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Basically the documentary follows two published authors, Kayla Perrin and Kathryn Smith and an unpublished hopeful, Kelly Boyce.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