The Romance Genre 1/4: More Than a Romantic Story

This series of four posts is for my romance writing students at Bellevue College and people who are interested in learning more about the romance publishing industry. Starting from today and for the next three days I will release each day a post that explores the genre, history, industry, and development of the romantic genre over the years and its potential future. My hope is that you will find the information I bring here interesting and useful.

Why the Romance Genre is So Popular

Romance is a literary genre that focuses on the romantic relationship between two people. The romantic stories are optimistic and always end happily with a declaration of love and/or marriage proposal. It is described as escapist fiction for women, though some men also read it. This genre is very popular among female readers and a very profitable publishing industry.  

Why romances are so popular? The romance novel is more than just a story. It is a key ingredient in women’s sexual health. The famous OBGYN and author Dr. Christiane Northrup has been claiming for years that romance novels are for woman what Viagra is for men. Recently the two neuroscientists Dr. Ogi Ogas and Dr. Sai Gaddam confirmed her claim in their book A Billion Wicked Thoughts, where they dedicated a whole chapter to explain the reasons for it.

The current scientific evidence shows that there is a difference between how the genders experience lust. While men easily react to visual sexual stimulus, it is more complicated with women. In various tests, researches found out that Women’s physiological reaction to visual sexual stimulus was similar to men’s, but cognitively women reported lack of reaction. Scientists suspect that the woman’s brain blocks her from becoming aware of lust to protect her from undesired consequences, like pregnancy to a man who will not care for their offspring. They conclude that because of evolution women need to have cognitive approval for the safety of a sexual encounter before their mind becomes aware of lust and desire.Some suspect that the difference is due to social conditioning.

Reading romance novels allows many women to experience lust in a very safe way. There are no undesired physiological consequences and the intriguing love stories allow even the most careful mind to relax and give in to the fantasy of lust. Reading romantic stories is a great way to boost a woman's libido. It’s safe and has no dangerous side affects.

More articles on the subject:

Some statistics on the genre:

·      Estimated annual sales of romance novels in 2013: $1.08 billion
·      Romance unit share of adult fiction: 13%
·      Purchased formats of romance (Q1 2014): E-books: 39%, Mass-market paperback:32%,  Trade paperback: 18%, Hardcover: 9%, Audio: 1%, Other: 1%
·      Readership by gender: Female 84%, Male 16%
·      Largest readership by age: 30-54 years old (41%)
·      Gender of romance book buyers: Female: 84%, Male: 16%
·       Major age group of the romance book buyers: 30–54 years old (41%)

Information Source:

Commercial Romance Vs. Literary Romance

Romantic stories can be divided into two major genres: Commercial Romance and Literary romance. They each have different markets/readers and require a different approach and treatment. I will write more on that in my third and fourth articles in this series. In the next post I will explain the history of romance publishing and share some publishing information and links.

If you live in the Seattle area and are interested in romance writing check out my romance writing classes at Bellevue College: