It’s almost Valentine’s Day again. Not only it’s the perfect time to fall in love (again) but also the best time to read love stories. Do you read – and write – romance, do you?
Know the romance fiction market
The romance fiction market is a huge one: it is a class by itself in terms of volumes published, readership, and above all, sales.
According to the Romance Writers of America (RWA), romance fiction raked in $1.375 billion in sales in 2007, compared to the $650 million and $466 million generated by mystery genre and literary fiction, respectively.
In the same year, about 9,000 romance titles of diverse subgenres were published, including erotic, contemporary romance, historical romance, paranormal romance, romantic suspense, fantasy, romantic comedy, and inspirational romance.
For the information of many, both book sales and bookstore sales in the US peaked in 2007 and have fallen since.
In 2013, the RWA estimated that sales of romance novels generated $1.08 billion in sales, which was roughly one-fifth of all adult fiction sales, outselling science fiction and mystery.
In 2015, according to data from Nielsen BookScan, romance accounted for 34% of the US fiction market and nearly 20% of all e-book sales in the US, making it the most digitally driven literary genre. More than 44 million print books and 28 million e-books in the genre were sold in the same year.
46% of romance readers read at least one book per week. In comparison, the typical American read at least five books a year.
What do these numbers mean to an aspiring writer or novelist like you? What can you make out of them?
Romance fiction appeals to women
If you are writing in a genre that is anything but romance, you are missing out on fantastic opportunities that only romance fiction can give, which include the challenge to entertain the demographic that is hard to please when it comes to books – and love: women.
According to Nielsen Books & Consumer Tracker, 84% of romance book buyers are women, from which also come the finest writers of the genre as Nora Roberts, Julie Garwood, and Danielle Steele. However, it does not mean that men do not read romance novels or cannot write one. Does the name Nicholas Sparks ring a bell?
Immerse yourself in the genre before you write
It matters not whether you are a man or a woman. If you are going to write a romance novel, don’t think that it would be a walk in the park. It’s not a snap to write a romance novel, even for established authors. Romance does not follow a formula unlike detective thrillers or police procedurals, where a detective or cop sifts through clues to find a culprit and bring him to justice.
So, a piece of advice to any writer who plans to shift to romance: Don’t try to write romance novels unless you love reading them. You may claim to have enough “experience” in the love department but you cannot make use of them if you have not fully immersed yourself in the genre.
Read to gain a solid understanding of romance fiction and its techniques. By reading you will know how you would feel to write about getting intimate with someone from the opposite (or even same) sex, making love, and all that jazz. Reading romance novels will help you get clear on your personal understanding about romance (or love, in general) and eventually on your story structure.
Your actual romantic experiences and immersion in the genre will enable you to write effectively in varying styles and tones and above all, communicate effectively the nature of a romance story, especially the emotions involved.
Writing the romance novel
Your success in writing romance fiction lies in meeting the expectations of your readers. Do you know what she looks for in a romance novel?
Just like the avid reader of mystery thrillers, the romance reader looks for a particular reading experience. She expects something new with every book she has yet to read… something different from every novel she has read before. In other words, you must give her a reason or two to read your book.
For your romance novel to be successful, you should pay attention to the following elements:
A romance novel revolves around two people as they develop romantic love for each other and work together to build a relationship. Without two people to fall in love, there is no story.
Both the conflict and the climax of your novel should directly relate to the development of a romantic relationship between your two central characters, although you can also put in subplots that have nothing to do with the central characters’ romantic love.
Most romance novels focus on the relationship between a man and a woman. A romance between a human being and a non-human being (a beast, vampire, alien, etc.) is a popular storyline among writers of fantasy and paranormal romance. Now a romantic relationship can be between two men or two women. (LGBT romance is an increasingly popular niche.)
Though a romance novel revolves around the love story of one couple, the narrative can’t just rely on them or else the entire novel risks seeming too small, the characters too self-involved, and their world too limited. Why not put in an interesting bunch of supporting characters (best friends, old or current significant others, parents, bosses, siblings, etc.) that help make the couple’s romance possible – or impossible?
Create characters that your readers could easily relate to. The more unique and relatable your characters are, the more your romance novel will stand out and get readers hooked.
Point of view
After you have chosen your main characters, decide on a point of view. Is your story written from the perspective of a man who falls in love with the female or it is the other way around? Perhaps you prefer a third-person point of view, in which none of the characters narrate.
This is the element that sets your story apart from the rest; this determines whether your book is worth it.
The love story is the main plot and the development of a romantic relationship is the main focus. The characters may get attracted to each other right away; sometimes attraction develops in only one character and is not reciprocated but will develop at some point.
Your plot must serve up a problem that creates conflict and tension between the characters and threatens to keep them apart. Reading two people meeting for the first time in some place, getting to know each other, and going on dates do not get readers hooked. What does then?
It’s the conflict: That certain sequence of events that depict difficulties between the characters; the difficulties that threaten to keep them from getting together and finding happiness together.
Conflict arises because of the problems they face or the circumstance they are in, which causes tension between them. He’s an environmentalist while she’s a daughter of an oil tycoon; she has a small business that’s in competitions with his big conglomerate; he’s in debt and she’s in failing health; the possibilities for conflict and above all, resolution, are endless.
Conflicts in romance stories keep the readers’ attention. Readers love it when problems put pressure on them, which causes to bring out their good points and flaws. It is through conflicts that readers endear themselves to the characters, relate to their struggles, and root for them throughout the story.
Romance stories are stories of emotions. The critical thing about every incident in the romance novel is how the characters react to it and how they would express their feelings and emotions in a given situation.
Imagine how the characters would feel when they meet each other for the first time after many years. Picture the scene where she lays in the hospital bed, dying, and him crying at her side. How would she react if she learns he’s responsible for the death of her beloved brother?
How will you communicate the characters’ feelings and emotions through their dialogues and your narrative? What words will you use?
See that writing a romance novel is not a walk in the park and communicating feelings and emotions is not that simple, even for established writers.
If you want people to read your novels, write them the love story they will love: a story with characters that win hearts, who balance each other out and get on each other’s nerves, whose hurts and fears that show their human side. Have them fall in love, overcome their odds and obstacles, and live happily ever after, if that’s how you want to end your story.
Do you want to publish your romance novel? Let ReadersMagnet be of assistance. Talk with our marketing consultants today. Call 1-800-805-0762 or email us at [email protected].