Who is Reading Romance?
Romance is, by far, the most common genre and commands a
$1.44 Billion (that's with a B) dollar piece of the book market. Over a third
of all fiction books marketed to
adults are in the Romance genre, according to a 2015 Neilson Bookscan. Romance
is the easiest genre to break into as the target demographic is composed of
voracious readers, generally consuming five or more books a week. The top
sub-category is Romantic Suspense, followed closely by Erotica, then Historic.
Additionally, one third of these readers are so hungry for new material they
have purposefully sought out new authors within the past six months. This is
the easiest genre for new authors to make a name for themselves in.
82% of Romance readers are female, no surprise there, but
18% are men, and with an 18% share of a pie slice that big, it becomes a
significant market-to be specific a market of men paying $259 Million dollars a
year to read Romance. Now, that's an assumption based on the raw numbers,
there's no data on how voracious the average male romance reader is, but even
if those 18% of Romance readers are only spending 1% of the money, it's still
$1.44 Million dollars, and the truth is likely somewhere in the middle. So don't
say male Romance readers don't exist-they may not advertise because of the
social stigma, but they're there and they're spending cash to get their hands
on the books.
The highest age percentage of readers are in the 25-34 age
bracket and the most frequent readers are all below 34 years of age. However,
the sheer number of women reading romance above this age puts the average
Romance reader between 35-39 years of age. 95% of Romance Readers describe
themselves as straight or bisexual, and for ethnicity the numbers break down to
73% Caucasian, 12% African American, 7% Hispanic or Latino, and 4% Asian
American. This is a pretty close match to the overall demographics of the
United States general population, so understand that Romance readers are a
diverse group. Only 2% of romance readers identify as gay or lesbian, again
reflective of overall population demographics, and there is a corresponding
lack of lesbian romance stories available. Interestingly enough, however, gay
romance written by women for women is one of the fastest growing segments of
the Romance genre, with writers just scrambling to keep up with demand.
What do Romance Readers Expect?
Romance novels typically are found in the 71,000 - 109,000
word count range and feature a focus on the emotional journey between two or
more main characters. Generally they are written from either the heroin's point
of view or from both the hero and heroin's points of view in an alternating
format. Books written entirely from the male perspective can be quite popular,
and it won't hurt your story to write it this way, but readers will expect to
be told about it ahead of time.
The Romance genre demands a Happily Ever After ending or a
Happy for Now ending and readers typically expect to be warned before
purchasing if infidelity or cheating is part of the story. Not disclosing this
in the description of the book will likely earn you bad reviews from readers
who prefer to avoid those plotlines.
Readers expect to be given a general 'heat level' of the
book in the description before purchasing. A 'high heat' or 'scorching' romance
will feature full-fledged graphic erotica while something defined as a 'Young
Adult' or 'Sweet and Innocent' can allude to sex having occurred, will
certainly show a great deal of sexual tension, but never shows more than kissing
"on screen." In the middle you have "Moderate Heat" or "Sensual," where the
lead-up and foreplay can be shown but the story stops short of describing
actual penetrative or oral sex.
Younger Romance readers, the most frequent readers in this
genre, prefer erotic and paranormal Romance books, while older consumers prefer
contemporary stories in all heat levels. If you're self-publishing, you'll want
to know that 92% of Romance readers buy physical books while 64% buy ebooks.
There's significant overlap but in this genre it may be worth the extra expense
and effort to make your novel available in both formats.
How do I Appeal to My Target Audience in Romance?
Once you've decided that you've written a Romance and have
identified your target demographic, you can get to making your book most
attractive to the readers most likely to but it.
The book cover is the biggest piece of the puzzle in this.
For every book you publish you will need to thoroughly research key words,
categories and write a kick-ass description, but your cover and where you
advertise is where you can really take advantage of the differences between
demographics. Younger readers spend a lot of time on Twitter, so you should
too. Older readers are more likely to see something on Facebook and will place
more value on word-of-mouth, or reviews, so you should concentrate on procuring
a large number of Advanced Copy reviewers if you've written a contemporary
For the cover, the younger your audience the more elaborate
the cover must be. This is true across all genres aside from Literary Fiction. If
you've written a fantasy shifter paranormal Romance, you will want to hire a
talented graphics designer who can make you something beautiful and
eye-catching that can compete with the other covers in this high-expectations demographic.
High-heat books often feature shirtless men on the cover and this is an easy
way to communicate to your readers that this is the type of story they're
searching for. Contemporary low-heat romances will generally have simpler
covers, typically featuring a picture of a woman turned away from the camera or
a couple almost kissing-think anything by Nicholas Sparks.