Wednesday, June 08, 2005

One Lump, or Two?

"We don't like THOSE covers. They're NASTY, with the naked bodies, all NAKED, and NUDE. It's SMUT, that's what it is. And if we, as an organization, take a stand against it, the publishers will have to...will have to...will...have to..."

Uh huh.

The economy is in the toilet, the publishing industry is about to be flushed like a big wad of Charmin, but I have no doubt every Tom, Dick and Carrie in the marketing departments of Manhattan will scurry to cover all the exposed boobies and suggested bits o' man-meat, just as soon as they hear those nice ladies over at RWA have decided to clean up the Image of Romance. Who cares if the more graphic covers sell more books? After all, we're talking about the mission statement for an entire genre, here. Money in the bank is nothing compared to the sensibilities of women who want to be able to proclaim that they WRITE ROMANCE, DAMMIT...and not have to endure the snickers of people who assume they mean bodice-ripping girlie-porn.

You know? I'd love it if the ignorant jackasses who continually brand us with that bullshit would disappear, too. But I'm not convinced changing the covers of books will make it happen. And I'm not willing to throw up roadblocks to promotion--making it harder for myself and my sister authors to earn a buck--on an experiment.

So what I said yesterday in regards to whiney volunteers holds true today, as well. Kitchen's too toasty? You knew going in. There's the door, and it swings on a tight spring, so watch your ass on the way out.

As for the publishers? Those folks who truly believe they can get them to change their covers are welcome to try. But I suspect they'll be pissing straight into the wind, because publishing doesn't need the RWA, but the RWA sure does need publishing. To them, the RWA is a convenience. All the authors in one spot, for quick pitch appointments. The serious ones might actually send a manuscript to follow up. And the RWA has all those nice programs to teach the basics, so the query letters come in nicely parsed, and the slush-pile manuscripts are perfectly formatted...and there are THOUSANDS of them to feed the shredders at the end of every quarter. I understand it makes some pretty cool lining for a litter pan.

Without the RWA, editors and agents might not get to eat as many mushy chicken dinners at various conference award ceremonies. They might have to work a WEE bit harder to find that one-in-a-million manuscript. But without publishing? The RWA becomes nothing more than a big old tea-party, with a seriously steep cover charge.

And the debate rages on, between those who would dictate to the market, and those who understand that the market rules, no matter whose sensibilities get crushed in the process. Eventually, the pendulum will swing the other way, and graphic covers will no longer sell as well...or it won't. Time will tell. But for now, all the gnashing of teeth in the world won't change the fact that sex is selling, and the publishers are in the business of selling it. Stand in their way and they will simply step around you.


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