Librarians can now verify something they have long
suspected: The fiction most sought-after by patrons
"We've done book-buying surveys over the years, and
it always comes out that mysteries are the first and
romance is a close second," says Francine Fialkoff,
editor of Library Journal. "I do think this (list) just
confirms that libraries are huge lenders of mysteries.
Almost every one of the popular fiction (titles) is a
Don't be misled by that quote. Mystery doesn't even come close to outselling romance novels, so the "book-buying surveys" Ms. Fialkoff mentions must refer only to those books purchased by libraries for their patrons.
According to a recent Romance Writers of America survey, romance fiction generated $1.41 billion in sales in 2003, accounting for a whopping 48.8% of all paperback fiction sold. If we toss in the hardbacks and count all books sold, the numbers are a still-impressive 33.8% for romance, with mystery a very slow second, crossing the finish line at 25.6%, just edging out general fiction at 24.9%.
Clearly, mystery isn't breathing down the neck of the romance genre. The librarians, bless 'em, may look at their own statistics and assume mystery is the hottest thing out there, but we romance readers know that isn't the case.
What interests me is that readers appear to be getting the bulk of their romance in stores (woo-hoo, doesn't that sound exciting?) and then going to the library for their mysteries. Why is that, I wonder? Because mass-market romance books are small (easy to carry in a purse) and cheap, not to mention available at grocery stores? Or could it be that we think of a mystery as something we're likely to read only once, while a good romance novel is worth buying because we might want to read it again?
Why do we borrow mystery but buy romance? Would anyone care to venture an opinion?