Wednesday, August 25, 2010

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Do You Review Science Fiction Romance? Come On Down!*

A few days ago, in Hmm…no reviews, author Erica Anderson (THE ANTAREN AFFAIR) contemplates the lack of review sites devoted to science fiction romance—or even general romance ones that review SFR on a regular basis. She reflected that

This experience has made me incredibly sympathetic to the plight of those authors who, for the last thirty years, have been trying to write, publish, and sell SFR. As an author in 2010, I am, of course, the beneficiary of all of their hard work. They slogged for years to get published because they had to prove that SFR was worthwhile.

She adds that “Nor, in my experience do many general romance review sites spend much time or digital space on SFR.”

There are definitely romance bloggers who have featured periodic reviews of SFR titles, including Dear Author, Enduring Romance, Mrs. Giggles, Dirty Sexy Books, The Book Smugglers, All About Romance, Ramblings on Romance, and Jace Scribbles. But given that many of them are general romance review sites as Ms. Anderson noted, combined with the low, low number of mainstream print books, we can’t expect much more from them.

Or can we?

Is the lack of SFR review coverage solely because it’s a niche subgenre? I’m certain that aspect plays a large role, but could it also stem from the subgenre’s low visibility. How many conversations are we having with romance review sites on behalf of science fiction romance? Are we pursuing the big sites as well as the Mom 'n' Pop ones? Many of them have staff that knows about SFR, but others might be less informed. If we want them to become as excited about the subgenre as we are, shouldn't we try our best to inform them?

That’s not to say we should ambush review sites with neon signs flashing “Pick me! Pick me!”** And perhaps the route to informing them about the SFR titles available for review needn’t always be as direct as an email soliciting a review. Direct contact should happen routinely (whether handled by the publisher or author), but other strategies include being an active members of romance review forums when possible, or doing more on our part to spread the word about any SFR book news.

The keyword being news.

It helps if the books are making news of some kind. Otherwise, we risk others viewing SFR as just another type of romance. Readers—especially if we want a steady supply of stories—can help spread news as well as authors. At this point, either we don’t have much news to offer (which I doubt), or we have it but lack the resources to broadcast it (which is what I believe the more likely scenario).

Since reading Erica Anderson’s post, I’ve been wondering about the idea of a review site devoted exclusively to science fiction romance. It wouldn’t die from lack of print and digital titles, that’s for sure, especially given the long history of stories available (and it could focus on film and television, too). But such an endeavor involves a lot of work, even thought it’d be more like a labor of love.

The way I see it, there are pros and cons:

Pros:

*An SFR review site would help raise the visibility of science fiction romance.

*Authors with SFR stories would have a new venue for reviews.

*Readers can make informed decisions about the stories they want to purchase.

*Readers can gather to discuss what they liked or didn’t like about the stories, and thus the SFR community evolves further.

Cons:

*Why compete with so many other romance review sites?

*The small number of mainstream print releases would mean that the reviewer would need to review digital titles as well as print ones, a task which would be made easier with an e-reader. The prices are going down, but such a device is still out of the reach of many.

*The reviewer would need to be a fan of SFR first and foremost, which ideally would translate to being well-read in both SF and romance.

*He/she would also benefit from having the following on his/her resume: good writing and analytical skills; be SEO savvy (to help raise visibility online); have the time and inclination to run such an operation, which in essence would be a part-time job festivity.

*Finding just the right angle or “hook” for the blog. Humorous? No-holds-barred? Academic? Quirky?

What are your thoughts? Do we need a review site dedicated to SFR? If not, what would you suggest authors do to catch the attention of reviewers?

Lastly, if you’re a blogger who reviews science fiction romance—or would consider doing so, give us a shout out in the comments.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

*As in, the catchphrase used on THE PRICE IS RIGHT game show. Couldn’t help myself.

**From Disney’s FINDING NEMO, of course. What can I say? I’m on a roll today.