Julie Cohen's thoughts on BookCrossing
Also in today's blog
Sex With A Stranger
One of the younger published authors in the predominantly middle-aged Romantic Novelists' Association is Julie Cohen.
I became aware of Julie's presence in the Association when, a year or two ago, the programme for an RNA conference included a talk by Julie on how to write sex scenes.
At that point her first book for Mills & Boon had yet to be published.
My reaction was an amused "How about that for chutzpah!"
If you click on the Mills & Boon link above, you can read an interview in which Julie is asked "What is the most romantic gesture or gift you have received?" Her answer : "When my husband knew I wanted to write, he bought me a computer--a beautiful orange iMac. And hardly ever complained when he hardly ever got to use it himself."
[Two "hardly ever"s in one sentence. Tsk,tsk! One of them needs to go, Julie.]
American by birth, Julie now lives in England. In general Americans are much better at self promotion than the British. Although, that said, I have to add that her website/blog, designed for her by four North American women who call themselves collectively Swank, is one of the most garish I've encountered in nine years of website reviewing.
Well, maybe if your favourite colours are lime green, yellow and orange, and you like clusters of blobs, your first impression of the site will be more favourable than mine.
However the site's content is much better than the design, and Julie receives a lot of comments on her posts. [Although sometimes, old cynic that I am, I suspect that romance writers comment on each other's blogs from promotional motives.]
One of Julie's posts which recently I heard discussed on a private writers' forum was dated July 2, 2006 and headed "some thoughts about BookCrossing".
[If you have never heard of BookCrossing, take a look here before reading what Julie has to say.]
Julie's 2 July post concluded – "But there is that tricky issue of authors making a living, and publishers staying in business. A BookCrossing book has many readers, and the author only makes his or her very small profit on it once. A book traded is a book not bought. It’s also not a book taken out of a public library, which pay authors PLR and which need everyone’s support.
On the other hand, I’ve borrowed many books, enjoyed them, and then gone out and bought the author’s other books. If this is what BookCrossers do, then that can benefit authors. Is it?
Let me make it clear again–I’m not in any way questioning the validity or benefits of the organisation to its members. I saw that yesterday. And personally, the convention was an opportunity for me to get my work more well known, which will benefit me. But how about authors in general?"
There have been 22 comments on this post. It doesn't take long to read them all. One of the most interesting is this –
I was at your workshop and thoroughly enjoyed it - so much so that I picked up my own writing project when I had some time on Sunday.
I can appreciate your points about authors not receiving payment from books which have been ‘Crossed - we all need to make a living - but I wanted to tell you a little about myself and my book-buying habits.
All through school I was a reading fanatic and pocket money was spent on books. When I went to University and later to work, I continued reading and buying books. Then I became ill (I have Bipolar Disorder). My concentration was completely shot and I spent far too much time watching Buffy The Vampire Slayer videos as, intellectually, that was just my level.
After a few years, I realised that all my books were gathering dust as I was unable to concentrate sufficiently to read them and so I decided to BookCross them with the intention of getting rid of the lot and the bookcases they lived in to boot.
And so I encountered BookCrossers for the very first time. They insisted on sending me books. And it would have been rude not to at least try to read them. And I found that I *could* read again and that much of my concentration had returned.
Because I was reading again I returned to the bookshops and started restocking my shelves. Sunday afternoon is no longer the Eastenders Omnibus and a big bar of chocolate - I’d far rather spend it in Waterstone’s and then go for coffee with friends.
I often buy two copies of books - one for me and one to BookCross - and have discovered so many new authors whose books I now have on the bookcases (fortunately I didn’t get rid of them!)
My point, obviously, is that pre-BookCrossing I wasn’t buying any books and now I buy far too many (and love every minute!)
This is just my experience but I have heard other, similar stories.
With best wishes and thanks for a wonderful workshop.
Like many of the people who posted comments, I always buy second-hand copies of books by new-to-me authors. But if I love a book, I will then buy the author's new books in hardback, as I did with the wonderful Patrick O'Brian.
Actually he was discovered by Mr Bookworm in Polly's [second-hand] Bookshop on the sea front at Jávea in Spain. Whether the shop is still there, I don't know as we never go to Jávea now. Thirty years ago it was a delightful little fishing port. The last time I saw it, a few years ago, it was horribly overbuilt, like most of the Costa Blanca's coastline.
Sex with a stranger
While at Julie Cohen's website, I read this –
MARRIED IN A RUSH
Mills & Boon Modern Extra, October 2006
"Joanna Graham treats commitment like a communicable disease. She likes her affairs fun and string-free. So when she ends up having amazing sex with a gorgeous stranger in a closet in the National Gallery, she thinks it’s the carefree beginning to a perfect summer holiday. And then she takes the pregnancy test."
I have serious misgivings about authors romanticising situations which, in real life, are 99% likely to end in disaster.
Having sex with a stranger is an act of reckless stupidity. Ideally, making love should only be done by people who love each other, and love involves knowing the other person well and trusting them. Yes, casual sex happens and the fall-out is all around us. But what happens in the real world and what happens in romantic fiction are, or should be, two different things.
No doubt in Married In A Rush, the author contrives a happy ending. But, by the sound of it, the beginning of the story is totally irresponsible and I'm surprised that Julie's editor didn't express my own misgivings.
Yes, the majority of Mills & Boon readers are sensible adults who take the romances with a strong pinch of salt. But what about the teenagers who read them?
Is Kizzy Neal,the 14-year-old who is expecting a baby in May, a Mills & Boon reader? Maybe not. But there are many silly young girls who are. Responsible writers and editors should bear them in mind.