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Posts tagged ‘RWA’

Something to think about

I had this morning’s topic all picked out and ready to go. I really did. It was an article from Author’s Guild about why author’s can’t make a living writing any more. But something about it bothered me. The article was several months old for one thing. For another, it didn’t say anything new. It was the same “evil Amazon”, “bad indie authors” and “worse, information shouldn’t be free” argument we have seen so much of coming from them. Deciding I needed a new topic, I did something I haven’t done in quite awhile: I wandered over to the Romance Writers of America website and found some information that is not only interesting but of the sort I wish other professional organizations made easily available to everyone, not just their membership.

If you scroll partially down the page, you will see a link to “Who’s Reading Romance?” Curious, I followed the link. Then I looked around a little bit more and found another link to genre statistics. I’m surprised by the information they give, not only by the detail of that information but because they make it available to anyone who visits the site instead of hiding it behind their membership log-in. That act alone is enough to make me consider renewing my membership with them. But that is for another time.

I won’t go over all the information they supply, but I do urge each of you to go take a look. Whether you identify as a romance writer or have romance as an element in your writing, it is good to keep this information in mind. (Caveat: the stats aren’t as up-to-date as those provided by Author Solutions but they still tell an interesting story.)

in 2015, e-books accounted for 61% of romance genre purchases (refers to traditionally published titles). Mass market paperbacks held a 26% share and publishers’ favorite hard covers held only a 1.4% share. Consider that and then consider how publishers are still trying to convince themselves that e-books aren’t a major part of the market and that demand, assuming publishers figure out reasonable pricing, won’t continue to grow their share of the market.

The typical romance buyer is female (duh), between 30 – 54 years old and from the South. Note this because it is something we don’t often see when looking at this sort of information. The average romance readers makes $55,000/year. Also — and this is very important — 61% read as much romance as they did the year before this study was done and 23% are reading more. That means the field is not suffering the loss of readership other genres are but it is continuing to expand — and this is for traditional publishing. I guarantee you, it is expanding on the indie front as well.

Some other interesting information:

  • Top romance subgenres by format read primarily:
    • Print: romantic suspense (53%); contemporary romance (41%); historical romance (34%); erotic romance (33%); New Adult (26%); paranormal romance (19%); Young Adult romance (18%); and Christian romance (17%).
    • E-book: romantic suspense (48%); contemporary romance (44%); erotic romance (42%); historical romance (33%); paranormal romance (30%); New Adult (26%); Young Adult romance (18%); and Christian romance (14%).
  • Top 10 popular romance tropes: (1) friends to lovers; (2) soul mate/fate; (3) second chance at love; (4) secret romance; (5) first love; (6) strong hero/heroine; (7) reunited lovers; (8) love triangle; (9) sexy billionaire/millionaire; (10) sassy heroine

I’ll admit, I like this information since, when I wander into the romance genre, I write romantic suspense. It means I’ve been reading the market right, always a concern for an author and especially an indie author.

Keep in mind this does refer to traditionally published books. Even so, there is some important information here:

Top 10 ways romance buyers are most likely to discover new romance authors or titles to read (ranked from most likely to least):

(1) Browsing in a bookstore
(2) In person recommendation from people you know
(3) Browsing online book sites
(4) Best-seller lists
(5) From books I’ve sampled
(6) Following favorite authors on social media
(7) From book recommendation lists
(8) Library or library staff recommendations
(9) Book review blogs and sites
(10) From online retail sites that recommend based on what I’ve bought/read before

Looking over this list, I find I do each of the above except browsing in a bookstore. Now the question becomes “How do we, as writers, utilize this information and especially this last list?” That’s the million dollar question and it is one that applies to all genres. Part of it is networking. We need to be better about not only doing our own blogging but recommending books and authors we know and like. We need to open our blogs to them and they to us. We need to use our social media sites like FB, Twitter and Google + better. Finding that happy medium where we keep our name and our work out there but without over-saturating our feeds. I’m trying to learn to do a better job but I’m still working on it.

Kudos to RWA for remembering that the best way to get new members is to give them something free — in this case, information — to hook them. Sort of like the Baen Free Library. Or, also borrowing from Baen, snippets from something you’ve written. Since I need to follow my own advice, here’s a short snippet from Slay Bells Ring:

“What’s wrong?”

I sat at the kitchen table and looked longingly at the coffeemaker. I had pressed the brew button as the phone rang. I’d reached for the receiver instinctively, even before my brain registered what I was doing. It didn’t matter that I had finished a three week long capital murder trial the previous Friday and had the day off. If one of Austin’s movers and shakers – or, more likely, one of their kids – had managed to run afoul of the capital’s finest, there was always the chance I’d be called out to make sure the little darling did not get out of jail. My boss loved trotting his top prosecutors out in front of the media to prove he didn’t play favorites when it came to the rich and politically powerful of Austin.

“Gran?” I prompted when she didn’t immediately respond.

“It’s your mother.”

What started as a general sense of dread flared and I fought down the panic that replaced it. “Is she all right?”

“Oh God, Annie, I don’t know.”

I relaxed a little. If she was back to calling me Annie, things couldn’t be too bad. Could they?

“Just tell me what’s happened, Gran.”

“Annie, she’s been arrested.”

I swear I moved the receiver away from my ear and stared at it, halfway expecting to find it had changed into a banana or something. It certainly couldn’t be a telephone and I most definitely couldn’t have heard correctly. There was no way, absolutely no way in the world, that my oh-so-proper mother could have been arrested.

“Say again.”

“Your mother’s been arrested.”


I couldn’t fathom it. My mother’s no saint, but she certainly isn’t the sort who goes around getting into trouble with the law. Man trouble? You bet. Butt heads with the family? Absolutely. She’d make that into an Olympic event if she could. But she had never done anything more serious than get a speeding ticket. The only possible explanation I could think of was that she’d had too much to drink and had been picked up for DWI. That wouldn’t surprise me, not with Mama’s love for a good cabernet and even better bourbon and the current push across the state to get drunk drivers off the road. But even that didn’t feel right.

“Annie, it’s bad.” Gran choked back a sob and I waited, doing my best not to snap and tell her to get to the point. “Drew just called to tell me.”

Drew? Why hadn’t my twin called me?

I stood and, taking the receiver with me, hurried to my bedroom. I had to do something. I’m never my best in the morning, but dropping something like this on me before coffee and then not getting to the point . . . .

“Annie, they’re saying your mama killed Spud Buchanan.”


I must have heard wrong. For one thing, if my mother ever decided she wanted anyone dead, she’d find someone to do the deed for her. She’d never risk getting her hands, or her designer clothes, dirty. For another, she was smart enough not to get caught, at least not by the local cops. Okay, my brother might be a member of the Harkin County Sheriff’s Department, but murder wasn’t something they saw very often. In fact, there was little serious crime in the county. So, unless they caught someone standing over the body with the smoking gun or dripping knife in her hands, they’d be hard-pressed to make a case without help from an outside agency.

“They’ve charged your mama with Spud Buchanan’s murder,” Gran repeated. “From what Drew told me, they found her dressed in her nightie, standing over his body.”

The world came to a screeching halt. There could be only one explanation for what was happening. I had fallen down the rabbit hole into some warped alternate reality. It wouldn’t be long before the Cheshire Cat showed up, followed shortly by the Queen of Hearts demanding my head.


Of slush piles and indie and tigers and bears, oh my!

Sorry for the delay this morning, everyone. I have had an upper respiratory infection for the better part of a week that is laying me low. Because of that, I’m taking a break from the formatting series. I will pick it up again, hopefully, tomorrow on my blog. Today, however, I’m going to take my cue from JL Knapp’s comment earlier about his friend who had made it through the slush pile but who did not make it to publication.

As most of you know, there are very few publishers (other than small and micro presses) that still have a slush pile. Most of those who don’t, require submissions through an agent. I’m convinced a big part of this is because they are using the agents as the first guardians of the gate. After all, by using the agents to winnow out those manuscripts not worthy, the publishers don’t have to hire as many readers, editors, etc. It also makes the agents more of an, well, agent for the publisher than for the writer. That sort of incestuous relationship can lead to some questions of where loyalty lies. But that’s not where I want to go with this post.

For those publishers that still have a slush pile, publishers like Baen, you don’t have to have an agent. In fact, if you talk with some of Baen’s writers, you will find a number of them no longer work with agents. After all, why give an agent a percentage of their money if they don’t need to? Tor/Forge is also open to unagented submissions. There are others but most require an agent and, as JL Knapp said, that adds time to the submission process and takes money out of the author’s pocket if a contract is signed.

So what is the submission process for a publisher like Baen. Our own Pam Uphoff can probably discuss it in more detail than I can but here’s what I remember from my own forays into the slush pile, both as an author and as a slush reader.

The first step is having your manuscript in the best shape possible. Baen offers various slush conferences where an author can post their work for critique before submitting to the slush pile. Once you are ready to submit your work, you fill out the online form, upload your work and wait. There are volunteer slush readers who, if they think something is worthy of publication will send it up the chain where, iirc, Gray Rinehart takes a look and decides whether it needs to go further up the chain. If you are lucky, you manage to make it through all that and your book lands on an editor’s desk for consideration.

All of that can happen in a couple of months, if you’re lucky. It is longer for other houses. But, once your book hits an editor’s desk, there is no solid timeline in which to hear back. That’s the truth whether you are with Baen or Tor/Forge or some other publisher. Your book may sit there for a few months or a few years.

So, do you go indie, even if your heart is set on traditional publishing?

There is no easy answer. My immediate response is to say, yes. Go indie and never look back. But that’s the course I chose and, yes, I would still go with Baen if the opportunity presented itself. Why? Because I respect the house and, more than that, I respect Toni Weisskopf. That isn’t something I can say about most other publishers.

So, here’s my response to that person who is set on traditional publishing but who doesn’t want to sit around waiting months and years to find out if they have made the cut. Submit that one work, consider it a sort of throw-away novel, and move on to something else, something unrelated. Indie publish that second work. Then continue writing and publishing until you either hear from the traditional publisher or you decide that isn’t the path for you.

What we all have to remember is that there are several different paths open for us now and we aren’t tied into one path only. Just remember if you are offered a traditional publishing contract to check the terms very closely. Some of those contracts include a right of first refusal clause — often without a solid time period in which to respond — for any of your work for as long as you are contracted with that can prevent you from shopping your work anywhere else, including indie publishing.

There are a couple of other items to keep an eye on. Thanks to the Passive Voice for the links:

The first deals with author’s payments and, in a roundabout way, whether those e-books we’ve been buying are really only licenses or actual e-books. A class action lawsuit has been filed against Simon & Schuster because S&S is reporting those purchases as “sales”, which mean a lower royalty rate for authors, instead of as “licenses”. Funny that, if you read what most publishers say we are buying as readers, it is licenses. We don’t “own” the e-book.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

The second deals with Elora’s Cave. There have been rumblings for some time now about whether or not EC is paying its authors what they are owed. Some months back, EC filed suit against the blog Dear Author for reporting on this. If I remember correctly, the suit was decided in Dear Author’s favor. Now, it seems, EC is threatening RWA for taking action to warn its members about the problems EC is apparently having. If true, things are going to get interesting — and entertaining — before it all plays out.