Everybody who loves the book biz digs Publisher's Weekly, a kind of "industry Bible." But did you know there's been lotsa buzz online and elsewhere recently over the fact that PW's Top Ten Books of 2009 list included only tomes written by guys?


After perusing the list - and the editors' comments about their concern over the male-dommed Top 10 -- I'm more disappointed to note only two romance picks among the years' five best Mass Market selections: a debut by Margaret Carroll, the plot of which PW helpfully informs us Carroll saved from "what could be a stock story of an abusive marriage," and Anna Campbell's "Captive of Sin."

You might assume romance fiction and PW kind of go hand in hand.  According to Romance Writers of America, in 2008 - when the romance genre raked in a tidy $1.37 billion and earned largest chunk of the fiction-sales pie --  romance fiction was the top-performing category on Publishers Weekly's bestseller list.  

So perhaps you can imagine why I feel a tetch disgruntled that romance fiction doesn't have its own gravitas-adding category at PW as do other areas of genre-fiction like SciFi/Fantasy/Horror, Mystery and Comics.  Instead, romance is tossed into a sort of black-hole, catch-all category "Mass Market," a delineation that seems somehow as if it were the only choice editors could scare up marginally classier than, I dunno...Pulp Fiction?

 

But seein' as how's I'm often misguided by blind adoration for the genre, I thought it'd be a good idea to find out the real reason the book-lovin' folks at PW don't have a Romance Fiction category. So I contacted PW Associate Publisher Cevin Bryerman who kindly put me in touch with PW Reviews Director, Louisa Ermelino. While she didn't clarify why there's no PW Romance Fiction category, she did tell me why romance fiction books are reviewed in Mass Market.


Ermelino explained that when PW chooses to review a romance released in mass-market format - what's commonly known as a "paperback" - the book's written about in the Mass Market section, along with several other types of mass-market released genre fiction.

However, when PW chooses to review a romance released in hardcover or "trade" - larger paperback novels you may recognize from the Brava or HEAT lines, for example - those novels would be featured in the Fiction category. Unfortunately, no romances landed on PWs best Fiction books of 2009 category, in case you were wondering.

But Ermolino did say something encouraging.  When asked what it would take to get PW to create a Romance Fiction category, Ermolino said PW's constantly examining new ideas.

Well, Pollyanna here's gonna' take that as a "We think that's a great idea, and are going to look into it right away!"

But, then again, I believe in happily ever afters, too.

Why do you think PW doesn't have a Romance Fiction category? How would PW and the romance genre benefit from such a category? As an author or reader, how important do you find PW reviews of books?

 

 

 

Comments
by Moderator dhaupt on ‎11-18-2009 03:59 PM

Can you say Book Snob? I think it's the same reason you have people okay women who read fiction, but when it comes to romance fiction they don't do that. Well excuse me. Or like one commenter told me once that she found a book she really liked but when she found out the Mira was part of Harlequin that she would make sure never to get another book from there again. And I asked her WHY!!! She said, " I Don't Read Romance". And again Well excuse me.

I rarely seek the advice of "experts" on things like reviews. I like to here what the everyday Janes like me thought of it.

Deb

by Moderator becke_davis on ‎11-18-2009 04:06 PM

Okay, I'm miffed. This is soooo not right. Much as I love Anna Campbell's CAPTIVE OF SIN, how could that be only one of two romances on their list??

 

Heads should roll.

by 1lovealways on ‎11-18-2009 04:45 PM

I think they don't have a Romance Fiction category because as always romance isn't considered an important genre in their categories of reviewable fiction.  It's not taken seriously as the other genre's, even though romance rakes in the big bucks.  It still seems after all this time that romance is still on the bottom rung in the eyes of the ones that supposedly count. 

 

PW would probably gain more readers and maybe the reader would have a better appreciation of their publication for recognizing that the existence of romance as a stand alone category was evident.  Not only that, I'm sure there are other attributes offered by their publication.  As far as the romance genre benefiting, it would finally say that this is a serious genre to be contended with.  It would show that romance is not only enjoyable and that there are some of the best writers in the business in this genre, but it would encourage non-readers of the genre to maybe give it a try. 

 

Why should romance be lumped within another category?  We need our own forum with our own banner heading up our own column.  As romance readers we don't care if it's hardcover, trade or mass market as long as the book's a good read.  After learning this, I'd never take their recommendation on another book, romance.  But, hey they don't print many of those reviews right?  So, I should take anything they write with a grain of salt!  As far as romance book recommendations go, I've got more good recs from readers here on this board, reviews and other message boards that anywhere.  Those I trust implicitly, because they're just like me.  An average everyday person whose reading for the pleasure of it and not for any criticisms about the book's structure in any way.  They truly know what their talking about. 

 

As for only two romance novels making their list?  That's a bunch of bull?  There were too many good romance novels this year for that catastrophe to ever happen.  Their full of it!  And I'm sure you know what I mean!  :smileyhappy:

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎11-18-2009 06:48 PM

Well, Debbie, I think that's what I wanted to disprove by going to the source. As I said, I wear romance-colored glasses on this, even though I come from a "legit lit" background and only 6 years of romance reading. I don't want to believe PW would marginalize romance fiction when it would seem to make business sense to court the parts of the industry that earn the most profit.

Yet I'm just about bright enough to realize that lots of folks who are serious about books find romance novels seriously distasteful.  I may think I bring a certain panache or erudition to writing about the genre here at BN.com, for example, but I'm not foolish enough to believe that reading romance doesn't reflect poorly upon me in the eyes of some folks.  And it can't be said that all their opinions don't matter, because sometimes they potentially and literally write the checks, as it were.   

 

In the case of today's post, I really wanted someone at PW simply to say, "THIS is why there is no specific category for romance fiction, the most financially viable genre-fiction player in the marketplace."  I don't believe there exists a reasonable or practical explanation for it, but I don't want to believe one exists that isn't for general consumption either.

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎11-18-2009 06:57 PM

Well, becke, from what I was told, Mass Market includes many other types of GF. So of the 5 top books chosen, apparently romance didn't stack up well overall.  I don't know criteria for choosing, however.  One of the things Louisa Ermelino and I discussed briefly was the confusion today's "genre blending" can cause for delineating categories.  Clearly romance fiction is being imbued w/ influences from many other styles of GF, for example.

 

But it's pretty easy to understand the animal of rom fict: central love story rules.  Concoct one big 'ol Romance Fiction category, and you never have to worry about genre blending. If the love story's central and overarching, it's romance. If not, well, toss it in the correct GF category or, heck, Mass Market it until the blended genre becomes as big and performs as well and as consistently as romance fiction.  As we know, it doesn't matter what the publisher tells us the sub-genre is; we've been advocating for readers long enough to know who's selling true and who's selling across sub-genres to capture the romance-reading audience. PW's folks are top shelf; they know the differences, too. 

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎11-18-2009 07:11 PM

Hi, 1la. I agree w/you, and one of your points is one I think PW ultimately understands: Clearly, PW's giving romance fiction a single category would add gravitas to the novels w/in the publishing industry, and raise the "status" of the romance author.  Readers aren't represented as greatly, really, at PW, as it's such an industry-interest publication, yet very important to authors, especially, for whom a PW review means a lot.  But interestingly enough, readers see "Publishers Weekly" on a romance cover or w/in a blurb page, and PW is given gravitas w/the romance reader.  So PW is branded w/the romance reader, whose interests and financial loyalty isn't necessarily reflected "on the pages" of PW.  

I should note that once a year PW does a romance 'round up' in which they offer a themed article about romance. I could be incorrect and they might be doing it more often; I could have missed the others.

 

by 1AnneB on ‎11-19-2009 07:20 AM

Hi Michelle - and everyone else - AnneB here - It's too bad that PW hasn't been able to bring themselves into the 21st century. I know that there has been a statistic released lately that the romance genre is the ONLY  one that has increased in sales during the current downturn in the economy. I was wondering, because I have only been reading the posts and blogs in BN Book Club for the past 6 months or so, but when it was set up, was Romance a part of Fiction? If it was, how long was it until Romantic Reads was born?

I know that everyone who participates in BN Book Clubs LOVES BOOKS, and treasures them as well. We all have our favorite genres, but we respect AND celebrate the difference within the book world.

I wonder if many if what we feel are classics today, were to be first release as "mass market" now, would also be treated a second-class citizens ? I'm thinking specifically of the Bronte novels, Madame Bovary and many others that we read in school - It's something to think about - HUH ?????

 

Anne

 

by JulianneMacLean75 on ‎11-19-2009 07:28 AM

Michelle - you are a true hero for the romance genre!  You always make me want to cheer.  Keep up the great work :smileyhappy:

by Moderator dhaupt on ‎11-19-2009 08:59 AM

Anne, may I say to your comment. AMEN sister!!!

Deb

by Moderator becke_davis on ‎11-19-2009 09:50 AM

It's the PW branding issue that confuses me. I always think of them as being very strong supporters of the romance genre, so this just came as a big surprise. I've never understood the reasoning behind that whole "mass market" designation.

by amyskf on ‎11-19-2009 10:00 AM

Brava! It would be interresting to see when PW decided to add Mystery and Science Fiction/Fantasy to their lists -- other genres who were once thought of as beneath  "Serious Fiction"

 

You've all said everything I believe so well, I really can't add anything, just happy to have read the comments.

by PrincessBumblebee on ‎11-19-2009 01:27 PM

Hey, Michelle! I just wanted to say that it's great that you've brought us a place that we can feel comfortable about commenting on romance novels and supporting them! Brava to you!

I think PW definately needs to get on the bandwagon of today! As already pointed out, Romance Fiction sales are up in an economy where everything else seems to be dropping in sales! What does that say about the industry? Really? But, I guess we shouldn't take those things too seriously! After all, we love them and one day, with the support of readers and writers like everyone here, I think they will get the attention and respect they deserve!

Brava, everyone!

 

by Author MonicaBurns on ‎11-20-2009 11:39 AM

 

<!-- /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:""; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";} p {mso-margin-top-alt:auto; margin-right:0in; mso-margin-bottom-alt:auto; margin-left:0in; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";} @page Section1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.0in 1.0in 1.0in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:smileyfrustrated:ection1;} -->

It’s a shame that the bigger rags don’t get that the biggest selling mass market genre is romance. Why wouldn’t they want to spotlight that and increase their own readership? Wouldn’t they have more readers if romance were a dominant force in their magazine?? I know I’d subscribe.

 

Big business DOES NOT THINK, the bottom of the fish tank as opposed to what’s OUTSIDE of the fish tank. Shortsighted and bad business sense if you ask me. Why ignore one of the biggest selling genres there is? Just bad business sense gone wrong.

 

by Author MonicaBurns on ‎11-20-2009 12:04 PM

BLAST MICROSOFT to Infinity and Beyond!!!! Why do they mess with people's text! Here's the comment w/o the garbage. Grrrre

 

It’s a shame that the bigger rags don’t get that the biggest selling mass market genre is romance. Why wouldn’t they want to spotlight that and increase their own readership? Wouldn’t they have more readers if romance were a dominant force in their magazine?? I know I’d subscribe.

 

Big business DOES NOT THINK, the bottom of the fish tank as opposed to what’s OUTSIDE of the fish tank. Shortsighted and bad business sense if you ask me. Why ignore one of the biggest selling genres there is? Just bad business sense gone wrong.

by Author Eva_Gale on ‎11-20-2009 11:44 PM

PW reviews books?  

by Author Eva_Gale on ‎11-20-2009 11:45 PM

OK, I was kidding. My point was that if they reviewed the books I read--you know, ROMANCE, then I might read their reviews. 

by ReadersEntertainment on ‎11-23-2009 12:15 PM

PW's top list only includes male authors? Can this be correct? Wow! If so, someone at PW was asleep at the PC wheel.

 

I know there have been severe cut backs at PW and the magazine is suffering from the bad economy like everyone else. But, deciding to ignore a major genre is,perhaps, not the best business decision giving their current woes.

 

Even if PW isn't gearing itself toward a reader audience and only selling itself as an industry magazine it makes no sense to ignore the genre that is surviving, even thriving, in this economy. There is no logic to it.

 

You want people to buy your magazine, right? Who are you selling to? Well, if you are only selling to book snobs and old-school industry professionals perhaps you should ignore romance. Let's hope there are enough of those type of people left to keep your magazine thriving and growing and...oh...uh...wait...PW isn't thriving...they are laying people off and looking to sell. Hmmmm...perhaps someone there should bring in new, forward-thinkers. People who understand simple economics, pop culture, industry trends and maybe even know what Facebook is. Yeah...that would be nice.

by CarolynJewel on ‎11-23-2009 01:24 PM

Maybe the question to ask is why PW has other genre categories? I would expect to hear something along the lines of, We have dedicated readers of mystery who actively seek out these reviews....  At that point, the lack of a category for Romance begins to look a lot like the familiar bias and exclusionary practices we've come to expect.

 

But maybe I'm wrong.

by beckkwith49 on ‎11-23-2009 03:06 PM

AND now they know why I do NOT read pw!  If they don't review what i like to read - why should I read their magazine?  I hope that the people who work at pw are actually reading this - it might make a difference.  I would not be surprised if their policies were determined a long time ago and the men on top did not want to make changes.  This is my personal prejudice showing.

 

On the other hand, I have never seen the inside of pw - maybe I need to look before I open my mouth/type on keyboard (what is the correct way to say that?).  So the next time I am in BN, I will look for the mag and see what is really there.  

 

However, my question on the issue of book reviews - how many reviews are actually present?  I know that they can't possible review every book released?  Could it be a matter of space?  But then again, if Romance is the highest selling genre in fiction, it deserves it's own section.  Does it not want to compete with Romantic Times?  Or are they not really in the book review business?  

 

These questions are based on my ignorance of the publication, so please excuse my bias against anyone who does not like the genre.  LOL

 

 

by Author Kate4queen on ‎11-23-2009 03:24 PM

I just don't think they see romance as worthy of their attention, pretty much like Writer's Digest magazine which also does a yearly round up of the genres, just so that we won't feel left out :smileyhappy: I still  think it comes back to that basic snobbery that romance is written mainly by women for women and about that laughable un-literary subject 'love' .

But that might be because I'm feeling sick and I'm all out of warm vibes this morning :smileyhappy:

Kate Pearce x