Tuesday, 1 September 2015

A Romantic Career

By Julia Kyle

The most significant recent changes to the romance publishing industry have been the invention of the e-book and Social Media. Digital and online publishing have afforded authors more and different opportunities outside traditional print publishing avenues.

Before digitisation opened up the publishing industry to the general public, Romance authors had to conform to the specific lists of criteria set by publishing houses if they wished their work to be considered. Thanks to digitisation, authors are now able to write and publish their own books to readers the world over. However, the issues of visibility and discoverability that independent authors face make this a curse as well as a boon, according to romance writers Anne Gracie and Mary Jo Putney, the speakers at this session.

For new and emerging writers, the pressure to be a fast and prolific writer is greater than ever. “Social Media can make it easier for an author to be found, but it can also make it harder,” said Anne.

Digitisation and publishing issues aside, Anne and Mary Jo both agreed that the biggest issue they face as romance writers is the perception amongst much of the public, (even family and friends!) that the genre is ‘trash’. This despite the fact that in America, the estimated annual total sales value of romance novels in 2013 was $1.08 billion, and that in Australia the ‘rural romance’ sub-genre is booming.

"I tend to be indifferent about what people think of my writing," said Anne, "I get a lot of 'I don't read that trash' and I got a lot of that from my friends. However, one of my former friends, she got sick and ended up reading my books and liking them, she told me, I've never read romance but I really liked them, when previously she had been my biggest critic."

"The romance industry is run by women for women, and women-orientated industries are not as highly valued," said Mary Jo, "There's this awful cliché about romance writers and readers, that they are spinsters tucked away from the world, eating chocolate, but the women involved in this industry passionately believe in the power of the happy ending."

So, if support outside the industry can not be relied upon, where do romance writers go to receive it?

"Romance Writer’s Australia is the most supportive network and if you're serious about writing romance, you should join. It is the most loving network available.

"When I first started out, there was no kind of genre support. Although it was lonely in those early days, now we have friends all over the world. If I am stuck or having trouble, I have writing friends I can call or email, and every year in March I go way on writing retreat." said Anne.

"In America, we have Romance Writers America, said Mary Jo, who is also a member of the online writing group known as The Word Wenches; Anne is also a member.

Mary Jo Putney and Anne Gracie were full of great advice, such: as the need for writers to develop a thick skin; that a writer should try to be accurate and authentic but not boring; that a writer needs to be brave and do what they think is best for their book. However, my favorite pieces of advice were “give it time, don’t give up, and the cream does eventually rise” and “make your readers laugh, make them cry, make them wait.”

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