Monday, October 9, 2017

Have You Harassed A Romance Writer Lately?

There are a number of reasons I don’t talk about my books in every-day life. The biggest reason is I’m shy and hate talking about myself. But there are other reasons, including never being sure what kinds of reactions I’m going to get from people, even from friends. So I tend to keep quiet. However, there comes a point where I have to get over it, and I make an effort to talk about what I do, especially with people who show genuine interest.

And then there’s the marketing side. Most authors hate this part of it, but our books won’t market themselves, but we get out there anyway and try to get people to buy our books.

That’s what I did this weekend at a book fair near Philadelphia. It was a gorgeous day. The entire main street of town was closed to cars and more than 300 authors had tents set up with their books.

I was one of the few romance authors. I don’t know if it was because there weren’t very many others. Maybe it was my location. Or maybe it was my “lucky day.” But men came up to my tent and harassed me three different times during the day. One who tried to make a connection between my books and sex addiction groups, one who thought I should give away condoms and one who tried to pick me up. And another guy harassed the girl he was with for liking to read romance.

Now, I’m shy but friendly. I’ll smile at anyone who comes over to my tent, even if I don’t think you’re my target audience. And I’ll talk to anyone, including the people who come up to me and say they don’t read books—yes, that happens more times than I can count and makes me wonder each time why the heck they’re at a book festival, but I digress. One of the men, and I use that term loosely, tried to begin a conversation with my by asking me why I was smiling. Did he think I’d sell more books by frowning? Maybe he didn’t like my smile? Maybe that was his pickup line—he was the one who was trying to pick me up.

I follow a lot of authors on Facebook and I’m part of different writer loops and the one thing we all have in common, even highly successful romance writers whose names are known by everyone, is how we get harassed by people for what we write. Teasing is fine. I have a decent sense of humor, I can see why people might find certain aspects funny and I’m happy to join in. But there’s a line, and for some reason, men seem to think it is perfectly acceptable to ignore that line when it comes to romance authors (I don’t mean to pick on men—although in this case it was the men who were harassing me. Women do it too, but they are much snootier about it, attacking romance as not real literature, even though it is the highest selling genre—look it up.). And when crossing the line creates situations where I or other authors feel physically uncomfortable and unsafe, there is a problem.

So here’s what I want you to do. I don’t want your sympathy. I want you to actually do something. The next time you hear a man make a lewd comment, say something. Let him know it’s not okay and tell him it makes him look like an ass. The next time you see someone reading a romance, don’t judge her for “reading smut.” They’re reading. They’re escaping from reality—take a look around you, we all need an escape. You all congratulate each other for watching the latest reality TV show, so why are you judging someone who reads about two people falling in love? The next time you’re tempted to ask that question of a romance author—you know the question I mean—swallow it. Ask about their writing process or how long they’ve been writing or what made them want to write romance in the first place.

In other words, treat them like a human being. Show them the respect you’d like to receive. Or say nothing at all.


  1. Well said. I'd like to share this on my website if you don't mind. I write romance a Patricia Keelyn.