In all of the classes, lectures, and bookish discussions I have participated in over the past year, the one thing that the experts seem to agree on is that romance novels aren’t going anywhere.
Romance readers are loyal. Forty-one percent of buyers of romance books have been reading the genre for twenty years or longer. Nearly half of romance readers (about forty-four percent) consider themselves to be frequent readers, meaning they read “quite a few romances.” And another thirty-one percent consider themselves to be avid readers, meaning they are “almost always reading a romance novel,” which isn’t too shabby.
Romance readers are easily identifiable. Ninety-one percent of people who buy romance novels are women. Let me repeat that, ninety-one percent. The romance reader is more than likely between the ages of thirty and fifty-four and thirty-nine percent have an income between $50,000 and $99,900. Now lest you think that all of these well off, middle-aged women are getting their rocks off because they’re single and lonely and need an escape, slightly more than half of these readers live with a significant other. (Not that this prevents them from becoming lonely or needing an escape. We’ve all been there.) And for whatever reason, U.S. romance readers are highly represented in the South.
In case you were wondering, I don’t read romance novels. It’s not as if I cringe at the sight of them or can’t see their, um, value, but there are simply too many books on my to-be-read shelf for me to start adding guilty pleasures to the list. So why, may you ask, did I decide to write an entire post dedicated to a genre I don’t, in fact, read?
Well, as I said, romance novels aren’t going anywhere, which leads aspiring writers everywhere to consider picking up pen names, lighting some candles, and getting in touch with their feminine side as they attempt to produce the next Fifty Shades. Or maybe that’s just me, because in a world where literary fiction isn’t exactly bringing in the big bucks, romance novels seem to be more stable.
If you’re a first-time romance novelist who gets published by, say, Avon (HarperCollins romance imprint), then you can expect to earn an advance anywhere from $17,400 to $8,000. To put that in perspective, authors of literary fiction can expect to make less than twenty percent of that advance range.
And many romance publishers, including Avon, practically give you an outline describing exactly what they’re looking for at that moment. So what is Avon looking for right now? “Romantic Suspense.” “Super sexy contemporaries.” “Trilogies—and beyond (If you have a series, we want to see it.)” Oh and “Historical Romance with a hook.”
If that wasn’t helpful enough, they go even further, actually feeding you ideas:
Now, I’m not saying that I hope writers everywhere will ditch their aspirations of writing the next Great American Novel, because, who are we kidding, I want to read that book. But, who knows? Taking a break from your own literary endeavors and attempting a romance novel could be a great way to flex writing muscles you don’t typically use and earn some money while doing it. If you’re successful, you might even be able to use the money to cut back on hours spent at your day job and focus on the novel you always dreamed of writing. (Unless, of course, writing romance novels is your dream. I’m not judging.)
So what do you say? We know our audience, and we know our publisher. We can even submit our manuscript online, without the need of an agent. Who’s with me? Let’s raise the stakes, conjure some men-in-uniform, and crank out some fabulously sexy stories. In other words, let’s pay off our student loans.