Friday, January 31, 2014

Let Your Voice Be Heard

On this chilly winter Friday (at least here in the northern United States), a miscellany of links to other blog posts on the the topic of letting your voice be heard:

First, from the Wonk-o-Mance web site, a post from romance author Ruthie Knox about editorial policing and author self-policing in the romance field. And this follow-up post from reader/reviewer Willaful on the Dear Author site, approaching the issue from a reader's point of view. Not only the posts, but the many informed comments, are well-worth reading if you're interested in the topic of voice.

Unpublished romance authors often turned to local RWA chapter contests to get their voices heard. But this year has seen a marked decrease in contest submissions, chapter leaders around the country have reported on the RWA Chapter Leadership loop (of which I am a member, as Treasurer of the New England Chapter of RWA). In response, Tori McAllister, Secretary of the Pocono-Lehigh Romance Writers, blogged here about possible reasons for the decline, and ways local RWA chapters might respond. If you're a romance author, or an aspiring author, what kind of contests would you like to see RWA chapters run?

Winning a major award is a great way for authors to get their voices heard by a broader audience. Though RWA's RITA award winners won't be revealed until this summer, the American Library Association announced its annual awards this past Wednesday, including the Reference and User Services Association's Reading List, which "seeks to highlight outstanding genre fiction that merit special attention by general adult readers and the librarians who work with them." Tessa Dare's Any Duchess Will Do was given top honors in the romance category, with four additional books placed on the short list:

Autumn Bride by Anne Gracie
The Heiress Effect by Courtney Milan (about which I posted about here)
One Good Earl Deserves a Lover by Sarah MacLean
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Interesting that librarians seem to prefer historicals (four out of the five titles selected), at least for adult readers. How many of these have you read? How many of them would you regard as feminist?

Children's and YA librarians also announced their Youth Media Awards this week. The Michael L. Printz Award, for novels written for young adults, included two books with romance at their heart: Honor Book Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, and Printz Award-winner Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick (loved the first, and am eagerly looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of the second). Still waiting for the Best of the Best YA list to be posted on the YALSA web site, to see if librarians favored any other YA romances...

Finally, a question: did you vote in the All About Romance's Annual Reader's poll this year? Do you think it's important for readers to make their voices heard via such polls? Or do think polls are irrelevant in a field where sales figures often dictate what gets published and what doesn't?

Photo credits:
Enter to Win: The Romantic Editor
Printz Award seal: American Library Association


  1. That's interesting, the bias towards historicals you note. My library doesn't cover romances as thoroughly as I'd like, and I am more likely to find historical romance there than anything else other than best sellers.

  2. P.S. I did vote in the poll, but never considered it as any kind of message to publishers. I just do it for fun, so I vote my heart, which often means voting for something that doesn't have a remote chance of winning. (Like the heroine from Fangirl for "best kick-ass heroine.")

  3. I read The Heiress Effect at your recommendation, but I haven't read any of the others, probably because you've never recommended them. After some horrifying experiences with non-feminist historicals (some should carry warnings, I swear!), I've pretty much confined myself to those you recommend and authors I trust.

    I'm more likely to read romances when I can borrow ebooks from the library and they have many, many more from historical back-catalogs than any other type. They sometimes have current historicals in ebook form, but the wait list for someone like Grace Burrowes is super long. No Victoria Dahls in ebook form via the library, though they do have hers and others like her in regular book form. But then I have to actually GO and then actually RETURN it. So I'm more likely to purchase contemporary romance ebooks from Amazon than I am to borrow from the library. At $3-5 per, it saves me in library fines.


    1. That's interesting, because I have far less trouble with historicals than contemporaries, perhaps because historicals operate in a landscape that I know is sexist whereas contemporaries often reinforce sexism when they don't need to. That doesn't mean I haven't run into historical romances that enrage me, but it happens far less frequently.

      Courtney Milan is the one romance author I can rely on to come at things from a feminist perspective. You may not like her stories for other reasons, but that's not going to be one of them.

    2. Oh I've read everything by Courtney Milan. And I always feel I'm in feminist hands even if sometimes the plots and behaviors strike me as anachronistic. I'll still read everything she writes.

      And when it comes to feminism in historicals though, my standards are pretty low. Non-consent disguised as consent is what bothers me. Unless there's a safe word, no means no and for some historical authors, no sometimes seems to mean, "Well maybe. Convince me." It's more common in older novels, but it does still seem to come up occasionally and it's enough to permanently cross an author off my list. Others may give more latitude in that regard. I can't.

      I'll regard as "feminist" almost any historical where the heroine is appreciated for something beyond being merely pretty: charitable, accomplished, a good mother, etc. as long as a woman's contribution is explicitly valued by the hero and her family, I'm generally happy.


  4. Many interesting ideas here! The links are great. I couldn’t read the dear author’s post because they are temporarily offline for maintenance today.
    We Romance readers only want a good love story with a HEA or a HFN. For me, all those things about heroes not buying condoms or the problem with armpit hair are absurd. I personally like fresh voices and new tropes and more realism in the romance novels. I think they are changing slowly. Remember, there was a time in which all heroines were virgins and there was no oral sex.
    Secondly, about RWA chapter contests, well, I knew nothing about these contests, but reading the article I realized that, if I were a non-published writer, I would not go to one of these contests, I’d rather self-publish myself.
    The RUSA list: I’ve only read ‘Any Duchess Will Do’ and ‘The Heiress Effect’. I wouldn’t consider the first one feminist, and although I enjoyed it I forgot it as soon as I read it. Very light, very fluffy, no nerve or bone or real life in that book. I loved C. Milan’s, yes that is certainly a feminist book.
    Why do librarians recommend historical romance? I guess that History is a way of disguising the fact that the novel belongs to Romance ‘that terrible genre’.
    Yes, I did vote in the All About Romance's Annual Reader's poll this year. It was a first for me!
    These polls are very helpful for the readers. There are so many Romance books out there, that it’s difficult to know which ones deserve your attention. And as they don’t talk about romance novels in the cultural pages of the newspapers or magazines, the internet is the only place where you can read reviews and know what other readers have liked.
    I don’t know if sales figures dictate what gets published. It’s kind of logical if you have a business, isn’t it? But for me, as a reader, polls and reviews in the internet are the main way of deciding what romance novels to read.

  5. I read Ruthie Knox's post and was grateful for self-publishing. But I can understand why editors do what they do, especially if they hadn't seen the manuscript in full before contracting for it and especially if it's written for a particular line that needs to be predictable to keep readers happy.

    It certainly seems like the romance landscape of, say, the 90s would have been more to my liking than today's, with its emphasis on what to me is stupid BDSM (women are always subs and there's an evo psych explanation for that), alphaholes, and motorcycle men -- basically, visceral emotion, sex, and violence at the expense of plot, realism, and relationship development.

  6. I feel like the RWA chapter contests haven't kept up with the Indie Market.....contests *should* be a way to garner reviews and credibility for those of us navigating the indie market solo......the emphasis now isn't so much on agent/editor reads, but critical acclaim and "new work". By that I mean, stories that break the "category" boundaries to some degree.....Right now, I'm loving the Montana Strong contest.....eligible to "PAN" eligible writers, including self published....and not your typical "first pages" but a scene depicting strength; moral and character.....I love this. I feel like there's been way to much emphasis on openers.....I'd like to see more themed contests, and more "prizes" geared towards arranged blog tour, some promo FB and GR mentions, and positive reviews where they count!!

    1. Thanks, Lilly, for stopping by, and for sharing your thoughts about contests. My own RWA chapter (New England) is going to be having a discussion about the future of our own two contests in the next few months, and your thoughts are really helpful!