Each year romantic fiction generates about $1.3 billion and releases about 6,400 titles—that is more than 17 books per day! More than a quarter of all books sold (26.5%) are romance. As the highest imprint genre, there are more opportunities within romantic fiction than any other for the paper writer.
What is Romantic Fiction?
Romantic fiction used to be limited to half-naked men and corset-popping women sprawled across the covers of short, smutty novels. Now the romance literature industry has broadened to include a wide range of topics and writing styles. Today’s romance novels are set in any time: historical, contemporary, futuristic or pure fantasy. They can be light and funny, or dark and serious. The main subgenres include:
- Inspirational (stories of faith)
- Young adult
- Novels with strong romantic elements (where the dominant storyline is other than romance)
Not all romance novels are created equal though. Writers for Harlequin’s imprints typically earn a one-time flat fee for their submissions. Single title books (the most common novel at the local bookstore) typically earn an advance plus royalties which does not amount to a lot of money for a new writer. The more well-known the writer, the more zeroes on each pay check.
Size Matters: Erotica Writers Earn Top Dollar
These days, it is the writers of erotic romance fiction who earn the impressive incomes.
In a recent presentation Raelene Gorlinsky, Publisher for Ellora’s Cave Publishing Inc., said that online erotica is where the money is right now. Gorlinsky also manages Cerridwen Press, the company’s imprint that publishes more mainstream fiction such as suspense, women’s fiction, fantasy, etc.
Online erotica writers can earn enough to support themselves—and their families. A few will even surpass the $100K income. According to Gorlinsky, the mainstream writers though tend to earn about ten percent of their erotic writer counterparts’ income.
Romance (including erotica) represents 39.3% of all fiction sold, and 54.9% of all popular mass-market fiction sold. Of everyone who read books last year, one in five read a romance novel. While most readers are women, nearly a quarter is now men. Contrary to the popular misconception that readers of romance are ill-educated, almost half of the romance readership has at least a bachelor’s degree.
What does this mean for new writers?
Romance publishes more titles per year than any other genre. This means that new writers are always welcomed. The catch? Contrary to popular belief almost half the romance readership has at least a bachelor’s degree and thus has high expectations of fiction. This means publishers also have high expectations. Top editors receive thousands of submissions per week. They can afford to be discerning in what they publish. The stories need to fit their submission guidelines, be well written and have strong characters and have a captivating storyline. That includes erotica submissions.