The Romance Fiction industry

As one of the very first genres in fiction – heck, the Brontës were publishing 40 years before Sherlock Holmes pounded the London streets of Arthur Conan Doyle’s imagination – romantic fiction has always held a particular place in the hearts of … publishers.

The truth is that romantic novels have always been moneymakers, always exploitable by those in the industry less talented than the writers. So it has gone from an 18th-century France where public outcry kept the presses cranking out copies to the 19th-century England of may a female writer getting respect through the only genre thought acceptable for ladies to the modern day in which romance novels are cranked out ever quicker thanks to the science of marketing over the art of literature.

The point: Romantic fiction brings in the bucks. Also, pounds, euros, yen and everything else in countries where state censorship allows. Just how much money is absolutely stunning. Read on to find out just how popular this genre really is…

•  Prior to the mass expansion of e-books and audiobooks in 2005, romance novels comprised a 26.4% share of the book market and 50% of all mass-market paperbacks.

•  The worldwide romance fiction market was valued at $1.27 billion in 2005; $1.36 billion in ’09; and $1.5 billion in ’14. These numbers are consistently greater than the third- and fourth-most lucrative genres of fiction, mystery and science-fiction/fantasy.

•  The romance novel market is wide enough to encompass several subgenres within the genre. In 2014, an estimated 22% of romance novels published could also be categorized as suspense. Other genres mixing it up in the romantic sphere include historical fiction (in some 15% of novels), erotica (14%) and fantasy/science-fiction (7%).

•  The prolificity of suspense/romance novels is reflected in their popularity – or perhaps it’s the other way ’round. Either way, over half of regular romance-novel readers read books in the suspense subgenre.

•  A Nielsen Research study of 2014 showed that 70% of American readers discover romance novels between the ages of 11 (!) and 18. This implies that, despite popular belief, a lot of reading-in-secret still goes on in the U.S.A…

•  A study undertaken on behalf of The Romance Writers of America in 2017 proffered some eye-opening, stereotype-busting statistics, each more interesting than the last. For example: 45% of regular romance novel readers in the ’States have a college degree; 18% are male; and 14% identify as other than heterosexual/straight, but just 2% identify as homosexual.

•  More pragmatically, the RWA study also indicated that the average reader is between 35 and 39 years of age.

•  Reflecting the romance novel’s adaptability to the changing reading market of the 2010s, in 2017 some 92% of those surveyed still read books via, well, book. 64% read e-books, 35% play audiobooks.