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BellaOnline's Romance Novels Editor


Readers' Survey Results

Guest Author - Elizabeth Darrach

Hello, and welcome back! The new flower bed is dug--finally!--and when the weather breaks again, I'll finish my planting there. Then, other than the weeding all summer, I'm really done with the hard work in the gardens. My hummingbird friends have returned already, so I've been enjoying them in the evenings while I sit under the tree with a book. We have a robin's nest and chickadees in the birdhouse, plus new goldfish in our water barrel water garden, so the boys will have plenty to watch this summer while I'm enjoying the shade under the tree, swinging and reading.

And speaking of reading, I have the results of our reader survey tallied and ready to share with you this week.

1. What subgenre of romance do you read most often?

This was a toss-up between long contemporaries and historicals--ranging from medievel to Regency to Colonial America. Paranormals, erotic romances, and category came in with nearly a tie for second place.

Judging by all the outcry I've heard in the past, I'd have thought paranormals would rank higher. Perhaps this is because there are still not enough of them? Just a thought.

2. How many books do you read in a week? A month? A year?

Most of our respondents fall in the 1-3 range per week, 10+/- per month, and over 100 per year. There were some who read considerably more and a few who read a bit less, but I found this interesting. That's a lot of romance novels flying out of the bookstores every year.

3. How do you shop for romance novels?

Hands down, most of you shop by author name first, then by reading the cover blurb. So, I wonder what this means for new authors with unrecognizable names?

4. What other types of fiction do you read?

Interestingly, mysteries are at the top of the list (you'll see why interestingly a little later.), followed by sci-fi/fantasy and suspense.

5. What percentage of your reading do romance novels make up?

For the majority, over 70%. We are a devoted reader base, aren't we?

6. Have you read any of the new "chick lit," a la "Bridget Jones" novels? If so, will they replace a percentage of your romance reading? If not, are you interested in reading them? Why/why not?

A slim majority said they haven't read them yet and aren't interested. Of those readers who have read them, over half dislike them so much they won't read more, citing self-absorbed heroines and depressing plots.

7. Why do you read romance novels?

The two biggest reasons are for escape and the happy endings. A few readers mentioned the entertainment, to experience life in a different time or place, and the steamy love scenes.

8. Would you be upset if a book marketed as a romance novel didn't have a happy ending?

Overwhelmingly, the answer here is yes! Not surprising, given the answers to the previous question, I suppose.

9. Rank the following in order of importance from most important to least important in your decision to purchase a romance novel:


-author name

-cover art

-quality of the book (ie, binding sturdy, typo-free, etc.)

With few exceptions, author name ranks first on this list, followed by by price, quality and cover art, in that order.

Are books getting too expensive? That might require its own survey.

10. What makes a book a "wallbanger" for you?

The winner (or loser?) here is characters who are unsympathetic, or TSTL (Too Stupid to Live). The next-ranking complaints are plot-related--not enough romance, cliched, boring, badly writtin, implausibility, slow action, unoriginality.

11. How many romances do you currently own?

We're a loyal fan-base, and we don't like to share, apparently. Over 80 % have more than 100 books in their house, and 50 % have more than 200. There are a few who have more than 1000, and one who has so many boxes and shelves she can't begin to count them all. There's a woman after my own heart.

12. Have you had difficulty finding new romances to read in the last year?

This is nearly even, with just a small majority on the "yes" side.

13. Do you work:



-not at all

Almost 70% of our respondents work full-time. Where do you all find the reading time?

14. Are you a reader only, or do you also write? If you write, what genre?

64% of you responded that you are also writing, and 59% of those are writing romances in one genre or another. The rest are writing mysteries, nonfiction, fantasy and childrens' books to name a few.

General comments on the state of the romance industry:

These were interesting, I thought, if only to get the perspective of other readers on our favorite genre. More than one reader complains that some authors tend to get repetitive while others who tend to do the same theme can keep their stories fresh.

Another notes that "I'm increasingly convinced that authors are under pressure nowadays to produce books on such tight schedules to keep editors, publishers and readers happy, it's impossible for many of them to produce their best. The readers who want new books by their favorites on the shelves every so many months are doing themselves a disservice. Research is sloppy and not to be trusted, and loose ends abound. It's as if Nora Roberts has set the pace and if other writers can't keep up, too bad." Very interesting observation, and judging by the things heard from editors at last year's RWA conference on how many manuscripts they want from new authors, pretty close.

Another says, "It worries me that chick lit is edging out a portion of the market that once belonged to romance. I can only hope it's a passing phase."

Wow. We are an opinionated bunch, aren't we? I'd love to hear more opinions on these questions, so feel free to email me. You can also join us in the forum to talk about these issues and more at any time.

Until next time, happy reading!

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Content copyright © 2018 by Elizabeth Darrach. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Elizabeth Darrach. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Val Kovalin for details.


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