The Two Groups of Indie Authors: Romance & “Other”

First, I imagine I need to insert a disclaimer here before I’m set upon by legions of rabid maniacs: I don’t have a problem with the romance genre. Writing is writing, and damned hard work no matter what genre you choose. Even if you choose to produce formulaic novels that fit the mould outlined by Harlequin for so many years, you’ve still accomplished something 99% of the people who want to do it have failed at. You’ve written a novel, so give yourself a pat on the back.

That being said, (so don’t bomb me with emails defending your right to read or write Mommy porn; I’m not arguing it) I have something to get off my chest.

For some time now, I’ve noticed a misconception about indie authors. Not the bias that says they must not be good enough, or they’d be published through a major house. That’s pretty much gone; people are waking up to the fact that the big houses can only put out so much at a time, and that they have to be careful to pick what they feel will be commercial successes, and so they don’t always take a gamble on new people or ideas.

No, the misconception I can’t seem to get away from is the idea that no one but romance authors publish independently, and that the only indie authors worth reading are romance serialists. You can’t swing a dead cat in most groups without slapping two dozen people with a “paranormal romance” series to push on you. It’s as if all indie authors have been divided into two groups: Romance, and Other. If it were simply a matter of that’s all the public wants, fine. But I’ve been in contact with nearly a hundred “indie author” groups, conventions, and events over the last few days, and that seems to be all THEY want. A few have paid lip service to being open to all genres, but they’re sure to ask what genre you write in before telling you if there are seats or tables at their conventions still available, and whether or not they have room for more members. I understand that the fan base may be overwhelmingly driving for this, but if that’s the case, don’t bother reaching out or claiming to accept other genres. Just go whole hog and declare yourself to be devoted to romance.

I’d love to start attending literary conventions in the area. There are as many as thirty in the St. Louis/Kansas City/Tulsa/Chicago area. As a writer, the idea of meeting other writers and readers always gives me the giggles.  But the thought of paying table fees, hotel/travel, and all the other assorted fees to be brushed off or hidden in a corner just doesn’t appeal to me, for some reason.

Sometimes it happens despite the best intentions and efforts of the group leaders; I recently left a group that, while they made Herculean efforts to include everyone, was simply over-run and dominated by romance. Posting to this group was an exercise in futility unless you included a picture of a half-naked male model or were offering/requesting “swag” (and even TYPING that word leaves a bad taste in my mouth.)

One gets the feeling that this is a self-feeding monster; the members of the romance tribe seem to constantly buy, rate, and review each other’s materials. They hold constant giveaways to promote each other, which for those who don’t write romance often end up in a slight bump in followers who have absolutely no interest in what we do, and who generally leave within a month or so of the last giveaway we participated in once it’s clear we won’t be offering more free stuff they don’t really want to read.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on why this phenomenon happens. Is the demand for formulaic romance series that high? Did the Fifty Shads of Grey and Twilight series spawn an entire revolution in literature? Or is the audience small but rabid in their devotion and consumption?

And if you think I just spent this time bashing the romance genre, romance fans, or romance authors, go back up to the top of the post and read the first paragraph again before you send the hate mail, okay?


One thought on “The Two Groups of Indie Authors: Romance & “Other”

  1. I just wanted to mention that I do understand how it may be more difficult in a world primarily built on Romance, however i can be done. I know of many authors who are able to build an audience depending on how you market yourself. Yes a lot of reviewers love to read romance, but they also love scifi, fantasy, and other genres. The key again is to find your target audience and to build a good reputation. Every author will have challenges. You may have issues due to your genre but look at those who may be Y.A. Some of those authors may be romance but I will tell you that in general I do not like to read Y.A regardless. Does that mean that no one does? No, that just means that the author has to find a target audience and market to that group of people. Once they have gained a reputation others will follow even if it is out of the genres that they usually read. In fact if you spend some time searching for bloggers/ reviewers with your genre criteria you may find that those reviewers will not review any type of romance. Some reviewers refuse to look at historical, or paranormal. As long as your work itself is worthy You only have to do your research and put in some sweat to be successful.

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