Blood Sucking Genius

In the used book business it’s easy to get into a rut, especially in
buying. Like with a lot of things, if you stick with a system you’ve
developed, it often starts to seem like it’s being proved right.

For example: When we opened 6 or so years ago we tried just about every
fiction genre in the shop and online. Romance, thriller, literary,
classics, crime, etc. etc. I should add the caveat that both of us (my
brother and I run the store) have, as the Irish put it, “notions”, so we
were hardly married to the romance and thriller end of the spectrum.
After a few months the Tom Clancys, Danielle Steeles, John Grishams, and
Nora Roberts weren’t exactly running out the door, so we bagged ’em and
concentrated on books that we knew something about.

Time passed and we were proven right! We didn’t sell any of that stuff
(though we kept a stash of a dozen or so hyper popular authors boxed in
the basement for emergencies). What’s nice about these broad decisions is
that they save a lot of time – you can stop looking at broad swathes of
categories and just put them out of your mind completely. This is
reassuring but not always any more useful than “company policy” is at a
more traditional business.

Last year we moved our shop across town (Boston is a small town so thereligion
move amounted to a longish walk) and the new location had slightly
different tastes, so when people brought in piles of books, I was more
likely to take a longer look. So, in that mode, when a woman brought in a
few bags of vampire books – mostly what they are calling paranormal
romance – I was more inclined to look. Obviously we’ve paid some measure
of attention to Anne Rice (as she’s slowly become impossible to sell) and
the Twilight books have moved rapidly in and back out of the shop, but I
was completely unprepared for how this phenomenon still has legs. We
purchased maybe 50 of these and they have flown out the door.

Now, this phenomenon was ably profiled in this
very space
, but I think it may have understated the breadth of this
category – more than just a spiking of vampire popularity, it’s staking
claim to wide swathes of romance territory. Hundreds of novels that were
once romance fiction, romance suspense, romance historical fiction, are
being absorbed under the (increasingly broad) paranormal romance category.

As near as I can tell, there are two types as represented by two general
cover designs.

The super sexualized Goth cover:


and the charmingly cartoonish:


Sometimes the publisher even has a change of heart (focus groups being
what they are) and one is swapped out for the other:



The cartoon Lynsay Sands covers are generally out of print now. Perhaps
bound to become collector’s items (I’m kidding of course, there must be
100,000 of them out there)? There’s not a big difference in saleability
as far as I can tell, just two different targeted market segments. What’s
most remarkable about these is how they sell though – online, in the
store, and even though they are often 5 years old (which is usually ages
with this sort of thing). It just goes to show that even though you might
think you know what’s going on (I’m down with Twilight, watched the True
Blood mash-up of James Lee Burke and Vampires), you can still be missing
everything beneath the surface. Some of the series just go on and on –
the Laurel Hamilton one is approaching 20 in the series.

So I’ve vowed to be more vigilant, less opinionated, but also to peer more
intently at the horizon. For I’m sure some of you are on top of this
already and have shrugged at my revelatory tone. So you count yourself
ready for the continued love affair with vampires, but are you prepared
for the next wave? What will follow Vampires in a world where Jane Austen
and Zombies is a bestseller with a movie deal?

Amorous were-wolves (it’s been done – here’s a
whole subsection
of Werewolf and “Shifter” stories)? Naughty nymphs?
Lascivious Satyrs? I wouldn’t even want speculate on the narrative
possibilities of centaurs or harpies. Zombies are a tough sell,
romantically, but how about Mummies (you could just un-mummy the mummies
like the movie franchise did so famously. This worked in Twilight – what
if Vampires could go out in the daytime? What if they were unbothered by
crosses, garlic, running water, etc. What if they were exactly like
normal people only much more attractive and awesomer? Sold!). Demon
lovers are as old as the hills, and Patrick Swayze sort of put a stake (so
to speak) in ghosts, but how about lovable poltergeists or revenants.

The list could go on (goblins, golems, ginger-bread men) but whatever
happens, I’ll be ready the next time.

Pazzo Books
1898a Centre St.
West Roxbury, MA 02131


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  • The centaur erotica already exists. It’s a series too! No matter how weird it is, there is some small press out there somewhere producing it. Once the large presses start picking it up, then you know it’s in style. The clue that it’s REALLY taken over the romance genre is when Harlequin or Silhouette starts producing monthly serials. They currently have a paranormal imprint and I would not be a bit surprised if they spun off a subimprint that’s nothing but vampires.

    The one unusual paranormal romance pairing I’ve seen cropping up in more books is dragons. Who need the prince to save you from the dragon when the dragon is so SEXY? Most of these are dragon-shapeshifters, but I have seen some that are just plain dragons…

  • I love the shape shifter books! I just finished reading Samantha Sommersby’s “Forbidden: The Temptation” and absolutely loved it. I want to read a book about a hot dragon who changes into a hot prince. That would be a great book!

  • Who knows, maybe zombies ARE the future.

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