Thursday, February 25, 2010

Wendy's Talking Romance. Again. Geesh.

In a moment of pure insanity, I put in a 10 hour work day yesterday and gave two presentations on the romance genre. It seemed like a good idea at the time, which I really can't explain. I'd say I was high, but the hardest drug I do is caffeine.

The morning started with a presentation about Harlequin that I gave to our library assistants. In the library world we call these happy folks "para-professionals." They don't have a library degree, but maybe they're working towards one, or they have comparable job experience. The goal of this presentation was to educate them on category romance (No, it's not all Harlequin Presents), make them aware that cover art and lines change, and to discuss tips on how to "deal" with paperbacks in general at their individual branches.

I think this presentation was very well received by most of them. Some of them were likely bored out of their minds. Wendy's talking about romance novels. Again. Blah, blah, blah. As an added bonus, I also discussed Harlequins single title lines (Mira, HQN, Spice etc.) and got a lot of really good questions. A couple enlightening moments:
  • Harlequin publishes in the ballpark of 120 titles every month. Yeah. Take it from the librarian, this is an obscene number. Some of the administration folks in the audience actually gasped out loud when I told them that.

  • Harlequin sells 20 million copies (worldwide) of Harlequin Presents titles each year. Yes, I found this number from Harlequin promo material. 20 frackin' million! Each frackin' year! No wonder Harlequin claims those dopey titles sell books. You can't really argue with 20 million! Wowzers.

  • I got asked about trends in the romance genre in general. My answers were urban fantasy (separate genre altogether, but lots of romance readers are reading it) and historicals. Mark my words people, I think we're in for a massive historical resurgence. Let's see if I'm right.

The second presentation was a much more general discussion on the romance genre at one of our smaller libraries. This was an evening program at a smaller branch, so I was honestly hoping at least one warm body would show up. For any librarians reading this, you'll relate that programming tends to be a crap shoot. You just never know what's going to happen. So color me pleasantly surprised when 13 people showed up! And it would have been closer to 18, except people called to cancel because of being sick.

I think the program went well, and I hope I didn't bore them. Everybody in the audience was already a romance reader, so we covered all the basic sub genres (contemporary, historical, paranormal, inspirational etc.) and talked books in general. I promoted the heck out of my library's upcoming literary event, talked up the authors that were going to be there (Linda Wisdom, Tessa Dare and HelenKay Dimon) and got them to check out some books. Hopefully they liked it and I didn't suck. Programming is hard for small libraries, and I wanted to do well for the staff at that branch. They're good peeps.

A couple things of note about these presentations, I think my secret blogging identity is getting to be less of a secret. I've never "hid" my true identity online, but I've also never willy-nilly discussed my blog with my employers. I just don't. Period. However, seems some of my fellow employees have found me. The attendees at the library program last night wanted my blog address (Uh, hi ladies!) and my boss made me show the library assistants the Blogger Bundles I suggested to Harlequin. Sigh. I'm not sure how I feel about this. OK, I guess. But maybe this means I need wash out my mouth with soap, and watch my language more closely. I know my father would certainly approve of that.


Victoria Janssen said...

Thanks for sharing all this. I love hearing about libraries and how they work. *is reading geek*

Holly said...

Holy crap! Those HQN numbers are crazy!!!

I'm so glad you had a good turnout for the 2nd event. I knew you'd do great.

I can wash your mouth out for you if you want. I'm kind of an expert since my kids had dirty potty mouths when they were little (not anymore though!). :D

Jessica said...

Just from a personal standpoint...when I started out reading romances i focused on historical and harlequin (maybe that's all there really was?) then for years I stopped historical all together b/c well i got to be a little tired of the same old same old and vamps and then paranormals came out and that was a fun change. But I've found myself wanting to read more historicals lately. There's something familiar about them and I've found that I can enjoy them all over again.

Amy said...

I like to hear about your presentations, Wendy. Hell (yes, I AM a potty mouth...heh), I think it's uber cool that romance fiction and how, exactly, it relates to the real world and literature is actually being taught in colleges. People are taking the genre more seriously and paying attention.

Me, I just like the sappy lovey stuff.

I need to start looking at the events at my library and see if they do something along these lines. I know they have a book club for many genres, but I'd love to see more people interested in something other than book discussions.

Lusty Reader said...

i definitely would have been in the "gasp out loud" crowd, 20 mill is awesome, and sooo justifies their product.

and i so so so hope you're right about the historical resurgence. all i have to say about that is "yes, may i please have some more?" so glad your presentations went well, i know *we* love hearing about them!

Giynlith said...

Dear Wendy,

I have a question regarding romance novels and libraries. At all of the libraries I've been to (in Sacramento, at least), the non-series romances are shelves with the general fiction, making it difficult to specifically browse the romance genre. Why do libraries do that?

Liza said...

Like to hear that historical romances are coming back. I started with contemporary romances and historical romances. I just got back into historicals this past year after years of avoiding them(felt like I was reading the same thing over and over again). The ones I've read recently have been really great.

nath said...

Yay for you Wendy!! I'm sure you did a great job at both presentations!! I actually wished I have been there! Now talk about a seminar I wouldn't fall asleep at! LOL :)

Wendy said...

Giynlith: I could devote an entire post to library shelving :) Unlike the Dewey Decimal system for non-fiction, the is no uniform standard for fiction. Just alphabetical, by author name.

I've seen libraries shelve all the fiction together, regardless of genre and format. I've seen libraries shelve paperbacks separately from hard covers - but still have all genres mixed together. I've seen libraries shelve like bookstores - so the genres each get their own unique shelving areas. And then there are those libraries that shelve all the genres together, but put "genre labels" on the book spine. So for example: Nora Roberts would have a "romance" sticker on her books and Agatha Christie would have a "mystery" sticker on hers.

You name it, I've probably seen it.

Librarians tend to make themselves crazy over this issue. I believe in shelving paperbacks separately from hard covers (the shelves just look "cleaner" that way IMHO), but I do like ALL the genres mixed together. I personally think libraries are meant for browsing. Now obviously A LOT of people disagree with me (oh like probably all my blog readers) and I honestly do see all sides of the argument. It all boils down to what's best for each individual community - although it's impossible to make everybody happy.

Where I work, we leave it up to each individual branch. We catalog the books how they should be classified (for example: Nora Roberts would be adult fiction) and where the branch physically shelves that book is up to them. (In general fiction, in romance, in mystery for J.D. Robb titles etc.)

So the answer is - there's no real answer. No uniform standard, so it's left up to each library/librarian. But it does make for interesting debates.

Wendy said...

Victoria: We're all reading geeks. You are among your people! LOL

Holly: I know! I mean, I knew HP was popular - but wowzers!

Jessica: Honestly I think the historical market just peaked. And then paranormal really hit it big and people were ready for "different." Personally I've been struck by how many new authors have published historicals in the last year. Lots of new voices out there!

Amy: Adult programming is difficult (I think). But we have some branches that really excel at it. Lectures, how-to classes, not just book discussion groups.

Lusty: This summer is going to be HUGE for historicals. Lots of great sounding books coming out.

Liza: Yeah, for a while it seemed to all be Regency England. But it's been nice to see some new authors doing westerns, medievals, and yes - even Regency. I've been updating my Upcoming Historical Romances wiki, and wow! This summer is loaded.

Nath: The trick is keeping it fun and funny. It's the romance genre, and I know not all my colleagues are going to read it, like it, whatever. So I shoot to at least make it interesting to listen to. And hopefully they learned something to help their romance reading patrons.

Karenmc said...

That's some whole lotta Harlequin every month!

I'm glad to hear your thoughts on historicals, which I read exclusively (I only have so much time in my life, dammit). I also want to say thanks for the Upcoming Historicals, with all the nifty links to author sites. You make my life much easier :)

BigDaddy said...

Wendy - those people are lucky they didn't have to pay good money to hear you speak!! I would have paid a bundle! I'm sure you were awesome, as usual. Yes, your Dad will be happy if you clean up your potty mouth - me, I could care less. Or in the words of your Grandma Congrove, "Young lady, I hope I never hear that word coming out of your mouth again!" I think you said, "What the h---"

BigDaddy said...

Not sure why my comment was under Big Daddy - Big Mama wrote that!

Anonymous said...

Clearly there is something in the air, because I'm outing myself as well these days, LOL.

I agree those numbers are crazy. I think that the vast number of books, and the way romance readers read so fast, does help contribute to the impression that they are assembly line products, like a bag of chips, to be consumed and discarded, and not "books". No, I am not suggesting publishing less, but I definitely don;t think people hear those numbers and immediately think, "wow, how is Harlequin publishing such high quality original gems at this pace?!"

Oh, also ... I got a St. John category at the market yesterday in the 50 cent bin: The Mistaken Widow

Kristie (J) said...

I'd love to make it to one of you 'talks' but alas the distance is a tad to far to travel.
And I know what you mean about coworkers 'discovering' your blog. I don't make any secret about mine at work though so far I don't think any have visited, but it would be like one area of my life merging with another and while I don't think I'd mind - still it would feel kind of weird.
And I didn't think historical romances ever went away!
Now if you had said you think there is a resurgence of Westerns ahead -- that would truly be a cause for celebration *g*

Wendy said...

Big Mama: Big Daddy has commented on the blog in the past. Usually when I'm sobbing over my keyboard, blogging about the Detroit Tigers.

Oh, and youngest child is here right now! We're getting ready to go out to breakfast at Ruby's!

Karen: When I get some time, I need to do some more updating over at the wiki. Right now I'm feeling fairly confident that it's pretty much complete thru April.

RRRJes: That's one St. John I've still got in my TBR.

Yeah, I definitely through some stuff in my presentation about "why readers like category" and "why authors like writing it." Also, I freely admit publicly that Harlequin does publish some crap. Of course every publisher publishes SOME crap - it's not like HQ holds the market share on that. Plus, crap is in the eye of the beholder :)

Kristie: Remember a few years ago when there was all this "talk" about the historical being "dead?" I wanna say it was around 2004/2005-ish? Yeah, not dead. Has never been dead. It just hit a plateau, and now I think it's bouncing back big time because of the economy.

Anonymous said...

I was there at your 2nd event and checked out a few books you recommended. They were great! Thank you so much. I love and read majority of Lisa Kleypas' books, but always avoided her comtemporary books. Well, after that Sugar Daddy book you recommended, I finished her 2nd book and now waiting impatienly for the library transfer of her 3rd book. Thank you very much for presenting that night.

Wendy said...

Anon: Yeah! I'm so glad you're enjoying the Kleypas series! And hopefully by now you've got book 3 in your hot lil' hands :)