Most popular fiction genre? Romance books

Interesting facts about romance books

From forbidden romances, to daring love stories that fight the odds, to sweet and innocent first kisses, romance books continually top the New York Times bestselling list.

The romance genre is not only the bestselling book genre, it’s also a billion-dollar industry. Romance book sales total more than a billion dollars a year, which is as much as sci-fi, mystery, and fantasy sales combined.

Contrary to common assumptions, the romance readership is huge and varied. According to the Romance Writers of America, men make up 16% of romance readership. That’s a significant number when more than 70 million people in the U.S. alone read at least one romance book a year.

Why books about love have lasted

At its core, romance books are centered around the theme of love or romantic relationships. The romance genre has expanded since the 1970s and 1980s when most romance books only featured shirtless Fabio covers and contained mostly erotica.

Romance writers have expanded the spectrum. From classics like Romeo and Juliet to Fifty Shades of Grey and everything in between, there is a subgenre for everyone. Contemporary romance, historical romance, paranormal romance, and romantic suspense are just a few. There is also a growing subgenre of LGBTQ+ love stories in the market. Romance novels are often optimistic and provide escapism.

Finally, the romance genre is not only pushing genre boundaries, but technological boundaries as well. As one of the first genres to adapt to the revolutionary e-book format and the most popular genre for self-publishing, romance writers have used technology and social media to their advantage. In 2014, romance books made up almost 40% of digital book sales.

Interested in learning more about the romance community? Check out the documentary Love Between the Covers. This documentary takes a look at the readers and writers of the romance fiction industry.

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Writing romance books and why romance tropes work

Aside from simply adoring a good love story, many romance novelists deliberately and masterfully implement tropes. A trope is usually a plot device that is so commonly used in writing fiction that it’s seen as conventional.

While there is often a negative association with tropes, with the romance genre, they help readers recognize familiar plot elements. This way, they are quickly immersed in the story.

If you’re thinking of writing a romance novel, try some of these common but lovable tropes in romance as a starting point:

  1. Love triangles: creates tension and gives readers different characters to root for
  2. Friends to lovers: friendships give the characters a chance to grow together and bond before introducing romantic or physical attraction
  3. Enemies to lovers: first made popular by Pride and Prejudice, this creates angst and tension as two characters overcome their differences when they fall for each other
  4. Forbidden love: from Romeo and Juliet to Twilight, when two characters aren’t allowed to have feelings for each other but do anyway, this creates tension, plot conflict, and interesting character development
  5. Fake relationship: In many “fake relationship” stories that eventually turn into real love, the characters realize their feelings for each other over the course of the book
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While sad and complicated books have a place in the book industry, the romance genre is here primarily for enjoyment. It gives value to the romantic experiences, lives, and desires people deal with every day.

Will you be reading any romance books for Valentine’s Day? What are some of your favorite love stories?

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