(Without the Manufactured Hype)

Multi-level marketing crazes preach empowerment and girl bossing. But what about romance – the home of #Bossbabes literally writing their own rules and learning the value of lifting each other up.

Like most of us in Romancelandia, I occasionally find myself in that slim period of time between edits, ARCs, releases, and promotion where I can finally catch up on real life. Today is one of those days. So, while cleaning and doing everyday things, like showering and cooking meals with actual nutrients in them, I’ve been streaming the new documentary on LuLaRoe, called LuLaRich, on Amazon Prime.

If you don’t know what LuLaRoe is – where have you been for the last four years? Kidding. They were the hottest multi-level marketing (MLM) craze of late, with their super soft “butter” leggings flying off the racks faster than new inventory could be created and shipped to retailers.

Until the whole company fell apart – just like the seams of their leggings.

But this isn’t a wrap-up of the documentary (watch it though, it’s fascinating). As a communication scholar, I tend to be dialed in with how we communicate and the ways in which we do. In LuLaRich, we hear the owners talk about empowerment a lot, about how they wanted moms specifically to feel a sense of accomplishment through owning their own business and seeing that success. It was this messaging that got me thinking about a myriad of ways in which Romancelandia runs parallel.

While LuLaRoe is at the top of everyone’s water cooler conversations right now, empowering moms isn’t exclusive to LuLaRoe. There is a string of MLMs using terms like “Girl Boss” and “Boss Babe” and “Writing My Own Rules,” and so many other catchy ways to signify that they’re part of a sorority of other #bossbabes who are writing their own rules while still being able to balance time with their families and run a business.

As I watched, I remember thinking about all the shakes, anti-wrinkle creams, make-up, leggings, handbags, statement jewelry – the list goes on ad infinitum – I’ve purchased from friends and acquaintances over the years, politely supporting them and their endeavors. Yet, those same friends who worked their MLMs as supplemental income while raising families were the first to scrunch their noses and inform me that they don’t read “those kinds of books” when I would excitedly tell them about the newest story I’d published. My question has always been, “How is it any different?” We’re both working towards writing our own rules and running our own businesses.

You may have read my previous article about the stigma surrounding romance novels. About how centuries of branding and counter-messaging have essentially created a Sisyphus-esque situation for those of us who like to write about smooching and happy endings. However, our metaphorical boulders are weighed down with the complexities of a patriarchal culture that imbues sexual stigma and shame into the very fabric of our society.

“Romancelandia is where the girl boss authentically exists.”

Many of us write under pen names. Those choices aren’t explicitly attributed to wanting to remain a closeted romance writer – and may also be tied to privacy in an age where everything is on the internet. I, too, write under a pen name, so there’s no shame in this game. However, while I watched LuLaRich and reflected on the social aspect of selling, it made me wonder what the romance world would look like if, as an industry, we changed our messaging.

Wherever you sit on the MLM side of the coin, we can all agree that they reign supreme when it comes to branding, marketing, and driving home their messages. And while writing romance may differ in our opportunity for earnings, we do positively nail empowerment, community, and supporting one another. More so, I daresay, than the saccharine and contrived messages from some of those companies.

Many, though not all, romance writers are mothers, writing while raising their kids. Those moms hire other moms to edit, format, and market their books. We employ virtual assistants, social media assistants, book cover designers – all of whom are part of this wide web that has been created mostly by the indie romance author.

Our industry looked around and learned very quickly how successful we can be by lifting each other. And look at us! It doesn’t have to be restated, but I will because I love saying it: we are a billion-dollar industry. Billion. With a B. A billion-dollar industry for women, by women. And we hit those billion dollars without any overinflated buy-ins or by recruiting others to join our teams to benefit from their overinflated buy-ins. We welcome with open arms new people who also want to take a stab at writing stories about love, and we cheer for their success as they cheer for ours.

Romancelandia is where the girl boss authentically exists. We are the hashtag bossbabe. Each of us literally writes our own rules. We write, edit, create, promote according to our own schedules. We steal moments between office meetings, soccer practice, or nap times. Create covers in the quiet of the night after everyone has gone to bed. Our businesses are fueled by passion and supported by this incredible community.

This is what we should be focusing on. These are the messages that should fill our green content, rather than waste our energies cheekily sharing memes and messages that deride us or fighting within our ranks over dark romance, clean romance, and all the heat rankings in between. And, let’s be honest, ranking according to Scoville would make it easiest for all of us without using patriarchal messages of “clean” (nonsexual) and “dirty” (containing sex), but I digress.

Just imagine for a moment what we could do as a movement. All of us. Even the big names. Imagine we all stuck to a universal message of female empowerment, of choosing to illustrate healthy, confident women unafraid to request sexual satisfaction and promoted the strength of our community. Can you picture what that wave would look like? We have strength in numbers, ladies. If we, as the Romancelandia collective, utilized our social media pages to promote our pride in our sisterhood, imagine the seeds of change we could sow for the next generation.

Never forget Romancelandia – we are the original #bossbabes.

While this article assumes that the majority romance writers are female to draw comparisons to the MLM, the author recognizes not all of Romancelandia comprises cisgender females.