Friday, July 31, 2009

Romance Reader Statistics

This week I’ve been pulling together my promotion efforts for my upcoming fall book, Scandal Sheet. And since this is the first book in a brand new series, I really wanted to make sure I’m doing the promo up right. To that end, I’ve been doing some research about where best to spend my promo dollars. Specifically, research about romance readers. Who are they, where are they, how do I find them? (Or, more accurately, how do I make sure they find my book?) I came across some really interesting statistics on the RWA (Romance Writer’s of America) website, that I thought I’d share here. RWA commissioned an independent analysis company to create, implement, and analyze a survey of romance readers in 2008, these are the results they came up with:

74.8 million people read at least one romance novel in 2008.

That’s roughly 1/4 of the entire population of the United States!

The core of the romance fiction market is 29 million regular readers.

That's a lot. A whole lot. Like the entire population of both the states of Texas and Louisiana combined.

The mean age of romance readers is 44.6, the median 44.9.

Impulse purchases outnumber planned romance novel purchases.

I thought this was very interesting from a promotional standpoint. Apparently more people will buy my book because it looks pretty on the shelf as they pass by than they will because I sent them a postcard letting them know the book is out and available for purchase. I’ve always heard how romance readers will often take a list of book to the store with them, but I guess they are actually in the minority. Wadda ya’ know?

Most critical purchase influences:
As a reader, I have to agree with this. I have my list of auto-buy authors.

Description of the book

Again, makes good sense. I always read back covers.

Word from friends/acquaintances

I’m actually surprised this one is further down the list than the description of the book. Another myth I’ve heard is that romance readers rely heavily on word of mouth. But, apparently, they’re browsing shelves, impulsively looking at back cover blurbs.

The most popular resource romance readers use to learn about new/upcoming romance titles is a romance novel. Readers learn about new romance titles most often by reading the advertisements for other books contained in the books they are currently reading.

Veeeery interesting. This is something I really hadn’t given much thought to. Generally, authors try to get their book reviewed in magazines, newspapers, websites thinking that puts the word out to readers. Or take out adds. Or do blog tours. But, it turns out, they’re mostly just reading the books. Huh. I’m suddenly twice as happy that Dorchester routinely puts info about their upcoming books in the back of their releases.

Type of Retailer Used Most to Acquire New (Not Used) Romance Novels

· Mass merchandiser: 50.1 percent
· Book superstore: 48.8 percent
· Freestanding, independent bookstore: 31.1 percent
· Online book merchant: 26.4 percent
· Grocery store: 24.3 percent
· Warehouse clubs: 21.7 percent
· Mall bookstore: 21.3 percent
· Drug store: 16.1 percent
· Book club: 12.4 percent
· Mail order: 10.5 percent
· Other online: 9.6 percent
· Airport bookstore: 9.4 percent
· Convenience store: 8.1 percent
· Department store: 7.7 percent
· Other: 13.9 percent

Now this I found particularly helpful from a promo standpoint, as I always like to send out something to bookstore owners. But… which bookstore owners? There are SO many it can be overwhelming. This was a really helpful tool in narrowing down which types of stores might be most helpful. Most surprising to me was how many readers got their books from independent bookstores.

29 percent of romance readers usually carry a romance novel with them.

Now I know what’s in all those big purses I see women carrying!

Romance readers typically begin and finish a romance novel within 7 days.

No wonder they are such prolific readers! Just from my own very unscientific polling of friends and family that are NOT romance readers, most other genre fans take much longer than this to finish a book.

Mass-market paperbacks are currently the most preferred romance novel format.

Well, if they’re carrying them around with them, I can totally see why. Though, I have a feeling that in the coming years, ebooks may start gaining in popularity for just this portable reason.

88 percent are open to trying new authors.

This statistic made my little heart happy. J As authors, we’re always thrilled to pick up new readers. And, it’s heartening to know that the majority of readers are thrilled to pick pup new authors as well.

So, what do you guys think? Agree with the statistics? Anything here surprise you? Any great promo tips you’d like to share?

~Trigger Happy Halliday


terrio said...

I think these numbers are accurate, except I think the word of mouth thing will gain numbers as the years go by. There are a ton of romance readers prowling the net these days, but there is also a huge number of them that are not. Hence the impulse/back blurb buyers.

My sister and my mother, as well as some ladies with whom they work, are not seeking out authors or book recs online. Until a couple years ago, either was I and I'd been reading Romance for more than 20 years.

So I'm not surprised that word of mouth isn't higher on the list, but I think it will continue to gain ground.

Without too many details, can you tell us what plan you created out of all this and how you decided where to put your money?

Paty Jager said...

I think any promotion an author can do that is free is worth the time and effort. The more your name is out there the more it will be noticed on a book shelf in a store.

Published with a small press, I don't have the luxury of my book being in every store, so I have to push my name and presence everywhere I can that doesn't cost.

Interesting stats, Gemma. Thanks for posting.

Wendy Roberts said...

Wow, thanks for all the stats! Fascinating info!

Gemma Halliday said...

Terrio - that's a good point about word of mouth online! I have a feeling you're right. The more people use the internet to connect, the bigger word of mouth will be.


Gemma Halliday said...

Small press can be even more difficult, can't it, Paty! I'd think that things like word of mouth and planned buying would play a bigger role in that case. I do love that it's usually so easy to get small press books online. Per these stats I'm in the minority, but that's where I buy most of my books.


Christie Craig said...

Very interesting, Gemma.

It's good to know that we're still going strong.


Gemma Halliday said...

Totally! You know, every financial report I read lists romance novels as one of the few sectors where sales are actually up lately. Go love! ;)


Keri Ford said...

This is awesome. Am book marking.

I've gotten to know so many writers, that when I see their names, I'm more likely to buy them now. i've found so many great authors because I've met them through twitter.

Toni Sue said...

I have to admit that I'm a sucker for a good cover. On that note, I've bought several book I've never finished because...well, they didn't live up to said cover. Perhaps I should try another venue? I think I've just talked myself in a circle...

Gemma Halliday said...

Keri - I'll admit, I'm still not on Twitter. Facebook overwhelms me. Lol! maybe it's something I should look into, though...


Gemma Halliday said...

Me too, Toni Sue! Covers are always what catches my eye first in the bookstore. I'll admit, I judge a book by its cover. It's hard not to when your faced with so many books to chose from. But, like the survey indicated, I always read back cover blurbs, and, if that doesn't suit my taste, the lovely cover goes back on the shelf.


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