While authors are also readers and play the separate roles accordingly, there are times when their reader selves overlap with their author personas. Plus, social media technology provides more opportunity than in the past for readers to learn about authors and their interests. Therefore, if an author publicly shares the titles of books she reads, sometimes the act is a component of her marketing strategy, like a form of branding.
In general, I assume authors enjoy and actively read books in the genre(s) they write, at least when it comes to SFR. I enjoy learning about which SFR books authors like because a) it's interesting information that can inform my experience of an author's stories and b) I occasionally learn about new titles that way. I don't expect authors to be experts about SFR, but I do expect them to be knowledgeable. Not just in terms of craft, but about things like the genre's current market.
I also assume authors, for the most part, are interested in helping to raise the visibility of SFR as a whole (because it in turn can help individual authors). One way of accomplishing that goal is by routinely mentioning SFR titles they've enjoyed. Doesn't even have to be a recommendation, just a moment of sharing and paying it forward.
Lately, however, I've begun to wonder if my assumptions are off base.
The reason being is that when I encounter authors being asked about SFRs they enjoy or SFR characters they like in a public venue, the answers are frequently and perplexingly meager. I've seen authors sidestep such questions in interviews over the years. (Keep in mind that I read many, many SFR-related interviews and posts so I tend to notice such patterns. YMMV.).
In interviews, I've seen answers take the following forms (which, incidentally, have been by both mainstream print and digital-first authors):
* Authors don't read SFR when they're writing because of concerns they'll unconsciously copy ideas/passages from other books.
* They can't find any SFRs to read.
* They can find SFR, but not any they like (which is sometimes followed with a variation of "So I wrote my own" as an example).
* They share favorites from other mediums more frequently, like movies and television.
* They discuss non-romance SF books (or even fantasy).
* They only name title(s) by authors who share the same publisher.
* They mention SFRs, but only those by the most highly known authors (e.g., Linnea Sinclair and Catherine Asaro) and/or authors of classic romantic SF (e.g., Lois McMaster Bujold)--even though many other estimable books have been published since.
All of the above amounts to a collective signal boost when one takes into account the numerous interviews and posts authors do. What message is being sent? Why aren't more authors engaging in social media conversations about the SFR books they read?
Maybe I'm completely underestimating how competitive authors are. Perhaps they feel it's not in their best interest to mention any other books except those by the most established, visible authors.
On the other hand, perhaps the idea of branding oneself as an active SFR reader has been overlooked as a way of helping the genre grow.
To clarify, this isn't about establishing fan credibility. Most authors are clearly speculative fiction fans to varying degrees. But when an author writes SFR and her list of what she reads in the genre seems to be practically nonexistent, what kind of message does that send?
It makes sense to give credit where credit is due. Authors like Linnea Sinclair, Catherine Asaro, and Lois McMaster Bujold have worked hard in both their writing and advocacy of romantic SF and SFR. Subsequently, if they're truly the only authors worth mentioning over and over and over again, the implication is that science fiction romance authors whose names aren't Sinclair, Bujold, or Asaro must tremendously step up their games both creatively and marketing-wise if other gold standard books are to break out.
I'll leave you with this comment (via The Radish) as further food for thought.