You asked questions, and we have answers! We talk about paranormal worldbuilding mysteries, choosing recommendations to introduce folks to romance, and our origin stories – plus the enigma that is Amanda’s ability to remember book details.
Thank you to Varian, Norette, Rachel, Elizabeth, Sandra, and Sol for the questions!
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Sarah Wendell: Hello and welcome to episode number 563 of Smart Podcast, Trashy Books. I’m Sarah Wendell, and Amanda and I are going to answer your questions. We’re going to talk about paranormal worldbuilding, mysteries, choosing recommendations to introduce folks to romance, and our origin stories. Plus the enigma that is Amanda’s ability to remember book, book details; it’s kind of astonishing.
I want to say thank you to Varian, Norette, Rachel, Elizabeth, Sandra, and Sol for the questions. Thank you so much, because they come from our Patreon community. If you would like to join the community, please have a look at patreon.com/SmartBitches.
I also have a compliment this week! Yes! This is for Karelia; hi, Karelia!
A graphic designer who loves your work has designed a coat of arms just for you, and it includes books, the perfect pair of socks, and many, many clitorises. [Laughs] Thank you so much for being part of the Patreon.
If you would like a compliment of your own, well, you know what to do! Patreon.com/SmartBitches. Every pledge keeps me going, helps make sure that every episode has a transcript from garlicknitter. Hey, garlicknitter! How you doing? [Great, thanks! How you doing? – gk] Thank you again for your support. It means the world right now.
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All right, are you ready for questions and answers and silliness? That’s what we’ve got on tap here, so on with the podcast.
Sarah: Welcome back to another AMA of mayhem, mayhem, mayhem-AA, mayhem-AMA.
Sarah: I eventually will come up with the word I was going for there.
All right. This question is from Varian. Hi, Varian!
Sarah: “First of all, SBTB has been one of the bright spots in my life since losing a lot of my eyesight, so thank you and many virtual hugs for all the laughter, hope, and book recommendations.”
You are very welcome.
“I have two questions. One: I know there are book covers that have made us all do double-takes, but has there ever been a title that made you have that same reaction?”
Amanda: Hmm. Most of the time no. So I feel like, like covers, titles do have trends, but –
Sarah: Oh yes.
Amanda: – sometimes, like, a title gives me, like, really no indication of what the hell is happening inside?
Amanda: And so I, like – and in terms of my memory, I’m definitely more visual?
Amanda: So it’s easier for me to remember a cover rather than a title?
Sarah: Right, but your memory is much better than mine, because I’m still the patron –
Sarah: – that’ll go to the library and be like, She was in a yellow dress, and she was facing away.
Amanda: But, like, I feel like perky titles really get me. There’s one that I just posted in the Smart Bitches Slack. I think it’s like a, a kids’ book called The Princess and the Grilled Cheese Sandwich? And it has a princess and another person doing like the cheese pull of a grilled cheese. [Laughs] But that’s, like, both a cover and a title, ‘cause I was like, Excuse me, a princess and a grilled cheese sandwich? Tell me more.
Sarah: I feel like this is what happened when the Paper Bag Princess grew up? She became the princess with the grilled cheese sandwich.
Amanda: And the grilled cheese sandwich.
Sarah: I mean, this princess has priorities.
Amanda: There’s titles that I remember; like, there’s a really buzzy book out. It’s supposed to be like one of the big, biggest books of this year, called Big Swiss? Also another, it could be another cheese title; this is totally unintended. [Laughs] Like, what if my brain only remembers cheese titles?
Sarah: Honest to God, this is the first I’m hearing of it, because –
Amanda: Oh, called Big Swiss?
Amanda: It’s about this person who – I’m try-, let me, I want to get the details right.
Sarah: So the sex therapist’s transcriptionist falls in love –
Sarah: – with a client while listening –
Sarah: – to her sessions.
Amanda: And then is, like, out in the world and hears the client’s voice?
Amanda: But it’s like one of those titles where, like, when I heard it for the first time I’m like, What the hell is this? But I feel like most of the time I don’t, I don’t get captured by a title the way that I do a cover, just because I’m, I’m more of a visual person in terms of my memory too.
Sarah: Wow. This book could be called Your Boundaries are Swiss Cheese. My goodness.
Sarah: For, for me, titles, there are two kinds of titles that make me go, Oh! Oh, okay. Hmm. Like, I remember when Pucked came out. I thought, oh, okay! I’ll remember that! Yeah.
Sarah: Pucked. Okay, yeah. Get it; I totally understand the pun they’re going for here. I get it; that’s very memorable. And you know I don’t remember titles at all well.
Sarah: The, the title that has probably given me the biggest double-take, like what the fuck? Do you remember when there was a series of historical romances that were all twists on children’s book titles? Like If You Give a Duke a Duchess –
Sarah: – If You Give a Moose a Muffin –
Sarah: – If You Give a Princess a –
Amanda: I see.
Sarah: – Grilled Cheese Sandwich.
Sarah: Do you remember, this was, okay, I remember that I first heard them said aloud at one of the RT award ceremonies, but it was probably one of the last RTs, so it’s, like, already seven years –
Amanda: Yes, When You Give a Duke a Diamond.
Sarah: Yeah. There was a, it was a, it was a series, right? There were a couple of them like that. And it was a new –
Amanda: …If You Give a Rake a Ruby.
Sarah: Yeah. If, and if you give a mouse a muff- – and I remember thinking, Okay, no. No. No, no, no.
Sarah: Let’s not. Let us not do children’s book titles as romance titles. I, I, that, that one made me not only double-take, but really question the marketing approach? [Laughs] ‘Cause it was not going to work on me!
Amanda: There’s a lot of song titles, there’s a lot of song titles that are –
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Amanda: – like Earls Just Want to Have Fun?
Sarah: Yeah. That –
Amanda: There was, I think Ann Aguirre did one of Backstreet Boys titles.
Sarah: Yes, there is a Backstreet Boys series. There was a bunch of –
Sarah: – there’s a bunch of historicals that have contemporary song title pun titles. The one that, the one I can remember most clearly was If You Give a Duke a Diamond, or I thought it was If You Give a Duke a Duchess –
Sarah: – but, like, mmm!
Amanda: But I feel like these aren’t examples of, like, Ooh, what’s this book about? It’s like, hmm!
Sarah: Yeah! Muh?
Amanda: That’s a choice!
Sarah: Yep! So in terms of double-take of what?! That was, that would be my nominee.
Amanda: Yeah. Okay.
Sarah: Varian also asks, “What paranormal romance series would you like to sit down and pick the author’s brain about the magic or biology of the creatures?”
Amanda: Hmm. I don’t think I have a paranormal romance one? I have like a fantasy series –
Sarah: Do tell!
Amanda: – that’s not necessarily romance. I, one of my absolute favorite series that I think is so inventive and cool, because, like, each book is a little capsule of, like, an entirely new world –
Amanda: – is Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series. Because, like, each one is about a character, and I, I believe they kind of like flip-flop in terms of, like, past versus present of, like, recounting your visit to this world versus going to a new area?
Amanda: But they’re all so different, and it’s like there’s a new one for each book?
Amanda: And they’re novellas, so they’re short, but there’s just like so much packed into these books, and I would happily read like three times more pages. But I think they’re so inventive and cool and creative.
But yeah, I don’t know about paranormal romance series. Like, one of my favorites, Maria Vale’s Legend of All Wolves series that I’ve talked about before, does some really interesting stuff with, like, the mythology of, like, werewolves and shifters, and I know Maria does a lot of research on how actual wolves operate and brings that in. But I feel like, not that it’s not, like, interesting, but it’s clearly inspired by, like, real-world, like, biology and species and stuff like that.
Yeah, those are kind of my two answers. I, I’ve been off the PNR train for a hot second, though, so I don’t know if there’s anyone out there doing cool stuff. I know Nalini Singh has got some really cool shifters in her newer books in the Psy-Changeling series.
Sarah: In the Psy-Changeling world. Yeah, she’s, she’s branched off into, like, ocean mammals and ocean animals –
Sarah: – which I think is really cool, and it fits the world of that, that series.
Amanda: You’re not a big paranormal romance reader, really, anymore.
Sarah: No, I’m, I’m not. It’s been a while.
I think the series where if I wanted to sit down and have a talk with the author about how it works? So it’s not even the magic or the biology? I would be interested in the government structure of some fantasy worlds I’ve read and some science fiction –
Sarah: – worlds I’ve read? Like, how does this work? ‘Cause this is cool; how do you do this? Because you know in order to make it into the story, there’s going to be some underpinning that the author understands. I think I might want to sit down and ask about the Carpathian series and why all of a sudden they see in color?
Amanda: It all comes back to the Carpathians.
Sarah: It’s always! Yes. Like, how? What is the magic –
Sarah: – that makes the –
Amanda: Okay –
Sarah: – that, that makes them see in color when they get their love boner?
Amanda: – if we’re, if we’re into, like, more of like the What the fuck? Please explain this to me, it’s got to be Kresley Cole and the, the demon penis seals.
Sarah: Okay, every time – every time – I use the hair product that I use, it dries a little in the nozzle, and every time I have to find the little solid piece so I don’t put it in my hair, I think of you talking about the Kresley Cole series. And I mean every morning I think, Oh, yeah, there’s the demon, the, the, the demon plug in my hair gel! [Laughs]
Amanda: Demon plug. Yeah, I feel like for Kresley Cole’s series, the sort of like awakenings that happen for each supernatural race when they find their mate, like for vampires, like, their heart starts beating again, but for demons it’s like they can finally ejaculate! Like – [laughs] – okay! So I would love to…
Sarah: That, you know what, that’s a really good thing to ask about. Like, how does that, how does that work? Can they, can they not jack off?
Amanda: They can, but nothing comes out.
Sarah: Where, where are you storing it? Are you like Edward the vampire in Twilight who had just like one load in the hopper before he got turned and that’s what made Renesmee?
Amanda: I don’t know. Well, they’re not vampires; they’re demons.
Sarah: Okay, you know what? That leads me to another question that I would absolutely love to ask, I would ask, I would love to ask Stephenie Meyer: if Jacob imprinted – ew – on Renesmee, but while she was in the womb, does that mean that what he was actually attracted to with Bella was that one egg hanging out in her ovary? He just had a really big lust boner for that one unfertilized egg –
Amanda: The egg.
Sarah: – chilling in her ovary that hadn’t been deployed yet? Is that what it was?
Varian, are you sorry you asked this question?
Amanda: No, I think the answer is no, they are not, which, you know –
Amanda: Be confident in those questions.
Sarah: I hope not, ‘cause we just, we just went like, we, we just, we just went there, didn’t we?
Sarah: Imprinting on eggs –
Sarah: – and hair product. Yeah. Sorry, Varian!
Sarah: All right, you want to read the next question from Norette?
Amanda: Norette, okay. “My new job has a Slack channel for talking about books. Books” –
Sarah: Congrats on your new job! Yay!
Amanda: Congrats! “What books would you recommend as gateway romances? Best romances for non-romance readers? Ones that came to mind for me were One Last Stop, An Extraordinary Union, The Dead Romantics, but would love to hear your suggestions.”
Sarah: This is a good question. This is a very good question.
Amanda: I, I have strong opinions about this question.
Sarah: I am not surprised!
Amanda: I would not recommend any historical romances for first-time romance readers.
Sarah: I would recommend Mary Robinette Kowal’s magic Regency series if someone is a fantasy reader curious about romance, because that’s a good bridge? But it’s not historical romance that is steeped in a lot of things that we’re still unpacking right now insufficiently. I agree.
Amanda: And from working at the bookstore, I feel like contemporary romances are often the gateways for new readers. It’s rarely a historical romance that is a gateway for new readers. So I would advise to stay away from historical romances. Maybe a historical mystery with some romantic elements should be fine if you have some mystery readers or historical fiction readers. But I feel like historical romance is a pretty large gap?
Sarah: And whatever genre a person is into, there is absolutely a “Oh, you can have that genre with a little side of romance as a treat” series that will qualify.
Amanda: Yes, yes.
Sarah: If you like historical mysteries –
Amanda: A little subplot.
Sarah: – there’s going to be, regardless of what historical time period.
Amanda: I would say kind of the high notes of, like, the contemporary romance bestsellers that we’ve been seeing, so Helen Hoang, Talia Hibbert, Emily Henry…
Sarah: Emily Henry is going to be an obvious choice if you – especially one like –
Sarah: – like Book Lovers, that kind of thing.
Amanda: The new Christina Lauren, maybe Ashley Herring Blake. You know, Casey McQuiston’s also a good, a good option, for sure.
Sarah: They’ve broken containment beyond the genre, and people who aren’t romance –
Amanda: [Laughs] They’ve escaped!
Sarah: People who have, people who are not part of the romance fandom have heard of these authors is usually, I think, a good indicator. Like, Oh, you’ve read that; okay, then you might also –
Sarah: – like this. If this was the thing that led you in, we can get you more of that.
Amanda: The Dead Romantics is not a bad suggestion, but I think the, like, paranormal-ish element to it could be a turnoff for some readers who, like, aren’t super keen on, like, genre-mixing, genre-bending –
Amanda: – books.
Sarah: I would recommend Funny You Should Ask by Elissa Sussman?
Amanda: Yeah, that’s another one.
Sarah: If you’re, if you’re talking to people who have a knowledge of, like, celebrity and movies and gossip and pop culture, that is a really good –
Sarah: I think a, one element of a good gateway romance is that it has a grounding in a specific element of pop culture that helps someone who doesn’t understand all the romance tropes necessarily recognize a lot of the things that are going on there. One Last Stop is a, is a good one. Funny You Should Ask is a really good option for somebody.
Amanda: I would say, like, How to Fake It in Hollywood by Ava Wilder would be pretty good if you want, like, a lesser-known –
Amanda: I feel like not an immediate, obvious choice; that, I think that was Wilder’s debut, and it’s pretty, a pretty good mix of, like, romantic thread, but also good examinations of, like, grief and addiction recovery. So not, like, super sugary sweet, but like a really good balance.
But there something, another one that I was trying to remember; what was it?
Sarah: I think in terms of podcast guests, though, looking at my schedule this, this spring? Helena Greer’s book would be good if you’re talking to people who know a lot about holiday movies or Christmas movies? Season of Love –
Sarah: – would be a good one, and then Karelia Stetz-Waters’ books.
Amanda: That was pretty good.
Sarah: I think someone like Denise Williams would be a good gateway author –
Sarah: – because those are all, especially the, the novella series that’s all set in an airport –
Sarah: – that would really work as a, as a gateway hook for somebody. Like, oh! Oh, like, travel –
Amanda: Kind of like, you know, someone super into, like, royal romances, the American, was it American Royalty?
Amanda: Tracey –
Amanda: – Livesay? Livesay?
Sarah: Tracey Livesay, yeah. That would also work.
Amanda: Yeah. Or Danielle Jackson’s –
Sarah: Danielle Jackson’s The Accidental Pinup –
Amanda: Accidental Pinup.
Sarah: – would also be a very good gateway.
All right, so Rachel has a question, and then I have added onto this question. Rachel is asking for the origin story. What made you decide to start Smart Bitches?
So the short version is, my senior year of college I taught myself HTML because I didn’t want to write another English paper, and I convinced the English department to let me design their website instead of doing a final essay project thing with lots of words that I didn’t want to write, and the English department was like, Wait, I don’t have to pay for a website? I mean, this was the late ‘90s, so this was an expensive prospect; they were getting a free website. It wasn’t great, but it was free. So I learned HTML.
I started my own blog back when it was called online journaling, because we didn’t have blogging yet, and we didn’t have blogging software, so I coded my own site, and I was writing and writing and writing online. Then came blogging software, and I, then you could leave comments, which was very exciting. And the comments were where I met Candy, and we started emailing about, like, cat food, and then started talking about romance, and then one of us, I still don’t remember which one, said, We should do a blog and review romances that we love and romances that we don’t like, and the other one said, Sure! What are we going to call it?
One of us did the, did the logo, and the other one bought the domain, which is why for a very long time it was smartbitchestrashybooks.com, but at the top it said Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Novels. This is what happens when two people on opposite sides of the country are doing something – [laughs] – ‘cause there’s a time delay and we do things differently.
So we started the site thinking no one would read it and greatly underestimated how many other readers were out on the internet looking for places to talk about the books that they love. This was before Goodreads; this was before, like, Amazon reviews were a big thing; this was a really long time ago; this was 2005, oh my God! And we also drastically underestimated how much authors google their own names, because in the beginning we got a lot of – [gasp] – How dare you?! You bitches have gone too far! comments, which I still treasure those –
Sarah: – so much in my heart. So that was, that was the start of Smart Bitches. I did not expect it to become what it is , but good, good, good that it did!
But I’m curious: Amanda, what made you decide to email me about having an internship?
Amanda: So I was a reader of the site. I think I started getting into romance when I was like sixteen? My mom was a big romance reader, read a lot of paranormal romances, a lot of Anita, the Anita K. Blake series?…
Sarah: Oh, Anita Blake by Laurell K. Hamilton.
Amanda: Yeah. And the Merry Gentry series, so, like –
Sarah: Oh my –
Amanda: – as a sixteen-year-old, those were my first romances: lots of boning.
Sarah: Buh, yes, they, whoo-whoo, my!
Amanda: Yeah. So that’s – [laughs] – how I got my start in romances. My mom is a big romance reader, to the point where, like, we had a big wall-to-wall built-in bookshelf –
Amanda: That was just her books, and then anything that she, like, culled would get put in a giant Rubbermaid tub that lived out in the shed. And she’s like, If you want romances, just go out to the shed, and I’d root through the Rubbermaid tub.
Amanda: There was the Carpathian series; that was in there. I think early Nalini Singh was in there, maybe. But lot, just lots of, like, early 2000s paranormal – [laughs] – romances. When I went to college I was in the Editing, Writing, and Media program at Florida State University, and they required an internship? But it was still –
Sarah: Which is really awful.
Amanda: Yeah, and it was still a new program. I think when I went the program was only like three to five years old, so it was pretty new. And they didn’t do any sort of like placement for internships; you kind of had to find one on your own?
Amanda: Yeah. And I was having –
Sarah: That’s obnoxious.
Amanda: Yeah, I was having a really hard time finding one, and on a whim I think I re-, I sent an email to Sarah. I was like, Look, I need an internship – [laughs] – for college. Would you be interested in having an intern? I wonder if I can still find the email, ‘cause I remember, Sarah, when we agreed, Sarah’s like, Welcome aboard the crazy train.
Sarah: [Laughs] That does sound like me.
Amanda: I wonder if I still have it.
Sarah: You, you emailed me out of the blue and then came up with all these great ideas! You’re still –
Sarah: – stuck with me.
Amanda: Yeah, and then it – so it started, it started off as a, an internship –
Amanda: – which then, when I left for grad school, turned into a part-time job.
Amanda: And then turned into like a full-time job, and I’ve been at, I’ve been with the site for a decade now –
Sarah: I know!
Amanda: – from internship to part-time to full-time. I feel like it’s very similar to Sarah, where Sarah’s like, I never thought this would be a job.
Amanda: Like, I never – and that’s how I feel is like, I never thought this would be a job; I never thought this would be anything other than, you know, like, a, a, a semester internship and that’s it.
Amanda: A lesson learned: never be afraid to send that email.
Sarah: Run it up the flagpole!
Amanda: You know, the worst thing they could do is say no.
Sarah: That’s right!
So Elizabeth has a question for you –
Sarah: – speaking of all the awesome things that you do at the site: “How does Amanda come up with her awesome recommendations?” If you haven’t been by the site, we have Get Rec’d with Amanda.
Amanda: Yeah! And for a long time I did Rec It Wednesdays, where…
Sarah: Rec It Wednesdays. I would, I would love it if you brought those back. I would love it.
Amanda: I’m, I’m toying with it in my head of, like, what would be a good time, how to, like, cap it, because it, like, it became so popular that it would, I would sit on my phone for like three to four hours trying to go through everything.
Sarah: And that’s unnecessary; I do not expect that, but if you –
Sarah: – wanted to do one hour and just grab up to, as many as you want; not everyone –
Amanda: Good hour.
Sarah: – would get answered. It would be amazing to bring that back, because it was so good. And other, other, other places tried to do it, and they were not as good at it as you.
Amanda: I think, one, it’s just like I have a, a very good memory –
Amanda: – and I’ve always had a very good – [laughs] – memory! And so being plugged into, like, the book world, whether, like, working at the bookstore, I kind of got to see, like, new books coming out; being on, I, like, compiled a post for, like, new releases and stuff like that; but I just have like a really good memory, and I feel like I’m very good at noticing patterns of like story beats or like character types; and so if someone’s like, Oh, I really liked this book because of X, Y, and Z, in my weird Rolodex of a brain where I keep book information I’m like, Oh! I know at least two or three books right off the bat that have –
Sarah: Yeah, your, your –
Amanda: – this element.
Sarah: – synaptic connections between books in your brain are very tight.
Amanda: So that’s just, just like a combination of my own memory and being so entrenched in a lot of book information?
Sarah: Where do you get information about new books?
Amanda: So new books, it’s, Twitter has still been a very good source of hearing about things?
Amanda: I subscribe to some newsletters, like Publishers Weekly, Publishers Lunch – I think it’s Publishers Lunch – that kind of tell you about new book deals that are happening. You know, sometimes I’ll just fart around on Net Galley or Edelweiss and see what’s coming out. Having other book friends.
Amanda: Like, in the Slack, I might not have heard something, but maybe Shana or Tara has heard something –
Amanda: – and they’ll be talking about it.
Sarah: Everyone is hooked into a different source for, for book knowledge –
Sarah: – so combined with your memory and ability to make connections between books and themes very quickly in your head, you come up with great recommendations.
Amanda: Yeah, so it’s just kind of like a whole, you know, network of places that I pull from. And, like, Goodreads can be pretty helpful. Usually if you have, if you search for a book, there’s kind of like a button or like a sidebar thing that’s like, More like this book –
Amanda: – and so – and Amazon’s algorithm can be pretty helpful too of, like, if you’ve been browsing a certain kind of book, there, there’s usually like stuff based on your browsing history.
Sarah: I don’t recommend looking at your recommendations if you’ve been browsing for pollen –
Amanda: Erotica, for sure.
Sarah: – pollen monster erotica?
Sarah: Wouldn’t recommend.
Amanda: But, like, that’s sometimes how I compile Books on Sale stuff is, like, I’m looking at a historical romance and then, like, I’ll see other books they suggest and like, Oh, one’s $2.99 or whatever.
Amanda: So it’s a lot of stuff that goes into this brain, and it just holds onto all of it. I’m sure I’m forgetting – because I’m remembering all this, I forget important things. Like, I’m worried that, like, I’m going to remember a book one day, and then, like, out goes my Social Security number, and I can no longer remember that.
Amanda: Like there’s a finite amount of space and I’ll hit it.
Sarah: You can’t keep all of the knowledge, only some of the knowledge.
Amanda: Only some of it! Yeah, so –
Amanda: – if you want to be on top of things, find, you know, sites that you trust – Smart Bitches or, you know, maybe Book Riot or something like that and –
Amanda: – follow their newsletters.
Amanda: And find book communities, whether on Discord or other forms of social media, where they’re, like, talking about things they’re excited about, ‘cause that’s how I find stuff that I might not know about is –
Amanda: – hearing my internet book friends talk about a new release they’re excited for.
Sarah: I have another industry question here.
Amanda: Oh boy!
Sarah: Sandra asks, “Since I started reading queer romance, I’ve noticed a shift from mostly only seeing cis male/male romances, mostly written by women, to seeing more diverse, queer rep and complex stories. As people involved in publishing, how have y’all seen different folks in publishing react to and make sense of the evolution of queer romance? E.g., how did we get to this better place? When did diverse, queer romance start seeming profitable? Why? What kind of pushback is there now? Thank you for your insight.”
Okay, well I’m not actually in publishing; I’m next to, adjacent to publishing? And most of what I hear from is the publicity and marketing department. I don’t know about editorial decisions; I don’t know about cover art meetings. The, the behind-the-scenes of actually making the book happen is not the part I’m as well connected to. What I hear is from publicity and from marketing people, who are trying to give me information about the book so that I will talk about it, so I’m on the publicity end of things.
I think that what has happened is a number of things: first of all, profitability. If it makes money, it’s going to keep happening. Publishing is real simple: it likes money; it’s a business. And it likes money that it can very quickly and clearly point to in terms of trend and in terms of additional profit coming, so if you have a show, for example, like Heartstopper or the one episode of The Last of Us that is proving that there is a general popular culture audience that is going to be attracted to and moved by queer stories, that attention fuels additional interest in ancillary industries. What one industry does feeds another, and they all kind of talk to each other.
So it was profitable. It was profitable for indie writers for a long-ass time. You would find queer romance with small presses, digital presses, indie presses, self-publishing. That was where the majority of it was, and we’ve seen this happen before with, with erotic romance too, right? Like, erotic romance was Ellora’s Cave, Loose Id, Samhain, and then mainstream publishers were like, I’m sorry, the super sexy monster-fucking sells? What?! Oh! Okay! We like money! That’s, that’s the evolution.
Amanda: And they have Kickstarters raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for monster-fucking books, like –
Sarah: Yeah! Yeah! And, and what’s interesting is that, I think, is a turn back to indie. When I did the podcast interview with Lucy Eden and Katee Robert, one of the first things they talked about was the percentage of income from Kickstarter is much better than the percentage of income through publishing through retailer platforms. You’re making more money if you sell directly through Kickstarter, and you’re selling to an audience that already loves you.
But in terms of How did we get to this better place? I think the, the other element is that there’s already a fandom there. And it’s not necessarily a romance fandom? And that fandom is what’s going to fuel continued exposure and profitability for more authentic storytelling. But also, I would really like to believe that people are just more aware of what they’re consuming and how it was made and what they’re putting into their brains when they consume things that they love. I think people are –
Amanda: And wanting, and wanting to support authors –
Amanda: – like, queer authors –
Amanda: – authors of color –
Amanda: – stuff like that, rather than, you know, as Sandra mentioned, you know, male/male romances written by women. You know, we’re seeing a lot more male/male romances written by men and, like, lesbian romances and bi romances and romance with –
Amanda: – nonbinary characters. Like, it’s great.
Sarah: And it’s a big issue, right? Because gender essentialism has a very, very deeply baked-in history with romance. There’s a lot of gender essentialism that –
Sarah: – even recently we had a guest post from someone who was like, This yanked me out of the story, and I had to be like, Wow. I can see why that is true, and that is a problem. That’s such a deeply, deeply baked-in problem with romance. There’s a lot of gender essentialism.
And I think as people are just more aware of the existence of how many different ways there are to be a person, people are going to want to see that reflected in the books that they read. And whatever it is you’re looking for, I promise somebody has published it. You may not be able to find it immediately; it might not be coming out of, like, one of the Big Five; but someone is writing the thing that you want. I think part of that is, like you said, we want to support the creators that we want to see more of in the world, and people are more aware of how their stuff got made.
That’s my answer. I’m curious what other people who are listening are thinking and what their perspective is, ‘cause I’m sure we’ve missed a, we’ve missed a, a major factor into why this is the way it is, but I’m glad that it’s the way it is.
Amanda: Yeah, I feel like both of us have been around long enough to see the progression? Like, I remember when Carina was just, like, digital-only, right?
Amanda: And now there’s Carina Adores, which is a focus on queer stories, was just digital-only, but now some of these books are getting, like, paperback releases and showing up in bookstores and getting shelf space.
Sarah: And getting option attention.
Sarah: So the last question, as always, is, this one is from Sol. “I always like knowing what you’re reading!”
Sarah: Well, that’s all how I end every episode, so let’s, let’s –
Sarah: – let’s do it! I just finished Ship Wrecked. I have a mild book hangover about it. I loved it so much. And next on my list, I have to figure out what to read next, because reading after a book hangover is really pretty tough. I might be reading Martha Wells’ Witch King, which comes out end of May and is a new series. But I haven’t started yet. Oh, and I’ve also heard that The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies by Alison Goodman is fan-fucking-tastic and that I should read it, so I will probably read that next too.
Amanda: I’ve mentioned this in previous episodes, that I have what I usually call an emotional support book –
Amanda: – where it just hangs out in my purse –
Amanda: – and I carry it from one place to the next.
Amanda: Sometimes I’ll move it to the nightstand with grand –
Sarah: Ooh, that’s a big step in the commitment!
Amanda: -grand delusions of cracking it open before bed, and then it goes back in my purse and comes with me to work, and do I crack it open? Who knows? I don’t need that kind of judgment. But it’s The Foxglove King by Hannah Whitten. It’s like a dark fantasy with cults –
Amanda: – and I think, like, necromancy.
Amanda: So that’s my emotional support book. I haven’t gotten probably more than ten pages into it. [Laughs] That’s the book that I’m, hardcover that I’ve been carrying around from place to place.
Sarah: And that brings us to the end of this week’s episode. Thank you again to everyone who submitted questions. If you would like to submit questions, we do this periodically. Have a look at patreon.com/SmartBitches to support the show and, you know, ask us weird things! We love being asked weird things; it’s, like, our favorite.
This joke is also from Amanda! Are you ready? All right.
What kind of doctor is Dr. Pepper?
Give up? What kind of doctor is Dr. Pepper?
He’s a fizz-ician.
[Laughs] Thank you, Amanda! This has been the Amanda show. I love it. Fizz-ician! I think I have to tell that to my teenagers, ‘cause they love Dr. Pepper. Anyway.
On behalf of everyone here – including the cats, who like to fight when I’m recording; what the heck – we wish you the very best of reading. Have a wonderful weekend. We will see you back here next week.
Smart Podcast, Trashy Books is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. You can find outstanding podcasts to subscribe to at frolic.media/podcasts.
[end of happy music]
This podcast transcript was handcrafted with meticulous skill by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks.
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And a very happy weekend to you, Sarah, Amanda, GarlicKnitter and all who see this.