Publishing romance books is a $1 billion a year industry with sales reaching $1.36 billion dollars in 2009, according to sales information through Romance Writers of America.
In 2009, romance was the second top-performing category for the New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly lists. The movie tie-in category was number one.
I became intrigued about possibly writing romantic fiction a few years ago when I created a few short stories that went nowhere. To me, I wanted the challenge of creating romantic tension in the details. I immediately discovered men were in the absolute minority and on most publishing sites, I have found perhaps three or four men who have written romantic fiction compared to hundreds upon hundreds of women authors. However, I read some romance ranging from Debbie Macomber to Lora Leigh to discover the genre.
As I complete my first romance novel (don’t tell my guy friends!), I didn’t know how large an audience romantic fiction had until I came across the financials and the habits of readers.
There were 41 million romantic fiction readers in 1998. That number grew in 10 years to reach 74.8 million readers in 2008. People who purchase romantic fiction (90 percent are women) read quickly and are fiercely loyal to the authors they like. Most readers finish a novel within a week and over 91 percent will actively seek to buy another novel from an author they enjoy.
The majority of readers read novels at home and they like to hold a paperback novel in their hands, but the ebook format is beginning to soar even though it only accounted for 5.4 percent of all sales about two years ago.
In an article for Publisher’s Weekly, Gwenda Bond wrote that sales show it is “a recession-proof genre, romance is offering readers options that range from adventure with supernatural creatures to high drama in the Regency period to love against an Amish backdrop, and all at mass market price points.”
It seemed to me after reviewing many online publishers that romance writing consisted of mostly erotica and historical romance. But inspirational romance accounts for about $ 770 million of 2009 sales.
While the romance category is healthy and strong in the world of publishing fiction, readers are attracted because stories are well-written. Bond quoted Jennifer Enderlin, associate publisher for St. Martin’s Paperbacks, who says “romance is so competitive that the writers who get published are really good. Readers are so satisfied by the quality of the books, they come back for more. Readers crave plot, characters, and emotion–romance delivers that.”
There are numerous sub-genres of romantic fiction. Harlequin alone has 16 different categories ranging from African-America, erotic, inspirational, and historical. The diverse range of offerings can fit the imaginations of many different types of authors. While writing fiction is never easy, romance writers who pen a catchy first novel and then build an audience may find themselves on the way to a career filled with loyal readers.