Dead Historical Horse Beatdown.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Very interesting discussion going on over on AAR in regards to fate/future of Historical Romance here.

An example of some of the comments:

Suppose, just for the sake of example, there are 100 people in the world who currently purchase historical romances, and 70 of those romance readers eagerly buy the wallpaper Regency "Lord Sexington's Sexfest" and all its sequels. So the publishers say, "Obviously romance readers want more sexy wallpaper Regencies!" and they flood the market with carbon copies.

But all of the publishers and writers are still trying to sell to those same 70 readers, instead of trying to find ways to also sell books to all the other readers in the world (including 30% of current romance readers) who didn't buy "Lord Sexington's Sexfest." (And what happens to the publishers when those 70 readers die off or just get tired of reading carbon copies of Lord Sexington?)

By all means try to keep current readers happy, but if it's true that sales for historical romances have been declining, shouldn't publishers chase new readers instead of just competing with each other for the attention of current readers?

And another. Obviously, these readers feel very passionate (disillusioned?) on the subject.

I know the catch22 authors are in right now. Publishers only want books that fit certain trends. But it is so frustrating for many of us because we can't set new trends until the authors and publishers give us the books to buy. An authors can't do it unless the publishers commit to decent advertising.

I actually feel for vampire/werewolf authors. They are getting ready to see a complete crash in their market within the next year. With the exception of a few popular authors that have a large following, I predict that the market is going to burn themselves out at this rate. Let me give you an example. I have bought my books for the month and this is only the 7th. Most of the books for April are on the shelves. I bypassed over 10-12 vampire/werewolf books. I feel the same way about european historicals. Have no interest in reading them. I don't mind paranormals (ala ghosts or Esp etc, hey I am scots/irish it's in my blood). But the vampire/werewolf and regency time period is overdone now, I am tired of it.

And more:

"Romance published today seems to me to be a pretty closed circuit in which the vast vast majority represent small (maybe infintessimal) variations on a couple of themes from which Romance readers must choose. I say "must" because I think when one is a dedicated genre reader, that reader is more likely to buy some disappointing books in that genre from a pre-limited choice than no books at all. It's sort of the monopoly idea -- you have an avalanche of books that are so much of the same, and so readers are choosing among those books, basically reinforcing publisher expectations about what sells. When experiments are tried, if they don't catch on right away, they're dust, and if they do, the unusual soon becomes the norm, flooding the market and starting the cycle all over again.

I'm starting to think that maybe the historical sub-genre just needs to crash and burn for things to change in any substantial way. That, of course, will all depend on how selective readers are with their money when it comes to buying new books. As I said, I think Romance readers want to read Romance, and so they'll buy books that don't thrill them, just to have new books in a beloved genre to read. It's sort of like how I keep buying lipsticks trying to find the one that keeps my lips perfectly moist, perfectly covered, and perfectly plumped all day long. They may sit in a drawer after only a few applications, but cosmetic manufacturers have made some sales, and that's all that counts to them. If only I could stop buying . . .

I'll be following along on this comment thread over the next few days. Unfortunately, AAR dosen't have an archive for it's messageboards. Once a thread falls off the boards, it's gone for good.
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meljean brook said...

"I actually feel for vampire/werewolf authors. They are getting ready to see a complete crash in their market within the next year."


Because one person has tired of them? Gah. Statements like this just drive me up the wall.

There will always be an ebb and flow in the market...and perhaps Regency has run its course as the leader of the historical pack. But people are STILL buying them. Obviously, or there would have already been a huge change. Do I think the market will level out, even slow? Of course. And maybe in five years it'll be erotic romance that's hitting that leveling/slowing point.

As far as historicals go, I dunno -- I see the usual Regency fare, but also more Victorian, buzz about a few more Western/Colonial period books. The market does seem to be opening up for other periods, but that doesn't mean the Regency is going the way of the dodo (nor are paranormals.)

And, dammit, I like Regencies. Even some of the wallpaper ones. I don't want them to go.

Jaye said...

Meljean, I think it's the mostly the lack of choice--due to one or two subgenre dominating--that people are reacting negatively to. As you said, these things go in cycle. But I'll be honest, as someone who loved (loves?) a really hot read, I'm hard pressed to pick one up now. Unless the characters and/or plot sound compelling, I'm just as likely to skim over the sexual tension/lust think/love scenes, et al.

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