Saturday, December 25, 2010

Romance and E-Readers

By Anna Kathryn Lanier

Merry Christmas! I’m spending time with my in-laws and will check in from time to time, though, see what’s going on. Thanks for having me, Lisabet. First, I’m discussing the phenomenal sales of e-romances. Second, leave a comment on my topic or on my blurb and you could win a prize

I attended a conference in October 2008 where, during the question and answer panel, one of the visiting agents said that two things sell well during a bad economy – movie tickets and books, in particular, romance books. To back up this statement, The New York Times in an April 2009 article says, “While sales of adult fiction overall were basically flat last year, according to Nielsen Bookscan, which tracks about 70 percent of retail sales, the romance category was up 7 percent [in 2008] after holding fairly steady for the previous four years.” It went on to say that Barnes and Noble reported that they expect a 4 to 6 percent decline in overall book sales for the year 2009, yet there's been an increase in romance sales since January.

Now, we have e-book readers, which has brought on a whole new playing field for readers. An area of publication that more established publishers all but sneered at has become the jewel of the industry. As The New York Times wrote on December 8, 2010 the sale of romance e-books is thriving. Matthew Shear, the executive vice president and publisher of St. Martin’s Press, says “Romance is becoming as popular in e-books as it is in print.”

The New York Times article would have us believe that this is because romance readers are ashamed of the covers on print books, embarrassed by the bare-chested men and scantily clad women that so often catch our eyes. With the advent of the ‘brown-paper bag’ for bookcovers, readers are snatching up romance books as never before, albeit as e-books. However, as the statics above show, romance has always been in the forefront of book sales. Romance has always outpaced the sales of all other genre, taking anywhere from 30-50% of the market.

According to the Romance Writers of America yearly report, romances generated $1.36 billion in sales in 2009. They made up more than fifty percent of the paperbacks sold and 25% of all books sold. In comparison, religion/inspirational books generated $770 million in sales, mystery $674 million, Sci Fi $554 and classical literary fiction $462.

Barnes and Noble, it seems, has had its head in the sand for the past two decades. According to William Lynch, the chief executive, Barnes and Noble has been a non-player in the romance field. But with the genre capturing 25% of the e-book market, it has decided to get on the romance bandwagon. Sometime next year, Lynch says he “expects the company’s e-book sales in romance to surpass its print sales.”

Even when the economy is on the down turn, romance sales bloom. When things look bleaker than bleak, people want hope, love and happiness. Romance novels give them that along with an escape from reality. And now, with e-readers, it gives it to them in a handy, take-along way. Most e-readers can hold hundreds, if not thousands of books.

Thousands of more choices, too. On average, a print romance book has a shelf life of about a month. E-books change all that. Now a book can have an unlimited life-span. Both Random House and Harlequin Enterprises are digitizing backlists of favorite authors, Harlequin to the tune of 10,000 titles dating back to 2002.

I do not believe the argument that romance is selling through the roof (a 27% increase at Sourcebooks this year) because of e-books. Romance has always sold through the roof. Romance has been the back-bone of the publishing industry for decades. Nor do I believe we buy e-books over paperbacks because we’re embarrassed to let other people know what we’re reading. I have proudly read my paperback romances in public.

No, I think the reason e-books are selling like hotcakes is due to the convenience of buying them. E-readers allow for the instant purchase of a book, no matter where the reader is. Sitting at home in one’s easy chair, at the airport waiting for a flight, at a restaurant talking with friends (“You have to get this book.” Bingo, go online and download the book then and there.). As long as wi-fi is available, a reader can instantly get a book.

Contrary to the recent snickering and whispers by the news media, the popularity of romance is nothing new. Romance novels have been at the top of the buyers’ lists for decades. It is no surprise to me at all that the genre is leading the e-book pack, too!

What’s your opinion in this argument? Do more people buy romance e-books because an e-reader hides the ‘naughty’ books they’re reading? Or are more e-romances being bought because it’s convenient?

Speaking of e-books, my latest story A GIFT BEYOND ALL MEASURE was released on December 8, 2010 through The Wild Rose Press. It is now available for purchase for Kindle and will soon be available at Barnes and Noble for their nook.

Leave a comment and you can win a copy of A GIFT BEYOND ALL MEASURE. I’ll draw for a winner on December 28th.

Blurb:

Arriving home for Christmas, the last thing Jacob Scott expects in his house is a sexy, shotgun-toting stranger. Worse, his attraction to her bothers him even more than the gun. Still reeling from the deception of his long-time girlfriend, he’s not looking for romance.

Tessa Jones has learned one hard lesson—when everyone in your life has failed you the only one you can trust is yourself. Facing the whispers of the townsfolk and an arson charge, Tessa unexpectedly finds herself trusting Jacob with more than her legal troubles.

Struggling between the promise of the present and the hurts of the past, can these two lost souls overcome their pain long enough to discover a gift beyond all measure?

Unedited Excerpt:

Jacob Scott raised a brow, then broke away from her hypnotic stare to glance at the shotgun pellets embedded in his wall. “You could have killed me.”

“You broke into the house in the middle of the night.”

He reached into his jeans’ pocket and pulled out his keys. “I didn’t break in. I have the damn key to my own front door.”

She put a hand on her hip and cocked her head. “And how was I to know it was you making all that noise? You’re not supposed to be here.”

Irritation boiled inside his gut. She was treating him like a criminal for entering his own home.

“Well, I am here and this is my house. And just who are you?”

She drew in a breath and glanced to her left. “Tessa Jones,” she mumbled.

The name rattled around in his brain. It was familiar. She was familiar, but he didn't think he'd actually met her before. He sure would have remembered that thick auburn hair and lush body if they'd been introduced. So, why did he know the name?

Oh, no. Not that Tessa Jones.

“Tessa Jones? The cook for Baxter’s Diner who burned down half of Spencerville after she started a kitchen fire last month?” Thrusting a hand through his hair, he shifted his weight “What are you doing in my house?”

Her face reddened as she glared at him. “I’m the cook for the cowboys here on the Triple H.”

What was Christina thinking? Hiring an arsonist as a cook?

What he thought must have shown on his face, because the hand on her hip fisted, bunching the flannel and inching it up to reveal more of her lovely thighs. Fire blazed in her eyes. “You know, things aren’t always what they appear to be.”

With that, she strode down the hallway to a bedroom and slammed the door behind her.

Also, I have a limited-edition A GIFT BEYOND ALL MEASURE COOKBOOK. You can download the FREE pdf version of it off my website.

Anna Kathryn Lanier
More than Tumbleweeds
Heartwarming, Sensual Westerns
www.aklanier.com

22 comments:

Lisabet Sarai said...

Greetings, Anna,

Thank you for contributing to Beyond Romance on this Christmas day!

I think your analysis is right on. The ebook phenomenon has made mainstream publishers notice romance, but it's been popular forever.

reader said...

The price and available of the ebook to anyone that can hook into the Web, is the future of publishing. It also let more people (men)buy books that would not go into a store an buy.

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Hi, Lisabet. Thanks for having me. I just always get irked when people snicker at romance novels. The lady on our local newscast did when making this report a couple of weeks ago.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Susan Macatee said...

I've bought and read romance books for years, no matter what's on the cover. And now I've got an e-book reader, my main reason being, I'm having a hard time passing on the print books I've read and no longer want. The e-reader lets me store all my new books with no worry about shelf space or finding readers who want my hand-me-downs. Has nothing to do with book covers.

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Hi, Reader. LOL....yes, those closet romance reading men! Actually, there is some truth to the matter, I believe, that people are buying books they wouldn't normally buy. The article did mention that there's a spike in sales of racier, erotica books, as well, backing up your theory.

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Susan, another good point in having an ereader....more books, less storage space.

Colleen said...

Merry Christmas!
Romances are the reason I love to read... always want to read about the HEAs... as for e-books, I have increased my e-book buying quite abit over the last two years... both price and the huge number available at ones fingertips lead me to get them, but I am still one that tends to enjoy an actual book in hand...

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Colleen, I'm with you. I like the printed book, too. There's just something about the feel of it. And as an author who's had both print and e-books, there is something special about holding the 'real' thing!

Denise said...

I always think of people who snicker at romance readers as literary snobs. They treat romance readers as if we come from the "wrong side of the tracks."

Do they continue to snicker when they see me whip out my medical magazines/journals or medical books? No but they do ask me how I can read romance since I have a secondary education and I'm an RN.

Why do they associate romance readers as those stupid, lazy women with nothing better to do? Why do men reading scifi/horror etc. not get the same treatment?

In the same vein--do the highbrow movies ever make a real dent at the box office? Nope, they do not. It's the movies with lots of action, romance, and special effects that clean up and make the big bucks. As I heard MaryJanice Davidson say at a workshop--"I'm laughing all the way to the bank."

Literary doesn't equate to the big bucks and the range of romance is wide with multiple subgenres.

If I don't snicker at them for their reading preferences why do they feel the need to knock mine? Like Melinda, I've never hid my romance books. I'm proud of what I read and write and like MaryJanice Davidson, I hope to someday "laugh all the way to the bank."

She said...

I love romances. I like being taken away to world unlike my own. I have both prints and e-books. I can go either way but I do believe that many authors are now availabe to us readers through e-books that would not been in print due to the sheer volume of books available each week. Many good authors would be overlooked if not for e-books. I like both and am glad I have the opportunity to read either.

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Hi, Denise! Thanks for the insight. I always wonder about those people who 'don't like romance.' When I first wrote on the subject of romance and publishing in 2009, I commented on a columnist who snickered about romance, while admiting she'd never read one. I response then was, would you write about how to cook collard greens, if you'd never don it before?

Hi, She. Thanks for stopping by. I do agree, because of the low overhead with e-books, there are a lot more chances for authors to find a publisher and get published. e-publishers are more willing to take a chance on out of the norm stories.

Margaret Tanner said...

Great post,
If it wasn't for romance books, many publishers would go broke.As for e-books I think they will become even bigger as time passes. My only concern is the big publishers who sneered at the e-book publishers a couple of years ago, now want to jump on the bandwagon, because they realised their is money to be made. Let's hope they don't do to the e-publishers, who started the phenomenon, what they did to the smaller print publishers a few years ago - either bought them out, or drove them out of business.

Regards

Margaret

Skhye said...

Hi, AK! I finally caught wind of this post... So, my two cents: E-books read on e-readers are too convenient. You read something you really like, and high on the buzz, buy something similar. I've spent $285 from B&N gift cards on ebooks this December... IT's like a sick addiction. But I find an author I like and buy her backlist. Yes, I said HER. LOL Most men may not enjoy the emotional rollercoaster we global-thinking female minds LOVE. That's okay. Who wants to think linearly anyway? Just remember all that garbage we hear from non-romance readers also shows that we're all human. Even those folks with mental blocks about the romance genre... That mental block thing really affects what we see with our blinders on. ;) ~Skhye

Celia Yeary said...

ANNA--well, that's one way to meet! Loved the excerpt.
I agree with your statistics about romance readers, and yes, the sales do rise in bad times. About eReaders adding to the sales, yea for us! My theory of the increase is the "compulsive buy" theory used in all stores, especially supermarkets. As you stand in the check-out line, books and magazines are on one side, candy is on the other. Shoppers reach out and add something to their cart they didn't intend to buy--compulsive shopping. Same thing with eBooks--"While I'm here, I'll just pick up this one, and that one, and ...." Make it easy for readers to get your eBooks, and I'm hoping they will! Off to formulate my new marketing plan! Thanks--Celia

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Hi, Margaret, Skhye and Celia. Thanks for the comments and insight. I do hope that we don't do away with print books entirely. I do like the feel of them in my hands. That said, I suppose I need to purchase some from time to time...lol.

I agree, the convienence of buying e-books makes for lots of sales. Once you go 'online' looking for one book, you end up looking at and purchasing others.

Gwynn Morgan said...

If one can believe Romance Writers of America, romance has been the leading genre of popular fiction for a long time. I'd be inclined to agree. In fact I would almost say romance has led to the growing popularity of ebooks as much as the reverse! I know when I first began to write as a teenager I always had a love story in my tales so was thrilled to discover "romance" as a reader in the 60s and later to write in the genre for real. The wide range of choices now is great and one good thing ebooks have done is to advance cross-genre (fantasy+romance, mystery +romance etc.)books where there is not the "where do we shelve this" issue of B&M bookstores. Now with new readers etc the ball is finally really rolling. Hurrah! Some of us have been pushing for this for about 15-20 years and just hope the small press firms we love and support do not get swamped as the big guys join the fray. As for popularity of romance, we all love HEA endings and some uplifting reading to counter the sad state of the world these days IMHO

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Hi, Morgan. Thanks for stopping by. I agree, it's no doubt the romance readers who have made the e-reader a better marketing tool.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Wow, Anna!

You've really brought people out to comment! Thanks for starting such a lively discussion.

Warmly,
Lisabet

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Hi, Lisabet. I know, must be the topic. Thanks for having me.

Joanna Aislinn said...

Hi Lisabet and Anna,

My take on e-romances is simple. Feel-good stories make one feel...good :) Convenient/instant buy; no need to find yet another place to store a keeper; often significantly less expensive than a hard copy.

Hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas. Many blessings for a peace-filled, joyful and healthy 2011!

Joanna Aislinn
Dream. Believe. Strive. Achieve!
NO MATTER WHY
The Wild Rose Press
www.joannaaislinn.com
www.joannaaislinn.wordpress.com

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Joanna, glad you finally found us. Thanks for the comments.

Janice said...

Thank you for the run down on the market. It seems to me that Romances are the dirty little secret of the publishing world, instead of it's little darling.

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