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.



  1. Well I must address just one part of this post. The rest I still have to digest.

    For me I keep buying for various reasons. I am looking for that TAKE ME AWAY book. It is not necessarily a romance, but romance is the genre that most often delivers. Occasionally mystery, paranormal, and single title are able to bring the magic.

    Keepers, well they are another topic. They are like family. We revisit them again and again for the same emotional payoff.

    But each time we open a new romance we hope we will swept away into a place where cleaning litter boxes, washing clothes and mowing the lawn do not exist. Our real world disappears and we are entertained.

    So keep those books coming writers!!

  2. Hi,Vince. I just thinkr romances are the literate woman's soap opera. it's not a big deal for a person who loves soap operas to watch and hour or two of them a day. Though I think they're kind of dying...soap operas that is.
    Sao reading for an hour or two a day. isn't really remarkable. so youkeep needing more

  3. my grand daughter is heoping me type. sorry, she is a vad spellier she'd one year old.

  4. Vince, so many good points you made here!

    What keeps me buying romance????

    I'm a sap. I love HEAs. They rock. And like that Radcliffe woman said, the idea of a book sweeping me away is a wonderful thing.

    One thing I've learned though, is that what sweeps ME away, might be bantha fodder for the next reader.

    When I look at reviews, that's how I see them, as a discourse based on opinion and appeal. (This is my current excuse just in case I get bad reviews on Winter's End. I can just wave an airy hand and say, "Oh, it's just not their kind of story!"


    But I buy romance to explore, to laugh, to feel that emotional tug. And I love inspirational romances that don't preach or homilize.

    And yet I'm probably as guilty of that as the next guy.

    Dude. You're one smart cookie. Glad I know you.


  5. Hi Everyone:

    Consider this example:

    Suppose American warehouses were full of new automobile tires. All the stores that sell tires were also full of tires. Mary Jones has ten sets of new tires stored in her garage waiting to be used on her car.

    Nevertheless, this afternoon Mary goes out and buys another two sets of tires for her car. If this were actually the case, wouldn’t it change the way tires are marketed?

    Obviously customers were not buying tires because they need them. They were buying tires for some other reason. A competent marketer would want to know all about those other reasons.

    When a fan, who has dozens of books in her TBR pile, buys yet another romance, she is buying a potential pleasurable ‘reading experience’ (and the escapism that experience may provide) – plus ‘something else’. It’s that ‘something else’ that motivates the buying decision.

    Understanding that mysterious ‘something else’ should provide a key to the successful promotion of a writer’s books.

    That’s what I want to be looking into here. For example, a fan just bought a romance because it had a picture of the Grand Canyon on the cover. She is buying the ‘reading experience’ plus she is getting a chance to vicariously relive the good times she had when she visited the Grand Canyon. Another fan buys a romance, gets the ‘reading experience’ plus she can now say to an online author that she has read her book. If she read a book from her TBR pile, she could not say that. I am convinced that it is very important to make a comprehensive study of the ‘something else’ factors.


  6. Hi Tina:

    I’m so happy to ‘see’ you here. Romances are great and I enjoy the huge selection readers are privileged to enjoy. My question is why do readers keep buying romances when they have many unread ones?

    You wrote:

    “But each time we open a new romance we hope we will swept away into a place where cleaning litter boxes, washing clothes and mowing the lawn do not exist.”

    This comment provides a good reason to try new (to the reader) authors. I still wonder, couldn’t you have the same ‘swept away’ experience from one of the romances in your TBR pile or even one of the thousands of romances that can be found in used books stores?

    There’s something else very important going on with the purchase of romances that needs to be discovered.


  7. Hi Mary:

    Fans who read a lot of romances do need a constant supply. If the fan does not have a TBR pile, then I think the marketing might be a little different for that fan. It would be very interesting to know how many heavy romance readers do not have a supply of unread romances.

    Thanks for your comments and your grand daughter’s assistance as well.


  8. Hi Ruth:

    Thanks for your nice comments. I think we can all agree that romances provide so much enjoyment to fans that it is understandable why so many are sold. My marketing concern is why do fans buy so many new romances when they may have a large TBR pile or when there are so many ‘nearly new’ romances that they have not read?

    What would happen if no new romances were published for six months? (Except for your book. : )) Don’t you think there are enough romances in print to keep readers in stock? Something else is going on here besides needing a romance to read.

    What do you think that something else is?


  9. Hi Vince,

    Great thought provoking post.

    I'm a die hard romance reader. Other genres are okay, especially if I know the author, but I need my happy ending!

    I need to know that my favorite character is not going to disappear...go away...die at the end. They need to go through trials of fire and emerge unscathed. Well, maybe not unscathed. They should grow through the whole ordeal : )

    Thanks for the great post, Vince! Glad we can finally comment!

  10. Hi Audra:

    Thanks for coming by. It’s so good to ‘see; you here.


  11. Hey Vince!
    This was a fantastic post! I'm definitely going to have to come back to reread it again later.

    I keep reading romance because it is ideal for me. I'm still hoping to have a happily ever after ending to the end of my story : ) I partially blame my parents and their messy divorce for my love of romance books.
    Thanks for this great post!!

  12. Great post, Vince! My TBR pile rivals yours. And it made me think...

    I buy them, even when I don't need them, because of word of mouth recommendation, because I love the author and can't miss one of her books, because I know the author and don't want to miss it, or because the blurb/cover/theme really draws me in so I can't resist.

    So, how can I use this to market my books??? Hmm... you've got me thinking! :)

  13. Hi Missy:

    I am working now on the marketing implications of fans buying romances when they already have a sizeable TBR pile. An author should know what these are and use this information to sell more books when that is practical.

    Consider this: If I am at the airport and I want a romance to read on the plane and I don’t have one, I will buy one at the air port. What I am buying here is a romance pure and simple. I intent to immediately read it.

    However, if I buy a romance from Amazon and I intend to read it at some point in the future and I have many books in my TBR pile, then I am buying or getting something else in addition to a romance.

    In one case, the case where you don't want to miss the book, I am buying an ‘insurance policy’ that the book will not be unavailable at the time in the future when I want to read it. I will already have it.

    I will work this out and post it in the future. If you have any marketing ideas, please share them.

    Thanks for your comments.


  14. Hi Hannah:

    Have you though of plotting your life? You could use romance terms. GMC. What are your goals? What is your motivation? What conflicts will you face and have to over come? What would you, at this point in your life, consider a happy ending? How will your character grow over the course of the book?

    A philosopher once said that the unexamined life is not worth living. With your interest in romances, you could learn to use the writing skills authors use to develop a story narrative, to lead a life of ever unfolding discovery and personal growth. You might even become a philosopher yourself. : )


  15. Very thought-provoking, Vince! Having just purged quite a few books from my TBR pile--books I realize I will NEVER actually get around to reading--this discussion is quite timely for me.

    In cleaning out my stacks, I had to ask myself WHY I didn't think I'd ever read the book. Was it too much like all the other romances out there? Had I grown bored with that particular author? Or was it simply because there were too many books I knew I absolutely MUST read, and the sooner the better?

    It used to be that once I started a book, I felt compelled to finish it whether I was enjoying it or not. But the taller my TBR stack has grown, the more picky I've become. Life is too short to waste time on a story I'm just not getting into, or mediocre writing, or whatever the reason.

    What this has to do with marketing, I think, is that as authors we absolutely DON'T want to become stale, trite, or boring. We can't rest on our laurels. Every book must carry us further along toward better writing and better storytelling. If we get lazy, getting tossed off a formerly faithful reader's TBR pile is our own fault.

  16. Hi Myra:

    Your comments are very interesting. I had not thought about the process of culling a TBR pile and what that might mean for marketing. I will work on this from a marketing POV and post in the future.

    I do think it is important for a new author to get readers to read their books after they buy them. To the publisher, the sale may be over when the buyer pays for the book but not to the author.

    This is why: If I have a new author’s book, new to me at least, in my TBR pile, then I am much less likely to buy her next book and the book after that. After all, I don’t know her and I might not like her writing and she has not inspired me to read her first book. Why not buy another new to me author and have the chance to ‘discover’ two new authors?

    I think new authors should try to do things to get people to read their books after the reader has purchased them. This will take some creative ideas.

    One other thing: Writers don’t need ‘better’ books. They need books that readers find more enjoyable to read. This involves my rewards-per-page theory. I can agree that a book should get a Pulitzer but that does not mean I want to read another book by the same author. I love reading Janet Evanovich and M. C. Beaton because their books are so much fun to read. None of their books are in my TBR pile.

    Thanks for coming by.