Romance in the Digital Age

“Romance writers have led the ebook revolution” says Smashwords founder Mark Coker.  “Romance authors have been the most innovative, the most experimental, the most forward looking” in this transformation of the publishing industry, and romance readers have “propelled it along.”
Why did the romance community embrace digital publishing so quickly and influentially?  How have editors, agents, and other publishing professionals adapted to this new commercial and technological environment?


Jessica 
BElla

Author Jessica Andersen is happy to leave titles and covers to her publisher—her job starts with the book’s first sentence, but not before.
Bella Andre disagrees—and when traditional publishers couldn’t figure out how to find and hook her readers, she decided to do it herself.

Kindle
It used to be, you know, a classic food chain where the author had a relationship to the editor, the editor with the publisher, you know, the other people in the publishers had a relationship to the wholesaler who had a relationship with the retailer who had a relationship with the customer and all of a sudden, it’s been leapfrogged.
— Steven Axelrod, The Popular Romance Project

Agent Steven Axelrod doesn’t want to be “the last buggy-whip manufacturer,” left behind by changes in the publishing industry.  How do authors and readers and publishers interact in this new world? Do self-publishing authors still need agents?  If so, what for?


Are romance publishing powerhouses Avon and Harlequin struggling in the digital age, or thriving?

Milan

Romance author Courtney Milan


Ankara

Ankara Press, an imprint of Cassava Republic, published a free, digital Valentine’s Day anthology online in 2015

Digital publishing has a global reach, just like popular romance.  Nigerian publisher Cassava Republic made a big digital move in 2015, right in time for Valentine’s Day.

The Royal Africa Society literature festival “Africa Writes” took note.  


Where will the next big market for ebooks open up?  Minal Hajratwala says India is the country to watch.
No wonder Harlequin Mills & Boon has “bet big” on India, with an Indian Author collection ready for readers around the world!
Tycoon

Graph

From “Why Authors and Readers Still Want Print,” Digital Book World, 3/3/2015

The latest Pew Internet Research study found that e-reading is indeed on the rise but eclipsed by the continuing popularity of print.
— Digital Book World, March 3, 2015

Digital publishing is “a game changer,” says Steven Axelrod: the money, the technology, the ease of access for readers.  Why do some authors make the switch to self-publishing, while others choose to stay with traditional publishing houses, even if they make less money there?
Are readers really making the switch to dgital—or are they just reading more, in more ways?

Video: Steven Axelrod on Self-Publishing


Romance author Bella Andre loves the entrepreneurial hustle of self-publishing—but warns that it’s not for everyone.

Video: Bella Andre on Self-Publishing

Courtney Milan, who made the move herself in 2011, explains how to weigh the pros and cons in her blog post “Traditional versus self-publishing: official death match 2014”

Andre

Raccah
So you get the cover wrong on a book there are really almost no second chances. There are too many books published. There are in the traditional world something like 400,000 books published a year, 300,000, 400,000 new books published a year. So you get the book wrong I’m not really going to have a second chance to make it—to get it right.
— Dominique Raccah, The Popular Romance Project

In a publishing landscape where hundreds of thousands of books come out each year, one wrong decision about the title or cover can be fatal, says Sourcebooks CEO Dominique Raccah.

Video: Dominique Raccah on What a Publisher Does


It’s worth the investment to have a good cover because a book truly is, you know, they judge a book by a cover… if you’re a B-list author who’s trying to build her audience then you’ve really got to put the time and energy into working with someone to get a good cover.
— Kim Killion, The Popular Romance Project
Pecs

What makes the perfect romance novel cover?

Designer Kim Killion takes you through the thinking that goes into a romance cover photo. Cropped hand? Man chest?  Maybe a little more cleavage?
And don’t forget the typography, taglines, and all the other details that make a cover sing—even in a thumbnail view.

Heat

One of Pickyme’s designs

Artist “Pickyme” started out making fan art on an author’s message board, and now she’s a professional cover designer.

How did she manage that transition from amateur to professional?

Video: Pickyme on How She Got Started

What is the process of finding cover art like?

Video: Pickyme on How She Creates Romance Covers


Who chooses how much an ebook should cost?  Agent Steven Axelrod has a simple answer: it’s complicated.

Video: The Price of Romance, Steven Axelrod

Axelrod

Steven Axelrod


Popular Romance Project’s February 2015 conference at the Library of Congress ended with a lively panel discussion about romance in the digital age.  What did the panelists say about the future of publishing? Check out what scholar/editor Sarah Lyons, romance author Liliana Hart, digital marketing expert Jon Fine, romance editor Angela James, new media scholar Tara McPherson, and publisher Dominique Raccah had to say.