Friday, November 18, 2005

Market? We Doan' Need No Stinkin' Market...

Word has come down from the national offices of the RWA that both the Traditional and Regency categories of the Golden Heart contest did not receive enough entries this year to make them viable. The categories have been cancelled.

Why is this worth blogging? For those of you who haven't the first clue what I'm talking about...

"Traditional" (sometimes also known as "Tender") romances are those stories you'd find if you perused the category romance shelves, rejecting all books that contain suspense, a kick-ass heroine, paranormal elements, or the slightest whiff of onscreen sex. Your basic "girl meets boy, girl and boy confront all the obstacles to their relationship, girl and boy marry or promise to marry in the very near future, often ending in a first embrace." These books are featured in the (soon to be discontinued)
Harlequin Romance line, the Silhouette Romance line and sometimes--but not always--the Harlequin Presents line...they of the Greek Tycoon's Pregnant Virgin Mistress fame.

"Regency" refers to traditional Regency romance--generally shorter than "Regency historicals" and almost without fail relegating any sexual congress to after marriage and behind closed doors. Since Kensington announced the closure of their traditional Regency line,
Signet is the only print publisher currently offering books in this subgenre.

The Golden Heart is the equivalent of the RWA "Oscar" for unpublished writers. Big deal? HUGE deal. This contest alone is the cause of more stress in the chapter ranks each year than all other contests put together. The right to put "Golden Heart finalist" or--saints preserve us--"Golden Heart Winner" on a query or cover letter is something not to be sneezed at, or so the story goes. And, in truth, Golden Heart finalists and winners do snare the attention of editors and agents, and do make sales--perhaps more quickly than they would if they hadn't entered, finaled and/or won this contest.

But the real kicker here Erotic Romance category. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Nyet.

That's right. A category for Regency, a subgenre that's all but disappeared from the industry. A category for Traditional, when not even the almighty Harl can keep their original Traditional line afloat. But no category for Erotic Romance, when every house and its sister is starting new erotic lines, begging for manuscripts and selling, selling, selling those puppies like freshly fried donuts at Homecoming Game.

There are those who'll say that if a book is good, it should be able to stand up in any category, no matter how much sex its pages contain. In other words, a good paranormal erotic romance should do well in the Paranormal category, and an excellent contemporary erotic romance should knock the socks off the judges in the Contemporary category. Trouble is, Erotic Romance really IS its own subgenre--it has its own conventions and its own challenges and its own
RWA CHAPTER, let's not forget. It deserves a shot at its own Golden Heart Category...and don't even get me started on the RITA.

If you'll refer to
my post of Wednesday, August 3, you'll see that the subject had been broached with the sitting President at the time at the General Meeting, and was shot down. And it would've been mighty tough for the sitting National Board to have added an Erotic Romance category in the short time since they've taken over the reins, if not downright impossible, so we can't really fault them.

Nobody to blame but last year's Board, and those members who continue to insist that Erotic Romance isn't romance at all, and therefore doesn't deserve a place at the table. I imagine these folks, when confronted with the sales numbers for erotic romance, just put their hands over their ears and rock back and forth, chanting, "I can't HEAR YOU." Because, after all, the RWA doesn't exist as a liaison between writers and the industry, or anything reMOTELY that mercenary. Why in the world do we need to worry about market trends? To quote my excellent friend,
Watcher Don, on the subject:

"...SOME of them have come to the conclusion that different strokes may be for different folks, but they are NOT for OUR folks, heavens no, pass the crumpets, will you, Margaret?"
So here we are. The hottest selling subgenre in romance is shut out of the most prestigious RWA contest for unpublished writers, while two of the contest's categories couldn't even round up TWENTY-FIVE ENTRIES to make them viable.

RWA: The Voice of Romance? Sounds more like a fading echo to me.


Blogger Donald Francis said...

And all the Words in Wordville shout, "Word!"

Change does not come easily. It never has. It seems abundantly clear, however, that the time has come for a push in the Romance establishment to assert that "this ain't your Aunt Tilly's romance novel line any more."

Entertainment in any medium must be willing to change to reflect the times. Female detective stories used to star Miss Jane Marple, a woman who couldn't be further removed from Stephanie Plum if they were actually on different planets. The James Bond films of the past ten years look and feel nothing like the original Connery films, and have a look at a XBOX 360 and then take a peek at Pong. Romance novels have built their following based on never giving the customer anything unexpected, and the market is now seeing them as tame and boring. It's time for the establishment to change it up.

11/19/2005 12:04 AM  
Blogger Karen Scott said...

I could pretend to gasp in surprise, but really, what would be the point?

I do think though that the pressure alone from Erotic romance writers will force RWA to rethink their stance on this in the next couple of years.

11/21/2005 5:00 AM  
Blogger Eva Gale said...

Well, you came back witha bang, didn't ya? Here I was ready to send people out to search, but you were just redoing the Blog! Which is totally hot BTW and my mostest favoritest thing is the way the comments button sparkles when you hit it. It appeals to my inner girly girl.

As for RWA? Pbtthhhhthth.

Soo... anyway... where did I post the last one if not here?

11/21/2005 5:40 PM  
Blogger Selah March said...

You posted it under the Haloscan comments, which is another sparkly new feature.

And believe me when I tell you that I didn't do this all by myself. Had help. BIG help. In fact, all I did was say "help me" in a really pathetic little voice, and the nice people at did the rest. And so inexpensively, too! *plug plug*

11/21/2005 6:28 PM  

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