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Romance is flourishing

20 June 2016

New Nielsen research gives a clear picture of who romance readers are. It's no surprise that 84% are female and only 16% male, but in 2015 53% of readers were in the 18-44 age range, considerably younger than might have been expected, and only 13% are over 65. Partly this is because romance publishers have moved with the times, creating new series and including more sexy stories for new audiences, and new publishers have also sprung up focusing on publishing romance.

Romance matters because no less than one-third of all fiction titles sold fall within the wide classification of ‘romance' and many writers from all over the world are writing for these readers, although the market is particularly strong in the UK and US. It's striking though that only 24% of romance titles are sold from in-store display, with the rest sold through tv, the web and email alerts.

MD of women's fiction publisher Choc Lit, Lyn Vernham, has said that through snobbery too many bricks and mortar booksellers are missing a trick by not selling romance titles: "A lot of bookshops are very passionate about their product and what they sell - but they sell what they read and they're probably unlikely to read women's fiction and that content. Therefore they're probably reluctant to sell it. But at the end of the day, they're giving Amazon such a huge advantage."
Choc Lit reckons that its readers "are also in the main, professional and with money to spend". Because of the strong pull of the genre, it's easy to reach an existing market through regular club-type mailings and the website, as the British firm Mills & Boon discovered many years ago. Now the biggest romance publisher, Harlequin, sells mainly to an ongoing market and new romance publishers have found that the internet provides a good way to build and retain a customer base.

All this is good news for romance writers and they are flourishing, as you can see from the large number of books sold, so both their authors' associations, the Romance Writers of America and the Romantic Novelists Association in the UK are also doing well - and offer good support for writers.

Writing Romance