In the recent RWR (Romance Writers Report) from RWA, there is an article about what RWA is doing to improve the image of romance. RWA, at the behest of its membership, formed the “Image Committee.” The goal of the Image Committee was to “improve the public perception of the romance genre and promote the overall image of romance fiction.” After “enormous deliberation”, it was decided that the Image Committee would be dissolved. Instead, RWA will be working toward with full time marketing professionals to implement a national marketing plan to improve the general public’s opinion toward romance novels, authors and readers.
First thing would be for the marketing folks to get with Harlequin. Harlequin, bless your sweet heart, you do offer a wide variety of books that appeal to a broad spectrum of readers. Your catalog runs the gamut from sweet to sexy, from lighthearted to somber, from fantasy fiction to fantasy erotica. Jayne and I both enjoyed Kathleen O’Reilly’s Beyond Breathless (Harlequin Blaze). But oftentimes, you are like my parents, constantly embarrassing me at every turn.
Recently, Harlequin released its 4 color glossy 21 page Romance Report of 2007. This report is sent to the press, booksellers and I guess, made available at RT for readers and whomever. For those not in printing or marketing, 4 color glossy 21 page brochures are very very expensive. Of course, they could be producing these in house and probably are, but still its costly.
Does the report talk about how smart romance readers are? Or how diverse they are? Does the report highlight books, trends in reading, or new authors? Does it uplift the genre and speak to the issue of credibility? No. It panders to every godforsaken stereotype about romance readers out there.
In the press release which Harlequin authors, it provides the following as an excerpt from the report:
Americans seem to always be on their PDA’s and cell phones, hard at work wherever they are. Or are they? There may be another reason men and women are intensely typing away on their electronic devices, and it isn’t business. Harlequin’s Romance Report 2007 found that more than 55% of men and 47% of women in the U.S. have sent a sexually explicit email, text or instant message to someone – proving you just may be able to mix business and pleasure.”
So romance is about sending porn to others through your smartphone? And romance readers are the type to send porn through the cellular network. The report is about statistics compiled, not of readers and what they want to see in their books or covers that are appealing or topics and so forth. Instead it is a report of what 2,256 US adults think of romance.
- More than 87% of men and 93% of women agree that romance is whatever you want it to be.
- 72% of women yearn for more romance.
- 84% of men agree that it’s cool to be romantic.
- 67% of women think that romance in the workplace is taboo.
There is a list of Harlequin’s Coolest Women. Sheryl Crow is number 1. Harlequin’s Coolest Men. George Clooney is Number 1. There is a list of Romantic destinations. How to say I love you in different languages. You know, so you will be a well armed traveler. Saying “I love you” to the cabbie is just as good as leaving a tip.
There’s some tips on being more romantic: How to stage a romantic intervention. How to be a better Significant Other. What is this COSMO? And if so, where is my quiz?
Harlequin’s promotional effort says less about its attempts to be fiction for women and more about the misconception that every woman who reads romance must necessarily be seeking love, whether it is from the “new romantic male” (who tattoos his fingers) or whether it is obtained in exciting places like Nepal. It’s not about how smart we readers are. What a broad spectrum of women reader’s ethnicity may be. It’s not about how diverse the reader’s tastes are. It’s about how to catch a man in five days in 10 different places.
On page 13, of the 21 page brochure there is finally a mention of a book. A small cover ad for Erica Orloff’s Blood Son (Nocturne)appears. (Love Orloff by the way). In fact, out of the entire brochure, there are only 5 books featured. 5! I’m not in public relations. I’m not in marketing. But it seems to me producing this report and providing a press release about people sending porn over their smartphones doesn’t help to sell books (not to mention getting people fired). This report gives the media and booksellers just one more thing that they can use to sneer at us. Hey, honey, want a link to download some porn to your phone with that Harlequin Blaze. I know that is what you readers like. Harlequin told us so in its glossy brochure. And Harlequin knows romance and romance readers so it must be true.
Harlequin doesn’t really know this reader. If they did, they would know that I want to be known for more than being able to send dirty SMS messages on my Motorola Q.