Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Series Romance Effect?

We are in the midst of a global economic trough. Papers around the world are full of doom and gloom. The publishing industry is far from being immune with across the board job losses. Independant bookstores are closing. Every day seems to bring fresh economic woe. It is enough to make a person want to escape into reading a good book.

How does Romance and particularly series romance fare in gloomy economic times? There is the fabled Estee Lauder lipstick effect, but is there a series romance effect as well? Do women buy books when they need to feel better? For me, it is a case of forget the lipstick, I want to read. But maybe I am unique. Or am I?

UK Editorial Director, Karin Stoecker recently told the BBC "Generally speaking, we have been quite successful in gloomier economic times... it's a value-priced entertaining escape from otherwise harsh realities." You can read the rest of the article here.

For Mills & Boon, the 1930s were a time of growth as women wanted to escape. (Harlequin was founded in 1949) . The 1970s again saw growth and the uncertain early 1980s was a time of huge growth for the mass market romance genre as a whole. As recently reported in The Scotsman, Mills & Boon are doing well. In fact, if you look at Torstar's results (the parent company of Harlequin), you can see the upturn in series romance started at about the same time that the first rumblings of the sub prime mortgage problem emerged. Once again, women appear to be turning to romance for entertainment.

But why? I would have to echo the woman who I once met in hospital and who inspired me to start writing romance -- In times of trouble, you can not go wrong with a Mills & Boon.

No matter what is going on, I find life a bit easier if I can escape into a book, and my genre of choice is romance. Series romance has always been focused on providing quality entertainment at an affordable price -- something that is needed when uncertainty looms.

The Contest
And speaking of escaping, my critique partner, Donna Alward has the first book in her new heartwarming romance series , Larch Valley, out this month. Because the postal system threatened to eat the copy she first sent, Donna kindly sent me another signed copy with my Christmas parcel. Well the postal system did eventually decide to cough up the first parcel and then eventually the Christmas parcel, so I have an extra copy. And when I was ill with the flu in December, I found The Rancher's Runaway Princess was the perfect way to escape.

So for this month's contest, I am offering a signed copy of The Rancher's Runaway Princess.

If you want a chance to win, please email with the answer to the following question: what series line does Donna write for? Please put Totebags Jan contest in the email and I will draw the winner on 17 January.

UPDATE: Stepfanie (book freak) was the name drawn out of the hat. I have sent an email. Many thanks to all who entered.


Laurie said...

Books are a cheap way to visit other cities, other countries.

It's my escape! I'll always buy books!!

I was introduced to a lot of my favorite authors through series romances.

PJ said...

Romance fiction has always been my "therapy" of choice. When my late dh was in a coma for 5 weeks in the local hospital's CCU, I spent my days and nights by his bedside. My lifeline was romance. I always had a book in my hand and it was frequently a category. Those books provided me with the escape I desperately needed and, more than that, they provided me with hope. Even in these difficult economic times I refuse to give up my books!

Maureen said...

I always have a book with me just in case I have to wait at any time. This way I don't get annoyed I just relax and enjoy some reading time.

Michelle Styles said...

OH good, I am so pleased other people feel the way I do.
Ironically, after I wrote this piece this morning, I read an article in the Telegraph about UK publishing and the global crunch. The charts editor for the Bookseller was apparently so annoyed that the journalists kept ignoring various best selling successes of clebe memoiors that he put out a press release to point out a variety of genres were not dead. The article pointed out for many that book buying and reading is a necessary part of living. From recession and depression comes innovation. The 1930s saw the rise of the paperback book for example.
The general consensus is that escapist literature like romance will be robust in the global crunch.

Donna Alward said...

This is why I love my CP. I knew she intended to use the spare copy as a giveaway, but I didn't know when or how. Thank you, Michelle!

And we are of one mind on this too. I do not think I am burying my head in the sand; I know economically things are rough. But I choose to stay upbeat and look at the positives - in all things, I hope. I think this might be a chance for category authors to reach readers we might not normally reach. And I for one am reading more and going out less.

Great post Michelle!

Helen said...

I agree with what everyone has said my books take me on wonderful adventures around the world to places I am not likely to ever visit and they take me away from the day to day worries of life in general I can always loose myself in a book and romance is the best because you know that there will be a HEA and I always feel better after reading a good book I won't stop buying them.

Have Fun

Estella said...

I will always buy books. I take a book everywhere I go. You never know when you might have to wait.

Christina Hollis said...

The quote: "In times of trouble, you can not go wrong with a Mills & Boon" is exactly what I was told when directed toward my first romance, also while in hospital. At times of stress a few hours of escape are SO welcome!

Michelle Styles said...

LOL Christina, I had this image of a roving band of women going around hospitals extolling the virtues of M&B/Harlequin. But it is true and I do know from letters I receive that in times of stress romance provides comfort. And when I am in those times, I read more romance. I want that thrill of the HEA.
And I agree Estella, taking a book with you is essential. There is nothing worse than being stuck somewhere where all you can do is count the number of cracks on the ceiling.

Michele L. said...

Books are my window to the world. I don't have the time or money to go to exotic places. Reading romantic books always fills me with happiness as I am transported to another world.

LJ White said...

I also love to escape with romance books. Reading is the best therapy as far as I am concerned.

Michelle Styles said...

Michele -- I do so know what you mean about books (and in particular romance) being a way to armchair travel.

LJ -- Escape is so importnat, particularly in the dark days of January.

danie88 said...

I love to escape into a good book... easy way to get my mind off things I don't want to think about...

I agree with PJ... books are good therapy :)