Significant Reader Trends

Shift in Topic Popularity

According to the Shelf Talker newsletter, the long run of vampire/werewolf fascination is just about over. The next fad is predicted to be post-apocalyptic novels.

A Major Shift in Some Readers’ Tastes

We have seen a very interesting trend at our bookstore, The Book Barn, in Leavenworth, Kansas just north of Kansas City. It started several years ago when the Harry Potter fad began, followed closely by the Eragon trilogy. These mid-grade and young adult fantasies became read by many parents. Although the books were long for the genre, these parents discovered they enjoyed the reads. This led them to read more of the shorter-length YA lit to see what it was like—partly to learn what appeals to their children, but more and more for their own enjoyment. When we asked them why they were reading more YA’s, they disclosed several reasons why:

  • Easy to read
  • Fun to read
  • Fits into their daily schedules

Ah, this last factor is the important key—Available Time. People have so many demands on their recreation time, they don’t have enough time to read thick tomes anymore. Much YA lit is designed to pull the reader through quickly with 1-3 page chapters. They are fun, if not challenging, and short. A good adult reader can speed through a book and be entertained while reading it. They have found they prefer tightly written books where every chapter leaves one hanging, curious to read what’s next. My wife and I believe we have discovered an important trend. We’re not alone. Some major NYT bestselling authors have begun writing YA novels—Patterson for one example. They are taking advantage of the trend we noted. Although their YA’s have young protagonists, the characters act more adult than is usually found.

I remember 20-30 years ago, during the height of Harlequin Romance popularity when some men were reading these books to put themselves to sleep. Then, as now, non-traditional readers sometimes emerge to make an impact on the book marketplace. There is a need for shorter adult books written specifically for the time-challenged market segment. Most genre novels are 70,000 to 100,000 words or more. We believe there is a need for some genre lit written within the constraints of 45,000 to 65,000 words. They need to be written tightly without too much description, focusing on rapid plot and quick character development. This approach reminds me of the 30,000 to 45,000 stories of the pulp fiction era.

I’m putting my money where my mouth is, as I have written four mysteries of place set in Leavenworth and consisting of 50,000 to 60,000 words that will appeal to our region, military officer couples, and time-challenged adults. Only time will tell if my take on this trend is accurate or not. I believe other authors, and more importantly publishers, should consider supporting this market segment, which should grow as more and more demands are made on our available time. I welcome your comments. Remember, I’m not saying all books should be written this way, but that there is a previously unnoticed market segment.

This is a cross-posting from Bob Spear’s Book Trends blog.

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