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Tag: romance industry

WTF are you doing to Harlequin and Carina, HarperCollins?

[Updated below.]

I don’t follow romanceland news as assiduously as I used to, let alone participate in it, but I am still very interested in publishing as an industry and cultural force. So it was with both bemusement and horror that I took in the information that Joanne Grant and Angela James, the Editorial Directors of Harlequin Series and Carina respectively, had been informed that their positions were being eliminated and their last day at the company would be July 19. Neither executive appears to have received much advance notice, and of course the annual RWA conference, where both would have been working and have already planned for, is next week. This kind of corporate behavior is up there with investment firms and professional sports teams, two entities whose personnel policies no business should want to emulate.

While most of the romance chatter has been in reaction to Angela James’s removal, it’s a Very Big Deal for all of Harlequin and Carina. Some people speculated that it signals the end of Carina, but I don’t think so. In the Absolute Write forum thread for Carina, Sonya Heaney points out that HC did something similar in Australia:

The director of Harlequin Australia’s digital-first imprint left last year, and when no replacement was appointed – and then the imprint’s website disappeared – people were pretty sure it would fold. However, now Harlequin Australia has taken over the line fully, and the same editors and publishers for HQ and Mira are dealing with the digital-first authors.

HC hasn’t put out a statement yet that I’ve seen, and I haven’t been able to find any trade stories (e.g. Publisher’s Weekly) as of this writing, but Anna Zabo posted an excerpt from the email that went out to (some but not all) Harlequin and Carina authors. For obvious reasons people are concentrating on the removals of Grant and James, but I found the first two paragraphs of the excerpt equally interesting:

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Yes, they’re back. I should probably pick a day and make that Links Day, but in the meantime, here are a handful for your weekend reading.

The RITA finalists were announced this past week. Once again there were hardly any African-American authors who finaled, and I didn’t see many LGBT authors either, although I didn’t scrutinize the lists that carefully. I peeked over at Twitter and found that understandably, there was a lot of angry discussion about it.

It’s very disheartening to see these kinds of exclusions year and after year, especially when the RWA leadership has become more diverse and progressive. Unfortunately the awards submission, judging, and evaluation systems are not keeping pace (to put it mildly). I’ve thought about these issues over the years and looked at various aspects of the problem. I am sorry to say that I don’t think much will change until the overall romance readership is more reflective of the Romanceland readership that we hang out in. And similarly with the overall membership of RWA.

I’ve examined what is available of RWA surveys over the last 20 years, and they are consistent in terms of the demographic composition of romance readers. They are disproportionately Southern, Christian, white, and middle-aged. If you asked me to describe a modal (i.e., most common) romance reader, I’d say she lives in a medium-sized town or major-city suburb in the southern US, is white, in her 40s or 50s, and alternates between Romantic Suspense, Contemporary Romance and Amish Romances. She doesn’t read much LGBT of any type within the romance genre. And she’s on the conservative side.

That’s not the demographic that’s going to regularly pick Alyssa Cole’s books over Robyn Carr’s. Or Helen Hoang’s. Or KJ Charles’s. It’s just not.

It’s another reminder that the internet is full of silos. Twitter has remained stable over the last few years in terms of participation: about 20 percent of Americans use the service regularly. Romance Twitter and online Romanceland more generally do not represent the full range of who is buying and reading romance novels.

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AAR’s Top 100 Romances List: Diving into the Data

Today the long-established website All About Romance released the results of its reader poll of the Top 100 Romances. The site has done this survey periodically over 20 years (this post has links to the earlier polls): in 1998, 2000, 2004, 2007, 2013, and now again in 2018. The method has varied somewhat over time; in earlier years readers just sent in their ranked lists (up to 100 but they could submit fewer items), and readers often used the previous lists to help refresh their memories for the current poll. This year the poll was a combination of reader submitted and site-provided candidates, and the final result was a ranking for the Top 10 and an alphabetical list for the remaining 90.

Obligatory social scientists’ disclaimer: This was not a scientific poll. It is not representative of all romance readers, all online romance readers, or even all AAR’s site visitors. It is a poll comprising responses from people who chose to take part. They were solicited via Facebook, Twitter, the site itself, and perhaps other venues, but as far as I know there were no attempts made to weight the responses to conform to any universe of romance readers. AAR has never claimed that it is representative; I just want to specify the makeup of the poll at the outset.

AAR was kind enough to offer the list as a Word document containing author, title, subgenre, and date of issue. I used the list to create an Excel spreadsheet of the 100 books. I made a few modifications, including using the original date of release of the books rather than re- or e-release dates, and I collapsed and standardized some of their categories.


There are 45 authors represented on the list, so as has always been the case, some authors have multiple books on the list, ranging from Lisa Kleypas with 9 to 21 authors with a single entry:

  • 9:  Lisa Kleypas
  • 7:  Susan Elizabeth Phillips
  • 5:  Nalini Singh
  • 4:  Ilona Andrews, Courtney Milan, Julia Quinn
  • 3:  Mary Balogh, Loretta Chase, Jennifer Crusie, Tessa Dare, Julie Garwood, Elizabeth Hoyt
  • 2:  Jane Austen, Joanna Bourne, KJ Charles, Georgette Heyer, Linda Howard, Eloisa James, Julie James, Sarah Maclean, Nora Roberts/JD Robb, Penny Reid, JR Ward, Mariana Zapata
  • 1:  Jennifer Ashley, Amanda Bouchet, Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy, Charlotte Bronte, Meljean Brook, Alyssa Cole, Kresley Cole, Grace Draven, Meredith Duran, Diana Gabaldon, Laura Kinsale, Thea Harrison, Stephanie Laurens, Julie Anne Long, Judith McNaught, Amanda Quick, Lucy Parker, Mary Jo Putney, Alisha Rai, Sally Thorne

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