Sep 27 2011 1:45pm

Seducing the Single-Genre Romance Reader

Photo courtesy of Aurimas Rimša via FlickrBack 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.

Ravished by Amanda QuickEarn 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.

Single White Vampire by Lynsay SandsSet 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?

Heart-shaped book image courtesy of Aurimas Rimša via Flickr


Amber McMichael, Romance and Mystery Reviews, Buried By Books

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Louise Partain
1. Louise321
I actually have found that Heroes and Heartbreakers is a good place to test the waters for new genres that I haven't tried out. Oh my, have I gotten into the BDB because of this site. And I am more open to contemporary romance now that I am reading excerpts. Paranormal romance -- well I am enjoying Charley Davidson the grim reaper series and a few others. At least I have a place to test the waters beyond my old tried and true and preferred historical romances.
Tara B
2. box5angel
I remember when all I read was series romance (Harlequin/Silhouette).

I HATED historical romance, but as I got older I started changing up, now I LOVE historical romance and paranormal romance. :) Those are my fave romance genres. I still read series romance though. Never will stop reading those.

I also read other non-romance genres like mysteries, action/adventure, fantasy, etc. but I love romance so much, sometimes there has to be some in those genres too. lol Although, I do read ones without romance.
Heather Waters
3. HeatherWaters
@Louise321 -- That's so cool! We're really happy to hear that.

@box5angel -- I've found my tastes have changed a lot too over the years, and I also find myself in cycles where I read more of one thing and less than another for a while. YA is my current thing, for instance.
Amber McMichael
4. buriedbybooks
I love excerpts! A really great one can suck you right into the story. Although I have to admit, I try to wait to read them until after the books come out. I hate waiting.

Other than time, is there anything else that could have persuaded you to read something in another genre?

Janet Webb
5. JanetW
What might convince me to switch up genres? If a trope carried over -- say I wanted to read about marriages of convenience where there was a big financial reason to do so -- if you said this medieval or contemp is a great addition to the canon, I'd probably read your suggestion.

Suggestions have to come from people who have a bit of an historical (time, not genre) perspective. It can be annoying to have folks proclaim it's the best thing since sliced bread and it's a new kinda bread if you (faithful reader) know full well it's been done before. Not that I don't always jump at some plot lines -- everyone has their catnip. So add a trusted book guide to the mix -- and I too value the suggestions that have been made at Heroes and Heartbreakers.
Tara B
6. box5angel
@redline_ That's what I'm reading now too. :) I'm reading the Fallen series by Lauren Kate. Hope to buy Passion and another YA Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead on Thursday. I can't wait.

@buriedbybooks Back in the day when I was still reading only series romance? Nope, nothing. lol But what did help me start reading other genres was being on the internet and seeing what was out there and what other people were reading.
Amber McMichael
7. buriedbybooks
Favorite tropes help me, too. One of these days, the right book will come along to drag me kicking and screaming into romantic YA (pretty much the only genre I don't read at least something in) . Hasn't happened yet, though.
Louise Partain
8. Louise321
You hate waiting but you wait to read the excerpt? I am so-o-o-o more impatient than that! *g*
9. Rose In RoseBear
@Louise321 and @redline --- Heroes & Heartbreakers pulled me into BDB too! I was lured into the series by a coy description of Rehv's pimped-out penis. I left on vacation a couple of days later, and bought Lover Avenged while 1500 miles away from home. Until then, I would never have touched a paranormal romance; the closest I had come was Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series.

I started Lover Avenged at the end, and basically read it backwards in fifty-page segments on the drive home, expecting to find something that would squick me. Instead, all I found was fascinating characters, hot sex, vampires I actually liked, and oodles of questions. As soon as I finished unpacking, I went out and hunted down the whole series, which I think I've re-read three times now.

I have also come to love Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series and her Alpha And Omega sub-series, again because of Heroes & Heartbreakers. Someone posted something intriguing about Anna, the Omega wolf, and I downloaded the short story, which led me to the books, which led me to Mercy.

I respond well to lures, especially those baited with explicit sex scenes and intriguing characters!
10. Rose In RoseBear
@buriedbybooks --- Also, attractive packaging attracts me. When I was in college, back in the Stone Age, I would only read science fiction, and not that limp-wristed fantasy stuff, either --- if the author didn't have a engineering background, I wouldn't pick it up with tongs.

Then, in the student bookstore, next to the check-out register, I saw the prettiest paperback ever --- a cover in delicious shades of blue and brown, featuring a white winged dragon. The minute I had money, I bought Anne McCaffrey's The White Dragon, the first of many, many steps away from hard-core SF my reading tastes have traveled in the last thirty-plus years.

Shallow, but true!
11. Rose In RoseBear
@buriedbybooks --- Now, see what you've done? I found out a little more about Single White Vampire, and now I have to try it out. I never would have picked it up on my own, just so you know ...
Myretta Robens
12. Myretta
I've been swayed by authors changing genre. When Barbara Samuel (Barbara O'Neal) stopped writing Historicals, I started reading her women's fiction. And even though Lisa Kleypas is still writing Historicals, I loved her writing enough to read her contemporaries. I read Diane Farr's paranormal YA. Once I'd moved with an author, I realized that I liked the new genre and moved on for there.
Amber McMichael
13. buriedbybooks
@Rose In RoseBear, Mwahahaha! I hope you like it. It's not the first in the series, but the early ones are interchangeable, I think. The Argeneaus are a bit over the top, but always make me laugh.

@Louise321, What can I say? I'm fine resisting books if I haven't started them, but if I read a teaser excerpt and the book isn't out yet? I get cranky and horribly impaitient.
Elizabeth Halliday
14. Ibbitts
I used to read anything I could get my hands on from physics textbooks to dime-store westerns and everything in between. In recent years, I've had plenty of 'real life' in my real life, so I have tended to lean toward the paranormal romance, historical romance, urban fantasy and science fiction genres. Going back to explore contemporary romance hasn't been intentional, but rather kind-of allowing myself to be sucked into the genre by authors I already read. And I love H&H for introducing me to more authors in my favorite genres.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
15. tnh
Rose in RoseBear @10, there's nothing shallow about it. "You can't judge a book by its cover" is a proverb that dates from the days of uncommunicative bindings. Modern covers and jackets are carefully contrived little bursts of mating signals, designed to tell you what kind of a book it is and whether you'll like it.

I remember that McCaffrey cover: very pretty, an early Michael Whelan. And wasn't it telling the truth? You did like it.
16. Rose In RoseBear
@tnh --- Oh, I wallowed in Anne McCaffrey from that point on! Not to mention the other "soft SF" authors I began to read.

One of the things that led me to romance was a bodice ripper cover --- I think it was a Shirl Henke title --- that was so lurid I couldn't look away. Where eyes go, credit card follows, and here I am today ...
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