My last post, Prejudice--Not a Wise Platform Strategy, was part one on this topic. I know this is a subject near to the hearts of many readers because of the emails I received through this blog and my website after that post and my earlier, related one on not using blogs as personal diaries.
Most writers I know are intelligent, educated, open-minded people, which is why I keep leaping onto my soapbox to address the topic of genre prejudice--it makes no sense to me and surprises me every time I see an example of it.
People who know me will tell you I'm not a preachy person, but discrimination is my hot button. I live in the South and consequently have a heightened sense of equality because I live in a society that has embraced or endured all kinds of prejudice and discrimination. I find genre discrimination offensive, just as I do racial, religious or sexual discrimination (Though not to the same extent, of course; it's not on the same level as it doesn't bring with it life and death consequences; but for me, prejudice is repulsive in any arena).
No. "Hating" a genre doesn't equate donning a white hood, but it is unwarranted and often unfounded, with the person degrading the genre and its authors sometimes having never even read a book in the genre (or at least not knowing he/she has read one. *wink*). A little tolerance and respect for other readers and writers goes a long way, especially when you're trying to build a potential fan base.
Hands down, the genre I see belittled the most is romance.
Okay. I agree romance is an easy target. The book covers alone warrant an eye roll. They are often cheesy--in fact, some are downright embarrassing (Psst: Electronic readers solve this problem and allow you to read with reckless abandon anywhere without risk of offending anyone with the naked or nearly naked people on the cover).
Kidding aside, keep in mind the potential pitfalls of alienating people who write or read this or any genre before you slam it publicly. Yes, your personal blog is yours and you can say any darn thing you want, but if you are building a writers' platform, you should still turn on your inner censor. Same with forums and loops. It is fine to be opinionated, but as with all things, is it worth shooting yourself in the foot?
Back to romance. I think the stats will help clarify my position.
The following is from the Romance Writers of America website:
RWA’s 2009 Reader Survey reports 74.8 million Americans read at least one romance novel in 2008, with the core of the romance fiction market at 29 million regular readers.Not only did romance fiction generate $1.37 billion in sales in 2008, but also it remained the
largest share of the consumer market at 13.5 percent. R.R. Bowker’s Books In Print shows 7,311 new romance titles were published in the United States in 2008 (out of a total 275,232 new titles). With 7,311 new romances published in one year, “no fiction category can rival romance in terms of sheer size.” The U.S. economy slid into recession in 2008, and book sales were down to $10.175 billion from $10.714 billion in 2007. Romance fiction sales were strong in 2008 at $1.37 billion.
Wow. 74.8 million people read a romance in 2008. That's a lot of readers. That's a lot of writers. Romance has a gigantic fan base. Larger than any other genre. See the RWA literature statistics page for more info.
I brought my own prejudices with me to my first RWA meeting, only to be slapped in the face by my own ignorance. My fellow chapter members blew me away. Doctors, housewives, lawyers, professors, students executives and teachers. I went even though I was not a romance writer because of the workshops that crossed over genres. I stayed because of the talent and openness of the members. I adore and admire this group of men and women and can't imagine making this trek without them.
The president of my chapter, Kimberly Frost, spoke to our group one time about why she writes romance. Kimberly is a physician and is one of the brightest people I know. I'm sure her friends and associates frequently ask her why she writes romance. Here is a part of the story she recounted:
One morning I opened a reader email that came through my website. The woman wrote to tell me that she'd had a very tough week. Both of her parents were terminally ill, and reading Would-Be Witch was the first thing that had made her happy in a while. She just wanted me to know. I sat and cried as I wrote her a reply.Before that reader email, I had occasionally wondered if I should really be writing paranormal romantic comedy. It wasn't, after all, serious writing, right? Afterward though, I never questioned my choice again. My book eased the pain of someone who was shouldering a very heavy load. Nothing will ever mean more to me than that.
Hard to beat that for a reason to write.
Honestly, I can't think of a genre I haven't enjoyed from literary fiction to erotica. There are pitiful examples in all genres, but there are also brilliant books in all of them. I choose to read some genres more than others, but that doesn't mean the ones I don't read as often are lesser quality or not as valid.
My point? Discrimination based on genre prejudice not only offends other readers'/writers', it can negatively impact an aspiring writer's reputation and platform.
I'd love to hear from you in the comments or in a personal email.
Wishing everyone a wonderful week.