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HISTORY 284S: Book Publishing & Marketing: A Case Study of the Romance Fiction Industry


  • Divide into pairs or small groups. Within those groups, designate one person as the notetaker, one person as the timekeeper, and one person as the reporter.
  • Explore 2 or 3 of the items in the "Links to Items" list below. A digitized copy of an item as well as information about that item can be accessed by clicking on the links.
  • Browse, for about 10 minutes, through at least one item, making notes (including page numbers!) of anything that interests or puzzles you. You're welcome to turn off your cameras and microphones while you work. You may not have enough time to look through all of the items—that’s fine!
    • Consider using the "Getting to Know Your Item" questions in the box below.
  • Share observations with your group, for about 10 minutes.
    • To start, the timekeeper will give each group member one minute to share their observations with the rest of the group.
    • With the remaining time, work together to answer the group discussion questions (see below).  

Links to Items

Check out our suggested reading list on all these genres and topics!

Discussion Questions: Getting to Know Your Item (10 minutes)

We offer these questions as guidance; you may notice and investigate other details about your item, and that's great! You'll be sharing your thoughts about these questions or your own observations with your small group in the next step of this activity, so you may want to take notes.

  • What do you notice about the physical characteristics of the item? For example, is it hard-cover or paperback or unbound? How are colors and graphics used? 
  • Who created the item you’re looking at and and when and why do you think it was created? Is there a specific point the creator was trying to make or message they were trying to send?
  • How do these materials make you feel? How do they help you understand the experience of romance writers?

Discussion Questions: Discussing Your Item in a Small Group (10 minutes)

  • Do different genres and formats tell the same or similar stories but in different ways? If so, how and why?
  • After exploring these items, what would you tell a friend about romance writing?
  • Sometimes historical sources raise as many questions as they answer. What questions do you still have about the publication you explored? 

Suggested Follow-Up Assignment

Create a small exhibit on the history of romance writing

Students can select 3-5 items from the material used or referenced in this class session to create a small exhibit about the history of romance writing. Students will likely need to conduct additional secondary research, using either the suggested readings listed in this guide or sources they find on their own. As part of their exhibit, students should prepare a brief introductory statement as well as exhibit labels for each of the items they choose, providing contextual information to help a general audience understand the history of romance writing. Students could also write a curator’s reflection paper, explaining their process and analyzing the choices they made about what sources and what information they included or did not in their exhibit.