recession-proof books

The GFC means bad news for the publishing industry, right? Well, for the most part, yes. But there are some genres that are apparently thriving.

Torstar, the company that publishes Harlequin category romances, actually made money in the fourth quarter due to Harlequin sales.

In the report, it states: “Harlequin finished the year strongly with another good quarter that drove earnings for the year up 11 percent. This is the third year in a row of business growth for Harlequin which is making important gains in both print and digital products. We are very pleased with Harlequin’s performance and prospects.” And, “The outlook for 2009 is mixed and marked by uncertainty due to the economy. At Harlequin, we expect continuing stable results building on the success and growth of the last three years. Overall, we anticipate Harlequin will deliver a fourth good year in a row. Harlequin’s results have held up well to date despite the recession. Subject to trends in employment advertising, we also expect continued good performance from our online businesses, but with lower rates of revenue growth than in previous years as overall advertising expenditures are constrained by the economy.”

Although the romance novel industry is constantly derided from the outside, made fun of and considered “trash” by the uninformed, these are not the romance novels your mother read, nor anything like the Barbara Cartland books gathering dust on your grandmother’s bookshelf. This is a HUGE business of numerous sub-genres for all tastes, and regardless of what anybody thinks, romance novels SELL. Romance fiction generated $1.375 billion in sales in 2007. And while other forms of entertainment suffer economically, romance novels usually sell better during economic downturns. Why? Probably because it’s cheap — anywhere from $4 to $8 for several hours worth of escape in the privacy of your own garden, bed, or bathtub — and best of all, when times are awful everywhere you’re guaranteed a happy ending.

Chocolate sales are apparently up, too — for the same reason. Yet people are spending more money on gym memberships and less on smoking.

Jeff Sparrow

Jeff Sparrow is a Walkley Award-winning writer, broadcaster and former editor of Overland.

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

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  1. I remember seeing an American sit-com years ago where a woman reading a romance novel said something like ‘If you can’t get it, you read about it!’

    I suspect, for a lot of people romance is rare. Comlpex moral & existential quandaries (that can be observed in more serious literature) are everywhere.

    People should deliberately be more affectionate & romantic when there’s no money to spend. It would save the world.

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