Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What About Romances? - Crunching the Numbers

The economy isn't great, in fact, it's still pretty bad, and though statistics are really only in through 2009 (we've yet to see what 2010 has done) the undeniable fact is that though the economy is still struggling to bounce back from the latest recession, book sales increased slightly in 2009 from 2008.


Who knows.  Some say it's because the cost of a book is relatively cheap compared to other forms of entertainment out there (does that include playing with a computer game already purchased?).  Others claim its because reading a book offers an escape for readers from tough times (movies already owned on DVD don't accomplish that?) I don't know the why and the 'experts' aren't very convincing, but really, does it matter to the writer? He or she just wants to be read and carve out a career so any reason is a good reason for book sales to climb even a little. In fact, just holding steady right now is a major plus.

In fact, Romance fiction continues to hold the largest share of the consumer market, beating out other categories like Mystery, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Crime, Horror and others.  

For romance writers the good news is romance fcction (with all it's sub-genres such as Historical, Paranormal, Fantasy, Sci/Fi, Inspirational, Regency, Suspense, Erotic) has, for a long time, been the mainstay of the mass-market paperbacks.

More good news for the romance writer; the genre is gaining a foothold in the Ebook format (which is pretty much exploding about now) as well.  As a mater of fact it went from number 3 position in 2009 and is currrently in number 2 postion for 2010.  The year will have to end to see how that shakes out overall.

So who publishes all those Romances?  Well, the primary publishers are Mira, Berkley, Avon, Little Brown, Pocket, Dell, Grand Central, HQN, Ballantine and Zebra. Tuck that info away in your brain if you're writing or thinking of writing a romance. The best selling 'sub-genres' are Contemporary (series), Contemporary (single title), Paranormal and Historical. But choose one your really enjoy writing, not one that's simply in the 'best-selling' category.

Who is the general audience for the romance writer? Apparently the core of the readership is women between thirty-one and forty-nine - oh, and apparently in a romantic relationship of their own.  And over 90% of romances sold are to women - guess that tidbit isn't too surprising. And obviously those who read specific sub-genres have their interests there.

Another thing to keep in mind is how these readers find out about the books they buy.  Apparently personal websites aren't having too much impact as yet - at least when it comes to generating direct buys.  Mostly it's word of mouth, impulse buying from a book display at a store, generally liking the subject of the book before opening it and perusing the best-seller lists. I haven't seen much about what's hooking them for the Ebooks they purchase, but can only project its similar, but with cyber displays, etc. 

Oh, and in case you're wondering how that translates into dollars, Romance Fiction sold better than one and a third billion dollars worth of books in 2009.  Overall book sales were more than ten billion dollars for the year just past.

So if you're considering writing a romance, go ahead, have at it.  You  never know where it may lead.


  1. Hi Peggy,

    A great column with great statistics. Good to hear some good news!

    - Leslie

  2. I'm delighted to see that someone has explained why the romance/erotic novels command so much shelf space. Simple: they sell, especially now.

  3. Yes, it's true, simple as that, they sell.


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