Jilly: Celebrating the Serious Business of Romance Writing

Ladies and Gentlemen, please be upstanding ...

Ladies and Gentlemen, please be upstanding …

I’d like to propose a toast.

Tomorrow is Labor Day for many readers of this blog, though not for us here in the UK. I’ve spent most of my life working for US corporations, so I know the holiday falls on the first Monday in September. I know it marks the start of the NFL season (we love football, American-style, here at Casa Jilly), but beyond that, I never gave it much thought – until now.

According to that fount of all knowledge, Wikipedia, Labor Day is “… a celebration of the American labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of workers.

So today seems like the perfect day to reflect on and celebrate the social and economic achievements of romance authors.

If you’re still reading, chances are you already know about the social contribution made by romance writers. Those of us who attended the keynote speech and the RITAs at this year’s RWA National heard excerpts from real thank-you letters written by women in terrible situations, in abusive relationships or dealing with terminal illness, who found refuge, comfort and strength in a romance novel. I was surprised and rather disappointed to discover that I couldn’t back up that anecdotal evidence with a single learned paper about the benefits of reading romance, apart from ones that suggested it could help to spice up a couple’s flagging sex life. Sigh. Inevitably, I did find plenty of articles that suggested romantic fiction gives women unrealistic expectations about the real world 😉 .

The economic contribution made by romance writers is harder to ignore.

Romance is the single most successful genre in publishing, accounting for sales of more than one billion dollars per annum – more than mystery (around $700 million), inspirational ($700 million) or science fiction & fantasy ($600 million).

Romance is also at the cutting edge of two important trends in the publishing world – globalization and digitization, which is why Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp paid $415 million in cash for the romance publisher Harlequin earlier this year.

Globalization: Harlequin has a presence in eleven overseas markets, publishes love stories in more than 34 languages, and is an expert in the business of translating fiction. No wonder Newscorp is hoping to apply Harlequin’s know-how to benefit HarperCollins, which publishes predominantly in English. Oh – and no wonder there were so many workshops about foreign rights at this year’s RWA.

Digitization: According to the New York Times, Brian Murray, CEO of HarperCollins, talking about the Harlequin acquisition, said that the romance genre in general has been at the forefront of transitioning to digital books. This is especially interesting when viewed in conjunction with The 7k Report on the authorearnings blog, which ran a large-scale data analysis on Amazon’s best-selling genre categories and came to the conclusion that 92% of the Amazon top-100 best-sellers (and 86% of the top 2500) were e-books.

These mega-numbers and global trends are built on the individual efforts of thousands of romance writers. Romance Writers of America, which is a non-profit trade association whose mission is “to advance the professional interests of career-focused romance writers”, has a membership of more than ten thousand writers and related industry professionals.

RWA’s Published Author Network page provides links to more than 2,300 active members who have met its financial benchmark – in simplistic terms, these are authors who have made more than $1,000 via the traditional route or $5,000 self-publishing from a single romance novel or novella. And I know from my membership of RWA PRO that there are plenty of writers who are not in PAN but who are working hard at their craft and making money from small press or indie romance publishing.

That’s a lot of women (and a few men) racking their brains and pouring their hearts into a lot of manuscripts, and making a significant contribution to the world’s social and financial well-being.

We should celebrate that. Please raise a glass, or mark their achievement in whatever other manner you may prefer:

To the romance writers of the world, great and small!

9 thoughts on “Jilly: Celebrating the Serious Business of Romance Writing

  1. Yay, us! Well said, Jilly!

    I got to thinking about what you said about no quantifiable information about the emotional benefits of reading romance novels, and I remembered an academic journal I haven’t read yet but keep meaning to take a look at: The Journal of Popular Romance Studies (http://jprstudies.org/). I thought, surely they’d have something! I went to the site, and I didn’t find anything — everything I saw was about deconstructing text. Well, we’ll keep looking! (One of the issues — 2.2 — is all about Jenny Crusie’s books, so that’s fun.)

    • It surprised me, Kay. I thought there would at least be a paper or two saying that reading happy stories triggers endorphins in the brain which has some kind of positive knock-on effect. Or something. There are plenty of studies about the potential negative effects of violent video games and the like. I’ll keep looking!

  2. I tried to think of the writer’s equivalent of raising a glass. Raise a pen, maybe? Close enough. Today, I’m going to write a new scene in celebration.

    Romance Writers ROCK!

  3. Hooray for romance writers!

    People have been knocking the novel (and the romance) almost since printing began . . . there are a lot of mentions in 19th century literature about how terrible the novel is, and how it’s ruining the morals of youth, etc. etc.

    And yet, it continues and is a billion-dollar business! There’s something really nice about being able to kick back with a good romance over the weekend . . . . And I think a great romance can teach us something about human relations that we never thought about before.

    Some people are never going to stop complaining about the nice, easy, delicious things in life. But . . . while they are heard, it’s the doing that matters. I don’t see an end to the great romances any time soon.

      • There really should be something, but I spent a solid couple of hours browsing and came up with a lot of derogatory nonsense, a few things about how romance impacted women’s life expectations and another few about potential sexual benefits. If there is anything and I missed it, I bet Pam would know!

        • Exactly. I know from personal experience that I’ve felt much better while (and after) I’m reading a romance. Even came up with a few ideas about how to handle some current situations.

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