by Teresa Kopec

#64, 13 March 2006

Romance 101: Part II

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Go into any thrift store, and you are likely to find mountains of paperback romances. After quickly scouting for some "real" finds, you probably scurry out the door to the next thrift or library sale. If so, you may be leaving some easy money behind. Last month we looked at the history and publishing dynamics of paperback romances. This month I'll give you some basic flashpoints to help you quickly and easily profit from romance.

I mentioned last month that series romances are published in distinct sub-genres - i.e., westerns, contemporary, paranormal, etc. What I didn't mention is that many authors write across sub-genres, typically using a pseudonym. For example, popular contemporary author Jayne Krentz also writes a best selling line of regency romances as Amanda Quick. She has also used several other pseudonyms, most notably Jayne Bentley, Jayne Castle, Amanda Class, Amanda Glass, Stephanie James, and Jayne Taylor. While a book written under Jayne Krentz is almost guaranteed to be a penny book, I once sold a single paperback written by "Jayne Bentley" for over $100 on eBay. I purchased it for ten cents at a thrift - and even better picked it up right after another book dealer finished looking at the same shelf and found nothing.

Romance readers tend to be very loyal to the authors they love. Often they will want to find any and all copies of that author's books regardless of the subgenre she wrote in - or who she wrote as. This website maintains a very comprehensive list of authors and their pseudonyms across many genres.

Books written under an author's pseudonym are almost always worth picking up. They may not net you $100, but often they can bring in an easy $20-30 dollars and sell quickly on fixed price sites. And if you find an early Janet Evanovich romance written under the name Stephie (Steffie) Hall, you'll be doing a little happy dance! I recommend selling single titles on Amazon or through an eBay store. They sell easily, and the prices tend to stand up better than they do in auctions.

Another romance flashpoint is out of print books by popular writers. Because monthly series romances are rarely reprinted (with the very notable exception of Nora Roberts), these books become harder to find over time and thus desirable. Romance writing in some ways is akin to playing professional baseball. Writers toil in the minor leagues (or the monthly series romances) until they are skilled and popular enough to move up to the majors (or stand alone romances.) Having your novel come out in hardcover is the equivalent to making it to the World Series. If you don't have time to do a lot of research on romance, just peruse the best seller lists or walk down the aisle at your local Barnes & Noble. Jot down the names of the hardcover authors. They are guaranteed to have a loyal and fervent fan base. When you see older series romances (think pre-1990) by those same authors, check them out. You'll be surprised at how many of them turn out to be winners. (Of course, be sure to also check out their pseudonyms for even more pleasant surprises!)

Romance writers who are no longer publishing can also make great flashpoints. Historical romantic fiction tends to have a number of writers who inspire intense loyalty in their fans. Some names to look for include D.E. Stevenson, Patricia Veryan, and Anya Seton. The grandmother of modern romance, Georgette Heyer, also remains endlessly popular. Her regency romances from the 1960s link the modern romance back to Jane Austen.

Another way to profit from romances is to sell book lots on eBay. A quick look at completed listings netting $50 or more will give you a fair idea of the kind of books to look for. Right now the hottest romance sub-genre is paranormal books (vampires are in!). Group authors like Sherrilyn Kenyon and Christine Feehan together, and you won't have to work too hard to get a $50 lot of books together. A good place to find these is at yard sales or library bag sales. While you might have to group 60 or 70 Nora Roberts paperbacks to make $50, put together an easy lot of 20 of her light mystery novels written as J.D. Robb, and you'll likely make that same $50. You can often pick these up at yard sales for a quarter. Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum novels (One for the Money, Two for the Show, etc.) work the same magic.

In my experience, series in and of themselves are generally not collected in romance. The one exception is "Loveswept," an early series that first featured a number of currently popular writers like Jennifer Crusie. These are harder to find at used bookstores because so many have been discarded due to age but are still easy to pick up at yard sales. Be wary of eBay auctions on lots of Loveswepts; most have been cherry picked for the valuable titles. Some of the steamier new series such as the Harlequin Blaze line or Ellora's Cave (very hard core) will sell well as lots, but generally buyers collect by author rather than line and don't care if you mix lines.

One important note: paperback romance readers are not looking for pristine books to collect. They want good reading copies. There is no use pricing a really nice copy high above others because it will just sit there. On the other hand, don't underestimate these women. There is no shortage of complaining on the Amazon seller boards about women who leave bad feedback on romances, I suspect because they are being sold books that are falling apart, stained, etc. Look for clean, tight books with good covers. Spine creases are par for the course and not a problem. Most of these buyers are used to buying in paperback exchange book stores that stock well-used romances. They are content with books in comparable condition - no covers hanging off, no loose pages, lightly creased covers, etc. Bookstore stamps should be noted but are not an issue. Single titles are very easy to list on fixed price sites, and since they are light, you can usually come out ahead on shipping even if you send them via first class mail.

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Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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