Sarah Wendell: Hello there. Welcome to episode number 589 of Smart Podcast, Trashy Books. I’m Sarah Wendell, and it is time for me and Amanda to go back in time to June 2014 as we are going to look at the ads and features of the Romantic Times magazine. It is a ride. We’ve got distorted feet, we’ve got the RT Awards, we’ve got wolf-eyed Vikings – we don’t know what that means – we’ve got so much to talk about. This is a nice long episode. I hope you enjoy the nice long ones – ha-ha.
I will be linking to all of the images that go along with this episode in the show notes, and you’ll be able to find all of the content for Romantic Times Rewind at romantictimesrewind.com or rtrewind.com, whichever sticks in your brain easier.
I want to say a very special hello and thank-you to our Patreon community for making these episodes possible, especially when they’re really long. You guys are really helping me out with that.
I have a compliment this week. Yay!
To Sand: Among certain species of very intelligent birds there is a lot of research and discussion about how you are the most interesting human with the most excellent sense of style and the most kindness.
If you have supported the show with a monthly pledge of any amount, thank you, thank you, thank you. You are keeping me going; you are making sure every episode has a transcript hand-compiled by garlicknitter – hi, garlicknitter! [Hi! – gk] You’re making every episode accessible, and you’re keeping me going, so thank you. If you would like to have a look at the Patreon community, monthly pledges start at one entire dollar a month, and it would be awesome to have you. I want to say hello to GKS who joined us recently. Hi! Welcome! We have a Discord, we have bonus episodes, we have a lot of fun, and it would be lovely to have you join us. Have a look at patreon.com/SmartBitches.
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All right, are you ready to look at some advertisements from 2014? Yes, you absolutely are. We’ve got low-rise jeans for days here, people. Let’s get into it: on with the podcast.
Sarah: So let’s talk about the ads and features of RT Book Reviews June 2014. And I want to start by saying, If you are in the Patreon and you’re going to read the issue, you might notice that there is an author and a feature that we are not talking about, and that is because this author is so objectionable that we feel that the only appropriate response is not talking about them at all. Agree?
Sarah: Sometimes, honest to God, sometimes ignominy is the best response. So let’s move on!
Sarah: This cover is twee.
Amanda: I hate, I hate this position. So the cover has a man, and the woman has her legs wrapped around his waist, and he’s, like, holding her under the butt, and she’s got her arms around the neck. As a short and thick lady –
Amanda: – this has never been possible. [Laughs]
Sarah: No. Really not.
Amanda: Just, it, it looks so casually done, and I wouldn’t be surprised, or this would actually be very funny if there was actually, like, a chair underneath her and they, like, green-screened away. So he didn’t –
Sarah: Spoiler: there is absolutely something under her, because if you look at their positions, he is straight upright. He is not leaning back –
Sarah: – to compensate. His arms do not look necessarily flexed enough to actually be supporting her body weight under her butt. Her legs are not tight around him, and they are altogether way too relaxed for this to not involve a support that has been Photoshopped out – like she was perched on the washing machine.
Amanda: Yeah. I, it’s got, that would make me feel better. [Laughs]
Sarah: Yeah, there’s no way. There’s just, there’s just no way. This is all just silly. Also, he’s not actually standing in that water. None of this is real.
Amanda: Let me look at this.
Sarah: It is – please look at his feet. Also, there doesn’t need to be feet.
Amanda: I know.
Sarah: Like, why does there have to be feet on the covers all the time? But yeah, this is –
Amanda: I mean, and I know that, like, water distorts things, but look at that back foot! What’s happening?
Sarah: Oh my God, he’s a hobbit! [Laughs]
Amanda: Look at that back foot!
Sarah: Listeners, I cannot wait to zoom in on this and take a picture for you, because whoo! It’s a big foot.
Amanda: It always comes, always comes back to feet.
Sarah: Why does it have to come back to feet? Amanda, why? Why feet?
Amanda: I don’t know!
Sarah: But the big cover is Susan Mallery’s Fool’s Gold back-to-back trilogy. I don’t even know if this is a book cover?
Amanda: That’s got like twenty books in it, I think.
Sarah: Oh yeah. It just kept on going.
Amanda: It’s long.
Sarah: If you scroll down to page 3, there is a whole page of the June Top Picks, and I don’t remember if this was in last month’s episode, but they put all of the Top Picks by genre on one page. Very handy! Also Maya –
Amanda: Yeah, I don’t remember if they did this either.
Sarah: – Maya Blake wrote great Presents novels. Good Presents; real, real good.
Amanda: I have, I have never read, I don’t think I’ve read a single category romance.
Amanda: Or, like, Presents or anything in my time of reading romance. Yeah! I don’t think I’ve read a single one!
Sarah: So you know those cakes, especially wedding cakes, where you know you are looking at a construction that is maybe forty percent solid cake and sixty percent icing and decorations and fluff and sugar and spun candy – that is Harlequin Presents. There’s a plot; there’s, it’s in there. It’s definitely in there, but you are going to have rich people, you are going to have ridiculous food –
Amanda: Are they like, are they like nov-, more between novella and full-length? I feel like –
Sarah: Oh yeah, they’re short. They’re short, yeah.
Sarah: Yeah, like my novella that I wrote, Lighting the Flames, was about fifty-something thousand words, and that will qualify as a series-length book.
Harlequin Presents are over-the-top. If you want to travel around the world and just read completely over-the-top everything, that is for you. They’re very fun –
Sarah: – and if you like, they are the epitome of a book that you read in the bubble bath. Maybe we should –
Sarah: Listeners, please respond to this. You can comment in the Discord; you can find us on the website. Every entry for the podcast has a corresponding entry on Smart Bitches, and there is a Comments section. Tell me what Harlequin Presents we should have Amanda read.
Sarah: Tell me which one.
Amanda: Please be nice to me! I’d like, I’d like something current, probably that has come out in the last, I would say ten years. I’ll give ten years.
Sarah: Okay! Yeah, we need to know.
Amanda: I don’t want like a, a vintage Harlequin; I want last –
Sarah: A more, more contemporary contemporary. Okay!
Amanda: Well, it can be like a, it can be a, a historical-set novel, but something that, that has come out and been published recent-ish-ly.
Sarah: Yes. All right, which Harlequin Presents –
Amanda: That’s, that’s my only criterion.
Sarah: What Harlequin Presents should Amanda read, ‘cause she’s never read one?
Moving on to the Editor’s Letter, I will never stop paying close attention to the Editor’s Letter once I, now that I know what is inside? Are there any suggestions for longevity in this letter? Why, yes, yes, there are. Two interest- –
Amanda: And there’s a goat!
Sarah: And there’s a goat. There’s a goat with Carol Stacy, bless her heart. Also, it was, it was a lot for my brain that Carol Stacy was the publisher and director of the newsletter and Jo Carol was in charge of RT, the conference? That was very hard for my brain.
Amanda: My, my brain was struggling with that just now –
Sarah: It’s a little bit.
Amanda: – so I was like, Wait, wasn’t that the person who did the actual convention, and then you just said Jo Carol, and I’m like, Nope, that’s the right one.
Sarah: Jo Carol and Carol Stacy: it’s like Dilmit, Dilmit McDermott Mulrooney. So –
Sarah: – in the end of the letter, Editor’s Letter, at this point all of the authors are up front because it is about the conference, and they’ve got E. L. James coming that year, and all, Sylvia Day and Charlaine Harris and yeah. So she’s talking about the authors up top, but down at the bottom:
>> Two interesting nutrition and longevity conferences are coming up. One is called Women’s Wellness; the other is the Weston A. Price Foundation for Wise Traditions. I will be attending both and guarantee you can learn to live to a hundred and twenty with a sound mind and a strong body. Latest tip: substitute soda with sparkling water, lemon or orange juice, and a touch of Celtic salt. And real butter is back!
Amanda: Look, I might not live to a hundred and twenty, but you can pry my Diet Coke from my cold, dead hands.
Sarah: [Laughs] What, you don’t want any –
Sarah: – Celtic salt? Celtic salt, by the way –
Amanda: No Celtic salt.
Sarah: – not any of that bullshit salt –
Amanda: I don’t keep soda in the house.
Sarah: – from the grocery store. [Laughs]
Amanda: No! I drink water regularly, but I cannot resist the siren song of an ice-cold can of Diet Coke, and I won’t!
Sarah: But Amanda! Celtic salt, and real butter is back!
Amanda: I mean, I love butter, so I’m not giving that up either, but –
Sarah: Just the whole idea of living to a hundred and twenty; like, I don’t know if I want to do that. Like, I’m forty-eight, and the world is really hard to deal with sometimes. [Laughs]
Amanda: Well, it reminds me of, like, those vampires who are hundreds and hundreds of years old, and, like, aren’t you fucking bored?
Sarah: Oh –
Amanda: Aren’t you bored?
Sarah: – so boring. I mean, they’ve got to be bajillionaires –
Amanda: There will be no hobbies left to conquer.
Sarah: Right? Like, I –
Amanda: I’m, I want to read – [laughs] – I want to read about a vampire who’s centuries old, who has done everything, and now, like, his last bastion of things that he hasn’t done is like real-, really get into model trains or, like, painting miniatures. Like –
Amanda: – he’s taken up knitting –
Amanda: – taken up sewing –
Sarah: He’s obsessed with boilers!
Amanda: [Laughs] He’s got, he’s really into boilers now.
Sarah: Really into boilers now.
Amanda: Like, I, I don’t care that he’s rich and powerful and has met, amassed all this wealth, like. How is he keeping himself busy now that he’s been alive for seven hundred years?
Sarah: What level of calligraphy are we talking about here?
Amanda: Yeah! What is he doing?
Sarah: Imagine if what busted him as an, as an immortal was that he, he was always doing, like, videos with his hands, like, doing calligraphy, and now we’re knitting, and now we’re woodcarving, now we’re pottery-ing, now we’re doing this thing, and somebody notices that it’s always the same hands for like sixty years?
Amanda: Someone’s like, This hand model has not aged.
Amanda: What’s happened?
Sarah: We must unpack. But as Kathryn says:
>> If you have your health you have everything and more time to read.
So fair enough! Fair enough. I still just, I still don’t buy –
Sarah: – the whole living to a hundred and twenty thing.
Amanda: No, thank you!
Sarah: And then comes a big-ass ad for Dallas 2015.
Amanda: Which was my first RT convention was it, the one in Dallas.
Sarah: And it’s an experience, isn’t it?
Sarah: Oh yeah. So the –
Amanda: You learn a lot. You learn a lot – [laughs] – at your first RT. So many books. So many books.
Sarah: This was a time when you would get a, this was back in the suitcase-full-of-books time, right? This was when –
Amanda: Yeah, I think you would bring an extra suitcase. You would pack –
Sarah: Oh yeah!
Amanda: – a suitcase in your suitcase.
Sarah: I completely, unironically would pack a smaller suitcase and put it in a larger suitcase, because if there was a book that I was given, I was going to give it, I was going to give it away on the site if I didn’t want to read it.
Amanda: And I feel like RT probably picked hotels that could handle a convention and had a business center –
Amanda: – because that last day of the convention there would be a line out the door of people shipping books back to themselves. I was one of them. Yeah, it was wild and, like, you ride that high for sure, like, Oh my God, look at all these free books, but then, like, as you attend more it feels, it becomes more of a chore.
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Amanda: You’re like, I don’t, I don’t need these. I don’t want these. Please someone take these. [Laughs]
Sarah: And you would go, there would always be a table to exchange books, and you could go and you’d see like –
Sarah: – sixty copies of the same book that no one wanted, and I always felt so bad. [Laughs]
Amanda: I know! Authors, stay away from that table.
Sarah: Yeah, don’t go near there.
Amanda: Don’t look at the table.
Sarah: One of my favorite things to do was when I was feeling snacky is RT would have something called Promo Alley, where you would buy a table or a part of a table, and you would be able to set up a promo station, and so people could go by and see all of the promo. I am not ashamed to admit that I would go down Promo Alley looking for chocolate. If I was feeling snacky –
Amanda: There’d always be like a Hershey Kiss for sure.
Sarah: And I always felt really bad about that as a promo option because you would see people take the time to put little stickers on the bottom of each Hershey Kiss so it would be like their little name in a circle with a heart in the middle and maybe the title of their book, but that’s the wrapper! I’m not saving the wrapper! It’s a piece of foil!
Sarah: And so I was like, Well, this is, this is great for me and my snacking, but as a way of promo-ing and remembering, I’m not going to remember because it’s on the wrapper.
Sarah: But there are still some pieces of promo that I, I have still. I have a chip clip; I have a pet food lid from Linda Lael Miller that I got at RT. Like, I, I still have –
Amanda: I –
Sarah: – some of my promo.
Amanda: I don’t remember who it was. I think the author’s name started with an S, but it was a heart-shaped bottle opener that I had on my keychain for the longest time.
Sarah: And when you –
Amanda: I think it eventually broke, but that –
Sarah: When you need a bottle opener and the person who has one on their keychain is a very popular person.
Amanda: Yeah! It was a, it was a bright red, and it was like a heart and then the bottle opener at the bottom.
Amanda: It was some of my favorite – [laughs] – of pieces of swag.
Sarah: And I’ve talked about this before, but there’s two kinds of swag, too. There’s the swag that has value at the conference because it’s a rare item or it’s nifty or it’s something that sets, that sets you apart in the crowd but still makes it clear that you’re part of the conference, like light-up necklaces, things like that? But then there’s also the swag that is valuable after the conference, where you’re like, Wow, this is really useful! I’m, I have this thing from this author!
The best swag, hands down, no question, the greatest piece of swag was from Farrah Rochon, who did little measuring spoons, and it’s just one piece. One side is a tablespoon and a teaspoon, and then you flip it over, and there’s an indent in the spoon, and the indent on the back is a half and a quarter, and in the middle it says, like, Add some spice to your reading, or The perfect amount of spice – Farrah Rochon. I use that thing every night. Best piece of swag ever.
Amanda: My, my favorites were always the lip balms and ChapSticks –
Sarah: Oh heck yeah!
Amanda: – because I routinely lose mine?
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Amanda: So I would rather have, like, a surplus than have to keep buying, like, Burt’s Bees, which is like seven fucking dollars – [laughs] – at CVS! So yeah, I would just, like, amass all of them, and of course, like, one by one they’d wind up in the dryer and have to get thrown away, but –
Sarah: Yep. If you look at the conference ad –
>> Saddle up for the next fun-filled RT convention. Do not submit the same workshop you presented in New Orleans. It must be a different one.
Interesting, because, I mean, RWA would have the same, like, they were like the Hallmark sessions of RWA: there was always a Q&A with Nora; Susan Elizabeth Phillips and – oh gosh, not Sandra Brown; somebody – oh, it’s –
Amanda: Rachel Gibson?
Sarah: No, it’s – who writes as Amanda Quick?
Amanda: Heather Graham.
Sarah: No, no, who writes as Amanda Quick? Amanda Quick –
Amanda: Jay, Jayne Ann Krentz.
Sarah: Jayne Ann Krentz; thank you! Gosh! Jayne Ann Krentz and Susan Elizabeth Phillips would always do a session together that they’ve done a hundred times, but it was really good, and part of it was you’re in a room with Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Jayne Ann Krentz, so, like, it doesn’t matter what they’re saying –
Sarah: – you’re talking to them. That happened almost every time at RWA, because, like, really established authors would come and be there, and that was part of the draw. RT was like, You cannot do the same thing every year, so every year I had to tweak –
Amanda: I wonder –
Sarah: – what I was doing, even though what I was doing was collecting recommendations and that would be different!
Amanda: Well, I wonder –
Sarah: Not that I’m so frustrated –
Amanda: – if, like, you could kind of do the same thing but just name them differently? I’m also wondering, like, do you have to come up with your own pithy little theme name, or does the RT group do that?
Sarah: I think it helps, I think it helps to, to give them a pithy – because there is a language of RT convention, right? There’s a lot of exclamation points; there’s a very, like, cheeky language to the descriptions. Sometimes you would be put, you – there was also a limit to the number of groups that you can be part of? Like, authors can submit a maximum of two proposals per person and can participate in a maximum of three, not including reader workshops. So you were already limited in what you were doing.
The other thing about conferences in Dallas that I would like to say is that I loved, love-love-loved one aspect of every time a conference was in Texas, which is that cowboy boots are comfortable and count as formal wear. I even have –
Sarah: – I even have a red pair of cowboy boots with tooled filigree black stitching on them, and I got them signed –
Amanda: Oh gosh.
Sarah: – by an author.
Sarah: I got them signed by Lorelei James who writes the, the cowboy poly books? It’s signed at the top –
Sarah: – and I’m like, Wow, I, I can’t get rid of these! [Laughs] I had her sign the inside –
Amanda: Sign my boot!
Sarah: – of my boot!
I also want to pull, to point out on page 6, one: that is a smoky eye. Like, if you wanted to describe somebody as a smoky eyeshadow, that is what that is.
Amanda: Yeah, I can’t do that without looking like a raccoon ‘cause I have my glasses on –
Sarah: I look like I made a mistake.
Amanda: – so the smoky eye –
Sarah: Is not for me.
Amanda: …looks great.
Sarah: I also look at –
Amanda: The wall –
Sarah: – look at, look at Digitally Delighted? This makes me so happy:
>> I am elated with the digital version of RT. I was ready to forgo my magazine only because my sight is so horrid. Now I can sign on and read RT cover-to-cover. It may seem like a small thing to some, but to me it’s a huge advantage.
That was from Snow Hugs.
Amanda: That’s so cute!
Sarah: Aw! And yeah, if you can blow that PDF up –
Amanda: While you’re on this page –
Sarah: – hell yeah! Yep.
Amanda: – I noticed that they have the Tweet Beat –
Sarah: Tweet Beat!
Amanda: – where they just reprinted tweets?
Sarah: Tweet Beat! Yeah. Yep.
Amanda: Which is wild – [laughs] – to me.
Amanda: I mean, like, articles do that now, where they’ll just, like, embed a tweet or whatever, but, like –
Sarah: If the embedding still works.
Amanda: – printing a tweet?
Sarah: Yeah, they, and it’s not –
Amanda: It remind –
Sarah: – there’s no link to the tweet itself, but, like –
Sarah: – >> @jaciburton: I’ve got some awesome promo to hand out at the RT convention this year. Can’t wait!
And they printed that in the magazine! [Laughs]
Amanda: It reminds me of when, like, I send a selfie to my mom or I post, like, a selfie on Instagram, and my mom literally goes to, like, Walgreens and has it printed out –
Amanda: – and put – like, this isn’t meant to be –
Amanda: – a physical artifact.
Sarah: This is not meant to be matter; this is meant to be ephemeral.
I also like –
Sarah: – Sasha.
>> Oh my gosh, RT stands for Romantic Times; I never knew that.
Sarah: So if you look at page 8 – well, first of all, on page 7 there is an ad from Penguin for summer reading, and Anna and the French Kiss is on the page, and I love that book so much. I must have reread it like four or five times. It, I realized much later, I have a weakness for study abroad, fish-out-of-water stories with people going to live in another place? That was one of my favorites of that particular genre, and look! Ra-, Rachel Hawkins’ Rebel Belle; remember that book?
Amanda: I really liked that book. Also, weirdly, this ad, if you notice, has, like, very light bordering around each thing, so, like, Endless Possibilities, you can see, has sort of like light borders of a square.
Amanda: Same with the books, and then Available Everywhere Books Are Sold, and it reminds me of, like, when you’re placing things in an ad –
Amanda: – and the grids aren’t turned off?
Sarah: Yeah. This looks like a mistake.
Amanda: I’m wondering if this was a mistake!
Sarah: I think this is a formatting mistake, because I, I’m amazed; I’m, like, really excited that you noticed, ‘cause I noticed and thought, Oh no, that’s, that’s just my copy; that’s not – it’s so interesting to me that you noticed that too? It looks like a formatting error or something with the PDF was not turned off? But it, it’s weird. Every, every element has a box around it.
Amanda: Yeah! Yep.
Sarah: So if you –
Amanda: Project. [Laughs]
Sarah: – if you go to page 8, there are late-breaking announcements for RT in New Orleans, which is like –
Amanda: Oh boy. [Laughs]
Sarah: Yeah. So the authors that have been added at the last minute – this is the weirdest blunt rotation – Debbie Macomber, Tamora Pierce, Mary Robinette Kowal, and E. L. James. Nightmare blunt rotation –
Amanda: Oh boy.
Sarah: – right there. [Laughs]
Amanda: Yeah. I don’t know how that’d go. I don’t think you could get high enough for that.
Sarah: Nope. Nope! Nope, nope. Although I would absolutely, no question, get high with Mary Robinette Kowal. I’ve been to conferences with her; we – absolutely, no question. I don’t know if she smokes, but, let’s get high; it’d be great. Her, she has, on Instagram –
Sarah: – she has a cat who has learned to use those FluentPet buttons –
Amanda: The buttons?
Sarah: – and the cat, like, Elsie has, like, full, like, they have conversations about stuff; it’s fascinating.
Amanda: I worry about giving that power to Linus. I don’t, like, he already screams at me. I don’t, I don’t need to be verbally abused by my cat in English.
Sarah: Buzz, Buzz my dog is blind and deaf and elderly, but he is extremely smart, and I really think that if we had gotten him buttons when he was younger and could still hear, he would be very interactive. He will come and tell us when he has to go out; he will come and tell us when something is wrong. Like, he’s very, very communicative? If I gave Katie buttons, with the degree to which Wilbur pisses her off, her, she would just be like – [thump] – Asshole – [thump] – Asshole, Asshole.
Sarah: It would, it would be one button to insult, insult Wilbur, and she would have like five of those. [Laughs] And Wilbur would be like, Snacky Treats? Snacky Treats.
Sarah: Snacky Treats. Snacky Treats.
All right –
Amanda: Over and over until, like, the button ran out of battery.
Sarah: Yes, exactly.
So what did you want to point out? Because I noticed the same thing, and the way you describe it is so perfect.
Amanda: Yeah, so, it mentions all of the RT Book Reviews winners?
Sarah: Yes, ‘cause the awards ceremony is part of the –
Amanda: So it’s like, Congrats to all the winners.
Sarah: Yes, it’s, part of the conference is the awards ceremony.
Amanda: So they break it down by genre, and as you go through, it looks like publishers have taken out ad space to congratulate the winners in these categories from their publishing house. So, like, Avon took out one to congratulate Eloisa James, Rachel Gibson, Kim Harrison, and then mentions, like, a bunch of historical romance authors – Tessa Dare, Sarah MacLean – but it reminded me of, in your yearbook –
Amanda: – the senior students, their parents would usually take out a page at the end of the yearbook to, like, you know, put in, like, baby photos of their, of their graduating senior and, like, Congratulations! We’re so proud of you! And, like, photos of your accomplishments or whatever, and that’s what it – [laughs] – reminded me of!
Sarah: The, the Avon ad that is a full-page, full-color ad with pictures of Eloisa James, Rachel Gibson, and Kim Harrison, because they’re getting Career Achievement awards, and then all of the books that are winners, I mean, that, that, somebody spent a lot of time on this.
Sarah: It’s pretty impressive. It also doesn’t have those little weird boxes around all the elements; you notice that?
Amanda: No! I was just thinking of that, too. It was like, there’s no weird boxes here.
Amanda: Now I’m caught, now I’m, like, on the look for the weird boxes.
Sarah: And the thing about the RT Awards is that, number one, your award was presented to you at the conference if you were there, so they would only really, like, announce awards for authors who were in the audience, and it was many hours of awards, ‘cause they give a lot of awards. In addition to Career Achievement and the Seal of Excellence Book of the Year, which went to Megan Hart for Tear You Apart, there’s also the Reviewers Choice Award, where there’s a specific book, and the categories are very specific. Like –
Sarah: So they have Book of the Year, which is one thing, but then they have all of these very specific, like, Innovative Historical Romance. What, what does, what does that mean?
Amanda: Yeah, I know.
Sarah: Medieval Historical Romance; there’s not that many of those at the time. Sensual Historic Romance. Historical Romantic Adventure. Like, are they making up categories to give books awards, or are they finding books to fit these really interesting categories?
Amanda: I mean, they can kind of just keep making up as many awards as they want. Like, no one gets a cash prize or anything, I don’t think, right? So they –
Sarah: No, there’s a little statue, I think. Yeah, a statue or a plaque –
Sarah: – or something. But –
Amanda: Maybe it’s, you, they get a super discount the more statues they order, so they’re like, Quick! We’ve got to make more categories!
Sarah: And they give an award for every type of series, and there’s only one publisher of series, so like half this page is Harlequin Intrigue, Harlequin Desire, Harlequin Kiss, Love Inspired –
Sarah: – Love Inspired Historical, Harlequin Superromance. Like, every series line has a Best of, which, one, is a lot of books to look at if you’re looking at the year’s, and, and two –
Sarah: – every single one of these books – [laughs] – is published by Harlequin!
Sarah: It is wild.
If you scroll down to page six-, to page 15, because the list of award-winning books is four and a half pages, there is a –
Amanda: Yeah, it’s a lot.
Sarah: It’s a lot of awards. Like, this award ceremony was all afternoon. Like, I would go in, I’d see some awards, I’d go get a snack, I’d come back later; like, it was still going. And it wasn’t like the RITAs, which was in the dark, and there was a drum roll and a big production. It was like, it was just chairs in a conference room and a stage, and it was like a, like a presentation. It was not like an award ceremony. They saved the lighting and effects for the balls at night.
Sarah: On page 15 there is a full-page ad from Barbour Publishers congratulating Wanda E. Brunstetter for her RT Book Reviews Career Achievement Award, and my favorite thing about this ad is the text:
>> Wanda E. Brunstetter is an award-winning romance novelist who has led millions of readers to lose their heart in the Amish life.
Wha-, what? What does that –
Amanda: What does that mean?
Sarah: What? What does that mean? But okay.
Amanda: But millions? Are we sure?
Sarah: I mean, seven million copies sold of over sixty books!
Amanda: That’s a – wow, okay.
Sarah: I mean –
Amanda: That’s a lot of fucking books.
Sarah: – I could also tell you this podcast that we are recording right now has more than 3.2 million downloads.
Amanda: Hell yeah!
Sarah: Yeah! So, you know, we are millions of episodes listened to; we’re millions of hours listened to as well. I haven’t looked at the Hours stat; it makes me tired. But yeah, more than –
Sarah: – more than 3.2 million I think, last time I checked? I don’t want to open my email ‘cause it’ll make my recording go do-do!
Then there’s the cover feature, which we talked about ‘cause it’s on the cover. It’s about Susan Mallery?
Sarah: Now, this cover feature is written by Faygie Levy, who I knew when she worked for RT, and she’s wonderful, but the thing about this is it reminded me that Susan Mallery was one of the earliest authors to have her own tagline for her branding, which was read. laugh. love? So if you see a lot of authors with, with, like, taglines under their names or taglines – it’s, Susan Mallery was one of the very, very first to, to do that, and she had her own tagline. Mallery, in the article it says:
>> With the help of her website manager Shelley Kay and her assistant Janelle (FLAG spelling? 30:41) –
Who I also knew!
>> – has created a virtual Fool’s Gold world online where you can check on the weather in Fool’s Gold.
The link is for an actual forecast for a small town near Lake Tahoe. You can read the news; you can watch TV; you can study a neighborhood map, and this, this website is still up. It’s so quaint.
Amanda: And current? Wow, okay.
Sarah: It’s not current! I don’t think she’s – maybe she is still writing this series; what the hell do I know? But she did a whole website for the town that she was setting the books in. And if you think about it, that has happened before. There’s been, like, I think Debbie Macomber has one. Like, there’s been websites just for the town or the world, but again, Susan Mallery was one of the first who I remember creating an entire website. I mean, even, like, the, the show Parks and Recreation, there was a website for the town in Parks and Rec. And Susan Mallery did that –
Sarah: – long before, long before that show. Isn’t that cute? I just think that’s so neat.
Amanda: Yeah! I wanted to say, like, Fool’s Gold, I feel like I remember featuring it on sale like years ago, years ago, and it was like, This is book twenty in the series! Like, that was a very long series, plus, like, whatever spinoffs it had. Like, it was pretty substantial.
Sarah: It’s, it’s, it’s –
Amanda: I’m very curious how many books. I’m going to look to see how many…
Sarah: I’m now looking to see if there’s a list on Good- –
Sarah: Written over a span of six seasons or years, it looks like there are twenty?
Amanda: Yeah. Twenty primary works in the Fool’s Gold series.
Sarah: Yeah! So if you look at page 20, would you please read the first paragraph?
Amanda: [Laughs] I pre-read it, just in case. So this is for a feature on Deeanne Gist, who writes historical inspirationals. I think we’ve reviewed at least one of them.
Sarah: Yeah, her books get put in inspirational, but they’re not especially God-focused. She writes a lot of –
Amanda: Yeah, I –
Sarah: – great historicals with great heroines, but I don’t remember her being extremely Jesus-y.
Amanda: Yeah, it might be like more of a, like, vague faith – you know what I mean – sort of mention or two.
Sarah: And I think she has a Christian publisher, which is why, I think part of the reason why –
Sarah: – she gets shelved as inspirational, but Deeanne Gist is a great writer.
>> Deeanne Gist gave her readers what they asked for in her May release Fair Play. She used actor Ryan Gosling as her muse for hero Hunter Scott, but even someone inspired by the handsome, personable, kind – we could go on forever! – actor needed a flaw, so Gist made him constipated. Yes, you read that correctly. We’ll explain.
Amanda: Please do! Please do explain! That’s a good first paragraph.
Sarah: Isn’t that a great first paragraph? Tricia Carr did a fantastic job with this profile. Basically, what happens is that in Fair Play she explores what “an 1890s alpha male who’s abashed at the idea of a woman doctor would do if he ended up in an infirmary with an all-female staff.” And Gist says, “I knew the only way to get him in there was to give him something debilitating, something would knock him to his knees, but it couldn’t be fatal, because he would be, after all, our hero, so I gave him constipation. Do you know it can actually kill you if you let the toxins back up in your system? That’s how Ryan Gosling – oop! We mean Hunter! Ha-ha! – got an ailment that’s embarrassing, humiliating, and completely off-limits in mixed company, but severe enough to lead him to his match.”
I stand corrected. I said at the end – I’m looking it up right now – I said at the end of the last episode, when we were looking at books, that I didn’t see any that I wanted to read, and now I think I want to read this.
Amanda: [Laughs] So, like, can you imagine that’s how you meet your, like, spouse is they come in with, like, constipation problems and they’re –
Sarah: Oh, guys, how did you meet? Well, funny you should ask.
Amanda: I had constipation problems, and I didn’t think women should be doctors.
Sarah: The audiobook is part of Hoopla; it is narrated by Kate Forbes. I am adding it to my Hoopla list right now.
Amanda: Well, there you go!
Sarah: That’s the one I’m going to listen to from this episode, from this issue. [Laughs]
Moving on. [Laughs more] I’m sorry!
Sarah: This is another full-page ad, isn’t it? Yeah, this is a Kensington ad.
Amanda: …from Kensington.
Sarah: There’s, yeah, m’kay!
Amanda: So there’s like six, six covers? Yeah, six covers. They’re all different genres. So you have Kat Martin Against the Wild, which was romantic suspense; you have The Mark of the Tala, which was fantasy; and then, right next to each other, you’ve got Huckleberry Summer –
Amanda: – which is an Amish romance featuring an Amish woman on a porch sitting next to a golden doodle? Some kind of doodle dog. And then right next to it is the cover from Simply Sinful, Kate Pearce, which is just a pair of boobies in a bra with a necklace.
Amanda: So we’ve got boobies right next to Amish dog in the ad.
Sarah: And, and lest you think –
Amanda: Which is a striking – right.
Sarah: Lest you think that Amanda is exaggerating, the focus of Simply Sinful by Kate Pearce is the boobs. Like, it is the lightest thing and the largest piece of light –
Sarah: – in the composition. The necklace has sort of filigree of, and drape of pearls, so there’s a collar and then there’s stuff hanging – all of the stuff hanging from it –
Sarah: – is pointing at the boobies. Like, the thing that you are looking at on this cover is tits.
Amanda: The boobs, yeah! My – and everything else has shades of blues –
Amanda: – and the only thing blue on the Simply Sinful, like, cover is Kate Pearce’s name, which are right across the boobies.
Sarah: Yep. So boobs and an Amish golden doodle. [Laughs]
Amanda: Yeah! It’s a pairing of champions right there!
Sarah: Also, if you look below at Souls of the Damned, that poor character on the cover has the Justin Bieber blowing-my-hair-around-my-head-sideways cut, haircut.
Amanda: The haircut, too.
Sarah: She’s got, got Justin Bieber hair.
Amanda: Yeah. Unfortunate.
Sarah: It’s unfortunate.
I always love, on page 22, when there’s a solved HaBO? I know they call it Book Sleuth, but it’s a HaBO, and people are like –
Sarah: – people found a Silhouette about a rancher and a heroine studying local plant life. I love it!
Amanda: 1988 –
Amanda: – was when that book was released.
Sarah: It’s impressive, right?
Sarah: If you go to page 26, there is a feature, also written by Faygie Levy, and it is all about the start of a hundred and one, thousand and one – hundred and one – 1001 Dark Nights, which –
Amanda: They went hard on branding at RT. I remember there were so many parties, so much swag.
Sarah: And they were one of the first people that I remember at a conference to do both wall clings and then also to do something on a marble floor; like, right in the middle of the floor there was something that you would, you were walking on, and people would, like, stop and look down and be like, Oh my God, it’s on the floor!
They are still around. They advertise with the site, and Liz Berry, who’s quoted extensively in this article as one of the co-founders, once told me that they will not release a book without spots on Smart Bitches. We can’t do –
Sarah: We can’t do a book release without you.
Amanda: That is so sweet.
Sarah: Isn’t that lovely? So they are still around, and they are kicking ass. They also are Blue Box Press, and if you remember, Jennifer Armentrout publishes a series with them, and it will be number one on USA Today, number one on Indie Next, number one from the used bookstores, number one in Wall Street Journal, and it won’t even show up on the New York Times, because they will not acknowledge a digital press. It is such bullshit. Utter, utter –
Sarah: – bullshit.
So then, if you go down to page 27, it is a full-page ad for former advertiser All Romance. They had me do a book club; I would do a book club selection and then host a live chat, and then, to my utter sadness, like, I had Sharon and Tom Curtis when they re-released The Windflower, Sharon and Tom Curtis did, like, so it would be a chat discussion for an hour and then half an hour Q & A with the author, and the author would, would come in at the end. The company that hosted the chats on the site went out of business with no warning, and so I have no archives of any of those, and I’ve had people email me and be like, Hey, you had Sharon and Tom Curtis – and I think Tom has since passed away; I think he was, I think he’s died – and I’ve had researchers contact me like, Hey, do you have a transcript of that? And it is gone. There are so many –
Sarah: – text-based companies that were adding, like, accessory content for blogging like live chats, live streams that were just text-based? And they’re all gone now. It’s so sad.
But if you look at All Romance, I would just like to point out, bottom row, third from the right.
Amanda: Yep! I figured. Yep!
Sarah: Shiny! It’s a butt. It’s a butt cover. It is, it is deep in the age of hair gel and booties.
Amanda: I feel like we had a few of these books pop up on previous, like, Cover Snarks.
Sarah: Yep. A couple of them, more than likely.
Sarah: Ah, All Romance. Sad.
If you look at the middle of the next ad, for Kensington, check out the cover quote that Down by the River by Lin Stepp got?
Amanda: Dolly Parton – no shade to Dolly Parton who does great stuff for, like, literacy programs, but does Lin Stepp know Dolly Parton? What they’d have to do to get Dolly Parton to give a, a blurb for this one?
Sarah: Right? And it’s interesting, ‘cause the cover itself features a quote from Deborah Smith.
Amanda: Yeah. I bet she knows Dolly. Someone knows Dolly in this – [laughs] – this group.
Sarah: I think you are very right about that.
Sarah: Is Lin Stepp even still writing? Yeah.
Amanda: I haven’t heard of her, but I don’t, her books probably aren’t something I would normally, like, pick up anyway, so I don’t know!
Sarah: Yeah, 2023, Seeking Ayita. Still writing about the Smoky Mountains. Go ahead, Lin Stepp.
Sarah: I would have that Dolly Parton quote all over my car. It would be on the wall –
Amanda: Oh, for sure.
Sarah: – it’d be on a shirt.
Amanda: Get a tattoo.
Sarah: Tattoo. Get, get some custom shoes.
Amanda: Your first, first baby’s name –
Sarah: Oh, heavens, yes.
Amanda: – would be that –
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Amanda: – full quote.
Sarah: Full wrap on the car. Put it on the awning of my house, big sign on the roof. People can see it flying in. Yeah, absolutely. [Laughs]
Now, if you go to page 35, you wanted to mention something?
Amanda: Yeah! There’s a, there’s a, like a half-page ad.
Sarah: Quarter, it’s –
Amanda: I don’t know, the wheel of – quarter-page? I don’t know.
Sarah: – two-thirds? I don’t know.
Amanda: For Bronwen Evans, who is historical romance, and there’s two covers, but I want to talk about the cover of A Promise of More?
Amanda: And it’s an embrace, a shirtless man is, has his arms around a woman in a purple dress, and she’s throwing her head back? But the only point they’re touching is his arm around her waist, but there’s such a gap in space between the two of them it just looks like a sexier version of a Leave Room for Jesus. There’s still a three-foot rule, but there’s like, some pizzazz on the three-foot rule.
Sarah: It’s like they went from doing the eighth-grade sway where you, where you slow dance with somebody at arm’s length apart? They went from that –
Sarah: – to romance cover, but they didn’t bend their arms enough yet? [Laughs]
Amanda: No. It looks very uncomfortable, I will say.
Sarah: They look very sweaty.
Amanda: Back to the sweaty books!
Sarah: Back to sweaty books.
Amanda: It all comes back to sweaty books.
Sarah: On page 37, there is an ad for something called Turquoise Morning Press, which was the first time I’ve heard of them, and so of course –
Sarah: – I googled them, and I found a whole thread on Absolute Write, and apparently it is an e-publisher that is hosted by blogger.com, and people did not have –
Amanda: Oh boy.
Sarah: – exciting things to say about it. Basically, the owner of the press –
Sarah: Yeah, the owner of the press self-published and then said, Oh, publishing! I know how to do it. Please, please just look at how much Scriptina is on this ad. Summer reading is –
Amanda: Well, they probably bought a pack of fonts –
Sarah: Yep, and you can’t have romance –
Amanda: – and they got like three of ‘em.
Sarah: – without Scriptina at this time. And if you look down in the lower right corner –
Sarah: – Love in Sight? Holly – it’s Scriptina, so I –
Amanda: Oh no!
Sarah: – Gill-, Gill-, Gillant? Gilliatt? Gillian. There’s two Ls in Holly, two Ls in the last name, and two Ts at the end, and it looks like a cloning error because they used Scriptina. It’s just loopy, loopy, loopy, loopy, loopy. It, so if you’ve ever sewn on a sewing machine and you’ve gotten a bird’s nest on the back because the, the bobbin is all screwed up, and so it looks normal on the top and you turn it over and it’s just a bird’s nest? That’s what this font looks like with this name. It’s not a great choice.
Amanda: But the title’s also Love in Sight, and I just noticed that there is a –
Amanda: – like a, like a walking stick?
Sarah: It’s a cane, a cane you, yeah, a cane –
Sarah: – used by a, a visually impaired person. Oh God, Love in Sight, nooo.
Sarah: Ohhh – and it’s clearly not, like, it’s not – wow. Maybe it’s leaning against that fence; maybe it’s Photoshopped in. It’s hard to say.
Amanda: Yeah, I don’t know.
Sarah: Yikes! On a bikes.
Sarah: If – yeah.
Moving on to page 39, we have a full-page ad here.
Amanda: But it’s black and white! There, there were a number of black-and-white ads in this one that I noticed; way more than the previous one.
Sarah: Weird, right? Like, what was the –
Amanda: Yeah! I mean, if –
Sarah: – cost difference?
Amanda: I don’t know! We’ve got to still find out! But there’s like a number of black-and-white ads in this one.
Sarah: There is; there are a lot of them. And all, and not only is it all black and white, but because it’s all black and white, none of these covers stand out. It’s just noise.
Sarah: It’s like, it’s like –
Sarah: – static. There’s, nothing jumps out. The only thing that jumps out at me is Grading on Curves because of the font used for Grading –
Amanda: Naked lady.
Sarah: – that looks like really wide-spaced letters that you learned to write your penmanship on? Like, it looks, they, that’s the only thing that jumps out.
Amanda: But it –
Sarah: Everything else is noise!
Amanda: But it’s also a nude lady on that cover. She’s not wearing any clothing.
Sarah: Oh hell! Oh my God, she is naked! Look at that! I didn’t even notice the nakedness. That’s how blur-, that’s how –
Sarah: That’s how flat the black and white makes it. I didn’t even notice that she was –
Sarah: – actually nude.
The next one –
Amanda: And then the –
Sarah: The book next to it is Real- –
Sarah: – Reality Hero? What the hell is Reality Hero?
Amanda: …Press. I don’t know.
Sarah: Go ahead.
Amanda: Back to more, like, weird – not, like, weird ads, but, like, 41, and later page 103, we have like quadrant ads now? So it’s like four ads per page, which –
Amanda: – I don’t think we saw in the previous one. But there in the top left one is for a book called Norse Jewel by Gina Conkle? And the tagline on it, it says, “What does the wolf-eyed Viking want?” And I’m like, What does that mean?
Amanda: What’s a wolf-eyed Viking?
Sarah: But there’s eyes right there.
Amanda: Does he have eyes like a wolf? Are those his eyes? ‘Cause that’s…
Sarah: On either side of his head? Is his snout really long?
Amanda: On a human face?
Amanda: I don’t understand what that means.
Sarah: Okay. I need you –
Amanda: But on that same page, we have another weird ad!
Sarah: I need to tell, I need you to read this one. This one is so fucking wild. Lower right side, please read the text below Pride and Prejudice through Darcy’s eyes.
Amanda: >> Stanley Michael Hurd’s –
Wow, that, is it kerning?…
Sarah: Yeah, little, little bit of kerning problem here, yep.
Amanda: >> Stanley Michael Hurd’s truly male point of view has readers and reviewers enthralled.
Press X to doubt on that one. Like –
Sarah: [Laughs] >> From U, Amazon UK readers, “Written by a man, so we get a genuine male perspective.”
Amanda: I don’t need it.
Sarah: Come for the kerning errors –
Amanda: If I want that, I’ll go to – [laughs] – I’ll go to Reddit if I want that.
Sarah: – stay for the gender essentialism. What the f- – yep. Truly male.
Amanda: No, thank you.
Sarah: Genuine male perspective. So I’m, I think that this guy’s hook is that he’s a man.
In the episode where we looked at the reviews, you pulled out Full Steam Ahead by Karen Witemeyer, and I just, I need to, I just need to talk about this cover for a minute.
Amanda: Yeah, let’s!
Sarah: Okay, so –
Amanda: For sure! [Laughs]
Sarah: – first of all, she looks a little bit like Frances McDormand? The, the model looks a little bit –
Amanda: I can see that.
Sarah: – like a, like Frances McDormand with long, dark, curly hair. The expression on her face looks like he just pinched her bum.
Sarah: And he’s sneering.
Amanda: But both hands are on the boiler!
Sarah: Well, I mean, he was fast about it, or maybe he’s obsessed with the boiler and he made the boiler, like, poof her in the booty.
Sarah: Like, the ex- –
Amanda: No one wants a booty poof from a boiler.
Sarah: The expression on her face is only as bad as the expression on his face. He’s just from the nose down; we don’t need to know what-all he looks like, but he is smirking while he fondles his boiler. This cover is giving so much narrative.
Amanda: I want to know what he looks like, ‘cause this is the guy who’s obsessed with boilers! What, what does he look like?
Sarah: I think you need to read this book!
Amanda: I don’t know.
Amanda: I could’ve – the first mention of Jesus and it’s a, it’s a wrap.
Sarah: Also on this page, the cover for Truth Be Told by Carol Cox; now, I think Truth Be Told is a way-too-overused phrase in romance. I think it is way too, way too common narratively. It has lost all meaning. I would wear the fuck out of that suit. I would wear –
Amanda: It looks very good.
Sarah: I would wear that, I would wear that to Aldi’s. I would wear it everywhere. It is a gray striped blouse with a high neck and a little broach – and I don’t like things on my neck. I would wear this. And then, I don’t know if it’s a dress, if it’s two pieces, if it’s a jacket that’s tucked into a high-waisted skirt or if it’s just one pieces. It is deep purple, and it looks like velvet. It has pleats and buttons and it looks – and her hair looks good. Like, that is just –
Sarah: I would wear that suit; I wish my hair did that. Like, it’s gorgeous.
Amanda: I feel like Bethany House, which is what this ad is for –
Amanda: – Bethany House Publishers –
Sarah: Bethany House.
Amanda: – they usually have really good composition and costuming –
Amanda: – with the exception of this other cover in this mockup of Stuck Together. That’s a terrible cover.
Sarah: She’s wearing a prom dress!
Amanda: And he looks like a giant Pilgrim.
Amanda: A giant sky Pilgrim. So the other three covers on this ad are very good, and I like the, the dresses and the costuming, and I feel like they u-, like they usually do a good job in terms of that sort of thing, especially, like, in, we’ve seen a few inspirationals from, like, the last episode we did for the May issue.
Amanda: But yeah, normally their clothing looks pretty good.
Sarah: Yeah! Yeah, this is a very –
Amanda: Very little, very little to snark, except for, you know, Sky Pilgrim…
Sarah: Sky Pilgrim.
On page 73 is a full-page ad for Howard Books, for Fair Play by Deeanne Gist, which, okay, great, awesome. They highlight that she has been a Top Pick. This is one of the best author quotes I have ever seen. This is from Deanna Raybourn, New York Times bestselling author.
>> I laughed so hard at their first full scene together, I cried my mascara off.
Okay! Like –
Amanda: But also, Deanna, invest in some waterproof mascara!
Amanda: What are we doing? That should be the default!
Sarah: I love this quote. That is an outstanding promo quote. I do not blame them for making it a full third of the whole ad. It’s gorgeous; I love it; it’s great.
Now, I mentioned this in our last episode. It’s time to talk about Against the Wild by Kat Martin, featured in a full-page ad from Kensington on page 79. First of all –
Amanda: His name’s Dylan Brodie. Let’s –
Sarah: Yes, his name is Dylan Brodie; he’s rugged, tough, and dangerous. He’s wearing a Canadian tuxedo: he’s got a denim shirt and some denim jeans. He’s got one leg up. He looks, his shirt is open almost all the way to the last button; it is still tucked in. He’s doing the historical romance hero with his Canadian tuxedo. And behind him is a plane, and the nose of the –
Sarah: Seaplane, yeah. And the nose of the plane – how would you describe the angle of the plane, Amanda?
Amanda: [Sighs] The angle of the plane – it’s situated behind him.
Amanda: But it kind of bisects his waist and crotch area, so it end – let me be very clear: the plane is red. So we have a, like, a red rocket scenario –
Amanda: – going on.
Sarah: Coming right out of his groin.
Sarah: It’s not subtle. And he’s sort of standing with his legs open and his arms open, and he’s, like, smoldering at you, and the plane is, it’s very phallic.
Amanda: I wonder. So Deeanne’s book got a full ad, Against the Wild got a full ad and, I believe, like a favorable review in the Romantic Suspense category.
Amanda: I’m wondering if RT lets authors know ahead of time, Hey, you’re getting a good review; do you want to take out ad space to, like, augment or supplement the good review that we’re giving?
Sarah: If they’re not, if they’re not, then they’re, they’re telling the publisher.
Sarah: All right, if you look at page 89, there’s a two-thirds column ad for Marie Harte, and it might be the author, it might be the publisher, but if you look at the bottom, look at How to Handle a Heartbreaker. What is up with her arm?
Amanda: I feel like –
Sarah: Is her arm coming out of her neck?
Amanda: I feel like both arms for the heroines on these covers look unnatural. Like the first one, for The Troublemaker Next Door, her arm looks really long. Like, if she unbent her elbow? That’s a really long arm. And then this one, the arm does, like, where’s the shoulder joint? And it looks like there is none.
Sarah: So if you look at, on Amazon, if you pull it up on Amazon and you look at the audiobook, it’s a square format cover like, similar to like a CD case or a record case, and so it’s a square image, and her whole body, like her whole torso is in the image, and it, okay, okay, yep, I, it looks normal; that’s her shoulder. But because of where they’ve cropped it for the book cover, it looks like her arm is growing out of her neck. It is so –
Sarah: – weird. Like, it’s just bad cropping.
Speaking of just bad cropping –
Sarah: – if you go to page 91, we’ve got some shitty-ass Montlake covers here. There’s a, like a two-thirds corner ad, and these covers are shitty.
Amanda: Well, so, for those who don’t know, Montlake is Amazon’s romance imprint –
Amanda: – and I was inputting books, was it yesterday or today?
Amanda: For, like, part two of our previous RT Rewind, so part two of the May one –
Sarah: Yeah. Ads and features, right.
Amanda: – and a, some of the covers that we talk about that aren’t great and pretty, like, bare minimum are Montlake ones, and I’m very curious when Montlake started, ‘cause I feel like their covers are much better now? But yeah, when they first started, their covers were not great and pretty, like, bare bones, bare minimum cover design. But –
Sarah: Really poor use of, in Photoshop, outer glow? Where you take text and then add a glow and then some drop shadow and, yeah. Like the Undressed by the Earl is just all out-, outer glow. Amazon launched Montlake – I just looked it up – in May 2011? So this is three –
Sarah: – years after they launched, and these are still some really basic covers. Like, it’s weird!
Amanda: Yeah, I mean, Amazon and their relationship with books is a little confounding, right, so –
Sarah: It’s complicated. It’s more complicated than Facebook complicated relationships. Like, it’s the most complicated.
Sarah: If you scroll to page 107, there is an author photo that just gives me so much joy. So –
Amanda: I love it? I love it.
Sarah: It’s so ridiculous. Would you describe this photo? I don’t think I could do it justice!
Amanda: Sure! So this is a profile piece on, or it’s like an interview with Laurell K. Hamilton about the newest Merry Gentry novel? And the background is, like, a concrete warehouse –
Amanda: – and then there is a director’s chair, so it’s, like, wood and then, like, black canvas, and Laurell K. Hamilton is in all black, so black jeans, black leather thigh-high heeled boots, black shirt, black leather jacket, and she’s got like this curly blonde hair, and she’s – [laughs] – I don’t know how to describe this either!
Amanda: She’s, like, on her butt, but, like, turned to the side –
Amanda: – so, like, she’s bent her body in like a V –
Amanda: – shape, and her legs are kicked up on one side, and she’s kind of like leaning back against the, like, arm of the chair on the other side.
Amanda: And it definitely reminds me of the joke, and I don’t know anything about Laurell K. Hamilton’s sexuality, but how, like, bisexuals don’t know how to sit in chairs?
Amanda: But it’s, it’s got a lot of pizzazz, this pose.
Sarah: This whole picture is, See my boots?
Amanda: [Laughs] Check out my boots!
Sarah: Did you see my boots? Wait, hold on, look! Did you see them? Wait, they bend and they go – look at my boots! Did you see them? This is not an author photo; this is a Check Out My Boots photo.
Sarah: I –
Amanda: The boots are the star here.
Sarah: It is so, it’s so, so enjoyable. It’s just so enjoyable.
Now, page 123, we are back again with Easter, Oestre, Eostre. Let’s say ee-oh-stray. Eostre’s baskets: Get your sexily ever after. This copy makes no sense to me. So the lower half is the same ad as last month, which was Easter’s or Eostre’s basket, and then above is a, sort of a Christmas-themed almost – well, no it’s just red, and then the green lizard makes me think of Christmas.
Sarah: So there’s two sets of ads here.
>> When you order a gift basket from the goddess of new beginnings, you might not get what you’re expecting, but you’ll get exactly what you need.
What does that mean?
Amanda: What – I don’t understand.
Sarah: What does that mean at all?
Amanda: Are you ordering gift baskets of books to yourself? And you don’t know what’s in the basket?
Sarah: Or is it some sort of concept for all those books where they order a basket and then they get some sex?
Amanda: I don’t – yeah, I don’t know what this means.
Sarah: It is very strange.
Amanda: Maybe one day we’ll know.
Sarah: Maybe someday we will know.
But then at the top, if you look at the ad for the book, it’s I Swear to You by Sloan Parker. That dude’s nekkid. That’s a nekkid, that’s a naked dude.
Amanda: That, that dude has a thorax.
Sarah: That – [laughs] – that dude has a thorax!
Amanda: The guy lying in the grass? Like –
Sarah: He has a thorax. Oh my God.
And then page 125 has so much to offer, because it is a full-page ad for Ellora’s Cave.
Amanda: Adam Lambert’s back!
Sarah: He’s back!
Amanda: Budget Adam Lambert.
Sarah: We cannot.
Amanda: He’s here! He’s back!
Sarah: Yep. And if you look at the top, the sweet and sensual all the way to the top right, she needs to run ‘cause that ship is after. Like, she’s running away from a boat! [Laughs]
Amanda: I mean, just get on land and I think you’re good.
Sarah: Run! Run! The ship is after you! Also, if you look closely, you will see the same cover model over and over and over.
Amanda: I know.
Sarah: It’s that same guy like five or six times.
Amanda: Yep. Yep!
Sarah: Now, you wanted to look at page 127, which is an ad, I think by Open Road Press.
Amanda: I think so? Yes. I thought it was interesting because it says Advertisement at the bottom, to make this perfectly clear, but this is an excerpt –
Amanda: – of a book, which I think is smart and a little tricky, right?
Amanda: Of, like, they made it look kind of like a feature –
Amanda: – with, like, the drop cap at the top –
Amanda: – a pull quote –
Amanda: – and, like, an ad within the excerpt –
Amanda: – of the book? And at the very bottom it says Advertisement, and I felt this was pretty sneaky, and I respect it.
Sarah: Yep. This is also enough of an excerpt where someone would remember reading this but would not be able to find it, and then would email us and be like, Here’s what I remember, and then somebody would be like, Oh –
Sarah: – here’s, the book; it was excerpted. And the, we used to get a lot of those. Like, I read this portion of a book in Cosmopolitan magazine when I was getting a pedicure, and I –
Amanda: Or, like, Reader’s Digest…
Sarah: Yes. I read an abridged version. Yeah, that’s, that’s, this is going to inspire the same thing. Like, there was something about a guy, and there was blonde hair and some feathers. Yep, absolutely!
On page 129, we also have ads as we scroll past for Amira Press, a lot of presses that don’t exist anymore, including Red Sage Knows Your Secrets.
Amanda: Know they don’t. Get out of here!
Sarah: If you look at the top left for Sphinx United, that is an almost-nipple cover. That is a cover where the nipple has been airbrushed out.
And then if you look at the bottom of page 130, we have another black-and-white ad, this one for Beachwalk Press.
Amanda: That one was also the full-page black-and-white.
Sarah: Yep! And it’s, okay, all of the poses look like stills from a video that’s a porn but is trying to pretend like it’s not? And so they –
Amanda: They’re very sexual poses.
Sarah: Extremely sexual. Like, all the way to the right, this guy is showing you his armpit so hard. And like the other guy –
Amanda: Yeah. Oh yeah.
Sarah: – he has a thorax – whoo! – and a big nipple. But, like, they’re all so uncomfortable, especially the one in the middle? They don’t look sexy; they look like their backs hurt, and they can’t lie down comfortably.
Amanda: And, like, the woman in the middle has, has shoes on –
Sarah: Yep, and her foot’s just sort of dangling there?
Amanda: – and, like, any, anyone who has tried to get a little spicy while wearing high heels knows that at some point you’re going to stab your partner by accident with the heel of the –
Sarah: Or poke a big ol’ hole in the duvet.
Amanda: Yeah, and they, it’s going to ruin the mood real fast.
Sarah: Oh yeah. Just take the shoes off. Your feet are fine; it’s okay. They, they just look so uncomfortable. They don’t look hot; they look, they look like they have hurt their back, a disc has been slipped –
Sarah: – and they cannot get comfortable, and so they are sleeping in some weird-ass positions. And speaking of ass, there is so much ass on that cover. Like, that cover –
Amanda: Oh my gosh, yes.
Sarah: – is not getting approved for a lot of major retailers at this time, ‘cause there’s too much ass crack.
Sarah: And you noticed something that I did not notice on page 131!
Amanda: Yes. So it’s a, another weird like two, two-thirds ad?
Amanda: But it’s an ad from Ellora’s Cave for a book called Celebrity Sex Tape In the Making by Farrah Abraham? And –
Sarah: Who is a New York Times bestselling author, by the way. [Laughs]
Amanda: And Farrah was on Teen Mom, probably one of the most hated Teen Mom characters, if I can remember correctly. I never really watched the show. I just know her from, like, pop culture, just being engrossed in pop culture stuff. [Laughs]
Amanda: Yeah, apparently she wrote a book, an erotic novel with Ellora’s Cave –
Amanda: – about making a celebrity sex tape, and she’s the cover model.
Amanda: That is her on the cover posing with a shirtless dude who has a camera in his hand.
Sarah: Wow. That is a wild crossover right there.
Sarah: >> A searing erotic novel by reality TV star and New York Times bestselling author Farrah Abraham.
Amanda: I’m worried about typing this title into my Goodreads, but –
Sarah: [Laughs] Now, you also flagged the classifieds on page 135.
Amanda: Yeah! Which I don’t remember if these were in the previous issue that we talked about. But the classifieds had, like, one is bookstores and accessories where you could get romance via email, CD, or hard copy?
Sarah: CD! Oh, hot damn!
Amanda: And someone…someone’s looking to sell previous issues of Romantic Times all the way from issue number one? They’re –
Sarah: I emailed that email address; I haven’t heard back.
Amanda: [Laughs] There are…
Sarah: It was ten years ago. My hope, my hopes are not high.
Amanda: Yeah, I’m sure that AOL account could still be active, but – there’s a, a Chances Press, which I’ve never heard of that’s, like, asking for queries and submissions for erotica and romance, and then –
Sarah: They’re not offering CD publication.
Amanda: No. [Laughs] And then they also mention the classified advertising rates.
Amanda: So for ten lines, it’s seventy-five dollars.
Amanda: And then ninety-five for eleven? What does that mean? Oh –
Both: Eleven to twenty lines –
Amanda: – got it.
Sarah: But if you look –
Amanda: One to ten lines –
Sarah: – all of these ads are three, four, and six lines. So they got seventy-five dollars –
Sarah: – for three lines of text.
Amanda: So they probably made, what’d they make? One fifty, two twenty-five?
Amanda: For these –
Sarah: Little lines.
Amanda: – three ads. Yeah.
Sarah: I just want to say, for seventy-five dollars, you can buy a For Every Budget ad on Smart Bitches.
Sarah: It will run on every popular page for a month. Every page of the website for a month for seventy-five dollars. Like, I feel like that’s a much better deal than ten lines or less.
Amanda: That is a pretty good deal.
Sarah: What the hell? Now, I also almost missed this ‘cause the, the contests and giveaways are not that exciting. It’s like, win some books, whatever, no one’s doing anything silly? But if you look at the back cover, the back cover of the magazine was a full-page ad for a book called Meant to Be by Lauren Pizza, The Lives and Loves of a Jersey Girl!
Amanda: And that is, you know that’s her!
Sarah: Oh –
Amanda: You know that’s gotta, it’s a photo of her!
Sarah: – absolutely!
>> A memoir more exciting than fiction.
And I, you know, how – okay, this is so embarrassing, but I’m assuming this happens to you, that sometimes you’ll read, and your eyes will jump, and you’ll put one word from a sentence in, in the wrong place?
Amanda: Yeah. Yeah.
Sarah: Okay, so I read that, and I really – [laughs] – I really thought the tagline was A memoir more exciting than pizza?
Amanda: Can’t, can’t be done.
Sarah: [Laughs] That’s just not possible!
Amanda: Impossible. Impossible.
Sarah: The Lives and Loves of a Jersey Girl could be pretty wild, but it is not more exciting than pizza!
Amanda: I don’t think – and I do love books – I don’t think there would ever be a book in this world that I would choose over pizza.
Sarah: [Laughs] I mean, is there a book you love more than pizza? I cannot think of one, myself.
Amanda: No! No!
Sarah: And that brings us to the end of this week’s episode. I hope you enjoyed this very wild ride with us and that you too will put the boobies next to the Amish dog; it’s very important.
I have three things to tell you:
Thing the first, a question: Amanda, as you heard, has never read a Harlequin Presents. Which one should she read for maximum Presents experience? I would love to know. You can come and find us in the Discord – we have a channel for the latest episode – or you can come to the website, which has a whole comment feature. Come find us on smartbitchestrashybooks.com/podcast. There is an entry for episode 589, and you can tell us which one you think she should read first.
Thing the second to tell you: I asked for reviews, and my gosh, did you deliver! Thank you. Podcast discovery is actually kind of challenging, and you are amazing for the reviews that you have left. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I know what a big ask it is, and I am deeply grateful.
I want to say a very special thank-you to Mary not Pippin, who wrote, “Reminds me of a night with friends after a couple of glasses of wine.” Mary not Pippin also wrote, “When she and Amanda do an episode together, it reminds me of slumber parties growing up that have loads of silly conversations and shenanigans. This podcast is great for book recommendations and for giving you that warm feeling you get inside when hanging out with your favorite people.”
Is it really weird to feel, like, super embarrassed reading such nice things about yourself to other people? Yes, probably very normal, and yes, I’m turning red, and yes, I am so thankful for this. Thank you so very, very much, Mary not Pippin, and thank you to all of you who have left reviews for the show. I am deeply, deeply grateful.
And, of course, thing the third: the bad joke. Dun-dun-duh! I end every episode with a terrible joke! Which many of you referenced in the reviews! You like these jokes. You can tell this joke to everyone. Are you ready?
What do you call a wreath made of one hundred dollar bills?
Give up? What do you call a wreath that is made of a hundred dollar bills?
A wreath of Franklins.
[Laughs] I can hear you groaning from here! A wreath of Franklins! That joke is from /k_woz1978 on Reddit. Thank you, k_woz; you are amazing. A wreath of Franklins! [Laughs more] Okay, I’ve got to pull myself together here.
On behalf of everyone here, we wish you the very best of reading. Have a wonderful weekend, and we will see you back here next week.
Smart Podcast, Trashy Books is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. You can find more outstanding podcasts to subscribe to at frolic.media/podcasts.
A wreath of Franklins! [Laughs] It’s so good!
[end of cute music]