Why Romance Will Remain a Popular Genre
Romance: A Few Words from Our Love Birds
Romance is the antithesis to broke-ness. It is more powerful than anything and the majority of us have experienced its power. It is the power of love and it connects us all in some way. It is also catastrophic: causing envy, jealousy, strife and death. And this is just a small piece of why the romance genre continues to sell very well.
But let's hear from the writers of love themselves:
Pablo Nerudo, author of 100 Love Sonnets says, “I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close.”
In Josephine Angelini's Starcrossed: “I don’t care how hard being together is, nothing is worse than being apart.”
Pedro Calderon de la Barca proclaims: "When love is not madness, it is not love."
My First Literary, Romantic Experience
I used to read The Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley High, and anything by Christopher Pike. But before I was even thirteen, I would read Harlequin novels I found in my grandmother’s house. There was something about those stacks of paperbacks in her basket that made me crawl over and pluck them out, intrigued.
None of the women on the cover looked like me: they had raven dark hair or cascading auburn locks down their backs and sharp, light eyes and busty bodies. The men looked out of this world with their bronze skins, ropy arms and kept a tight lock on their damsels.
But who cares whose on the cover, the stories were too delicious to put down.
And my fondness for romance novels only grew.
Who is Reading Romance?
- Women make up 84% of romance buyers, men 16%
- Romance buyers are between ages 30 and 54
- Popular story type in print is contemporary romance
- Popular eBook downloads is erotica
- Friends to lovers and soul mate/fate are popular story tropes
Find out more romance reading statistics on RWA
Top Favorite Subgenre
What is your top favorite subgenre?
Who is Reading Romance and Why
If you peer at the statistics on your right, you will see the obvious conclusions: Women read more romance than men, although 16% of males do read romance and that is more than I ever imagined.
First, More women read romance because of media exposure and what we learn at home. Think for just a moment: we played dress up in our mother's shoes. Played with Barbie dolls. Pretended to be mommies and of course we have books and television to thank for exposing us to Bridezillas, My Wedding Story and other reality shows.
Second, Romance readers tend to be older. Like, 30s, 40s, and 50s. However, we do have younger readers who enjoy the genre as well(think of New Adult Romance and Young Adult).
Third, contemporary romance is extremely popular, getting 54% of readers for their print books. Contemporary is your modern day romances. Christian Romance has the least readers for both print and eBook in comparison with other categories.
Finally, the story types readers fall for are the friends to lovers and soul mate plot lines. I am not sure why these story types are so popular, because I am more into soul mate and hero plots(this is why I write those kinds of stories myself).
These are just my thoughts on RWA's findings of readers on romance.
The Story of Smut Fiction
Ever hear the saying: "She's reading that smut!"
Stories generally aimed at women that have a love story at its core but still include sexually explicit scenes is called smut.[Urban Dictionary]
Origin of the word is Middle High German for “stain”[Merriam-Webster Dictionary]
But it all means the same thing: sexually explicit books for women.
But is it all about sex, or being stained with lust?
We do have Amish fiction and Christian fiction romance that are not sexually explicit at all.
So Smut is just an awful word in my own opinion....unless you enjoy that sort of thing.
Erotica and Romance are Not Twins, Sorry
Why is erotica any different?
I will focus on erotica on another hub but for now just know that erotica is no different from literary pornography. Certainly the main characters may fall in love, (remember this genre is the most popular eBook download!) but it is mostly lust driven and many of today’s erotica feature BDSM, multiple partners, and some offer chilling shape-shifting animal bonding….the list goes on.
Romance is timeless. It is sweet. It is boy meets girl. It is so popular in fact, that we don’t mind seasoning our suspense novels, crime-action, young adult and middle grade books with it. In my opinion, what is a story without love?
Is There a Formula for Romance?
I am not sure who said romance novels are not steeped in reality. Most are! Here are the elements of a typical romance whether contemporary, historical, fantasy, etc.
As a reader of romance, here is the pattern I see in 98% of the romance novels I read:
- A quirky, dark, or comical moment brings two people together.
- Initial communication is not always positive-each character has some flaw and conflict
- Obstacles like nature, friends, family or other event try to separate the two.
- The characters eventually kiss and/or make love and this solidifies the relationship in a harmonious way(much different from erotica).
- The ending is typically happy unless built into a series.
Harlequin.com says, “there is no formula, only format”
What do you think?
A Possible Reason Why Romance Novels are Considered "Cheesy"
Any genre or subcategory that follows a predictable pattern will get scoffed at. At first we wanted vamps, now we want zombies and now even dystopian societies in literature are beginning to incite a yawn from me.
Romance is no different. We consider it formulaic, and boy gets girl is too traditional. The stories may begin to blend and look the same. How many ways can a story be written with romance as the key element?
However, other genres are remixed and praised for adding love. Remember the movie, Warm Bodies? It could have just been a regular “run away from the zombie” type movie, but romance involving a zombie? Now that was unique.
Vampire Diaries is popular because a human loves a vampire. It is not standard Dracula or Fright Night.
Even Christian Fiction is Dancing with Romance
One subgenre that borrows a lot from love and is the perfect blend for it, is Inspirational Romance. These are our Christian romances filled with Amish stories, suspense, crime, and literary. Sweet moments ripe for readers of romance.
I know I have made a bold claim that romance will remain the most read genre, but I challenge you to consider the books you read and the movies you watch. Is romance absent from them at all? If it is, it is probably infinitesimal compared to other media works out there.
Do You Read Romance?
Do Read Romance Novels?
What Lies Ahead for This Genre
After my spiel about romantic books, I am quite sure you wouldn't trade your favorite genre for romance. And that is quite alright, each genre has something special to offer and according to Nielsen's findings, many romance readers read other kinds of books as well. For instance, I am an action chic. I love action movies and paranormal fiction.
It really helps that subcategories such as mystery, suspense, crime, and action have crossed over to the romance genre.
Yes, I am very happy indeed.