Monday, December 29, 2014

What Readers Want—And Don't Want

Two days ago, I came across a post on Facebook by author Lacey Weatherford, where she had polled her readers for what types of books and story lines they're tired of seeing. I thought the post was interesting, so I decided to poll my readers, as well. Between these two posts, there were many similarities about what readers are tired of reading. Some of the responses might surprise you:

  1. BDSM topped the list. A lot of readers are apparently totally over D/s. As in, it's been beaten to death with the flogger of overindulgence and whipped beyond novelty, to the point that readers are gagging on their ball gags.
  2. Fifty Shades knock-offs were second on the list. If you count responses of "billionaires who hook up with a recent college grad/innocent young woman/etc." or any such derivative thereof as Fifty knock-offs, this was easily the number one answer. But since Fifty Shades was what made BDSM so popular, how about we just lump these first two responses in one gigantic category called "Readers Would Like To See This Die A Fast Death."
  3. Weak Female protagonists ranked high, as well. We're lumping comments such as "wishy-washy," "stupid girl who falls for the bad guy," and "weak females who let their men walk all over them" in this category. In other words, readers want a strong, smart heroine who doesn't do stupid things or let her jealous friends persuade her to do something idiotic to risk her relationship. Thank God for Samantha, Gina, and Cordray of my AKM Series. Strong girls ROCK!
  4. Unfaithful hero/man-slut. I was shocked to see so many responses for this, because it's common knowledge that in a romance, you don't want a hero who's sleeping with every girl in town. There are exceptions to this, but they have to be pretty compelling exceptions with realistic, believable reasons for the man-slutting.
  5. Virgins (male or female), especially the female virgin with the man-slut. Snooze-yawn. This was why I made sure Karma wasn't a virgin in my Strong Karma novels. Even I thought that wasn't realistic.
  6. Motorcycle club books, aka Sons of Anarchy.
  7. Insta-love. This one received a lot of hate, as well.
  8. Erotica (surprise!) One reader commented that this was the first year she didn't have any romance on her Christmas wish list. The sex has become overwhelming. A lot of readers would like to see more tension, plot, and story over sex. Thank goodness my contemporary books are taking a turn this direction.
  9. Vampires. One reader said she's tired of vampires being seen as the good guys. This one makes me sad, as I love my AKM vampires. However, readers have said my vampire stories are so unique and fresh that they make an exception to read them. So, yay! Here's to being unique and fresh! But I will say that I've been playing with the idea of a novel where the vampire is the bad guy and follows a more traditional, "Dracula" approach. So, even I would like to see vampires represented as the bloodthirsty, evil beasts they've been portrayed as in the past.
  10. Repetition, repetition, repetition. Readers are tired of seeing an author play out the same story line over and over with different characters. One gal even said she is sick of repetitious sex, where the same language is used in every sex scene.
  11. Speaking of sex: Readers got a good laugh regarding overly creative descriptions of sex and body parts, such as "his love wand invaded her slick love cave," or "his engorged muscle slammed through her cervix." Ouch! Um, that's not even remotely sexy. Does the author know how painful that would be? This is the hazard of trying too hard to use words other than dick and pussy/vagina. As Stephen King says, keep it simple. If a character has to take a shit, say he has to take a shit, not that he has to perform an act of excrement removal. In other words, he drove his cock into her vagina. Nuff said?
  12. Rape disguised as romance was another item readers don't like, but it opened an interesting conversation about how rape should be presented in novels, and that it can be used as an excellent device to show a character's strength and ability to overcome adversity.
  13. Cliffhangers. Nothing new here. This continues to be something readers generally don't like. The warning to authors is, "Hang readers off a cliff at the risk they'll grab you and take you down with them." 
  14. Serials (but I think that's because the readers who said they didn't like serials read serials written by authors who don't truly understand what a serial is, based on the reasons given for not liking them.).
So, do you agree? Disagree? Is there anything missing? Add your two cents in the comments. What do you want to see more/less of in future romance books?

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