Well, it’s sort of official…after much hearsay, speculation, whispers and the presence of a huge elephant in the drawing room, NAL editor Laura Cifelli makes this statement on the future of the Signet Regency line in the February edition of Romantic Times:
“The market was no longer sustaining two to three books a month. But we love the program and we believe in our authors, so we are planning on publishing Signet Regency special event titles and reissues in the future.”
Thoughts, reactions, anyone? And maybe this is a good time to talk about our future plans?
Reading, Regency Tagged Signet Regencies 10 Replies
I think this is incredibly sad. How can it not be sustaining two or three books a month? 🙁 I guess we’ve seen this coming for a while, but I still wish it weren’t the case.
I’m sad, too, but I can see how it happened: Regency-set historicals have set the bar sexier and longer than “traditional” Regencies, and most readers don’t know the specifics of the Regency period, so are more likely to buy “historical” romances.
I think there will be a place for trads to go, perhaps e-publishing or some smaller presses will pick up the slack. It isn’t worth the big publishing house’s efforts to do such small print runs, but a smaller press might do well with them.
And maybe if these types of books come back at the big houses, they’ll have learned how to market them better.
The good news is that Regency-set romances are not completely stopping, and perhaps some of us will end up in longer formats (or others of us will jump genre entirely!).
I think sex is only part of the issue.
I’ve said it before, but I think sameness is the problem–or the illusion of sameness. Some Regency lines really got mired down in the same old settings and plot-lines (the London Season Story, for instance) and the covers reflect that.
Hilary Ross, the editor of Signet Regencies for years, encouraged her authors to be more original, resulting in some of the most wonderful and unique Regencies written.
However, the art department kept producing the same old recycled covers…
Sigh. It’s sad, but I take comfort that the Regency setting is still popular.
Mills & Boon in Britain is still publishing historicals that could easily be called traditional Regencies.
And Avalon and Five-Star still publish hardback Regencies, for the library market.
And there are e-publishers who still publish traditional Regencies.
So the market isn’t entirely dead yet…just mostly dead. (“I’m not dead yet!” it cries. “Just a flesh wound!”)
The article in which Laura Cifelli’s quote appeared also mentioned an e-publisher, Belgrave House.
But it seems to me to be a question of apathetic marketing. With the amount of diversity creeping into trad–no bad thing–it’s as though the trad lost its identity, and presumably the readers who knew what they liked weren’t buying in case they got what they didn’t like. The packaging remained the same, but you might find all sorts of surprises inside. There was no attempt to cross-market to readers of regency-sets, who might actually have found things they’d like.
I was also told by an editor (no, I’m not telling) about eighteen months ago that the trad regency was more or less dead, as they were bought predominantly by an aging and decreasing demographic. Now they say that about classical music, too, but it keeps going and occasionally breaks even. But business is business. That’s the bottom line.
Well…I wonder who the “special event” authors will be? Most of us will be writing in another venue, historical or whatever. Nice to think that Signet believes in their authors, though. ;->
The bar was set higher in terms of quality too, I feel. We have been writing some very good Regencies, but readers are jaded (and I include myself in that comment). We expect a lot. And when reviews made weary sounding remarks about the usual conventions being included in a Regency…well, it is a Regency. Even with unique elements, you could not abandon convention altogether, and most readers wanted more than that, imo.
One biggie was distribution. No matter who the buying demograpic was, they could not buy if they could not find the book. Poor distribution was the final blow. I don’t know of any line that survives without it. We will never know how many might have bought Regencies if they could have found them.
Laurie, I agree about distribution being the key. The K-Mart bankrupties really cut into the Signet Regency distribution scheme (from everything I hear) and that was really the thing that did it. Though there is innovation today, there was innovation ten and twenty years ago too — I don’t think the books have changed all that much.
The public tastes, of course, can be very fickle. 🙂
Distribution really WAS a problem. Two friends of mine used to write trads for Zebra and finding their books up here in Canada wasn’t always easy. There was one anthology I NEVER found.
Until recently I rarely read trads, so am now really disappointed to see them being published less frequently.
Distribution is the key. I’ve never seen more than 3 copies of a regency title at one time in a store, tho my daughter told me she saw “Dedication” faced out in a store in Baltimore (near where I live), and I almost wet my pants. However, it’s a law of retail that people won’t pick up something and look through it unless there are lots of them (the item, that is). The ideal selling situation is a great stack of them somewhere in the store, the perception being that if there’s a lot of them, it must be good. Readers almost certainly won’t pick up one lone copy–it acquires a wallflower stigma.
Well, they are all idiots, and should be roundly chastised. If they had put any actual effort into marketing them, they might well have done better.