Jul 8 2010 10:32am

The Success of Paranormals: Why is the Genre Taking a Big Bite of Publishing Sales?

When you think about the current state of the economy, it’s no wonder that certain book sales are not only holding steady, but on the rise.

Why is that? For starters, compare the ten dollar plus cost of a movie ticket which yields approximately two hours of entertainment to that of a mass market paperback. For anywhere from four to eight dollars, that book will provide hours of entertainment and unlike a movie, you can hand it off to a friend so they can share the experience.

When you take a look at those genres that are experiencing an upsurge in sales, there is one genre that jumps out at you, literally and figuratively—paranormals. In some chain stores, sales of paranormals have surged as much as 30% in comparison to sales from prior years.

Paranormal romance readers, when asked what they like about the genre, replied in several ways. “I love reading the paranormal romance genre because of all the ‘what-ifs’ you can imagine,” said Ali, an avid reader. Another loyal reader, Colleen, noted that she liked the “bits of mystique and magic” that she found in paranormals.

The flexibility of the genre, which encompasses everything from paranormal romances to urban fantasy to young adult novels like the highly successful Twilight franchise, makes it possible for readers to choose quite a number of different magical and mystical what-ifs.

As an author and reader of paranormals, the diverse nature of the paranormal genre is part of its appeal for me. I can switch from a gritty futuristic suspense, such as J.D. Robb’s Death series, to the darker and sexier stories of a Kim Harrison or Laurell K. Hamilton or even head for a multicultural urban feel in L.A. Banks’ Vampire Huntress series.

There are also two other important aspects that I think feed the steady growth and popularity of the paranormal. The first is the realization, whether conscious or subconscious, that there is a battle going on between humanity and the vampires, demons and other creatures that go bump in the night. It is a battle of good versus evil and it appeals to us on a gut level because ultimately we want to see the good guy win. With a world that seems to be falling apart to some, the need to achieve a positive outcome can be satisfied with the happily-ever-after that occurs in many paranormals.

The second important factor is the ultimate escapism that occurs when one can lose themselves in a world that is different from our own day-to-day. That escapism magically relieves us of the stress of the ordinary world and entertains us with the what-ifs as we suspend disbelief to enter that other realm.

Fellow author Irene Peterson summed up that otherworldly appeal perfectly. “Anything that takes me away from my life is usually more interesting than the day to day regularity of a regretfully boring life. If the excitement in my life has to come in books, at least I maintain my own blood and don’t have to worry about dogs following me at night, except in my books.”

Judging from the ongoing strength of the genre in publishing and its successful expansion onto the television screen and in movies, readers will be able to enjoy the magical and mystical what ifs for some time to come.

Caridad Piñeiro is a multi-published and award-winning author whose love of the written word developed when her fifth grade teacher assigned a project—to write a book that would be placed in a class lending library. She has been hooked on writing ever since.

This article is part of Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy Month: ‹ previous | index | next ›
Christine Evelyn Squires
1. ces
Not me! I'm not part of the 30% jump! The book I bought yesterday was "The Passage" by Justin Cronin, and just now I bought the latest installment of the series "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" by Alexander McCall Smith.
Alex Brown
2. AlexBrown
Frankly, I think a lot of it also has to do with the fact that there's an entire generation of kids who grew up reading fantasy as standard op rather than as a side group. You've now got millions of 20 year olds who read "Harry Potter" and "Artemis Fowl" and "The Golden Compass", etc. and are basically now seeking out more adult fare. Yeah, you get a lot of SFF kids, but this is a much bigger swath of the population in my mind. And you've more non-Potter adults who are turning to SFF simply because that's the way the tide is turning. Once the tide turns to something else Paranormal Romance will ebb back down again. I'm hoping we next head to westerns. There's some seriously awesome fiction in westerns that NOBODY'S reading.
Melissa Ann Singer
3. masinger
@Milo: One of the interesting things about that generation (I'm raising one) is that they don't specialize the way many of us older folks did. For a lot of us, once we discovered sf/f, we dived in and spent the majority of our reading time in genre (or, perhaps, in a succession of genres). But my daughter and her friends read across genre. If I look at the stack by her bed, or the pile she took to camp (4 weeks, 5 books), there's always a mix of books--some fantasy, some contemporary "teen fiction", a mystery of some sort, etc. My own stack at the same time would have been pretty much all sf/f (and horse books).
Samantha Brandt
4. Talia
I also expect the increase in popularity can be at least partially attributed to all the media attention surrounding 'Twilight' and 'True Blood.' People check em out, say, "hey I like this" and maybe check out similar stuff. That's no bad thing - anything that gets people reading more is good, I feel.
As a child I would often sit with my sister and mom to watch horror movies on rainy Saturdays, but my real love of what we call "paranormal" today came with my exposure to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I think that Buffy not only brought back interest in vampires, but also helped foster the growth of the empowered females that populate so much of the paranormal/urban fantasy genre.
6. Ramenth
I think it actually comes quite a lot from the nature of the Genre. Unlike traditional fantasy, it's not about BigPictureGood versus BigPictureEvil. There's a bit of that in there, but it's mostly about the LittlePictureCharacterGood versus AntagonistsOfVaryingDegreesOfEvil. There's a lot more you can do with this. It means that you can have a lot more books in a genre without them starting to 'feel the same', and can tell a lot more stories without them blending together into two thousand page megaepics.

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