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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Happy Women's History Month

Today is special. Not because it's my birthday — and Reese Ryan's birthday and Lupita Nyong'o's birthday —but today is the first day of Women's History Month.

No where in the world have there been more history making women than in the world of romance. Yes, I'm biased because I'm a romance novelist. But here are some facts:

  • Estimated annual total sales value of romance in 2013: $1.08 billion (source: BookStats)
  • Romance novel share of the U.S. fiction market: 34% (source: Nielsen BookScan/PubTrack Digital 2015)
  • What formats of romance fiction are selling? (source: Nielsen BookScan/PubTrack Digital 2015; figures do not include self-published romance e-book sales or Amazon-published e-books)
  • E-books: 61% 
  • Mass-market paperback: 26%
  • Trade paperback: 11%
  • Hardcover: 1.4%
  • Who is the romance book buyer? (source: Nielsen Books & Consumer Tracker)
  • Female: 84%
African American romance has a colorful and unique history that is too often overlooked and ignored by mainstream media and the industry itself.
The Romance Writers of America organization was co founded by an African American romance editor, Vivian Stephens in 1979.
At the time, writers groups largely ignore the romance genre, and these women recognized the value of an organization dedicated to the needs of romance writers in the rapidly growing American romance fiction market.
By December 1980, these five writers had grown to thirty-seven, and they held the first official meeting of Romance Writers of America® in Houston, Texas. The first board of directors was elected, and they quickly set about recruiting members. The first annual Romance Writers of America conference was held in June 1981 and was an overwhelming success. 
Despite what some people have been reading lately, African American romance novels weren't born in 2018 with the publication of a certain book. Sandra Kitt's first three novels, including Adam and Eva were published by Harlequin in 1984 —making Ms. Kitt one of the mothers of African American romance. She was the first black woman to the published by the romance powerhouse. 
The very first African American romance novel was written by a journalist named Elise Washington. She wrote under the pen name Rosalind Welles. The book was Entwined Destinies and was released in December 1980.
Washington died at age 66 in New York City on May 5, 2009, according to a report from NPR. 
A few days ago, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Brenda Jackson released her 120th book, Best Laid Plans.
In 2014, Mrs. Jackson won the Romantic Times Pioneer Romance award. 
 "There were so many before me," she said of winning the award. "And I'm glad they acknowledged them. People like Rochelle Alers, Beverly Jenkins and Francis Ray were published before me." Jackson, Kitt and Beverly Jenkins were honored at the Romantic Times convention that year. 
Beverly Jenkins, who brings history alive with her romance novels, was first published by Avon Books in 1994 with the novel Night Song. 
Last year, she told the Huffington Post this about her novels: 
Setting my books where I do and why is tied to re-stitching the pieces of the American history quilt that have been left out. Weaving those facts into a great story gives me the opportunity to reach readers in ways that they appreciate and retain with no threat of a test on Friday. I place my stories where African-Americans actually walked and include a bibliography for readers who may wish to do more research on the highlighted topics.
So in honor of Women's history month, I want to salute these trailblazers of romance and thank these ladies for showing us that we can share and tell the stories of black love! 


Beverly Jenkins

Brenda Jackson





    Rosalind Welles
Sandra Kitt

1 comment:

Reese Ryan said...

Awesome post laying out many of the reasons the romance genre and the women who write it are so remarkable.