October 14, 2015
So I am supposed to give a discussion about Romance at the local library tomorrow night with two other authors and I’m more than a little freaked out about it. People will be there. Waiting for me to enlighten them. Me. And the two other authors who probably totally have their acts together.
I’m going to look like this:
WHAT SHOULD I SAY???
I’ve been mulling, gnashing my teeth, procrastinating, going for walks, cleaning the toilets, eating cookies (wait, did I just admit all that?) and finally one thought has come through.
It’s a flippin’ cool time to be an author and a reader.
When I first started out in 2008, the publishing industry was on the cusp of the digital change. We weren’t there yet–there was a lot of worry about the changes that were coming–but things were still operating in the old way.
Traditional publishing houses in New York were in effect operating as a monopoly. And from my college days in grueling Econ classes, monoplies are bad because they control the supply of goods. Without competition, the big houses determined what we readers got to read and what authors wrote.
I entered the scene in 2008 with a book I’d been dinking around with for twenty years. Seriously. Twenty. When I finally put on my big girl panties and found the courage to let a few people read my rough draft, they told me it was a romance.
Huh. That was a surprise. I’d never read a romance before and in my mind I’d written a historical novel. Who knew?
I entered it in a few contests to get anonymous feedback. It shocked the heck out of me when a judge told me it was a Chick Lit. She said I had a fabulous Chick Lit voice and she was very jealous.
I quickly researched what that meant. Remember? I wasn’t a big romance reader in those days. At the time I was writing this rough draft Bridget Jones and Sex in the City were huge.
I joined the Chick Lit Writers of the World and RWA and honed my voice to write snarky, humorous, female empowerment, woman’s journey stories. I was going to do this thing!
Except… about two seconds later, Chick Lit died a horrific death. I’m sure I had nothing to do with that since I hadn’t sold my book yet. What happened? New York, the publishing monopoly machine, crushed it.
When a book broke out like Bridget Jones’s Diaries did, the editors from all the houses rushed to do it again. Give us more Chick Lit! We need more! More. More. More.
But I have this great little book called 50 Shades of Gray, you say.
No, no, no! We aren’t buying coloring books, we’re only buying first person snarky, humorous, female empowerment Bridget Jones-esque books. Young woman in an office. Young woman with her friends. Young woman with her gay friends. Can you make the hero look like Colin Firth?
Eventually the market was flooded. Readers got tired of those books. Editors got tired of them. If I have to read one more snarky first person story about a young woman in an office with gay friends and a Colin Firth look-a-like hero, I will poke my eyes out with a fork!
Bam. The doors slammed closed in New York and Chick lit was no longer allowed in.
What happened to the authors who wrote great Chick Lit stories? They were black listed. They had to stop writing what they were great at because the publishers wouldn’t buy them. They were done. Authors changed their names and were forced to reinvented themselves.
If you were a reader who loved those books, you couldn’t find them anymore. It was sad.
Now in this great digital age, an author can self-publish the stories they are great at, even if the publishing houses don’t want them. Readers can find just about anything they want to read now. Publishing houses can focus on what they want to and authors can do what makes them happy.
It’s a win-win-win.
It’s a great time to be a writer and a reader. We have options. We get to decide.
Pretty cool, huh?
Wait a minute. I think I found my speech for the library thing. Thanks for listening. Dang, I cleaned the toilets for nothing.