According to Publisher’s Lunch, the daily newsletter from Publisher’s Marketplace, all the sales and distribution reports point to a robust market in romances and paranormal fiction. Bodice rippers are being ripped off the shelves in Barnes and Noble and Borders; vampires and shape-shifters are slithering home with readers. Depending on who’s doing the reporting, the increase in sales of romances and paranormals in 2008 was from two to seven percent.
That’s good news for writers of romance novels and paranormals. Maybe even good news for writers of all types of genre fiction. We write stories that offer alternate realities, stories that readers can lose themselves in for a little while. Literary snobs may call that “escapist fiction” but all fiction is escapist at some time to somebody. When people are in the thick of battle, they don’t want to read about a character in the same kind of danger; they want to read about somebody in different circumstances in a different kind of environment. Not until later, when they’re safe and have had time to heal, will they enjoy reading something that stirs memories of their own bad experiences.
So authors who are working hard on stories about people who’ve lost their jobs and homes and are scared and depressed are less likely to reap any immediate benefits from the increased interest in romances and paranormal stories. Current hard-time stories won’t be palatable until sometime in the future, when people can read them and say, “Yep, that’s how scary it was.” When you’re in the midst of a bad dream, you usually don’t want to read about somebody else having the same bad dream.
Writing for the market is never a good idea, no matter what the sales figures are, but I think if I were a young writer just getting started, I’d write a juicy series about a beautiful heroine and a hunky hero who had magical powers to create rewarding jobs for everybody who needed one, along with safe homes for every family and stimulating schools for every child. In between making magic, the beautiful heroine and hunky hero could make love and exchange witty dialogue. I’m only half kidding.