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Forget Novels, think NOVELLAS!

in search of romance



ROMANCE will never die in literature, and yes, its bigger than ever in way of marketing. But a note of caution from one passionate reader, if looking for a great woman’s romance fiction, something that has adventure, humour and romance all tied up in one, don’t consider looking under the title of novel. You need to be searching and researching the Novellas!

As a woman over the age of 40, I am not looking to read about a girl setting out on a string of dates with acne faced boys-in-nappies…I want excitement, I want that gutsy, raunchy full-of-life, edge of your seat fiction! Don’t give me clichés, or simple analogies, I want to be kept guessing to the very end, and I want some sauce and spice in the romance, it has to keep me intrigued!
Take me out of the office, and into the wild open spaces-I want travel on the high-seas, just like Now Voyager, but with some pizzazz! An element of constant danger looming but always protected by some gorgeous hunk who is a cross between Michael Douglas [Romancing the Stone], Sean Connery [James Bond days] and some cute and quirky sex-appeal from a swashbuckling pirate, just like Johhny Depp! A story I will remember for years to come, one that I’ll want to share with other like-minded readers that rejoice in every love-scene and crumble through each heartache… But where do I look for such stories and are they still available?? I intend to find out!

Meanwhile, we explore the good news that women’s fiction romance, is alive and kicking!
We just need to figure out who is reading what and where!
So while you digest the statistics which happily remind us how well this genre is selling, I am off in search of my own mystery. I am looking for that novella that has everything a woman my age wants to be reading. Wish me luck!

Romances are the modern provider of our ancient myths and legends, making their role an important one indeed. Look at such classics as Alexander the Great, novels like The story of Joseph and Aseneth, which tells of the love and religious conversion of the Egyptian spouse of Joseph, but looking for an adventure romance, look no further than Angels Fall by Nora Roberts. This modern day romance/adventure is one of many I have noticed rising from the ashes of this ever popular genre .We have the haunting romantic thriller by Kay Hooper, Sleeping with Fear, Darlene Marshall’s, Pirate Price which is supposedly a great high-sea adventure romance!

The publishers of romances still provide the most accessible market for a new novelist. Not that this translates as easy; far from it. Above all, your book must be a great read that keeps the editor turning pages. Every editor says they’re looking for a terrific book. Although different editors have different definitions of what this means, the book must first excite you, before it can appeal to anyone else.

More than half of all mass market paper editions are romance novels, being the most popular of several genres. Harlequin can issue around five hundred title each year, so that has to be saying something. It is obviously why it is the largest and most visible publisher. More than 50 million women in North America read romances. Barbara Cartland, the British queen of the genre, has published over six hundred romance novels in 36 languages. One librarian found that romance paperbacks circulate three times more than westerns, two-and-a-half times more than science fiction and fantasy paperbacks, and three times more than mystery paperbacks.
And again:

The following statistical data come from a report made available by the Romance Writers of America.
About 18 percent of all books sold are romances. They account for about 54 percent of all popular paperback fiction sold and 38 percent of all popular fiction sold. In contrast, mystery represents 26 percent of popular fiction sales and Sci-Fi/fantasy is about 8 percent. Harlequin’s various imprints account for more than half of all romance novels published.

Scouring my own dusty archives of previous Romance Writers Reports and Romance Writers of America industry statistics, it is clear the romance genre is a staple of women’s fiction. The romance market is serious business, producing serious revenues, by serious women. Women’s fiction, however — like the women who read it — has evolved to include subjects and themes that range far beyond romance.
In contemporary fiction, it is the women’s novels that are in this growing market and that also included other genres. Senior editor for Harper Collins said: “Women’s Fiction can be commercial (and usually is) or literary; it can be here-and-now contemporary or a multigenerational saga, like Rosamund Pilcher’s books. The woman is the star of the story and her changes and emotional development are the subject.”

These were statistics relevant to the United States of America, but clearly, it is seen as a universal following.
From the Romance Writers of America comes this report:
The overall decline in the publishing industry was not evident in romance fiction, as sales remained steady in 2006 with $1.37 billion in estimated revenue and approximately 6,400 new titles published. Romance fiction was a strong seller—overcome only by the religion/inspirational category.

  • Romance: $1.37 billion
  • Religion/inspirational: $1.68 billion
  • Science fiction/fantasy: $495 million
  • Classic literary fiction: $448 million
  • Mystery: $422 million
  • Graphic novels: $128 million
  • It is also said that Romance titles have done especially well in the electronic book format,.

Nearly 57 percent of romance readers are married and 23 percent are single. Nineteen percent are between the ages of 45 and 54. Fourteen percent are between 25 and 35, 13 percent are between 65 and 74, and 12 percent are between 55 and 54 years of age.
Nearly a third of romance readers are high school graduates and 28 percent are college graduates. About 25 percent are vocational/trade school graduates and nine percent have post graduate degrees.
Sixty percent of romance readers live in towns of 50,000 people or less.
About 41 percent of romance readers are not employed outside the home. Thirty-nine percent are employed full-time and 16 part-time. Thirty-two percent of romance readers are white collar employees and 24 percent are in service positions. Another 22 percent are in administrative support positions and 10 percent are business owners or managers.

Most romance fiction readers are between 31 and 40 years of age. Many of these read five books per month. Contrary to popular belief, Harlequin surveys find that most romance fiction readers attended or graduated from college and more than half work outside the home. “The image of the dissatisfied housewife devouring romance novels is not and has never been true of the majority of the genre’s readership.”
As the population ages, romance readers age as well. There is more interest in stories involving older women.
1. A heroine (who is the main character) and a hero
2. A critical situation
3. Plenty of conflict
4. Romantic encounters
5. A resolution to the critical situation (and, thus, the conflict)
6. A happy ending in which the reader can truly believe the hero and heroine will love. each other forever

Mainstream romance:
These novels are also known as single titles, which is an accurate description of how they’re perceived and sold. Each book stands alone and fits its own individual vision, though that vision often identifies the book as belonging to a subgenre like romantic suspense, western, or Regency. A single title has unique packaging and is placed on the bookracks separately, usually in alphabetical order by the author’s last name. Single titles almost always have larger page counts — sometimes substantially so — than series books, which allow them to have more complex plotting and a bigger cast of characters.

Beyond the basic distinctions listed above, the romance genre is also divided into all kinds of more specific sub-genres. Sub-genres can include romantic suspense, inspirational, adventure, western, romantic and comedy.
It is really not so surprising that these books are popular. You’re guaranteed a “happily-ever-after” once you reach the end of the book, and isn’t that just what we all want?

The romance genre of fiction has always had a strong following, with plenty of romance authors consistent in their work and readers. We are loyal to those we like!
Due to the genre’s popularity, particularly among women, it’s becoming increasingly easier to join a romance book group. With the assistance of cyber-space, we no longer need to leave our home to join one.

Article by Debbie Stevens
Courtesy of Writing Edge Magazine 2008

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NOTE:links were active at time of original publication