There are many benefits to being a romance reader. It's like multivitamins—romance should be part of everyone's daily regimen.
Read the last Smart Bitches, Trashy Books on reading physical vs. digital books.
My choice of reading makes me happy each and every time, and with over 300 different books published every month, I have a lot to choose from (though the choosing can be a daunting process). I can read books set in any time period and find books that fit my taste since romance receives influences from any type of fiction. I have, in short, a lot to pick from.
One new benefit to being a romance reader: I have a lot of quality self-published books to choose from as well. A few years ago, “self publishing” was a term that usually communicated desperation, hubris, blithe ignorance, extreme determination, or all of the above. Those who self-published were seen in a negative way as placing their own ego above quality—and boy howdy is that not nearly as true anymore. (Yay!)
This is not to say that there's not crap self-published romance out there. Oh, there is. It'll make your eyes roll back in your head, it's so bad. I read one just last week. But there's also crap romance published by every major and every minor publishing firm as well. See above: with 300 books published a month, they can't all be magical gems of perfection. Some are bound to be crap, in my opinion (and those same books are bound to be straight-up, unfiltered awesomesauce in the opinion of another reader).
And really, readers just want more romance to read. We don't care if it's brand-spanking new or a reprint of something from 1983. If it's good romance, we want to read it. If we missed it when it was published, we don't care. If we find an author we love, we want to read everything she's written. So to have an author, who might have a list of good romances already under her name, announce that she's self published a book from her early career, that can be some tantalizing possibility right there.
What's fascinating about romance as a genre is that it both changes radically, and remains classically the same. The method and venues through which readers buy and consume books are changing rapidly, sometimes hourly. Now one book might be published in more than five different digital formats, several print versions, as well as audio and possibly enhanced digital with video. Readers look for books and can buy them pretty much anywhere, including in the bathroom (though I wouldn't recommending using one's Kindle to buy books in the shower). There are more publishing houses interested in unique books, and more opportunities to self publish older books or new books that haven't found an audience with a publisher—but might find an audience with readers.
So many things have changed about the way books are made, but the romances themselves have some elements that don't change, features that readers will always look for in their novels. Readers are seeking a good story. They want a romance that delivers the emotional and intellectual experience they're looking for, and while trends may change, the core of the romance remains the same. Whether the hero is a musician, a boardroom tycoon or a vampire statistician, if the romance is quality, we want to read it.
That readership means that self-publishing can be an exceptional option for authors. Not only are there many who have received the rights back to books published decades ago, but there are many who want to write novellas or short stories set in worlds from series already in progress. There are authors who have a manuscript that is a big jumping departure from what they're known for, but who know that some of their readers may really enjoy it. When the author has confidence in her story and the ability to reach readers in one more way, we all benefit.
I know I have. I've read self-published books from Courtney Milan, MelJean Brook, Jill Myles and Carolyn Crane, and Kait Nolan, and been so entertained and happy at the end that I've recommended them loudly and frequently. And whereas a few years ago, accepting a self-published book for review might equal an unintentional reading adventure into the land that commas forgot, now, the opportunity to read self-published romance is something I look for eagerly—though I do check the samples for signs of editing and, please, good comma usage.
Sarah Wendell is the co-creator, editor and mastermind of the popular romance blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.