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Genre fiction booms

14 November 2011

Certain genre areas of fiction publishing seem to be coming into their own in a big way at the moment, which is good news if that’s the area you write in.

Science fiction and fantasy are particularly popular. Last month major SFF author Terry Pratchett’s new novel became the fastest selling adult hardback novel by a British novelist since records began, selling no less than 31,094 copies in its first full week. The fact that many fantasy authors write big books in series, often with strong appeal for younger readers, helps to build faithful audiences. Waterstone's spokesman Jon Howells said: "These things help bring new readers into a genre, and certainly with fantasy authors they tend to build long backlists, which is incredibly important."

TV and film adaptations are also fuelling the SFF market growth, with Lord of the Rings not far in the past and influenced currently by the HBO adaptation of George R R Martin's Game of Thrones series.

Historical fiction, reported on in News Review 10 October 2011, has also become a big favourite, with many new authors as well as the revival and republishing of many backlist titles in the genre.

Romance is another category which is booming. The current growth in the market is fuelled by the surge in ebook purchases of romance, which has brought about the launch of new romance lists. Ebury, part of Random House UKPenguin Random House have more than 50 creative and autonomous imprints, publishing the very best books for all audiences, covering fiction, non-fiction, poetry, children’s books, autobiographies and much more. Click for Random House UK Publishers References listing, has just launched a big new list, Rouge, (tagline: "Sexier, longer and 100% more romantic") an is steam-rollering its way into the market with 8 titles, with 4 a month thereafter, to satisfy what it calls "the huge reading appetites" of romance readers.

Mills & Boon Harlequin, far the biggest international publisher in this category, now releases 100 ebooks a month, more than it does in print. There’s an enduring view in the business which suggests that women think it’s demeaning to be seen reading ebooks. Mills & Boon author Sharon Kendrick says: "One of the things about reading romance is that slightly furtive thing, the 'Oh God, I can't be seen on the train reading a romance'," she says. "If you've got a Kindle then no one knows what you're reading. It's not about embarrassment, really – it's more that you don't want to be judged, and we are often judged by what we read."

"We've experienced huge growth the past couple of years with the explosive popularity of ebook readers," says Susan Edwards, chief operating officer of Ellora’s Cave. "Our readers have been reading ebooks for over a decade now. They were the early adopters of the format." She attributes the popularity of digital romance novels to the "voracious" appetites of romance readers, who will race through "several" books a week. "That's a lot of books to buy and store. EbooksDigital bookstore selling wide range of ebooks in 50 categories from Hildegard of Bingen to How to Write a Dirty Story and showing how the range of ebooks available is growing. take up a lot less room and busy people don't have to make a trip to a book store to buy them," she says.

Genre writing, always popular, seems to be booming at the moment.

Our series on genre writing:

Writing Romance

Writing Science fiction and Fantasy

Writing Historical Fiction

Publishers' websites:

Mills and Boon Aspiring Authors

Rouge Romance

Ellora's Cave submissions