Survey Results: What Subgenres Do You Read?

Ahoy! Here be the results of the survey wherein I asked what romance subgenres you read:





You can also see the results at the Wufoo.com page.

So, were the results what you expected? I’m not surprised at all that historical reigns supreme. But there’s a lot of contemporary romance readers – I expected there to be more paranormal romance readers, but more people selected contemporary. However, I did not separate out “series/Harlequin” romances so those who read Harlequin Presents, for example, would select “contemporary.” I am sure some question my decision on that but I didn’t want to get into branded romances so much as I wanted to focus on setting/subgenre. Thanks to all of you who took the survey!

Categorized:

Random Musings

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  1. 1
    Ros says:

    Sarah, is it possible to have ‘historical’ and ‘other’ in different colours so they can be distinguished on the pie chart?

  2. 2
    Virginia E says:

    It looks like a good captivating story is what we all really want. It would have been nice to see the ‘other’ list, but both those links come up as restricted content.

  3. 3
    Sarah W says:

    I’m not surprised.  Historical romances seem to circulate best at my library, and fully half the order requests I receive from my patrons are for historicals.

  4. 4
    Rosa says:

    I’m not surprised too.  It like a good captivating story.

  5. 5

    Interesting. Looks like historical is by far the most popular. I’ve read a few historicals, but it’s rarely my first choice. The ones I have read are usually recommended by friends or some that I’ve read reviews of on blogs.

  6. 6
    RachelT says:

    Hi Sarah – The Wufoo.com page says it is not accessible to the public, and the same message comes up from the ‘view’ links. Thanks

  7. 7
    DM says:

    This is really interesting. The latest RWA report I can find is from 2009 and it tracks the percentage of titles published in each subgenre, but not the sales. So one of two things is happening here. Either Smartbitches read way more historicals than the rest of the romance reading public, or the industry publishes more contemporaries and paranormals but sells more historicals. I wonder which one it is?

    From the RWA site:

    Romance Subgenres Published in 2009

    Of the romance releases tracked by RWA in 2009:

    Contemporary (series): 22.83 percent
    Contemporary: 18.55 percent
    Paranormal: 17.16 percent
    Historical: 15.66 percent
    Romantic Suspense: 9.45 percent
    Inspirational: 7.56 percent
    Romantic Suspense (series): 4.28 percent
    Young Adult: 2.28 percent
    Other (erotica & chick-lit): 2.21 percent

  8. 8
    AgTigress says:

    Unlike some of you, I find the results quite surprising.  I had no idea that historicals currently constituted more than a smallish segment of the market.  The RWA figures cited by DM look rather closer to what I would have expected.
    If course, the fact that most readers read more than one genre (and probably define the genres differently, too) makes it all a bit of a statistical nightmare.
    :-)

  9. 9
    Gianisa says:

    Never use pie charts!!! (Yes, this needs three exclamation marks.)  The human eye is very bad at judging relative area but good at judging linear measure.

    Compare the pie chart to the bar chart of the same data.

    Based on the percentages in the table, it looks like people were selecting more than one answer.  A quick two-way analysis may yield interesting results.

  10. 10
    gianisa says:

    So one of two things is happening here. Either Smartbitches read way more historicals than the rest of the romance reading public, or the industry publishes more contemporaries and paranormals but sells more historicals. I wonder which one it is?

    It’s also possible that the results aren’t comparable because this wasn’t a real study of readership habits.  I doubt that the results are representative, especially since there’s lots of response bias.

  11. 11
    Karenmc says:

    I’m glad to see historicals are so popular with the Bitches. My contemporary life is already very familiar to me, thank you very much, and when I read, it’s to be someplace else. Historicals do that, as well as the few paranormals I’ve tried.

    I was thinking about this in relation to television: contemporary stories fill the channels, and there’s always a goodly number of sci-fi stories available. Historicals are harder to come by (thank the gods that we have PBS and BBC America), and that may be another reason I gravitate toward them in book form.

  12. 12
    megalith says:

    What happened to the m/m romance category? Did it get rolled up into “other” or something? (The link isn’t available to me, so I can’t check it out.)

  13. 13
    Ell says:

    I think I put that I read most of ‘em, because I do, but I much prefer very specific things (certain authors, mostly). And although I read some specific books in certain areas if obsessively recommended or if picked for a book club, they’re not necessarily a major preference.

    No clue how you could set up a survey that deals with very specific preferences. But I sorta felt my own answers to the survey weren’t really very useful.

  14. 14
    AgTigress says:

    Based on the percentages in the table, it looks like people were selecting more than one answer.

    Oh, they definitely were, and quite properly so.  Most of us read more than one of the sub-genres listed on a regular basis.
    Now let’s try putting it all into a madly complicated Venn diagram…  (evil grin)

    But whatever the statistics may mean in detail, there is no doubt that the ‘historical’ category seems far more popular than I, for one, would have expected.

  15. 15
    WordSpinner says:

    I checked historical as one of the genres I read even though I don’t read many, but because I do read some—I’m more of a paranormal reader myself, but I’ve read a few historicals that were not also paranormals. I wonder if the genres differ in how intense their readers are? I.e., some genres have a few dedicated readers, while other genres draw from a wide range of readers who are not as hard-core?

  16. 16
    Overquoted says:

    Yeah, it’s not necessarily reflective of sales. I read urban fantasy and sci-fi/fantasy about 90% of the time, but I also checked ‘historical’ because I get a craving for a pirate story or one of those old medieval bodice rippers sometimes. B) So I might buy 1-5 historicals per year, 10-15 sci-fi/fantasy books and 20-30 urban fantasy books.

    Contemporaries might be published more not because of sales, but because they’re likely easier to write. No researching the period, as with historicals. And a lot of sci-fi romance isn’t really what I’d call sci-fi. No Words Alone prompted what is probably the most scathing review I’ve ever written. So the sub-genre is trickier than contemporary. You’re more likely to tick off a reader with inaccuracies, silliness, etc. Not to mention you have to come up with stuff that is, in fact, sci-fi. Contemporary is pure relationship stuff, instead of relationship stuff PLUS other things. To me, it’s the diff between an easily prepared meal and a complicated one. Both are delicious, one just takes more time/ingredients.

  17. 17
    alma says:

    verrrrrrrry good news for me!
    i’m working on my first historical right now : )

  18. 18
    Nightwriter says:

    I’d be interested to know which subgenre all those people who chose the generic “historical” category had in mind when they made their choice. Regency Historical? Scottish Medieval? American Historical—western or colonial, or even civil war era? I find this information frustratingly nonspecific.

  19. 19
    AgTigress says:

    Contemporaries might be published more not because of sales, but because they’re likely easier to write.

    Although that’s true, I don’t think that fact would carry much weight with the publishers.  They don’t care how easy or difficult something is to write;  they want to publish books that they expect to sell well.

  20. 20
    AgTigress says:

    which subgenre all those people who chose the generic “historical” category had in mind when they made their choice. Regency Historical? Scottish Medieval? American Historical—western or colonial, or even civil war era?

    As we discussed in the thread where the poll was posted, the sub-genres and sub-sub-genres of ‘historical’ cover a very wide range, with a chronological span from Ancient Egypt to the early 20th century and a global geographical range.  I came up with 10 quite broad categories under ‘historical’, each with several sub-classifications. There is no way that one could include that amount of detail in a poll that also covered other romance sub-genres.

  21. 21
    library addict says:

    I checked historical as one of my selections, but I read far fewer than I do contemporary. 

    What sub-genres do you read is not the same question as how much of each sub-genre do you read.

  22. 22
    Rhonda says:

    It surprises me that contemporary is above paranormal. Seems like the paranormal romance books are flooding the market.
    Otherwise, it looks a lot like the selection of romance books I go for.

  23. 23
    TaraL says:

    It seems like everyone is trying to take these results too literally; as if it reflects how many books get read in each category as opposed to how broad a readership each category appeals to.

    I like contemporaries much more than I like historicals, but I read more historicals because I can find more authors that I like writing them. And I’m reading more paranormals lately, even though I don’t like them very much. Why? Because the market is SO flooded with them, that they are giving tons of them away as e-freebies. When I can’t afford the book I really want, I read one of the free PNs.

  24. 24
    Lyssa says:

    Note that the survey did not ask us how many “X group” we read each month, or in a year. It only asked what sub-genres we read. So the person who normally reads UF and occasionally reads Historicals marked both, and the person who reads 12 serial romances and one historical will have marked both spots.

    What I found interesting was not which group had the most, but the fact that so many sub-genres had respectable readership. (UF, for instance, is not a ‘romantic’ genre, but it seems to get quite the readership.)

  25. 25
    Lizabeth S. Tucker says:

    I’m disappointed that m/m isn’t there.  I know it was one of the selections and I was looking forward to seeing the number of (mostly) women reading it.

  26. 26
    CrookedGoose says:

    I read a lot of historicals, mainly regency.  If there’s a ball, a kiss and a forced marriage I’m in.  It’s so silly but I love the dresses and all the brutal mother’s looking for the best match for their daughters.  Stupid, yes.  Fun absolutely.

    Also, I find I judge contemporaries much harsher, I accept cheezeee in a historical that I would never in a contemporary. The numbers above rang true for me.

  27. 27

    Overquoted said: So the sub-genre is trickier than contemporary.

    Couldn’t agree more. However, many authors these days are crafting much more sophisticated sci-fi romances than a lot of the cringe-worthy releases of yesteryear. Of course, the definition of the subgenre can be subjective (e.g. some readers prefer more hard SF romance than action-adventure; while still others prefer the romance front & center), but based on my reading experience, the difference between the releases from the 80s and 90s and what’s being written today is pretty amazing.

    Have you tried any of the following titles (they are in no particular order)?

    In Enemy Hands (KS Augustin)
    Sunrise Alley; Alpha; Primary Inversion (Catherine Asaro)
    Cordelia’s Honor (Lois McMaster Bujold)
    Games of Command (Linnea Sinclair)
    Grimspace (Ann Aguirre)
    The Hidden Worlds (Kristin Landon)
    The Outback Stars (Sandra McDonald)
    Somatesthesia (Ann Somerville)
    Enemy Within (Marcella Burnard)
    The Spiral Path (Lisa Paitz Spindler)

  28. 28
    Kaz Augustin says:

    Thanks for the mention, Heather! Overquoted, you’ve raised the usual conundrum for me. How much sf is too much, esp. when one is targeting romance readers? For every reader who appears open to the idea of hard sf mixing with the erotic in a novel, there’s another who says, “oh no, I read these books for entertainment, I don’t want to have to work, or have a textbook next to me, just to enjoy a story”.

    I can understand both sides of the argument. I’d LIKE to think the science in my novels is a bit more accessible, even if it is on the hard side, but am willing to admit that will not be the case for every potential reader. When it comes to SFR in particular, I’m still rethinking where to put my foot on the high wire.

  29. 29
    Wahoo Suze says:

    Didja know the pie chart was invented by Florence Nightingale?  Apparently to explain percentages to a bunch of men.

    What a multi-talented woman she was.

  30. 30
    Isobel Carr says:

    I’m ecstatic to see that Historical reigns supreme!

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