By admin On Apr 13 2009, 10:00 am
In trying to decide on a topic for today’s post, I put up a plea for topic ideas on Twitter. I actually got some really great ideas—oddly enough it appears that someone suggesting to me to write about why Amazon is stripping rankings is how #amazonfail started yesterday on Twitter—and am going to save some of them for future use (I always say that and then forget to check my “future use” file when it’s time. But I will remember next time. I’m sure). Since it’s Easter Sunday (yes, I’m a procrastinator, but in my defense I’ve been traveling/visiting family for the past week) I needed a topic that didn’t take amazing powers of critical thinking. I got a fantastic recommendation from author Jill Myles who mentioned that it’s always interesting to know what genres are/aren’t selling well.
I suppose publishers don’t always like to talk about what genres are or aren’t selling well because we’re afraid that authors will take that as a signal to only write and submit a few particular genres, and not to write others. As a publisher of a variety of romance genres, as well as fantasy, science fiction, urban fantasy all with romantic elements, we especially don’t want this to happen. Or maybe publishers are afraid it shows weakness to say something doesn’t sell as well as something else? I suppose. But I also think that authors sometimes feel that this is a topic shrouded in secrecy so let’s bring it out in the open and chat about it.
First, I’m going to talk about Samhain in particular and epublishing very in general. It’s important to note that what I say is from our particular experience only and can’t necessarily be taken as gospel for the industry as a whole. I know you’re all savvy enough for that to be stating the obvious, but I do like my disclaimers and just can’t seem to quit them.
Erotic Romance: We’ll start with the obvious. For the purpose of this post, I’m going to put all of erotic romance together and say it sells very well for us. I think it’s clear that in the past 5 years it has sold quite well for many digital publishers, as evidenced by the number of new erotic romance epublishers that spring up monthly, by the traditional publishers’ search for erotic romance books and authors and subsequent flooding of the market, and by the emergence of sexier sex scenes and greater sexual tension even in non-erotic romances.
Still, I can hear you out there saying to yourself “sure, but exactly what KINDS of erotic romance sell well?” Okay, I’ll let you in on the secret…it depends. If you’re going to pin me down, I’ll say ménages (and more) are usually hot sellers as long as we’re talking about the male/female/male or more males and one female trope. Also selling well are erotic m/m, and erotic romance with BDSM. However, “straight” m/f erotic romances will also fly off our figurative shelves in the hands of a skillful author such as Lorelei James or Maya Banks, who combines high sexual tension with engaging characters and plot. Actually, you can pretty much just say this about any genre I talk about today. Anything I say about a genre not selling well can be negated by the right author, the right promotion, the right story and the right planetary alignments.
But what about erotica? Erotica, which is most definitely NOT the same as erotic romance and is a different genre, doesn’t sell as well. Maybe because, while readers enjoy some spicy sensuality in their reading, they want to know it will all turn out happily in the end and there’s no guarantee of that in erotica?
Moving on from all that sexin’, let’s talk about other genres within romance. Our trends still show that paranormal romance is a hot seller. Readers are still interested in reading about vampires, but there is even greater interest in different shifters: werewolves, cats, dragons and all the variety of unusual shifters you can find. Other forms of paranormal like demons, succubus, angels, etc also continue to do well and unique concepts are eagerly scooped up by readers.
Several genres are a hit and a miss in for us in digital at this time including inspirational, some historical periods (pretty much anything happening after 1900), and books—even erotic romance—featuring female/female as a central theme. Even if it’s female/female/male. Despite some readers asking us why we don’t publish more f/f, many authors don’t write it and readers, at least ours, aren’t buying it. It continues to be very much a niche genre, and a much, much smaller niche genre than male/male books.
Despite a number of readers saying they want more contemporaries that are non-romance, non-suspense, non-paranormal, those readers also don’t always show their buying power. An author can do well in those genres with good promotion, backlist or a well-known name, but sometimes even that isn’t enough to make a fantastic contemporary sell. It can be frustrating for both author and editor!
What am I missing? Futuristic romances do pretty well for us. Many of the editors are huge fans of the genre and we’re always wishing for more submissions in this genre (send to firstname.lastname@example.org thanks ) but it’s definitely a specialized one to write due to the world building needed. On the other hand, time travel submissions seem to always be around and they rarely sell well. And it’s not something we often get a request for, from readers.
Two genres/themes that readers are always requesting more of and that sell well are interracial and male/male books. Books labeled in these areas seem to fly off our figurative shelves.
I made this point above but I want to highlight it again: everything I’m saying here can vary according to author, writing style, writing skill (yes, some authors are more skilled than others. I’m sorry, maybe you didn’t expect me to say it, but there it is, the elephant in every corner), promotional efforts (no, I’m sorry the books don’t sell themselves and yes you do need promo—from yourself, your publisher—in the form of reviews and word of mouth even—and from your readers), and even name brand/backlist.
Backlist is something I talk about often in conjunction with sales, but I think some authors might underestimate the power of it. I’m going to use Samhain’s romantic suspense author Linda Winfree as an example. Her first book with Samhain had numbers lower than she and her editor expected, and which I know her editor hoped would be higher because she was so impressed with Linda’s writing and storytelling. But as Linda published each successive book in her series, not only did her new release numbers go up as word of mouth spread among readers about her books, but her backlist books also saw increased numbers of sales with each new release. This is something that, watching the sales numbers on My Bookstore and More, I see quite often with a variety of authors in a variety of genres. I hate to say it but…”Build it and they will come” applies here.
So there you go, some of the genres demystified. Tell me what I missed or what you’d like to know more of. Questions are welcome!