Why Are Romance Authors Better at Marketing & Promotion? [Smart Set]

Smart Set

Welcome to the weekly The Smart Set, where I curate new smart reads about the publishing and media industry. I also point to issues and questions raised, and welcome you to respond or ask your own questions in the comments.

“To seek: to embrace the questions, be wary of answers.”

—Terry Tempest Williams

Today’s edition is abbreviated since I’m at PubSmart in Charleston, SC.


Female Authors Dominating Smashwords Bestseller Lists by Mark Coker

The founder and CEO of Smashwords, Mark Coker, recently realized that his author bestseller list is dominated by women. In fact, for the last four months, the list of Top 25 Smashwords-distributed ebooks were by 100% women.

Factors at work:

  • Romance is the No. 1 bestseller genre at Smashwords.
  • Romance is written primarily by women (or by men with female pen names).

Also, and Coker mentions this, romance authors kick ass at marketing and promotion—and have always been better at it than authors in other genres.

On other bestseller lists, particularly traditional publishing bestseller lists, you won’t find such a high percentage of women. It tends to be 50-50 or 60-40 in favor of men.

Questions raised:

  • Assuming the Smashwords stats are meaningful, are women writers better at self-publishing than men—perhaps better at the marketing and promotion required?
  • Why are romance authors so much better at marketing and promotion, and can other authors be more like them? Or is it too genre-specific to be widely applicable? I recently spoke on a panel at the Virginia Festival of the Book—focused on romance writers and readers—and this was the theme. Why should romance authors be more progressive and successful in using new tools and digital media to reach readers and sell books? I’m not sure if we came up with a definitive answer.

What questions do you have? Share in the comments.

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Posted in Smart Set.

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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