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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Paranormal Romance - What Do Readers Want Anyway?

by Sue Grimshaw (in her own words so don't blame anyone else but her)

Thanks Staci & team of the Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal Blog Site -- pleasure to be here & make everyone's acquaintance . . (thru the clouds & all that :)

Romance is a wonderful genre. Our readers keep us on our toes. What was hot last year, is waning this year. You think you've got a great story, & suddenly, they've all turned their backs, or pocket books, against vampires.

Our readers evolve. Their interests change, a lot. Why do you think that is?
Well, being one of those finicky readers myself, I've got a pretty good idea, but even better insight, from having been the Romance buyer for a national bookstore chain for almost 16 years.

As publishers, editors, authors, & so forth, we tend to get a little frustrated with the fast pace of this business. Of course, if you listen to our readers, they don't think that authors write fast enough! It is hard to please everyone

Readers, specifically, romance readers, read, lots. Coming from a national retail chain, our average romance shopper purchased 6-10 romance books in a month, every month. So you can imagine, if you are reading a minimum of 6-10 books a month, every month, you are reading a lot of books . . . so you need variety . . . .therefore, trends change & things evolve at a very fast pace.

So that said, trends today are just that & can change at a moments notice, or rather, at the readers notice. After all, that is who we are trying to satisfy.

One of the easiest ways to figure out the trends in this biz is to look at best seller lists: NYT; Amazon: B&N; USA Today & so forth. See who's at the top of the lists, break it out by genre, you'll see right away where readers interest lie. Readers are keeping a close eye, & more importantly, spending their dollars on:

Nalini Singh
Lara Adrian
Karen Marie Moning
Christine Feehan
Sherrilyn Kenyon
Charlaine Harris

****to name a few. These authors write some awesome paranormal stories, however, the story lines are far from similar.
  • Nalini's Psy world still intrigues her readers
  • Lara, breaks the rules & continues to have great success with her vampires in the Order
  • Karen does nothing traditional in romance with her latest series except delivers great characters . . .
  • Sherrilyn now excites fans with Bear Shifters
  • Christine is rockin the world with Ghost Hunters, enhanced, former military men
  • Charlaine has introduced to every generation and oddly, successful character by the name of Sookie . . .

Try to figure out the trend, the similarities, with these big best sellers & you'll go nuts, as each of their story lines are vastly different. However, there is one commonality.

Now, I debated with myself to stop the post here, as I thought that would be the most fun! But, I didn't want to P.I.A., so . . .

It's all about the characters. Ok, don't scream at me, I know you hear this all the time & you're like, 'it can't be . . that's just to easy' --- but, really, it is. All about the characters.

When you talk to readers, no matter what the age, what sub-genre, in romance . . . let me repeat, in romance, they are all about the characters. They want the hero (alpha is winning on our poll at www.romanceatrandom.com, come & vote), and heroine; "she's mine"; 'the journey'; & HEA.

In paranormal, characters are 60%+ of the mix. But, paranormal authors also must deliver the world. The world needs to be diverse; expand from book to book; have lots of 'different' types of characters; and make sense . . . it must be clearly defined. It is important to know if the world you are creating is a portal to another time or a universal platform, adjacent to our own. Details are important - but, above all, it is the characters.

So, I've laid it out, bared my soul.
Remember, in the title of this post, I did preface it saying, 'by Sue Grimshaw (in her own words so don't blame anyone else but her)', so you can just call me crazy & move on to the next post, or, you can chat with me now.

Tell me what you agree with? or don't agree with? & what you've pitched as an author that has gotten great responses? Or have not?

Love to get your opinions as well -- really, none of us has that crystal ball -- only the reader knows what she wants next!

Thank you for having me here -- SueG

BTW - visit me at Romance At Random, www.romanceatrandom.com, our new blog site that celebrates the romance genre with everyone! Take a look at our new LOVESWEPT line -- it's on the site too! &, we're still looking for the LS paranormal romance to publish ---- I'm just saying --- Happy Romance!

Sue Grimshaw is joining Ballantine Bantam Dell as category specialist and editor-at-large, effective March 28, reporting to Gina Wachtel, v-p associate publisher, mass market, Ballantine Bantam Dell. Grimshaw was most recently at Borders, where she was a buyer for romance, horror, westerns and large print books; she also wrote for the retailer’s blog True Romance. Grimshaw will remain in Michigan in her new role, and will scout talent in the romance community; enhance author brand strategy and platform development across channels including digital media; and selectively acquire for hardcover, paperback, and original digital lists. She will also work with Ballantine’s library marketing group to create a marketing program for romance readers.


Rosalie Lario said...

I completely agree. I remember at the beginning of last year, I was of the opinion that I was so over vampires in romance. Didn't want to read another vampire book. Then someone introduced me to Jeaniene Frost, and therein began my renewed love affair with all things vamp. It wasn't the vamp that drew me in, but the amazing characters.

Beth Caudill said...

Thanks for the insight Sue.

I absolutely love Nalini's Psy/Changeling characters.

Although not a romance, Anne Bishop's Black Jewels dark fantasy series is an all time favorite because of the Characters.

Yasmine Phoenix said...

As an unpublished paranormal writer, thanks Sue for a great post. This will help me with my worldbuilding. One author who has left an indelible mark on my writing is L A Banks, who just passed away. Her multi-ethnic demon hunter series encouraged me to write stories filled with ethnic and cultural diverse characters. Sherrilyn I missed at Comic Con and I'm a huge fan of Christine and Charlaine.

Kathy Lane said...

Thanks for the amazing posts. I read these author posts all the time and it's a refreshing relief to see someone finally, concisely nail things on the head. Accuracy and finesse. A very nice harmony here. Keep it up.

Sue said...

Apologies for not proofreading prior submitting this post :) I think I was in a bit of a tizzie at the time, which is no excuse :)

Rosalie -- glad you followed my thought process there & yes, that is exactly it - we think readers are done with certain themes & then they turn around & start buying them again :) I learned so much at ROMCON in Denver this past weekend. It is a reader convention & they really filled me in on what they want to see in romance books.

Thanks for your comment - SueG

Sue said...

Thanks Beth -- I've not read Anne but certainly someone to try :)

Sue said...

Hi Yasmine -- totally agree with LA & her writing -- those books will be cherished. Now she's writing about angels in heaven.

Thanks for your comment! SueG

Sue said...

Thanks Kathy, although, my accuracy & finesse have a bit to be desired :) apologies for not having done a better job at proofreading -- errors are my own, I hate to admit.

Thankfully, my point got across & so happy you agree.

Suzan Colon said...

I love hearing that it's all about the characters--don't you apologize for bringing a great message to us writers, Sue Grimshaw! You call it as you see it, and let us see it as a challenge.
(The fact that I've had more than a little caffeine this morning had nothing to do with my strong feelings about this subject...)

Sue said...

LOL -- Susan, you're too funny & you're like me . . about an hour ago. Had a Starbucks, bold, & was bouncing off walls!! Thanks Susan!

Anonymous said...

You've hit the nail on the head, characters and world building. Okay, 2 nails. I'd add in originality too. All those authors put their own twist on things when we were looking for something different. If you can do all three, than its NYT for you!

Sue said...

good point -- too many 'me too's' & the reader won't stick around for more - thx Jessica

Deborah Cooke said...

Hi Sue -

Nice to see you here at FF&P!

I do agree that readers come back for the characters. I suspect that in romance, though, they come back more for the heroes. We all want to read about heroes we can fall in love with, strong yet flawed men, who are sexy and powerful. That's true in paranormal or in plain ol' "straight" romance - I think!


Sue said...

I agree Deborah -- although, with JD Robb, do readers come back for Eve? Roarke or both? Overall, I do think it is the heroes that bring us back for more.

Have a great weekend!!

Sue said...

Thanks everyone for having me on your site -- great fun & love your comments -- the best to you all & HAPPY ROMANCE!!

Kiersten Fay said...

I agree 100%, world creation and writing is important. But if I can't connect with a character, I can't burry myself in the world that the author is trying to create.

And I hate weird dialogue that makes me roll my eyes and say in my head "no one talks like that."