I have just attended a *very* interesting panel discussion on what publishers are buying in Australia right now.  There were representatives from Harlequin Mills & Boon, Avon, Carina Press, Allen & Unwin, Penguin, Hatchette and Random House.

The final four listed, in their own descriptions ‘mainstream publishers’, are starting to accept romance.  They were polite but patronising about it, but they couldn’t hide the fact that they basically have to expand their title and genres because they have to.  They are struggling with their other lines, particularly the non fiction ones, and see romance as some kind of cash cow.

Penguin was there for the first time, and Random House turned up for the first time last year.  They are moving into ebooks, and with their very limited romance single title range so far, they already make up more than 30% of the ebook sales.  So it is a huge opportunity for those writing romance – or even ‘women’s fiction’ generally.

And for those who aren’t sure how much money is involved:  Harlequin Mills & Boon sell 70 million novels per year.  they are the biggest in the industry, but far from the only one.  They signed 55 new authors last year, 24 of whom were Australian.  They have 17 category lines, and 6 single title lines (which can cover teenage, paranormal, fantasy, contemporary / chick lit etc).

So now these other publishers have decided they want part of this pie.  I think perhaps they need to lose the attitude.  And realise that we aren’t all uneducated houswifes or whatever.  There are many highly educated people (predominately women, yes, but not exclusively) who are in the room today.  And the keynote speaker last time I was here was the incomparable Jenny Crusie who started writing romance after working on her thesis dissertation on the impact of gender on narrative strategies.  A NY Times best selling romance writer with a PhD in critical theory really should be taken seriously, in my opinion.  She knows her stuff, she knows how to write, she knows what works – and she is fantastic at running workshops that teach it to others.

So there are a lot of opportunities opening up if this is what you want to write.  But bloody hell – they hated being here, hated having to pitch at romance writers, and acted like they want the money romance generates but  don’t want to really deal with the people who write it.  So approach carefully, and perhaps say you are writing something other than romance if you want to be taken seriously!

Author: Philippa

I make arty mixed-media things, & write fantastical things (with kissing), & do musical & dancing things, & play gaming things, & do weightlifting things, & organise fabulous event things. But mostly I wrangle cats. Renaissance woman.

4 thoughts on “Writers’ Conference Day 2: Publishers Galore”

  1. I had a ball at the conference this year.
    I also attended this session and . . . was trying to work out what one of the publishers meant by ‘literary commercial’.

    I always thought something was either literary, or it was commercial. It’s incredibly rare for something to be both.

  2. Hi Ebony,

    thank you for taking the time to read my blog and comment. I had a fantastic time too, I usually only attend when it is in Sydney but last year booked out so quickly that I missed out. So I was determined to come this year.

    I thought this session was a very interesting insight into the world of publishing in general, not just of romance fiction, and as much for what they were not saying as for what they were. I work in events / marketing, and the subtext of what the ‘commercial’ publishers was saying was fascinating.

    I really think there are a whole new world of opportunities out there for writers, as Bob Mayer said in the plenary session the following day. Now I just need to finish something! 🙂

    Oh and I haven’t read your Ondine books yet but I was looking at them and I think they look great, so they have been added to my list of books to look at in the near future. One of the reasons I love these conferences is all the new authors I find to read!

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