Friday, July 22, 2016

Cowboys, Babies, and Brides

Once upon a time, I was an aspiring romance author. I had a brilliant idea to write a book about a pop star and the publicist assigned to go on tour with him. I was a PR consultant at the time, so I had that knowledge...and I figured Hollywood-style books were huge in the 80s. It was the 90s, so how much could have changed since these days?



As it turns out, a lot. I joined Romance Writers of America and learned very quickly that books set in the entertainment industry don't sell. Publishing houses were all too eager to tell writers that, as well.



"I read romances set in the entertainment industry all the time," you'll say. This was before self-publishing (which we called e-publishing when it first came up just before the turn of the century). There weren't a billion small presses willing to take on your book. There were big romance publishers and category romance (Harlequin, Silhouette, and Bantam Loveswept). And all of those publishers knew what sold and stuck strictly to it.

"What sold?" you ask.

These:



These:



And these:



To be more specific, cowboys, babies, and brides, which translated as cowboys, pregnant heroines, and marriages of convenience. For the next few years, I wrote books focusing on pregnant women marrying tycoons. I wasn't too into the whole cowboy thing.

Then came chick lit. Which was funnnn. And nobody said you had to write about pregnant women marrying cowboys. The trend lasted about a minute.



Of course, all along I wanted to write fun YA like the books I read as a kid. These...



...aren't the type of YA most publishers want, though. My voice was a little too "Sweet Valley High" for their taste...which meant by 2000s standards, it was more "Sweet Valley Middle School."



While there are more alternatives to traditional publishing today, cowboys, marriages of conveniences, and pregnant heroines are still popular with readers. Which is fine...but the action-adventure thing has taken off in romance, as well, giving writers many more options.

What are your favorite types of heroes and heroines in fiction?

I'm guest posting on different blogs throughout the month of August to celebrate the release of my new series. Let me know if you want to help out!


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31 comments:

  1. I hadn't thought about how much reading has changed over the years. Maybe it's just me, but it seems genres have combined more. The romance stories I read now have different elements than the ones I read in high school.

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    1. So true. Publishers know what sells and they shoot for that. I think all publishers have things they'll stay away from because they know they don't sell, but romance seems to have it down to a very specific science. They know exactly what their readers want, down to the occupation of the hero.

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  2. I agree with Mason. A lot of genres have blended which I personally like. I'm partial to historicals set in lesser used time periods. I also like SF and fantasy.

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    1. And that has allowed fantasy/paranormal/action fans to write what they love without limiting themselves to strictly their own genre. I think it's also boosted interest in those things. People might not read a straight sci-fi but when it's combined with romance, it gets them to pick the book up and give it a try.

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  3. My favorite chick lit books were ones by Mary Janice Davidson about Queen Betsy the reluctant vampire, leader of the undead. They were [are?] a hoot. Hadn't thought of them in a while. As for my current, more grown-up, reading I like heroines who are educated, average looking and find themselves thrust into difficult situations. That's who rings true with me. More of those books, please.

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    1. That's funny because I remember in the 90s having friends who strictly wrote about vampires. They couldn't sell a single book because the genre was pretty dead. Then it exploded and EVERYTHING was about vampires. Those people were ahead of the game!

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  4. I don't get what makes trends come and go so fast. Any idea? Do the publishers get together and decide which books to heavily promote at any given time or is it just a fluke if your manuscript happens to fall into the current popular genre? I like strong heroes and heroines with a sense of humor.

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    1. I think they just watch sales figures...and they follow trends, which sucks because as soon as they say, "We want dystopian books," the market gets oversaturated and they don't ever want to see them again. I think it's going to get even worse now that data analytics give people in-depth information on everything. Book publishing will be a complete science.

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  5. I admit I was never big into reading the romance novels. I do find some chick lit fun. I like a whole variety of reads. It's tough to know the public's mind. I do think if you write what you like, the joy shines through with strong characters, etc., then you will find a niche. Publishing is a tough world

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    1. I miss chick lit. It was SO fun! I know there's still some out there, but it's nothing like it was in the Sex and the City days, for sure.

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  6. I loved the Sweet Dreams books as a teen. I had several of them. Our junior high school library had some, but they were always checked out! I only ever got to borrow two of them. I also read the Silhouette ones and several other series like Caprice, Wildfire and a few other that didn't last very long.

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    1. I think we read the same books! Do you remember when Silhouette had a YA line called First Love from Silhouette? I loved that line, but it didn't last long.

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  7. I love romance, but I was never a Harlequin reader. Those stories were TOO SHORT for my tastes. You just get into the story and characters and WHAM! It's over.

    I used to read those epic historicals when I was in my twenties. Then for some reason I stopped and switched over to horror (Stephen King, Dean Koontz). It wasn't until Twilight (and the discovery of paranormal romance) that I remembered how much I love romance.

    So... give me monsters with love and I'm a happy camper!

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  8. I still remember reading my mom's Harlequin romances as a teen. I loved them, back then there wasn't any steamy sex, which I kind of liked. You actually had to use your imagination of what went on behind closed doors.

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  9. I don't think I have a favorite...I love switching out my faves!

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  10. In the 90's I wanted to write a Super Hero novel. I even created my own set of characters and stories for each. But it was early 90's and I never felt there was much interest in Super Hero stories, especially if they were not set DC or Marvel characters. Now the super hero genre has exploded but I wonder if I should even bother to go ahead with my plan because it seems any sort of super hero movie not DC or Marvel based, will not do well. So I'm assuming a book would be even less received. I know, doesn't really relate to the whole romance angle you are highlighting here. Your blog post just made me think of all that.

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  11. I love action/adventure books. It can have some romance, but just some, not all of the book. I like the good fighting the evil kind of reads.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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  12. I tend to agree with Sandee. And while I adore writing, I've decided to forget trying to publish at all and just do it for myself. ~grin~ Thankfully, I have a financially smart partner (if not a tycoon!) who allows me the luxury.

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  13. Omg! SVH! Yesssss.
    Hahaha I can't stand romance novels for the most part!

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  14. I never read romance novels. I did read some of the Kathleen Woodiwiss novels in the 70's and 80's but I really prefer mystery and murder.

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  15. I had that First Love Silhouette book! Man, that brings back memories. I don't read romance at all these days. When I do get the chance to read, I like unconventional stories with unlikely heroes. Mystery and suspense.

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  16. I'm so bummed about this. I loved ALL the Danielle Steele and Jackie Collins set in Hollywood. I would still love to read those. I am not interested in cowboys or pregnancy, so I guess I'm weird. 😕 I guess this is what used bookstores are for. 🤓

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  17. Oh, Sweet Valley High! How I remember you. I identified w/Elizabeth way more than Jessica. =)

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  18. My favorite Harlequins back in the day were the rich tycoons and the young nanny would had come to the distant land to care for his young child who'd lost their mom in a terrible accident. I don't know why, but there you go! LOL

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  19. I enjoyed the little romance books before I read my first romantic mystery. Then it was mystery romance thrillers. Now it's ghosts! Incorporating a bit of each in a story is a challenging thrill all its own! I do agree that these days, more than ever, lines between genres have blurred. But I also think it's good for writers.

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  20. Wow! That's super interesting! While I remember reading a ton of Harlequin romances, I don't remember the themes. Then I moved on the racier Kathleen Woodiwss and Rosemary Rogers. I think I enjoyed the historicals, the pirate stories and a few contemporaries. Oh, and I can't forget barbara Cartland! Hugs...

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  21. Sweet Valley series oh man. Loved all the way to Sweet Valley University. When Jessica got sexually assaulted my heart broke.

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  22. I wish chick lit had lasted longer. Those were so much fun. Though I'll admit I prefer something a little less romance and more thriller when it comes to reading in this genre.

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  23. It's funny how trends change over time.

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  24. You've forgotten billionaires and princes. Or maybe that's just what's popular today.

    Me? I like a good story. Preferably set in a fantasy world or out in outer space.

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  25. Interesting. Things like this are a lot of what drive me away from some other genres - when I can look at covers from a bunch of different authors and they all look the same, it makes me think the stories must be very similar. But it's good to hear that the romance genre is branching out.

    I've seen similar stuff happening in the fantasy genre, as it feels like it's taken decades for people to realize that fantasy can mean more than something Tolkien-inspired with noble heroes on a quest.

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