A call to authors and publishers to identify category romance imprints.
A recent conversation in the ARRA loop has raised an issue that I’ve been struggling with for some time now: How is category romance defined?
The answer used to be easy, because, well, that was pretty much the many flavours of Mills & Boon. Now, however, with new romance imprints popping up or being resurrected, and with the greater flexibility afforded to digital imprints, it’s become difficult to identify exactly which books are categories and which books are not.
Some of the issues that came up include:
– Word count limits (minimum and maximum)
– Imprints with specific story guidelines rather than simple subgenre branding
– Whether or not a publisher has to identify a book as a category romance in order for it to be considered as such
Although these questions stemmed from a desire to set guidelines around book awards, I think it’s a broader discussion worth having. My experience of category romances has been that while the shorter word count is a characteristic of these books, what makes them category romances are the set of reader expectations and writing conventions that form part of the line. So although we tend to lump these books together as category romance, in fact comparing them may be just as difficult as it would be to compare paranormal romance and historical romance, for example.
So there are a lot of things we can talk about when it comes to defining category romance, but for now let’s start with something easy: If you’re an author or you work for a publisher of category romance, I’d love it if you can identify which imprints publish category romance by commenting on this post. If you prefer, feel free to send me the information via email.
My goal is that once we have a definitive—though by no means static, as imprints tend to come and go—list, we can use it as a starting point to talk about the differences and similarities between the imprints, and also if how publishers define category romance is changing. More practically, I’m hoping that such a list will at least help ARRA when it comes to determining whether or not nominated books are eligible to be called category romances.