I just I read an article this past weekend that was generating negative buzz on social media. After seeing it more than a dozen times in a single scroll on my Facebook timeline, I clicked it. I knew from the title, "Kennett Library Hosts 3rd Annual Bad Romance Event,” that I was not going to agree with it, but I couldn't stop myself from finding out just what the fuss was about. The more I read, the angrier I became. If you haven’t read it, let me summarize it for you. The long and short of it is that the Kennett Library and its staff host an event to read aloud from what they have deemed as bad romance novels to the audience as a fundraiser for their library. No, that wasn’t a typo. A fundraiser that mocks the publishing industries highest grossing genre hosted by a library. An institution that sole purposes is to promote literature. It almost doesn't seem real, but this misogynistic take of such a "fun event" is very much real.
Kennett Library's use of "bad romance" to raise funds is a slap in the face of all romance authors, and a continuation of the age old stereotypes that romance novels are trashy. The only trashy thing I see about the article is the author's now revised reference that romance novels are "the discount bin of literature." It seems to be a long-standing tradition to ridicule romance when you don’t enjoy reading or writing it. You’d think being the industry profit leading that it would stave off some of the naysayers. Sadly, it doesn’t. If you didn't know, romance was number one at $1.44 billion in revenue. Second place was the crime and mystery genres at $728.2 million. You might be asking yourself the same question I did when I looked up the numbers. If romance is so profitable and popular as a genre, why do we romance authors constantly get dragged through the mud as smut peddlers and mommy porn enthusiasts? It's simple. Romance is written for women by women, predominantly. Yet, gender is only one factor to the romance stereotypical equation. Diversity, ethnicity, and even the method of publication all play a part.
With the age of e-books came a rise in both reading and self-publishing. Before, an author had to hope and pray that a publisher would read their query and publish their novel. Now, authors have a choice. Many romance authors who you see on the shelves at your local bookstores are either self-published or hybrid, meaning they traditionally and self-publish books. Before the e-book boom, all of those books would have been traditionally published authors. All. Of. Them.
Now, self-published novels are growing every single day, but so is the sterotype that those types of books are poorly-written stories by people who have no business writing a book. Oh yeah, I've seen and have on the rare occasion even in the presence of a traditionally published author degrading indie authors at a large event when I first starting publishing. I'm not saying that all self-published books are perfect because they aren't, but they are bad traditionally published books, too. Not every book is a winner. That's for the reader to decide on their own. It's not a peer review of an entire publication method by someone who has never self-published a day in their life.
So, it begs the question as to why Kennett Library is hosting their “Bad Romance” event. Why are they mocking not only an entire genre, but their library patrons as well to raise funds? The event is a continuation of the age old stereotypes that romance novels are trashy. An idea that is not only absurd, but degrading. Then again, when author of the article calls romance the “discount bin of literature” that has since been revised, I guess I should really be surprised.
As libraries are publicly funded insinuations, it makes me wonder just how many patrons will be coming to your new facility that was partially funded by ridiculing authors. Frankly for an organization that should pride itself on promoting literacy, Kennett Library has instead promoted exclusion, despite the mission statement from their own website stating they support inclusion.
No one, reader or writer, should be shamed for liking romance novels. We deserve respect. You may not like us, but we aren’t going anywhere.
Avelyn Paige is an Wall Street Journal and USA TODAY bestselling Motorcycle Romance author.