by Kiersten Hallie Krum
Romance has invaded everywhere.
That was the lead statement in the speech made by guest speaker Leah Hultenschmidt, editorial director for Forever and Forever Yours imprints at Grand Central Publishing, at the Long Island Romance Writers 19th annual Agent and Editors luncheon.
“Romance has invaded everywhere. Readership has been changing over the last few years. The ‘rules’ are completely out the window. This freedom has allowed the storytelling to shine through. Writers can write with passion and tell the stories of their hearts.”
This, for most of us who live in Romancelandia, is a bit of a no-brainer. Try and think of an action film, however sexist and annoying, that hasn’t had some bit of a romance woven in, be it the loyal wife waiting at home, the rescued damsel, or the sultry siren who may or may not be working for the enemy. Romance crosses all genre lines one way or another. It has, as Ms Hultenschmidt stated so succinctly, invaded everywhere.
That wasn’t all she had to share at the luncheon. With regard to the never-ending question of print vs e-book publishing, Ms. Hultenschmidt likened the divide to be like network television vs cable TV. Print publishers are looking to convince the book store owners that this book or that one is worth putting on their shelves. E-book publishing allows for more leeway for readers to give something new a try.
Part of this is because the distance between writers and readers is much smaller now than ever before. Social media and the digital age has narrowed that gap considerably, and more and more readers are using their social platforms to make their wishes known regarding what and who they read. Perhaps this is why, Ms. Hultenschmidt stressed that it is more important than every before that authors know their audience. Knowing your audience helps shapes these expectations while creating a plan for your books–perhaps even that book of your heart. Is it part of a series? If so, what is the series hook? Know how the books in your series relate and make sure that relation is there in book one and carries through the series.
Likewise, it’s key for an author to know their market. What are the holes in that market? Are there opportunities in those holes? What are people talking about on Goodreads? Is there a new angle in a crowded category, like paranormal romance or small-town contemporary romance? Knowing your market and your audience and how the two relate together can offer an author key insights in how best to craft and target their books.
As for what that market was currently in the market for, Ms. Hultenschmidt noted that Walmart particularly loves contemporary cowboys. Despite the report from the RT convention that romantic suspense novels are dead (again), Ms. Hultenschmidt noted that romantic suspense is on an uprising in print. Contemporary and erotic romances are both crowded marketplaces, but still selling, while paranormal romances are underselling in print publications.
In e-book publications, Ms. Hultenschmidt reported that the billionaire romance has begun to go bankrupt and, along with NA romances, is a crowded category. Readers, she said, are also done with trilogies with contemporary characters. I’m of the mind that series will never go out of fashion, but it’s interesting to hear that contemporaries particularly, always a reliable category, are wearying readers in this manner.
Sports romances and romantic suspense are currently trending categories in e-book publications. Ms. Hultenschmidt claims that readers do not go to romance for issues. They go to escape. While I don’t doubt many romance readers come to the genre for an escape, the fact that the romance genre by its very nature is feminist fiction means that even in stories without an overall “issue,” the journey of personal discovery made by a heroine between the pages is one for which all romance readers are eager, whether as escapism entertainment or to learn about a new profession or a new cause brought to light by a character’s journey through that story.
As always, the Long Island Romance Writers annual luncheon was an inspiring and informative event during which Ms. Hultenschmidt and other editors and agents shined a light on romance so that all of us who attended could feel a bit of that glow.
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Writer, singer editor, traveler, tequila drinker, and cat herder, Kiersten Hallie Krum avoids pen names since keeping her multiple personalities straight is hard enough work. She writes smart, sharp, and sexy romantic suspense. Her debut romantic suspense novel Wild on the Rocks is now available. Visit her website at www.kierstenkrum.com and find her regularly over sharing on various social media via @kierstenkrum.