From author Giulia Torre:
Did you know they stopped counting?
The last time anyone counted the number of romance readers in America was 2005, when marketing research group Corona Insights conducted a nationwide telephone survey for the Romance Writers Association (RWA).
The conclusion was that in that year 64.6 million Americans read at least one romance novel. In 2002, it was estimated at 51.1 million romance readers in America. In 1998, 41 million readers.
Ten years later, I predict that number has increased, based on the rise of self-publishing, the advent of the eBook, and the explosion of the erotica market. It’s been a big decade for reading in general, and romance has been a principal in the revolution.
Corona’s figures at the time were extrapolated by a definition of romance that adapted to readers. According to Kevin Raines, the CEO and founder of Corona who worked on the 2005 survey, although RWA had a strict definition of ‘romance’, survey respondents were allowed to self-identify the genre.
. . . .
From 1998 to 2005, according to Corona’ s figures, the US population of romance readers saw an average annual 8% growth, a number too large to apply going forward at liberty.
In fact, based on revenue alone, RWA claimed in 2005 that romance fiction generated $1.4 billion in sales. However, that reported number has since dipped, with RWA reporting $1.08 billion in revenue in 2013, a 22.8% drop.
. . . .
Guns are a lot like romance novels. People advocate on their behalf. Collect them. Buy them with variable frequency. Sometimes lie about the number they own. And, like romance novels, most guns don’t need to be registered.
Somehow, in spite of these vagaries, credible numbers are reported.
According to University of Chicago’s General Social Survey, the number of people who reported having a gun in their home in the 1970s averaged about 50 percent, the 1980s averaged 48 percent, the 1990s at 43 percent and 35 percent in the 2000s. Now, numbers are being reported at an all-time low of 30%. By my count, that’s 72.8 million American adults.
. . . .
Based on the most recent numbers we have, and the arguable trend upwards in romance consumption and the reported trend downward in gun ownership, romance readers by now may actually outnumber gun owners.
That’s good news.
Link to the rest at Giulia Torre and thanks to Christopher for the tip.
Here’s a link to Giulia Torre’s books
PG says this is an interesting hook for a blog post about romance readers. It hooked him.
He will make a couple of observations:
1. A lot of romance readers are also gun owners.
2. He believes that survey respondents substantially underreport their gun ownership due to social attitudes towards guns.
In the US, if a person wants to purchase a firearm through a licensed firearm dealer, he/she fills out a form which dealer submits for a criminal background check by a division of the FBI. The firearm can’t be sold unless the FBI reports confirms that the purchaser has a no criminal record.
While the number of background checks understates the total number of gun sales because not all sales require a background check, the relative number of background checks is a generally reliable proxy for the increase or decrease of gun sales over time.
The FBI keeps track of the number of background checks it performs. That number increased every year from 2002-2013. In 2002, a total of 8,454,322 background checks were performed. In 2013, a total of 21,093,273 background checks were performed so it was more than a minor increase over 10 years. There was a slight drop in background checks in 2014 to 20,968,547. (See the 2014 Background Check System report from the FBI for much more information)
Ms. Torre cites the University of Chicago’s General Social Survey for the proposition that fewer people report having guns in their homes now than in past decades.
While PG has no doubt that the University of Chicago is accurately reporting its survey results, but its information is based on answers given to survey questions in face-to-face or telephone interviews.
In the 1950’s and ’60’s gun ownership was common and held no particular social significance. PG purchased a shotgun when he was 12 years old and, other than having his father accompany him to the hardware store, no formalities were necessary, no records kept. He needed a license to hunt pheasants, but no license to own or carry a gun.
During this era, more than a few homes had military rifles and pistols that had been brought back to the US by returning World War II veterans. When he was about 10 years old, PG went deer hunting using the standard military rifle used by the British Army during the war. He shot the rifle once and it almost knocked him over. No deer came close to being harmed during this exercise.
Over time, gun ownership became subject to more and more disapproval in certain segments of society and gun regulation, both federal and state, grew much more stringent. Strong and well-funded anti-firearm organizations were created.
The net effect of these changes is that a growing segment of gun owners stopped talking about their guns to anyone other than friends and fellow gun owners. PG suggests that today, a significant portion of gun owners answering questions from a stranger about guns in their home would be inclined to lie based upon the belief their guns were nobody’s business.
In addition to the growing increase in FBI background checks for gun purchases, since the election of President Obama, who supports increased restrictions on gun ownership, US gun and ammunition manufacturers have enjoyed booming sales and wonderful profits.
Rapidly-growing gun sales are reflected in rising stock prices of publicly-held gun manufacturers, Smith & Wesson Holdings, up 150.1% in the last five years, and Sturm Ruger, up 370.6% in the same period. The stock prices of large publicly-held retailers with significant gun sales have also boomed, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Cabela’s, up 168.7% and 423.1% in the same five years, respectively.
PG definitely does not want to start a comment war over gun ownership and regulation and he strongly favors ever-increasing sales of romance novels. He doesn’t, however, believe that romance sales and gun ownership are inversely related to each other.