Thursday News: Book Riot columnist challenges romances’ isolationist attitudes; subscription services eroding album sales; Harlequin suffers 3d quarter decline
Romance and the Problems with “By Women, For Women, About Women” – Reader Lynn sent me this article and my response was “Wow, I don’t know what to think of this article.” And I don’t. The author of this piece who I know as Heidenkind posits that the praise for romance that it is written by women for women creates an isolated divide between the community and the rest of the reading world and worse, promotes the type of behavior and thinking that supposed enlightened readers would rattle their sabers against.
I think the part of me that rebels against this piece is the part that says “Is there anything so wrong with praising the romance genre for focusing on women?” Book Riot
Katy Perry’s weak chart-topper shows how far album sales have fallen – I’m really interested in subscription services because as a reader, I’d love to have access to all these self pub books for a low monthly fee. I start a lot of them and abandon them often. I’m keeping my Oyster subscription in hopes that it becomes worth it for that reason alone.
But subscription services in music are a growing segment of the music industry’s revenues – 16% at the last tally. And musicians say that the streaming revenue that trickles down to them is so minuscule as to not even be relevant. Others argue that the subscription services have led to the decline of the album as everyone enjoys the sampling of a three minute song over the hour long album of one singer.
The current business model for subscription book services is tremendous for readers and authors and in that sense deviates from the music industry. Plus I don’t see the fever for long books dying out even with subscription services but the music industry’s struggle with subscription services is interesting to watch and gives food for thought in the publishing world. The Raw Story
Price Elasticity Can Work: Dropping Ebook Price To $1 Catapulted Year-Old Book Onto NYT Best Seller List – TechDirt points out the obvious. Reducing the price of a book to less than one dollar can drive sales. For Rob Reid it pushed his fifteen month book back onto the NYTimes bestseller list. But 99c sales aren’t working for everyone and in spite of the argument that reduced prices lead to increased volume, that doesn’t automatically mean more revenue. 99c sales can increase visibility momentarily and for some that is all they need to propel them forward.
Rob Reid’s book is now closing in on 3,000 on the Kindle list meaning he’s selling around 20-30 books a day. Publishers should use the 99c promotion to drive sales of related books. That’s the key to a successful 99c reduction. Techdirt
Sales, Earnings Drop at Harlequin in Third Quarter – The move of romance readers toward digital books is hurting the bottom line for Harlequin. Third quarter revenues and sales declined in the third quarter and parent company Torstar attributed it to a decline in print sales and direct to consumer channels not offset by a growth in digital sales. The single titles continue to sell well but the declining retail space given over to series books is adversely affecting print sales. (Many grocery stores and the like have started stocking trades and featuring YA and to some extent NA). Digital sales globally were a quarter of revenue and that ebook growth is beginning to slow. Publishers Weekly
I thought it was already settled that many albums have a lot of filler and people just wanted what they considered the good stuff. I do have albums I listen to all the way through but they are mostly from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s or niche music.
Ok, I just checked Amazon and the last album I bought was The Tel Aviv Session by The Touré-Raichel Collective and I lured by a review on public radio.
Huh. I’ll always buy the album if I have a choice; usually my favorite tracks end up to be the ones that *weren’t* featured on the radio, etc. I use single releases as samples of style and theme, just like I do with books.
The last album I bought was a week ago :-) — WINTERSMITH by Steeleye Span (highly, HIGHLY recommended for anyone who likes Celtic folk rock or fans of Sir Pterry Pratchett, which should cover just about everybody I know) — and I was rather unhappy that it was only offered digitally, not in CD.
But then, I’m the one who will pay five times as much for a print book rather than the e version if I can, so perhaps I don’t represent much of the market.
My husband has a spotify subscription as a perk from his job and his music purchasing has dropped significantly since he got it. However, I’m more of a reader than he is, and I can’t see not buying books even if I did have an Oyster or similar account.
@hapax: You are not alone. Everyone I know buys the whole album and yes, my favorite song is usually one that wasn’t released as a single. Thanks for the Steeleye Span rec. I’m going to get that for my mom as her stocking stuffer!
Before my ereader I bought at least 4 to 5 harlequins (presents, historicals, intimate moments, and others) a month and now I only buy in eBook format but probably 1 a month at the most. The pricing just seems to high for that amount of book, so I am more picky and only buy from the harlequin authors I know I love.
Is it The Case of the Vanishing Bookstore that’s the problem for Harlequin? In my vicinity, within the radius of my shopping expeditions, the only remaining bookstore is Barnes and Noble, and that offers fewer and fewer books every time I stop by. I can’t remember when I last saw a Harlequin series there.
As for WalMart, the local one has a tiny selection of books of any sort, with perhaps three or four Harlequins. Target does marginally better on the number of romance books, but not on the number of Harlequin series.
I don’t know if things are different elsewhere, but around here there is no way for most of the series books to catch a potential reader’s eye. There isn’t even a way for a reader to notice that an author she has liked before has a new book out. That loses all the casual readers who don’t keep a list of authors they will check for online.
It seems to me that Harlequin may be in need of a new distribution model, especially for its series.
As far as the book riot articles goes, I confess to being somewhat mystified by her argument. Maybe I have been hanging out in the wrong romance communities, but I ‘ve never seen people asserting that romances are good because they are “by women for women yey sisterhood!” But I tend to ignore most of the discussion about. gender and feminism and cultural marxist tropes supposedly present in romance books, so perhaps she has a point? I shrug with disinterest.
My Wal-Mart only carries 2 or 3 Harlequin series now whereas they used to stock almost all of them. Target is slighly better as Harlequin still has an endcap there, but YA used to be a small section of the book row and now it is over half. And none of the grocery stores in my area carry Harlequins anymore. I still get the HRS line delivered, but if I want a print copy from another line I basically have to order online. That cuts down on impulse buys.
Rob Reid has an interesting post on price elasticity which he knows quite a bit about because of his experience with the music industry.
I appreciate having the option to buy individual songs and create my own mix. I’m not much of a radio listener (except sports talk) and like lots of different indie artists. I enjoy mixing and matching and creating my own favorite mixes to listen to depending on what mood I’m in.
The problem I have with the Book Riot piece is “Also, it makes romance novels sound super-boring.” Why is something that may heavily focus on women sound boring? Because that’s how society continues to marginalize women. I think she defeats herself with that one statement.
Musicians can make money through performances, which isn’t an option for most authors. I think more and more we’ll see albums being used as teasers to get people to buy concert tickets. I wonder what the book version of that will be.
I love using streaming services to listen to music but have never been tempted by a subscription reading service. The ones I’ve checked out haven’t had enough variety, and I always worry I won’t be able to finish enough books per month to make it worthwhile. So much of my book purchasing is driven by my mood at a given moment. If I were being completely honest with myself I’d have to admit that I have enough books in my kindle hoard to last me the rest of my life–and that’s not including the physical books overflowing every shelf. I’m not sure where I’m going with this other than to say that I don’t need a subscription service so I haven’t allowed myself to get one, but somehow dropping a buck or two on another cheap ebook to throw on the TBR pile doesn’t feel like a waste.
TL;DR: customers are weird.
I haven’t purchased an album in years. I think the last CD I bought was Evanescence’s “Fallen.”
This despite being an avid music lover. What little “radio” listening I do comes via satellite radio. From there, I pop over to iTunes or Amazon to check out an artist, which usually leads me to finding other similar artists (or even, not-so-similar artists).
I may purchase several songs off one album, but even the best albums usually have several “meh” songs on them. I hate paying for “meh.”
Regarding the Book Riot article, the same questions get asked any time there’s a space that isn’t dominated by straight white men as the default — if there were ANY other genre that was prominently women and taken seriously as such (YA is not the case, as we’ve seen in articles that despite 96% of authors in YA being women, the ones interviewed and on the best-seller lists are men or women under neutral pen names) then it might be a valid question, but currently it is the only space where women, and things seen as “feminine” (such as books about feelings, hope, and love) are not immediately discounted as irrelevant.
When the rest of publishing is a lot more of a level playing field there might be a reason to challenge it, but since Romance is immediately discounted due to internalized sexism by so many people (men and women), it still remains one of the few spaces where women can talk about things relevant to women without immediately being shouted down — and quite honestly I’ve NEVER seen anyone get turned away if they came in honestly and not set to just put a bunch of stupid bitches in their place (we also see THAT a lot in response to Daily News posts, geez).
It’s not about being exclusive, it’s one of the most inclusive genres I’ve ever seen, especially as it is actively pushing to become even MORE inclusive in terms of authors and characters and publishers. I absolutely agree with some of the comments on the Book Riot site that until we can somehow really remove the massive amounts of sexism in the publishing and reading world, having one place where women aren’t immediately discounted as “boring” and “abnormal” is not the problem.
@hapax: I adore Steeleye Span. Thank you for alerting me to that one. Will now go spend money.
My usual music-buying mode is, hear a song I like, buy song individually, first checking whether I like the majority of the album to make the album price worthwhile. But I have my must-haves, whose new albums I get in physical format for the pretty inserts and to toss in the car kit on road trips.
Re: Harlequin Our two Wal-Marts barely carry the series, Target did away with them (at least at this end of town). The one grocery store does carry Presents, Love Inspired and a few others. BAM has only a few. No one carries the historicals (which is my series) and if you blink you miss the Nocturnes. My first trip to a Barnes & Noble last weekend did net me two of the new historicals.
My friend the other day was fussing while browsing Harlequin with the same complaint I now have…the covers. You can’t differentiate the lines. They all look alike. And I know others disagree with me but they’re not eye catching or brightly colored. So if you’re doing a quick run through WalMart or the grocery store and you’re looking specifically for a line, you might miss it. And if you carry a wishlist set up by series, you might check the wrong list and pass up a new release. They need to rethink the new cover design.