There were a couple of newspaper articles this weekend on the changing romance industry. The first appeared in the Los Angeles Times (LAT) on Friday and was entitled, "Hearts, Flowers and Racy Passages." The second was in today's Washington Post (WP) and was entitled, "Romance, Writ Large."
The WP article described romance publishing as big business. "In 2004, the latest year for which the RWA (Romance Writers of America) has compiled figures, romance fiction generated $1.2 billion worth of sales...Some 2,285 romance titles were released that year, accounting for 54.9 percent of mass-market paperback sales and 39.3 percent of all fiction sold in this country."
Kate Duffy, editorial director of Kensington Publishing, the second-biggest romance publisher on the RWA list, was quoted as saying, "A lot of this market involves giving people something they can't get anywhere else...Whether it's suspense or paranormal, we're trying to give them more."
Both articles devote a fair amount of space to discussion of the interest in erotic romance. The LAT piece quotes Tina Engler, founder of Ellora's Cave, saying, "'Erotica legitimizes the female sexual experience...Women read these books and it makes them feel normal about their own fantasies.'"
Beth Bingham, a buyer for Borders, says her chain started carrying erotic romance in 2004 when Ellora's Cave, which had started out as an e-publisher, began printing some titles. Since that time, they have added Avon Red and Harlequin's erotic romance lines. "'It came from customer interest....Customers would come in and specifically ask for it. It's now a growth category in our romance department.'" (LAT)
The WP article concurs: "And then there is erotica, a rapidly growing segment of the romance market that can be found in lines such as Harlequin's new Spice and Kensington's Aphrodisia." Kate Duffy says that Kensington figured out in 1999 that "'more sex means more sales. We've been tracking and publishing hotter and hotter romances.'"
The WP interviewed MaryJanice Davidson, a romance writer from Minnesota, who described her career as going "'from the trailer park to the New York Times bestseller list in zero to 60.'" Davidson described being unable to interest traditional publishing in her paranormal, really sexy books. She turned to e-publishing where Cindy Hwang, a senior editor at Berkley, saw her writing. In 2003, Hwang, who has since left Berkley, signed Davidson to a three-book contract.
The WP article went on to say, "at the same time that the definition of romance is broadening, so are the platforms and markets through which romance is being distributed." Traditional publishers are making deals to produce audiobooks and electronic books which can be read on e-book readers. The article closes with a quote from Duffy: "'We're all about the next best thing and getting there first.'"