In the June 22 issue of The New Yorker, there’s a terrific profile of the romance (and futuristic science fiction police procedurals) novelist Nora Roberts. I knew she was a big deal in the publishing industry, but I had no idea how big. She’s truly a force to be reckoned with.
Unfortunately the article isn’t available online (but here’s an interview with Lauren Collins, who wrote it), but here are a few facts that illustrate her industry oomph:
- She’s written 182 books.
- In a typical year, she writes eight books.
- There are allegedly enough Nora Roberts books in print to fill Giants Stadium 4000 times.
- She estimates that the average book takes her 45 working days to write. She writes six to eight hours a day.
- Twenty-seven Nora Roberts books are sold every minute.
- She wrote three of the top ten best-selling mass-market books of 2008.
- In 2008, she sold 18 million books.
- Forbes estimated that, in 2004, she grossed $60 million, more than John Grisham or Stephen King.
The article also has some unsurprising facts about the romance novel genre. It generated $1.4 billion in sales in 2007, more than any other genre (and more than science fiction and fantasy combined).
I read the same article and was awestruck by her output. I’ve never even read a single paragraph by her, so I wonder, how good are the actual books? I have no problem with somebody working tirelessly in a genre like that. I did, though, find her disdain for people who work more slowly a little off-putting. Alistair MacLeod has produced, what, 2 books in 10 years? Ralph Ellison published only one in his lifetime. But both writers are masters. And I don’t think one can attribute less output to sheer laziness or something.
Anyway, great to see mention of the article here. I’ve had a subscription to the New Yorker for a year and I always look forward to its arrival in my mailbox. The Believer is another great mag, although published less often.
Hi! I did a paper about the romance genre in the mid 1980s a time during which dominance was highly contested. Harlequin, a Canadian subsidiary, had engineered a reverse takeover of its parent company, Mills and Boon (located in the UK) and then gotten a handshake deal with Simon & Schuster for distribution in the US. When Harlequin decided to handle their own distribution in the US, Simon & Schuster’s CEO ‘declared war’ and developed its own romance line. Genre, especially romance and science fiction, has problems being taken seriously both artistically and financially.
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