Back in my dark days as a bookseller, I loved to handsell fiction to readers who came into the store. Matching a book to a reader is a thrill. But every so often, I’d come across a reader who only read historical romance or only read contemporary. And convincing them to try something new was risky; to someone who reads across genres, the single-genre romance reader is a bit of a conundrum. There are so many good books they aren’t reading, simply because those books aren’t in their narrow reading preference.
Meeting fellow readers is lovely, but when you ask “what types of books do you read?" and hear “only Urban Fantasy” or “only Historical Romance,” it’s a bit of a letdown. It’s hard to gush about a favorite read to someone, only to realize that they don’t read the genre at all.
Getting a single genre romance reader to broaden her horizons is a bit like a seduction. It takes patience, persistence, and the right kind of chemistry.
Some readers have perfectly understandable reasons for not trying other genres. Maybe they hate even a whiff of “woo woo” stuff and paranormal just isn’t for them. Maybe historical romances cause unpleasant flashbacks to high school history classes. Maybe contemporaries are just too close to real life. But for those who are just happy in their comfortable rut, here are some ways to charm them out.
Make her laugh: Find out favorite authors and suggest an author who has a similar style in a different genre. If your single genre reader likes funny contemporaries, try finding a funny historical or paranormal book. Find out what her reading sweet spot is.
Earn her trust: If a favorite author has pseudonyms for other genres, clue the reader in to the author’s other personas. For me, an author’s voice often transcends their genre. I can tell a Jayne Ann Krentz novel no matter which of her three main names she’s writing under. Or which genre. I know I’m more likely to try a book in a new-to-me genre if it’s written by an author I “trust” to write a great book.
Watch for her response: Listen to what she loves in books she raves about. Find out what tropes are her favorite. If she’s a sucker for friends to lovers books in historical romance, chances are she might enjoy the same trope in contemporary.
Packaging matters: Try different formats. I love audiobooks because the performance of the book can make some of the heavy world building in Urban Fantasy easier to get through. For readers who get bogged down by the strangeness of those complex worlds, trying audio might help.
Double Date: Offer a tradeoff. If your target reader has a book or author they’ve been begging you to try, offer to read it if she agrees to read a book of your choice outside the genre she normally sticks to. It’s a good way for you to find new authors, too.
Be a giver: Buy them a copy of your favorite book in a genre they don’t normally read. The guilt might force them into giving it a whirl.
Be a tease: If one of your favorite authors has tons of excerpts on her site, email links to your friend. Or include a sentence or two as a lure. Random text messages work can work, too. This works especially well if the book is funny, steamy, or the author has a very strong voice.
Set the mood: favorite settings or familiar events. I have a friend who, although she reads in two genres, contemporary and historical, wouldn’t touch Urban Fantasy or Paranormal with a ten-foot pole. It just didn’t interest her. This year, I dragged her to the RT convention (the first time for both of us). After we headed home, I convinced her to read Single White Vampire by Lynsay Sands. A vampire romance that takes place at the RT Convention. Two weeks later, I got an email from her cursing me (in a good way) for dragging her kicking and screaming into the land of paranormal romances.
Are you a single genre reader? Do you know someone who is? And do any of you have other tried and true ways to coax genre shy readers out of their comfort zones?
Amber McMichael, Romance and Mystery Reviews, Buried By Books