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Are romance novels still bestsellers among youth?

We examine the common refrain of "this is what the reader wants to read" to understand if romance novels are really preferred by the youth

February 14, 2018 06:47 pm | Updated 06:47 pm IST

B:LINE: Books of Mills & Boons, in the capital on 26-7-2010. Photo: Ramesh Sharma 
To go with Chitra's story for Brand

B:LINE: Books of Mills & Boons, in the capital on 26-7-2010. Photo: Ramesh Sharma To go with Chitra's story for Brand

At one time, youngsters would read Mills & Boon in secret, swooning over the romantic heroes who swept their lady loves off their feet. In the romantic genre there was no parallel to Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind with raw, real, deep characters like Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler. But in the 21st century, romance writing in India is at best mediocre with unidimensional plots and stilted characters. But there is a claim that romance genre is among the most sold, especially among the youth.

Ilika Ranjan, author of Secrets of Zynpagua , who directly interacts with readers belonging to the age group 11 to 18, says: "Youth are also glued to management books, inspirational books like The Alchemist and The Goal and stress busters like Harry Potter and Eragon ."

Desh Kumar, Manager, Kids Today International, Publishers Private Ltd, who has previously worked at Penguin, and Scholastic says that romance books are a select market for select readers. "Youth comprise most of the readership but they are not regular readers, so they would perhaps read one book of a particular author but not all their books unlike regular readers who would read entire series such as Harry Potter . Romance novels aren’t selling as much as they used to.”

The most buying capacity, adds Desh, is with children from grades three to five and nine to 11. "Young adult fiction that involves a bit of romance, thriller writing, themes of girls who want to pursue their goals despite all odds, is popular and sells alot.”

Ilika contends that international authors are more read than Indian authors because publishers focus more on romance novels.

Desh agrees with Ilika, adding that top-selling books among the youth include Diary of a Wimpy Kid , and the Percy Jackson series.

Shreya Punj, Assistant Editor at HarperCollins, says: "In metros, young people will read any good fiction. Yes, romance is generally a top seller, but horror, thrillers, comedy, sci-fi and general fiction sell well too. In tier II and III cities, however, Indian romance writing seems to be preferred the most (this could be in vernacular languages or English).” She contends that in terms of market share, non-fiction writing does the best in India.

The age group of 30 and above constitutes a sizeable readership. Desh says that these audiences aren’t serious readers of fiction: "They like to read books by Anita Nair, Vikram Seth, Shobhaa De, Rashmi Bansal, to name a few. The general trend among this readership is that they prefer health-related books, books on fitness and spirituality, and cookery books.”

In the concluding analysis it can be said that international authors among the youth and non-fiction for readers of 30 years and above are among the most read.

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