Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Romance Writing and Readers

I've been working on my latest novel, this time a romance, taking a break from scripts just briefly to do the novel, then of course I'll want to do another script, and then of course another novel.

Can't help it, I like variety.  And well, though I'm about 3/4 of the way through the process having written a lot of pages, done a lot of editing and know there's much more, I couldn't help my thoughts skipping over to what sales are like these days for books in general and Romances in particular.  I read like crazy and you should too, for enjoyment and especially if you, too, are a writer.  It's like professional enrichment.

So, in my ponderings I did dig up a few numbers that are interesting.  One I tweeted.  For 2009 overall net consumer book sales were predicted to go down.  But, according to the most recent Association of American Publishers report - book sales were actually up 1.8 percent so far for the year. The future apparently looks good for romantic fiction -- sort of like the movies in the 20's after the crash- people are turning to romance novels for 'happily ever after'.  People generally need to be entertained, even more so during the 'tough' times.

Don't get me wrong, times were tough for the publishing industry in 2008 pretty much like everybody else.  Some had profits, others losses.  There was reorganization, people lost their jobs - and there were other problems.  Used book sales increased, there were fewer bookstores because of closings and of course with the net, TV, movies, ipods, etc, there's a vastly increased competition for consumer leisure time. Folks read only about four hours a week in 2008 as opposed to the fifteen hours a week online and about 12 hours a week watching TV. 

Another interesting fact is American women are more likely to read than men.  The average book reader is about 44 years old. It doesn't hurt to know who your audience is. So, in the romance field over 74 million, closer to 75 million Americans (that's just Americans) read at least one romance novel in 2008. More than 90% of those were read in paperback - but don't forget the more than 47% who read in hardcover, the 6.5% who listened to audio books and the nearly 5.5% who read in Ebook format.  Overall this is good news for the romance writing field - and for the romance reader. Harlequin, Penguin and Hachette Book Group were up in sales for 2008 while HarperCollins, Random House and Simon & Schuster fell.

In general, though the peak year so far for romance seems to have been 2005, there was only a relatively small decline in sales and then they leveled off pretty much for 2006, 2007, and 2008.  The jury is still out on 2009.

In the romance genre there are subgenres and they broke out pretty much like this.  Contemporary series sold the most with around 26% of the market.  Single title Contemporary at about 18%, Historical at about 16%, Paranormal (my favorite by far) at about 12.5%.  A handful of others, Suspense, Inpirational, suspense series and erotic combined to make up about another 25% of the market and the rest is sort of misc.

Now, remember the overall dollar amounts we're talking about is 'billions'.  When they say book sales slid and were 'down' that's 'down to $10.175 BILLION from $10.714 BILLION.  So while we can't really say 'let the good times roll', things aren't looking too bad in book world. - and look slightly better in romance world.

Whew.  Well, with that out of the way, back to work on my paranormal romance!

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