And I think we all know by now that publishing is a business. Heck, I might not like the direction certain publishers have taken over the last few years (cough, Avon, cough) - but obviously it's working for them. I mean, they must be making money or else you think they would have gotten a clue by now.
So who do we blame it on? Honestly, I think it's mainly us - the reader. Ultimately we decide. We decide what sells and what doesn't. Now I know what you're thinking, "I can only buy what publishers offer" and that's certainly true. But you can also not buy. Tired of watered down historicals? Well stop buying them. Get them from the library, start reading mainstream historical fiction or book trade online or with friends. This might require you as the reader to make some hard choices - but let's be honest here, if you stopped buying books tomorrow would you run out of stuff to read? If you're a typical genre fiction reader the answer is no. Hell, I'm personally drowning in unread books. I could stop buying tomorrow and I'd be set for years.
There is always talk online of what readers are tired of, what they want more of, how Publisher X could offer more variety (cough, Avon, cough). To aid in the discussion, here is Wendy's Handy List Of What She Wants. Find me in a bookstore and chances are I'm working with this unofficial list of rules.
- Regency is a hard sell for me anymore. Unless it's dark. I'll do dark.
- England as a whole is hard sell for me anymore. Unless it's dark. I'll do dark.
- Western = YeeHaw! I tend to buy these new, no questions asked.
- Westerns that take place pre-Civil War = YeeHaw and Hell Yeah!
- American-set historicals late 19th century, early 20th = gimme, gimme, gimme
- Dark romantic suspense = good thing (or as I like to call it, Where Have You Gone Katherine Sutcliffe. Answer = she retired)
- I'm tired of paranormals now unless the back cover blurb really shouts out at me.
- Emma Holly needs to write more erotica and faster.
- I'm really, really tired of erotica mixed with paranormal.
- Gimme more gothics that don't feature any woo-woo.
- Maggie Osborne needs to come out of retirement. Seriously, I need her more than her family does.
- Harlequin Historical really should publish more than one western a month. I love that line and they have several good western authors writing for them.
- Don't you think the French Revolution is a great setting? Why isn't it done more? Too depressing? Is the guillotine not sexy enough? Or is it because the book would feature French people?
- Campy reads. Thea Devine at her best writes wonderful camp (at her worst that's a different story). A girl just needs over-the-top camp every now and then.
- Heroines who don't give birth to triplets in the epilouge. Seriously publishers - women can decide to never have children and that doesn't make them freaks.
- Historicals that "feel" different. Everything has been reading the same to me in this sub genre for the last year (at least). I can't believe it's run its course. I think it just needs fresh voices, and authors/publishers willing to take some risks.