Friday, October 21, 2005

Racy titles?

While cruising Wired News last night, I braked for an article on book publishers who have turned to e-tailing and was annoyed to read this:

Harlequin, the romance-novel publisher, was an early adapter, first selling directly online in 1995, the same year Jeff Bezos started Amazon.com. Since rebranding the site on Valentine's Day 2000, eHarlequin.com has sold millions of books with such racy titles as Incriminating Passion and Silent Desires.

Note how this mention of "racy titles" was shoehorned into a discussion of publishers encroaching (or not) on the sales of the online retailers (Amazon, et al) they're supposed to be partnering with. Three other major publishing houses were mentioned in the article, yet the writer didn't see fit to name any of their titles. But if you're going to mention Harlequin, you have to toss off a line about "racy" romance, right? Sure, it's what everyone expects. Go ahead and hurl another dart at those cheesy bodice-rippers. We'll all have a good laugh and feel superior for a minute or two.

Never mind that an awful lot of those "cheesy" books are darn well written and quite at home on the bestseller lists. And never mind that the decidedly un-racy inspirational romances Harlequin publishes are among its fastest-growing imprints. Journalists like the one responsible for this latest insult have been corrected time and time again, but they're still taking the cheap shots, ridiculing romance novels and by extension, their readers, who cheerfully spent over $1.2 billion on the books in 2004.

Some of you may be wondering what I'm going on about. Is the word "racy" so horrible? No. It wasn't the word that ticked me off, but the context of that sentence. I'm not familiar with either of the books mentioned--maybe they are racy. What I do know is that if the writer had included a sentence like this:

Since rebranding the site on Valentine's Day 2000, eHarlequin.com has sold millions of books with such inspirational titles as Finding Hope and True Devotion.

or this:

Since rebranding the site on Valentine's Day 2000, eHarlequin.com has sold millions of books with such intriguing titles as Covert Cowboy and House of Secrets.

or this:

Since rebranding the site on Valentine's Day 2000, eHarlequin.com has sold millions of books with such hilarious titles as Do-Over and The Bachelor Dads of Nowhere Junction.

...it would have been left on the cutting-room floor because the books' titles and the facts that they're "inspirational" or "intriguing" or "hilarious" had nothing to do with the topic being discussed. But "racy?" Oh, yeah, throw that one in.

At least he didn't call the books bodice-rippers. I suppose we should be grateful.




My monthly Romancing the Blog column is up. Go have a look. If I may say so (and even if I may not), it's a good one.

3 comments:

Mirtika said...

Actually, I didn't think the titles the reporter picked were THAT racy. INCRIMINATING PASSION? Maybe the person is really excited about being a prosecuting attorney. SILENT DESIRES. Hmmm. A mute who aches to be a gourmet chef? :D

Mir

Bonnie Calhoun said...

You go get the. Write a letter to the editor. Hey, a writer writing a letter, that's new and creative! Read you RTB column, good job!

Brenda Coulter said...

I started to write something along those lines, Mir (and how scary is that?) but then I figured a sharpie like you would pounce to remind me that "title" is often used to refer to a book itself and not just its name.

But, no--I wouldn't assume that books called Incriminating Passion and Silent Desires were X-rated. They could be about chocolate-lovers and mimes for all we know.

Bonnie, thanks for reading.