Mina V. Esguerra
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|Name||Mina V. Esguerra|
|Publishers||Bright Girl Books/RomanceClass Books|
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Romanceclass Books has helped publish over a hundred Filipino authors and our books have readers in at least 23 countries worldwide. More about our books, classes, and events at romanceclassbooks.com.
Romance, Diversity, Community
My name is Mina V. Esguerra. I am a romance author and publisher in Metro Manila, Philippines. I write romance in English for a young adult and adult audience. Since 2009, I’ve released 27 books. I founded a romance writing collective called RomanceClass in 2013, and since then we have become a writing and publishing support system for over 100 Filipino authors of romance in English.
As a romance author who advocates for diversity and inclusion in romance literature publishing, I consider some of the top keywords in the industry to be romance, diversity, and community.
In the Philippines, romance is not part of the regular curriculum in literature programs, and there are very few academics specializing in the genre. Most literary writers can look to national writing workshops, prestigious contests, and scholarships to develop their careers but these don’t consider romance genre authors, unless the author is considering a change in career.
Still, the books are consistent bestsellers and reader favorites, based on curated lists published by Philippine bookstores, and public analytics on reader apps. I’d say it persists as a genre that is popular with its audience, just not with its gatekeepers. I would consider “romance” a keyword of note—having noticed that some parts of the industry almost wish this was a trend that would go away, and it hasn’t. So, the industry produces romance that it doesn’t care much about. I wish the Philippine publishing industry cared about the romance it produces.
In 2013 I started #RomanceClass, an online class for romance authors, and since then we’ve run the class at least ten times and helped over a hundred authors. To be able to explain what RomanceClass does, I need to quickly describe the romance publishing industry in the Philippines today. Traditional corporate romance publishing in the Philippines is now almost entirely driven by online popularity and virality. It’s common for publishers to ask authors to make their stories or author personas popular online first, before even considering publishing them. This is actually exciting and a huge opportunity for authors who are able to connect to their audience online — but when an author does all the work to build their audience, they should have more ownership of their intellectual property and be given better contracts. That is not yet the case.
What would be better for all Filipino romance authors is for the industry to diversify the romance that it publishes, so that the market can grow. And as it grows, the industry should support its authors and artists, as well as its readers.
I describe the situation in the Philippines with 3 keywords:
1. Keyword number one is Romance. It is popular today and will still be tomorrow. Romance genre dominates the bestseller lists and app analytics, and romance author events are well-attended. Filipino romance authors of today often now have a following on Wattpad, Twitter, Facebook or their own communities, which means whenever a new book is released they can receive orders of more than 100 copies in the first day. Over the course of its first year, one title can sell from 2,000 to over 50,000 copies.
Filipinos’ consumption of romance has its critics, who say we read and watch too much romance, such that we don’t have room for anything else. I think there’s room to tell romance stories that reflect our realities, and a popular genre is a great place to start discussing the things that matter to us.
2. Keyword number two is Diversity. Yes this means BL/GL and queer romance fiction but it also means Filipino romance creators of various underrepresented communities who are posting their work online. On Wattpad or Webtoon or Twitter or Archive of Our Own and other places. Traditional publishing has a reputation for being too Manila-centric, and these new creators are thriving and attracting a massive audience from various regions in the country. They are innovating in these spaces before publishers find them.
3. Keyword number three is Community. Where do we find the innovative new storytellers? They’re on Wattpad, Komiket for indie print comics, Webtoon and Penlab for serialized online comics, RomanceClass for romance in English, Instagram and Facebook for romantic poetry…many communities online. The tomorrow of Philippine publishing is starting in online communities today.
So many good things can come from publishing industry’s recognition of the romance genre, of committing to diversity and inclusion, and of providing reliable and sustainable support to creative communities. It’s good for creators, good for readers, and good for the state of publishing as a whole.
BOOK INTRODUCTION VIDEO
|If the Dress Fits|
|You, Me, U.S|