Engaging the reader

Rosemary Potter owns a bookstore specializing in romance novels. In her time running Rosemary’s Romance Books, Potter has learned what a book needs to draw readers, and she’s watched subgenres rise and fall.


What draws a reader to a book?

I think they’ve got to engage the reader. There’s only about five plots. So, you’ve got to have something that can really engage the reader. And they don’t necessarily have to have a happy ending at that book, but if you can see that the series is leading towards a happy ending, that keeps a lot of them, a lot of readers, happy. The moment they can tell that it isn’t going to happen, I think they lose them.

But yeah, I think the main thing is to engage them with the idea straight off. I don’t necessarily think people buy books for the covers. I don’t think they necessarily buy books—they might laugh and joke and say, “Oh, look at that guy. That’s a great cover.” But they don’t necessarily buy the book for the cover. They don’t necessarily buy the book for what’s on the back, because that’s publicity. And we’ve even picked up occasions where the back of the book has been different to what actually is in the book. The guy on the cover might have black hair and blue eyes and he’s blonde and green-eyed in the book. So, I don’t think it’s anything like that. I think it’s totally what’s in the book and what’s in the first chapter to get them hooked. And I’m sure that’s what it is for editors as well.

What genres are becoming popular?

Well, paranormal has got bigger. And I would say humor, suspense has—well, I’ve noticed it growing, but I don’t know whether that’s growing because I read it and I recommend it, and that helps grow the category.

I have seen a very big increase myself in gay romance to the extent that I actually have a section of gay romance, and we actually advertise it in our monthly catalog. And we’ve been doing that now for about a year, because the demand was there, people were asking for it [. . .]

[. . .] I’ve seen a downturn in anthologies. They don’t want to buy an anthology. And quite a few customers are quite relieved that they can actually buy anthologies as ebooks because they really, I think they don’t like the idea that the publisher decides which author should go into an anthology, and they might only want the anthology for one author, for one particular story. And they feel they’re paying top dollar for one little bit of a 50-page story. So, anthologies have really, really had a downturn.

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