I've been publishing romance for about three years now. One thing that I've learned is that romance readers have strong opinions about what they want to read. Certain genres and story-lines are enduringly popular. Furthermore, once readers discover a particular sub-genre they like, they seem to want more and more stories in a similar vein.
I've had readers tell me that they don't read anything except M/M romance, or that they're happy to read only vampire stories. One reason for the proliferation and commercial success of series is that readers crave more experiences the same worlds and involving the same characters that they enjoyed in a first book.
I can understand the rationale. If you've found something that works for you, why not stick to it? Personally, though, I find the situation a bit frustrating. Maybe it's because I am easily bored. Having written one shape-shifter, I don't necessarily have the urge to tackle another one, at least not right away. I've so far never even attempted a series (though I am considering one set in the world of Necessary Madness). I'd generally rather move on to something fresh and new. My favorite stimulus for a project is to tackle some genre I've never attempted. Another pet strategy is to begin with a stereotyped, well-defined genre and try to turn it on its head. Serpent's Kiss, for instance, began with my asking myself, "What kind of shape-shifter can I come up with that nobody has done yet?" (Only later did I learn that Stella and Audra Price were also working on a snake-shifter universe--although Jorge in my book is not exactly a snake.)
I have another problem when it comes to satisfying readers' expectations. I like to mix things up. Some of my books, for example, include M/F, M/M and F/F interactions in the same story. I've discovered that this turns some readers off. I've actually had books rejected by review sites because they are not a "pure" example of a genre. I find this extremely annoying. The review sites justify their decisions by claiming that their choices reflect their readers' interests. Are romance readers really that narrow-minded?
This New Year's day, I'd like to challenge you to try something new. If you've never read any BDSM, get yourself a copy of Raw Silk or Rendezvous. Unfamiliar with F/F romance? Read my short story Velvet. Are you curious about ménage tales? I can offer you both M/F/M (Truce of Trust) and M/M/F (Monsoon Fever). Interested in a shape-shifter who doesn't have fur? Try Serpent's Kiss.
Like most writers, I also read voraciously. I have favorite authors, certainly, but I don't want to read the same thing over and over. The best authors surprise me with each new book. That's what I aspire to, also. Ring out the old, ring in the new. That's my mantra.
I only hope that my readers see things the same way.