Thursday, June 28, 2007

A "Dead" Market

The single-title contemporary romance market seems to be kaput for now . . . yet authors like Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Catherine Anderson, Susan Wiggs, Susan Mallery still manage to hang on to their share of the market. What common denominators account for their continued success (other than being named "Susan")? In your opinion, do they write "high concept" contemporary romance?

In your opinion, can an author build a strong career today—like the ladies above—in straight contemp romance/romantic comedy?


Wouldn’t it be great if all you had to do was change your name to Susan? The truth is that all of these women began their careers in another time, a time when straight contemporary was an easy sell. Since then they’ve built a strong readership that buys every book they write.

A market doesn’t go stagnant or dead or kaput or whatever word we’re using these days because no one, ever, anywhere isn’t reading it; it becomes that way because it gets flooded. When a market is hot, like paranormal romance is now, editors buy everything they can get their hands on and it isn’t long before there are too many books and too many authors for the readers. It’s simple supply and demand. The readers get tired of being inundated, the cream rises to the top, a few stars remain, and it suddenly becomes a market that’s called dead. It’s called dead because the numbers slow. Why do the numbers slow? There are too many books. Is it really dead? No way, it’s just more challenging. Editors are no longer needing to fill lists with contemporary romance, they already have what they need. So to break into it now you’re going to have to work a little harder than you would have had you hit it when things were hot. You’re going to have to write a better book and you’re going to have to make it different and exciting. You’re going to have to give it some kind of hook.

You also need to realize when looking at so-called dead markets that you can’t compare what editors are buying to what’s on the bestseller lists. Once authors consistently hit bestseller lists they are no longer connected with a genre or sub-genre. They are a genre onto themselves. Stephen King is a perfect example. He doesn’t write horror. He writes Stephen King.

So remember this, dear writers. Dead is never dead. The readers, they will come. Dead just means challenging.

—Jessica

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