The View From Your Recession

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A reader writes:

I'm an author of European historical romances. I've been published for more than ten years now and write for a major New York publisher. While publishing companies are taking pay freezes and handing out lay-offs as much as the next company, and while it's true that book sales across the board are down, including those of other genre fiction, the romance imprint of my particular company is making money (if only a little), as are those of other companies.

Torstar, the company that publishes Harlequin category romances, actually made money in the fourth quarter due to Harlequin sales.

In the report, it states: "Harlequin finished the year strongly with another good quarter that drove earnings for the year up 11 percent. This is the third year in a row of business growth for Harlequin which is making important gains in both print and digital products. We are very pleased with Harlequin's performance and prospects." And, "The outlook for 2009 is mixed and marked by uncertainty due to the economy. At Harlequin, we expect continuing stable results building on the success and growth of the last three years. Overall, we anticipate Harlequin will deliver a fourth good year in a row. Harlequin's results have held up well to date despite the recession. Subject to trends in employment advertising, we also expect continued good performance from our online businesses, but with lower rates of revenue growth than in previous years as overall advertising expenditures are constrained by the economy."

Although the romance novel industry is constantly derided from the outside, made fun of and considered "trash" by the uninformed, these are not the romance novels your mother read, nor anything like the Barbara Cartland books gathering dust on your grandmother's bookshelf. This is a HUGE business of numerous sub-genres for all tastes, and regardless of what anybody thinks, romance novels SELL. Romance fiction generated $1.375 billion in sales in 2007. And while other forms of entertainment suffer economically, romance novels usually sell better during economic downturns. Why? Probably because it's cheap -- anywhere from $4 to $8 for several hours worth of escape in the privacy of your own garden, bed, or bathtub --- and best of all, when times are awful everywhere you're guaranteed a happy ending. 

A close friend and fellow mid-list romance author just signed another contract last week and received a raise. Yesterday, along with my ongoing contract for new books, I signed new contracts of my own so my publisher will reprint my backlist. We're not a huge stars, nor are we rich, but there are a lot of people out there who are going to spend seven bucks on the next one-- if only to help them forget the tough times we're facing right now.

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