The Romance Pitch

Wow. RT has been an Experience — all good, but a bit overwhelming. I’m not on any panels or anything; mostly I just wanted to get a better understanding of the romance genre. And man, was this the place to do it. Have been schmoozing with authors like Karen Miller and Linnea Sinclair, as well as familiar faces like Leanna Renee Hieber, Diana Rowland, and John Scalzi. Tomorrow is the big Book Fair, which has been described to me as “a full-contact book buying, author-signing squee-and-stompfest”, by an author who shall remain nameless on her request. I’m concerned that maybe I should be wearing safety equipment.

I’ll give a full report later, but just wanted to share something I thought was interesting now. Since this is my first time dipping into another literary genre, I can’t help comparing RT to the SF/F cons I’ve been to. Romance readers are, in many ways, more eclectic and voracious than SF/F readers; they’ll read anything so long as it’s got a good story, solid (usually woman-centered) characterization, and some emotional payoff along the way. And they’re really good about not pooh-poohing another genre just because it doesn’t suit their tastes — an attitude I wish more SF/F readers would take. However, a lot of romance readers have avoided science fiction and fantasy because, well, SF/F has (until recently) put up a lot of GIRLZ KEEP OWT signs, and shown a distinct allergic reaction to romance and sexuality. Romance readers will read this genre… but only if they can be assured that it’s not another Lord of the Rings, in which our hero (Aragorn in this case) sallied forth and saved the world while his girlfriend sat at home and sewed a banner for him. That, while romantic, isn’t romantic.

So I think romance readers will like The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms if I can get them to read it — and the reviews from Romantic Times and Dear Author seem to support my theory. But how do I get them to read it? After all, there’s no indication on the cover that the story is any more romance-reader friendly than other epic fantasy. There’s not even a mention of Nahadoth in the blurb on the back. My guess is that this was done to avoid triggering those girl-cootie allergies among the epic fans, but it does make it a little tougher to get the attention of romance fans who think this is Just Another Fat Fantasy. Which means I have to modulate my promotional tactics a bit.

For example, my elevator speech. At an SF/F con I usually describe the book thus: It’s an epic set in a world whose gods have been enslaved, and a single mortal family has used their power to take over the world. The story follows an estranged daughter of the family, who gets summoned back to the family seat and dragged into some political shenanigans. If I get time, I also mention, And she gets involved with the family gods, who have their own agenda concerning her — particularly the Lord of Night, Nahadoth, who may want to seduce her, kill her, or both.

Here, though, I’ve been trying a variation on the following: It’s set in a fantasy world whose gods have been enslaved, and the story follows a young woman who may be the key to setting them free. The most powerful of the enslaved gods — the Lord of Night — seems determined to seduce her, kill her, or both; and she has to navigate some dramatic and political shenanigans to figure out who to trust. And if there’s time, I add, Meanwhile she has to deal with her family, which controls these gods and is either trying to put her on the throne as the next heir, or kill her.

Neither description captures the whole book, of course, but hey, it’s an elevator speech. The idea is to hook the listener so they want to learn more, not encapsulate the story in three sentences.

So, question: which pitch would work for you? And what are some elevator speeches that have captured your attention? (Not just for 100K; any book.)

4 thoughts on “The Romance Pitch”

  1. Kate McCaffrey

    I read some romance authors, and love good science fiction and fantasy. Lois McMaster Bujold manages a combination of the two really well, I think. When I was young I read lots of fantasy novels, but they began to seem formulaic and I became disenchanted (sorry – no pun intended).

    Now, when I find a fantasy novel with a story and a world that I “fall into” I’m blissful. So thank you, for your wonderful, rich, enthralling, seductive story. I read it pretty much straight through, and emerged blinking and slightly disoriented, into the real world about ten minutes ago.

    Looking forward to more of your writing – for years to come, I hope,


    p.s. The cover is really beautiful. You lucked out…so often they’re cringe-worthy, or appear to have been created by someone who knew nothing about the content!

  2. As a someone who jumps around to alot of genres I read romance novels and fantasy, though more fantasy than romance. That being said I like your second elevator speech more than your first. Then again I’m a big fan of Nahadoth.
    I loved your novel. It was amazingly original, sexy, and just plain enthralling. It’s definitely up there with my all time favorite fantasy novels.
    I really have no idea how one would promote it to romance readers though. The cover art definitely screams “fantasy” to me. The only thing I can suggest is the most obvious. Play up the romance between a god and mortal angle. That’s something that isn’t often done in romance novels. (Loved your love scenes by the way. Your power of description is simply amazing.)
    And in response to your question about what elevator speeches captured my attention and ultimately got me to buy their books? I can think of three recent “back cover” descriptions that really caught my attention. The back cover of “The Bone Dolls Twin” by Lynn Flewelling, “Poison Study” by Maria V. Snyder, and “Cry Wolf” by Patricia Briggs. Truthfully Cry Wolf is doesn’t do the book justice (The description seems bland and off after I read that amazing novel), Poison Study is the most intriguing (the possibility of death hovering over the heroine) and “The Bone Doll’s Twin” does the best job of compressing a complicated plot into two paragraphs. I hope that helps.

  3. Your theory on romance fans liking The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is quite true, at least in my case. My strongest drive for reading books is ‘romance’ and I delve into any genre as long as this element is strongly present. I confess that I initially picked up your book for the promise of romantic content, which I am more or less assured is present after reading some reviews online and flipping through the book myself. The mythology and epic fantasy setting is an added icing on the cake. I’m very glad I decided to purchase the book. Enjoyed it so much!

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