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Feel-Good Statistics from National

By Cheryl Bolen

Industry professionals at this year’s PAN workshops during the national RWA convention presented a lot of welcome news for authors in a lot of genres.

The really good news is the overall growth of sales. Mass market sales rose 4 percent last year at Levy’s Home Entertainment, which supplies 1,800 retail outlets such as drug and grocery stores as well as Targets, K-Marts, and 20 percent of the Wal-Marts (Anderson’s supplies the other 80 percent — mostly in the western states). The Books-A-Million chain of 212 stores reported double-digit increases of romance sales.

Such success translates to a healthier respect of the romance genre at retailers across the country. Sue Grimshaw, romance buyer for the 1,000 plus stores in the Borders Group which includes Waldenbooks, said the new management at Borders recognizes the importance of the romance market and shares her enthusiasm for promoting the genre and boosting its sales.

Category authors will be happy to know the Books-A-Million stores have experienced a double-digit increase in category sales during the past year, according to Margaret Terwey, who buys all fiction for BAM. Category books are also now being replenished at those stores.

Historical authors can put their mourning gloves in mothballs. The historical romance market is healthy. At BAM, historical sales are registering a single-digit increase. At Barnes & Noble, historical sales are solid, said Tommy Dreiling, who buys all romance titles for the chain (with the exception of books for BN.com). Grimshaw said historicals (her personal favorite genre) "could be seeing growth" at Borders and Waldenbooks. She added that the historical bestsellers (the likes of Mary Balogh, Julia Quinn and Eloisa James) are doing "very well." Levy’s distributors said they are seeing "a significant growth in historical romance."

Erotica, despite not being carried by Levy, is performing exceptionally well. Erotica accounts for the most significant growth at BAM — even though BAM does not shelve the books face out and does not order any books with graphic covers. The industry professionals said erotica is the only romance category that is selling well in trade.

Young adult, too, is selling well. At BAM, YA is experiencing double-digit growth in sales. Dreiling said Barnes and Noble has physically separated YA from juvenile books at all its stores, and that has increased sales.

More good news is that Borders/Waldens has not cut back on initial book orders; however, the other chains’ and Levy representatives said their front orders are a bit down, with more emphasis on replenishment.

Only the paranormal authors received slightly disappointing news at the PAN workshops in Dallas. The professional booksellers said overall paranormal sales are coming down while the genre’s reigning queens — Christine Feehan and Sherrilyn Kenyon – are selling very well.

Across the board, all the corporate book buyers said they pride themselves on their enthusiasm for debut authors. Terwey, an avid reader, said she doesn’t even read the bestsellers because she knows their record and expectations. "I’m always looking for that debut author I can turn into a baestseller."

The other corporate buyers agreed.

This article was first published in PASIC Basics, Summer 2007.

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