Romance Goes Mainstream

By Sabrina Ricci

Romance has always been a popular genre. But recently, it seems that more and more romance novels written by women have been gaining mainstream recognition.

Between four and six romance novels written by women have made it to the top 10 New York Times bestseller lists for e-book fiction and combined print and e-book fiction every week during this past February, including Someone to Love by Addison Moore.

And as of March 1, two romance novels are in the top five of the paid Amazon Bestsellers in the Kindle Store list: Never Too Far by Abbi Glines at the number two spot and Wait for Me by Elisabeth Naughton at the number five spot. Naughton’s book has been on the top 100 list on Amazon for 44 days.

This trend could be due to a variety of reasons. First, younger women tend to read more than men. According to an infographic by publisher Random House, 63% of e-book readers and 59% of print book readers are women, and 60% of e-book readers and 53% of print book readers are under 45 years old.

Romance is also the third most popular genre for e-books, according to Random House. And, Hiptype released an infographic that shows books with a female protagonist are more likely to become a bestseller.

But there could be other reasons.

Tracy Brogan, author of the bestseller Crazy Little Thing, released in October 2012, and Highland Surrender, released December 2012, said she believes that the Kindle has been a boon for all writers, and for romance writers especially.

“I’ve made the Amazon bestseller list for both my contemporary and my historical books, and my books are available in print, digital and audio,” she said. “But the e-books have far outsold the print books. The ‘stigma’ of reading romance is waning, although there are still lots of people who think of them as ‘bodice-rippers,’ a term I loathe. But with an e-reader, no one knows what book you have so women are reading more romance!”

Elisabeth Naughton, who is also the author of thirteen romance novels, including her Firebrand series and Bound, the sixth book in her bestselling Eternal Guardians series, which came out at the end of March, said she thinks the reason more and more romance novels written by women are making it onto bestseller lists is because these authors are very driven.

“They have great business sense in addition to incredible writing talent,” she said. “I think in order to be successful today, you have to have a little of both.”

Addison Moore, author of nine young adult paranormal books in addition to Someone to Love, said that she’s not sure why more women romance writers are making it onto bestseller lists.

“Certainly there are successful men in this arena as well,” she said. “I’m guessing the sheer number of women writers in this field versus the men who write romance has a lot to do with it. Aside from statistics, a woman knows the depths and complexities of her gender at an intimate level, and that might play into the factor as well.”

Why Romance Writers Write

Moore said that she has always been a romance writer at heart.

“I don’t think I could ever pen a story that didn’t have strong romantic elements,” she said.

She said that romance novels have a universal appeal, and that for her, as both a reader and a writer, it provides one of the best escapes.

“Romance is essentially the nexus of what makes the world go around,” she said.

Brogan said she started writing romance because that’s the genre she usually reads.

“Historical romance is my favorite genre,” she said. “I love the sweeping sagas that transport me to another time.”

Naughton said she has been writing romance for ten years, and she writes romantic suspense, contemporary romance and paranormal romance. She said she started writing romance because she’s “a sucker for a happy ending.”

“Whenever I read a book that doesn’t end happily, I always change the ending in my head,” she said. “I also love reading about relationships—between two main characters, between them and their families, between them and their friends and the world around them. When I started writing, I instantly flocked to what I love to read most.”

What Romance Writers Read

Like many writers, Naughton said she does not have time to read as many books as she’d like, but she does read one to two books per month. She said she reads a lot of different types of romance novels.

“When I read romance I have to read outside the genre I’m writing in at the time,” she said. “When I’m writing my paranormals I read a lot of contemporaries and when I’m writing a romantic suspense or contemporary romance I love to read fantasy romance (i.e. The Princess Bride).”

Moore said that she reads about five to six books a month, and that reading is important to her.

“I really haven’t given up my reading to write,” she said. “I think you can and should do both as a writer.”

She said her favorite sub-genre of romance is contemporary, because it’s easy to pick up a book and know the rules of the world. She also likes books that are both funny and hot.

Brogan said that she reads at least one to three books per month. “The best way to improve as a writer is to read, read, read!” she said. “I learn something from every book, either things I admire, or things I might do differently.”

How Romance Writers Work

Maybe the real secret to why women writers of romance novels are rising to the top is that they never stop working.

Currently Naughton is working on the sequel to her bestselling contemporary romance, Wait For Me.

Brogan is hard at work on another book set in the same town as Crazy Little Thing, as well as a historical romance. Additionally, her next book, Hold On My Heart, will be published in June 2013.

And Moore is editing a point of view supplement book to her Celestra series, entitled Ethereal Knights, and writing Someone Like You, a follow up to Someone to Love, and Elysian, the final book in the Celestra series.

“I like to have at least one project to edit and one to write each day, so one serves as a palate cleanse from the other,” she said.


Sabrina Ricci is an author and co-founder of the startup, Write or Read, a subscription site for self-published e-books that provides metrics and insights to authors. She is currently at work on an enhanced series of e-books on how to create e-books, as well as a fantasy series about dinosaurs.

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