Thursday, March 6, 2014

Is Anybody Listening?

Statistics from the national RWA....

6% of romance readers are between the ages of 14-17.

9% of romance readers are between the ages of 18-24.

40% of romance readers are between the ages of 35-54.

If you tack on the 55-64 age bracket, you get...

51% of romance readers are between the ages of 35-64.

So, only 9% of romance readers are 18-24, and yet the "New Adult" category is the hot new trend. What does this mean? Why is NA so hot, why are publishers pushing younger characters and teen angst (YA) when the majority of romance readers are more mature?

Do mature readers want to read about teens and young adults dealing with coming-of-age issues? I asked some friends why older women would want to read about this age group, and they replied "they're nostalgic" "they want to recapture their youth" "for entertainment."

Since I have teens, the last thing I want to read about is teen angst.

I'm living teen angst right now, thank you very much.

And...the very last thing I want to read about is teenagers having sex. *Penny faints*

But I wonder if this is really what mature readers want. Since I recently published my novella APPLES SHOULD BE RED, I've been receiving emails, Twitter messages, and Facebook posts from readers who are thrilled to see a romance with older characters--late 50s, early 60s. The overriding sentiment is "thank you so much for showing that more mature women are capable of love and lust and happy endings" and "I wish this would start a trend and more books with characters in this age group would become available." I've seen discussions on reader message boards expressing this same sentiment.

I, personally, would love to see more books with mature characters who have been around the bend a few times. It seems like a lot of readers feel the same way--readers who make up the majority of the romance-purchasing population.

Is anybody listening?

I sure hope so.

All my best,


KT Grant said...

It's just like TV. The networks only care about the 18-35 demo. CBS has the biggest audience for their shows out of any network, but no one cares because they don't have the 18-35 viewers watching their programming.

What I find strange is the older you are, the more willing you are to buy things. Teens and those in their 20's don't have the income that people in their mid to upper 30's and older have. So it would make sense to care and court an older audience who is willing to spend more.

Penny Watson said...

Hi Kate! Obviously the older group is the one reading and purchasing the books. Does that mean they WANT books about younger kids? I'm not sure if publishers are really listening to what readers want.

All I know is that as a 47-year old woman and huge supporter of romantic fiction, I have NO interest in those books, and I would love to see some older characters. And I know other women agree with me.

Julia Barrett said...

You know how I feel - if they aren't listening they should be.
I too have lived through the teen angst of three children... don't find it entertaining to read although I am writing a novel involving teens - but a novel, mind you, and it's not, OMG-- dystopian!

Tales of Whimsy said...

Before I had my daughter, I loved the simplicity and nostalgia of YA. The minute I became a mom things something I can't explain clicked in my brain and truthfully it's been hard for me to pick up any YA since then. I find in general that I like to read about character my age (slightly younger or slightly older) because I can relate to them and want to hear their stories. Great post.

Dina said...

I don't get "nostalgic" about my teen angsty years. It wasn't fun, I'm glad it was over (a long time ago, LOL) and don't want to revisit it. Been there, done that, have the scars to prove it.

I don't follow the current YA/NA trend and I'm very grateful most of my favorite authors haven't joined it and kept doing what I love about them. I'm not against change in general, I just don't like that particular change.

Heidenkind said...

So this is you when you read about teens having sex? ;)

Penny Watson said...

Julia--I sometimes wonder how the publishing industry gathers data to make decisions, or if they just try things and see what happens. All I know is that I see indie authors listening to readers in a new and different way than the NY big pubs seem to be doing.

Penny Watson said...

Juju...thanks for that comment! Very interesting. I used to read really bloody, violent mysteries, and as soon as I had kids I couldn't do it anymore. Now I read cozy mysteries...hee hee!

Penny Watson said...

Dina...I think the big publishers are pushing their authors to jump on all the bandwagons...erotica, YA/NA, motorcycle clubs, BDSM, etc. That's a lot of pressure.

Penny Watson said...


Geek Amicus said...

So, why aren't they listening? We're at the age where the youngest baby boomers are 50. The median age of American women is 38 1/2. According to RWA, the mean age for romance book buyers is 49, it's 42 if you talking about e-romances. The average age of American book (general) buyers is 42.

I'm average, mean & median. I DON'T want to read about teenagers having sex. It kinda ooks me out to be honest. I feel like I'm some sort of creepy old man lurking in lovers' lane. There's YA and then there's NA. These are years of my life when I was still finding my way. The last thing I want to do is relive them. Sorry. I know people who love the YA/NA but it just doesn't interest me.

On the other hand, I really WANT to read about characters that are my age. If have the joy of romance is putting yourself in the heroine's shoes, I'd at least like for her to be relatable. Well, that and I think older men are hawt.

Geek Amicus said...

That was supposed to be "half the joy". I am apparently suffering from caffeine deficit disorder.

Penny Watson said...

Hey Geek! I'm with you. I didn't want to read YA even when I was YA. And I have moved way beyond coming-of-age angst and issues associated with that.

It's not easy to find books with characters who are in their 40s, let alone 50s, 60s. But I'm still looking!

Anonymous said...

Hi Penny,
I'm listening. And I agree, absolutely! I have no interest in YA since I have three children 18, 22, and 24. I don't want to read books about their peers having sex (though my oldest must have since she is married with a 4 month old baby). I want to read about more mature adults as they find their true love, not the love of the week or month. I'm sure it's all wonderful but just not for me. Thanks for providing us with something different to choose from.