Friday, October 17, 2008
Paranormal Book Sales
Welcome to Liz Jasper, paranormal mystery author, who's second book in her wonderful mystery series, Underdead In Denial, has just been realeased by Cerridwen as an ebook.
It's always interesting to see who is buying what books. I'm not talking about getting a secret wide-eyed giggle with a friend because you've seen, say, a guy who looks as staid as Alan Greenspan grin, say "ooh, awesome!" and trot delightedly off to the sales counter with a couple of fat Regency romances tucked under his arm. I'm talking particulars, as in who buys my books. My cozy vampire mysteries. (For those who haven't heard that term before, because I made it up, that means I write the sort of cozy romantic mystery you curl up with on a rainy day with a plate of warm cookies at your side – only it has vampires in it, for comic relief. Yes, I watched waaaay too much Buffy the Vampire Slayer in graduate school. But I had to counterbalance the real-life horror of five-page math problems, didn't I?)
However, as interesting as it might be for me to see who's buying my books, it's not as if anyone tracks demographics of my book sales or anyone else's. How could they? It's not like the guy at the bookstore checkout counter makes a little tick mark by "Man who looks like Alan Greenspan" under sales for Love in the Deep Blue Sea and Love Me Now, Mermaid Girl (horrific titles, the real reason I don't write romance) and shoots the info off to the publisher so authors like me can go "Oooh, owners of one-legged parrots read my books. How intereessssting."
Most people have a frustrated writer in them. I am a writer, so I have a little analyst inside me that sits around and wants to quantify things. Not all the time -- my inner number cruncher seems curiously absent around tax time when there's actual numbers that need calculating -- but enough that I find it endlessly fascinating to try and figure out things like who my readers really are.
Because the truth is, it's not necessarily who I'd expect. I knew from the occasional piece of fan mail that my writing appeals to adult readers in the baby boomer range who think a mystery about a science teacher who is bitten by an inept vampire and becomes Underdead is a hoot. Which jives with a statistic I've heard that baby boomers, who buy a pretty fair hunk of all fiction sold, have really gotten into reading paranormals. On the other hand, maybe why I hear from them is they are more likely to write notes to authors.
Because I've discovered increasingly from recent book signings and reviews that plenty of Gen Xers read Underdead too. Maybe they were just slower on getting around to it. You know, those Gen X-ers don't have a reputation as slackers for nothing.
But the real surprise was that my books also really appeals to YA readers. The bee line of teens to my book was a dead giveaway. (As were reports from reviewers that their kids keep stealing my book and passing them to their friends, which makes the review late and…. And yes, I'm so flattered I can barely stand it even if it means my royalties are in the toilet because I have one book in circulation through an entire town.) At first I thought teens picked up my books because Stephenie Meyer isn't writing Twilight books fast enough and YA readers are sucking down anything vampire (pun intended. Yeah, that's why I stay away from them in books. But blogging is fair game) they can get their sticky fingers on. And this is probably true. I base this on the fact that people keep telling me their Underdead-thieving son/daughter/wanna-be-vampire-in-the-making also loved the Twilight books.
But, like most explanations attached to numbery things, it isn't doesn't tell the whole story. Another piece of the story (and this probably isn't even close to becoming a full explanation, either) was made clear to me yesterday when I guest lectured to fifth graders about how to tell a story. (Aside: they were awesome. Note to would-be eighth grade teachers--switch to fifth grade. Trust me.) Anyway, as we pulled together a story at the conclusion of the lecture, a (clearly non-fiction) tale about a girl turning into a cat at night, whose parents turned into dogs, with appearances by koalas, wizards, magic books, and a cranky history teacher with 15 slavering Dobermans in his yard, one thing was abundantly clear: even kids looove paranormal stories. I took a poll. Every single one of them had read the Harry Potter books.
Okay, no surprise there. But the point is, paranormal books pretty much appeal to every age group. And it can't be, as was reported in the study about baby boomers, that it's because they all realize they're getting older and fear death.
I think paranormals appeal precisely because they are a little outside of normal. I mean, if you're going to take a frigate (book) to lands far away, you can count on getting somewhere new and different if you read a paranormal.
Which is a very nice conclusion to make, except, after all that, I still have no way of knowing if the Alan Greenspan doppelganger walked out of the bookstore with that copy of Underdead I sold—or if it was the Twilight-toting teen behind him. Or the Grandmother of six behind her. Or the secret agent spy in the suit behind her. Or…
Liz Jasper is the award-winning author of Underdead and Underdead In Denial. She loves email from people of all ages. (Feel free to lie outrageously about your age to mess with her head.) You can read excerpts of her books at her website www.lizjasper.com