I’m in an invitation only online group with some of the most published western writers today. Most of them have published hundreds of books. I’ve always been amazed that they invited me in.
They have been discussing something that is very good news if the trend continues. They have been noticing that royalties have been trending higher than in recent years. Berkley, which has been a mainstay of the western book market even when some other publishers quit doing them or scaled back is bringing back some earlier series. Other publishers are starting to contract western titles and I’m talking to one smaller publisher that is looking to start publishing a western line and wants me to help him find good projects for it. eBook sales are adding to the picture and publishers are starting to print more books to distribute. One by one western authors on this online list chimed in reporting increases.
Westerns have suddenly reappeared on the shelves at Walmart, in supermarkets where they haven’t been before and some other places where they had all but disappeared. Add to this the fact that one of the hottest venues in romance these days are those with strong western characters, particularly books set in Texas, and historical fiction that is set in that time period and in the old west. One editor calls those “babes in bonnets books.”
We’ve seen a renewed interest in western movies and television and hopefully that is helping increase the readership in western books. (The remake of True Grit demonstrated there is still a very strong audience for a western.) Media channels such as Netflix have been steadily increasing their stock of classic westerns and the studios that own them have been happy to respond to the demand by re-releasing the titles. We are being told that there is more coming up in the way of western tv and movies.
One of the best definitions of what a western is that I have heard is “a morality play on horseback.” I believe in our modern times where there is such angst directed at Washington and such anger about the state of our economy and our country that the stark simplicity of the western is a wonderful release. It’s the good guy versus the bad guy, usually with overwhelming odds, but good is going to triumph. We yearn for more of that in our lives, and that is a big factor in why people love westerns.
The interest in western books has always been cyclical, so perhaps this is the beginning of the next up cycle. I know those of us that love the genre can help by buying the titles coming out . . . and by talking up the fact that the western is back. Can you say “self-fulfilling prophesy?”