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Beyond Romance Covers
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Yuri



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 290

PostPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 2:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

NoirFemme wrote:
My position in the debate isn't that of someone who cares about the image of the genre to outsiders. My stance concerns the future of the genre. tbh, I'd like to see concrete numbers of the number of people buying romance, not the 50-something % of the market, since the average romance reader buys at least 3-5 books a trip skewing the numbers.


And I agree that the next generation might want different things on their covers. On the other hand my favorite cover when I was a teenager was Lindsey's "Silver Angel" closely followed by her "Tender Rebel". I guess I just think that marketers are experts in selling product and they know how to market to all sections of the population. I suspect that for books with enough selling potential there will be different covers for different markets just like the Harry Potter books. I guess I'm willing to leave it to the experts ;-)

NoirFemme wrote:
Besides, if the issue of "converting" readers to romance has no place in the discussion, not only would conversations about introducing friends and family to genre disappear, but there wouldn't be any curiosity over xina's children ignoring the genre.


Did I say "conversion" had no place in the discussion? I certainly didn't mean to. I just don't feel the need and I would like to understand why other people do.
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 1867

PostPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 6:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

NoirFemme wrote:
Why do we need, or require a clinch cover to tell the reader "this is a romance!"? Romance readers read widely, so implying that we need clinches or mantitty to help us determine what's what (especially when the book is in the romance section) makes us seem rather ignorant.


I see your point, NoirFemme, but the more mainstream the cover looks, the less chance of it being shelved in the Romance section to begin with. (My favourite bookstore no longer shelves Susan Elizabeth Philips and Elizabeth Lowell in Romance.) It's just not the best marketing strategy for a publisher who wants to sell as many copies as possible. Maybe well-knowns like Philips and Lowell already have a huge Romance fanbase and could do with more "mainstream" readers, but authors with less name recognition wouldn't do as well.

The clinch has become part of "cover grammar." Take away the clinch and you'll have to put something else readily identifiable in its place, like those jewels and daggers on a velvet background I've mentioned.

Here is a cover which I think is both beautiful and tasteful (even though I don't read the author Laughing ). The colours are lovely and one has to look very carefully to see the man in the background:



No clinch; no in-your-face half-naked man; no velvet; no jewels; no flowers . . . In fact, if the author's name were less prominent and the font less pretty, it would have a good chance of being shelved with the mainstream books and slipping out of the radar of Romance readers who like to browse before they buy.

NoirFemme wrote:
With more and more people shopping online or hearing buzz online, reader interest is peaked by the blurb and the excerpt. Without a good book, the cover is nothing. Why isn't the emphasis allowed to be less on marking romance by its covers, and more on its content?


Maybe it's for those who still like browsing in the store in order to discover new writers? I speak only for myself, but I fit the profile of someone who uses the Internet as a secondary source of information. I only check out reviews or author Web sites after I become interested in something I see in a store.

NoirFemme wrote:
My position in the debate isn't that of someone who cares about the image of the genre to outsiders. My stance concerns the future of the genre. tbh, I'd like to see concrete numbers of the number of people buying romance, not the 50-something % of the market, since the average romance reader buys at least 3-5 books a trip skewing the numbers.


I take a similar position. I do not want the genre to be too mainstream, because, well, it wouldn't be a genre anymore. No genre means no writers conscious about meeting the conventions.

Someone has mentioned lending Diana Gabaldon novels to a friend and knowing that the friend is reading Romance even if the friend would never acknowledge the fact. Well, if that were my friend, I'd be going crazy trying to make her acknowledge that it is Romance. Confused To "convert" her, as we say.

It's not just about needing my friends to affirm my taste in reading. (I'll read what I want regardless of their opinions, even if I only do it at home. Laughing ) It's because good Romances deserve recognition not just as good books, but as good Romances. [/img]
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xina



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 6635
Location: minneapolis

PostPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 9:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

No clinch; no in-your-face half-naked man; no velvet; no jewels; no flowers . . . In fact, if the author's name were less prominent and the font less pretty, it would have a good chance of being shelved with the mainstream books and slipping out of the radar of Romance readers who like to browse before they buy.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Really pretty cover, but does the look of the cover determine where the book is shelved in the bookstore? If that is true, there are many books with tasteful covers shelved in the romance section. Can't move them all out. I wonder what the criteria is for changing placement of the book.








Someone has mentioned lending Diana Gabaldon novels to a friend and knowing that the friend is reading Romance even if the friend would never acknowledge the fact. Well, if that were my friend, I'd be going crazy trying to make her acknowledge that it is Romance. Confused To "convert" her, as we say.



^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Well, that was me, or at least one of the people mentioning loaning out the Outlander books. I think Gabaldon can go both ways...mainstream and romance. I'm not going to try to convert anyone to read romance. I guess I'm not a very good advocate for the genre, however, I will suggest books with romance in them, and if those happen to be books that romance readers enjoy, and my non-romance reader friend enjoys...well, I've done my part. I don't push my likes and dislikes on anyone though, otherwise I'd be telling them try those 3 inch heels, eat tons of greek yogurt and only buy organic fruit. Hee..well, you get my point, I hope. Laughing
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xina



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 6635
Location: minneapolis

PostPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 9:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good thing historical romances aren't the only thing in the genre then, isn't it? Wink


**************************************************
The reason I didn't mention contemporary settings is that there might be hope for those books. I know some of her friends and maybe my daughter might possibly enjoy the Emily Giffen books..Something Borrowed, Something Blue..ect. Perhaps a Jennifer Cruise here and there and maybe a Rachel Gibson.
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Diana



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 1044
Location: Washington DC

PostPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 7:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

xina wrote:

Really pretty cover, but does the look of the cover determine where the book is shelved in the bookstore? If that is true, there are many books with tasteful covers shelved in the romance section. Can't move them all out. I wonder what the criteria is for changing placement of the book.


The shelving direction comes from corporate for the chains. If the romance buyer bought it, it goes in romance. Individual stores in the chains just follow orders. Indies can shelve them wherever they want, but how many indies are left?
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 1867

PostPosted: Fri Jul 11, 2008 3:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

xina wrote:
Someone has mentioned lending Diana Gabaldon novels to a friend and knowing that the friend is reading Romance even if the friend would never acknowledge the fact. Well, if that were my friend, I'd be going crazy trying to make her acknowledge that it is Romance. Confused To "convert" her, as we say.



^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Well, that was me, or at least one of the people mentioning loaning out the Outlander books. I think Gabaldon can go both ways...mainstream and romance. I'm not going to try to convert anyone to read romance. I guess I'm not a very good advocate for the genre, however, I will suggest books with romance in them, and if those happen to be books that romance readers enjoy, and my non-romance reader friend enjoys...well, I've done my part. I don't push my likes and dislikes on anyone though, otherwise I'd be telling them try those 3 inch heels, eat tons of greek yogurt and only buy organic fruit. Hee..well, you get my point, I hope. Laughing


Oh, I totally respect that, Xina. I hope I hadn't given you the opposite impression.

For me, the point is form--a recognition of good form. I feel like someone who loves classical ballet and then sees ballet positions incorporated into a street dance routine. (Far fetched analogy, I know! Laughing ) If I were living with people who casually dismissed ballet but liked street dance, I'd feel compelled to point out the ballet positions to them, just so they see that ballet is not as bad as they thought it was. Yes, they'd be watching ballet anyway, whether they know it or not, but I think that the recognition of the form is important.

This is especially true in Romance, which, as far as I can tell from my own friends' comments, has a reputation for being paint-by-numbers. One hero? Check. One heroine? Check. Tortured past? Check. Virginity? Check. Sexual tension? Check. You know, that sort of thing.

The formula makes it easy for anyone to write a Romance novel, which is why there are so many duds in the genre. Yet a really good writer can take the same basic formula, tweak it a bit, and suddenly produce something amazing and original. It's still recognisable as a Romance, which means it has good form, but it has become more than just its form.

So what I'm saying is that I'd like recognition for Romance authors, who are more than "paint-by-numbers" artists. They are good writers because they can take a tired formula and make it seem like something you've never read before. That's something not everyone can do; it's just as legitimate a skill as writing beautiful prose and it shouldn't be dismissed.

I don't think that Romance covers that virtually repeat themselves (and I can think of one cover that Avon actually recycled Rolling Eyes ) reflect what I'm saying abou a good Romance writer. Yes, they make it clear that one can find the desired formula in the book, but they rarely say how Book A is any different from Book B. So, outsiders at least, it looks as if one is reading the same thing over and over again.

I guess that what I've said about maintaining good form and being more than just the form applies to Romance covers as well! Wink
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xina



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 6635
Location: minneapolis

PostPosted: Fri Jul 11, 2008 9:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The formula makes it easy for anyone to write a Romance novel, which is why there are so many duds in the genre. Yet a really good writer can take the same basic formula, tweak it a bit, and suddenly produce something amazing and original. It's still recognisable as a Romance, which means it has good form, but it has become more than just its form.




Yes, I think there are a lot of duds in the genre, and that is why I have a problem defending the entire genre. To be fair, there are duds in every genre...not just romance, but I think even the authors that make the bestseller lists aren't that great at times, and I'm not sure those authors represent what I personally admire in the genre. My favorite authors are very rarely loved by the mass that reads romance. I'm not a big fan of the authors that chug out 5 books a year, but that's just me. So, in that way I would like to point out people who make fun of the entire genre that there are some really gems of books out there with some surprisingly wonderful, interesting and exciting stories. I think it takes time to wade through it all and come out with something wonderful to read. At least it took me a long time to sort it all out. I read a lot of junk before I figured out what worked well for me, but it took time and effort.
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bbmedos



Joined: 26 Sep 2007
Posts: 274
Location: Western Kentucky, USA

PostPosted: Fri Jul 11, 2008 11:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Schola wrote:
I don't think that Romance covers that virtually repeat themselves (and I can think of one cover that Avon actually recycled Rolling Eyes ) reflect what I'm saying abou a good Romance writer. Yes, they make it clear that one can find the desired formula in the book, but they rarely say how Book A is any different from Book B. So, outsiders at least, it looks as if one is reading the same thing over and over again.


Then they haven't actually read the books, have they? And that's their problem, not ours. Rolling Eyes
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veasleyd1



Joined: 02 Dec 2007
Posts: 2064

PostPosted: Sun Jul 13, 2008 12:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Covers can proclaim "this is a romance" and still be tasteful. I think the one on Julia Justiss, A Most Unconventional Match (Harlequin Historical, July 2008) is very nice.

If anything, the woman on the cover is less attractive than she's described in the prologue. She's certainly very modestly dressed, which is in accordance with her tendency to appear in the parlor wearing the clothes she's been in while painting in her studio. Both h/h are blond per the book, but have brown hair on the cover; she has curls in the book, but straight hair on the cover.

The book itself takes some cliches much too seriously and tries to cram too much action into the period of a few weeks.
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 1867

PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 3:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

xina wrote:
Yes, I think there are a lot of duds in the genre, and that is why I have a problem defending the entire genre. To be fair, there are duds in every genre...not just romance, but I think even the authors that make the bestseller lists aren't that great at times, and I'm not sure those authors represent what I personally admire in the genre. My favorite authors are very rarely loved by the mass that reads romance. I'm not a big fan of the authors that chug out 5 books a year, but that's just me. So, in that way I would like to point out people who make fun of the entire genre that there are some really gems of books out there with some surprisingly wonderful, interesting and exciting stories. I think it takes time to wade through it all and come out with something wonderful to read. At least it took me a long time to sort it all out. I read a lot of junk before I figured out what worked well for me, but it took time and effort.


I'd say that I fit the same profile, Xina. There are some books which make the Bestseller lists that I wouldn't care to read and don't think are the best representatives of Romance . . . but there you are.

It's also disheartening that an outsider to the genre who is curious and honestly wants to know more would start with them.

Hmmm . . . is Romance the only genre which makes a big deal out of "Buried Treasures"? Is there an equivalent in the jargon of other readers? I think that all genre readers are in the same boat when it comes to these issues.
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Tee



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 4225
Location: Detroit Metro

PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 7:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Schola wrote:
is Romance the only genre which makes a big deal out of "Buried Treasures"? Is there an equivalent in the jargon of other readers?

I never got that term, buried treasures. Any individual who discovers a new author or book can say it's a buried treasure; but it may not be to others, because they've read that book years before or are very familiar with the author. I guess what I'm saying is that some books that are nominated as buried treasures just don't make sense--to me, that is. The other side of the coin is I don't think I can come up with any book on my own that I would consider to be one, when I know there are people out there who are so familiar with it and have probably re-read it a hundred times over. So, if others know about it, how buried can it be?
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veasleyd1



Joined: 02 Dec 2007
Posts: 2064

PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 7:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Diana wrote:

The shelving direction comes from corporate for the chains. If the romance buyer bought it, it goes in romance. Individual stores in the chains just follow orders. Indies can shelve them wherever they want, but how many indies are left?


This isn't entirely true. One of my sons worked for Borders for nine years; the shelving crew had leeway in making decisions. Locally, they moved Jane Austen from general fiction to romance when the movies came out, and sales shot up. They put some authors in more than one category (Crusie in both romance and general fiction; some of Bujold in both sf and romance, etc.).

Our local B&N also shelves in multiple locations, and even has a sign up on top of the bookshelves with the names of certain authors and "see also" for the sections where the reader might also find books. They also have some duplicates between romance and mystery (Elizabeth Peters, for example).
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Tee



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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Location: Detroit Metro

PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 8:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

veasleyd1 wrote:
They put some authors in more than one category (Crusie in both romance and general fiction; some of Bujold in both sf and romance, etc.).

I've noticed that's the case with the Waldenbooks near us and also the Borders store, too, veasleyd1.
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 1867

PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 10:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tee wrote:
Schola wrote:
is Romance the only genre which makes a big deal out of "Buried Treasures"? Is there an equivalent in the jargon of other readers?

I never got that term, buried treasures. Any individual who discovers a new author or book can say it's a buried treasure; but it may not be to others, because they've read that book years before or are very familiar with the author. I guess what I'm saying is that some books that are nominated as buried treasures just don't make sense--to me, that is. The other side of the coin is I don't think I can come up with any book on my own that I would consider to be one, when I know there are people out there who are so familiar with it and have probably re-read it a hundred times over. So, if others know about it, how buried can it be?


I see what you mean. My own definition (which may not be the "official" one) is that Buried Treasures are books that didn't make the Bestseller Lists and whose authors are not that as well known among their target readers as their fans feel they deserve.

Well, that's a pretty wide definition, I admit! Laughing It can't just all be relative, can it? Rolling Eyes At this point, I feel like all Romance novels are Buried Treasures in my real life and that coming here to discuss them with other Romance readers is equivalent of secretly meeting in the catacombs under the city! Laughing

Maybe it's just the term that is giving us trouble? Of course not even the most obscure Romance novels are going to be completely buried, as in completely unappreciated--but perhaps there is just a "saturation" level they will never achieve. They're "buried" to most people, possibly because they've been as good as "buried" by their publishers, and only a privileged few ever get to dig them up.

veasleyd1 wrote:
One of my sons worked for Borders for nine years; the shelving crew had leeway in making decisions. Locally, they moved Jane Austen from general fiction to romance when the movies came out, and sales shot up. They put some authors in more than one category (Crusie in both romance and general fiction; some of Bujold in both sf and romance, etc.).


That's smart! I wish the crew at my favourite bookstore chain were "both/and" people like that rather than the "either/or" sort. When they moved Philips and Lowell from Romance into General Fiction, they really moved them out and made no compromises. They also moved Shana Abe completely into the Fantasy section, right across from the graphic novels. Laughing If I hadn't remembered her name from AAR, I wouldn't have guessed she might be an author I'd care to read.
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Tee



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 4225
Location: Detroit Metro

PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 10:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Schola wrote:
They're "buried" to most people, possibly because they've been as good as "buried" by their publishers, and only a privileged few ever get to dig them up.

Okay, now that explanation I like, Schola. Laughing
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