February 26, 2016
Wendy Crutcher, Lisa Schimmer, and I had a great time doing the webcast on romance book clubs! From the looks of the chat that happened on the side, everyone who attended the webinar had a good time too. We didn’t have time to get to questions, so I asked NoveList if I could write a blog post addressing some of them.
Q: Do you supply the books to the book club members? Checkout or to keep?
My book club is split between those who buy and those who use the library. Romance readers are often ready buyers and ebooks can be cheap, so people with e-readers generally buy their books. I make sure we have 5 copies of the titles I assign for those who don’t want to buy a book. My library doesn’t have any romance book club kits. As for “to keep,” we do have a swap box, though that’s not for books I assign.
Q: What about those who are divideded about contemporary romance vs. erotic romance?
To begin with, this issue could come up among any of the romance subgenres. Some people will only read assigned books if they are Regencies, contemporaries, Westerns, etc. The way I’ve dealt with this is to assign books broadly over the course of the year. We don’t generally have two months of any one subgenre in a row.
As to how to handle erotic romances in a book club, that depends on your community. I’ve assigned some very spicy romances but those fit the theme and are part of the general mix. Readers who don’t like explicit sex can chose to not read the book. Or, they can read the book and complain that it was all sex. However, you should use your judgement for your community.
Q: Does the question of heteronormal couples come up occasionally? Do you look for diverse characters and interracial relationships in your romance picks?
I do look for diverse characters for my book club reads and we read LGBTQ books, so the question of heteronormal couples comes up or, at least, I try not to limit my book club to reading only white, heterosexual stories. I both keep my eye open for diverse books that fit in whatever theme we’re reading and pick diverse books for us to read and build the theme around that.
The biggest problem with finding diverse books for the book club is the same problem that plagues publishing--there aren’t enough and there aren’t enough in print. The books I assign for book club have to be available in print and we have to be able to buy five copies. Many wonderful diverse books are only available in ebook or go out of print so quickly we can’t get them. However, the more we read and (more importantly) the more we buy, the more the market will open to diverse books.
Q: I know women are the primary audience for romance, but it seems to me that another large potential audience is being ignored, and that's men! Any advice on how to get men reading romances?
Wendy put this best when she said, “I think the best way is to introduce [men] to the genre by way of what they already like to read.” Give a man who reads westerns a western romance from Jo Goodman or Rosanne Bittner, one who likes adventure and suspense something from Suzanne Brockmann or Jill Sorenson, and one who likes science fiction something from Linnea Sinclair.
When introducing romance to an established book club, again, to quote Wendy, “Depending on the dynamic of your group, there's a lot to be said for taking ‘baby steps.’ Also, if your group is, perhaps, hesitant to jump right into the romance novel deep end of the pool, I'd look for titles that are more "fiction with romantic elements" to start. There are a lot of wonderful authors to choose from - like Susanna Kearsley, Karen White and Barbara O'Neal.”
Want to see the panelists' picks for great romance book club books? View them here, along with all the resources from the webcast.
Jennifer Lohmann was the 2010 RWA Librarian of the Year and her book, Winning Ruby Heart, was the first category novel to win RT Book Reviews Seal of Excellence.
Webcast: Romancing the Book Club: Matchmaking for Romance Readers
February 1, 2016