Friday, March 16, 2007

Just FYI

I was alerted to a documentary on romance books by one of the people on my book trading group. I was unable to tape it for Alyssa because I don't have a VCR but I do have a DVR which is like a Tivo.

The documentary is called Who's Afraid of Happy Endings? and was broadcast on Bravo!

I had the DVR tape it thinking maybe I would watch it but since I'm pretty much an avid reader of romance I wasn't all that concerned. (Really, what could they tell me I didn't already know?)

It's an hour long show and well, surprise, surprise, there were a few moments that had my eyebrows raising into my hairline. I haven't seen anyone talking about it so I decided I would re-watch the show and try to take notes and do a documentary review.

Turns out that's like work.

Five pages of notes later I decided that I would kind of hit the highlights.

Basically the documentary follows two published authors, Kayla Perrin and Kathryn Smith and an unpublished hopeful, Kelly Boyce.

Kayla Perrin has 25 books published and is an African American romance writer who took a leap at Harlequin in order to advance her career. Ms. Perrin openly talks about being an African American writer and how there is a niche market. Knowing that love is something everyone strives for she decided to write a book with two black heroines and one white heroine.

Interestingly enough, I had one publisher say why is there a white girl in this book. You would think that in this day and age you wouldn't get those kind of comments. I think they are absurd.

Her editor sent the book to Harlequin and they loved that she had both black and white couples in her story because they felt it reflected reality. They asked her if she could 'up it' sexually so that they could launch their Spice line with her story. Wanting to grow her career and knowing that Harlequin does great launches she signed on and entered the erotica market.

What was interesting was the approach that Harlequin took to the cover. They deliberately made the hand squeezing the peach more mocha in colour so that looking at the cover it could be any one of the heroines in the book holding the peach. They also did this in hopes of getting new readers to pick up Ms. Perrins' book.

Kathryn Smith is the author of 12 published books and has been in the mid-lists for the duration of her career. At the time of this documentary, Ms. Smith decided to make a change. Up until this point, she was a writer of regency historicals but as she said, there are many authors at Avon who are already successful in regency romance and she felt like a little fish in a big pond. So in the hopes of moving her career forward she made the switch to paranormal romance. They will still be set historically and she's hoping to bring a fresh voice to the genre.

What was interesting was hearing that for the previous 2 years, paranormals had increased sales of 30% for each year. Even though us romance reader groan at the glut of paranormals, it seems that they have provided a cross over audience and thus a wider market is open to them. Let's just say that I see why some authors have made the move!

Next, I'm beginning to understand the 'Avonization' argument. (Seriously, I didn't understand it until Kristie explained it to me and I thought 'oh, I knew that, that's why I don't read historicals much anymore)

Kelly Boyce is an aspiring author and we get to follow her to the RWA conference where she has a chance to pitch her book to Avon.

Kristie, I can't believe what I saw!!

Kelly Harms (with Avon) is the woman that is hearing the pitch. Ms. Boyce is nervous and starts her pitch off, basically her story is not earth shattering but her heroine is a widow.

So, you have a widow, did Julia (I have no idea who she is referring to here) tell you I always complain when there are widows?
The first thing I always send her or any of my pros is to try and envision the book with The Virgin.

I'm telling you she drew out The Virgin as if it was the magic and she says that it absolutely sells. Not only that she mentioned that the story being pitched was a stand alone and that there were no opportunities for a series.

So there you have it, straight from the publishers mouth. Virgin. Series.

In the defense of authors (and really, this documentary definitely brought this across), if you are told that a Regency set Vampire romance with a virgin heroine will fly off the shelves, you're going to want to write that book.

Each of these authors have a dream and that dream is to be the next Nora Roberts and quite frankly, I can't fault them for that.

I'm going to stop here cause this is getting long and you guys can let me know if you want to hear about the issue of covers and some anecdotes from authors like Nora Roberts, Jennifer Cruisie and Debbie Macomber.


Rosie said...

Cindy, thanks, I hadn't heard about this program. I'm going to check out the Bravo site and see if I can get more info.

Rosario said...

So there you have it, straight from the publishers mouth. Virgin. Series.


nath said...

Hey Cindy :D

that was an interesting show that you watched and thanks for putting up the highlights... I wonder if publishers makes poll sometimes to know what readers really like to read ^^; I think they should visit blogs a little more and then, they'll see that Virgin widows are a no-no! by the way, if I'm not wrong, these three authors also did an interview that Chantal has posted up over at her blog.

ReneeW said...

I'll echo Rosario's sentiments here. Actually, this stuff is fascinating. I want to hear more.

Anonymous said...

Cindy: That's really interesting. I'm going to have to check and see if it'll be shown again. Thanks!


Jenster said...

Yes, please! Please keep going. I want to hear more. (Very interesting!)

ames said...

Ok-I had to laugh when I read about the widow thing. And what exactly is this 'avonization'? Have I been living under a rock or what? LOL

CindyS said...

Rosie - good idea, I hadn't thought to look up other airing times.

Rosario - I so feel your pain!

Nath - oh! I should go over and see what's up - thanks for letting me know.

Renee - ask and you shall receive ;)

LinnieGayl - I'm thinking that it has not aired in the States as Alyssa was looking for us Canadians to tape it for her. Since I couldn't tape it I thought I would do one of my reports ;)

Jenster - And more you shall have!

Ames - no, you haven't been living under a rock and it's one of those things when someone explains it you go 'ohhhh, I knew that but never really put it together'. In all honesty I would like Kristie to explain it because she sees it much better than I do. I will e-mail her and see if she wants to do a mini-write up when she gets time about what exactly 'Avonization' is. For me, Avon has those horrible clinch covers and seem to all be set in Regency London. On that note, I should look up some authors like Chase - I thought she was Avon but I might be wrong.

Like I said, you know it by looking at the bookstore shelves and thinking, nope, sick of reading those ;)


Kristie (J) said...

Oh - thanks so much for doing this Cindy! I really wanted to watch this show but it was on a class night and *aurgghh* I have no idea how to work the VCR for advance taping. And make sure you keep it so I can watch it! In the meantime - thanks for the posts on it!
I'll have to check to see if they replay it. Then I can tape it for Alyssa.
And for the Avonization thing - I will try and explain how it appears to me. And sadly - yes - Chase is now with Avon

Alyssa said...

Oh, thanks for posting about this! I look forward to seeing it myself sometime. If Kristie can't tape it, it'll show here eventually . . . LOL!

Jane said...

Please, please, please, write more.

Robin said...

That the Avon editor would allow herself to be taped for that interview pretty much tells you where they are in terms of consciousness. Which, as far as I'm concerned, is the whole problem. I would so love Lisa Kleypas's insights into their whole fixation on the Serial Virgin, especially since they wouldn't let her write Daisy and Cam as a couple. You KNOW there's some good dirt there.