Periodically a journalist comes out with an interview or story about the romance industry or about a specific author, and within about 20 minutes of the story hitting the internet, a busload of romance authors gets bent out of shape about it.
The latest case involves a Jacksonville, Florida paper whose journalist, Diana Middleton, talked to several published RWA chapter members to get the skinny on publishing in today’s romance industry.
Middleton wrote a solid story that reflects an interesting shift: from assuming that romances are mindless to understanding that they can’t really be slotted into any easy categories. She interviewed several authors from the First Coast RWA chapter, and includes lots of quotes from them. Her article talks about the various subgenres cropping up, and then says things like:
But the widening selection means romances are shaking their bodice-ripper labels and are now falling comfortably into the loose category of mainstream women’s literature.
and offers up some stats:
While romances are the pounding heart of the paperback industry, romance publishers are pumping sales by flooding the marketplace with new titles and new genres. And the romance genre’s sales are steaming: Torstar, the parent company for Harlequin Enterprises, the genre’s largest publisher, saw second-quarter revenue increase $6.7 million, with its book publishing division seeing positive growth. Net income for the company shot up 17.6 percent for the second quarter, as well.
But what writers seem to be up in arms about is the use of the word “formula” or “formulaic.” Those are four-letter words when journalists use them, but here’s an interesting tidbit: What’s the first piece of advice a new RWA member gets when she starts writing? “Read several books in your genre or category so you’ll know what the editors are buying and how the stories constructed.” In fact, when I started trying to write Intimate Moments books, I read about 10 of the things and dissected them so I’d know how they worked.
So we can readily talk about the storytelling patterns in our books, but journalists aren’t allowed to call those patterns “formulas”?
Writers apparently have gotten bent out of shape over all kinds of things in this article, and I’m just not seeing why. The article is balanced, interesting, relies on published author input, and isn’t snarky.
What more do we want?