Reader Reports and Romance

The Guardian’s article written by a reader report writer – the person who reads books for evaluation by a publishing house – gave me a LOT to chew on.

1. I hadn’t realized but am not surprised that American places market well overseas but not in the reverse – people in Europe, as the article says, will read about divorce in northern Jersey, but people in America will not read about divorce in the Jersey Islands.

Well, except me, that is. I’d love to read about anything set in the Jersey Islands. Or more specifically, romance in any interesting locale, especially those that speak English but aren’t England or the US. Canada! Why aren’t there more romances set in Canada?

2. English is a dominant language that beats down other languages. It’s true. JaneDrew’s signature file made me giggle so hard I have to share it: English: A language that lurks in dark alleys, beats up other languages, and rifles through their pockets for spare vocabulary. HA! And not only is English a linguistic bully but it’s a cultural bully on the international book marketplace, too. Even I fall prey to it – I just said I wanted to read romances set in other locales besides London and the US where the language is English.

This isn’t because I have some bias against other languages; it’s merely that writing in English when the setting and everything around it are in another language becomes hard to present with any degree of accuracy without becoming annoying.

3. This is the part that really tickled my brain: report readers have an opportunity to potentially keep books off the shelves. Whoa. I had no idea. So who is Cassie Edwards’ report reader, or is she such a guaranteed sell that she doesn’t have one? Are there report readers for romance? How does that work? Are you one?

Comments are Closed

  1. 1

    And here’s the really strange thing: a lot of German romance readers (who usually read either translations of US romances or the English originals) won’t touch a romance written by a German author. This is why German authors writing for Cora, the German partner of Harlequin, have to use an English pseudonym.

    In addition, a lot of German romance readers won’t read a romance set in Germany.

    from the article:
    Why,” a German writer complained at a conference last year, “will people all over the world read about divorce in New Jersey, while almost no one in the English-speaking world seems to have the faintest interest in reading about divorce in Bonn or Haifa or Seville?”

    Divorce in Bonn? In BONN??? *snort* Who’d ever want to read a book set in Bonn? In Berlin, yes. But boring Bonn …. No.

  2. 2
    Teddypig says:

    Is Divorce Romance? Did I miss something in the translation?

  3. 3
    Sarah Frantz says:

    I’ve been a “peer reviewer” for academic books and again, that role has the ability to keep books off shelves (library shelves in this instance, considering print runs for academic books are usually 500 books.  And you really know you’ve made it as an academic when your book comes out in paperback FIRST, rather than the other way around for mass market books.  Anyway…).

    From what I understand, though, romances and other mass market books go through editors, but not outside readers.  You only need outside readers when the editor is a generalist and needs a better, more detailed, more educated perspective on the book.

  4. 4
    Ann Bruce says:

    Strangely enough, I’m a Canuck but I stay away from books set in Canada or books with Canadian characters because (1) the setting is too familiar and doesn’t seem exotic enough (even though I do love my non-fiction Canadian boys) and (2) I’m more critical of the author because if s/he gets something blatantly wrong (e.g. Canadians using the term “ice hockey” or someone from Alberta saying “aboot” instead of “about”), it feels like an insult and totally ticks me off.

    I have boycotted at least two very popular, bestselling authors for these reasons.

  5. 5
    DS says:

    It seems that a lot of authors I like—Lauren Haney, Judith Merkle Riley, and John Maddox Ford ended up with books published in Germany that did’t make it back into English until a number of years later.  That was something I always wondered about.  Come to think about it Haney writes Ancient Egyptian mysteries, Ford writes about Ancient Rome and Riley’s book that was only available in Germany for years was set in 14th Century England.

  6. 6
    Berni says:

    That .sig quote is attributed to James Nicoll, a Canadian science fiction fan.  Just in case you wanted to know.

  7. 7
    Charlene says:

    Why aren’t there more romances set in Canada?

    Why do you think there are so many novels set incongruously in Maine, Montana, Seattle, and Minnesota? Many of them were set originally in the Maritimes, Alberta, BC, and the Prairies, but Americans refuse to buy books set in Canada so the editor changes the setting.

    And yes, the “aboot in Alberta” (because everywhere in Canada is the same) problem is big, but mainly with writers living in the US and Toronto.

  8. 8
    Maya says:

    more canadian settings! yes! i think so too! but when the topic comes up at our chapter meetings we’re told very bluntly that it translates into decreased sales vs. setting the exact same story in the states. *sigh*

  9. 9
    nitenurse says:

    Please if you write a Cdn. romance do not make the hero a “6ft, silent but strong” Mounties.

    They drive squad cars, eat donuts, and only wear the serge once a year.

    Not romantic…

  10. 10
    Melanie says:

    I’m Canadian and love reading books set in places where I’ve lived. It’s always so much fun to recognize a place you walk by everyday. I find it makes my visualizing the story more vivid. Charles de Lint’s urban fantasy novels set in Ottawa are a great example of this.

  11. 11
    darlynne says:

    Tanya Huff’s Blood Books are set in Toronto, if memory serves, and that’s one of the many things I liked about this series. I would read about divorce in the Jersey Islands for the same reason I love reading about India, Tibet, Bangkok and Laos: I don’t know much, if anything, and am eager to learn, even if the books are written by Westerners.

    Qiu Xiaolong writes a terrific mystery series set in modern Shanghai. He is a Chinese citizen, his first language is Chinese, but he writes, always, in English. I had the opportunity to attend one of his signings and was surprised at this revelation. Market forces were not the reason, it was simply that this was how he envisioned the books. I had the impression he felt many of his ideas were more easily expressed in English. Interestingly, the translation of his books into Chinese was a struggle.

    … writing in English when the setting and everything around it are in another language becomes hard to present with any degree of accuracy without becoming annoying.

    I read a number of authors whose work is routinely translated into English—Arturo Perez-Reverte, Javier Sierra, Henning Mankel come to mind first—and have never felt the annoyance you describe. In fact, when the translation is done well, I’ve found the flavor of the original language adds another welcome dimension to the story.

  12. 12

    Sarah Frantz wrote:
    I’ve been a “peer reviewer” for academic books and again, that role has the ability to keep books off shelves

    One of the “advantages” of academic publishing in Germany is that it works like vanity press. And one of the requirements of obtaining a PhD degree is to get your dissertation published (prices start at 2000 or 3000 Euros …) (yup, ‘tis wonderful!)

    DS wrote
    It seems that a lot of authors I like—Lauren Haney, Judith Merkle Riley, and John Maddox Ford ended up with books published in Germany that did’t make it back into English until a number of years later.

    Yes, and there are quite a few US and British authors who are big names in Germany, but not as well known across the big pond or across the channel. E.g., Follett’s “The Pillars of the Earth” was a HUGE success in Germany. Not so in the US, as far as I know. (?)

    There are also some US romance authors who only write for the German market.

  13. 13
    michelle says:

    Kind of off topic but the Jersey and British references made me think of a very good mystery The Sirens Sang of Murder by Sarah Caudwell.  I think I am a bit of a British snob especially when it comes to mysteries.  No preference when it comes to romance though.

  14. 14
    anon says:

    Romance publishers—the big ones, at least—have readers, too. I was one for several years a while back, and it worked about as described, though there were less deadlines involved. I was sent agented or requested manuscripts, read them (or part of them, if they were boring or bad) and sent back my opinion. Sometimes it was a few lines, other times it was pages of praise for the book. The ones that I didn’t like got rejected. The ones that I did like were passed back to an editorial assistant to read. It was an interesting gig, at least for a while.

  15. 15

    Like Ann, I tend to be critical of authors who obviously aren’t Canadian writing about Canada. You might find a gem in the smaller publishing houses in Canada, if you look hard enough. Plus, these authors live in the places they write about. Much more authentic.

  16. 16
    Ann Bruce says:

    Follett’s “The Pillars of the Earth” was a HUGE success in Germany. Not so in the US, as far as I know. (?)

    Oprah just picked this book for her book club.  I think it’s safe to say it’ll be a huge success in the US very shortly, if not already.

  17. 17
    cheryl bites says:

    “The Jersey islands”? There’s more than one?

  18. 18
    Cat Marsters says:

    Um, actually Jersey is one of the Channel Islands (the others are Guernsey, Alderney, Herm and Sark, along with a couple more unpopulated islands).  They’re British territory but just off the coast of France, and they have quite a bit of autonomy from the rest of Britain—they’re self-governed, but are dependent on the Crown.  It’s complicated.

    For those Canadians who hate inaccuracies in books about Canada—try bring British.  You can’t pick up an American-written historical without preparing yourself for cliches and bizarre inventions of geography and language.  This has all been discussed before, I know, but it’s still damn annoying.

    As for authors selling in other languages, I do know a British author whose books have been translated and sold in Germany, but not published in English (which, naturally, is the language she wrote them in).  Mad, but there you go.

  19. 19
    Charlene says:

    Cat, I remember with much fondness a story featuring a protagonist who had to get from Oxford to London – and barely caught his BA 707. I think that story also featured a heart-warming Thanksgiving dinner on a Thursday in November in a little Yorkshire village.

    Although it was a British author who had O.K. Corral-esque gunfights going on in the streets of Calgary while the residents lived in teepees – in about 1960. And all the non-aboriginal residents were French-Canadians!!!

  20. 20
    SB Sarah says:

    I read a number of authors whose work is routinely translated into English—Arturo Perez-Reverte, Javier Sierra, Henning Mankel come to mind first—and have never felt the annoyance you describe.

    When I complained about the setting and everything around the characters taking place in a different language while the book is in English, I didn’t mean translations. I’m sorry – I do love me some good translation.

    I mean books that are written in English but take place in other countries, or with speakers of other languages, where that foreign language is represented by cue words written phonetically, or by repeated cliches of that language. Like a person who ends every sentence with non?.

    Cat: I went to a resort in the Dominican Republic 3 years ago and met a couple from Jersey – the UK one, not the US one. And they were SO interesting, mostly because life on the Channel islands is so very different. The location so close to France and the political autonomy makes for some culturally fascinating people. I so want to visit there.

    And Charlene, your post just made me dizzy.

  21. 21
  22. 22
    Charlene says:

    I’m more intrigued by “Mexico: America’s Beard”.

    Is America in the closet?

  23. 23
    Charlene says:

    Oh, wonderful: now I have NATION SLASH going through my mind.

    America looked at Chile through heavy-lidded eyes, the outlines of its cordillera clearly visible through its tight, revealing cloud cover. “Come here often?” he rumbled.

    “The Western Hemisphere Club is my second home,” the long, lean country purred as it stretched, showing its Cape Horn to best advantage. “And you?”

    “I own the place.”

    Chile snickered. “And what do our friends Brazil and Canada have to say to that?”

    America perched beside Chile on the tectonic plate. “Whatever I want them to,” he replied. “I make the rules.”

    Chile thought of responding to this arrogant claim, but the sight of America’s thrusting mountains and slick valleys took its breath away. It looked up into America’s amber waves of grain. “You know my Atacama is yours,” it moaned.

  24. 24
    SB Sarah says:

    Charlene, I am wheezing with the laughter, like DAMN.

    Also, yes, America is deeply, deeply closeted. There is no question.

  25. 25
    darlynne says:

    … where that foreign language is represented by cue words written phonetically, or by repeated cliches of that language. Like a person who ends every sentence with non?.

    I understand now, that is jarring and drops me right out of the story. Tell me the characters are speaking German and I’ll just go with it, I don’t need the reminders, stimmt’s?

    Or the over-used “How do you say …” at which point the person being spoken to supplies the correct missing word. And why do Americans think they sound smarter by throwing an occasional “whilst” into their writing?

    Finally, there’s ma petite, which makes me want to pistol whip someone every time I read it, but that’s a different topic.

  26. 26
    Bonnie L. says:

    Would it be safe to say that Brazil the the bust of South America?

    I will never look at a map of the western hemisphere quite the same way again.

  27. 27
    denni says:

    Now you mention…I can only think of one Canadian romance author, Susan Lyons, one of my favs and an auto buy.

    Australia produces good reading…Kerri Arthor, & some others.

    My only other foriegn experiences are english e-book authors…mostly tedious beyond belief.

  28. 28
    denni says:

    OMG…I’m the worlds WORST speller.

  29. 29
    Invisigoth says:

    Sandra Schwab said “E.g., Follett’s “The Pillars of the Earth” was a HUGE success in Germany. Not so in the US, as far as I know. (?)”

    that’s about to change, Oprah gave it her stamp of approval just before Thanksgiving.

  30. 30
    Invisigoth says:

    oops, Ann Bruce beat me to it!

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