The mass market industry takes off
Author Robyn Carr didn’t read romance novels until she was an adult—and even then, her first “romances” were romantic historical fiction novels by authors like Rosemary Hawley Jarman and Anya Seton. How did Carr react when the first mass paperback romance novels burst onto the scene in the 1970s?
Do you remember the first book you sold?
I spent a lot of postage on trying to get an agent. And of course, I was consistently turned down. And back in those days, it was unheard of that you would send more than one copy of your manuscript. First of all, it made people angry. It made publishing angry if you did that. And second of all, who could afford the Xerox copy. There was one Xerox machine at the library and it was 15 cents a page. And in 1975, that was my grocery budget for a 400-page manuscript. So it went out one at a time and they took six weeks to respond. And so, I started typing them– I started working on the next book because it was going to be a year of just mailing. But I did get an agent and I think I was his very first client. And he had a history in editing. And he did the unheard of, he made copies and he sent out 13 copies of that manuscript.
And I had been focusing on the publishers whose names were on the spines of those books in the new mass market industry, in Avon and New American Library. And they kept rejecting my book. And then, my agent called me. The last submission and said, “We have an offer from Little Brown.” And I said, “Little who” because I wasn’t familiar with their list. One of the most prestigious publishers around and I didn’t even know who they were but I learned. So my first eight books were published in hard cover and the library was my best customer.
We had one series romance publisher and I believe they had one American writer in 1978 or thereabouts. And it seemed like overnight, the publishers all smelled this romance surge and they created series romance lines. There was “Second Chance at Love.” There was “Rhapsody.” There was “Silhouette” and these lines sprang up. And to fill the need, many, many writers were hired, were published.
Well, I think what they were beginning to realize was that America was a very– a force of nature with book sales and series romance. And it was only logical and great business to add to their stable of American writers, which they did. And then it just grew from there.