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Books in Recessionary Times

In these times of economic downturn, I'm looking for more books with . . .

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Last week I wondered on Twitter if the recession would hurt the book market. It doesn’t look like it will hurt the romance book market. One twitterer pointed out that movies did great during the Great Depression and apparently it was during that time that the Harlequin imprint really took off.

And if Somerville sounds less worried than many about the hard economic times ahead, perhaps that’s not surprising: it was during the Depression of the Twenties and Thirties that the imprint really took off. “People wanted to escape the hardship of the depression and general strikes,” she explains. “What women wanted, and what we could make money out of, was light fiction. They concentrated on ramping up the light fiction of the time, and the growth of the lending libraries in the Thirties was a great conduit for romantic fiction.”

Is light fiction just romance fiction in general or is it light hearted? In any event, the poll question I have is whether these darker economic times will increase the demand for frothier or funnier romance fiction.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Kristen
    Dec 31, 2008 @ 11:30:51

    Um…where’s the poll? Is it someplace new? Or am I addled?

  2. Jane
    Dec 31, 2008 @ 11:33:47

    @Kristen I’m cleaning up the backend. I think this must have been a post that was a draft of another. am deleting it now.

    But now that I look at the archive, I must have never put this poll up so woot! new poll today.

  3. Shiloh Walker
    Dec 31, 2008 @ 11:55:34

    I’m looking for the same sort of stuff I always look for, a decent story. Reading a lot of suspense lately, though.

  4. Bev Stephans
    Dec 31, 2008 @ 11:56:14

    Just give me a good solid contemporary romance. I like the ones that take place in small towns where everyone gets involved. It doesn’t necessarily have to be full of angst, cute dogs, secret babies or wacko relatives. What it must have is good solid characters, a believable story line and a satisfactory HEA.

  5. RfP
    Dec 31, 2008 @ 12:16:33

    It doesn’t matter what subject matter or tone is; I’m looking for denser books that demand my attention. For me, that’s what makes reading a real break from reality: a book that stops me from checking the clock and makes me burn dinner, forget a date, and stay up all night. When I said that on the Gab, a couple of people rightly pointed out that a book that makes one stay up all night and tussle with it isn’t always desirable; but it’s still my favorite form of escapism.

  6. Collette
    Dec 31, 2008 @ 12:36:45

    I just want a story to enthrall me–something that doesn’t let me put it down. How I get there–fantasy, angst, historical, whatever–doesn’t really matter.

  7. Eyre
    Dec 31, 2008 @ 12:48:04

    Great poll. I really would have liked an all of the above option; although, I lean toward light-hearted stories when I’m feeling really blue.

  8. Hilcia
    Dec 31, 2008 @ 13:16:09

    I voted other. My reading patterns haven’t changed with the economy… I’m a pretty eclectic reader, I like ALL of it, the angst, the history, the romance, literature, and yes the fluff… so no, the hard times will not make a difference to my reading habits. I’ll continue to look for new authors and I’ll continue to read books depending on what I crave at the moment.

  9. GrowlyCub
    Dec 31, 2008 @ 13:41:30

    I like angst, but never death, so I didn’t vote in the poll.

  10. Renee
    Dec 31, 2008 @ 14:12:08

    Any kind of book, actually. It’s more about the escape than the type of book.

    In a the past, I sold cosmetics. I was told that in economic hard times, lipstick sales go up. I see books the same way. A (relatively) inexpensive way to “get a lift”.

  11. Kristen
    Dec 31, 2008 @ 14:30:26

    I’ll read pretty much anything.

  12. Lori
    Dec 31, 2008 @ 16:51:32

    I love light-hearted contemporaries and I’ll admit to a chick-lit preference. But I’ll read almost anything. But if it’s angsty, it better be brilliant because everyday living is angst enough.

  13. Kat
    Dec 31, 2008 @ 17:14:58

    I’m with Collette and Hilcia above — if it gets me engrossed in the story (and less engrossed in the business headlines) then I’ll be reading it.

    Economically speaking, though: is there any correlation between book length and salability when times are tough? I’ve had lots of people tell me they only bring very fat paperbacks on vacation with them, because they’d rather read through a 1,000-page potboiler than have to bring 2-3 books with them. Will people want longer stories to get a better bang for the buck?

  14. Mireya
    Dec 31, 2008 @ 17:33:07

    What I am looking for has not changed. The main difference is that I am a lot more careful now. Instead of, say, spending $200 in books a month of which $150 would be ho hum reads, I now only buy from tested and true authors, and “rent” those that I am not so sure about. If I like the rental, I proceed to purchase the title. Of course, this does not apply to books exclusively published in electronic formats.

    And I like humor, but I’ve found that some romantic comedies put me off, so I don’t particularly go for the humorous ones, unless I am familiar with the author and know that I like his/her work.

  15. Eyre
    Dec 31, 2008 @ 17:54:15

    Like Mireya, I’ve been “renting” lots of books lately. I use booksfree, but there are other sites out there. If I get a book from them and want to keep it, it’s pretty simple to purchase it from them. That being said, I find myself buying lots of e-books and visiting B&N probably more than I should.

  16. Darlynne
    Dec 31, 2008 @ 19:17:01

    I just want to be hooked, to have a book take me over, and that doesn’t necessarily mean fantasy (although I read a lot of that). I want to be riveted and the last book to do that was Max Brooks’ World War Z, thanks to some smart readers here. The one just before that was Meg Gardiner’s Crosscut, so apparently I’m not going the light and entertaining route.

  17. SonomaLass
    Dec 31, 2008 @ 19:23:13

    I find myself avoiding really angsty books outside of the fantasy genre. Heroic angst, as in epic heroism, is still okay for me, but not “reality” angst — enough of my own, kthnx.

    Humor is good right now, but more Terry Prachett humor than Jennifer Crusie, if that makes sense. I find myself rereading a lot lately, not so much from economy (I can easily get new books from the library if I don’t want to spend the money), but for reassurance. I KNOW what I’m getting into, and I can pick the experience I feel really in the mood for. I think of it as comfort reading, partly due to the holidays and partly because I don’t need to be challenged by my reading material right now. Enough challenges IRL.

    Thanks for this poll, Jane — I hadn’t realized the above until I tried to answer.

  18. rebyj
    Dec 31, 2008 @ 19:40:22

    I’m too poor for a recession to be noticed lol. I have a lil bit budgeted for books each month and thats it!
    But when times are bad I want Armegeddon! A movie marathon of epic disasters and to read, some freaky religious cult drama , of which there aren’t enough fiction books out there. Sharon Sala has a couple good ones and Maggie Shayne. Although they have happy endings which defeats the purpose of all the DRAMA!

  19. Ann Somerville
    Dec 31, 2008 @ 20:08:50

    Don’t care about the story line so long as it doesn’t have a miserable ending – but it has to be an ending I can believe in.

  20. Kimber An
    Jan 01, 2009 @ 12:12:09

    I am so sick of ‘Dark & Sexy’ I could just puke. Being pregnant, anything I”m sick of will make me puke, but yanno.

    Whatever happened to ‘Fun & Adventure?’ Whatever happened to faithfulness and courage? Whatever happened to Love (not sex) triumphing over all?

    Yeah, I know. The publishing industry is afraid to try anything different in this recession. Oh, well, there’s always the used bookstores and libraries.

  21. Leah
    Jan 01, 2009 @ 15:33:55

    I like my romances light and chick-lit-y, but right now I’m on a suspense kick. And for suspense, I’ll take anything, so long as no child (living, dead, in jeopardy) is involved. I just finished Michael Connelly’s The Brass Verdict and absolutely loved it.

  22. DS
    Jan 02, 2009 @ 10:08:38

    I want well written– not interested in straight historical right now– especially Regency/19th century, but would really like some good steampunk. Also maybe a new book by Jasper fforde.

    I’m also sticking with authors who are tried and true unless I get a really convincing recommendation.

  23. Maddie
    Jan 02, 2009 @ 16:21:18

    I pick up what ever my favorite author is on the shelf that I have yet to buy or what looks like it’s going to be a good read.

    I did cut back on my spending habits wha I do is buy my favorite authors in the series book line and wait to purchase trade size and other books that I know do not have a limited shelf span.

    I pick up w

  24. Sayoko
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 16:19:33

    I’m looking for more MMF or MM romances (not ebooks, just regular novels like Simply Sinful by Kate Pearce), and for romances with more varied settings, especially if they are historical.

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