Skip to main content

Romancing the Publishing Industry

Why romance is hotter than ever—and what you need to know to make it in the genre today. by Brenda Novak

It never fails. Every time a news program—even one as widely viewed as the “Today” show—covers any aspect of the romance genre, the producers cue some corny music and the anchors snicker through the segment. This always surprises me. Perhaps my expectations are too high, but I tend to believe that the people who deliver our news should know better than to perpetuate such dated stereotypes. According to the most recent Business of Consumer Book Publishers, 74.8 million people read at least one romance in 2008—and that figure has nearly doubled in the past decade. With numbers that large, these news programs are making fun of their own audiences.

In spite of—or, some might argue, because of—the economic downturn, romance is thriving even as consumers cut back on spending. In recent years, it’s been the top-performing category on the New York Times,
USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists. Although 2009 figures were not available at press time, in 2008, romance fiction created an estimated $1.37 billion in revenue, compared with $800 million for religion/inspirational, $668 million for mystery, $551 million for science fiction/fantasy and $446 million for literary fiction. Last year’s numbers are expected to be similar. And as recently reported in The Washington Post, Time magazine and other sources, Harlequin, the biggest publisher of romance worldwide, boasted steadily growing profits in 2008 and 2009, even as much of the industry floundered in the weakened economy.

Clearly, this often maligned genre has something to offer. For writers, that’s opportunity. All told, nearly 7,500 romance novels are released each year. And the potential for crossover to mainstream appeal is evidenced by the success of writers like Nora Roberts, Janet Evanovich, Debbie Macomber, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jayne Ann Krentz, Sandra Brown, Tami Hoag, Iris Johansen and Linda Howard.

Bodice-rippers are a thing of the past, and it’s only a matter of time before the stereotypes about people who read—and write—romance novels will go the same way.

Here's how to make your make your romance novels reasonate with agents (and readers):


Finally, writers hoping to make it in today’s market need to bring a high level of commitment and consistency to their work. Plan to be prolific. “I think more and more writers need to be able to deliver two books (at least) a year to be able to build reader recognition and establish a name,” says Shauna Summers, a senior editor at Random House who has worked with such popular authors as Suzanne Brockmann, Karen Marie Moning, Mary Balogh and Laurell K. Hamilton. “Beyond that, success in this business is a magical blend of voice, storytelling and luck working together at the right time and in the right way.”

The competition in every publishing realm is fierce, and it’s no different in romance. It’s not easy to break in, or even to remain published. The story and the writing have to be unique and top-notch. But for writers who are passionate about the genre, there are incredible opportunities in this increasingly popular segment of publishing—and you may just find your very own happily ever after.

Want to write better romance scenes and develop stronger characters? Consider:
On Writing Romance

Image placeholder title

Become a WD VIP and Save 10%:
Get a 1-year pass to, a 1-year subscription to Writer's Digest magazine and 10% off all orders! Click here to join.

Also check out these items from the Writer's Digest's collection:
Writer's Digest You Can Write A Romanceindustry
Writer's Digest No More Rejections
Writer's Digest The Wealthy Writer
Writer's Digest The Craft & Business Of Writing
Writer's Digest Weekly Planner

Writer's Digest How to Land a Literary Agent (On-Demand Webinar)
Writer's Digest Magazine One-Year Subscription
Writer's Digest 10 Years of Writer's Digest on CD: 2000-2009

Writer's Digest Interview | Marlon James Quote

The Writer's Digest Interview: Marlon James

Booker Prize–winning author Marlon James talks about mythology and world-building in his character-driven epic Moon Witch, Spider King, the second book in his Dark Star Trilogy in this interview from the March/April 2022 issue of Writer's Digest.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: New Podcast Episode, a Chance at Publication, and More!

This week, we're excited to announce our newest podcast episode, your chance to be published, and more!

David Adams Cleveland: On Truth Revealing Itself in Historical Fiction

David Adams Cleveland: On Truth Revealing Itself in Historical Fiction

Award-winning novelist David Adams Cleveland discusses the timeliness of his new novel, Gods of Deception.

Lisa Jewell | Writer's Digest Interview Quote

The WD Interview: Lisa Jewell

The New York Times-bestselling British author discusses creating thrilling plot twists and developing characters in her 19th novel, The Night She Disappeared, in this interview from the Jan/Feb 2022 issue of Writer's Digest.

5 Tips for Successfully Pitching Literary Agents in Person (That Worked for Me at the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference)

5 Tips for Successfully Pitching Literary Agents in Person (That Worked for Me at the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference)

Author Anat Deracine found her agent at Writer’s Digest Annual Conference. Now she’s sharing what she’s learned to help other writers become authors. Here are her 5 tips for successfully pitching literary agents in person.

Tips for Reading Poetry in Front of an Audience

8 Tips for Reading Your Poetry in Front of an Audience

Poet's Market editor and published poet Robert Lee Brewer shares eight tips for reading your poetry in front of an audience.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Strength Lost

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Strength Lost

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let a character lose their powers.

Sharon Short | Point of View Quote 1

Managing Point of View: Mythbusting

In the first of this three-part series, novelist and WD columnist Sharon Short breaks down 7 of the most common myths about choosing which POV is right for your story.

Channel Your Inner Authorpreneur for Your Writing Labor of Love

Channel Your Inner Authorpreneur for Your Writing Labor of Love

As self-publishing continues to become an attractive and popular options for writers, it’s important to know what you’re getting into and to have the right expectations. Here, author and entrepreneur Tom Vaughan shares how to channel your inner “authorpreneur” to help your book find its readers.