From Steve Jobs to a Request for Feedback

retroI missed my regular blogging spot (every other Friday) last time because I was in the midst of a Mac crisis.  Said crisis involved a Separation from my Beloved MacBook Pro since said device had to be sent to Apple for some minor work.  I sent it off on Thursday and it was back in my hot little hands on Tuesday morning, which is service that can’t be beat.  Anyway, due to my having to resort to my backup iMac and, no doubt, some pouting over the loss of my Beloved MacBook Pro, I didn’t get around to blogging.

I blogged a few weeks ago about my affection for Steve Jobs.  As the whole world knows by now, he is lost to us.  He was a visionary, an innovator, a design genius, and so much more. I felt his death much as I felt the death of John Lennon 31 years ago.  RIP, Steve Jobs.  You truly did change the world.

Now, on to subjects that are a bit less fraught. I’m hearing that Romantic Suspense as a genre is in trouble and that it’s a tough sell to an editor.  Anybody care to elaborate?

As for historical romance, we seem to be All Regency All the Time these days which is, quite frankly, boring the crap out of me.  Believe it or not, as a former lover of the Regency period (I devoured Trad Regencies back in the day), yet another Regency is a tough sell to me these days – which, as you can imagine, doesn’t leave me with a lot of books to read.  Especially since “Regency” these days seems to me to be code words for A Book Set in an Historical Period that Might as Well be the Regency Since It Doesn’t Have Any Real Historical Detail. How about you?

The publication date is getting closer for Connie Brockway’s The Other Guy’s Bride which, incidentally, is not set in the Regency and we’ve got some exciting things planned for AAR.  Be sure to stay tuned, okay?

Good things are coming up in the Speaking of Audiobooks blogs that Lea writes.  It’s truly been wonderful to see how the audio world has embraced this forum and to watch it become a central point for discussion of this increasingly popular format.  I know that Lea is thrilled that the Powers that Be in audiobook world are paying attention to what she has created here.  Congrats, Lea, and I hope everyone will keep the comments coming.

Which leads me to another point I’ve been thinking about:  What would you like to see us do at AAR?  From interviews to giveaways to anything the heck else you’d like to see, hit me in the comments.

And, as far as hitting the comments, it’s been more than a year since the AAR redesign.  Considering all the “I hate it – I just hate it” comments that resulted at the time, I’d like to know how you’re living with it these days.  I should add that AAR’s traffic numbers are up and have remained up since the redesign, so the dire predictions of everybody abandoning the site did not come true.  Do I still sound a little bitter?  Maybe so.  We don’t often talk about our feelings here at AAR, so I’m kinda sorta breaking a rule here, but so be it.  I worked extremely hard on the redesign and the lack of enthusiasm stung a bit.  Sometimes bitterly so.

So, since everybody else was so honest, I’ll be honest, too.  If your complaint is “I don’t like the color,” your comments are subjective and really aren’t helpful.  If your comments involve the ways you’re using the site these days or suggestions for how we can improve functionality, I’d love to hear them.

- Sandy AAR

46 thoughts on “From Steve Jobs to a Request for Feedback

  1. Pingback: web design cornwall

  2. I surfed several literary agency web sites recently (don’t ask!) and they all stated up front that since they couldn’t sell any historicals other than Regency and pseudo-Regency Victorians to publishers, don’t bother sending them any other time periods.

    I wonder how many interesting romances set in other, fascinating eras there are out there languishing on hard drives?

  3. I love the redesign of the website. Yours is the only website I go to every day, just to see if you’ve posted a review of a book I’ve been looking for!

    One change I would love to see would be to have the reviewer of a book in a series be someone who has actually read all of the series, and is therefore familiar with all of the previous characters from previous books who pop into the story. Fans of the series are usually glad to see those familiar characters, while someone who’s not read the previous books is annoyed by the characters and references to previous books. Why not choose a reviewer who has read the whole series?

  4. Lily, You can use multiple search criteria in doing searches. I just checked for all Mary Balogh books with a grade of A and I got one page of results. It isn’t perfect, but it would surely help someone new to the author.

  5. Thanks, everyone, for your comments and suggestions. Many of them are going on my TBD list.

    Lily, if you click on Power Search on the home page, you will find that you can search by many criteria, including grade, reviewer, genre, and the like.

    • AAR Sandy: Thanks, everyone, for your comments and suggestions.Many of them are going on my TBD list.Lily, if you click on Power Search on the home page, you will find that you can search by many criteria, including grade, reviewer, genre, and the like.

      Thanks for the tip about multiple search criteria Sandy. But the scenario I had in mind was something like doing a search for Mary Balogh. It gave me 3 pages worth of results. Being new to her, it would be useful to have the results returned in one page (or maybe up the limit per page from 20 to 50). And the ability to sort the results by the different criteria would be icing on the cake.

      Realizing all this comes from an end-user who used to be an analyst, I don’t know the amount of work involved in the background and I’m just letting the analyst and geek-wanna-be side of me come out. Appreciate the great website you have here. It’s become a website I visit daily.

  6. The only gripe I remember people made about the re-design of the AAR website was that it took longer to load compared to the old one. I think in the last year, people have either gotten used to it, or bought themselves more memory/upgraded their computer as we haven’t heard that complaint anymore. I liked the re-design, and having the book covers with the new reviews is good – can we stretch it to the review proper itself? I still miss the old forum format. Could we have folders for various topics – not a comprehensive one, but perhaps have all the threads like “Recently read in the summer/fall, etc” in one folder? Is this feasible?

    Regarding romantic suspense – my favourite suspense/thriller books which have romance in them are Julia Spencer-Fleming’s Clare Fergusson series; then there’s the C.S. Harris Sebastian St Cyr books. These aren’t really categorised as romantic suspense as they are heavy on the suspense and light on the romance. Maybe that’s the problem – pure romance readers want more romance, and the suspense is not thrilling enough, or plausible enough.

  7. Ugh, hit enter too soon. Meljean Brooke or Gail Carriger. Oh, and about the redesign, love the review teasers!

  8. I like the redesign, and i seecond lily’s suggestions. Also, if you developed a mobile version and had the site recognize when visitors are using a mobile browser version so it would adjust automatically, that would be really cool. Of course that would depend on how many readers are accessing aar that way.

    About rs, I don’t read it at all since I don’t care to mix my romance with serial killers, but I might just check out Sandra brown or Linda Howard one of these days, good writing usually makes me forget about my preconceived notions on a genre. Regency is so much wallpaper these days. I am into steampunk now, I can’t wait forthe next meljean

  9. I use power search alot. I have come to value the opinions of the reviewers and the number of reviews makes this a treasure trove! What would make the search results more useful is the ability to expand the number of entries per page and the ability to sort by the different headings, e.g. grade, title, review date, etc. Hope this helps.

  10. I think some of the best romantic suspense writers have left or don’t write up to par anymore. I miss the hell out of Katherine Sutcliffe and Linda Howard has been off her A-game for quite a while. I read mostly mystery so, there’s almost always a romantic subplot, often more interesting and risky ala Julia Spencer Flemining’s books.

  11. I love the website as well. I would like, however, to be able to search by an author’s first AND last name COMBINED to get just that author’s listings and no others.
    Thanks!!

    • MEK: I love the website as well.I would like, however, to be able to search by an author’s first AND last name COMBINED to get just that author’s listings and no others.
      Thanks!!

      If you do a Power Search (link right below the general searches on every page) that will take you to a page where you can take your pick of variables.

  12. I love, love your redesign! Don’t sweat the gripes-people hate change but IMHO, when they think back on it – the change moved their lives in a good direction. I also buy way more books based on your teaser reviews and your DIK column of book covers. I read your blogs all the time where before…I got lost trying to find what I wanted to read and gave up. I live for your eagerly awaited titles. Thanks so much for all you guys do for Romance Readers. PS – I’m done with all-England-all-the-time too. It never use to be that way, but that’s showing my age. I’m also done with out-west-cowboy-America-set books. Can we find some more american themes in this huge country,Publishers? Please? Thanks!

  13. Wow! This is my first time at AAR. It’s a great site and I look forward to coming back.

    My problem with RS is that I don’t want to read about chasing pedophiles and sadistic monsters combined with graphic sexual content. Elizabeth Jennings new book is good and I like the Trouble Shooter series, but Brockman’s last few books have been disappointing. Catherine Coulter is out of control with her FBI series gone paranormal. Why has everyone moved toward paranormal? Elizabeth Lowell, Julie Garwood, J.D. Robb/NR, JAK/AQ have always been favorites, but lately, I don’t enjoy their books. I’ve stopped buying and check-out new books from the library.

    Mariah Stewart has segued into small town from her FBI books. I just read a good Mayberry book by Jodi Thomas and early Robyn Carr GV/VR were wonderful, but most are boring. I cannot stomach Macomber and Woods. Just so sentimental and sweet my teeth hurt.

    I must say I do admire how RS authors are using their genre to protest war and honor the troops all in one swoop.

  14. I wanted to add that too often “Mayberry” romances leave me a little queasy, like I’ve eaten way too much sugar on an empty stomach. After trying a few that were cheesy beyond belief, I’m avoiding small town romances unless I’m already a fan of the author.

  15. Also: any plans for doing a mini-poll this year?
    Thanks for all the great work you guys do here!

  16. I like the website very much, Sandy. The one thing I wish I could see back at AAR is updates on the Special Titles Lists. I believe they have not been updated in over a year. I really liked going back to the lists every now and then to see what was new, and they helped me find great new authors and books. I hope you guys can get back to having frequent updates again.

  17. I read RS sometimes, mostly Nora and Linda Howard. I really like the layout of this website, I tend to “check-in” everyday to see what latest reviews have posted. I use the power search all the time to look up old reviews of books. If I hadn’t found this website, I most likely wouldn’t have found any of the authors I currently read. I would be missing out on a lot of good books!

  18. I love your website. It’s easy and straight forward. Goodreads otoh drives me crazy. I wish they would get some ideas from you guys.

  19. Just to add…(hit enter too soon), I don’t mind the small-town contemporaries. As in all my reading, it all depends on the delivery. If the story is good, I don’t mind the small town setting at all. As for historicals, I’ve been reading backlists of authors lately. I’ve read some new historicals, but seem to go back to the older historicals as rereads. They seem to have more substance than much of what is out there now.

  20. My problem with RS in general, is that the romance is the center of the story and the suspese always seems to take a backseat. If I sign up for a suspense story, I want to have it and that is why the only RS that truly work for me are Sandra Brown and mostly, Linda Howard. Other than that I read out of the genre for suspense.

  21. I love RS and mysteries. In fact, it was crossing-over from suspense with romance to romantic suspense that got me hooked on romance books in general. I admit I’m very picky these days abut story lines involving yet another SEAL or yet another serial killer. I like it when the RS takes a different track like Leone’s Fever Dreams, and author Laura Griffin. Merline Lovelace’s Cleo North trilogy is wonderful and different, as well. Other authors that write RS without serial killers or SEALs in every book include Jill Sorenson, Linda Howard, Julie Garwood, Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick, Kathyrn Shay, Christie Craig, Tara Janzen, Elisabeth Naughton, and of course Nora Roberts.

    Since much sci-fi rom is suspense set in space, I also love Linnea Sinclair, Susan Grant, Deidre Knight, and etc. Some UF/PNR is worth reading for the action/suspense as well, such as Illona Andrews, Jeaniene Frost and Lara Adrian.

    I can’t imagine why publishers don’t want RS. I gues I’ll have to be happy I’m coming in late to the game and have a huge backlist from some of my favorite authors to last me through the lean years.

    Historical romances aren’t my favorite, and one of the reasons is the “modern miss” cloaked in regency garb. On a side note, I’m sorry Carla Kelly has gone the inspirational route, and I’m sorry Hoag, Brown and others have diminished the romance plot lines in their suspense books. Although the books are still good, they don’t interest me nearly as much. I spent years reading good suspense and mystery and now I want the relationship to play a pivotal roll in the books I read.

    Your site looks great. I hardly remember the old site and I guess I was clueless about the controversy at the time. ;-) But if you want feedback, I wish we could edit our comments and use html. ;-) (Editing being the most important of the two for me.)

  22. I raised the question of RS on twitter a couple of days ago in the context of Sandra Brown’s Lethal debuting at #2 on the NYT list. The readers are there, but the gatekeepers are saying no. Two authors who have sold RS in the past, Alison Kent and JoAnn Ross, responded and we had a lively discussion. Editors don’t want RS and Kent days that it’s a hard sell. Editors are asking for small town contemps only. Sigh. Didn’t we decide to call those Mayberrys?

    Even though she no longer calls herself a romance writer, Sandra Brown hits the spot for me. She’s developed a thriller/romance hybrid that’s uniquely hers. I loved Lethal, in fact I love everything she’s done since Envy in 2001.

    • Diana: I raised the question of RS on twitter a couple of days ago in the context of Sandra Brown’s Lethal debuting at #2 on the NYT list. The readers are there, but the gatekeepers are saying no. Two authors who have sold RS in the past, Alison Kent and JoAnn Ross, responded and we had a lively discussion. Editors don’t want RS and Kent days that it’s a hard sell. Editors are asking for small town contemps only. Sigh. Didn’t we decide to call those Mayberrys?Even though she no longer calls herself a romance writer, Sandra Brown hits the spot for me. She’s developed a thriller/romance hybrid that’s uniquely hers. I loved Lethal, in fact I love everything she’s done since Envy in 2001.

      I’m writing a review of Lethal right now and like you, I loved it.

      I guess I am not surprised at the Mayberrys because the Virgin River books have been successful and Lord knows once a set of books is successful everything must be written to that standard. I don’t think publishers quite get that sometimes books are successful because they are different (shock!) Or maybe it is not the setting people like but the writing.

      maggie b.

      • maggie b.:
        I don’t think publishers quite get that sometimes books are successful because they are different (shock!)Or maybe it is not the setting people like but the writing.

        So true, maggie.

  23. RS authors will probably go the route of literary fiction authors when the market dropped for them: into the mystery genre. And then someone will sell a “big” RS that will make money in romance circles, and back we’ll go again with RS in the romance genre again.

    I’m liking that publishers are starting to look at Western romances again. I’m hoping there will be a resurgence there.

    It’s interesting that writers like Carla Kelly and others have left Regency romances and are now going in another direction. And speaking of that, I’m amazed at the number of writers that are jumping on the Amish / religious sect bandwagon. Huh.

  24. I still read J.D Robb’s “in Death” series. and three authors who come immediately to mind are C.S. Harris “St. Cyr” series ,Tasha Alexander’s “Lady Emily” series and Deanna Raybourn “Lady Julia Gray” series; although these are not strictly “romantic suspense” but more suspense with some romance in them. I think Joanna Bourne’s “Spymaster” series is positively brilliant and cannot wait for the next book. Linda Howard writes some darned good RS, with “Cry no More” at the top of the list. I like Lisa Gardner, both the “Raine/Quincy” and “D.D. Warren” series (although D.D. Warren is the only current series). and as much as it pains me I gotta agree with Barb in Maryland. Kay Hooper’s “Bishop” series was brilliant at first, but she truly did drag it on too long.

    Sandy, I gotta admit, I was one of the naysayers when I first heard you were changing the website design. My reasoning was more emotional than logical; after all, if I liked the old website just fine, that should have been good enough for the rest of the world too. Once the new website went up, it was hard for me to see what all the fuss was about. In about 7–10 seconds I was used to the new design, and have been flying thru the site ever since. So I would like to offer a big SORRY for doubting. You obviously knew what you were doing on the re-design, I just needed to have more faith and be less of a change-a-phobic :-).

    As you guys work so hard on this site as is, I don’t really have anything I’d like to see change. I do like the Pandora Box return, especially when you have such widely diverging opinions. Keep up the great work.

  25. I have to agree with Mark when he states “I’m afraid for me Jobs & Apple are forever tarnished by their part in starting the whole Agency model of ebook pricing.”….While I can mourn the loss for his family and for the company as a whole…I never agreed with many of his policies or public image….kinda thought he was a tech bully.

    As far as the redesign ….doesn’t bother me either way…if you are happy with it…that’s okay with me..the colors are fine.

    As far as romantic suspense….it is a problem..I know of two romantic suspense authors who have had manuscripts turned down and basically been told that romantic suspense is dead…I think part of the problem is that it was over done and everyone jumped on the bandwagon so to speak at the same time…I’m noticing the same trend now with “Angels” and “Demons” in paranormal romance and with the YA genre as a whole…everyone is jumping to that and it will eventually do the same there…I also have to agree with Bungluna who said “As for historicals, I’ve gotten tired of thinly disguised modern mores and views grafted on pseudo-historical settings.”…I still read historicals but this is a trend that’s really beginning to annoy me!

  26. Tinabelle, we have revived Pandora’s Box. We have done two here on the blog. One was earlier this week, so please do check it out.

  27. I am not a big RS reader but do love historicals. I feel your pain about the Regency; so many of the books are bland and forgetable. I have branched out to mysteries and more general historical fiction. I wish there was more variety out there. It seems that in many forms of entertainment – books, TV, movies – once something catches on the clones appear and then everything becomes generic.

    I think the site redesign has worked very well. It is easy to navigate and is uncluttered. As someone else pointed out, some sites are so busy that they are impossible to use. I still check the site everyday and feel it is the most balanced option as far as reviews. I agree with Dick that the nature of the discussions has changed over the years, but that has to do with the posters and not the site itself. I think AAR provides all the info. a person needs about the genre and is on the top of the heap.

    One of the features of the “old” site that I really miss is Pandora’s Box. I really enjoyed reading 2 different POV’s on a book. I wish there was some way to revive it or something like it. I always found this interesting.

  28. I’m afraid for me Jobs & Apple are forever tarnished by their part in starting the whole Agency model of ebook pricing.
    I think there are as many Victorian as Regency books among recent historicals, and I have no problem with either. As always, it isn’t the bare bones that stories share that matter, it is how the author fleshes out the story. (To use a different analogy from recipes.)
    As for the AAR site design, the new layout actually has me reading many more reviews than the old layout. One of my strongest selection criteria for romances is whether they have humor. Since the reviews don’t include a feature checklist (as illustrated in my Genre Labels essay on the AAR WWW board), I have to look through review text for any mention of humor. Having two review teasers on the home page each day lets me glance at them and decide whether to read the whole review. I have probably bought more books based on reviews since the redesign than I did in all the previous years when I basically just read columns and visited the message boards.

  29. I still read RS. I don’t mind the SEALs, the black ops, the over the top plots and scenarios. I thought Karen Rose faltered a bit in her last one, but she’s still an auto-read.
    As for the site: Well, I still think it’s more “gossipy” than anything else. It’s more difficult to get an interesting thread started than it used to be. I check through it most days, but not as much catches my interest as it used to. Just me, maybe.

  30. I’m not a heavy reader of Romantic Suspense, but I do love Karen Rose and JD Robb (very cross-genre). I’ve read a few other authors but they weren’t anything I want to return to. I did like the Susanne Brockman Troublshooters series up until the most recent two. However, in romantic suspense, I am sick and tired of serial killer plots. How about some modern spy novels or something like that? Read some guy books and bone up on the thriller market.

    Like others I stick with a few favorite authors who write well in the Regency period. Mary Balogh, Mary Jo Putney and Carla Kelley and a few others are my go-to authors. I love historical romance, but I look for books set in other countries and other time periods.

    I wasn’t on the website much before the change, but from what I remember, this one is more easily navigated. That’s always a huge improvement.

  31. I, for one, really like the redesign. I especially appreciate having pictures of the book covers of the books you are reviewing that day. Thanks.
    I gave up on most romantic suspense a while back. Oh, I still read a few of my old standbys (Nora, JAK), but I am totally burnt out on FBI special teams (sorry Kay Hooper-you dragged the Bishop series on too long). And I long ago gave up on the military/former military types. I tend more to read mysteries that have a touch of romance rather than romantic suspense.
    As for historicals, it may seem like all Regency, but I ignore those and get my history fix with the Victorians (esp. Meredith Duran and Sherry Thomas). The bigger complaint should be “all England, all the time”.
    But it looks like there is hope for those of us who want a different setting.
    Carrie Lofty’s new book, for example, is set in South Africa.

  32. All I feel about RS has already been mentioned. As for historicals, I’ve gotten tired of thinly disguised modern mores and views grafted on pseudo-historical settings. Occasionally I’ll come across a review that sparks my interest. I’ve discovered some good reads this way, but not enough to bring me back to the historical fold.

    As for the site, I’m so set in my ways that any change is difficult but a year later I’m used to the new format (?). The one thing I wish we had was a comments place immediately after the reviews. That’s just to accommodate my lazyness though.

  33. I rarely read RS anymore, although I did download Sandra Brown’s latest, but I think I did it mostly for my DIL who wants to read it. To me, RS just got to be the same-old…rinse and repeat, and to add to that, the suspense was never that exciting. If I do read suspense, I will read another genre.

    As for AAR, I can’t believe it has been more than a year since the redesign. I like it very much and always appreciate the work that goes into running AAR. Thank you so much for the effort!

  34. A lot of the greats of the romantic suspense genre have left for straight suspense: Lisa Gardner, Tami Hoag, Tess Gerritsen, Sandra Brown. I still read them – they just aren’t writing RS.

    That leaves me with Karen Rose (good), Karen Robards (all over the place), Linda Howard (brilliant) and Lisa Marie Rice (good if you can make it past some of her quirks.) Susanna Kearsley is genius but she writes gothics – does that count? Brenda Novak but only the first book in her series tends to be strong. Wendi Corsi Staub but again a problem with the sequels. Allison Brennan used to be strong but she has become annoying.

    As far as Regency novels, I gave up on historicals not written by Susanna Fraser, Carla Kelly or Mary Balogh. Or those in the Inspirational market.

    maggie b. ‘

  35. I’m not sure why romantic suspense is such a hard sell; but like other trends, maybe it’s outlived its welcome. A genre becomes popular, and then that’s all you see on the shelves. At that saturation point, the stories can become mediocre and no longer work for readers. What happened to balance in the different genres? LOL. I still enjoy a good suspenseful novel; and with a good relationship, it’s even better. I certainly hope it doesn’t go away.

  36. I don’t read romantic suspense (contemporary) at all…yes the Regency is becoming tedious…I have started to drift to more paranormal romance.
    As far as this site is concerned…I didn’t subscribe before what seems to be the change and I find it one of the easier sites to navigate…there are a few that are so “busy” that my brain shuts down and I log out! I enjoy your site very much and have gained many new authors and books for my stash

  37. Well, as a long time romantic suspense reader, I rarely read the books anymore.
    The fictional secret organizations, the women on the run, the ex-SEAL, RANGER, or other military organization just seems old. If I want to read a suspenseful book, I usually pick from that sub- genre in fiction. Not that those books aren’t filled with ex-military, but the plotting seems tighter.

Comments are closed.