July 22nd, 2016
(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: email@example.com
According to the nonprofit Romance Writers of America, around 82% of US romance book buyers are women, and 41% are between 30 and 54 years old. Most romance authors are female. Yet for a long time, the link between writer and reader was broken by a long chain of agents, publishers, promoters, and retailers.
Perhaps one of the most shocking revelations of today’s romance renaissance is that readers aren’t crazy about those raunchy covers. In fact, the clichéd covers featuring rock-hard abs and bared breasts were once part of a marketing strategy to entice male distributers, who picked books to sell in bookstores and gas stations. Says Carrie Feron, senior vice president and executive editor of Avon, the 75-year-old romance publisher now owned by HarperCollins: “They had to appeal to other people besides the reader in order to get into the reader’s hands.”
Today, a self-published author’s ability to connect directly with her audience plays an essential role in sales. “They’re very good at building relationships with readers,” says Friedman of romance writers, “and using strategic marketing campaigns to keep the readers involved from book to book.”
Romance authors were among the first fiction writers to get involved in online communities in the early days of the web. These built-in communities, today on Facebook and on blogs, mean that the traditional gatekeepers of literary agents and publishing house editors, who decide who should be published and how to market them, are far less important than in other genres.
“People were saying you couldn’t turn [Facebook] fans into readers. Not true!” says Ward. “A big part of my success definitely comes from Facebook.” Ward has a small team that includes her husband, but she’s the main force behind her marketing and social media. In fact, in the beginning, before Ward had sold even one book, she spent time attracting readers to her Facebook page.
She amassed 30,000 excited fans before she published her debut novel, Demon Kissed, in 2011. “I built it over a six month period, one fan at a time,” she says of her following. “Everyone starts small. It’s gumption and vision that determine if you’ll succeed after you have that first reader.”
Lauren Blakely, the self-published pseudonymous author of Seductive Nights, says that straight-to-fandom is a huge part of her success, too. Blakely, who’s sold more than 1 million self-published copies under this name, spends four hours a day engaging with her fans and community on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads. She has published six young adult novels through traditional publishing houses under a different name—none of which had met their advances by 2012—but found that engagement with her audience there was not what it has been with her romance titles.