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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Another Romance Sells! Story

My Google Alerts alerted me to yet another story on the fact that *gasp* romance sells. Even in an economy that is slowly collapsing in on itself like a chocolate souffle. This time it's an Op-Ed piece by LA Times writer Meghan Daum, who proudly professes to be the last person on earth to ever read or enjoy a romance novel, but who apparently feels perfectly qualified to have opinions about their market and appeal. The article, like most articles that have appeared on this topic since U.S. News & World Report's list of "10 Winners in the Recession" focuses exclusively on Harlequin. On the surface, that makes sense--Harlequin is the one who posted the sales bump, after all, while the major mainstream publishing houses all took losses. This article (and most others) lasers in on category romance as if Harlequin doesn't publish anything outside the Presents line, with its millionaire sheiks, Greek tycoons, pregnant mistresses and virgin brides (which, don't get me wrong, I LOVE and always have) and ignores imprints like HQN and Red Dress. Harlequin is about more than the "so easy to poke fun at" category stuff. But that kind of in-depth treatment of the topic would've taken some research.

Another angle I'd love to see a good journalist cover would be the extent to which romance imprints at the major houses are propping up their hardcover and literary siblings. If Harlequin is doing well, it follows that other mass market publishers like Avon and Pocket are, too. Sure, Penguin Group (USA) as a whole may be down--but how are Berkley and NAL doing? My bet would be that Penguin would be in way worse shape without them. My own editor at St. Martin's was very upbeat and cheery when we had lunch last week. The St. Martin's romance department is small compared to some, but it's apparently working well for them. There've been no layoffs, no slowdown of acquisitions--in fact, my editor was recently promoted! So Harlequin isn't the only one enjoying recession sales.

They're just the easiest for snotty journalists to be shocked and dismissive about.


Happy, happy news!

Wonderful post! Well said.

very well said, Lulu!

I think the snotty journalist who have so many negative things to say about Harlequin and romance in general would benefit from reading one. Seriously. What's there to hate about a romance novel? There's love, sex, and a happy ending. All things that make the world brighter.

Excellent post Louisa.

Yay! In economic downtimes people always want uplifting entertaiment. And a good romance is the best there is!

Thanks! I wish I had the time to research numbers at the mass market imprints and put together a whole article with real date--but I have this other job. Where I write made-up stories. I don't have time for reality!

It's appalling how little research these reporters actually do. There have been a whole bunch or articles (including one in the SLJ) recently about the new Teen imprint that Hq is starting and it's all about "fabio" or "teen romance" or whatever, and I'm like -- I have NEVER seen Fabio on a Harlequin cover (i think he was mostly avon) and also, when the head editor for the teen line commented to correct all the errors in the article, they just corrected the release date. It was APPALLING

I wanted to add a link if you're interested in reading a decent article on the trend--look past the headline, the poor reporter wasn't responsible for it, I'm sure:

I should add another note: today's wonderful, well researched NYT article!

I agree with Mel. If the people who spend so much time ripping romance to shreds actually read it -- and read the classics of the genre, not hte ones held up for ridicule -- then they might just find that they like it.

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