Changing Face of Publishing, Including Romance

My mind has been preoccupied for the last 2-3 weeks on one overwhelming thought.

I’m not certain I’m writing in the right genre anymore.

Everyone knows the face of publishing across all genres is changing. Dramatically. With the boom of e-publishing, closing of independent bookstores and distributors and the profit squeeze for authors, agents, editors, and publishers (everyone, really), it’s inevitable.

But more specifically, the genres themselves are changing. Not just ‘vampires are on their way out, dystopias are one their way in’ blah blah blah. But the face of romance and it’s intensity has changed.

Just in the last 3 years, I’ve noticed a dramatic swing of editors looking for spicier, hotter, and more descriptive love scenes. Things that a decade ago would have been considered in the erotica lines, but are now mainstream.

I recently had an in-person pitch session with an editor for a newly launched romance line. Half way through my pitch, she stopped me.

“This sounds more like a suspense story than a romance. How much of your story is the romance?”

My reply was 60-70%.

The look on her face told me her answer without another word. But she explained anyway. (Thank goodness).

Their line, as well as most other publishers, are now looking for romance to have 90% or more of the pages be strictly the romance. All thanks to the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey craze.’

(Raise your hand if you just rolled your eyes).

Though my story sounded extremely interesting to her, she couldn’t use it for her line.

Another dear friend of mine received a similar response from another publisher, claiming she didn’t have enough ‘romance’ in her romance novel, though hers was dramatically spicier than mine, both in content and frequency.

I’ve been baffled ever since.

I don’t think my writing fits the genre anymore.

I have too much romance to be considered a suspense, or even general women’s fiction. And I have too much suspense to be considered a romance. At least today’s definition of ‘romance.’

So now I’m left wondering: do I change my style to fit what publishers want, or do I keep my style and voice and hope it finds a home somewhere… eventually?

I know I’ve read this same situation on dozens of other blogs and interviews. Particularly with science fiction and fantasy writers.Too much romance to fit in strictly sci-fi or fantasy genre, and too much sci-fi or fantasy to fit in romance genre.

Why can’t there ever be a happy medium? While the romance is important (showing that relationship between two people), but I also relish a good plot. Not everything is about sex. Why can’t I write that in my novels?

4 responses to “Changing Face of Publishing, Including Romance

  1. Hi Susan!

    Thanks for linking to my post about genre. It can be tricky, can’t it? I’m a little surprised by the editor’s response, because from the RomSus I’ve read, I would have thought 60-70% was about right.

    However, it is also true that publishing is a very subjective business. The fact that one editor, one line, one house, doesn’t like your particular blend doesn’t mean that another one won’t. One thing that may be in your favour is the digital revolution. Digital publishing is not cost-free, but it is so much lower cost than print that publishers are willing to take more risks on genre-crossing stories – and the readers seem to like them. There are several digital-first publishers that specialise in romance, both independent and, increasingly, imprints of traditional publishers. The latter may be even more open to stories with more suspense and a bit less romance, as they come to romance publishing with a more mainstream sensibility.

    I wouldn’t be changing the stories you want to tell based on rejection. I had a story in a digital drawer which had not flown with the person I submitted it to. I understood the reason they rejected it, but on reflection, it was the story I wanted to tell, so I put it aside and moved on. It’s coming out on the 15th of this month as my debut novel with a different editor and a different publisher who like it a lot.

    Good luck with finding where you fit. I’m sure you will!

  2. I raised my hand!
    I find it extremely irritating how much romance has become erotica or not considered romance at all. But, I don’t write romance, so I’m no help in the advice area, sorry.
    Good luck!

  3. I know, sweetie. I think that stories are stories and we don’t write them to fit a round peg into a square hole. (Oh, wait …) At least there are options and Indie publishing is definitely on the rise.

  4. Pingback: Oh my gosh, I am such a wuss. I don’t think I can do this | Jennifer M Eaton

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