Romance Sells

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I finally made the time to watch Love Between the Covers, a “feature-length documentary film about the little-known, surprisingly powerful community of women who read and write romance novels.” In a fast-paced eighty-five minutes, director and producer Laurie Kahn gives the audience a fascinating peek inside the publishing world devoted to figurative affairs of the heart.

The romance book market is huge. According to the Romance Writers of America website, 2013 sales in this genre surpassed $1 billion with thirty-nine percent of sales in the form of e-books and mass-market paperbacks accounting for thirty-two percent. Quartz reporter Thu-Huong Ha, author of “Maverick women writers are upending the book industry and selling millions in the process,” describes word-hungry consumers who might buy a handful of romance books each week compared to a typical reader who buys a dozen books in a year. In 2014, 30.89 million romance books from traditional publishers were sold, putting love stories right behind general fiction with 33.52 million books sold.

In 2015, the Nielsen Company profiled romance book fans as avid readers with steady buying habits and hailing in large numbers from the South and Mid-West regions. Elsewhere in “Literary Liaisons: Who’s Reading Romance Books?“, the point was made that mostly female readers between the ages of thirty to fifty-four or slightly younger used word of mouth recommendations to guide their acquisitions. The takeaway is that smart authors will engage fans via social media since Amazon ratings and insights from book bloggers influence sales.

It’s no surprise that the potential for big profits is like literary catnip for authors with a good imagination, willingness to produce and a recognition that this market segment is growing at a fast clip with no end in sight. In “The Lure of Romance Writing (and Earnings) for the Literary Set,” one of my favorite publishing experts Jane Friedman chronicles the developments of this genre and ways to get ahead.

From what I can tell, it’s not just the pursuit of money that sustains romance novelists. In Love Between the Covers, interviewees seem genuinely keen to create strong protagonists as role models for their readers and extend a helping hand to other romantics. I’ll know more about this warm and fuzzy zeitgeist after I attend my first romance writing conference in September. I registered at the strong suggestion of an author friend who couldn’t say enough about the generous spirit of men and women she met at Romance Writers of America events.

Until then, “Viva l’amore…”