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Writing the Romance Novel: Who Reads Romances?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I mentioned in the first post the stigma that reading and writing romance has. If you’ve been a reader or writer of the genre for any length of time, you know what I was talking about from first-hand experience.

But who is reading romance novels? Let’s look at some statistics, courtesy of the Romance Writers of America’s website:

Romance Sales
Romance fiction generated $1.37 billion in sales in 2006.
Approximately 6,400 romance titles were released in 2006.

Market Share of Romance Fiction
Romance fiction outsold every market category in 2006, with the exception of religion/inspirational.
26.4% of all books sold are romance.

Romance Market Share Compared to Other Genres
(source: Simba Information estimates)
Romance fiction: $1.37 billion in estimated revenue for 2006
Religion/inspirational: $1.68 billion
Science fiction/fantasy: $495 million
Classic literary fiction: $448 million
Mystery: $422 million
Graphic novels: $128 million
Of those who read books last year, one in five read romance novels. (AP-Ipsos Poll)

As you can see, the only category of fiction that outperformed romance is religious publishing (fiction and nonfiction), which includes inspirational/Christian romance. What a bonus for those of us who are writing inspirational romances! (For a more detailed romance subgenre breakdown, along with annual updates, click the RWA link above.)

Who are these “one in five” people reading romance novels? According to RWA’s statistics:

  • Readers break down geographically in the U.S.: Southeast (29%), Western (27%), Midwest (26%), Northeast (12.6%)
  • More women (78%) than men (22%). The number of men reading novels categorized as “romance” genre increased from 7% in 2002.
  • Married women make up 50% of readers, while 37% are single.
  • There’s a pretty wide age range for readership: 41% are between the ages of 25–44; 29% between the ages of 45–64; 15% between the ages of 14–24
  • Here’s the statistic that usually surprises people: 42% of people who read romance novels have a bachelor’s degree or higher; 15% have post graduate work or a degree; 23% have high school diplomas

So that’s for whom we’re writing.

Next week, we’re going to start getting into the nitty-gritty of the nuts-and-bolts of how to write a romance novel—from characters to conflicts to structure to endings. And I’m lining up some fun and surprising guest columnists too!

  1. Caleb permalink
    Thursday, April 17, 2008 5:42 pm

    5% is missing from those statistics in the geographical breakdown. So the other 5% of America that reads books are in Alaska and Hawaii? Those two barely populated states read half as much by themselves as the entire Northeast?! The same Northeast that houses metropolitan powerhouses like New York City and Philadelphia?

    That seems unlikely. Does that those 5% simply do not exist? That’s defying the rules of basic math!

    What the heck did these figures do with 1/20th of the romance novel reading population? I’m assuming they kill them. Which makes me glad I don’t read them and means you should be even MORE appreciative when I pick up a copy of yours next year to fulfill my duties as a good cousin. Apparently, I’m putting my life at risk, and I don’t usually play games with a 1 in 20 chance of ceasing to exist.


  2. Thursday, April 17, 2008 8:25 pm

    I know which 5% I’m starting with . . . 🙂


  3. Thursday, April 17, 2008 9:21 pm

    26% of all books sold is a ton of books. Yay for romance 🙂


  4. Saturday, April 19, 2008 8:55 am

    I’m with Caleb. I like percentages to add up to 100%, but that’s just the mathie in me. There’s definitely a piece of thepie missing in those stats. I suspect they’re the “I don’t know & don’t care” participants in the study.

    Looking forward to the nitty-gritty next week, Kaye!




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