Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Give Em What They Want

Coming in on the back of Tess's amazing post from yesterday, I knew this would be a tough act to follow. As authors we want to know why a reader will choose to buy one book over another. Important stuff. Is it the way the author presents herself on a yahoo group? Is it the look of her cover? Name recognition? Do sales generate from a cover ads, contests, and excerpts? These are all great things to know and help authors immensely in marketing a book.

Today I want to know what readers are looking for in their reading material. That's a tough nut to crack, folks, because let's face it, we are all individuals with individual tastes. However, authors and publishers watch trends. Romantic reading covers all the bases from inspiration to erotic. There is sweet, spicy, sensual (I've always wondered what the difference is between 'spicy' and 'sensual'...does anyone know?) and the hot hot stuff that is labeled either erotic or erotic romance. As to erotic and erotic romance there are so many sub-genres it makes the head spin. We have heterosexual along with male/male, female/female, bdsm, menage, cougar, paranormal, contemporary, historical, etc. The list seems to go on endlessly. The authors here at Three Wicked Writers plus Two write erotic romances...erotic but with strong romantic elements and most usually containing a happy-ever-after ending. siiiiigh. Who DOESN'T like a happy ending?

I'll start here by stating my preferrences. I'm an author but also a reader. I love contemporary, erotic historicals, and paranormals. In my paranormal reading I love shifters and I'm DONE with vamps...sick of them. Vamps exploded onto the scene years ago and before long it seems every new title out there featured the sexy blood-suckers. Don't get me wrong...I liked them but now they are kind of 'been there, done that' for me. I like reading menage, especially if it's set in the paranormal realm and the menage is built into the mythos of the storyline. I enjoy a lot of humor and my personal reading material isn't always erotic romance. Sometimes HOT does it for me. Longer or shorter books? Depends on how much time I have. Novella length is usually a good choice for my busy lifestyle and provides a more meaty story than what a 'quickie' will do. If I have a long, slow weekend with no pressing things to deal with, give me a full length novel that I can curl up with.

During Ellora's Cave's Romanticon convention in October, authors Fran Lee and Amber Skyze presented an informative reader-track forum where readers (not authors) told us their likes and dislikes. I'll try to summarize here but it might be more helpful to check out EC's Redlines and Deadlines blog post about it. Readers loved novella length and contemporaries were as popular as paranormals. Readers identified five key elements they look for in a story.

•Hot, delicious sex
•Strong romance
•Believable plot/conflict
•Strong, engaging (and enjoyable) characters

Sex for the sake of sex wasn't necessarily a good thing for these readers. So all you authors out there? Ramp up the sexual tension and keep it appropriate to the story. Yes, they want it hot and they want it often but make it true to the characters. Readers emphasized they wanted a strong emotional impact. Make them LOVE your hero and heroine.

So here are my questions to you 'readers' out there.
1. What is your favorite genre
2. What is your least favorite genre
3. What settings are your faves? Urban? Fantansy/Sci Fi? Small town or country?
4. What types of heroes and heroines make you keep reading?
5. What is your preferred book length?

Tell us what you think. Authors are always interested in giving readers what they want more of. Cowboys? Cops? Bad-boys? Friends to lovers? You name it and I promise you, we'll try our best to provide it.


Tess MacKall said...

My favorite genre will always be contemporary. Although I do enjoy a good paranormal and a good historical.

I don't require hot and heavy sex but do write it and like reading it.

My least favorite genres would be sci-fi, fantasy, and m/m. Although I've read all three and will more than likely read them again.

I don't really have a preference for setting when I read. I can go with urban or small town. In my own writing I always inject Southern flavor due to my love of the South. I suppose I can say I favor hot climates as opposed to colder ones.

I like the old fashioned male--very macho--sort of unbending. And while I like a heroine with a lot of kickass attitude, I really want to see her femininity too.

I really like action packed/suspense stories. And I'd love to see more military men in romances.

As for that HEA or HFN? I don't really require one. I can handle a realistic ending. Might leave me in tears--but I'm down with emotion, especially if it's real.

Great post, Regina.

C. Zampa said...

I'm not picky about genres. The only one I suppose I don't seek out is Sci-Fi.

Because of time limits, I like novella length, but then sometimes I love a story so much I don't want it to end...so the longer, the better.

Heroes and heroines? I do not like fainting heroines. I love them with gumption but still feminine enough to offset the VERY masculine heroes. But I suppose their chemistry is paramount, and as long as it clicks, I'm fine.

Sex? I love it. I do NOT like the standard industry words used for women's body parts and others things. They seem SO cookie-cutter, with no sensual imagination. That sort of turns me off.

But---I only DO like the sex if the characters and the story have aroused me. If the hero is sexy, whether he's super alpha or beta (I LOVE that soft side to a guy), then I'll find the sex scenes stimulating.

Happy endings. Hmmm. I say I can take a story without one, but when I READ one, I don't like that. So, I suppose I'm a HEA girl.

I love noir best of all, but enjoy a good contemporary thriller, too.

And, last but not least, I write and LOVE to read m/m. But the same standards apply for it as well as for what I look for in het romance.

Wow. Such good questions, Regina!

Regina Carlysle said...

I agree with you on least favorite genres, Tess. While I can appreciate the work that goes into these tales I find I can't 'connect' with them. I looove a hard hitting, emotional story that pulls me in. I tend to like urban settings because it's so foreign to me maybe. Also since most of my stories are small town settings in the south, I try to read outside the genre I write in.

Regina Carlysle said...

Oh, and something else about heroines...I can't STAND those leather wearing badass ninja types who are all hard edges with nothing soft underneath. Does that make sense? I mean, she can be feisty and independant and hold her own but I want her to be feminine and have lots of heart.

Regina Carlysle said...

Thanks so much for the input, CZ. I think we see eye to eye on heroes. I like them big, strong and tough but I also like knowing that he has a gentleness to him. Compassion and a willingness to stand up for the weak and innocent. A true hero. And the heroine needs that femininity (along with inner strength) that draws the hero to her. He needs something only SHE can provide. Love, acceptance, etc. She can heal his wounds and fill up those dark places in his heart with all the good things.

Kelly said...

1. What is your favorite genre? I like a little of everything, but right now paranormal is where its at. Like Rita said vamps are getting played out, but SHIFTERS sure aren't. :) Though, when I say shifters I mean traditional shifters not some guy who shifts into a liger or a tigon or some melding of two animals. Uh NO!
2. What is your least favorite genre? My least fav genre would fall under menage, m/m, m/f/m, m/m/f
3. What settings are your faves? Urban? Fantasy/Sci Fi? Small town or country? Hmm favorite settings. Right now I'm into small town ones, but I can get with sci fi as well.
4. What types of heroes and heroines make you keep reading? I like a strong man. He does not have to be uber Alpha, but he does need to be strong. He can be flawed, but not a 'oooh I think he needs therapy' flawed. For the heroine she can be either strong or shy, but I like when the heroine is shy and the hero is strong. Now I'm not saying the shy heroine should be overtaken by the hero, but I do like the man to be the man of the house.
5. What is your preferred book length? I despise novellas especially when it turned out to be an awesome read with great characters. UNLESS its a opening to the entire series. I prefer 150+ page books.

Paris said...

As a reader I'm all over the place. I tend to follow an author no matter what genre` they're writing but I do admit that the paranormal/urban fantasy plot will snag my attention most of the time.

I'm up for a good story so all they have to do is entice me with great characters in a blurb or excerpt. I like my heroes and heroines to be strong. They may have opposing goals but they each need to have very good reasons to want whatever they think they have to have.

As for book length, these days my time is limited and I do enjoy a good novella but I love longer books too.

Great post!

Regina Carlysle said...

I prefer the wolfies, Sheridan but I've done a jaguar and I'm currently doing another panther. I never MORPH these folks though. That would just be so strange. I'm glad you mentioned series stories. I LOVE them and like writing them too. This way you can do the novella length but string things together with new characters. Here's what's difficult, I think...writing a full length erotic romance. Mainly because that's a hell of a lot of sex to crank out. WOW. I like writing it but keeping up the pace for 200 pgs? Boggles my mind. So, at least to me, making it a novella series works.

Regina Carlysle said...

Thanks Paris, for the input. Like you I'm all over the place as far as book length. Just depends on the time I have.

I also like the idea that the hero and heroine NEED each other for a particular reason. It's a good start.

Unknown said...

What a great topic, Regina. My fave heroines are the kick-butt type who can be ruthless, dangerous, dark and sexy. I love the softness buried so deep it takes a hero with a backhoe to get at it.

I don't really like ultra feminine heroines, because I'm more tomboy. Also, if she's a girly girl with no attitude, cries a lot or has a biological clock issue, I'm out. Don't really like pregnant heroines either. I've read a couple of good ones, but for the most part I skip them.

I love strong alpha and beta males. There's nothing that makes me melt quicker than a man who lets down his guard for that special woman.Or a guy who uses his wits to win his lady.

I have to have sex when I read a romance that is contemporary. Otherwise it doesn't ring true to me. Historical, doesn't matter because of the mores of the various time periods. Settings don't matter to me,I love it all from a quiet Southern town to a sprawling intergalactic space station.

My fave genres are paranormals. I agree with you on the vamps. Give me a werewolf any day. I also love sci fi, historical, contemporary, dystopia, thriller and erotic horror. Least favorite, inspirationals. I just don't get into the types of characters in those stories.

HEA's are not a must. I love them, certainly, but I don't always have to have one. I'm with Tess, might make me cry, but... Thanks, Regina.

Kenzie Michaels said...

1. What is your favorite genre
I like contemporaries, with historical or futuristic a close second or third.

2. What is your least favorite genre
Horror, hands down, although I will read a friend's work from time to time. Sci-fi and fantasy would be next.

3. What settings are your faves? Urban? Fantansy/Sci Fi? Small town or country?
I do love small town settings:)

4. What types of heroes and heroines make you keep reading?
Ones I'm instantly drawn into, and ones who TALK to each other. I hate stories in which they refuse to openly discuss their issues, or the heroine is soooo bull-headed the hero is constantly coming to her rescue.

5. What is your preferred book length?
As long as I'm satisfied at the end (doesn't have to be HEA), the length can vary from 40-300 pages.

Debbie Gould said...

Great post, Regina!
My favorite genre is romantic suspense, I want lots of danger and action for my H&H.
Least favorite would have to be historical, although I'll admit I've only read a few.
Settings really don't matter to me as long as it's realistic to the plot line.
Love bad boys, cowboys, military men, men in uniform, heck, any Alpha male will make me happy.
As for HEA, yeah, I usually want one. As a matter of fact, I stopped reading one f my favorite NYT Bestselling authors a while ago. She had a series of book in which the H&H had been previously married, and through out the series they had been working back to each other. In the last book, well the last one I read, she'd FINALLY gotten them back together, the heroine was pregnant, and at the very end.....she went and killed the hero. I was devastated! She has another book in the series out, but I just cant read it. I was so mad that she killed him, lol, irrational, yes, but I cant help it. I haven't read one of her books since.

Regina Carlysle said...

Melissa, I'm reading there is a huge affection for 'tomboy' heroines. I like them too but I think I'm such a girly-girl myself that I try to 'girl' them up a little bit. Maybe turning them into kickass heroines is a good direction for them to head. Great insight!

I also hear that erotic horror is in demand out there. I know EC is looking for them.

Regina Carlysle said...

Oh Molly! I get the talking thing. I prefer mature heroes and heroines who will actually communicate (or at least make an attempt). Stringing out the angst too much makes me antsy.

Regina Carlysle said...

Debbie, I would be so pissed about that I'd be tempted to throw the book against the wall. Killing off a well loved hero is NOT a good move and certainly not a good business decision either. If you felt that way, no telling how many others did too. I would never buy her again.

Fran Lee said...

Any genre...any setting. I like my heroes to be strong, able to laugh at themselves, and willing to fight for what they want. I like my heroines spunky and honest, and always ready to fight for what they want, too. A hero can be soft one minute, and a royal jerk the next...no matter, as long as he is moving in the right direction. In a novella, we can't always put everything inside the characters out on the table...we just enjoy watching them reveal themselves as we read.

Tessie Bradford said...

I want to learn about the h/h from their direct interaction and dialog. I want believable characters no matter how 'unbelievable' their situatation may be. I want a story to stay with me long after I've finished reading it.

Madison Scott said...

I love contemporary and paranormal. I still love vamps. Can't help it. lol.

Definitely not big on sci-fi or fantasty.

Natalie Dae said...

Vamps are relatively new to me, so I'm digging them at the moment. As a reader, I'll answer your quezzies:

1. What is your favorite genre


2. What is your least favorite genre


3. What settings are your faves? Urban? Fantansy/Sci Fi? Small town or country?

Urban or small town.

4. What types of heroes and heroines make you keep reading?

Ones who are flawed and appear like "real" people.

5. What is your preferred book length?

20-30K (ebook). 90+ novel for print.


Destiny Blaine said...

Great topic, Regina. I'm with Tess on Southern flavor. I love a writer who can capture that Southern voice and carry it throughout the book. As for your questions:

1. What is your favorite genre?

Westerns, sports romances, and casino romances are favorites, but I'm a real hard sell in these categories.

I also love vampire romances and will typically try a new paranormal romance author before I'll try a new contemporary author simply because it's exciting to be introduced to new worlds. ;)

2. What is your least favorite genre?

Science Fiction

3. What settings are your faves? Urban? Fantasy/Sci Fi? Small town or country?

Country/small town

4. What types of heroes and heroines make you keep reading?
Alpha males and strong heroines

5. What is your preferred book length?

Less than 40k for e-books and over 100K for print.

Happy Thanksgiving,
Destiny Blaine

Anonymous said...

Just 'next blog'ing through.

'Mud' stuck his head through the door and took in the group at a glance before saying, "Think I'll stick my neck out."

There was a collective turning of heads, but while the statement was still sinking in, he stepped halfway into the room, adjusted his wire-frames and the lapels of his torn lab coat, and continued. "As a male, I've studied the psychology of women to understand what they want. Reading the post and its comments is more of the same. Most of what y'all are saying is... relationships. The average woman dotes on relationships. Good characters? Who would want a relationship with a pieced of cardboard? Plot/conflict? Doesn't that bring character, thus relationships, out to full relief? Romance? Relational with a capital R. Sex? In reality, that is the same thing to a woman as Romance, speaking from a male's perspective."

Some shards of sardonic laughter seemed to cut into his words, but, unheeding and unhurried he plodded on.

"Women also are interested in security, hence your happy endings, but, almost paradoxically, they are more likely to read/watch something with terror in the middle. It is almost as if they want to prepare for the worse. If I'm correct in my surmise, then it would be wise to take care if you write, say, a rape scene—make sure that anyone reading it isn't learning to react stupidly."

Mud showed off his prominent canines in a grin. "A vampire-sucking-your-blood scene is much safer for all concerned because it doesn't happen."

His closing mouth was visually echoed by the closing door as he left the room to silence.

Delilah Hunt said...

I love historical romance. I cut my teeth on them. Bodice rippers. That is one genre I can always go back to whenever I get bored of contemporary and paranormal. I can't read science fiction romance. It bores me to tears and I have the hardest time following along with the storylines.
I love heroes who are a bit of a jerk at first, but later repents.I don't like doormat heroines, but I cannot stand it when she is TSTL and the author tries to make us think she is fiesty and independent. Big difference.
I definitely have to have a HEA. I like to imagine the couple throughout the years being happy together.