Monday, December 26, 2016

[Let's Talk]: Romance Survey Results (Part 2)



If you recall, in September I mentioned my senior project and the survey I posted for it. I've since turned in that project, and now that I have a bit more time, I'm going to be discussing the results here on the blog as promised. I'm not sure yet how many parts this discussion will be -- 4 or 5, at least? -- but I'll link to all the previous posts each time I post a new one.


These posts will be a combination of the data results from the survey itself, some of the quotes from the survey answers, and my own thoughts and observations. Parts of it will be taken directly from the giant ethnography I turned in, but I'll also be adding more to it in these posts, often in a much more casual way than what's in the paper. :)


I hope that these posts will start some great discussions within our community. But at the very least, I hope you find this series interesting rather than boring.


Catch up:
Part 1


Today I'll be discussing starting ages for reading romance, how many books are read in a year, and who the survey participants are in the community (reader, author, etc).



We all have our own story of how we first started reading romance novels. And I love hearing these stories! Many romance readers remember their first book, or at least one of the first author they glomed, and there's almost always a common theme in these stories: a young teen picks up a romance novel and falls in love with the genre. Some left the genre for a while before returning to it again in their 20s, 30s, and 40s (and beyond!), while others never once looked back after that first swoony read.


So, when did you start reading romance novels? Here's what the survey said:


Age (In Years) of First Romance Novel
Percentage of Participants
Number of Participants
8
1.76%
4
9
0.88%
2
10
5.29%
12
11
7.05%
16
12
17.62%
40
13
11.45%
26
14
13.22%
30
15
5.73%
13
16
10.57%
24
17
2.64%
6
18
2.64%
6
19
1.76%
4
20
3.53%
8
21
0.44%
1
22
1.32%
3
23
0.44%
1
24
0.44%
1
26
2.20%
5
27
0.44%
1
28
0.88%
2
30
3.08%
7
31
0.88%
2
33
0.88%
2
37
0.88%
2
38
0.44%
1
40
0.88%
2
52
0.88%
2
54
0.44%
1
55
0.44%
1
60
0.44%
1
62
0.44%
1


Notes:

  1. Some answers did not give an exact age, but rather explanations such as “early teens” or “mid-late 20s”. In this case, I made the final decision of what (approximate) year the respondent meant. For example, “early teens” was turned into 13, while “mid-late 20s” was turned into 27. 
  2. Some mentioned that they had phases of reading romance novels, picking up their first one at a young age but then not becoming a die-hard reader until much later in their life. Since my question was about their first time reading a romance novel, I took only that answer into account, not the later years. It would have been a good follow up question here to ask when they considered themselves a romance reader, or even to ask about their current age (which would show a bit more about the demographics of this sample), but since I did not ask either of those questions, I can only look at the answers given for the original question.
  3. Quite a few also described how they picked up their first romance novel, with many mentioning an older woman (mother, sister, grandmother, etc.) having some romance novels around, whom they borrowed the book from. Often-times the book owner was not aware of this at the time.


The most common age was 12, with 17.62% (40 of 227 participants), followed by the age of 14 with 13.22% (30 participants). The largest block of answers occurred between the ages of 13 and 19 (“teens”), with 109 readers (48.02%); the next largest grouping consisted of the years 8 to 12, with 74 responses total (36.60%). 


The range of answers went from 8 years old (youngest) to 62 years old (oldest). The results show that the majority of romance readers read their first romance novel by the age of 19, over 84% of this group.



No surprise that most readers picked up their first romance sometime in their teen years. Also not surprising: the range of answers, proof that not all romance readers must start at a young age.


My experience:


I’ve been a romance reader for more than half my life, and a romance blogger for most of that time. I read my first romance novel at 9, and started this blog when I was 14. Yes, you read that right.


My first romance novel (the Born in Trilogy by Nora Roberts, if anyone was wondering) was given to me by my great-aunt while she was cleaning out her shelves in preparation of moving. I was about 9 at the time. That was all it took. One contemporary romance set in Ireland and I was hooked. Suddenly I was looking at the book rack in my local stores, flipping through the romance section to see what sounded good, and looking at the adult fiction section of my library every week. My love of the genre has never wavered, only grown and expanded to include more genres. (Other than Nora’s books, my first few years were spent reading historical and paranormal romances; it wasn’t until much later that I looked to contemporary, erotica, new adult, and even M/M—more on that subgenre jump in a later post.)


By the way, I still have that beloved copy of the Born in Trilogy, well-worn from rereads and the passage of time. It’s by far my most reread romance novel. I’ve also bought individual copies of the three books as backups. That alone is a clear sign of a favorite book. I love the trilogy itself, but I also get good memories from rereading it. It reminds me of why I fell for this genre, why I joined this community, and why I blog.


I started the blog my freshman year of high school and 8 years later it’s still going strong. It’s not the biggest romance blog out there by any means, but I didn’t start it for popularity or money, so I’m more than content with where I’m at. I started the blog as a way to connect with other romance readers—the blog came before I joined social media—since I didn’t know of any romance readers in my area. I needed someone to talk to about these fantastic books, and I quickly found my people, first through LibraryThing, Goodreads, and my blog, and then later through Twitter and Facebook. 


While I started reading romance young, like most in the community, I was also an oddity within the community because of my young age. In fact, since I didn’t talk about my age, no one knew that I was so young until I spoke up about it after graduating high school (so after the blog had been running for 4 years). Many were surprised and even a bit in awe that I was running a blog while still in high school. Even though most of my fellow readers are 10 to 20 years older than I am, it’s never been an obstacle in any way, primarily because of what brought us together: romance novels.



Honestly, I would have loved to ask each and every participant about their journey into romance novels; some did give brief answers (such as who they got the book from or the title of the book), but I would love to hear more stories. So if you want to share yours in the comments, please do so! 😊



The next question was split into two parts: first, how many books do you read in a year, and second, what percentage of those books are romance novels.


Survey said:


Number of books read per year
Percentage of Participants
Number of Participants
less than 10
0.88%
2
11-20
4.85%
11
21-30
6.17%
14
31-40
4.40%
10
41-50
11.45%
26
51-60
4.85%
11
61-70
2.20%
5
71-80
5.29%
12
81-90
3.08%
7
91-100
12.78%
29
101-110          
--
0
111-120          
2.20%
5
121-130
2.64%
6
131-140
0.88%
2
141-150
5.73%
13
151-160
0.44%
1
161-170
0.44%
1
171-180
3.08%
7
181-190
0.44%
1
191-200
8.81%
20
250-275
4.40%
10
276-300
7.49%
17
301-350
1.76%
4
351-400
2.64%
6
600
0.44%
1
700
0.44%
1
Did not answer/was not specific
2.20%
5



Note:

If a response said “20-30 books a year”, I took the average of that (25) as their answer.


The most common answer fell between 91 and 100 books per year, with 29, or 12.78% of participants. The next largest grouping was between 41 and 50 books per year (26 participants), followed by 191-200 books per year (20 participants). The answers ranged from a high of 700 books per year to a low of less than 10.


This data shows that romance readers are quite voracious readers, with most participants reading more than a book a month—and many of them reading far, far more than that! According to some recent studies, the average number of books read by an adult American in a year is 6; from this sample of romance readers, at least, it is clear that we tend to read far more than the average reader.


Many of the responses also mentioned having further reading records (through Goodreads, spreadsheets, or journals) going back a few years, should I need more information about their reading habits. Oh, romancelandia, I love you. You are truly my people. 


By the way, there's no right or wrong answer here (same with any of the survey questions,really). If you only read 10 books a year, THAT'S GREAT! If you read 700 a year, THAT'S GREAT, TOO! (But also: I'm super jealous!) It's not about who reads the most, and that certainly wasn't the point of this question. It's about seeing how romance readers compare to the "average" (non-romance) reader, in terms of do we read more or less. Romance readers tend to be very passionate about their books, and that often means more books read per year than a non-romance reader. Of course numbers vary from person to person, but overall: we read A LOT. Yay!



Part two of this question asked approximately what percentage (of the books you read in a year) are romance novels. 



Survey said:


Percentage of Books Read Per Year That Are Romances
Percentage of Participants
Number of Participants
0-5%
0.44%
1
6-9%
--
0
10-15%
1.76%
4
16-19%
1.32%
3
20-25%
5.29%
12
26-29%
--
0
30-35%
5.29%
12
36-39%
--
0
40-45%
2.64%
6
46-49%
--
0
50-55%
9.69%
22
56-59%
--
0
60-65%
5.29%
12
66-69%
0.88%
2
70-75%
11.01%
25
76-79%
--
0
80-89%
11.01%
25
86-89%
--
0
90-95%
23.79%
54
96-100%
15.86%
36
Did not answer
5.73%
13


Notes:

  1. 13 participants did not answer this part of the question.
  2. In the table above, “—” in the “Percentage of Participants” column means there were no tallies in that answer group.


Most respondents said that, of the books they read each year, 90-95% are romance novels. This was the common answer for 54 readers (about 23% of the 227 questioned). The next largest group (36 readers) are even more romance exclusive with their genre choices, stating they read 96-100% romance novels (of their yearly reading total).


This data show that romance readers are not ALL “romance only” readers. Some reported reading more outside the genre than anything else, others read nothing but romance. Both answers, and all the other answers between, are valid! A good follow up question I should have asked is what other genres do you most often read? Since I did not, I can only use what information I do have. Most notably, 176 readers said that they read at least 50% romance novels each year, with the largest portion of readers (as previously mentioned) reading 90-100% romance novels each year.


While there is certainly nothing wrong with those who do read exclusively romance novels and nothing else, these answers show that many romance readers read other genres as well.


My experience:


My reading time varies from year to year; when I first started the blog, I was reading closer to 250 books in a year. These last few years, it’s been closer to 150, max. I am primarily a romance reader, only rarely reading other genres. In a given year, I’d say at least 95% of the books I read are romance novels. When I was in high school, I was reading quite a few YA  novels, most of which had strong romantic elements to them. I usually had two books going at once: a YA that I read at school and a romance novel that I read at home. I’ve since slowly moved away from YA, focusing almost exclusively on romance.



And the last question in this survey asked the participant what do they primarily consider themselves (reader, author, reviewer, etc).


Survey said:


Response
Percentage of Participants
Number of Participants
Blogger/reviewer
7.49%
17
Reader
54.63%
124
Author
8.37%
19
Reader + author
10.57%
24
Reader + reviewer
15.86%
36
All 3 (reviewer, reader, author)
2.20%
5


In addition to their primary answers which are already included in the above totals, 9 participants also added the following information:


Response
Percentage of Participants
Number of Participants
Bookseller
0.44%
1
Literary agent
0.44%
1
Editor
2.20%
5
Librarian
0.88%
2


Overwhelmingly, the bulk of this survey was taken by those who consider themselves readers. I wonder if this is partly my fault for not making clear that this survey was for ANYONE in the community; would more authors, for example, have taken it had I been more clear that I wanted every one's perspective? The fact that more participants consider themselves purely a reader, as compared to someone working in/alongside the industry (author, reviewer, editor, etc), MIGHT also skew the results for later questions.


The casual reader -- that is, the reader who doesn't interact much with the romance industry, or who isn't as active in the online community -- will have a different view (of the genre, of the community, and of the industry) than those who are more actively participating and aware of what's going on in romancelandia.


Again, there's no right or wrong view, and the casual reader's answer is just as important as the big author or blogger. I suppose I just wish there had been more responses from others who are part of the industry, too, to get a more well-rounded look at things.


This idea of the casual reader vs those fully invested in the industry and/or community, will also come up again in a later post, thanks to a few responses pointing out the difference between a romance reader and a reader who is part of the online community.



Part 3 should be up next week!

Remember, if you'd like to share about your introduction to romance, you're more than welcome to. :)



Enjoy!



Until Next Time,
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