Wooed women spice up book sales

Cover of a romance novel

TEXT OF STORY

Bill Radke: Life's been tough for a lot of industries lately, including publishing. But industry representatives say book sales are picking up again, thanks to a little romance. Ekene Okobi reports from Washington.


Ekene Okobi: April Lilley manages a Borders Book store in downtown Washington, D.C. The store's neighbors are George Washington University, The World Bank, law firms, and think tanks. So people visiting the store are highly literate.

Sure, political books are popular here, but she says romance readers are some of her best customers.

April Lilley: They come in quite often, and when they do come in, it's usually multiple books. You know, they'll come out with a big stack of books. But then, the one thing about romance readers, they'll blow through that and they'll be in in the next week or two weeks.

Now, whatever you might think of the romance genre, Tina Jordan of the American Association of Publishers says its overwhelmingly female fans are the darlings of the publishing market. And of discount chains like Target and Wal-Mart.

Jordan says women tend to shop for the family, but might pick up something for themselves while they're at it. Especially when the books are right there by the cash register.

Tina Jordan: So when they're in Wal-Mart, they might pick up a title then. They're also very loyal customers. They follow an author and have a very loyal fan base.

Women also recommend books to friends, and they're willing to try new authors.

Diane Pershing is the president of Romance Writers of America. She says romance readers generate more than 50 percent of mass market paperback sales. According to her, the books are a necessary indulgence.

Diane Pershing: You might give up going and getting your hair streaked for $60, but you won't give up your $6.99 new Linda Howard.

Pershing says that women make most of the purchasing decisions in this country. So they drive sales of most household goods, and that includes books.

Pershing: Honestly, don't dismiss women. Never dismiss women.

By the way, romance writer Linda Howard spent most of August on the New York Times Bestseller List -- along with 19 other romance writers.

In Washington, D.C, I'm Ekene Okobi for Marketplace.

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