2022 was...not always great for the bookish community. I'm hoping that 2023 will be MUCH better. So, with that in mind, here's some stuff that if it were to disappear, would make 2023 the best bookish year yet:
You like dark romance? Forbidden romance? Prefer audio books to ebooks? Would rather chew your arm off than be forced to read "classic literature"? Prefer fanfic to stuff that made a bestseller's list? That's all FINE! All the people who bitched in 2022 about what you read and how you read are a-holes, and as far as I'm concerned, they can all fuck off in 2023. It's a brutal world. Let's all just agree to take our joy wherever we can get it and not yuck anyone's yum, yeah? That'd be great. And while I'm at it:
1. No, people who like dark romance and forbidden romance don't "need to get help." It's fiction. It's not hurting anyone. Read it or don't. The choice is yours. But don't ever shame a reader for what they like to do with their spare time.
2. Audio books count as reading. To say otherwise is ableist AF.
3. I've read classic literature, thank you very much. Didn't care for about 90% of that old white guy approved garbage. Now I want to read about hot, reanimated dead guys who fuck like Trojans.
4. There's nothing wrong with fanfiction. A lot of really talented writers create fanfiction.
The old "happily ever after" debate
This pops up once a month on Twitter. Yes, romance novels require happily ever afters. There's a big difference between a story that has a romance in it, and a genre romance novel. I did a whole thing about this HERE, but...come on, y'all. This one isn't up for debate. Romance readers do NOT want their expectations subverted with a women's fiction-y, grim-dark ending nightmare dressed up and marketed as a romance novel.
"If you don't have anything nice to say..."
All the people who say you should be nice to authors and not leave negative reviews on books you don't like can piss off. You can leave whatever kind of review you want because reviews are for READERS, not authors. The only thing you SHOULDN'T do is tag the author in your negative review. (Because, again, reviews are for READERS, and tagging the author is like shoving their nose in your pile of hate and there's no need for that kind of nastiness.)
The purity crew
Look, I get it. Some of y'all are embarrassed to be reading spicy books. You don't want other people to see you reading spicy books. Some of you youngins didn't grow up proudly toting Fabio-covered paperbacks onto the school bus in middle school like I did. And that's all fine. But, for the love of Dolly Parton, will you PLEASE stop bitching about man chest covers all over the interwebs and calling them "cringe"? What's cringe to you is a-OK to other readers. Some of us love man chest covers. For some of us, a good man chest cover is a crystal clear marketing tool that tells us what kind of heat level we should expect in the book (unlike a cartoony, cutesy cover that could be anything from no spice to heavy spice). So, instead of whining about man chest covers, why not just, a) Not read those books if they don't interest you, b) Buy the ebook so no one can see what you're reading, or c) Invest in some of the pretty, stretchy book covers you can buy on Etsy.
And for the "no real people on book covers" crew...sigh. Please try to understand that not every author can afford custom illustrated covers. Those can get very pricey. It's fine if you don't like them, but maybe try to NOT crap all over people who do like real people on book covers? There's room for all kinds of readers in the market, I promise you.
Confusing "bad" with "it's not to my preference"
Books are subjective. What's bad to you is fantastic to someone else. But that doesn't stop some folks from jumping on social media to call books "objectively bad" when all they really mean is that the style or tropes weren't to their liking. "Bad" and "not for me" are not interchangeable terms.
Bad writing advice
There was recently someone on Twitter who made an ass of herself by loudly proclaiming that all writers needed to stop having their characters sigh because no one in real life sighs as much as writers have characters sigh in books. And judging by the comments, she severely underestimated how many times most of us sigh in a day. But her advice was presented as age-old, writing "do's and don'ts" when in reality, she just didn't like it when characters sighed. So, it'd be great if all the writers, authors, and readers out there would stop presenting their opinions as things we all "must" do. No one is the boss of us. We'll sigh as much as we damn well want to sigh. The same goes for all the "never use adverbs" and "never use semicolons" morons, because let's face it: there are no rules when it comes to writing. We're all just winging it, and that's fine.
This year was not without it's racist main characters and casual racial slurs in writing. Can we just...not do that anymore?
No, that's not a romance novel
Every time there's a discussion about the need for a HEA in romance novels, someone jumps up and says, "But what about X", and invariably, the "x" they name is NOT a romance novel. Here are a few examples of stories that people always try to use as a big "gotcha" and end up just making themselves look stupid:
1. Romeo and Juliet (First of all, not a book. Second of all, "tragedy" is right there in the title. Look it up.)
2. The Thornbirds (historical fiction)
3. Nicholas Sparks (Love stories. He says it on his own damn website.)
4. Verity by Colleen Hoover (I...uh...I have no idea. But I know it's not romance.)
5. Gone With the Wind (historical fiction)
6. Lolita (Gross pedo fantasy. And it's lit fic.)
7. Anna Karenina (lit fic)
8. Wuthering Heights (lit fic)
9. The Fault in Our Stars (coming of age story, YA)
10. Me Before You (women's fiction)
11. 90% of all women's fiction
No trigger warnings
When an author says they can't give me trigger warnings because it'll "spoil" their story, I assume their story is trauma porn that relies on horrific abuse instead of character development and that their book is crap. *shrugs* I had more to say about trigger warnings HERE if you're interested.
There's no valid reason for stealing books. There are plenty of places to get free books that don't involve stealing from an author who might be every bit as poor as you are. It's not a victimless crime, and if you steal books, you're not some kind of Robin Hood, you're just a thief. (Now, I'm not talking about the people in parts of the world without any access to books. That's a bigger issue that's outside of my pay grade, and frankly, it's not people in the poorest parts of the world who are stealing the most books anyway. It's been proven that most book thieves are middle class to upper class people in areas of the world with PLENTY of access to free books.) That said, my hope for 2023 is that access to free books (NOT stolen books) is widened to all over the world, and that Amazon and wealthy authors and publishers start suing the SHIT out of book pirate sites until they all disappear forever.
Authors attacking reviewers
If you're an author who got a bad review, do NOT (and I repeat, do NOT) attack the reviewer online. Because, as we've already established, reviewers are for readers, not authors, and everyone is entitled to their opinion. Don't read the reviews if you're going to be tempted to reply to reviewers and argue with them. And don't have your fans dogpile on the reviewer who didn't like your book baby, either. That's a dick move, and in 2023, we need fewer dick moves, not more.
But those are just the bookish things I'd like to see disappear in 2023. How about you? Let's discuss!
1/2/2023 06:39:10 pm
I really hate it when people refer to closed door romances as "clean" and sex as smut or dirty.
Jennifer, Romance Rehab
1/2/2023 06:41:13 pm
Same!! Great addition to the list. Thanks!
Yes to all of this, especially the part about things being "objectively bad."
1/2/2023 08:07:39 pm
My apologies to anyone who likes them, but I hate the cartoon covers.
1/3/2023 05:09:48 pm
I really hate illustrated covers in all pastels. They are fine for romcoms, but if I want high spice and angst, don't give me baby blues and pinks and cutesy illustrations. I want dark and stormy color palettes. In any case, I vastly prefer real people on the cover, either hot frustrated-looking men or couples, to anything illustrated, but as I said, for romcoms illustrations are fine. However, for pretty much any other subgenre illustrated covers completely misleading. I will avoid books with illustrated covers unless I know and love the author and expect her to deliver spice.
loved this article. I agree with everything you listed. I would add this: Just as it is wrong to shame people who like the chest and the smut, it's wrong to shame or look down on those who don't. I've seen that as well. i'm in the middle on that, like some sex in books but want it to move the story forward and not just be there to have another sex scene, if that makes sense. But I strongly wholeheartedly support those who want a lot more sex in a book and those who want less. i'm a romance author and reader.
Jennifer, Romance Rehab
1/4/2023 10:07:24 am
You're so right! No one should EVER be shamed for what they like to read and what kind of covers they like to see. There are plenty of books out there for all of us!
1/21/2023 10:27:05 am
Big Thank You for validating fan-fiction. I like to read and write m/m fanfic, and I’m a middle aged woman. Sadly, only a select few people (including fellow fic writers) know about my secret.
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