VIRTUALLY HERS came out Oct. 2009. Get it at SAMHAIN Publishing. VIRTUALLY ONE coming soon.

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Big Bad Wolf Author's Note/CH. 1

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

An End Of Year Conversation With RS Author Buddies

I've been talking to a few author buddies lately about the general state of publishing, especially in the romantic suspense genre.  The news is rather mixed but the consensus is that romantic suspense, as one of them put it, is "no longer the darling it once was."

A few of my friends who are quite big names don't even get distributed at most Walmarts any more.  Remember in 2007, that was the beginning of the Walmart Wave of cutting off midlist and only stocking NYT bestsellers. Well, it has come to the point that some very well-known names are being cut off.  Most of the NYT newer bestsellers are in the paranormal and urban fantasy genres, so a few of these good friends are considering changing their genre. Yes, some of you might call it "jumping on the bandwagon," but for them, it is their paycheck and some of them are the main breadwinner for their families.

I was quite surprised at a few of the series that aren't being renewed.  These are by authors who have been writing for ten, fifteen years, and so have readers who faithfully buy their books.  But it seems that this isn't enough any more.  I don't know, since I haven't been in the New York school of thought these last few years.

Changing names hasn't helped at least one of my buddies; her numbers tanked in spite of online buzz.  There are just fewer physical bookstores out there. So, for a couple of them, the solution is to work harder with online recognition.

My RS for Samhain sold reasonably well in the electronic market. One author friend, a higher midlister, confided that her e-book sales are "killing it," so that's good news. But another, who had a pretty big contract from her publishing house, said numbers were down and she wasn't looking forward to the next round of contract talks.  The one who had her series canceled is now back to writing categories (series romance/Harlequin) of a different genre.  The other one, a fellow Golden Heart winner, someone whose works I really enjoy, has turned to epublishing and is now getting ready a really kickass urban fantasy for submission.

There was certainly a glut of romantic suspense authors about five to seven years ago.  I remember feeling some frustration that some of the stories had very little romance in them and were being categorized as RS.  And many of the huge names were changing genres, from historical to RS, and going hardcover. Their transitions weren't universally smooth, but most of them generally did well, making the NYT and USAtoday lists.

If you looked at the last four years, there were a few big names that started writing paranormal romance and following the pattern, there are now tons of books out in the paranormal/urban fantasy genres.  I'm not sure whether readership for RS has been waning, but certainly the economic Depression of 2008 onwards also contributed to dismal sales of books for publishing.  Books, once affordable, are being sold at $8.99 (this from $4.99$5.99 during my year I got pubbed), and people, slashing their budgets, cut back on book-buying.

Of course, this is just information gleaned from a few conversations with a few friends.  There are no facts to support our thoughts and conclusions; we can only view our publishing world through our royalty statements and contract renewals.  But I do feel that romantic suspense, although not disappearing, has been definitely getting fewer slots and less attention since 2007. Even my bookseller friend, who is not an online person and rarely venture into ebook territory, complained that she couldn't think of any new authors to recommend to her customers; most of the books in catalogues are by the big names who have one hardcover out a year. The midlisters are disappearing, she told me.

I take her comments to heart.  You'll always get the main stars, like the fantastic Cherry Adair and Cindy Gerard, at the main booksellers.  There will be some great reads ahead, but I feel that, for my other friends, the ones I'm not naming, we're preparing to change and to expect changes.  Ebooks will play a big part because sales have been rising (the main positive thing about the publishing business nowadats) but with that, authors have to focus more on online promotion as well as small used-and-new bookstores.

Why the latter? Because those owners, like my bookseller friend, know their customers and they often recommend back lists and sell new books of midlisters.  I know many online are saying they don't even buy paperbacks any more and the future is in ebooks, but there are still at least two generation of readers out there who aren't brought up techy/gadget-happy.  They like reading the way they've been for decades and many are unaware of online groups or discussions because frankly, they aren't into that.

The online community is a powerful aspect of marketing books and authors, of course. My friends think that in many ways, it's both easier and more difficult for the writer.  On one hand, there are literally thousands of new writers (self-published, e-published, etc.) online, a multitude of voices trying to be heard, and many new authors have a hard time getting noticed. The authors I spoke to don't necessary have this problem.  They have readers who find them online and social media like Twitter and Facebook are very helpful (depending on who's talking, LOL, since a couple think they really cut into their writing time). However, it is still a problem to reach new readers; everywhere we turn, we're reading that readers are hesitant to try new works not recommended by other readers, mainly because of higher price and inability to browse.

My author buddies also note that many online reviewers are favoring historicals and paranormal/urban fantasies.  Additionally, there is a growing readership for Young Adult paranormals/UF and younger readers are avid online visitors.  They are the next generation of readers that my friends have to learn to tap into.  Thus, writing in another genre is another option but a few of them feel it's just not their style.  We tossed ideas around and wonder what's in store for us in 2011 and beyond.

In conclusion, my writing buddies, some of whom I've known for a decade or more, with quite a number of books published, are worried and getting ready for changes.  At least one of them is getting her nursing license reinstated.  Another is even thinking of retirement.  Yet another is having fun writing another genre.  As for me, I'm a little off-the-road at the moment, since I was the first one to feel the Walmart and numbers pain, but I've been talking about change for years now.  My friends are just realizing it.

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Elaine said...

Hi Jenn:)
Long time no see.

I haven't been reading het RS for a few years now. 95% of my book money is spent on gay romance e-books. I do still buy some het RS, like Roxanne St Claire and am eagerly awaiting her new series to be available at my local bookstore.

Two reasons why I don't read RS much anymore - 1) ELECTRONIC FORMAT: mainstream RS authors aren't readily available in ebook which means I have to wait for the print book to make its way to my part of the planet. No such waiting with e-books.

I used to think nothing could beat holding a print book in my hand. I was so wrong. Today, I literally do not leave home without my Sony e-reader nor do I go to bed without it! It's so indispensable I bought two of them in case one doesn't work. And it's filled with MM romances, many of them gay RS.

I don't know if this is a genre, subgenre or theme but my reading friends who read MM romances have also stopped reading het romances. One common lament, though, is that we wish some of our fav (in the past) RS authors would start writing gay RS because most MM Romantic Suspense is weak on plot. The sexual chemistry between the two male protags may melt my ereader but 9 out of 10 times, the suspense plot can't be compared to a mainstream RS writer's.

We're hoping that it won't be too long before the MM genre matures and we see better plotting and longer books. For now, though, we're addicted so we still buy whatever we can get.

I buy an average of 30 e-books a month (priced between 4.99 and 6.99). I only bought half a dozen paperbacks at 5.99 back when I used to read het RS. At least I still read a bit of MF books. Most of my online reading pals have been reading MM exclusively for more than 3 years.

Gennita said...

Hi Elaine!

Good to see you again. I didn't bring up the m/m subgenre because the buddies I was talking to are mainstream print writers and their plots center around heterosexual couples. But yes, you're right, the m/m romances is another growing trend and may one day become the newest print trend, who knows?

There are some wonderful m/m writers and they're definitely enjoying a lot of success. It's tempting to want to try writiing an m/m romance! But, at the heart of it, I feel writing m/m and BDSM has to have the author really sensitive and knowledgeable about that lifestyle and just like writing erotica, could easily become campy in the wrong hands.

Good to know you and your friends are all into e-readers, though, Elaine. That is definitely changing the world.

alund said...

I'm including a link to a New York Times article I read this week regarding the rise of romance ebooks and why they're outpacing book sales:

Gennita said...

Hi Alund,

Thanks for the link. I read that too and indeed, it's definitely something many authors are thinking about. I suppose, since mass market paperbacks back in the day was meant to be disposable, so are ebook files, in a way, since they're instantly deletable.

Gennita said...

BTW, from my teens till today, and I lived in a very conservative society back then, I had never hidden my reading from anyone. I've never been bothered by romance covers. Actually, I've seldom been snickered at to the face.

Maybe because I didn't read romance in college and only started again when I was a roofer. There were* the usual comments about sex scenes, but that came only AFTER people found out I wrote romance.

It's only when I started getting on the Internet that I discovered that a large number of women hate the covers and are made fun of by people for reading romance. I sometimes feel very stupid about not even knowing that, since I've never been cruelly mocked while I read on a bus or a public place. Mainly, if there were some mean remarks, I'd have just grinned, shrugged, and went back to my reading. Because usually, I'm THAT engrossed when I'm into a book or a paper. But it has never bothered me like it bothers so many readers.

Mo said...

The romance world runs in cycles. There was a time when anything in the fantasy/paranormal line wasn't anywhere in romance. Now there are tons. Suspense will make a comeback. It's just timing. A good idea might be to just work on them at the same time as others so when it does come back, authors have a couple manuscripts sitting there, waiting for the right time. And since it is not wildly popular right now, there is time to polish them.

Personally, I think that the UF/paranormal subgenre is just about to crash and burn. Too much out there atm, burn out does set in. I am a huge Feehan fan, but even I am almost reading her out of habit now and to see how the series finally ends. The only other author I seriously read a lot who is paranormal is Nalini Singh and I have been enjoying her more and more. Yes, I admit that I am not the best bellweather, but I really don't think UF/paranormal is sustainable at this level for much longer. It's been in the ascendancy for several years now. I honestly thought that futuristics were going to make a surge, but they didn't and Steampunk is still kind of sitting there in the wings, not quite fully matured.

Hmmmm I can see that I should consider adding an Amazon or Borders gift card to my Christmas list this year. Maybe drop me a line on some authors you think I might want to try out. You haven't steered me wrong yet.

Gennita said...


Yes, agree about the cyclic nature of trends. I started writing RS when the paranormal landscape was a like graveyard. It took off around 2000, with Christine Feehan and several other great authors at the helm.

I'm not saying RS is going to never be hot again, but meanwhile, what with the implosion of the traditional book publishing industry, as well as the growing e-market, many authors who have always just written and not do much else are faced with new decisions.

I have no problem with the new methods in publishing. In fact, it's good to see so many options available for writers these days. But too many options can also make things difficult. I'll always remember the first time I let loose a 20 year military man in the then NEW KIND OF STORE, the Super Walmart, and he stood in front of the toothpaste and aspirin section FOR. EVER. Why? Because he couldn't decide, with so many options, and also, it amazed him. I watched him till he finally picked old and known brand.

As for a new author to try...Maya Banks' The Darkest Hour.

kim said...

when i get romances anymore it is all ebooks, i still buy other fiction in paper format especially if i would want to loan it but not romances. two reasons for this: one i don't have to save a lot of shelf space or donate them to make room, and two i will more readily buy a romance with a hot shirtless guy on the cover if i don't have to look the sales person in the eye, but that's just me. it allows me to get more books i wouldn't have tried either like erotica, though i did have an amazon IT type give pause and have a smirk in his voice when he was helping me with a completely non-book purchase and i later realized he could see all of my erm questionable book purchase history :-D. Also like elaine said i can buy an ebook in under a minute without fighting cold or traffic.

if i am looking for new authors i will generally use amazon's suggestions and read the sample book. the sample book is very important if i don't know the author because it gives me a feel for their writing and what they thought was important to hook me. i will also read a few of the 5 star reviews and many of the 1 and 2 stars to see if i can live with what they didn't like and to see if they were being fair or were just disgruntled.

as far as RS, while i have found several new paranormal authors i like, i have not found any new RS i like in years. i have also found that i have gotten a little tired of some of the tried and true series, but whether that is because they are tired or i am bored with them i couldn't say. Sad because RS is what got me into romance at all.

btw was the 20 year military man overwhelmed in walmart ranger buddy? we don't get any ranger buddy stories anymore :(

Gennita said...


CThere's that reader from Miami who threatened, remember? I don't want his schooling to be destroyed by that person. You do hear on my FB page, though ;-). Quickie ones.

kim said...

What?! not cool >:-[ threatening reader from miami? i musta missed that story. better not threaten ranger buddy he's a good dude (i say as though i actually know him lol).


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