On Monday morning, Simon & Schuster became the second major house in a week to announce that it was consolidating two imprints, effectively reducing by one the number of discrete publishing units within the conglomerate empowered to decide what to publish and how to promote it. They folded the Touchstone imprint into Atria and Gallery; last week Penguin Random House collapsed their Crown imprint into Random House (sometimes referred to as “Little Random”.)
The title explosion is part of a sea change in the world of book publishing that has taken place over the past quarter century. At the same time, sales have shifted in two dimensions: a big chunk of the books now bought and consumed are digital, not printed, and more than half the books consumers buy are not bought in brick-and-mortar stores. And the share for physical stores continues to shrink. Indeed, these trends are linked. The fact that books can now be delivered without inventory, without a sales force, and without a warehouse has made it possible for just about anybody to publish a book.
That research, fielded in April 2018, revealed that the majority of librarians, 81 percent, consider it “very important” to have a diverse book collection for kids and teens. (Diverse collections, in this context, were defined as books with protagonists and experiences that feature underrepresented ethnicities, disabilities, cultural or religious backgrounds, gender nonconformity, or LGBTQIA+ orientations.)
Some libraries have adopted diverse content as part of the institutional mission. About half of all respondents (54 percent of public libraries and 50 percent of school libraries) have inclusive collection development goals stemming from their administration or district. This rises to 68 percent in urban communities and 65 percent in private schools.
But a significant driver here is individual conviction—of the 1,156 survey respondents (school and public librarians serving children and teens in the United States and Canada), 72 percent told SLJ they consider it a personal goal to create a diverse collection.
Guillory says one of the best compliments she received about The Wedding Date was that the book could serve as a model for young people who want to better understand romantic boundaries. A friend from law school read the book with her book club, which comprised several mothers of young children. “One of the women told me that she wanted her little girl, when she got old enough, to read my book to know what consent was and how a man should treat her,” Guillory said of the meeting, which she Skyped into. “It just really made me feel emotional, because I want girls to grow up thinking that they deserve to be heard, that their voices matter, that men should listen to them by default.”
The Proposal and The Wedding Date both depict consent as necessary and sexy, but they’re hardly the first books to do so. Guillory credits the world of romance with addressing the importance of uncoerced interest well before other genres or mediums were paying attention to the dynamics inherent in how people relate to one another.
“Romance writers have been thinking about this stuff for a long time and people haven’t really paid attention, and now people are paying attention, which I think is great,” she said. “I’m not going to pretend that all romance novels are perfect on this. There have certainly been books that I’ve read that I’ve been like, Ahh, I’m not sure about that. But I think they’re good examples of both what to do and what not to do.
“I think they’re good things for people to look towards to see how can we teach our daughters and how can we teach our sons to change their behavior to pay attention to women,” she added. “To know that you have a voice and that you matter. And I think romance can play a really big role in that.”