A “Dead” Market

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Jun 28 2007

The single-title contemporary romance market seems to be kaput for now . . . yet authors like Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Catherine Anderson, Susan Wiggs, Susan Mallery still manage to hang on to their share of the market. What common denominators account for their continued success (other than being named “Susan”)? In your opinion, do they write “high concept” contemporary romance?

In your opinion, can an author build a strong career today—like the ladies above—in straight contemp romance/romantic comedy?

Wouldn’t it be great if all you had to do was change your name to Susan? The truth is that all of these women began their careers in another time, a time when straight contemporary was an easy sell. Since then they’ve built a strong readership that buys every book they write.

A market doesn’t go stagnant or dead or kaput or whatever word we’re using these days because no one, ever, anywhere isn’t reading it; it becomes that way because it gets flooded. When a market is hot, like paranormal romance is now, editors buy everything they can get their hands on and it isn’t long before there are too many books and too many authors for the readers. It’s simple supply and demand. The readers get tired of being inundated, the cream rises to the top, a few stars remain, and it suddenly becomes a market that’s called dead. It’s called dead because the numbers slow. Why do the numbers slow? There are too many books. Is it really dead? No way, it’s just more challenging. Editors are no longer needing to fill lists with contemporary romance, they already have what they need. So to break into it now you’re going to have to work a little harder than you would have had you hit it when things were hot. You’re going to have to write a better book and you’re going to have to make it different and exciting. You’re going to have to give it some kind of hook.

You also need to realize when looking at so-called dead markets that you can’t compare what editors are buying to what’s on the bestseller lists. Once authors consistently hit bestseller lists they are no longer connected with a genre or sub-genre. They are a genre onto themselves. Stephen King is a perfect example. He doesn’t write horror. He writes Stephen King.

So remember this, dear writers. Dead is never dead. The readers, they will come. Dead just means challenging.


11 responses to “A “Dead” Market”

  1. Avatar reality says:

    Great post.
    So what is hot NOW.
    And I’m not asking because I want to write about that subject. I’m just curious.
    What subjects are on editors list that are not being filled. And if you get a submission you know it’ll sell easier.

  2. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Do you think the paranormal/urban fantasy trend will “die” soon? As one of the readers who never liked this trend, I am eagerly waiting for other sub-genres to get an upswing. Fantasy-romance (i.e. fantasy in a non-contemporary setting with strong romance elements) would be my dream…


  3. Avatar Kimber An says:

    I think another lesson to be learn is once we do published to work our butts off building our own readership that will carry us beyond the trends!

  4. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Count me as a reader who if she sees one more vampire on the cover of a book she might just… well, I don’t know what I’m going to do I just know I’m so sick of vampires!!!

    Funny vampires, sad vampires, sexy vampire, erotic vampires, moody vampires.

    How about some regular men. How about that?

    As for what’s next… we’ll see, but I bet there’s a shift away from the dark. It’s time to pull back the curtains and let some light in.

    That should take care of those vampires.

  5. reality,

    With the time necessary to get a book from first draft to a finished book on the bookseller’s bookshelf, you should be asking what’s hot in a year or two. Because what’s how NOW will be flooded by then.

  6. Selene, you should check out C.L. Wilson. She’s got a big high fantasy-romance series coming out this fall called TAIREN SOUL. Sold at auction and everything.

  7. Avatar Reid says:

    The lesson here is to write what you love, and not what’s trendy.

    That’s why I wrote a novel about an orphaned teenager being raised in a school for wizards who falls in love with a vampire, then travels through time while giving out diet advice.

    I also manage to work a cat and a number into the title of each installment, if you’re interested.

  8. Avatar Anonymous says:


    When you want to ask a question, it’s conventional to use question marks.


  9. Avatar WordVixen says:

    reid- if you ever write/publish the books you mention in comments, I’m so getting in the front of the line. Or begging review copies.

  10. Avatar reality says:

    Thanks for the response. As I said I am just curious to find out. I do not intend to change my writing style or subject because of what’s hot today. You are right; trends die.

  11. Avatar Anonymous says:


    Thanks! I’m always on the lookout for good novels. I will definitely check them out.