Saturday, January 23, 2010
Why Do We Need So Many New Romances?
How many books do you have in your TBR pile?
I have over 200! That’s over two years reading I could enjoy without having to buy another romance. Mind you, my TBR pile is full of good books that I selected because they especially interested me. So the question is: Why do I and so many others buy new romances each month?
Sometimes I feel like the kid in the phone commercials who tries to throw away his old ‘rollover’ minutes so he can use the fresh new ones issued that month. His mother has a fit and tells him the ‘rollover’ minutes are perfectly good and to use them.
What Do You Do With Your “Rollover” Romances?
Well, there are tens of thousands of perfectly good ‘rollover’ romances out there that have already been written and that most fans haven’t yet read. I know I would enjoy reading many of these books. Every once in a while I actually read a book from my TBR pile and wonder why I put off reading it for so long.
Authors Suffering Deadline Agony!
Right now, as you read this, hundreds of authors are suffering through deadline agony because of the industry’s insatiable demand for new romances. Is this necessary?
Do Romances, Like Bread, Get Stale if Left on the Shelves too long?
The idea of selling books from newsstands as if they were monthly magazines was probably a great marketing idea. In cities, newsstands were everywhere while books stores were few. The newsstand owners were already conditioned to replace magazines when the new ones came out. New magazines attracted old customers back again and again. Even the possibility of the new magazines having arrived was enough to attract the attention of potential customers.
Subscriptions – Why Not?
As a side benefit, monthly romances could be sold by subscription just like magazines. This would give the publisher a guaranteed number of sales for each new title. It would also take a lot of the risk out of publishing new authors. The monthly marketing model was sound except older titles often went out of print very quickly. This is sad. Is there any reason why an author’s new book, her 34th, is really that much better than her 31st which the reader has not yet read? Yet the reader is really excited by 34, while 31 is already out of print. This is not rational but it is the system.
But Aren’t Most Romances Not Monthly?
Probably, but most romances that are available everywhere (that is, outside of bookstores) are issued monthly or have a given date for removal from display. Even non-dated romances come out each month with the monthly romance magazines reviewing these books as if they were monthlies. Readers know that each month there will be a new crop of romances.
How eBooks Threaten the Whole System
The newsstand magazine model was designed to serve the needs of the early 1900s. That system is nearly dead at this time. The eBook will deliver the final blow. An eBook can be published at any time and on any day of the month. Also, eBooks need never go out of print. Shelf wear is not an issue. Eventually, eBook readers will be priced under five dollars. When this happens, paperback books will be looked on as a wasteful indulgence. When most romances are downloaded, new books will be issued daily. Readers will check bookstore websites each day to see what’s new. The cycle will become even shorter.
What’s an Author to do in this Changing Environment?
First realize that they are selling a product to people who already have a supply of the product.
“Ah, but my book is a one-of-a-kind, I’m the only one with that product.” That is true in one sense. In another sense you are selling an ‘enjoyable reading experience’ and so are all the other authors. “Reading experiences” take time and there is only so much time in a day. These factors should be considered in the author’s marketing plans.
What stimulates buyers to buy another romance? Especially when they already have many in their TBR pile?
Here are some of the reasons:
1. The author is on their automatic buy list. (Building your auto-buy list should be a priority.)
2. The book is part of a series that they are following. (Continuity books should be a top priority.)
3. The book’s theme is one they like better (or have a immediate ‘craving’ for) than the remaining themes in their TBR pile. (How is your theme mix?)
4. They have met the author in person and liked her. (Personal marketing & book signings.)
5. They ‘know’ the author from her online blogging and want to experience her writing and be able to say they have read new her book. (Personal marketing.)
6. They read a review of the book that was favorable and it’s a theme they like.
7. Friends are reading the book and they want to be part of the discussion.
8. The book features a location they like reading about. (Use locations that have a big appeal to readers or have been visited by millions of tourists.)
9. The author is new, (one they have never read), and as ‘hope springs eternal’, they hope to ‘discover’ a new favorite author.
10. They hear that a given theme is very popular and they want to sample one. (Vampire & Amish).
11. They are not sure that they want to buy the book right now but they buy it anyway, ‘just to be safe’, because next time the book may be gone from the shelves forever.
What Does This Mean For Marketing?
It would seem from the above list that an author can learn a lot from successful politicians. A politician knows that he needs to ‘press the flesh’. If you actually touch a person, they are more likely to vote for you. Most authors don’t like to do this. More might if they understood how important doing this is in building a following. When planning marketing activities, an author should think beyond friendly book signings. She should also think in terms of big venues like a booth at the county fair or other big crowd event.
Next, the author should try to ‘reach out and touch someone’ electronically. Make the reader interact with you when possible. As a guest blogger try to answer all comments and then leave a question in turn. This flatters the person who made the comment and makes you more memorable in their minds. (You do this to new people. Not regulars to the blog.)
The author will also profit by planning the next book with marketing in mind. Is the theme popular? Is the location powerful? (A book that takes place in a national park with a million visitors a year will appeal to many of those visitors when they get home and also such books are often sold in the area of the park.) In other words: write with marketing success in mind.
There is much more about marketing that I will present in future posts.