Back in 2022 we published a blog about the new #RespectRomFic movement spearheaded by Sara-Jade Virtue. Launched with the aim of shifting the dismissive attitudes towards the romance genre here in the UK, it's been two years and we've had the exciting opportunity to check in with SJV once more. The romance genre features books that are evocative, heartwarming and as gripping as titles found in any other genre.

It's great to hear the work of everyone who supports the #RespectRomFic movement to raise the profile of the genre within the industry and with readers; and we're excited about the events and new releases on the horizon for us romance readers this year. 

We know there is NOTHING you enjoy as much as a Big Love Story, and this led you to launch #RespectRomFic back in 2022. Please remind us why.

Thanks so much, Deb, for asking me back to talk about the movement and my love of love stories, it’s a subject I’m very passionate about, if you’ll excuse the pun. Fundamentally #RespectRomFic - which was initially launched by the Romantic Novelists’ Association at the end of 2021 - aims to shift the dismissive attitudes and perceptions of the romance genre here in the UK. The contribution of writers of love stories to the overall literally landscape has long been at best ignored, at worst dismissed, but, at a time when sales of Romance & Saga novels had risen to close to £60m worth of revenue (in just physical format alone) to the industry in 2022, it was very much felt that the snobbery towards the genre had to end.

And what a journey it's been since then, what are you most proud of within this movement?

We now have over 500 members – writers, publishing professionals, literary agents, media reviewers, booksellers, librarians, bloggers and readers – all working towards raising the profile of the genre both in and outside the industry, and have absolutely seen some wins in the last few years – The Sunday Times now has a monthly Popular Fiction review roundup (mainly consisting of books categorised as Romance & Saga by their publishers, which means come the end of each year, they are able to do a Best Of Popular Fiction roundup;) more books than ever before are being allocated a Romance & Saga BIC/BISAC/THEMA code by their publishers, meaning that more of those novels where a love stories is at the heart of the narrative will count towards the overall TCM sales numbers; we’ve seen some incredible retailer engagement with independent bookshops stocking more romance than ever before and launching Romance Book Clubs for customers to get excited about; the launch last year of both the Edinburgh Women’s Fiction Festival and Hillingdon Libraries Celebration of Love Stories event; and the recent announcement of the Waterstones Piccadilly #LondonLoveStories yearlong programme of monthly Romance events - but I think we’ve still got a long way to go before the Romance & Saga genre is treated with the same level of respect as (for example) the Crime & Thriller genre does.

The job's not done yet though is it? Huge inroads have been made, what's next on your list?

I doubt, if I’m being honest, that the job will ever be done, but I’m very excited about the new #LoveStoriesEtc Festival taking place at Manchester Central Library on 13th July, that has just been announced. Alice Murphy-Pyle from HarperNorth and I worked together to curate and schedule the most incredible lineup of 28 brilliant romance authors, which has been completely thrilling! We’ve programmed what we think is the perfect day out for lovers of love stories – 7 author panels and 5 industry workshops - from 10am to 9pm, and with tickets priced at just £30 for an All Day pass, or £40 for a VIP Pass, we hope it will be affordable for most.  Next on my list is a British Book Awards Romance & Saga Nibbie, I just need to win the Lotto to make it possible, so watch this space!

We love the fact that you are leading this for the industry as a whole. For the love of all books, and Rom Fic thanks you. What have you learnt during this experience?

That’s very kind of you to say, but honestly, it’s a team effort – I’m just the loud mouth spokesperson, sticking my head above the parapet to voice all of our frustrations and try and change the narrative. They say it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, and that’s very true of the #RespectRomFic movement, but I think the most important thing I’ve learnt, is that if you feel really passionate about a cause – whatever that may be – you’ve just got to go for it.

Your job sounds the absolute best and you obviously adore what you do. This led to you being awarded the RNA Publisher / Editor of the Year - because you are amazing at what you do. What does an average week look like for you?

I’m overwhelmed to have been nominated twice now for RNA Publisher / Editor of the Year, and felt incredibly proud to have won in 2022. I absolutely love my job, and still feel very lucky to work in the book world. Being in a position to champion the authors who write the books I’ve always loved is a privilege I don’t, for one second, take lightly. No week, day, or even hour is the same for me – like most jobs in publishing, I’m constantly juggling the inbox, the reading piles (submissions and edits), the internal and external meetings, the spreadsheets and the To Do Lists that always include things like metadata, production schedules, cover progression, collating data, building presentations, never-ending essential admin tasks, event organisation, title progression, strategic planning, blog tour monitoring, sales data and outreach work.

With your Simon & Schuster hat on, what romantic fiction beauties do we have to look forward to this year?

We have some incredible novels publishing this year – new books from Sunday Times bestselling authors like The Happiest Ever After by Milly Johnson (out now in hardback with the paperback to follow in July) and Holly Hepburn (Return to Half Moon Farm, out now in paperback), both The Holiday Escape in April and Home for Christmas in October by Heidi Swain, and the paperback editions of The Hidden Years by Rachel Hore, and Wait for Me by Santa Montefiore.

We’ve got second novels from Rebecca Ryan (The Philosophy of Love, out now), and Lucy Vine (Date With Destiny, out in May), and in July we have second novels from Lauren Bravo (Probably Nothing), and Julie Haworth (New Beginnings at the Cosy Cat Café).

We’ve got a new Sharon Gosling coming in September, The Lost Orchard, and the paperback editions of Eva Verde’s fantastic In Bloom in August and Helen Fisher’s Joe Nuthin’s Guide to Life in July.

Debut wise, we’re just about to publish Maya’s Laws of Love by Alina Khawaja and Under Your Spell the first adult fiction by Laura Wood coming in June (that made me howl with laughter).

Personally, I’m very excited for people to read Token by American author Beverely Kendall that came out here in the UK on 15th February. It’s a smart enemies-to-lovers romcom that manages to be both topical and sexy, with great banter, chemistry, humour and intelligence.

Thanks to SJV and the whole #RespectRomFic movement, all 500 members of you out there doing all you can to shine a light on the beauty of romantic fiction. We applaud you. 

If you'd like to buy tickets to the LoveStoriesEtc Festival; a Celebration of Modern Romantic Fiction you can grab them here.

The one-day Romance Festival will be held at the stunning Manchester Central Library and will feature 28 bestselling romance authors as part of a huge celebration of modern romantic fiction. See you there!

#Respect RomFic