Monday, September 8, 2014

Why Romance Gets An Unwarranted Bad Rap

When I tell people that I represent romance and women's fiction, I always get a few snickers in the group. I see the same thing when I attend general fiction conferences and writers talk about what genre they work in. Most of the time, the romance authors are the quiet ones in the room. If asked what they write, the often respond with "I write historical" or "I write suspense and thrillers." It is only after being pushed, or they hear someone say they like reading romance, or they represent romance like I do, that we hear the full story. "Actually, I write historical romance much like Nicola Cornick". Why do they keep the fact they write romance hidden?

In all honesty, I do believe it is the negative stigma many outside of romance tend to apply to this genre. What is amazing is how quickly those people often get very quiet when you mention statistics such as:
  • Estimated annual total sales value of romance in 2013: $1.08 billion (source: BookStats)
  • Romance unit share of adult fiction: 13% (source: Nielsen Books & Consumer Tracker, BISAC Romance)
  • In what format are romance books being purchased? (source: Nielsen US Romance Landscape Q1 2014) 

To add to this, we have common stereotypes, comments and perceptions that are always tossed around, sometimes in joking of:
  • bodice rippers
  • romance is writing just formulas
  • these are silly little stories about women and their fantasies
I do believe that writers in this genre are not helping matters much either. If they do come out and say they write romance, it is often phrased "I just write romance." Just? Really?

Romance has been a genre that has been around for a VERY long time and there is a good reason for it. Romance deals with human beings and that primal raw emotion of love and relationships. These are stories about the human condition and take writers into the most intimate side of this condition. Sure, other stories out there deal with human condition such as isolation, discrimination, social responsibility and so forth, but these are all external conditions. But when it comes to romance, it is that one genre that takes the reader into areas we often don't talk about, but maybe we should.

I have also heard some people criticize the time an author spends on writing romances. This again comes from that stereotype of formulaic writing. I am sorry to say this, but all genres out there have formulas the authors follow. Edgar Allen Poe clearly identified this in the 19th century with the mystery genre.

But what makes romance authors so powerful is their ability to keep up with the demand of the readers who want a constant flow of books. To produce high quality stories and keep those stories coming to meet that demand is tough. They have to constantly keep thinking of new ideas, and, more importantly, finding ways to create new approaches to stay fresh. To add to this, they are constantly trying to keep up with the ever changing public and trends. Political and social issues have to be brought into the stories without overshadowing the romance. If the story is a historical romance, the level of research has to equal some of the best non-fiction historical authors out there, and again, doing so without overshadowing the romance.

I am sorry to say this, but romance is not going away. And yes, we know all of you out there who claim you "don't read that romance stuff" do secretly check out those books when you pass through the bookstore or find the ones your significant other has left on her bedside table. And yes, we know you are out there secretly watching Outlander every Saturday night.


  1. YES... All of it, a great big huge, massive "YES!" That's exactly how I feel. Romance will be around for a very long time, and it is the broadest genre market there is, allowing even the most picky reader find something they will like. Between varying heat levels and sub genres, there's something for pretty much everyone.

  2. I personally love romance, I am interested in many things but romance holds my heart. Like most readers we who start young, I read a lot of things before I found my fav genre. I actually made some of my friends ranging in age read a romance (romantic suspense) to give it a try and one thing they all said was it was not what they expected. I always say with so many subgenres in romance there is something for everyone you just have to give it a try.

    Nice post.