Friday, May 19, 2006

Thoughts from a Romance Reader

Well – she be true. Lisa Kleypas, in case anyone had not known this, has left Avon for the greener pastures at St. Martins. Sandy at AAR has an interview with her going up on Monday that I’m anxious to read. I’m sure Ms. Kleypas has many mixed feelings on this as she wrote for them for so many years. But I for one am delighted at the news. Part of me wonders why she decided to make this leap but I suppose I’ll never really know. I wasn’t too happy with Avon when they kept delaying the release of her Wallflower series and I know it really ticked Romance Lover off. The way I see it, she won’t be bound any longer by Avon’s rigid rules although I doubt most Avon authors would agree with me on the rule thing. But hey – what is published speaks for itself. As someone who has, well shall we say 'encouraged' any reader who showed an interest in reading Dreaming of You to go ahead – give it a read, I feel a slightly more than normal interest in seeing how she does with St. Martins. And – as a reader of contemporaries I’m looking forward to hers. And best of all, I’m glad to see she is taking her characters with her. Wonder how that happened since we all know Dara Joy couldn’t. Of course the less said on Ms. Joy the better considering how she has screwed her legion of fans.

This leads me to another thought. Sybil and I had the same idea! I had this written and was just getting reading to post when I saw that Sybil also wrote an open letter expressing very similar thoughts. Whereas she addressed her letter to many publishers, I’m picking on – you guessed it! I’m sure you are all wondering if there anything that Avon can do to bring me back as a reader? I used to be one believe it or not. But now there are very few I am willing to purchase. If the PTB at Avon were to ever pay attention to little ole blogger me, this is what I would tell them.

Dear Avon Power People:

Stop making money your sole and only reason for publishing! Sure keep it a big one, even the main one; I’m a realist. But gawd only knows you’re making enough money that you can afford to branch out a bit experimentally. You guys used to be more daring. You used to publish the odd Western or Colonial book. Heck – you even let Lorraine Heath write a few before you shipped her off to Merry Old England. And remember Susan Kay Law? She wrote wonderful Westerns for you guys; even won some awards before you kicked her to the curb when she wouldn’t conform to your England and nothing BUT England format. And one time, in a reply to someone’s complaint (no – not mine) that there wasn’t enough variety, an Avon Author used Kathleen Eschenburg as an example that Avon also publishes other locales. I laughed – oh how I laughed at that one!! ONE book. One - in recent memory. And where is she now? Her one and only book you published got glowing reviews. I heard she got sick and isn’t writing at the moment – but is that really the case or did you short sited idiots let her go? Wouldn’t put that past you – you’ve done it before. Sure, sure – you’ll come back with the "well we publish medievals vis-à-vis Mary Reed McCall and Kinley Macgregor". Yes, you do. But what is the percentage of medievals as opposed to the historical huh? Answer me that one!

There are some wonderful writers out there that break the Avon mold that I’m sure are available. Alexisis Harrington hasn’t been heard from for a while – she has written some truly wonderful and heartwarming stories and I miss her. (Anyone who hasn’t tried her – you should). Sandy Hingston is another author who we haven’t heard from for a while and I quite enjoyed her books. And *hands on hips* what about Taylor Chase? Huh? Answer me that! She wrote a couple of extraordinary books for you before you decided that she was too “different”. It’s your loss but even worse it’s our loss.

Don’t accept mediocrity. Oh – I know your going to say ‘but readers don’t mind’. Goodness knows you have enough fan girls that haunt the Avon Message board proclaiming to each other and their favourite author that so and so rocks and they love her to pieces and she couldn’t possibly write anything less than perfection. Here's an example to make one gag “OMG, Susie Fangirl said everything I was thinking!! Finished the book today and absolutely loved it. Thanks, XXXX for a great story, fabulous hero, and beautiful, spunky heroine! I can't wait to read XXXX'X story. When do you expect it to be released, and what do you have planned after the "XXXX of ..." trilogy? "

Oh pulease! Can we say suck up any harder? While I might write to an author expressing how much I enjoyed their book, never would I put something like that out there for all to see!

So except for those caught up in the deep throes of Avon Author love I say horse hockey! There is this honest website you see – All About Romance – and while I haven’t been taking notes or anything, I have observed that they seem to issue more mediocre marks for many more Avon books than many other publishers. If you want I’ll see if I can get stats for you. But when I see a C grade for a historical, I check the publisher and dollars to donuts there is a good chance it’s a book published by you guys. Raise your standards for Pete’s sake. You are giving the whole genre a bad name. Right now you are publishing a lot of drek. And I for one can’t be bothered sorting the drek from the good so I just don’t buy.

And we can’t forget about your covers. I’ve complained to anyone who will listen about your truly loathsome covers so I’ll try to be brief. Why do you do such idiotic things as putting the shirtless hero in a cape in the middle of winter? And then there are the heroines. You dress them in skimpy cleavage revealing dresses that must come from the “I’m a sleaze and proud of it” wardrobe. Do you have any idea how ridiculous these look? Now I know there are some readers who aren’t offended by these – although I’m not one of them, but I’m willing to compromise. If you absolutely HAVE to have them, at least put them in a step-back format rather than on the front or back. Yes, this also applies to other publishers but you Avon guys are the very worst offenders. I for one don’t want to have to think about whether this is a book I would read in public. Sure it might cost a few dollars more but if you cared about your entire readership, you would consider it money well spent. How much have you lost when some readers refuse to buy books with man-titty, sleazella covers?

And finally, I’m sure you are too busy in your ivory towered ‘let’s make as much money as we can’ tower to pay attention to us readers standing below, but there is a growing revolt at the lack of editing in books today. Flame wars are happening on message boards and blogs across the land. Some readers blame authors, some authors claim it’s not that big a deal and readers get angry. To be honest it’s not that big a deal to me. I’m a skimmer and don’t pick up a lot of those details. But I know and appreciate there are those who are very bothered by the lackadaisical attitude that seems to becoming more prevalent. Invest some money! Hire some GOOD conscientious copy editors that can work with the authors as a team to put out a good product for us consumers. I don’t think it’s right to put the entire burden on the authors. They are the creative force behind everything but they also need someone to watch their backs.

So, if you want me back as a buyer of what you’re selling, you will pay attention to what I’ve said. There are a few more things that would help but I’ve given you enough to chew on for the moment.


A really want to be wooed back Romance Reader

'til later


sybil said...

You know what will really be funny, in a bad way of course, is if kleypas ends up sucking.

You do know it will be allllllll your fault, well and D., for all your talk about avon killing the historical star.

I am hands down a kleypas fan girl so I think she will rock no matter her publisher. But it was the first thing I thought of when I heard of the move ;)

Kristie (J) said...

I think it could open a whole new world for her. For example here's a thought that might be interesting - Remember McKenna & what's her name (I'm great at remembering the stories themselves but suck at names and titles) from Worth Any Price (I think it was) moved to America? And the sister and his partner were going there too? Well - now she can write some books in that setting if she wants - early America. I, for one, think that would be fabulous!

romancelover said...

I have no doubt Kleypas will be incredible with any publishing house.

Re: Avon...gosh, Kristie, you took the words right out of my mouth. The board pisses me off to no end; I still go...not going to lie, but I, too, wonder what would happen if Quinn were to leave Avon also...would I still read AVON? I try to give the authors there a chance, but sometimes...gosh, the books are so bad. Who's advising these people?

~ames~ said...

Great post Kristie. The gloves have come off, the gauntlet has been thrown down...

Anonymous said...

I don't read historicals after overdosing when I was a teenager, but I've heard all about Avon's issues and it makes me shake my head. What a shame!

Kristie-I wrote an article for Romancing the blog and they're putting it up on Sunday! I'm so excited! I just thought I'd pass it along. You can read it if you'd like. It's at Yay me! :)

I hope you have a wonderful weekend. How is your husband doing? I hope he's doing okay.

Talk to you soon!


Tara Marie said...

Maybe we could all sign your right on target letter and send it over to Avon, like a petition.

ReneeW said...

What a fabulous post! And those covers, yikes. I think they should go the way of the dinosaur. Or put them in a stepback like you said. When I first heard about kleypas it gave me a brief moment of panic but she may be even better without avon dragging her down.

Kathryn S said...

Avon Author here, poking my head in. Is it safe? lol.

Yes, yes, Lisa will do fab no matter where she is cause she's the sh*t when it comes to writing.

My only comment on the Avon board is that I go there to post about site and book updates. Sometimes I get my ego stroked -- but not often. :-)

Avon rules -- never encountered them myself. Never been told I couldn't write something I *wanted* to write. Can't speak for others.

Um, really hoping my books aren't some of the 'bad' ones, but whatever. :-)

As for Kathleen E. not being published by Avon anymore -- that was, I believe, Kathleen's decision. I'm not going to discuss her personal life but Kathleen had some serious health issues that made her take some time off from writing. I haven't heard from her lately, so I can only hope that she's doing well and writing again.

Anonymous said...

Bravo, Kristie!! You finally got it off your chest.

Methinks they'd better guard JQ, Eloisa James, Christina Dodd, Elizabeth Boyle well.

I'm looking forward to what Kleypas will do at her new publisher.

Kristie (J) said...

Kathryn S: Thanks for sticking your neck out. You're a brave lass you are.
I've been reading romance for years and I do notice a big difference in today's Avon as opposed to a few years ago. I'm not wanting them to quit publishing what they are now. There is obviously a huge market for them with a very loyal readership and by wanting Avon to quit publishing them, I'd be depriving many of today's readers of what I feel I'm being deprived of - and that wouldn't be a good or fair thing. But I have to ask a general question - not of you specifically 'cause you are writing what you want to so there would be no head butting - but as more of an out there kind of question! What if an author who wrote for Avon had a story in her head that didn't take place in England? What if she felt compelled to write one in - oh say Colonial America or a bit later in the Knickerbocker era of New York such as Meagan McKinney's Lion & Lace? I truly do not believe it would be published by Avon as they presently are. And would a book with a drug addicted hero who lives in France get published by Avon in todays market? Especially if it's a new author. It's the choices I had 5 or 10 years ago that I want back again.

And nope - yours aren't the bad ones. I shamefacedly admit I haven't read any yet. But I know I have at least 2 of your books in my rather frightening TBR pile. I'm not exactly sure where they are - somewhere in the boxes and boxes and bags and bags I have all around the house, but because I admire your bravery, when I get my own personal library built, and I get to (finally) unpack my treasures, I will most certainly read them.

Kathryn S said...

Thanks, Kristie!

You know I think Avon has found things that sell for them. I know I once heard an Avon editor say that westerns, which were still popular at that time, just didn't work for them. They didn't have much luck selling them. So you're right, if some author tried selling them a western, it would have be something amazing for Avon to take a chance on trying to sell it. Of course, any author doing her research would know Avon wasn't a good place to take her western to. :-) Colonial America probably the same thing. However, I do think the NY one might have a chance, but I haven't read it so I can't say for sure.

Anyway, I'm afraid that's all I can offer. LOL.

I hope you like my books when you get to them. But if you don't...well, I'm okay with that too. :-)