by Madelle Morgan
I was fortunate to be one of the more than two thousand authors attending the sold out RWA 2015 Conference in New York City in July. Aspiring and published authors packed the room for a panel discussion on the hottest new trends in romance publishing. Panelists included high profile bloggers, romance novel reviewers, public relations experts, and those representing the library point of view. The session was not recorded.
Important caveat: what I heard from the eight panelists and describe below is filtered through my own interests and is my own interpretation of their statements. They may have meant something a little different from what I understood. That's why I don't quote a particular panelist. With that in mind, here's my synthesis of their remarks.
Genre-BlendingAuthors are writing books that mash up two or more genres (e.g., Paranormal Romantic Suspense). It's difficult to categorize these crossovers for library or retail shelves. In general, popular culture is driving trends. So, authors, there's your justification for watching the latest hit TV series. Game of Thrones, anyone?
Coming Around AgainRomantic suspense is on the upswing. Vampire fiction is back. As we all know, vampires don't die! A micro trend is Gothic Romance. Who remembers Dark Shadows? I betray my age when I tell you I watched the original television soap after school in the late '60s. The 2012 movie of the same name starred Johnny Depp. In the spirit of genre mash-ups, could we call it a "Vampire Gothic Comedic Romance"?
It Ain't Over 'til it's OverSmall town contemporary series, and series in general, continue to be very popular. Interestingly, street teams and readers commenting on social media are driving additional books in a series. When readers clamor for a favorite secondary character's story, indie authors are responding by adding more full length novels and novellas to a series. So make your wishes known, readers. Authors are paying attention.
Starting OutA subset of contemporary romance is New Adult. I learned that New Adult is the offspring of Young Adult (YA) and Chick Lit. New Adult is less light-hearted and more emotionally intense, because, basically, the economy sucks. It's more difficult these days for twenty-something women to launch their careers. Money is tight. There's also a trend to first person point of view in New Adult, driven by its use in YA and fan fiction.
Historical Romance Marches on...Into the 40sWe've already seen many recent historical romances set in the 20th century up to the 1930s, thanks to the popularity of television series and films like Boardwalk Empire, Downton Abbey and The Great Gatsby. Panelists are seeing historicals set during World War 1 and World War II.The 1940s decade is now considered an historical time period. Gads!
Diversity RulesAs our culture becomes more openly diverse and multicultural, romance is trending to reflect the evolution. Panelists are seeing more romances with diversity of all kinds - physical and mental disabilities, inter-racial couples, LBGT, etc. Readers are looking for romance that mirrors society. Older readers are looking for issue-related stories such as those dealing with PTSD, autism, etc.
Leader of the PackWhat do biker gangs, shapeshifter werewolves, the military, and sports teams have in common? They're all pack, with their alpha males, hierarchies, and codes of conduct. One panelist predicted the up-and-coming "pack" heros in romance are men involved in organized crime.
The 1964 #1 hit by the Shangri-Las reminds us that the romantic "pack" hero is nothing new.
Panelists are starting to see more sports-themed romance novels in print, especially with hockey player heros. Print publishers are catching up to the popularity of ebook romances with sports heros.
Short, Fast Reads of Excellent QualityMuch of the growth of reading on devices is driven by the fact that so many books are digital first. The trend to shorter (novella-length) is partially driven by the growing popularity of reading or listening on devices, and partially by time crunch. People are busy. Audiobooks are popular with commuters. With little time to sift through all the options available, people value recommendations on curated lists. And with a hundred books at a reader's fingertips, authors need to hook her in the first few pages or else she's on to the next book.
Last but Not Least...Panelists are seeing a lot of red-haired heroines. Hey, am I on trend or what! My heroine, a feisty geologist, happens to have red hair.
Are You a Book Reviewer?Diamond Hunter, a romantic suspense set in Canada's Land of the Midnight Sun, is on NetGalley until the end of August. It's available to reviewers for free upon request.
Enjoy the rest of the summer!