If you think authors have become rock stars to readers, who do you think writers worship?  I'll tell ya: Book buyers.

Enter Barnes & Noble Romance Buyer Tommy Dreiling, albeit not sporting eye liner or package-cupping leathers.

Nope, this intelligent and engaging guy knows that to move among thousands of worshipping women who'd kill for a slice of his time, it's better to go conservative and have a big knowledge of the genre - and confident understanding of what romance-reading chicks want.

"Romance popularity and sales have increased dramatically in the 13 years I've been buying romance for Barnes & Noble," says Dreiling, whose commitment to the genre is clear in the understated, yet still intense and animated ways in which he talks about his job.  "And what's very exciting is that for September, we've bought 159 romance titles - and that doesn't include series."
 
It's his familiarity w/ readers and book trends, as well as his rep for being a stand-up guy in the biz, which made me jazzed about meeting with Dreiling on a recent trip to B&N's NYC digs.  There, he told me a bit about his journey from BN bookstore manager to his current gig.

"Barnes & Noble's buyers are unique in that they have bookstore backgrounds first," Dreiling noted.  He spent five years as a B&N manager before moving to corporate to work as assistant to Bob Wietrak, VP of Merchandising.  Dreiling was thrilled to be given the opportunity to score romance as his first venture into buying, and he currently purchases all romances by bestsellers and "soon to be" stars.

"There sometimes is a misconception that we don't buy ‘midlist,'" says Dreiling of novels that may not become bestsellers but will make money and help develop a following and future book sales for an author.   "We buy everything great that comes our way, something for lots of our stores, if not all of them. " For example, often Dreiling will buy more of a midlist book to place in the author's hometown area or another store that makes sense.

Since everyone wants to be a rock star, I wondered what Dreiling thinks is the coolest thing about his hi-visibility position.  "Probably to watch as new authors in romance have a chance to become very big, very fast," he said, after giving the question a bit of thought.

"Word sometimes spreads in zero to 60, and in about one-to-two years, a large number of new romance authors break out.  It's fun to see something good happen, to have an opportunity to really put authors out in the market in front of readers."

What trends do you see in romance books?  What would you suggest Tommy consider taking a look at in the future? 



You've got the rest of today to hook up w/ Suz Brockmann at Center Stage to talk "Hot Pursuit," Troubleshooters, Izzy, SEALs and anything else!  BN mod Becke Martin's your hostess, so head over to have some fun!

Don't forget Eloisa James' manly mens @ her Review column: "Alpha Allure":

 

Please: Join me on twitter @michelle_rbtb!  And check out my romance stuff Tuesdays at "Unabashedly Bookish!"

Message Edited by Michelle_Buonfiglio on 08-14-2009 10:51 AM
Comments
by Moderator becke_davis on ‎08-07-2009 12:08 PM

I think the books readers are recommending at sites like B&N's Romantic Reads book club, and in comments to Michelle's H2H posts, are good indicators of what is hot.

 

While vampire books are still hot, books about shifters -- such as those Nalini Singh writes about -- are getting hotter every day. Women who wouldn't have been caught dead with a print copy of erotica (they might have secretly bought e-books), now read them in the airport. Lora Leigh's Breeds are everywhere!

 

Toni Blake is definitely on the rise, and even long-time contemporary romance fans like myself have been sucked over to the historical side. While urban fantasies have a solid following, there's a hard core of us who want our Happy Ever After -- and we don't want a three book story arc before we get it.

 

But, if those readers aren't like me, we're still reading all the romance we can get our hands on. Since I have never been known to walk out of a bookstore empty-handed -- and sometimes I think my local bookstores are going to start charging me rent -- my husband is convinced I'm personally saving the publishing business. One look at my TBR pile makes me think he has a point!

 

I'm convinced that people want romance and happy endings when the world around them spins out of control. I've always been a fan of Frank Capra's screwball comedies, and movies like those became popular when times were hard. I'm just glad that publishers are giving women a voice.

 

A report I read today says:

 

 57% of book buyers are women yet women purchase 65% of the books sold in the U.S.

 

Here is a link to the complete article:  http://www.bowker.com/index.php/press-releases/567-bowker-publishes-first-consumer-focused-research-...

 

I think the biggest difference with romance as opposed to other genres, is that women TALK about what they read. If we really like a book, we really, REALLY talk about it. Pretty soon, it's gone viral. We trust personal recommendations and tend to make a lot of buying decisions based on those. I know my TBR pile was always manageable until I started hanging around other romance readers! 

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎08-07-2009 12:58 PM
Yes, becke, your husband's asked me to have a little talk w/you about the friends you've been keeping online.  Since i'm one of those friends, I'll just tell him we had the chat and you're duly repentant.  Now.  On to the romance talk!  Thanks for the stats.  Your point about women talking re the books is important.  Women who read romance search ea other out cause nobody else'll talk w/us about the stuff in a meaningful way. we can have discussions about most any other kind of book or genre fiction, yet bring romance into a discussion and it stops it cold.  we learn quickly to seek out supportive audiences.  And once we get started, we seek out the connections that women crave and use romance as the starting point. Oh, and as you also point out, we hold the purse strings in most cases.  yee haw.

by Author Annacampbell on ‎08-07-2009 02:09 PM

Hi Michelle! Hi Becke! Hi Tommy! Wow, what a great job you've got ;-) All that luscious fiction to read? Fantastic! And thank you for B&N's great support for romance!

 

I've noticed the contemporary romantic comedy seems to be having a mini renaissance. Would you agree? There seem to be a few great new authors being published in the genre. Although what I have also noticed is that there's almost always a 'hook' to draw the reader in. For example, Kandy Shepherd's Love Is a Four-Legged Word has the dog and cooking hooks. 

by Moderator dhaupt on ‎08-07-2009 02:10 PM

Hey, I resemble that remark Michelle being one of Becke's friends, ya think her hubby would have trouble with little ole me ? ;-)

And I totally agree with Becke about the trends in romance reading.

I truly see paranormal being the hot ticket items because the sub-genre is so out there and all of us out there gals (and guys) like that. But we still want a dose of that boy gets girl, boy boinks girl ;-), boy marries girl they have their HEA.

But that's just me.

Ciao!

Deb 

by Author LeeRhuday on ‎08-07-2009 02:24 PM

What about women's fiction?  At RWA, it seemed like everyone was buzzing about community based stories with strong female character arcs.  Is that the next big thing?  If so, why do you think that is?  

 

Leigh

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎08-07-2009 02:34 PM
Oh, no, Lee! Say it ain't so!  There has to be that great, big central love story w/strong HEA, no?  O, gawd, I think I'm hyperventilating!  The one type of women's fiction I do find interesting is historical fiction that has a very strong love story arc/w hea featured.  I wonder if all the talk about the com-based story has to do w/selling to the women who might read romance if it were more acceptable?  hmmmm... I've always felt that there are lots of women who'd love romance if they'd allow themselves to try it, or if they had more support from a peer group.  But what do I know?

Debbie: Boy gets/boinks/marries?  I've never seen it put quite like that, but I likes it, I do. For the sensuality is such a strong part of romance, and the 'boinking' before the inevitable pre-getting back together rift is so important to the heartache quotient we so love.   
by RachelHauck60 on ‎08-07-2009 02:37 PM

Why not more inspirational romance. The genre is growing with more and more award winning novels being written. The books reach beyond the "religious" and inspire all who need hope or just a plain good read.

 

Rachel

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎08-07-2009 02:40 PM

Great observation, Anna!  And the Ridgeway and  Betts  Knitting romcoms.  Lots of quirky  sex-and-the-single-girl-who's-got-a-pet stuff.  Also the girl detective is hot.  But not so much kick-*ss girl detective, which may not have resonated with readers.  Although if there are readers who love her, let us know...

 

I'm very pleased to see the popularity of the historical romance which I never saw gasping for breath, nor heard readers tell tale of tiring of (even in alliterative language).

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎08-07-2009 02:48 PM
Rachel, that's a great point.  There are lots of great Inspy authors who write romances that definitely would appeal to the folks I hear saying "i wish I could find 'sweet' romances w/out overt sexuality.'" Or readers who enjoy Christian romance, but don't enjoy feeling 'preached at' during escapist entertainment time.  And, I know lots of rabid romance readers who read everything from erotic romance to old-school Regencies who enjoy -- or would enjoy -- Inspy romances simply because they're good romances.

That said, Inspy genre fiction generally is sold in the Inspirational/Christian section of general bookstores because that's where the majority of folks who read it will look for it.  I can tell you that I'm happy to feature great Inspy authors who tell great love stories -- and encourage Inspy fans and authors to write me here on BN.com with suggestions. You can reach me by clicking on my name in this comment box, or in my 'byline.'
by Author DonnaMacMeans on ‎08-07-2009 02:50 PM

Hi Tommy -  I remember listening to you in Dallas at the RWA convention.  Good to hear you're still romance-strong!

 

I agree with Anna, humor is on the rise.  I'm seeing it in the historicals.  Goddess of the Hunt, anyone?  Historicals that pack humor and sex in with their frock coats seem to be a winning ticket.

 

I also agree with Becke that we share the love when we discover a new author to follow.

 

I'm seeing an expansion of the "acceptable" settings for historicals which is wonderful news, as well as a stretching into the WWII period.  I think a well written  Romance set in any time period is always a great thing.

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio ‎08-07-2009 03:00 PM - edited ‎08-07-2009 04:45 PM
I couldn't agree w/you more about the 'acceptable' settings, Donna!  A year ago, I was really discouraged to hear an editor telling authors and yet-to-be-pubs that there was no market for anything not set in England.  Meanwhile, I was hearing lots of readers saying they were dying for India, America, shipboard -- especially shipboard!!! -- and later time periods.  Now, granted, I only hear a small group of readers of all romance readers. But just like during the Great Death of Historical Romance Fiction That Never Was, I knew something just didn't sound right.  I'm glad authors still are being corageous in writing the books that turn them on while trying to gauge the market. 
Message Edited by Michelle_Buonfiglio on 08-07-2009 04:45 PM
by Moderator becke_davis on ‎08-07-2009 03:03 PM

Groups like Donna and Anna's Romance Bandits, like Michelle's Bellas and others like that give women a place to share their love of books without any of that, "Oh, you read THOSE books?" attitude. Because, yeah, actually I DO read those books -- a helluva lot of them. I may not be reading War & Peace, but I'm having a lot of fun. Great literature has it's place, but it's not on my bedside table. I'm fifty-freaking-seven, and I've stopped apologizing for reading for enjoyment. I LOVE to read (sorry about all the caps and exclamation points, it's just how I talk), and there's nothing I like better than talking to other readers and writers about what they like to read.

 

Last month, the romance writers convention was like crack to me -- I could so easily get addicted to meeting with so many people who share my love of books, and my excitement about them. It's more than a buzz -- it was like a tsunami of enthusiasm, and I haven't quite touched down yet.

 

Eloisa James' luncheon speech brought me to tears when she spoke of how her mother, in almost her last words to her, said she just knew Eloisa/Mary would write a "real" book in the next five years. Authors get it, readers get it. We know romance doesn't get the respect it deserves, but you know what? That's not going to stop us from reading it, from writing it and from talking about it as much as we can. We are book evangelists, and we ROCK! 

by Moderator becke_davis on ‎08-07-2009 03:04 PM
And, of course, I'm including H2H and the Romantic Reads board in those "safe places to go and talk about romance." Goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway.
by Author Jessa_Slade on ‎08-07-2009 03:26 PM

I read widely and wildly -- right now in my TBR pile I have dark and light paranormals, a borderline chick litty contemp, a couple historicals by well-known authors and a couple debuts, plus a romantic suspense, and an almost horror-y urban fantasy -- so I appreciate equal diversity in my bookstores.

 

One trend I'd like to see strengthened isn't so much in genre as customer service. Lately, I've heard more about handselling. When I have a lot of options on the shelf in front of me, I really appreciate a knowledgeable bookseller who can recommend great new-to-me stories. 

 

I think it's wonderful that Tommy has in-store experience since that's where I, as a reader, think the rubber meets the road :smileyhappy:

by MarciaJames on ‎08-07-2009 03:33 PM

I think readers would love to see more romantic mysteries, particularly comic romantic mysteries.  Janet Evanovich and Harley Jane Kozak write hilarious comic romantic mysteries.  And I love Jayne Ann Krentz's romantic mysteries.  There are lots of readers who don't enjoy bloody romantic suspense novels, but cozy mysteries without love scenes aren't their cup of tea, either.  The hybrid romantic mysteries are real crowd-pleasers.

-- Marcia James ;-)

by amyskf on ‎08-07-2009 03:44 PM

Good points everyone. I think it says a lot about the romance genre, that we love all kinds of romance.

 

But, Becke,  I enjoy a three or five book love story arc, but I love Urban Fantasy series too.  I think of Colleen Gleason's Gardella Vampire Chronicles, I liked knowing I'd be with these people for a good long time, but I also liked the fact that it wasn't an ongoing series, I knew it would be 5 books and was ready for that.

 

Michelle, yeah, the girl detective who's not so kick butt, but more like the girl next door. Of course, we know I love the kick-butt heroine, 'cuz, I wish I were her...

by amyskf on ‎08-07-2009 03:50 PM

Jessa, in my perfect world, there'd be a person/worker in the romance aisles hangin' out waiting to hand-sell me, or just chat about some fave reads.

 

Marcia, I love funny romantic mysteries -- of course alot of those are series...Lois Greiman writes a very funny romantic/comedy/mystery series -- her Chrissy McMullen series is great.

 

by Author colleenc on ‎08-07-2009 03:56 PM

Interesting about the settings, Michelle! I write romantic mysteries in the inspirational market and setting is a hot topic we authors often talk about. I'm seeing more books, especially historical romance, set in other countries. I like learning something new so I'm glad to see this trend as well. 

 

Someone mentioned how women talk about books they love and that's so true! I don't think I've ever heard a man rave about a book to a friend. :-)

 

by Author VanessaKelly on ‎08-07-2009 04:27 PM

Hi Tommy!  I heard you speak at RWA in Dallas, too.  Thanks for your strong support of romance.  Hi Michelle - great column!

 

I also heard a lot of buzz at RWA about small town/community centered stories, with a stronger emphasis on the female character ARC.  Michelle, I think you're on to something with your observation that some readers might be more comfortable reading books they could class as women's fiction, rather than straight romance.  But I'm still working on converting readers - I have a friend who never reads romance.  I gave a few Loretta Chase novels, and she really liked them.  And was surprised how much she liked them.

 

I agree with Donna that humor in historicals is on  the rise, a la Loretta Chase, Eloisa James, and Tessa Dare.  And more diverse settings, as well.  But I still love the big, dark, gothic historicals, and hope we see more of them.  

 

And hot romances seem to be getting hotter all the time.  Not that I have a problem with that!

by vickyd on ‎08-07-2009 04:30 PM

I had to post since Tommy and I share the same last name! I agree with previous posts that humor and sexy plots are probably the big trend for historicals.

 

With the debut of the movie The Time Traveler's Wife, I'm predicting the next trend is time travels. :-)

by Author VanessaKelly on ‎08-07-2009 04:31 PM
Oh, and Becke, I'm totally with you on the not-by-the-bedside great literature.  I spent years in grad school, and I love literary fiction.  But sometimes I just want a break!
by Moderator becke_davis on ‎08-07-2009 04:33 PM

Amy, I think I had an "n't" typo in that post. Couldn't figure out how to edit it.

 

I second your vote for Colleen's books -- haven't read the whole series (the rest are, of course, in my TBR pile) -- but I enjoy those, too. It's not that I don't read books with a multiple book story arc, I just prefer the one couple per book HEA and I see a trend toward the three book arc. And Colleen is great -- met her in DC, she's a hoot!

 

I like humor and even a hint of paranormal in historicals, but I seem to like a lot of books that don't fit the trends. I never read historicals at all until about a year ago -- I've probably read 300 since then. I blame Anna C., Eloisa and Melanie for my overwhelming TBR pile. 

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎08-07-2009 04:59 PM
Never 'pologize for exclamations here at H2H, becke; show your enthusiasm for romance alongside your intellect.  I like your term, 'book evangelists,' and certainly we romance fans tend to wax proselytistic on occasion.

hi, jessa!  When I think handselling, I always think the independent booksellers I've met through the years, the ones who've been so instrumental in helping authors grow.  It totally can be replicated in chain booksellers, cause we see it happen based on whom in store management and staff appreciate romance.  A few days ago, we met Lee Duncan from the W Melbourne, FL, B&N store, where a lot of handselling goes on. I'm so hoping the spririt of the W. Melbourne crew and other big pro=romance BN's like Linda Keller's in OH, JoMarie's in Harrisonburg, W VA and others -- as well as the tone you all bring to H2H and romance at BN.com -- spreads to all the BN stores.    And I love your saying it's where the 'rubber meets the road," and how you appreciate the blend Tommy works to bring to the romance aisles.
by Cre8tive_novelist on ‎08-08-2009 02:35 AM

I believe historical romance novels with fantasy edge will become immensely popular. Historical romance is already widely loved, as is fantasy due to authors from both the romance genre and outside of it nurturing the concept. A blend of these two make for a beautiful marriage in a romance novel. Shana Abe has done this magically, as have Teresa Medeiros and Lucky Blue. Romances with both a historical and fantasy flair are always nabbed from the shelves as treasures worth taking the time to slowly sink into.

by KWare on ‎08-08-2009 03:26 AM
Historical romance novels are and have been extremely popular. While many women don't often "advertise" the fact that they read these books, it seems very strange to me just how many people are perusing the romance shelves at the bookstores. Fantasy, with vampires and time travel, are making a hit with women seeking to escape the historical genre...and are a huge draw for the younger, newer readers of romance. Personally, I have found that romance novels are more popular than ever, given the economy and the fact it is an escape from the real world today. I am a new writer of romance, and have actually been a reader since the days when medical romances were the big draw for Harlequin novels. I had a chance to meet Judith McNaught many years ago when she was first writing and she was an inspiration to me...her books continue to be incredibly well received. Lisa Kleypas is a wonderful speaker and a wonderful romance writer. She weaves beautiful stories. Teresa Medeiros, Eloisa James, Christina Dodd, Julianna MacLean, Samantha James...all make me, as a reader, want to read more. And as a writer, to continue to put pen to paper (or fire up the ol' computer!). Romance will always be popular. As to the types of readers, it just depends on their own idea of romance. A time traveling hero? A vampire? A  Regency nobleman? They are each some woman's romantic ideal.