I sat at the table full of hope and shiny expectations. Everyone would want to stop and say hi. Okay, not everyone. But surely most would at least say hi and inquire with a polite smile… “Oh, romance writers. Tell me about your group.” But no one did.
Actually, that’s not exactly true. Out of the huge crowd we did have a few intrepid inquirers. Manning the Colorado Romance Writers table at a writing convention gave me the unique perspective of being a regency debutante with no money, no connections and no looks. In other words… a wall-flower. I knew that the event was being held at a prestigious bookstore and that many of the attendees would either be interested in professional writing opportunities, or would write in different genres. I know romance is not for everyone, even though there is romance running in the background of almost every other line of fiction. But I still didn’t expect the extent of the prejudice.
Perfectly nice looking prospects would move on from the table next door, look with eager expressions at our sign, then their faces would shutter. They’d take two steps back and quickly shoot their glance at the sign next in line. Where they would then take two steps back in and engage in conversation. We got the message. No romance. Don’t want it, don’t like it, don’t respect it enough to even nod.
Of course not everyone was that rude, but enough people reacted like that to dent even the toughest of outer shells. Why does romance garner such negativity? Why are we the wallflowers and not the belles of the ball? Romance delivers. Romance sells. Romance puts out.
Romance was 13.2 percent of the share of the consumer market in 2009 and it sells more than the other individual categories like science fiction/fantasy and mystery. Here is the break-down for some of the fiction categories:
Romance fiction: $1.36 billion in estimated revenue for 2009
Religion/inspirational: $770 million
Mystery: $674 million
Science fiction/fantasy: $554 million
Classic literary fiction: $462 million
So we sell more than anyone else. Don’t you think that would be a reason to just stop by and talk. Or at least smile? It wasn’t all bad. Lots of nice people did stop by, several were serious and took our information. We’ll likely get some new members out of the day. And despite some of the reactions I had a good time. We made contacts within our industry. We discovered new writers groups, conventions and marketing opportunities for our members. There were great speakers and we showed we were ready to step up and be treated like professionals. Because we are professionals.
If we react like a flower and curl up and die without attention, we do nothing for our industry. We prove the naysayers right. In order to be treated with respect, we need to act like we deserve respect. By showing up at events like this, smiling, interacting, being professional, we inch forward in our quest for recognition by our industry. People in the know recognize that romance is a competitor, but it’s time we moved that to the common populace. Its time the rest of the publishing world woke up and smelled the roses.
And the only way we do that is by being resilient, moving off of the wall and getting out there. Show ‘em what we’ve got, because we have it all. A growing market in a recession, terrific educational opportunities, and one thing more. We support each other in the face of resistance. We stand shoulder to shoulder and walk through that ballroom, an army of wall flowers who don’t care if the crowds don’t want to smile at us, because we know. We’re romance writers. We’re making the money and selling the books. We got it going on.