Amazon discontinued the ability to create images using their SiteStripe feature and in their infinite wisdom broke all previously created images on 12/31/23. Many blogs used this feature, including this one. Expect my archives to be a hot mess of broken book cover images until I can slowly comb through 20 years of archives to make corrections.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Gestation and Birth of the Monthly Unusual Historicals Post

Girl saying "If television's a babysitter the internet's a drunk librarian who won't shut up."
My Unusual Historicals "idea" wasn't even my idea. It started as the brain child of Carrie Lofty, who back in the day had a group blog called Unusual Historicals.  Carrie and I had a conversation at some point and I decided to start highlighting new titles on my blog that fit the mold.  That began in 2011, the posts eventually went over to Heroes & Heartbreakers, and when Macmillan pulled the plug the feature came back to my blog with a cross-posted collaboration with Love in Panels.

Over the years my philosophy on putting together these posts has changed.  Back in 2011 my main concerns were focusing on a mix of digital-first and print. Self-published titles started appearing once authors got the ability to list pre-orders with the major retailers and, to be frank, the depth, breadth and quality of self-publishing expanded.

But I suspect there are questions about how I generate these posts because, to be frank, some months offer more variety, more diversity, and just plain "more" than others.  

Alexis Carrington from Dynasty saying "I Have the Receipts"
First, it's important to note that I will firmly believe, with my last dying breath that People Are Neither Genre Nor Trope.  I preach this all the dang time at The Day Job.  I came to romance during the BS era of the "multi-cultural" sub genre.  Which is to say that a historical romance written by a Black author, featuring Black characters was categorized as "multi-cultural" and not, oh here's a radical thought!, as a historical romance.  Romances written by authors of color featuring characters of color were "other-ed" but to be blunt it was a practice that disproportionately affected Black authors. It's a practice I've always abhorred, for the obvious reasons, but also for the hypocrisy of it.  Romance as a genre is often "other-ed" in public libraries (I want to burn all spinner racks to the ground...), oftentimes not cataloged (!!!) and yet the genre itself was doing this within it's own ranks.

In short? A historical romance is a historical romance.  Beverly Jenkins' historical romances are "unusual" not because she's a Black author writing about Black characters falling in love.  They're "unusual" because they're westerns, colonials, set in New Orleans etc.  There is nothing unusual about Black authors writing about Black love and the sooner the genre accepts that the better.  If Beverly Jenkins writes a book about an American heiress going to England to marry a cash poor Earl?  Yeah, not unusual.  Unless the the American heiress turns out to be a doctor and the Earl is opening a brewery or something.  What makes "unusual" unusual is that it needs to be outside of Duke McDukeville.  And if it is a English-set historical it has to have something to set it apart - like it's set during the Tudor era, the hero isn't titled, the heroine has a job - something!

People Are Neither Genre Nor Trope.

You can think I'm wrong - but here's a secret, I'm never wrong on my blog.

Now that we've covered that, how do I find titles?  Well, it's changed a lot over the years so I'll share my current practice, which isn't ideal but the best I have at the moment.

1) I try to keep an eye out on social media for mentions of upcoming releases that apply.  Usually I'm stumbling across titles by happy accident given that I'm finding social media largely intolerable these days.  The main sources of data mining have been Twitter, authors I follow on Facebook and author newsletters.

2) I do an advanced eBook and print book search on Amazon which is just as tedious as it sounds.  Mostly because I have to wade through a bunch of stuff that isn't even historical romance or it's Daddy Kink (seriously y'all so much Daddy Kink....)

3) I'll check specific publisher web sites - Kensington and Harlequin are popular sites to hit since they're consistent with the "unusual."  I also check digital-first outfits like Carina and Entangled.

4) Absolutely nothing wrong with inspirational romance, but I tend to keep my lists secular unless I'm familiar enough with the author to gauge their track record on "how much God stuff" to expect.  Also, bluntly put - unusual is easier to find in inspirational than it is in secular hence another reason to focus on secular.

It's not perfect. I'm automatically missing any self-published releases that aren't up for preorder.  This would be why my post tends to go up at the end of the month: the simple fact I'm going to catch more titles that way.  I'm at the mercy of Amazon's algorithms which are a hot mess - but given how large of a market-share Amazon is for self-published authors (see: Kindle Unlimited) if I want self-published authors represented (and I do because see that paragraph on diversity again...) I can't really get away from them. 

Two books holding hands "I'm glad we're on the same page"
Is my Unusual Historicals column perfect?  Well, no. Nothing is. It's my blog, my post, and is going to reflect the work I put into it.  I'm a librarian so believe me when I say I'm putting in the very best work I'm personally capable of.  You may like that, you may not. It's not a feature that has ever purported to be all things to all readers - much like this blog.

File this under general housekeeping.  It's a post I've been meaning to do for a while and now feel better for having done so.


Jen Twimom said...

Thanks for the "history lesson" on these posts. I always find your pics so interesting. Thanks for continue to share!

Lover Of Romance said...

I love this post here and I think its important to see the background and truly appreciate you sharing this. And yes you are always right on your blog LOL

Happy Sunday!

Unknown said...

Thanks for writing this up! I love this feature (because I, too, want to escape Duke McDukeville in my historical romance reading), and appreciate seeing what goes into it.

Wendy said...

I failed to mention that People Are Neither Genre Nor Trope runs the gamut - including LGBTQ+ characters in romance. Two Dukes falling in love in Regency England - not unusual. A Duke falling in love with a merchant though? Unusual. By and large "unusual" tends to fall under setting, character occupation or there's an inversion on a popular trope. Basically I know it's unusual when I see it ;)