Come meet Rosa Is For Romance
I'm pleased to introduce Elisa Rolle who blogs as Rosa Is For Romance, near Rome, Italy. Elisa is going to talk about Romances and romance readers in Italy, what the market is like, and whatever we want to ask.
I’ve been reading romance since I was 13 years old, so we speak of more than 20 years ago, and only recently (two years more or less) I started reading in original language, so before then, I only read what was available in Italy. And it was not much.
In Italy there are very few communication media devoted to romance. You can find some blogs (mine is one among few) and only one of the two main romance publishers in Italy has an official website. Before now it wasn’t possible to order on line (just this month the site is under construction and in the future it will allow people to order through an affiliate bookshop online).
In twenty years things haven’t changed much. There are only two main romance publishers, Harlequin Italia (the corresponding firm of Harlequin Canada) and Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, a very old Italian publisher specializing in paperback. Both these publishers are not distributed by bookstores but sell their paperbacks (the only format available) in corner shops (small newsstands on the streets). They have monthly periodical releases, and you can only find the monthly release available on the corner shop, if you lose a release, the only way to recover it is through a mail order to the customer care of the publisher. Sometimes you can find the old releases in the discount store, at half the original price, but it’s not a standard practice. Obviously there is also a wide second hand market, mostly in the Sunday morning second hand markets (like Portobello Road in England) or through online websites and Ebay.
The only Italian Bookclub only translates what it calls “Original”, never previously published romances translated into Italian. But it releases only a book every three months, so it’s very minimal. Recently some major publishers started to translate foreign romance authors, and so we can have also a variety of genres. The previous publishers I mentioned mostly publish historical romances.
Italian romance readers are obviously female readers. They are various and wide, from the desperate housewife to the career girl; from the pink glasses teen to the sweet old nanny. But they read what they find. Since publishers mostly release historical romances, the majority of them usually prefer the historical genre, but I have first hand experience of a seventy years old lady who for the first time read last year Christine Feehan and Laurell K. Hamilton, and now she is addicted. We read what we have but if the publishers give us a wide choice, maybe our taste will be better matched. Definitely a wide part of the readership is stuck to the historical genre. Some like the suspense and others the paranormal (what we can find). Chick lit and similar is not very common among readers, but it has some faithful readers.
Sincerely I can’t find a genre which really doesn’t appeal to any reader. This is also because “we” don’t speak a lot. “We” are still embarrassed to admit that “we” read romance. There is still the fear to be labelled as Z-level reader, with a little brain and a head full of impossible dreams. Worse, like a pervert who likes to read about rapes and obscenity. When I go to buy a romance on the corner shops, I always try to go to a shop owned by a sweet lady who doesn’t comment on my choice. If I see a shop owned by a man, I hardly stop to buy my books, cause I already know that he will look down to me for my choice of reading. To not comment on the real “bookstores” which always are unprepared on the books availability, and more times than not, don’t have the books I’m searching.
And all this for romances that most of all have a non-existent or tepid erotic level. The two main publishers mentioned above used to censor all the romances, leaving them sometimes unrecognizable even to the author (I know of one case of an Italian reader who asked a very famous historical romance author why one of her romance was so tepid, when she was famous for being pretty explicit, and the author was surprised since the romance in question was one of her most sensual).
I believe a lot of women read romance, even if they don’t admit it. If not, I think it is pretty impossible that two publishers could survive only with romance books and that the second hand market on ebay could be so prolific. And we are growing, since finally also the main publishers are starting to translate romance, even if they publish them among the main genres without a specific category, making it pretty difficult to find them in a big bookstore.
I have a romance blog, “Rosa is for Romance” (http://rosaromance.splinder.com/), which attracts more than 110 visitors per day mostly from Italy (http://www.sitemeter.com/?a=stats&s=s28rosaromance), and a LiveJournal (http://elisa-rolle.livejournal.com/), with more than 150 visitors per day mostly from USA (http://www.sitemeter.com/?a=stats&s=s30elisarolle). I realized that women wish to speak and read romance a couple of years ago, when I sold on eBay many old romances that I could no longer accommodate in my home. The blogs don't fill my pockets (I continue with my work as process analyst for bank software solutions), but they allow me to cultivate my passion. “Rosa is for Romance” is available in Italian and English and consists of a “News” section, a space reserved for chatting with the authors, which is very popular among readers, and a curiosity area, such as emerging genres or romance history. My LiveJornal instead is a container for my M/M romance reviews (I have also an Amazon Rank Profile of 12.000 on Amazon USA) and a place where I put down my ramblings, always on romance and related matters. Through statistical tracking website and interaction with the readers, I have a fairly precise idea of my readership: it is an average of women between 20 and 35 years, with a good knowledge of the Internet. Among the more active visitors there are housewives, wanna be writers, clerks - these are examples to demonstrate how various are the professional profiles.