Writing the Romance, 1980-2020: Gender, Voice and Power in the Digital Economy


ACLS Fellowship Program




Writing the Romance explains how a disparaged band of literary outcasts—romance writers—became the leading pioneers of e-books, “the first digital innovation led by women” (The Guardian, 2016). From 2009- 2015, when income for most U.S. authors fell by half, romance writers doubled their earnings, improved their status and diversified a lily-white genre. I reveal that a rare type of social network, formed to counter 1980s sexism, ultimately propelled their digital success. Moreover, the network offered a space where diverging concepts of feminism competed, enabling authors of color to reinvent the romance community in 2020. I argue that romance writers’ alternative style of organizing, rooted in women’s historic working patterns, offers a model for others struggling under unequal systems.