For the Love of Romance, Leave Us to Our Fabulous Sex Lives!

couple kissing in shower

Have you read a good romance lately? Did you recommend it to a friend or colleague only to have them say, “I don’t read such things” or “I read crime novels or autobiographies”? Of course, they say it with an immense sense of superiority as though they’re more present in the ‘real world’ and that there is something wrong with someone for enjoying a good ‘happy ever after’. It makes me want to regress to being a teenager, roll my eyes and reply, “whatever”. But I don’t. Until recently, I’ve smiled and nodded and changed the subject. On Facebook, I generally ignore the comments or provide a diplomatic response.

Now before you get your knickers in a knot, I’m neither referring to individuals who genuinely don’t have an interest in romance (much as some people prefer tea to coffee) nor those who prefer other genres and will only pick up a romance occasionally and if a friend coerces them to. I’m also not referring to people who don’t believe in romance. I respect that we all have pasts and can understand that some experiences don’t lend themselves to creating much belief in love. I am referring to the ‘heart haters’ – those individuals who believe that they have the right to judge the romance reader and writer.

The suppositions made by them are that romance readers are sadly disillusioned or are overcompensating for a lack of sex, love and / or dating in their lives. I even came across an article that refuted a statement that women who read romance novels “can become dangerously unbalanced”. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/jun/01/claim-romantic-novels-unbalance-readers) In the same article, a crime writer is cited as stating, “”My plea to romance writers: please stop writing. You are destroying marriages, the fabric of society, and the entire cosmos”. Really? Judge much? Okay here, I think regression is appropriate and an eye roll is absolutely deserving and maybe a good shaking or two. The irony is that the statement made by this crime-writer is soaked with the very melodrama us romance writers and readers are often attributed with. (And I think he is just jealous because romance novels sell more than any other genre.)

Thankfully, there are enough people out there who have the kutzpah, the tenacity, to challenge the fabricators of such dribble. I found another interesting article on the demographics of romance readers (http://www.lifescript.com/life/timeout/chill/romance_novels_who_reads_them_who_buys_them.aspx) and quite a few more on how romance can spice up one’s sex life, most notably, Teach Me Tonight (http://teachmetonight.blogspot.com/2010/01/sex-lives-of-romance-readers.html).

So here are the judgmental assumptions made about romance readers, facts I’ve found and of course, my take on things:

Assumption – Romance readers are sad and alone.

Fact – The majority of romance readers are married or in a committed relationship.

My take – I know many romance writers, being one myself, and even more romance readers. Most of them are not only in relationships but also in happy, supportive relationships. Who knows… maybe the hope and positive outcomes inherent within romance novels creates a mind-set more open to love and overcoming the challenges relationships present. Now I have what I refer to as a ‘gatvol’ stage. The direct translation of that Afrikaans word is ‘ass-full’ (LOL) and means, “I’ve had enough’. I’ve reached that stage where I no longer can ignore the disdain from others when mentioning romance and so I’ve begun asking them about their own relationships. I’ve found that those who don’t read romance novels have mostly been hurt in the past, are divorced or generally don’t believe in love. Essentially, a romance is about the belief that the human spirit can and will overcome the difficulties life presents it with and that this is only strengthened by love. I personally find it sad that others have lost that hope.

Myth – Romance readers are old and unattractive.

Fact – The age of romance readers ranges between 25 and 54. Romance readers are not predisposed to look a certain way.

My take – Most of my readers fall within that age range although there are a few older and younger too. As to whether or not we are an attractive bunch? Well, I beg to differ. We are all shapes, sizes, colors, and features. Given that most of us are married or in committed relationships, someone obviously found us attractive enough to ‘put a ring on it’.

Myth – Reading romances creates unrealistic expectations of sex

Fact – “Most of the study participants (75.5%) reported that reading romance novels has had an impact on their sex lives. This occurred in several ways, including making participants more likely to engage in sexual activity and by making them more likely to try new sexual activities.” (http://teachmetonight.blogspot.com/2010/01/sex-lives-of-romance-readers.html)

My take – Many readers I know have reported an especially hot experience between the sheets after reading a romance novel. As a writer, I know that many of my colleagues and I feel particularly frisky after writing a sex scene and our partners certainly do not complain when we expend that energy in the bedroom. We also *clears throat* do extensive research for our novels. Does that sound like we have unfulfilled sexual relationships? Moreover, the fact that we don’t complain obviously means that our expectations were met. I’ve even heard of many women who use what they’ve read in romance novels in the bedroom. If it is legal and consensual then surely that’s okay? What puzzles me is why on earth folk want to know what goes on in the bedroom of romance readers? Are they projecting? In other words, are the ‘heart haters’ actually the ones who are unhappy with their sex lives? Are they threatened? I know what I think… I’ll let you make up your own mind about that.

The fact that I found most interesting was that romance readers use the novels as a means of relaxation and escapism from life’s daily stress. The last time I checked, that is one the primary reasons why most people read. I know that I treat myself after every deadline to a long bath and a good romance novel. In fact, that is precisely why I read and write romance – I want to enable others to escape into the worlds I create and have a moment of bliss, shed a tear or two in commiseration and to feel happy that all turned out okay at the end. So my plea to all heart haters is to give it a try and if you insist on ridiculing us, then leave us to our fabulous sex lives! Now I’m off to think dirty thoughts, write them and then…

Body chocolate.

Does Bling Bring the Swagger to Book Sales?

Facebook, Twitter and every social network are inundated with ‘ebook and swag giveaways’. They started off with more affordable prizes such as bookmarks and postcards then progressed to bling in the form of necklaces, jeweled bookmarks and bracelets. Now the recent trend seems to be the amazing prize of a Kindle or Nook giveaway – with the Kindle Fire being the biggest draw card.

I resisted going the swag route – not because I’m adverse to it but simply because as a new indie writer, just starting out with absolutely no budget, every ebook I gave away ate into my personal bank account. So, you can imagine that swag seemed like a dream.

To Swag or Not to Swag?

I first gave into the lure of getting my own swag when I observed the huge interest it drew and to be honest, my sales went from looking hugely promising to despondently dwindling. Another thing happened – I got a bit of disposable income, which meant that I could carve out some of that for swag. The thing with being an indie is that you cannot discount that indie writers mostly have day jobs, family responsibilities and thus also financial responsibilities with the majority of their income coming from outside of the sales of their books. But, because I was worried about my sales and I needed to create some form of hype around my work, I bit the bullet.

 Custom-made Coffin Girls Swag through Vistaprint

Custom-made Coffin Girls Swag through Vistaprint

What Swag To Choose?

The first thing I do before embarking on any venture related to indie writing is Google. Google is the most informative and amazing resource any writer has access to and Google gave me information on swag. My search led me to a blog by Curiosity Quills. What resonated the most was that the swag being given away should be functional as well as decorative and promotional. And even better, Curiosity Quills provided the website address of an international printing company called Vistaprint (www.vistaprint.co.uk).

I then spent hours poring over the contents of a variety of websites and settled on Vistaprint, who was affordable even with taking shipping into consideration. Having said that – if any indie writers are reading this blog and mosey over to Vistaprint or any other site – note that affordable is a relative term because what I paid still made me grimace.

In the end I settled for calendars, notebooks, postcards, tote bags, etc. The great thing is that you can build an online portfolio and order as little or as much as you want whenever you want to. So, I may not have a stock room full of swag – I have a small box – but I do have access to an on-site, personal portfolio for future use.

The Price of Swag?

Buying swag is one thing, shipping the swag from the vendor to your home is another. But the hidden cost that is not always taken into consideration pertains to shipping. Do not discount this because the indie writing and social literary networks are internationally spread and when you do a giveaway, what you send will be weighed and measured by your postal service or couriers.

Some authors are limiting giveaways to their home country. I can respect and understand why but what bothers me about this is that the literary community is an international one and by limiting a giveaway to a country, you exclude many from participating.

So now, I basically sit with a box of swag in the cupboard while I save money towards the shipping! (LOL – I’ve got to laugh at the irony of the situation.)

Has it Worked?

I’ve only recently started giving away the swag. Has it helped sales? Absolutely not (*grinning again*). But what it has done, which is why I’m a swag believer, is assist me in promoting me as a writer. The number of Author Page likes for Aneesa Price – Sugary, Spicy Reads has increased, so have the number of friend requests I receive and I’ve also been experiencing renewed interests from reviewers to host my work on their blogs and to provide me with honest reviews.

So, yes – it does work. I believe that Swag fits into the category of ‘short term (financial) pain for long term (sales and promotional) gain’.

The Future of Swag?

At the moment it seems to be flooding the literary social networks and to be honest, there’s a feeling of ‘you snooze, you lose’ if you don’t get onto the swag bandwagon. So my recommendation to other indie authors is to get out there and do the swag thing (but save up first – do not put yourself personally out of pocket).

What will swag look like in future and will I reap the benefits in the form of reader reach? Well I don’t know the answer right now but I’ll be watching.

Swag made by a friend and street team member

Swag made by a friend and street team member

Bookmarks

Bookmarks