Did you know the average romance book reader discovered the genre between the ages of 11 and 18, ages 30 to 54 make up the biggest market for the genre, 84% of the readers are female, and it’s an industry that brings in between 1.08 BILLION to 1.6 BILLION dollars a year in the U.S. alone? About 39% of the sales now are in digital format (Kindle, Nook, etc.).
When you talk smack about the romance genre, you’re making a lot of enemies.
Now, these statistics are comprised of the romance genre and all of its sub-genres (M/M, historical, Christian, horror, erotica, contemporary, new adult, young adult, and paranormal, to name the prime suspects). However, it is an industry that continues to grow year after year. Romance readers are voracious in their appetites for more books, new stories, and lots of love and emotion.
In fact, the romance book industry is a third larger than the inspirational genre market. It’s also the size of the mystery and sci-fi/fantasy genre markets combined.
It’s big business. It’s valid business.
All of the statistics seem to show that the romance market is growing and no matter how many eyes get rolled at the thought of a romance novel, readers just can’t get enough. While trends show that ebooks make up the lion’s share of sales, mass market paperbacks come in close with 32% of the sales, 18% in trade paperbacks, and 9% in hardbacks. Only 1% of romance books are sold in audiobook format, but statistics show that audiobook sales might be on the rise as well.
So…why do so many authors like to roll their eyes at the genre?
Well, let’s look at what is expected when a reader picks up a romance novel:
A love story is basically what the entire plot revolves around.
Characters are expected to be better-than-average looking (usually).
The “tone” leans towards the flirtatious, if not sexual, and can be anything from swoon-worthy to outright raunchy.
Romance stories can take place anywhere, they are unlimited in their potential settings.
An optimistic and emotionally satisfying ending is expected.
Writers–and I speak from experience–like to consider themselves intellectuals who ponder the human existence. What makes us tick. What is the very essence of the human condition…then write about it. We like to think that we can tell the story how it is meant to be told as it unfurls on the screen before us. We are uncompromising. We are true to our art. We are wordsmiths and raconteurs. There are no limitations or “Do’s and do nots” when we write.
WE WILL NOT LET READERS DICTATE THE STORY–WE WILL DAZZLE THE READERS WITH OUR BRILLIANCE AND BRING THEM TO OUR SIDE WITH OUR AMAZING SKILLS! EVEN IF THE DOG DIES, THEY WILL THANK US IN THE END!
That’s all really a load of garbage.
Readers know what they want when they pick up a story–even more so when they pick up a romance novel. Sure, sometimes we can wow a reader with a story and make them fall in love, even if they got something they didn’t expect when they picked up our book. However, many readers are more satisfied when they pick up a book from a genre and have a general idea of what they are getting themselves into from the get go.
Readers–especially voracious readers–are often up for an adventure and to try new books–but they don’t like being surprised (in an unpleasant way) when they pick up a book in their favorite genre.
When a reader finds a romance novel they love, they tend to be very loyal to the author. One good romance novel can create a life-long customer. A reader will stick with a romance novelist until one or the other perishes. Creepy, but true. When a romance reader knows that a romance writer is dependable, they put them on their “automatic read” list. It’s a good place to hold for a writer–especially if they reach a lot of readers. Having an army of readers ready to hit “Buy Now” when your next offering drops is a career maker.
That’s nothing to sniff at, my friends.
Yet…writers still often turn their noses up when someone says: Romance Novel.
I get it. I really do. I write romance plots into a lot of my books, though I wouldn’t really say I’m a romance novelist. I think there is often too much conflict (and maybe death) in my books to qualify. I’d probably bristle if someone referred to me as such because romance is generally not the central focus of my stories.
Having said that, I’d LOVE to be someone’s favorite romance novelist. Sign your name in blood and join the cult, my minions!
However, I still see the writers’ side of things. The way they feel that romance is an overdone, trite, eyeroll worthy genre. It feels limiting to creativity if you look at it straight on. I mean…readers expect certain things from you and will burn you at the stake if you don’t deliver.
When you really look at the romance genre, though, you can see how freeing it is. Let me explain:
- The expectations are determined. There’s no guess work.
- You know how to resolve and end your book–happy endings for the leads!
- A writer knows what the central plot is before they type a single word.
- It’s easier to create a built in audience.
- A romance novel can be set in any place (even outer space or a fictional world) or any period of time.
Romance readers just want the feels and the squishy good vibes!
Following those guidelines, a writer can get as creative as they like. Two trans-men fall in love in outer space on a mission to colonize Mars? YAS, QUEEN! A preacher and a teacher time travel back to the Jurassic period and fall in love while trying to survive and find a way home? HELL, YEAH! Two men go do a paranormal investigation of a haunted mansion and fall in love when a spirit they summon tells them they are meant for each other? WHY. THE. FUCK. NOT?
In fact, statistics show that romance readers are leaning more towards paranormal, M/M, sci-fi, and horror stories lately. They’re always looking for something fresh, new, and exciting–yet has the comfort of familiarity.
Romance. They want the love and the happy ending for the main characters you’ve obviously made them fall in love with throughout the story.
A writer can find freedom and creativity in writing romance. They can stretch their muscles and try all kinds of crazy things. They can allow themselves to try writing gentler emotions and be vulnerable with their audience. Most importantly, they can just write.
Isn’t that what we all want to do in the first place?
Tremendous Love & Thanks,