You may remember hearing about the last YPG (Young to Publishing Group) event I went to, which was a lecture about current trends in publishing. A few weeks ago I went to another — a brown bag lunch at Hachette Book Group. The panel was dedicated to romance books and made up of editors from Harlequin and Pocket, romance writers, and other industry professionals. Funnily enough, I forgot to actually bring a lunch. I did, however, take notes.
- Biggest Industry Changes
Obviously the economy has had a huge impact on book buying. Ereaders provide quicker and easier access to books, and the lower price definitely appeals to buyers (myself included, and I thought I’d never be converted). They’re also the reason behind the rise of production and distribution of books, particularly romance.
(Fun fact: Harlequin puts out 120 titles a month. That’s at least 1,440 books a year!)
Books themselves have created changes in the market. TWILIGHT created a huge shift in YA romance, and is a large part of why vampire novels are still selling. The upsurge in paranormal romance has remained steady, and now the market for that is even larger than before. The only difference is that authors are having to find new angles to approach the genre. Vampires and werewolves aren’t cutting it anymore, which is why there has been an upsurge in mermaids and other fringe creatures.
- The Impact of Social Media
I don’t think I can ever stress enough how important it is to be up on social media. Especially now that it’s expected. Not only is it promotional, but romance readers and writers use it more than anyone else in the industry. Treat it as a professional tool and it provides you with quicker and broader access to industry info. There are discussion boards, live chats, and sites that provide access to writing samples and free books. Write YA? Those book bloggers are your biggest advocates, so it pays to be nice and get involved.
Did you know romance readers are more eager to interact with authors than anyone else, even teens? Not only do they want to know more about the books their favorite authors are putting out, but they want to know the author. They genuinely want to make a connection to the people behind the books, and it’s worth reaching out to your readers because it will only benefit you in the long run.
- Big Trends
Want to know what’s selling right now in romance? Westerns! (And if you like those, check out SUSANNA’S CHOICE by Sarah Luck, which comes out in late December.) Amish (bonnet) fiction! Contemporary cowboys and small town throwbacks. Also, steampunk and dystopians (although those may be on their way out sooner rather than later). But editors are looking for unusual settings, so keep that in mind when writing your next book.
And, for the record, middle grade is making a push.
- Editing Challenges
Like any genre, editing romance has its own unique challenges. When it comes to YA, romance is all about the couple developing over the course of the book. It has to be the main plot, and it has to be done well. If you’re writing adult romance, your characters need to know who they are. Unlike teenagers, they’ve had time to grow into themselves, so character development through romance is less of a priority. Plot, on the other hand, plays a much bigger hand.
Something else to keep in mind? Page count. Romance books are slimming down, so it’s up to the writer to create a concise plot and a romance that develops fully over the course of the book, but in fewer pages. And if you’re writing a series, you need to know that they require promises. Each installment has to answer questions and set up new ones to be answered later.
It’s undisputed that YA covers are the best of the bunch — as one editor put it, they’re essentially dress porn. (Have you seen the cover for WITHER?) Covers have their own trends, and with YA it’s all about fitting in with the ones already on the shelves, just pumping up the volume a notch or two. Check out Jacket Whys and That Cover Girl if you need some more cover porn.
If you’re writing adult books, your title is the selling point (especially if it’s available as an ebook). Sarah MacLean, who was a member of the panel, is a perfect example of this. When buying ebooks, you don’t get the gorgeous cover art, so titles like ELEVEN WAYS TO START TO WIN A DUKE’S HEART are what’s going to drive sales.
Hopefully some of this information was helpful! It was a really great way to spend my lunch hour, and I definitely gained some insight into the genre. I also picked up a few titles while I was there (both adult and YA), so I’ll have some new book reviews in the upcoming weeks.
I’m not sure when the next brownbag lunch will be, but I’ll be sure to take notes the next time I attend!