Friday, November 25, 2011

Olivia Kingsley: Readers Don't Like...

It's always irked me when someone starts a sentence with, "Readers don't like..." As an author, and especially if you're unpublished, you can't just focus on writing a good story. You also have to consider what publishers want to buy, and they obviously don't want to publish stories they think readers won't like.
Here are some of the story elements I've been told to avoid, because of general romance reader dislike:

1. Actors & Athletes - Apparently readers don't like the hero and/or heroine to be an actor or athlete. The idea is that those professions make people vain and self-absorbed, and so they won't be very sympathetic characters in a love story. I guess no one told Susan Elizabeth Phillips about this early in her career? I shudder to think of how many wonderful books we would have been robbed of if that'd been the case. Just thinking about it makes me want to re-read Honey Moon and It Had To Be You.

2. Long Separations - In romances, readers don't like it when the hero and heroine spend a long time apart. I'm not sure if this just applies to stories where the main characters aren't together for, say, a whole 100 pages of the book, or if it also refers to books where the story jumps a few months or years from one chapter to the next, during which they were separated. In either case, this reminds me of the old school, epic romances of the 80's and 90's. And personally, I love those kind of books. I certainly like them a lot more than stories where the hero and heroine declare their love for each other after just a few days or weeks. But maybe I'm in the minority here?

3. Inexperienced Heroes - And by that, I of course mean sexually inexperienced. I understand where this comes from. Women want their men to know what they're doing in bed. I get that. But think of all those poor, virgin heroes. Don't they deserve love, too? :)

4. Experienced Heroines - This one is old-fashioned, sexist, and downright disgusting. It promotes the idea that women are somehow sullied by having had sex, unless it's with the hero. Thankfully, the genre as a whole seems to have evolved away from this mindset, and I couldn't be happier.

5. Slavery & the Slave Trade - The last one is a bit more specific, but it applies to my newly released book, Pretty Persuasion. Before the story starts, my hero, Robert, spends almost a decade on his family's Caribbean sugar plantation, and it's an experience that's greatly changed him and very much affects his actions throughout the book. I was told that the topic of slavery had already been explored in older romances (you know, those epic tales from the 80's and 90's!), and readers were tired of it. I found that whole idea way too silly, and so I ignored it.

Personally I think most readers only care about reading a good story. But I'm interested in everyone's opinions on this. Are there certain elements in a romance novel that you dislike so much you won't read it? Can you think of any other general "reader dislikes?" Do you think it hurts the diversity of the genre that authors might avoid such topics because they're afraid readers won't like it?

Post a comment this weekend, and you'll be entered into a drawing for a copy of Pretty Persuasion! Ebook or paperback, winner's choice. Winner will be drawn on Monday.
Young Lady Georgiana Montford is heartbroken and infuriated when she discovers her lifelong betrothed, Robert Balfour, in the arms of another woman. Severing their friendship, she vows to choose her own husband, a man who'll share her thirst for adventure. Yet, despite her attempts to forget him, Robert's place in her heart proves more unwavering than she could ever have imagined.

After seven years on his Caribbean plantation, Robert returns to England a changed man. Weary of traveling and troubled by his past, he hopes to attain peace of mind through marriage and family. Though scarcely daunted at finding Georgie in love with another man, he soon learns that winning her hand—and heart—will take more powerful means of persuasion than expected.

***Olivia's winner is Leni!  Congrats!  Please email with your mailing address and we'll get the book in the mail to you - or by email if you prefer an eBook.***


Margay Leah Justice said...

Anything to do with rape or domestic violence would be a turn off for me. If the hero hit the heroine, I'd throw the book against the wall.

This sounds like a good story - absolutely love the cover!

Olivia Kingsley said...

Margay, I agree, those are not elements I find romantic, either. I can't really think of any circumstances that would make rape or domestic violence forgivable.

Glad you like the cover! :)

Leni said...

I believe when authors stay away from certain topics it does limit the possibilities of the stories that could be told. Mainly stories that they might even want to write.
I try not to say that I will never read a particular subject because I've done that in the past and loved the story. It's good to have a variety.

Di said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Di said...

I want Romance with an HEA. I don't like a story to make me cry too much, like the death of a major or young character. I don't like a lot of blood & gore.
I hope writers won't be pulled off a story they really believe in because someone tells them it won't work or sell.
After all, JK Rowlings was told children's stories weren't the way to go by multiple publishing houses.
sallans d at yahoo dot com

Olivia Kingsley said...

Leni, I agree that variety is good. Unfortunately, publishers, agents and even authors tend to play it safe and stick with stuff they know will sell well.

Di, JK Rowling is a good example! I think there are lots of stories of hugely successful authors who were rejected like that early in their careers. I'm sure those publishers have been regretting it bitterly. :)

Mary Preston said...

I wonder who makes up these lists. They obviously don't ask readers, because most would say that a great story is all important. I personally can't think of any particular dislikes.

traveler said...

Your book sounds wonderful. Best wishes. A turn off would be an abandoned child.

Olivia Kingsley said...

marybelle, I'm sure most of it came from editors and agents at some point, but who knows what was said originally? I'm also wondering if it's sometimes used as an excuse for rejection when they're not sure what other reason to give.

traveler, thanks!

Kaelee said...

I've got no objection to any of those five themes. I like a variety when I read so too much of one theme sends me looking for something different. I know I have read and enjoyed books with all those themes. Domestic violence is not romantic but a heroine or hero for that matter who has freed themselves of that situation is all right. I think the more variety out there the better.

host said...

I love stories about athletes :)
My only condition is that the story has a happy ending and that I can feel for the characters - everything else is just a bunch of nonsense.

Olivia Kingsley said...

Thanks to everyone who left a comment! Lee should be getting in touch with the winner of the giveaway soon. :)

Laurie G said...

I dislike excessive or unnecessary violence to people or animals
excessive swearing, graphic details of death or death scene,annoying or really stupid


Michele L. said...

Yes, I don't care for domestic violence of any kind. I like books with romance, humor, adventure and a good mystery. Great blog!