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Some History

Our poll offers us twelve years of results, so looking back through past years’ biggest winners offers the opportunity to see which authors have waxed and waned in popularity, those authors who have maintained a presence, regardless of how low-level, and to discover which authors, over the years, have had the biggest and longest-lasting impact upon our reading. Suzanne Brockmann, for instance, who was a major player in our 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004 polls – garnering 19 awards, earned only honorable mentions in the 2004 poll, a single honorable mention in the 2005 poll, and nothing for either 2006 or 2007. That’s not to say that Force of Nature and All Through the Night weren’t the choices of a number of readers in this year’s poll, but since winning Best Romance and Worst Romance in the 2004 poll for 2003’s Gone Too Far, Brockmann’s ceased to exert a substantial influence in our annual poll.

On a personal note, there have only been two instances in the twelve year history of this poll that my choice for Best Romance matched our readers’. Nora Roberts’ Sea Swept, published in 1998 and thereby eligible in our 1999 poll, was my first match. The Serpent Prince is my second. It was a strong year for me in terms of matches – I matched in four categories (Best Romance, Most Luscious Love Story, Best American/Frontier Historical, and Best Series Novel). That may not seem like a lot to you, but given my reading choices in general, I’m very pleased.

The table below includes authors with at least one win who appear in more than one year of polling. Excluded are those authors without any placements in 2000 or later, and omitted are “wins” or (dis)honorable mentions in the “Authors Others Love That You Don’t” category, which we no longer award as it wasn’t truly an annual award. Highlighted for each author is the last year in which they won or placed in a positive category. How have your favorite authors fared since 2000?

Author Wins HMs Pub Years Neg Wins (Dis) HMs Pub Years Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb 31 23 1996 – 2007   2 1997 – 2006 Suzanne Brockmann 19 10 1999 – 2005 1 3 2001 – 2005 Linda Howard 16 17 1996 – 2007 2 2 1996 – 2006 Susan Elizabeth Phillips 13 15 1996 – 2007       J.R. Ward/Jessica Bird 11 2 2005 – 2007 4 1 2007 Jennifer Crusie 10 8 1996 – 2006       Lisa Kleypas 9 9 2000 – 2007 2   2004 – 2005 Mary Balogh 8 9 1997 – 2006       Loretta Chase 8 7 1998 – 2007       Mary Jo Putney 7 8 1996 – 2002 1   1999 Julia Quinn 7 7 1997 – 2003 2 2 2004 – 2006 Carla Kelly 7 5 1997 – 2007       Maggie Osborne (retired) 6 3 1996 – 2004       Connie Brockway 5 13 1997 – 2006       Sherrilyn Kenyon/
Kinley MacGregor 5 6 2002 – 2005 1   2007 Adele Ashworth 5 4 1998 – 2004       Dara Joy 4 4 1996 – 2001 5 3 1997 – 2001 Robin Schone 4 3 1999 – 2001 3 1 1999 – 2001 Elizabeth Hoyt 4 1 2006 – 2007       Madeline Hunter 4 1 2000 – 2002       Anne Stuart 4 1 1997 – 2006   1 2003 Lorraine Heath 3 5 1996 – 2001       Rachel Gibson 3 3 1998 – 2006 1 1 2004 Diana Gabaldon 3 2 1997 – 2005 1 1 1996 – 1997 Emma Holly 3 2 2001 – 2007 1 1 2002 – 2006 Diane Farr 3 1 1997 – 2004       Susan Grant 3 1 2000 – 2002       Shannon McKenna 3   2002 – 2003       Jo Beverley 2 7 1996 – 2001       Laura Kinsale 2 2 1997 – 2004       Julie Garwood 2 2 1996 – 1999 1 3 1997 – 2007 Stephanie Laurens 2 2 1998 – 2000 4 2 2002 – 2005 Nonnie St. George 2 1 2003 – 2004       Lori Foster 2   2001 – 2002       Judith Ivory/Judy Cuevas 1 7 1996 – 2002   1 2002 Anne Gracie 1 1 2001 – 2005       Laura Lee Guhrke 1 1 1999 – 2007       Emma Jensen (retired) 1 1 1998 – 2000       Karen Ranney 1 1 1999 – 2005       Jacquelyn Frank 1   2006 1   2007

The following table showcases each title to have won Best Romance in our annual reader poll. For five of those years – which include six titles, given this year’s tie, the Best Romances were European Historicals. Three Contemporary Romances and three Romantic Suspense titles – all of the latter written by Suzanne Brockmann – have also won.The final Best Romance was a Vampire Romance. And, to see how well AAR’s review staff is doing, of the ten books we’ve reviewed, eight have earned DIK status and the two that did not earned B level grades. Which of these Best Romances, if any, surprised you, either then, or now? And, how do they hold up today?

Pub Year Grade Title/Author/Sub-Genre Pub Year Grade Title/Author/Sub-Genre 2007 DIK
DIK If His Kiss Is Wicked (Eur Hist – Goodman)
The Serpent Prince (Eur Hist – Hoyt) 2001 DIK Over the Edge (Rom Susp – Brockmann) 2006 B+ Lover Awakened (Vamp Rom – Ward) 2000 DIK Winter Garden (Eur Hist – Ashworth) 2005 DIK Mr. Impossible (Eur Hist – Chase) 1999 DIK The Lady’s Tutor (Eur Hist – Schone) 2004 DIK Bet Me (Contemp – Crusie) 1998 DIK Sea Swept (Contemp – Roberts) 2003 DIK Gone Too Far (Rom Susp – Brockmann) 1997 N/A Nobody’s Baby But Mine (Contemp – SEP) 2002 DIK Out of Control (Rom Susp – Brockmann) 1996 N/A Shattered Rainbows (Eur Hist – MJP)

Another way to judge the staying power of authors is to look at those we’ve given up on, those who have made the largest splashes for their debuts, and those whom we most glom. We haven’t always had a “Best Debut Author” category, but can extrapolate from an earlier category. This year gives me the opportunity to correct an error of omission. In previous results columns I’ve listed Adele Ashworth as Best Debut Author as awarded in 1999, completely overlooking her tie that year with Rachel Gibson, who deserves the mention. I am glad to rectify that omission this year. How many of the Best Debut Authors did you vote for, and of all these new authors, which do think have lived up to their potential?

The Author Most Glommed category is one of the best gauges of the depth of an author’s popularity. Nora Roberts and Suzanne Brockmann have each won three times; Mary Balogh and J.R. Ward twice. Although J.R. Ward’s win as Author Most Glommed in this year’s poll was a stand-alone win, it’s worth noting that the author in second place was Nora Roberts.

How accurate is the Author You Gave Up On in terms of marking that point in time when an author may have jumped the shark, for you, or for readers in general? It appears that none of those listed in earlier years remain as popular with our readers as they once were, although JAK has experienced her own renaissance in the past couple of years, and earned a number of votes in this year’s poll for Silver Master.

Year Awarded Author Most Glommed Best Debut Author Author You Gave Up On 2008 J. R. Ward Anna Campbell Sherrilyn Kenyon 2007 J.R. Ward Elizabeth Hoyt Christina Dodd 2006 Mary Balogh/Anne Stuart Lisa Valdez Julie Garwood 2005 Sherrilyn Kenyon Marianne Stillings Stephanie Laurens 2004 Mary Balogh Deirdre Martin Stephanie Laurens 2003 Suzanne Brockmann Shannon McKenna Stephanie Laurens 2002 Suzanne Brockmann Anne Gracie Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick 2001 Suzanne Brockmann Madeline Hunter Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick 2000 Nora Roberts Liz Carlyle Catherine Coulter 1999 Nora Roberts Adele Ashworth & Rachel Gibson * Jude Deveraux 1998 Nora Roberts Jenny Lykins Catherine Coulter 1997 Mary Jo Putney   Catherine Coulter * We didn’t offer “best debut” author in 1999, just the best “new to you” author. Ashworth and Gibson earned first honorable mention in that year to SEP, so we’ve slotted them here. Jenny Lykins, who debuted in 1998, won the category for that year. No debuting author appeared in the results for “new to you” author for 1997.

Thanks for spending your valuable time looking at the results and analysis of this year’s annual reader poll, as well as the added information that provides some critical historic context. I look forward to hearing from you all on the ATBF Forum about it all. This feature is one of my favorites here at AAR. It brings me into closer contact with readers than anything else during the year, and I love watching it all unfold. That said, this year I got too caught up in the day-to-day ballot count, which led me to harangue readers into voting – not a good thing. I’m not sure how I’ll handle that next year, but I know it’ll be different. I get it: It’s no fun to participate in a poll when you’re practically being ordered to do so.

Now that it’s time to post to the ATBF Forum, please consider the following questions:

Did you vote in this year’s poll? If yes, for how many years have you participated, and if no, did you ever in the past? If yes, how long did it take you to make your decisions. If not, what was the number one reason you didn’t participate?

For those of you who voted, how many categories did you include on your ballot? Did you vote for only positive categories, or did you include some of the negative ones? What were your “favorite” categories in this year’s poll? Are you surprised that more readers voted in the Favorite Funny category than the Most Hanky Read category – ditto for Best Hero as opposed to Best Heroine – or that more of you voted for Least Believable HEA than any other negative category?

What did your ballot look like? How many books that won – or placed – were included on your ballot? How many of the winning books have you read? With which wins/honorable mentions do you concur? What are those with which you disagree?

Do you have any reaction to the comments of any of the winning authors? Were any in particular illuminating to you?

Are you surprised that an erotic romance won in a non-erotic romance category? Is it about time, or does it worry you to have a book with such erotic content win in a mainstream category? If the answer to that last is yes, is that because it contributes to the external viewpoint of romance as women’s porn, or because you simply don’t like to read extremely explicit and/or extremely extensive love scenes?

Taking a look at the tables presented on page two, how have your favorite authors who made these lists fared since 2000? What are the biggest surprises for you on these tables? Is there any sort of disconnect between our results over the years and how you think readers in general would have voted (ie, Brockmann remains a huge seller, but hasn’t appeared in our results for more than a couple of years)?

Based on your reading, does it seem reasonable that almost half of the Best Romances were European Historicals, three were Contemporary Romances, and another three were Romantic Suspense novels? Just one paranormal has won in the past dozen years…do you think that’ll change in coming years? And, which of these Best Romances, if any, surprised you – either then, or in retrospect? How do they hold up today?

How well do you think AAR’s review staff is doing? Of the winning 2007 books, we reviewed all but one and 90% earned at least B level grades. And, over the years, when looking at just the Best Romance winners, of the ten books we’ve reviewed, eight have earned DIK status and the two that did not earned B level grades. Which of these Best Romances, if any, surprised you, either then, or now? And, how do they hold up today?

Now let’s look at the Best Debut Author category. How many of them have you read over the years? Of these authors, which do you think have lived up to their potential?

How many times, if ever, has your choice for Author Most Glommed won the category? How useful do you think this category is in determining an author’s staying power?

How accurate is the Author You Gave Up On in terms of marking that point in time when an author may have jumped the shark, for you, or for readers in general?

 

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