In Your Corner: A Month of Romance (part 3)

In my last few posts, I have started the conversation about the Romance genre by discussing who the genre is for as well as who writes in the genre. This week, I’m going to start digging into the writing of Romance by posing the question: What do readers expect from a book in the genre?

Maybe now is a good moment to pause and think about what you remember most about the Romance books you’ve read. What elements do they share? Which of those elements do they maybe sacrifice in order to stand out from the crowd without sacrificing the genre label totally?

One thing to consider, of course, is the scope of the project you’re undertaking. As this infographic from Literative, a digital collective of fiction writers, demonstrates, Romance is one of the more flexible genres when it comes to length (they drew upon a number of resources to make this infographic, so definitely check their website out for more on that).

As you can see, Literative’s infographic would seem to indicate that the successful Romance novel can flirt with a length from anywhere from forty thousand to one hundred thousand words in length. That’s a much more forgiving range than a Western novel or a Memoir, just to point to two other examples.

And yes, of course rules are made to be broken, especially in self-publishing, where gatekeeping doesn’t serve as an editorial force the way it does in traditional publishing, where recommendations are less optional than they are in our corner of the bookish world.

If even traditional publishing can recognize that Romance is a forgiving genre when it comes to length expectations, that’s really good news for you! Whatever the scope of your next Romance novel may be, there’s room for it in the hearts and minds of dedicated readers. But what do those same readers expect when it comes to content? Here’s where we return to the Romance Writers of America, as we have done previously. (They’re a great resource! And you don’t have to be traditionally published to be a member, apparently.) On the RWA website, the association notes that their definition of the genre is one where “Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending. […] Romance novels may have any tone or style, be set in any place or time, and have varying levels of sensuality—ranging from sweet to extremely hot. These settings and distinctions of plot create specific subgenres within romance fiction.” They then go on to note that there are slightly more specific expectations for content within each subgenre, but never so long or complicated that you can’t grasp the basics in a sentence or two. The subgenres they acknowledge include contemporary, erotic, historical, paranormal, suspense, spiritual, and young adult. Their two “tentpole” characteristics for defining Romance apply to all of them–it’s just that they may be framed a bit differently from each other depending on audience.

So if the Romance genre is so forgiving in respect to content as well as scope, isn’t that essentially permission to write pretty much anything, so long as it features … well … a romance? Absolutely! The difficulties involved in writing a Romance have less to do with what is expected of you and a lot more to do with winnowing down all of the possible things you can do to an achievable list of what you want to do with each specific book.

In my next post, I’m going to take on the challenge of selecting one’s direction: How can a writer ever narrow the options down to pick just the ones they want to focus on right now? We’ll find out together.

You are not alone. ♣︎

Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, below.
Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

ORIGINAL BOOK REVIEW: “Got Knee Pain?” by William Ruch (Self-Help)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION*:

There is little rational care for knees, yet bad knees are often a factor in falls, one of the leading causes of death for older people. Surgeons do not realign the bones during surgery. Physical therapists do not care that the tibia is out of place in rehab exercises. Yet aligned knees provide stability and ease of movement.

In his book Got Knee Pain? Where Is Your Tibia? William Ruch shares a key finding of his decades of chiropractic work: the tibia misaligned with the femur is a common cause for knee pain. Got Knee Pain? does three things: guides readers to where the tibia is, gives a procedure to realign the tibia, and guide readers about what not to do.

Got Knee Pain? benefits people with injured knees. If you have knee pain, and it is interfering with your life, then you need this book.

REVIEW:

Got Knee Pain? by Dr. William J. Ruch, D.C. is a chronicle of ways in which bodies can go wrong, if by “wrong” we are talking about unnecessary pain above and beyond what’s useful to stimulate reflexes and prevent further damage. But as its semi-humorous subtitle (Where is your Tibia?) indicates, this book is also designed to provide easy access to the principles of pain management for those who, like me, are not exactly medical experts themselves.

I say “semi-humorous” because the question of “Where is your Tibia?” is actually quite a serious and recurrent one in Dr. Ruch’s years of working in chiropracty. He opens his introduction by noting that he is continually “appalled by the lack of rational care provided for knee injuries. In my clinical experience I find that in the majority of my patients I encounter with knee pain as a symptom or complaint, the Tibia is not properly aligned with the Femur.” I don’t know about you, but that’s a rather strong start to a book about pain. One of my major bones may not even be lined up correctly? And my orthopedist, physical therapist, chiropractor, and other medical specialists aren’t looking for that first off when I come in for treatment? I’m glad to have heard this can be a thing before I encounter major knee pain myself, knowing that it’s very definitely in my future given the kinds of temporary strains and stresses and aches that I’ve experienced since childhood and how they tally up in respect to my body’s future.

It is, as Dr. Ruch himself points out, somewhat shocking that so many specialists could have received so little training on this one specific issue. But as he also points out, “Evaluation of knee problems requires direct palpation of the joints and bones to fully understand the displacement. You have to have someone, even if it is you, feel what is going on.” If I have one big takeaway from this book, it’s that––not to live in fear of educating myself about my own body, bones, and muscles, and to pursue the kind of hands-on medical care that will get at root causes.

Dr. Ruch repeatedly encourages his readers to consider whether or not they are receiving “rational care,” care that treats causes (injuries) and not just their most disruptive symptom (pain). He sets out to put the power for positive change back in the patient’s hands (sometimes literally) in a world which seems increasingly to divorce patient and power. As Dr. Ruch puts it, “You are the most convenient, and motivated, person available to perform these maneuvers” as laid out in this book.

The maneuvers themselves are simple, straightforward, and easy to understand for a novice like me. Because they require the pain-sufferer to examine the actual position of various bones in relation to one another, they are difficult to get wrong (i.e. to use them incorrectly). They are also rather gentle, at least compared to the kind of chiropractic work I have personally experienced myself (in the wake of a car accident several years back). As long as a reader understands that they should never feel additional pain as a result of these maneuvers, and doesn’t overdo it, I see no danger of additional injury. My only warning would be for those who are from the same school of thought as several of my own relatives who don’t think it’s “working” unless it feels like the body has been strongly worked on. (These are the type of people who emerge from a massage with bruises. I love them very much, but I don’t think added pain is a marker of success in the pursuit of pain management.) I was able to determine that my knees are at present not terribly misaligned, but that I may have a tendency towards one of the displacements illustrated by Dr. Ruch. I’ll have someone I trust double-check me, but I thought it was really interesting to have that confirmation.

I would like to point out as I tidy up this review that I am *not* a medical expert, and my reading of Dr. Ruch’s book probably reflects that. Any mistakes in terminology or concept in this review is entirely mine and does not reflect at all on the quality of Ruch’s writing!

IN SUMMARY:

Not to put too fine of a point on things, but Dr. Willaim J. Ruch, D.C. has been practicing and teaching as long as I’ve been alive, and when it comes to muscular and skeletal issues such as knee pain, experience really does show. Got Knee Pain?: Where is Your Tibia? is the summary record of this experience, and gave me much food for thought as I move into the critical time of life when much of my body’s long-term health will be determined. For those who experience chronic pain in the knee area, this is definitely worth a look before pursuing expensive (and sometimes ineffective) treatments.

WHERE TO BUY?

You can find Got Knee Pain? wherever good books are sold, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You can also find out more about Patrick McLean’s work on the book’s Outskirts Press author page.

WHAT NEXT?

For my next review, I’ll be tucking into Katherine Zartman’s Cost of Freedom, a novel set in a VA hospital and following the lives and loves of both the soldiers returning from the battlefield and a nurse who knows more about them than even they do. I rarely read romance or war novels (I’m keenly aware of how easily books touch me emotionally, and tend to steer clear), so this should be an interesting experience!

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

* Courtesy of Amazon book listing.


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ABOUT KENDRA M.: With nine years in library service, six years of working within the self-publishing world, as well as extensive experience in creative writing, freelance online content creation, and podcast editing, Kendra seeks to amplify the voices of those who need and deserve most to be heard.

Self-Publishing News: 8.18.2020

On-trend 2020 calendar page for the month of August modern flat lay.

And now for the news.

Highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing:

Sometimes, a book is more than a book. Sometimes, a book is a way of connecting with tradition and the faith of one’s family. In the case of Brian Blum, self-publishing his father’s letters was a way to practice Kaddish, the Jewish prayer that both celebrates life and marks one’s passing. In an article published to The Jerusalem Post, Blum describes his father Walter Blum, a 35-year veteran of the San Francisco Chronicle, as a man who had dreamed of being a published author. “Every night after dinner, he would retire to his home office where he would diligently type away on his IBM Selectric, crafting his fiction until it was time for the evening TV sitcoms,” writes the younger Blum. Walter had left a nearly completed draft of his latest work-in-progress on his computer, which Blum’s brother emailed to him after he died age age 81. “What if I were to edit my father’s last book and publish it for him, posthumously?” Brian asked himself, a question which kicked off a nine-month editorial spree with many challenge along the way, and then a ten-year period where Blum let the novel be. Finally, after a conversation with Israeli poet Michal Govrin, Blum took the leap and self-published his father’s semi-autobiographical book. The moving conclusion to his article demonstrates what the freedom to write and the freedom to publish can truly offer at its best: a deeply personal connection to the work at hand. Writes Blum,

Dwelling in the imaginative world my father fashioned gave me new insights into his feelings on religion, his own parents, and following one’s passions. The fact that, like my father, I had originally hoped to launch a career in radio before turning to writing, only made the narrative of The Bell Tower more resonant.

I stopped saying the traditional kaddish before the first year was over. But in many ways, I’ve never stopped saying it. It’s just taken me 10 years and 103,000 words to convey it properly.

You’re going to have to give us a moment; there are tissues around here somewhere and we need them right now.

Not everything we express will be lasting or meaningful. Yet, when you choose to express something meaningful, be as authentic as you can be. That’s the only way you can profoundly make a difference for others. In the bigger picture, meaningful expression matters. Just saying.

Thus concludes Jon Ochiai’s recent article for the Good Men Project, a reflection on his decision to write and self-publish a book after his therapist suggested a rather different writing activity (some language included, fyi). Ochiai looked to  his childhood, his Aikido training under Mizukami Sensei, and the film narratives that he loved to help shape his desire to write, and to write meaningfully. Ochiai’s article is a thoughtful, unexpected encouragement to those who know they have a story worth telling but aren’t quite sure that they should tell it. He writes honestly,

My book was not the fairy-tale bestseller. So far, I’ve sold a few dozen copies. Three of them I bought for Mom, Sensei’s wife, Alyce, and one for myself. Really, I shared my trials and tribulations for someone who could have been me. Someone who had experienced his or her life turbulence. I wanted that person to know that he or she is greater than they know themselves to be, to grind it out, to make it work. That was meaningful enough for me to say.

We are so inspired by Ochiai’s decision to self-publish! And we wish him and his new book the best as he continues to inspire others out there in the world.


spa-news

As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

In Your Corner: A Month of Romance (part 2)

Seamless pattern of Valentines Day candy. Fancy chocolate bonbons with love you message.

Let’s simply pick up where I left off in my last post, with the question:

Who writes romance?

The second question we have to grapple with when it comes to romance relates to authorship. As with readership (and our previous conversation on that), there are many misconceptions about who writes within this particular genre. And first, to deal with the elephant in the room: Yes, the Romance Writers of America recently went through a major reckoning with some internal racism that the organization really shouldn’t have been silent on, ever. I won’t say much more about it (but if you’re unfamiliar, you can read up on it in almost any major news publication, including the Guardian) other than to congratulate those who were willing to speak up and who have helped the organization evolve. What’s relevant here is that the Romance genre has history–and a lot of it, both good and bad and misunderstood. Outside perspectives have been almost as important to the Romance market as inside ones, with many of the 1800s and early 1900s Great Thinking Men dismissing the earliest English language novels (which were often romances, as is the case with Jane Austen’s) as frivolous and like as not to rot the reader’s brain and foul the author’s character. But of course, Jane was writing in a time of near-continuous war, and the other novels of the period were either examples of pure escapism or ponderous tomes that passed government censors. 

Because so many of Romance’s greatest (as in, most anthologized) authors have been women, and English-speaking white women at that, it would be easy to assume (and many go right ahead and do assume) that Romance is the province of female authors and female authors only. Here again, the Romance Writers of America comes in very handy; their website provides some useful reportage on the state of Romance past and present. On a page they title “Romance Trailblazers,” one can find plenty of English-speaking white women authors, yes, but there are also a good sprinkling of authors who are none of these things, or at the very least not simultaneously. (On that note, don’t overlook RWA’s diversity and inclusion resources, which include this fabulous crowd-sourced list.) I would also point you to the diversity reports from The Ripped Bodice, the only exclusively-Romance-selling genre bookstore in the United States. The 2019 bestsellers reflect exactly the kind of diversity that has made the genre so popular and given it such staying power; it may not always be beloved of the critics, but Romance has never lacked for love among the people. The Ripped Bodice reports also lay bare some interesting facts about the main publishing houses and their romance imprints, which simply don’t reflect their diverse readership fully in the authors they publish. There are some opportunities for nonwhite authors opening up, but we still don’t see anything like a realistic reflection of reader demographics there. This also holds true if we’re looking at percentages relating to LGBTQIA+ authors, who are vastly underrepresented within the major publishing houses. Meanwhile, male authors have had a foothold in Romance writing all along, with authors like Nicholas Sparks and John Green representing some of the latest success stories.

Luckily, we’re in the business of self-publishing, and in self-publishing, there are fewer obstacles (I won’t say “no obstacles whatsoever,” since I can’t speak for each and every situation) to Romance authors than there are in making it through the Big Five. But I can say it time and time again until I run entirely out of breath: self-publishing is a democratizing influence on the market. Since anyone can self-publish, readers are shifting away from finding their books exclusively in the turning racks at local bookstores and in end-caps at the grocery store–and they’re turning to fanfiction sites like Archive of Our Own and to services like Wattpad. They’re also turning to subscription services like Kindle Unlimited and to individually sold (and well-reviewed) ebooks. The pandemic has seen that shift become something of an avalanche, with many readers unable to venture out and many brick and mortar bookstores shut completely or open only for curbside deliveries. 

The only downside of this shift is that there is no standardized reporting on ebooks. Since ebooks don’t even technically require an ISBN for distribution (this depends entirely on platform), there’s no way to track how many Romance ebooks there are out there in the world, much less report on who’s writing and reading them. And if we expand our notion of ebooks to include completed stories on web-based platforms, the numbers get even muddier. The best that can be done are “best-of” lists and compilations by reviewers and Romance influencers who have sampled widely–but even these lists aren’t representative of anything other than that one person’s taste or that one platform’s sales data. So while we can point to countless authors who both fill and subvert the standard profile of a white English-speaking woman author, we can’t point to any comprehensive reports. And we certainly shouldn’t take Amazon’s word on its own sales without a sizable grain of salt; any for-profit company, especially one with carefully coded algorithms to boost sales of particular authors who fit particular profiles, has its own best interests in mind, not the general public’s.

So if we can’t definitively answer our own question, what can we depend on when it comes to authorship in the Romance genre?

  1. Currently, the numbers that can be gathered about the Romance genre indicate that a majority of both authors and readers are women, that a majority of both authors and readers are white, and that a majority of both authors and readers seem to be getting their Romance novels in English. 
  2. The numbers that can be gathered and compiled into comprehensive reports either come from the Big Five traditional publishing houses or from for-profit companies like Amazon and Barnes & Nobles, and these industry stalwarts are largely responsible for the lack of diversity in which authors they choose to let in the gates they keep.
  3. A lot of work remains to be done to bring traditional publishing in line with its readership if it wants to take full advantage of a new generation of digitally savvy and diverse readers.
  4. Self-publishing in the Romance genre is, from all that I’ve heard, doing juuuuust fine. And by that, I mean it may just be the top-selling genre of fiction among self-publishing companies and free platforms. (And those fan sites? They’re, like, 90% romantic takes on movies, shows, and books that don’t quite go there on screen or the page. And a lot of those takes are … well. Check the tags on each story before diving in, since many of them fit the Romance genre’s alternate description: bodice-rippers.) Readers are hungry for self-published romance titles. And they’re hungry for diverse titles, whether we’re talking about gender or racial parity among authors, or representation of LGBT+ and other marginalized groups in content. Since the Big Five aren’t anywhere close to providing good numbers of any of these authors and actions, self-publishing has picked up the slack.

With all this said, a more useful alteration to the original question would be:

Is there room in the Romance genre for me?

And the answer is, of course, yes. YES. There is definitely room for your personal voice and take on Romance, and there is a readership eager and ready to read what you write.

As for what to write, we’ll start to tackle that in my next post. Watch this space!

You are not alone. ♣︎

Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, below.
Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

Self-Publishing News: 8.11.2020

On-trend 2020 calendar page for the month of August modern flat lay.

And now for the news.

Highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing:

This week on Bustle, contributor Megan Reid covered the story of Nikki Giovanni, one of the most foremost surviving figures of the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s, which also included the Amiri Baraka, founder of BARTS in the wake of the assassination of Malcolm X. Her 34th poetry collection releases in October of 2020. What does this have to do with Nikki Giovanni? A whole lot, as it turns out. As Megan Reid sums it up, “She self-published her electrifyingly vernacular poetry to wild success, selling about 20,000 copies of her first two collections, and was already recognized as one of the preeminent artists of the Black Power generation alongside fellow writers and activists like Angela Davis, Toni Morrison, and her good friend Maya Angelou.” And that’s just where her authorial story starts, publicly speaking––she has become a voice for so many who rarely saw their experiences transformed into public art. We cannot recommend reading Reid’s full interview wit her on Bustle.

Storytelling is often a political act (although this often depends on how you define both ‘storytelling’ and ‘political’), but rarely have we seen a decade of presidential politics so steeped in story (both for and against, Republican and Democrat in takes, or polarizing in how each story is received. This month, however, is an unusual one in that the storytelling platform in question is one affiliated with self-publishing, and this has brought the democratizing power of indie options back into the limelight. As the New York Times’ Elizabeth A. Harris and Annie Karni put it, “His plans to self-publish, however, along with the book’s unconventional rollout and distribution plan, make it something of a curiosity in publishing circles.” Now let us pause for a second to roll our eyes––not at the book author, but at the kind of highbrow exceptionalism that it takes for newspaper companies that also celebrate their identities as “tastemakers” and “literary gatekeepers” to call the fundamental nature of self-publishing a “curiosity.” We love occasional highbrow moments ourselves––fresh-ground coffee really is superior, and looseleaf tea knows what it’s about––but it seems a bit self-serving at this point for the literary establishment to dismiss self-publishing because of its (new this month!) association with politics. At least it’s a step up from being stigmatized simply for existing? Much of the rest of the article focuses on continuing to cast shade at the author, and color us disappointed to see self-publishing so poorly thought of that anyone associated with it must automatically lose face within the literary establishment. We’d really prefer for the world to see us as we really are, supporting the freedom of expression across the political spectrum. Democracy is the stronger for having self-publishing in the mix.


spa-news

As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.