Give It Up For Romance

Romance writers have to be feeling pretty smug about now. During this recession, sales of just about every genre of fiction and nonfiction suffered except for romance.

The NYT reported several weeks past that "sales of romance novels are outstripping most other categories of books...." Further, they said that Harlequin Enterprises reported 4th quarter earnings that were up 32% over the same time period last year.

We romance writers and readers have always known that romance fiction is the best entertainment at a price point that's affordable regardless of the economy. Today's romance fiction is well-written with good characterization, good plotting, and features the kind of committed relationships most of the civilized world wants.

Oldest, Shortest Formula For Novel

A lot of critics of romance fiction (who usually have never read an actual romance novel) say that romance writing is formulaic. I guess they're correct in that the oldest formula in the world for a novel, any novel, is: an appealing character struggles against great odds to achieve a worthy goal. Romance writers hit that "formula" the way the Babe, Hammerin' Hank, or Barry Bonds applied wood to a fast ball.

Takeaway Truth

Popular fiction may be denigrated by the few, but, fortunately, it's appreciated by the millions. I write it. I read it. I adore it.


  1. What's the demographic of the romance reader? Doesn't it skew towards retired women and paperback buyers?

    There's no arguing your proposition that a good novel is an excellent entertainment value, but I wonder if there might be a couple of other factors involved here.

    One is that the recession has hit working people a lot harder than retirees. If you live off Social Security, you don't fear layoffs, and you continue to spend.

    The other is the Kindle factor. Those who are heavy purchasers of new hardbacks are more inclined to pop for a Kindle (or competitor) in order to get new books for $10 instead of $40.

    With paperbacks, you don't save nearly as much. Additionally, retirees are notoriously slow to adopt new technology, probably because of a lifetime of getting burnt by adopting new technologies. (I greeted Windows 7 by replacing my old Win XP computer with a Vista box.)

    So has the Lifetime Movie Network experienced similar gains in viewership, relative to other cable channels? It's free to switch channels, and there's no new technology involved, so that would be a measure of the Romance story isolated from those other factors.

    It seems to me that if you have characters that readers want to welcome into their homes, an interesting world for them to live in, and a compelling plot, that's 90% of what you need for a winner whether it's a romance, a mystery, a western, a thriller, a science fiction story, or any other genre.

    Of course, every programmer will remind you that half your work lies ahead of you once a project is 90% complete....

    In any case, I hope you're having trouble figuring out how to spend those extra royalty pennies that are now rolling in!

  2. Harl, I'll post something on romance reader stats in the next day or two.

    I'm woefully behind on just about everything this week due to doctor and hospital trips for my daughter.

    Best regards,