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!