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Reader Roundtables Part II – The Content

Reader Roundtables Part II – The Content

The second part of the Reader Roundtables was content. (I really could talk about covers forever   but we had to move on).

Readers said that they were tired of paranormals and to expand on that, they may not be so much tired of paranormals but rather they want something fresh. One reader commented she wanted to see more fantasy ala CL Wilson. I saw Erin Kellison in the group and noted that she is purportedly writing/selling fantasy romance. It's on my Kindle, awaiting a reading.

The Darkest Hour by Maya BanksA number of readers said that they wanted more internal conflict, more conflict to do with the romance and less to do with what is going on outside of the relationship. (I think this is why Maya Banks' upcoming romantic suspense, The Darkest Hour,  worked so well for me. While there was suspense the real crux of the conflict is between the hero and heroine).

Someone commented that they wanted the "Wow" feeling that these characters "really love each other". Outside conflict doesn't necessarily deliver that “wow” feeling.

Readers were tired of books that lacked character development. I took this to mean that they wanted to see a character grow and change over the course of the book. (My notes say "rejicu-female in a dress" I think that must have been related to covers. My handwriting really sucks.)

Kristie J said she wanted more Westerns. She liked westerns because the heroes were more relatable. She likes the working man hero. The hero seems more down to earth, grounded.

butterflyswordsfront-1More than one reader said that they were excited to read Jeannie Lin’s Butterfly Swords.   I swear this came unprompted from the audience!   A few readers mentioned that they wanted to read alternative locations.   Carrie Lofty sold a book to Pocket set in South Africa.

We talked about reading historical. A reader commented that she read for the time period.   We talked briefly about paranormal historicals.   I suggested paranormal historicals weren’t doing well because its too much extra details (building the historical world plus the paranormal world doesn’t leave much time for character development and romance).   One editor in the audience, though, pointed out how much she enjoyed Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series which is a paranormal historical.

We talked about series. There was a robust discussion about series and whether readers were tired of it, whether they would pick it up in the middle, etc.   Most readers agreed that they liked connected stories. Stories which stand alone but had characters that appeared in previous books.   There was no agreement on series books themselves. Some readers said that they would pick up a book in the middle of a series.   Some readers said that they would buy a series and wait until the series was complete before starting.   Some readers said long series was a turn off.

I’m doing this with Karen Marie Moning’s “Fever” series. I heard that there were huge cliffhangers and I am content to wait until the series is complete before committing.   I’ve also heard that authors don’t like this because if we readers wait, there might not be a series end, but for many books, I’ve just been reluctant to start a series without having all of them available, if possible.

When asked about storylines that readers felt were missing we received the following responses:

-. Would like more edgy characters
-..Strong heroines who are not cold and are looking for love
-.never the storyline that matters, it's always about the characters

Again, I’m interested in hearing what you have to say about the contents in books.   Are there storylines that you aren’t seeing being published?   Do you think you are getting enough internal conflict or character development in your stories or do you feel authors are relying too much on external factors?   What about series books?   Do you feel differently about series books v. connected books (and why won’t publishers put the series numbers on the sides and front of the books)?

Reader Roundtables, Part I – the Covers

Reader Roundtables, Part I – the Covers

I can't remember when Sarah and I first conceived the Reader Roundtable idea, but we have had a great time conducting these little events, first at Romantic Times and then twice (by accident) at RomCon.   One of the greatest things about having a blog is having constant reader interaction. It's one thing I like about twitter as well.

The reader roundtable was/is designed to bring that conversation from the internet to the physical plane.   Now I am going to give you a summary of what went on so that you can extend the discussion in the virtual realm creating some kind of Escher painting. I know. It's freaky.

First up was the issue of covers.   I always start with the covers because I feel like covers make such a big impact in buying decisions.   Maybe I'm wrong, but even now, I can be drawn in or pushed away by a cover.

Berkley Art Director, Rita Frangie, provided us with layered covers.   The point was to dissect the cover elements one by one.   I loved this and frankly could have spent all day doing this with a hundred covers.

I didn't take a ton of notes on this part as it was in the second session but a couple of things came out of this (and this was echoed in the first RRtable we did):


Readers want elements of the story depicted on the cover.   This means that the cover needs to tell something about the book.   In the Madeline Hunter cover, the dress told us that the story was a historical and likely a Regency.   In the Catherine Anderson cover, a reader said that it looked like it was a story set in a small town.   In the Between Friends cover, the readers said it didn't tell you enough.   For one, it looked like it was on a beach but the people weren't wearing beach clothes.   The image of the cover was confusing and too vague.   One person (Kristie J, I think) mentioned she liked Julie James' covers and the images showed kind of a flirty/fun story.

Another person mentioned that they liked Lavyrle Spencer's older covers but many said that they did not like scenery, but wanted people on the cover.   Scenic covers signal something more mainstream.   A couple of readers said that they didn't like stepback covers.   The insides are often tawdry and they rip easily.   I have some notation that says "manswear" but have no idea what that is about. Moving on.

Lion's Heat / Enemy Lover

There is a fierce debate between the headless covers and the covers with facial images.   I'm a big headless cover person.   My vision of what the characters look like never seem to match what is on the cover.     At RomCon, a number of people stated their preference for some face on the cover and one reader, Jennifer, mentioned that she gravitated toward a book that had piercing eyes.   The cover was Enemy Lover by Karin Harlow.   One reason readers gave for liking faces were that the faces conveyed emotion.   Another reader pointed out to me later that having the same model on all the covers ruined the fantasy.   Can Nathan Kamp truly be in every romance story?

One reader pointed out later that if a book has a headless cover and the hero has long hair, then there should be hair around the neck and shoulders.   (that would be kind of eerie).

Kristie J is tired of the man titty and the headless torsos.   (but you can be tired of something like this?)   Actually, I am not a big fan of the man titty either, but this is my exception which I suppose means that it is all about the execution.

The Perfect Play

One reader said that a single female on the cover indicated a heroine with a strong personality and she preferred softer heroines.

Archangel's Kiss

We then moved beyond images to text on the cover.   The first group weren't privy to the slide presentation.   The first group said that they liked cover quotes from authors because it served as an "If you like author A, you will like author B".   The cover quote was like an author recommendation.

cover quote

The second group said that the cover quote did nothing for them, particularly the cover quote on Between Friends because the quote was too generic and from an unknown entity. AKA who cares what Sun Sentinel thinks of the book.   The PW quote on the Hunter cover carried more influence with the small group and, in part, had more personality.

Readers who spend a lot of time on blogs probably know that cover quotes can often be just a friend giving a quote for another friend.   Authors, we rely on these cover quotes, so please be conscious of that when giving them out.

In keeping with the theme of readers wanting   more plot elements on the cover was the tag line on the Madeline Hunter cover:

One the readers in the room had seen the tagline, they were more interested in the book. I think SonomaLass said that she loved marriage of convenience stories (me too!) and thus the tagline would have spoken to her.

One editor shared that taglines were hard because the marketing department wasn't equipped to write them and editors ended up writing them.   Another editor mentioned that authors weren't as helpless as they made it out.   Authors can definitely make suggestions for back cover copy or tag lines or even the cover images themselves.

One reader commented that she would like the cover quote to be moved to the back because the front was too cluttered. Looking at the Hunter v. the Leigh cover, I have to agree.

Leigh v Hunter

That's what I recall about the cover conversation.   Tomorrow I will post about the content suggestions that came out of the reader roundtables.     Would love to hear your thoughts on the covers.   Do you agree or disagree with the points readers made in the roundtables?   Are there particular elements that you like/don't like? Let's have a virtual roundtable.