Models of Publishing and Opportunities for Change: Representations in Harlequin, Montlake and Self-Published Romance Novels

Abstract

The contemporary digital publishing sphere is one of hybridity, convergence and messiness as the affordances of digital self-publishing channels allow independent producers unconnected to established publishers to enter the literary field. Texts, authors and readers move through the contemporary publishing sphere with relative fluidity. In effect, no sharp boundaries exist around each publishing practice in a rapidly evolving digital publishing sphere. Romance fiction has been at the cutting edge of digital publishing practices: among the first genres to adopt digital technologies, including e-books and self-publishing processes. This article theorises digital publishing practices as a continuum by analysing representations of gender, sex and class in romance novels published by Harlequin, Amazon Publishing’s Montlake Romance imprint, and self-published authors. Operating at an interdisciplinary crossroads, this study combines qualitative textual analysis with quantitative content analysis, using Simon and Gagnon’s theory of sexual scripting as an operational framework for the latter. The results show that all romance novels sampled are largely congruent with Western sexual scripts, however, the self-published novels tended to portray more digressive, postfeminist representations of sex but more conservative representations of gender. Class distinctions are more evident in the Montlake and self-published romances, constructing heroes as a kind of ‘capitalist prince’ (Kamblé) and heroines as working class. This study develops a basis for research into non-traditional publishing practices as the ‘digital revolution’ (Thompson) of the publishing industry allows a number of self-published authors to enter the field.

All publishing today is digital at least in part. Publishers, authors and readers are increasingly engaged in the digital literary sphere through the production or consumption of e-books, branding and networking on social media sites, discovering and buying books in online bookstores, or participating in book talk online (Murray). The affordances of digital self-publishing channels allow independent producers unconnected to established publishers to enter the literary field. These structural changes are features of John Thompson’s ‘digital revolution’ (326) and Nick Levey’s ‘post-press literature’. Romance fiction is particularly active in the digital publishing sphere with its authors, readers and publishers embracing self-publishing and e-book technologies early and in incredible numbers. The contemporary digital publishing sphere is one of hybridity, convergence and messiness Publishers exist in multiple forms within a connected ecosystem, making any drawing of sharp boundaries between them difficult. But does a diversity of publishing channels mean greater diversity of…

The full text of this essay is available to ALS subscribers

Please sign in to access this article and the rest of our archive.

Not a member? Subscribe now from only $24/year

Published 3 December 2018 in Genre Worlds: Popular Fiction in the Twenty-First Century. Subjects: Genre fiction, Romance (Literary form), Digital publishing.

Cite as: Parnell, Claire. ‘Models of Publishing and Opportunities for Change: Representations in Harlequin, Montlake and Self-Published Romance Novels.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 33, no. 4, 2018. https://doi.org/10.20314/als.1cd73e2f68.