Let’s be somewhat rude and talk about people who aren’t here, by which I mean, people who aren’t on the internet.
I know, can you imagine? There are people who aren’t online. I can’t fathom not having the internet. I find it peculiar and disorienting when I am not connected to faraway friends and people who like to talk about romances and cooking with white beans and removing whatever bug is eating my peppers and whatever immediate concerns I’m harboring.
But there are people who are not on the internet, romance readers, specifically. Romance, if you recall from the oft-quoted statistic, is a $1.6b annual industry in the US. And we on the internet who are so vocal and loud and gregarious and passionate about Passion’s Raven Flame, we do not amount to $1.6b of sales.
I asked a former bookseller about these offline romance readers. Who are they? Do they subscribe to Romantic Times or another magazine? Where do they get their reviews or find books to read in the genre? Are they in bookstores, asking the bookstore employees (they’re not asking any of the bookstore folks I know, as they don’t know much about romance at all)? Are they in libraries, asking savvy librarians?
Her response, in part:
…a surprising number of romance readers really aren’t connected to the internet, romance magazines, etc. I think some of them do rely on libraries or booksellers, but really—and this is hard to believe for those of us keyed into the romance community who read magazines, participate on romance boards, or interact with fans online—a lot of these readers are grabbing a few books off the shelves at the grocery store, Target, Walmart, Costco, Sam’s Club, etc. They often buy them without knowing much about the book or author, and are judging based on cover art and cover copy.
Seriously, this is the unsung majority of romance readers. There may be a handful of authors they buy based on name, but for the most part, they are buying what they can buy, when they can buy it. As for what percentage of romance readers this encompasses? I think it is well over 50%—somewhere in the neighborhood of 55 to 75%.
It is so easy to forget this group when you think about romance readers, but the reason we forget about them is that they AREN’T online or attending conferences, etc. They are simply buying and reading the books.
Well, thank you for that, oh, people who aren’t online reading this! Thank you for buying books so that more romance is published.
But I remain so curious as to where these people are finding books, and how, and where. I know many people don’t shop the way I do, or have as intelligent or savvy a network of fellow romance readers—or have people at all to talk to about romance novels. Yet such a large romance readership flies under the radar, so to speak, and buys so freaking much.
So who are these people who are not on the internet who buy romance? Do you know a reader like this? How does she shop? Where do they buy and what do they look for? Cover art? Author name? Is she older or younger than you?
Where does she go, and to whom is she listening for romance reading suggestions?