Today, for your delectation, three different links kindly supplied to us by assorted members of the bitchery, and a little bit of drive-by snark to go with each:

Item the First: An article in Publishers’ Weekly asks: Why don’t indie bookstores carry series romance novels?

Two possible answers to that, neither of them mutually exclusive:

1. Indie bookstores tend to be snobbish. The ones staffed largely by book-loving nerds with college degrees, like Powell’s Books here in Portland, are the worst. They take pride in being different, they take pride in stocking the relatively obscure and hard-to-find, and they take pride in excellence in literary taste. Romance novels, to their mind, are none of those things, much less series romances, with their lurid titles.

Not that luridness is always a bad thing, but newly-released series romances are far too new to have nostalgic camp cachet, the way pulp thrillers, westerns and stroke books do. Hipsters and book geeks may display pulp westerns, SF and pornographic novels on their bookshelves with no shame, but most wouldn’t be caught dead with a romance novel. Romance novels are embarrassing, not kitschy.

It leads to a vicious cycle, too: A while back, I remember reading an article about Powell’s Books, and the reporter asked the owner, Michael Powell, why the dearth in romance novels in the store. He shrugged and said something like “Our customers don’t seem to ask for them all that much.” That’s as may be, but I know I’ve headed into Powell’s several times looking to buy a specific romance novel, only to walk right back out again with empty hands, and then giving my dollars to an Evil Chain like Amazon or Borders because they DID stock what I wanted. I wonder how many other readers like me have done the same thing? Nowadays, I don’t bother doing my romance shopping at Powell’s; I just go straight to a chain bookstore or order them on-line instead.

2. Limited shelfspace. This isn’t perhaps as big a problem for behemoths like Powell’s, but many of the smaller stores have little real estate on their shelves, and they need to stock only what sells. In certain neighborhoods, or for bookstores that try to appeal to certain niches, stocking series romance novels just isn’t practical, since so many of them are released every year.

Next item: Alessia Brio links to a news story in which a woman’s romance novel-writing past is biting her in the ass in her bid to run for state comptroller of Texas. Sort of. Except not really, because Susan Combs, the comptroller-candidate-cum-former-romance-novelist, has a huge budget and her opponent, who’s apparently making a big fuss over the trashy pornography she wrote? Has no money. Really, his indignation over the glorification of pre-marital sex in romance novels makes me shake my head and wonder how old he was before he got any.

Other minor details: Combs’ spokesperson dismissed the book as a “paint-by-numbers formula writing,” and certain phrases in the article made me wonder how accurately the reporter for this particular article was reporting the situation.

And now for something completely different: The Goku-Lytton awards for Worst Opening Lines of Erotic Fan-Fiction. Be sure to have several pairs of spare pants nearby, for you will pee them when you read some of these parodies.


The Link-O-Lator

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    AnimeJune says:

    Reading the Goku-Lytton: Ah! My eyes! My virgin, Catholic eyes!

  2. 2
    Tonda says:

    Oh holy mother of dog.

  3. 3

    In the case of Susan Combs, her opponent’s name is Mr Head, so there’s probably already a head comb association going on in the mind of the electorate. And now he’s really stupidly raised the issue of pornographic books. Maybe not such a clever idea Mr F. Head? Sorry, my mind must be in the gutter. But really, with a name like that (and that particular initial) he ought to be much, much more careful about the additional mental associations he creates for his name.

  4. 4
    Angela H says:

    I feel queasy now, thanks.

  5. 5
    Nora Roberts says:

    Mr. Head. Snicker. Snort.

    But that’s not what I wanted to address.

    Turn The Page, a lovely little indie bookstore owned by my one true love, proudly carries series romance.

    I’ll have to ask if all lines are carried as I don’t work there. But series has been cheerfully carried and sold since he opened the doors eleven years ago.

    A general bookstore, indie or otherwise, that doesn’t carry series is—imo—very short-sighted. Or really snotty.

  6. 6
    Diana says:

    For the longest time I’ve had a secret fantasy where I’d stand in the middle of Washington DC’s Politics and Prose (where everyone has his head up his ass) and inquire in my loud voice “Hey!  Where do ya’ll keep your Nora Roberts books?”

  7. 7
    Amy E says:

    Be even funnier if La Nora did that herself.  I’d want to see the video.  Snort.

    You know, I live in Texas.  (And hadn’t heard a thing about this “big controversy” until today, too.)  I’m gonna vote in that very election, and you know what?  Ms. Combs lost her chance to win me over (which was, admittedly, small once I saw that big R after her name) when she called her published romance novel “paint-by-numbers formula writing.”  Oh ho, so THAT must be why it’s so easy to get published, is it?  Because it’s all so trite and formulaic.  Yes, it must be so.  Anyone who wants to publish a romance can, naturally.  It’s just SO easy.

    Bite me, Combs.  It’d be worth the rabies shots just to get a picture of your teeth and my ass.  Grr.

  8. 8
    deeavoy says:

    “Would you vote for a candidate who wrote a trashy, pornographic romance novel that glorifies premarital sex and seeks to arouse sexual interest as your State Comptroller of Public Accounts?” Head asks in a campaign flier.

    Conversely, would you vote for a guy named Fred Head?  Yikes. Reminds me of the time a very effeminate man handed me his business card and it was all I could do not to laugh—his name was Mr. Faggett.

  9. 9

    I say we open a chain of bookstores that ONLY carry romance, and snub everyone else.

    And the Goku-Lytton…There are no words. I’m still weeping.

  10. 10
    Samantha says:

    AmyE said “Ms. Combs lost her chance to win me over (which was, admittedly, small once I saw that big R after her name) when she called her published romance novel “paint-by-numbers formula writing.” Oh ho, so THAT must be why it’s so easy to get published, is it?  Because it’s all so trite and formulaic.  Yes, it must be so.  Anyone who wants to publish a romance can, naturally.  It’s just SO easy.”

    So are you gonna vote for the moronic Mr.(shit)Head, who calls her series romance book poronographic?

  11. 11
    Kaitlin says:

    I live in Portland and Powell’s not having romances is pretty much the reason why I don’t buy anything there…usually.  If I want a good fantasy novel?  I shop at Powell’s.  It just doesn’t seem fair somehow.  *sigh*

  12. 12
    karibelle says:

    I like to think of myself as a tolerant, open-minded soul.  Though my own sexual tastes tend to be fairly mainstream, I have a live-and-let-live attitude and do not judge other people by their alternative methods of sexual expression and gratification.  HOWEVER.  After reading the Goku-Lytton awards I can only say…DAMN!!!  There are some FREAKY, FUCKED-UP people out there!!!  I’m gonna go soak my eyes in clorox now.

  13. 13
    CindyS says:

    Seriously, I had to stop reading those awards and yeah, there’s some vomit inducing shit out there!!  (according to the writer of the LOTR fanfic thing, that’s turn on *shudder*)


  14. 14
    Lia says:

    The style in Goku-Lytton sounds suspiciously like it was all written by the same pen.  Most fanfic I’ve read doesn’t start out porny—it wanders around a lot first. Ah, well, at least “something awful” is truth in advertising.

    Re formula in romance and politics … a lot of romance writing is formula, and a lot of romances are pretty inane.  Hell, there are computer programs that are practically paint-by-numbers.  If Combs is honest enough to say she writes that way, she’s more forthright than most politicians I’ve heard.  Since I haven’t read her writing, I’d still vote for her over F’Head.

  15. 15
    Lia says:

    Re vote—oops, not R for Romance.  Another ‘none of the above’ elections.  Argh.

  16. 16
    Myriantha Fatalis says:

    Poor Mr. Fred-Head has the misfortune to be a Democrat in a red state.  His (admittedly not-too-bright) campaign strategy is probably based on trying to steal Moral Majority votes from the Republican candidate by revealing her smutty Whore-o-Babylon past.

    And BTW, this stunning example of reportage is exactly why I don’t subscribe to the Chron.  “Houston’s leading information source” indeed.

  17. 17

    On the matter of indy bookstores not stocking romances, although I know where Candy’s coming from with her comments on indy-bookstore snobbery (the kind that wouldn’t dream of sullying their shelves with smut unless it’s authentic Victorian smut and/or everyone dies in the end) can I wave a flag for small, but perfectly-formed indy bookstore, Murder One in London?

    They specialise in romance and mysteries and even have a couple of shelves just for Ellora’s Cave books. They’re also the most romance-friendly bookstore I’ve come across in the entire country (would appreciate recs though). Yes there’s Borders, but their turnover is pretty slow and selection isn’t very adventurous. BTW, I don’t work there, never have and sadly won’t get a discount for this. But they’re on Charing X road and rents are steep, and I need them to stay in business because Amazon takes forever.

    Incidentally, the worst moment of bookstore snobbery I ever experienced was buying a paranormal from an indy sci-fi bookstore chain. The clerk ringing up my sale sneered, “God, I don’t know how you can stand to read that sort of crap. It’s only for sad f****s and wankers,” and refused to touch the book or handle it in any way to put it in the bag (presumably for fear of the cooties of luuuurrrrve). She’d have blown it across the counter onto the floor if she could, just to get it out of her presence.

    At this point I burst out laughing and she told me off for insulting her. This would be the goth girl working in a bookstore that sells £850 reproduction busts of Klingons. Not that this is necessarily an indication of geekiness, wankerdom or otherwise, but y’know, if we’re gonna throw around stereotypes here…

    (Just realised the phrase “reproduction busts of Klingons” has two possible meanings. Sorry for putting that image in anyone’s head, but they probably keep the ones in the second sense in a special locked room in the basement).

    Now, whenever I visit that store, my one-woman mission is to locate some serious hard-core be-man-tittied books in their stock, sneak up on her and force them into her bare hands, or possibly just chase her through the big piles of LOTR action figures, waving my DeSalvo in a menacing way. Somehow, someday.

  18. 18
    Nicole says:

    My local used bookstore carries new books and has been expanding.  She told me last time I was in there that theyre going to try to stock series romance.  She already carries a ton of romance (more than half the store is stocked with used romance) and she plans to carry even more new ones.

    I haven’t quite decided what I think of that since if I buy them (series romance), I tend to do it at SuperTarget (which doesn’t carry them all) and the evil Walmart, just because the discounts on them is so great.

  19. 19
    Tonda/Kalen says:

    waving my DeSalvo in a menacing way.

    *CHOKE* Spit tea onto keyboard *SNORT* Wipe tears from eyes.

  20. 20
    Lady T says:

    I used to work at an indie store and believe you me,series romance(except for Nora Roberts)got the short shift. The shelf where we kept the romance books was all the way at the bottom of a wall unit where the science fiction was(Sci-Fi didn’t get any better treatment but it held more titles that the local school kids were assigned for class)and was eventually done away with.

    Despite a number of customers who did come in and/or call to order romance titles,we never did carry alot unless we recieved co-op money or a relative of one of the boss’s friends wrote one and pestered her to have in the store or a couple of titles were “snuck” into the stock and sold enough that warrented re-order.

  21. 21
    sazzat says:

    Hey, I love Murder One!  I spent my junior year at a UK university and couldn’t find a single romance in any nearby bookstores; we made the trip down to London about every other weekend, and I stumbled across Murder One on the way to Leicester Square.  I was so happy I decided to stop…the section is huge and they have every author, and they often have every one of the author’s available books.  My friends (not romance readers) were always kind enough to browse in the True Crime section (also great) until I was done.  I still visit to pick up vacation reading material whenever I’m in London.

  22. 22
    Candy says:

    In case it wasn’t clear: I’m pretty sure the Goku-Lytton awards entries were all written by Zack “Geist Editor” Parsons.

    Also, some indie bookstores are definitely better than others about stocking romance, and it warms the cockles of my heart that there are bookstores out there that carry an extensive selection in the face of immense literary snobbery and limited shelf space. Hold fast…*sobs* Hold. Fast.

    EAP: You had me at “reproduction busts of Klingons.”

  23. 23
    June says:

    Although not able to read the full write-ups for each Goku-Lytton entry (I don’t need those pictures in my head, thank you very much), I got my laughs from the fanfic categories. 

    Can’t decide which is better: Harry S. Truman Erotic Fanfic or Mummies Alive!/Friends Crossover Erotic Fanfic.


  24. 24
    kate r says:

    Bananas in Pajamas Fan Erotic Fanfic

    That was more than enough but, noooo, the guy just had to keep going. Fuck…there goes my libido.

    Woo baby, that’s funny though

  25. 25
  26. 26
    Nancy Gee says:

    Kate – I notice Butler didn’t address any of the false assumptions and corrected facts that you and other posters had pointed out. She seems to be taking her cues from Coulter – obfuscate, fog, throw out outrageous claims, and if the opposition seems numerous, claim conspiracy and persecution.

  27. 27
    --E says:

    About the Goku-Lytton awards: “That’s some fucked up shit right there, dude.”

    Maybe someone ought to point it out to the voters in Texas, so they can see that a “paint-by-numbers” romance is utterly whitebread.

  28. 28
    Madd says:

    “After reading the Goku-Lytton awards I can only say…DAMN!!!  There are some FREAKY, FUCKED-UP people out there!!!  I’m gonna go soak my eyes in clorox now.”

    Amen to that. Some of those were just … ewwww … yech!

  29. 29
    jm says:

    goku-lytton…blech… now i have to go wash my brain…

  30. 30
    Suisan says:

    Many days late to the party here, but the political story really burns me.

    I think Combs’ staff is embarrassed that she wrote the book. You can’t dodge crap flinging by AGREEING that you did a bad thing! Good grief, woman.

    “Yes, I wrote the book, and of course it’s not pornography. It’s an example of the largest sector of paperback publishing in America. I dedicated myself to writing a book which would be published, and mine was chosen over possibly thousands of manuscripts submitted to publishers every day. This is an example of the dedication and tenacity I will bring to my role as Comptroller of Blah Blerghy Blergh.”

    Kee-rist. Political maneuvering 101 there. Why is it that Comptroller is a highly contested race? Cause I want THAT job.

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