all kinds of romances for the MxM ones.

    ReplyReply

  45. Cuppacafe » Blog Archive » Cuppabits May 8th
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