Bloomberg BusinessWeek Blows

At the romance panel at WORD Brooklyn a few weeks ago, one of the audience members asked why romance takes so much crap from everyone. Hope Tarr said she thinks it boils down, every time, to the fact that romance is written by women, edited and published by women, and read by women. As we said in the Bosoms, look in your pants. That’s why.

So grab your nearest alcoholic beverage, and play along as we look at the state of romance after an appearance in Bloomberg Business Week.

In an article that mentions bodice ripping not once but Twice, Spencer Morgan treats romance to a wonderfully assmunchy examination, citing high sales and profitable growth against the decline of publishing, and then making fun of knitting, romance readers, fans, the genre as a whole, quilters, military families, and your grandmother.

There’s so many crimes of douchitude in this article, I’m having trouble selecting the right lines to examine.  Every other sentence is a steaming pile of misleading patronizing ill-informed supercilious twatbaggery.

What absolutely drops my jaw is that just after this article was published, TorStar, parent company of Harlequin, posted a 22% profit in their last earnings report, a large portion of which was due to Harlequin itself.

After a paragraph of one impressive statistic after another citing the growth and profitability of romance, Spencer Morgan then lets loose with the following:

To satisfy as many lust-filled imaginations as possible, the romance fiction industry has ripped the bodice from seemingly every niche group. Nascar and transgender-themed romances are finding their way to shelves already packed with Amish, Mennonite, quilting, knitting, paranormal, and military subgenres.

Yes. “Lust-filled imaginations.” Let’s play along at home with the “Asshat Reporter Writing About Romance Drinking Game.”

Romance readers are really only interested in fluffy literary porn to satisfy their sexual inadequacies and frustrations: 2 sips!

The most popular microtrends of the moment are Amish- and Mennonite-themed romances, which covered the best-seller lists last fall like a giant head scarf.

Oh yes, nothing says lust like Amish romance.

Open demonstration of lack of understanding that romance isn’t all sex: 3 sips!

Paranormal romance, which continues to enjoy a boost from Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series, remains a popular subgenre. Yet vampires, werewolves, and shape-shifters now have competition from knitters, which are part of the “home crafting romance” subgenre—itself part of the “small town” subgenre.

Yes, paranormal romance is popular. So, it seems, are half-brained articles by someone who wouldn’t know actual, insightful business and financial analysis if it bit him on the 10Q.

Stating the obvious: 2 sips!

Insiders insist that knitting is distinct from another ascendant microgenre: quilting.
The industry would seem challenged to find greater mundanity (bridge games? Wheel of Fortune reruns?), yet that’s what the public is demanding.

Not only are romance readers sex-crazed but we’re dumb and mundane, too: 3 sips!

You can begin beating yourself on the head with your liquor bottle now. I mean, really. Do you honestly want to piss off knitters, Mr. Morgan? Have you SEEN a knitting needle? They’re sharp. Which, I might point out (ha ha) you are not.

Then Morgan moves on to a quote highlighting this “mundanity” from…Debbie Macomber. Oh yes. 75 million books in so mundane, as are profits in the millions, a successful multimedia franchise, and one’s own line of knitting products.

Macomber even has a successful line of companion books—Knit Along with Debbie Macomber—on the joys of the domestic arts.

I don’t know about you, but I think he was sneering at “domestic arts.”

Open sexist dismissal of women: 3 sips!

Such substratification might suggest, as one book agent stated privately, that readers have gone insane.

No, but that agent has if word gets out as to whom exactly said that. Gotta hate it when readers clamor for a book that an agent might possibly get 15% for selling. Oh, profit and success, what complete lunacy you are.

Sneering at profit because said profit comes from lowbrow plebeian entertainment: 2 sips!

Twitter feeds, author blogs, and other forms of social media are providing limitless opportunities for virtual Ya-Ya Sisterhoods of like-minded readers to develop.

God help them if they discuss the joys of domestic arts.

Moar Sexism: 3 sips!

Well, at least Morgan can now franchise his own specialty: a complete lack of insight and thoughtful analysis about romance as a profitable industry.

Oh, wait. Journalists all over have managed to do exactly that (and, as one commenter pointed out, get paid for it) without his help, and this is yet another example. Presented with surprising profits and detail-specific examples of entrepreneurial success, Morgan went for patronizing, sexist, and ill-informed dismissal of romance.

Now that’s mundane.

Really, Bloomberg Business Week? That’s the best you could do?



Ranty McRant

Comments are Closed

  1. ghn says:

    Has that guy ever cracked open a Romance of any kind?

    interest99 – I am certain at least 99% of the Bitchery would be interested in the answer

  2. Babs says:

    Wow. Just wow.

    Who is Bloomberg hiring now?!?!

  3. Miranda says:

    I’m almost sure that no-one’s lust-filled imaginations feature Spencer Pratt, poor thing.

    I don’t even think he has his sub-genres straight. I know there are several lines of mysteries that feature crafts, but romances? Is there a knitting-based romance?

    BTW, Spence, other genres of literature that have sub-genres:

    Mystery: hard-boiled, police procedural, cozy (can feature crafts, beware!), supernatural, religious

    SciFi: hard-science, future dystopia, mystery, military I haven’t seen knitting-based sci-fi, although I remember a side character who beaded. If anyone does, let me know so I can snap it up.)

    Fantasy: paranormal, romance cross, mystery, urban, alternate earth

    password: got25 I got 25 reasons that this guy is a sexist jerk

  4. What page is this on? Because I have the latest issue right here and I didn’t see that?

    And, um, do you think this guy would be surprised to find that a romance reader and writer would also be reading Bloomberg Businessweek? Clearly I’m not the only one…

  5. Never mind. I clicked on the link. It was last week’s issue. What a tool. I’m sorry I missed this the first time around!

  6. phoebesmum says:

    You take my lust-filled imagination away from me when you tear it from my cold, dead hands. You can take my knitting needles at the same time, since I won’t be using them any more.

  7. Joanne says:

    Screw him, figuratively, of course.

    Romance readers are not responsible for the high unemployment rates, the gloomy financial future,  recession, inflation, the descending federal reserve, bad health care policies, the war in Iraq, falling retail sales, the swine flu epidemic, lack of affordable housing, the defaults in the credit market, the Lehman Brothers (just because I never leave them out of any discussion of ass-hattery) or any of the other economic woes this world faces.

    We put money into circulation so that cut & copy ‘writers’ like Mr Morgan can be kept off the streets and behind a computer screen where his attendant can keep an eye on him.

    Drinks on the house for all Romance Readers and Writers.

  8. Would they take an article about, say, the thriller spy genre, where spies who have no relation to what happens in real life go around shooting anyone who gets in their way, screwing the women before they kill them, to culminate in a big High Noon showdown somewhere eye-catching like Times Square?
    Throw in a few references to management clones, off-the-peg suits shiny with artificial fabric, wine bars and pseudo-macho attitudes, just because they’re easy targets?
    I want to know how this article is received. Not by us, the romance community, but by other people. Maybe the spouses of romance readers, or people who prefer thrillers or horror as their relaxing reading of choice.

  9. This article smacks of another flavor of patronizing criticism, one that doesn’t have as much to do with gender as it does with popularity. And ignorance, on the part of outsiders.

    I’ll admit, I don’t “get” any of the things I’m about to list, but I suspect their enthusiasts made be our compatriots; their passions probably receive similar scorn as our beloved romances, simply because the critics distrust the popularity of “the other”. I’m talking about things like Dungeons and Dragons, World of Warcraft, pro-wrestling, Star Trek, beauty pageants, Civil War recreation… Basically, anything with a rabid group of people willing to invest their evergy and money in an activity or a celebration of something that outsiders don’t understand. Different + Popular = “the people who are into that must be lonely, gullible, desperate, or all three.”

    Anybody who isn’t into something can handily take on the task of writing up analysis that underscores that ignorance. “The people who play World of Warcraft are too ugly to leave their basements and make real friends so they hide in a world where they get to be attractive and powerful.” See? That was easy! I can has a weekly column, pleez? Why not ask me to write about the war in Afghanistan, since I know nothing about what’s like on the other side? I’m clearly qualified.

    Anyhow, that article is just one example of outsiders (and there’s nothing wrong with being an outsider—we can’t be into everything) all having a good laugh about the ways in which stupider people are surely wasting their time doing something they enjoy. News for you, folks—they’re having a good time. You clearly aren’t. We’re all getting too old for wedgies and stolen lunch money, so do consider growing up.

  10. Ginny says:

    Well said Cara!

  11. Tina C. says:

    I’m sorry, but this article just has pea-green envy written all over it.  I suspect that part of Morgan’s vitriol may be due to a certain someone trying to publish his great literary masterpiece and being rejected over and over again.  He’s all pissy because he can’t believe that so-called “Amish bodice rippers about quilting” are getting published and he’s not.  In fact, I bet that the agent who said that “readers have gone insane” was his agent, attempting to placate him when he had a temper tantrum over yet another rejection.

    Or maybe he’s just another lazy, condescending, sexist tool who he is oh-so-very witty and cool.

  12. Diatryma says:

    I can’t think of any knitting romance, but there’s Wrede’s and Stevermer’s Sorcery and Cecelia trio, which includes a knitted code, though not in the book with the romance, and Mary Robinette Kowal’s Shades of Milk and Honey treats magic like a textile art with folds and stitches.

    Obviously, knitting is for sad lonely women, so books about knitting must be for sad lonely women, which means they must be romance.  Congratulations, you’ve pissed off the knitters.  DO NOT PISS OFF THE KNITTERS.

  13. Becky says:

    If this genius thinks it’s safe to make fun of knitters, he’s got another think coming.  There’s a massive online knitting and crochet community, Ravelry, with over half a million members the last time I checked.  As I type this there are over 1,800 members online, right now, talking and checking out patterns and who knows what all.  I know it would blow his little mind, but most of us are not grandmothers.  We’re men, we’re women, we’re socially conscious, we’re politically active, we’re readers (and not just of knitting romances), and we don’t appreciate one more asshat making fun of our beloved hobby, even if it’s only a quick potshot while making fun of a whole different group of people.  And yes, we have the pointy sticks to back it up.  I personally prefer Addi Turbo lace needles for defense of hobby, reading habits, or self.  They are very, very sharp.  Like most of the readers, writers, and knitters I know.

  14. SandyW says:

    Sigh. Just another pinhead staring at a deadline and looking for a target. ‘Oh look, silly girls, doing girl things and reading girl books.’ And contributing girl money to the economy. I’m betting Debbie Macomber can’t even hear his whiny little rant over the sound of the cash register.

    The big question is, where are all these transgender romances flooding the shelves?

  15. Keven Lofty says:

    Even though his sexist, lazy journalism is annoying and reprehensible what I find most disturbing is this “business’ journalist’s lack of understanding and appreciation for a successful business model.

    As a marketer my ultimate goal would be to provide you EXACTLY what you personally would want at the highest price you’re willing to pay for it.  The best way to achieve this would to give you an individually customized product just for you, but due to economic realities that’s generally not possible as I have to make a certain number of items in order to keep my costs down.

    The existence of a multitude of highly specific niche genres in romance is therefore not a sign of its weakness and inanity, but of it’s strength.  The genre sells enough copies to make it worthwhile for companies to produce inspirational, Amish, quilting, romances set in Indiana, AND gay hardcore erotica set in 23rd century Shanghai and everything in between.

  16. Abbie says:

    The man is obviously an ass in every sense of the word. Let me also say “a steaming pile of misleading patronizing ill-informed supercilious twatbaggery” made me completely crack up. Twatbaggery is my new favorite word. Do you think we can get that one added to the dictionary?

  17. Abbie says:

    I just noticed the awesome graph he posted here to help you select a romance.

    nature69- Something to explore for a new romance subgenre?

  18. dick says:

    Yeah, the content of the article was silly; perhaps deliberately so.  But the best response to ignorance is to ignore it or dismiss it.  Invariably, each year, some student would indignantly tell me that requiring him to read the Odyssey was a waste of his time.  Just as invariably, I would ask him what deficiency in character he attributed his attitude to.

  19. Sascha says:

    Way to go, Sarah! Morgan wouldn’t even know romance if it bit him in his assinine head. Methinks he quilted his “analysis” from a patchwork of articles by equally clueless and sexist men. Equating romance novels with sex sums up the cerebral capacity of these Neanderthals—they can only think with their stick. Shame to BusinessWeek for publishing the flaccid piece.

    Sadly, it seems men—at least those I’ve met—generally think romance lit is all fluff. When I told my guy friends that I was planning to write fiction, they automatically assumed it was romance. I had no problem with that (even if I had a different genre in mind), but their reaction however was dang irritating: they had this mocking, scornful, superior look. Since then, I’ve thrown them the same look, accompanied with a raised “Oh please, grow up” brow, when they get all excited about their favorite sports team.

  20. Kilian Metcalf says:

    The only romance I have read where knitting was a significant activity was Tale of Two Cities.  Mme deFarge rocks!

  21. Kilian Metcalf says:

    The only romance I have read where knitting was a significant activity was Tale of Two Cities.  Mme deFarge rocks!

    Nothing says “lust-filled” imagination like Amish/Mennonite/Amana community romance.  That’s the first place I head to get my lady parts all tingly.

  22. Jan says:

    Way to go Sarah. I knew this article needed your special and knowledgable touch. I hope he reads it. In fact I hope he sticks it up his…… well, anyway, THANKS.

  23. Nialla says:

    I wonder if he thinks the Amish bodices being ripped are quilted with knit trim? He’s ignorant yet douchey enough to believe anything about a genre he’s obviously not interested in.

    I wonder why they never have anyone who actually likes romance write an article on the success of the genre? I’m assuming it’s either because no “real” journalist would read romance, or at least not admit it in public due to harassment by their fellow journalists.

  24. Anon76 says:

    What an arm-farting, dick-scratching neanderthal.

    Mister, you better go in a for a wax again, cuz your suit sleeves aren’t covering those increasingly hair-covered knuckles.

  25. HelenK says:

    While I have nothing to add about the article that hasn’t already been said, I do know of a knitting romance. The Sweethearts’ Knitting Club by Lori Wilde. It came out late last year. The next one in the series deals with a quilting club.

    It was a fun romance.

  26. Amber says:

    Yes, I adored the Sweethearts’ Knitting Club by Lori Wilde. Why this asshat chose to pick on that emerging subgenre when cozy mysteries have been a staple for decades escapes me, though.

    I can’t even summon the outrage. Misogyny disguised as journalism strikes again.

  27. Thanks, Sarah, for your humorous response to this ridiculous article.  I found it interesting that the editor had to insert:

    (Corrects spelling of Nancy Berland’s name and her title in the fifth paragraph.)

    No doubt that Nancy and her high profile clients, including Debbie Macomber, are smiling all the way to the bank (they are not vulgar to laugh all the way to the bank). 

    Interesting that Debbie referenced Nancy in her acceptance speech at the RWA Awards Ceremony – Debbie encouraged Nancy to start her own business.  As we all know, it was initiative and innovation that built our country.

    I thought this paragraph was especially indicative of the author’s bias,

    “Such substratification might suggest, as one book agent stated privately, that readers have gone insane. However, Harlequin’s Orr sees the trends as befitting the times.”

    Pray tell, who created the sad state of our times that would lead to “readers’ insanity”?  Our economy has run amok under the male, pale, and stale leadership. 

    At the same time, I find the callous article to be unworthy of my energy – I’d rather read a bodice ripping romance.

  28. As a reader whose formative genre was, and whose genre of choice continues to be, SF/F… yeah, I know from getting grief about my reading choices. The whole “geeks have no life and live in their mothers’ basements” thing drives me SPARE.

    As an epubbed author who knows several people who’ve written romances of one flavor or another now, I’ve also developed a healthy respect for the work it takes to write a really good one. As with any book, really.

    So I very much feel for the grief romance readers and writers get, too. What particularly vexes me is when I see people over in SF/F snarking on romance readers, too. You’d think we’d know better. :<

    As for this article and its writer, I applaud SB Sarah’s pithy and succinct description of ‘twatbaggery’. Well done! And I console myself with the knowledge that for every twatbag article writer who vomits up a ‘let’s snark on an entire genre’s worth of fans’ diatribe, there’s a Doc Turtle who’s open to having his mind changed—and giving us awesome reviews in the process.

  29. Nina says:

    you gotta give the romance readers credit- even if romance readers somewhere out there are reading about romance kindling over a pair of knitting needles, unlike the reality tv the masses out there are absorbed in, romance novels have PLOT!!  And romance readers are intellectually minded, literate people who are keeping reading in forms besides twitter/text messaging alive. 

    but yeah, I can just see it, a romance novel with knitting…
    hero pulls at the heroine’s bodice lustily, in the heat of the moment attempts to tear it off until she shouts,  Hey! This bodice took hours! Use the hooks!! 

    ( my grandma taught me to knit when I was a little girl, and I have yet to see a pattern for a knit bodice, and suspect it would be kinda itchy if one made one.  anyone ever try to make one?) 

    and speaking of no plot…back to studying for me 🙁

  30. Ridley says:

    I guess I’m a triple-bonus loser, since I not only read romance extensively, I also have a dresser full of yarn, needles and crochet hooks as well as a well-worn World of Warcraft account.

    Funny that, like Harlequin, Blizzard is making money hand over fist with WoW. I guess losers aren’t such losers after all. There must be an awful lot of us for those sales numbers to happen. And if what we’re doing is popular how can we be outcasts?

  31. Ridley says:

    Also wanted to mention that, back when my hands let me knit, I attended a weekly knitting circle that included a Harvard educated doctor, a few professors, a woman who ran her own market research firm, a city councilor, a housewife or two, grad students, and so on. None of us were over 50 and most of us were between 25 and 35.

    That’s a pretty wide swath of the workforce he’s dismissing outright because of a hobby they enjoy.

  32. Cyranetta says:

    Not only can knitters wield pointy-ended weaponry, but they’re not half-bad at crafting garrotes—many a knitted project needs a cable cord as a finishing touch. That knitter smiling on the subway may not smile at what you think she does.

    “Hope93” I certainly hope it won’t take until I’m 93 for this sort of nonsense to be worn away from disuse.

  33. Kim says:

    For all my fellow knitters, Christie Ridgway wrote a trilogy of knitting romances – Dirty Sexy Knitting, Unravel Me, and How to Knit a Wild Bikini.  There were no (knitted) bodices being ripped 😉

    I wondered how the smug Spencer Morgan spends his spare time.  Do you suppose he’s reading Dickens or Tolstoy in his spare time?  It would be hilarious/ironic if he were a fantasy football fanatic or sports watcher.  ‘Cuz, you know, that’s far more mentally stimulating and important (and obviously a far superior business model) than romance. /snark

  34. JoAnnarama says:

    For many years I sat in the press box in a county supervisors’ Board Room, watching a number of local ladies ply their needles and yarn, making colorful socks (ever try to turn a heel, Mr. Morgan?) while waiting for the opening of public comment on burning questions of the day. Things like, should the county cut pay for deputies (some already on food stamps to feed their families) in order to pay the chamber of commerce to “brand” the county to attract business, or, can we close libraries three days a week in order to afford the salary and benefits of a guy who demanded a new Lexus be leased for his transpo… the real needles came out when the ladies of the club stood up to deflate the tired thinking that resembled (a lot) the BloomBoy’s take on a successful business model that doesn’t depend on financial gamesmanship, war games for profit or the media’s Where’s Waldo luge race to the bottom…

  35. Ken Houghton says:

    Insiders insist that knitting is distinct from another ascendant microgenre: quilting.

    And people who don’t know the difference between knitting and quilting should not be allowed to reveal such ignorance in a magazine that keeps begging for subscribers.

    I pay for things where the writers know more than I do (non-fiction) or tell a better story than I can (fiction).  The new owners of BusinessWeek need to remember this.

  36. Dana says:

    Kim beat me to it—I’ve read How To Knit A Wild Bikini, and enjoyed it. Unravel Me is in my TBR pile.

    I’ve come across a couple of articles lately with this same tone: arrogant, dismissive, meant to give non-romance readers an opening to laugh freely at those of us who enjoy a good book that happens to feature one of the most powerful driving for es of human nature, while simultaneously shaming us for reading these books. What is up with this driving need to mock people who’ve found something they love and have the means to access it.

  37. LG says:

    The professor of my reader’s advisory class told us that he used to sneer at romance, too, until he actually read a few and realized that he liked them. If journalists like this were actually serious about the articles they were writing, they’d find and read a romance novel or two that had something in common with books in other genres they’ve liked. Or, they limit themselves to a report of the trends in sales and general profitability, leaving out commentary about the actual genre, its readers, and its writers. Or maybe they could actually talk to some romance readers – no, wait, they think our brains are too filled with fluffy cotton candy to hold intelligent conversations.

  38. Honestly, I’m surprised the man was willing to admit that we can even read, lusting, pea-brained, knitting troglodytes that we are. Is he certain we don’t just buy the books for the pictures? 😉

  39. Maria says:

    I’m new to your blog and so vapid and lust-filled that I can’t think of anything clever to say that doesn’t involve knitting.

    I hope that knowing this won’t make my gratitude for both this article and the comments meaningless.

    I came for the reviews. I stayed for the wit, support, and remarkable wisdom I find here. Thank you doesn’t even come close.

  40. Sharon says:

    Thanks for the wonderful term “twatbaggery” (I bet it has already hit 

    The dismissive, sneering tone in the article reminds me of the way people treat any fan-activity, particularly fanfiction. While there may be many arguments both pro and con to bring to bear, most commentators simply pick away at the same tired old cliches, rather than exploring the genre and trying to find something new to say. It is lazy and demeaning, and I hope that Bloomberg Business Week and Mr. Morgan hear the response (although I would be shocked if they took it seriously).

    I’m with Hope Tarr – this is about women’s fiction, written by (and primarily, though by no means exclusively) for women. Well, Jane Austen is snickering now – and it only took 200+ years!

    Thanks, Sarah – you always make the douchebags squirm!

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