You’re a romance reader but lately you’ve been dissatisfied with the books you’ve read. You want to find an author who includes a specific element in her storytelling or you wish a publisher hadn’t dropped your favorite line. You want to voice your concerns but who is going to listen?
Quite a few people, actually. Reader opinions are extremely important to authors, editors and other industry professionals. The trick is using the most effective channels to get your concerns in front of the decision-makers.
Let’s say you wish there were more stories that had a midlife hero and heroine. How can you make that happen? There are three groups to target: published authors, publishing houses and other readers.
This is the quickest and easiest approach. Editors have often stated that what they publish is based on what writers pitch to them. Here’s how one senior editor explained it during a panel discussion at a university event. Authors write what interests them but it still has to be a commercial idea. They need to pitch a story that readers are willing to buy. If the author can prove there’s interest in midlife characters, it will make the publishing house sales team sit up and notice.
Action steps that you can take:
- Do you have a favorite author who writes midlife heroes and heroines? Tell them how much you appreciate reading older characters and why you want to see more.
- Did you recently enjoy a book that had characters that were almost midlife? Email the author and tell them how you felt about the book and that you hope they will include midlife characters in their future stories.
This approach requires more effort but you can reach more decision makers. The editorial, sales, and marketing teams in a publishing house take reader feedback very seriously. Sometimes they get the data through focus groups and customer research, but most of the time the only information they have are sales numbers.
So if your interest for midlife characters isn’t a big market, how do you convince a publishing house to publish the books you want? You use consistent feedback, preferably on a social channel that will encourage discussion.
Action steps that you can take:
- If you enjoyed a book with midlife characters and the story was published by a small press or big publishing house, contact the publisher via email or through their contact page. Tell them that you want more midlife characters and why.
- Follow the publisher on social media. Not only is this where they ask what people are reading, but this is also where they do a lot of customer research. Skew their research in your favor and share your thoughts every time they ask. If you give a short but convincing argument why there should be more midlife characters, it will encourage your fellow readers to chime in.
This approach allows you to reach more people who may add a voice to your concern but there is a risk that you won’t get the result you want. When you write a book review and post it on an online bookseller site or a social cataloging site such as Goodreads and LibraryThing, it is unlikely that an author or editor will see the review. That’s because reviews are meant to help consumers make informed choices about the next book they’ll buy. However, the social cataloging sites are built for community and you can find other readers who want midlife characters.
Action steps you can take:
- Create a catalog that features midlife characters. Start a reading challenge, contribute your own tags and write reviews. Connect with other readers who want older heroes and heroines. If all else fails, at least you will discover fan-favorite romances about midlife characters.
- Join a group for romance readers who enjoy midlife main characters. (There are many reader groups with very specific interests, so chances are that you will find one!) Once you have an active group, invite industry professionals for a chat. This is where the squeaky wheel gets the grease. An online group may not represent a big market, but it can give the impression that this is how general opinion is trending.
When was the last time you reached out to authors, readers or publishing houses and told them what you think today’s romance fiction needs?