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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Genres You Need to Work On

By "you" in the title of this post, I mean me.  Even the most on the ball RA librarian has gaps in their knowledge.  No one can know everything about everything.  But acknowledging our personal weaknesses makes us better at our jobs.

Among the many reasons I love teaching RA to budding librarians is the fact that it forces me to stay on top of every genre.  The students expect me to be an expert each and every night.  Of course when the topic is Horror, I am good to go, but when we veer into Romance, I need to really prepare if I am going to be able to answer their questions and look competent.

I have made no effort to hide my personal dislike of romance novels, but my opinion does not really matter.  As a professional Readers' Advisor, I must be able to help each and every reader, no matter their personal reading tastes.  And romance readers come to the library in large numbers.

The Romance Writers of America does a fabulous job educating the public on the popularity of the genre.  From their website:

Popularity of Romance Fiction
(source: Business of Consumer Book Publishing 2010)
  • Romance fiction generated $1.36 billion in sales in 2009.
  • 9,089 new romance titles
  •  were released in 2009.
  • In 2009, romance was the second top-performing category on the New York Times, USA Today, andPublishers Weekly best-seller lists, beat only by the movie tie-in category.
  • Romance fiction sales are estimated at $1.358 billion for 2010.
  • 74.8 million people
  •  read at least one romance novel in 2008. (source: RWA Reader Survey)

Market Share of Romance Fiction
(source: Business of Consumer Book Publishing 2010)
  • Romance fiction was the largest share of the consumer market in 2009 at 13.2 percent.  
Romance Market Share Compared to Other Genres
(source: Simba Information estimates)
  • Romance fiction: $1.36 billion in estimated revenue for 2009
  • Religion/inspirational: $770 million
  • Mystery: $674 million
  • Science fiction/fantasy: $554 million
  • Classic literary fiction: $462 million
What should I learn from these statistics?  Well, I now know that I cannot ignore romance just because I do not like it.  Too many people out there disagree with me. To help combat my personal ignorance, I follow the blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, which delivers on its promise to have "all of the romance, none of the bullshit."

I follow their site to understand why romance readers love the books they do.  The blog has many useful on going series discussions, but one of my favorites is its new "Classic Romance: Which One First?" where the bloggers present an author to their readers and ask them to suggest a title and give their reasons why. They then sum up the readers responses and add their won expert opinions.

The first two authors tackled in the series were Johanna Lindsey and Jude Deveraux.

Going directly to the experts and fans of a genre with which you are less familiar and/or personally dislike is the perfect way to educate yourself on why others love this genre.  Classics in any given genre are also an excellent way to get to the heart of a genres lasting appeal.  So this particular series is a doubly helpful.

So, I have owned up to the genre I need to work on the most.  I hope this inspires you to identify your genre weaknesses and get to work filling in those gaps.  It will help you to be a better librarian and your patrons will reap the benefits immediately.

I will not leaving you hanging though.  After you pick a genre to work on, use the "labels" in the right gutter of RA for All to help.  Click on the genre you want to focus on and it will bring up every post I have written about that genre.  I know I have resources for every genre somewhere on the blog, some are more updated that others, but all are enough to get you started.

Good luck!

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