Romance Novel Sales Remain High During Recession

According to The New York Times, sales of romance novels remain high despite the recession, and it turns out that all people really want (besides a job, a home, or a positive 401(k) balance) is a little sizzle. Reports Motoko Rich:

Harlequin Enterprises, the queen of the romance world, reported that fourth-quarter earnings were up 32 percent over the same period a year earlier, and Donna Hayes, Harlequin’s chief executive, said that sales in the first quarter of this year remained very strong. While sales of adult fiction overall were basically flat last year, according to Nielsen Bookscan, which tracks about 70 percent of retail sales, the romance category was up 7 percent after holding fairly steady for the previous four years.

At Barnes & Noble, the country’s largest book chain, where its chief financial officer, Joe Lombardi, recently warned that overall 2009 sales were likely to fall between 4 percent and 6 percent, sales of romance novels are up. And in the first three months of this year Nielsen Bookscan tracked a 2.4 percent rise in romance sales compared with a slight decline in sales of general adult fiction for the same period. Those figures may underestimate the demand for romance, since a significant portion of sales come from retailers like Wal-Mart that are not tracked by Bookscan.

Apparently, the combination of the low cost of romance novels ($8 per book, on average) and the genre’s legion of very loyal readers continues to drive sales. Romance novels have also caught on in the electronic book market faster than other categories. For most publishers, only about one percent of sales comes from e-books; for Harlequin,  e-books account for 3.4%  of sales, says the Times.

Normally, I’d make some kind of trenchant comment about romance novels, but those kind of figures (ha-ha) have got me thinking about authoring a bodice ripper of my own.

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