Yesterday's post drew a couple of comments that deserve a front page response.
I keep hearing that everyone is hoping for the return of historical romance. Could this be the result of the Regency glut, or was there buzz about a wider variety of settings? And good news about contemporary romance--I've been dipping into it after years of feeling I couldn't relate and am pleasantly surprised at how fun and relatable many are!
It's no secret that I love historicals, real old school stuff, meaty books with actual history in them, so I always listen for the buzz on historicals because it makes my inner fangirl happy. Honestly, though, there wasn't much historical buzz at this conference. I think the consensus opinion is that this is a genre that has seen a smallish uptick in recent years, and we would all like to see it really catch fire again.
That won't happen with a garden-variety Regency or Victorian, though. These books will continue to sell because they're "comfort reads" for many readers. Some of them will even sell in big numbers. The world is familiar and beloved, but there are rarely any surprises there. The next wave of historical frenzy will most likely come from something with a bigger feeling -- perhaps wishful thinking on my part, but the market seems to be softening up in that direction -- and my guess is that it will be in a fresh setting. That's if at comes at all. It might not, though that doesn't mean historicals are dying. (For most readers like me, we gravitated toward historical romance in the 80s and early 90s, and then shifted into mainstream historical novels after that. I would love to see romance as a whole make a play to recapture this reading segment.)
Here's my take on the state of reader interest in general. We've just come out of almost a decade of a culture of fear. The media would have had us believe that a terrorist lurked in every shadow. And what was popular during that time period? Vampires. Werewolves. Rogue villains being defeated by Navy SEALs. "Get it while you can" erotic romance story types. It all fits with that particular zeitgeist.
And which story types felt less compelling? Low-conflict contemporaries. Anything purely relationship-driven. Small-town sweethearts. Not that these particular story types went away, but they sure weren't the ones getting the big buzz.
Now we're in a serious economic situation, and families and friends are pulling together to help each other through it. We're shifting away from "fear of other" and into "we're all in it together." This might be a temporary mindset, but for now, the result is that the conference buzz was about books with weepy family plots (Jody Picoult) and warm, emotional women's fiction/romance feelings (Kristin Hannah, Susan Wiggs).
But will this perceived trend bloom? Eh. Who knows. Predictions are like assholes, you know. (Or is that, only assholes make predictions?)
Green Knight says,
A few years ago we were seeing a shift towards trade and I hate them. Won't buy them. Like hardbacks, they're expensive and unwieldy and don't fit on my paperback shelves. Unlike hardbacks, they're not durable or beautiful.
Worst of both worlds.
Hope your granny gets better - and will we get to hear a rounup of the e-publishing panel you did?
There's a good write-up of our Rogue Digital workshop here. This is from the Scorched Sheets blog, and it contains most of the numbers disclosed during the workshop.
My personal take on the panel has to start with a shout-out to the girls from Romance University, who kept me giggling in the bar the night before the rogue panel. Ah, good times. So I was fashionably late to the panel and missed the first couple of speakers.
I could not believe how packed that room was. I would describe it as standing room only, but that would be misleading. There wasn't even standing room. When I got there, bodies were spilling out into the hallway. I had to pick my way through the crowd to find a spot to stand in the back of the room, if you can believe it. Folks were sitting on the floor in the front, too. Sardine city.
Angela James was talking about the digital publishing model when I came in. She had just started. For details on her presentation, check the Scorched Sheets blog I linked above. Angela did a great job demystifying the digital publishing model and explaining how and why it differs from print. She's a terrific speaker on this topic.
To what Angela said in that panel, I would only add that there is one hybrid model used by us and one other publisher. (As far as I know -- there may be more doing it our way now, but I'm not aware of them.)
In our hybrid model, everything gets an advance. Everything. Our contracts are set up like standard print contracts with digital rights included, and the same contract is used for print and digital. There are some variances on the royalty rates to account for the different costs and distribution expenses with print and digital, but those are spelled out in the contract. Also, we don't do POD but regular print. We've never been POD. Angela didn't get into the differences between POD and print -- it wasn't the panel for that kind of discussion -- but the basic idea is that POD is more expensive to create, but you avoid some warehousing expenses. A well-made POD book is virtually indistinguishable from regular print, but there are some badly made POD books floating around out there. But those are dwindling as this technology improves.
GK, you also commented on the trade size. I hear you. But there are two other details to keep in mind about trade. The first is that in the early days, books came out in trade only if they were upmarket enough to warrant the production of the extra format in a mid-range price point. Otherwise, it was mass market for genre stuff and hard/soft for the big books.
The early perception with consumers, then, may have been that these books were better than a regular mass market paperback.
But then POD became a more widely used form of book production, and POD is always done in trade size. So cheap books that weren't expected to sell more than a couple hundred copies started coming out in POD. Public perception may be slow to change on this point -- I get the feeling that buyers still associate trade with quality -- but until there's a POD process available at the mass market size, and as long as consumers are guarding their wallets, we may see a continued decline in trade.
Any other questions? Now is the time to ask, while this information is all still fresh in my mind.