Have you been checking out all these year end posts in Romancelandia? The numbers are impressive. Some random examples from my own Google Reader:
Stacy read 148 books in 2008.
Marg read 182 books.
Katiebabs read 200 books,
Tracy read 280.
Sayuri read 290 books.
For 2009, Brie is already 2 books into her 2009 goal of 50 books.
Not everyone posted their list of books, but I think that’s modesty talking (unless, as in my own case, it’s sheer laziness).
How about Jane at Dear Author? I never noticed until I started blogging how many DA posts are actually by Jane herself. It’s beyond my time limitations, not to mention slightly stalkerish, to try to count her reviews, but I am betting she’s read, oh, a few romances in 2008, as have her compatriots at DA. Same goes for the folks at TGTBTU and AAR.
And do you really think Kristie “I-could-wrap-my-romance-spreadsheet-once-around-the-planet-and-still-have-pages-left-to-make-a-cool-dress-for-the-next-RWA” J hasn’t read us all under the table? You know she had to get through a long list of medium reads and bottom reads to come out with this great list of top 2008 reads.
By comparison, these high numbers can make the “under 100” crowd, of which I am a member, feel a bit sheepish.
Misscz of Babbbling Book Reviews “unfortunately” read only 48 books.
Wendy has read only 64 books, and self-flagellates accordingly.
I haven’t counted, but I am pretty sure they both out-read yours truly.
But you know what’s interesting to me? According to statistics on readership compiled for the Romance Writers of America, most of us in Romancelandia are in a very small — like 2% — minority, and the rest are literally “off the chart”:
Number of Romance Novels Read By Romance Readers in the Past Year
54% have read between 1 and 5 books
17% have read between 6 and 10 books
14% have read between 11 and 20 books
8% have read between 21 and 50 books
2% have read between 51 and 100 books
According to RWA, “64.6 million Americans read at least one romance novel in the past year”. We know we make up less than 2%. How many of the other 98% do you think visit Romancelandia? And how does our minority status affect what we think is normal, or popular, or a trend, in romance?
For example, 8,000 romances are released a year, but only a fraction of that number get big play in Romancelandia — often the same books across all the blogs.
Is even the largest blog in Romancelandia (whatever one that is) read by even half of one percent of romance readers?
But perhaps there’s a ripple effect: sure we don’t represent the average reader, but maybe we have an influence beyond our numbers. We tell friends, who tell friends…etc.? Except that I went online because I didn’t know anyone in RL who read romance … and I still don’t!
Or maybe it’s direct influence on authors the the industry? I have been amazed (and delighted) that authors have come to my little blog. I have a whopping 70 subscribers according to my Google reader, so romance authors must be especially attuned to consumers if they found my particular grain of blogging sand. Editors and publishers, too, if their traffic on the big romance blogs is any indication.
Still,I think it’s a good idea to keep in mind how unusual this crowd is, and to try to correct for the lack of objectivity that inevitably results. The ebook industry, for example, may be one of the fastest growing segments of the book publishing industry, but in 2008 it made up only 1% of book sales according to a story that was picked up by all my favorite “liberal” media outlets, like NPR, The New Yorker and the NYT, in the last week of the year. And do you know who is buying ebooks? People who read all the time, i.e., us. And the vast majority of readers —82% — prefer printed books, but you’d never guess that with all the salivating over Sony Readers and Kindles in Romancelandia (my own saliva adding to the pool, of course).
Or how about the Save the Contemporary campaign? According to the RWA, contemporary is extremely strong, accounting for half of romance sales. The bestselling subgenre of the bestselling genre needs “saving”? It makes sense to me only if I define “contemp” in a very specific way, to exclude much of what is counted by the RWA and readers as contemporary (and please fill me in if I missed the data).
I guess I am wondering, to what extent does Romancelandia, with its cutting edge embrace of things like ebooks, m/m romance, erotica, etc., represent these 64 million? Does it even need to, or can we be happy in our fishbowl? Can we even call someone who reads 1-5 books a year a “romance reader”, despite the fact that they make up 50% of romance sales? Should you (not me, I have no desire to do it) be doing more to appeal to those occasional romance readers, who are probably online anyway reading the Huff Post and ONTD, and how would that even be done?
I’m not even sure what I am asking, but I’m sure someone else has good ideas, so please feel free to answer anyway!