23 January 2014

Profile of a Romance Reader

So, okay I'm a romance novel reader. And I'm unapologetic about it. Despite the fact that one of my policy wonk friends—now a respectable local politician—would rather have me consume tons and tons of policy research stuff.
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I do my work nicely, thank you, but when I want to take back my sanity, I dive into a feel-good happy ever after. Ergo, the romance novel.

I've gotten so much flak about this (not-so) secret obsession of mine that I buckled down and decided to find out who those romance novel readers are.

That means you, dear romance novel reader who got stuck in this blog. ;)

Who are you? Where do you come from? What do you do? Why do you read romance? These are the questions I wanted answered, STAT!

So being the research wonk that I was, I searched for studies that would pin down just who we are. And good Romance Writers of America had the information on their site. (Thank you, RWA.)

Here's what they (and now me and you) know about us romance novel readers (and buyers), so far:

Men read romance, too!

Nine out of 10 are women (why isn't that a surprise?), and the rest are men (a respectable 9%). I wonder why men read romance? And what kind of romance genre do they read? The knee-jerk response would be romantic suspense, but they might go for paranormal, too. Or even serials, heh.

Our love lives

We do have love lives of our own. “Slightly more than half” of the RWA survey says we have spouses or significant others.

Hooked on romance for years

For most of us (41%), we've been reading romance for the last 20 years or so. Me, I got hooked  the moment someone lent me Barbara Conklin's P.S. I Love You (from the Sweet Dreams series) in 6th grade. Then I discovered Jane Austen and Barbara Cartland...then Mills & Boon...then Nora Roberts... then...thousands of titles later, I'm still hooked.

How often

The RWA 2012 reader survey found out something about our predilection of reading romance titles. Most of us (44%) are frequent readers – meaning, we read quite a few romances. (By quite, do they mean having hundreds of titles on our ebook reader and on our shelves? Just askin'.) Three out of 10 of us are “avid readers” – we're almost always seen buried in the pages of a romance novel...which is a good descriptor for moi. The rest of us (25%), read romance on and off, particularly on vacations or probably when we're stuck in a pretty, pretty long government line.

Where we are

Most US romance readers, a goodly 38% (which is almost 4 out of 10 women—and one man) comes from the Southern states – Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Virginia, North & South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia and Florida (my home state). Midwestern readers come in a far second (26%). I wonder why? Does the weather have something to do with it? How about time to read after work and chores? What do you think?

How old young

We're likely to be 30 to 54 years young. (I'm 42, btw, as of this writing.) As to preferences, someone my age (42, the mean age, says a Romance Book Consumer survey), prefers buying ebook romances while someone aged 49 likes flipping print pages – and probably the smell of new books. Which I absolutely love. For me, it's a toss up between ebooks and print, but I like the feel of paper beneath my fingers. It's an entirely different sensual delight in itself. (I don't know if there's something iffy about that, too, heh.)

How much we earn

Almost 4 out of 10 (39%) romance readers have household incomes between $50,000 and $99,000. My guess? We're all women looking to feel good at the end of a hectic day. I know that's my reason why I reach for my romance fix every Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights – when I usually have a rough day at the office.

Print vs ebook

Despite the preferences according to age thing in the print vs. ebook war, we'd rather have the ebooks more than 4 out of 10 times when we're buying our romance fix. For me, it's convenient. I just go to Amazon, buy, then download. Oh, and a good quarter of us romance novel readers do prefer Amazon according to a 2012 Bowker Market Research. A good 29% (about 3 out of 10 readers), still go for mass market paperbacks. I know that I visit my friendly neighborhood bookshop when I'm looking for titles that may not be in general circulation anymore. And here's a nifty trivia: if you don't read romance ebooks, you're more than half likely (53%) not to buy or read ebooks in the future.

Ebook devices

And for ebook readers? Most of the time, you're reading your romance fix on Kindle (41%). Nook readers (16%) and Kindle Fire owners (13%) clock in farther down the device preferences ladder.

Which genres?

Ebook and print buyers are more than likely to buy the same romance genres. The leading genres is a toss up between romantic suspense and contemporary romance. Historicals follow a farther third. The thing is, ebook buyers tend to buy erotic and paranormal titles more. Maybe because print publishers still go the traditional route in their buying decisions.

Free romance reads

A note to romance authors: More than half of ebook readers downloaded a free romance read, and more than 2 out of every 10 of them went on to buy a book from the same author. That must be why authors now offer lots of free prequel novellas on Harlequin and Amazon. Nifty trick...because I've found myself buying the serials that follow them in hot pursuit of the characters I fell in love with in the free stuff. Smart!

Who we ask for recommendations

Who (or what) do we ask when we want the lowdown on what's hot? Surprisingly, almost half (45%) check out bookstore shelves. (Does Amazon and Barnes & Noble count? Probably.) Then we ask family and friends (41%) and our extended network on Facebook (32%). Other online sources might include social networks and Google (31%) because book clubs, author emails, and online communities (Goodreads, to name one) don't do so well. We do get a kick out of sample chapters (25%).

We do love getting to know our favorite romance authors better, and of course, in getting first dibs on what new surprises they have in store for us. Nearly half (or thereabouts, at 41%) visit author websites. For some of us, we got snagged by promotional trailers and bought the book (18%) and others read author blogs (16%) or follow them on Facebook (13%). For the really obsessed, we go to live author events (12%). How sweet is that? Nothing like your presence at book signings for moral support.

The reason behind the buy

Top reasons why we buy a romance read? The story – of course, what else? More than the author, the story gets me all the time. The author – we do have our favorites. It's part of a series – I'm always a sucker for romance serials. In fact, I move heaven and hell just to complete a series. I've been known to drag Hubby C to off-the-beaten-tracks bookshops to hunt for titles I might have missed. Back cover copy – we do want to know what we're getting ourselves into from the blurbs.

So there you go, a brief glimpse into the life and mind of the romance reader. How about you? What's your profile? Married, divorced, separated, single, blissfully unknowing? Day job, work-at-home, super mom, student? And why do you read romance? Share your answers to these and more of your romance-reading views and stories in the comment section below!

Source: Romance Writers of America 

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