On the Growing Popularity of Romance Novels

Please enjoy this super interesting guest post.

On the Growing Popularity of Romance Novels

Quick: think of a novel that you would consider a classic – something that inspires writers across generations, and something that is dissected in university classes and used as a great example of writing. It’s not often that romance novels achieve this level of distinction, but this could soon change.

Following the growth of indie publishing and self-publishing, more and more romance novel writers have been able to launch their work into the public sphere, and the response has been overwhelming. Statistics released by Romance Writers of America showed that 13% of all adult fiction is found in the romance category, with sales reaching
 $1.08 billion per year. While nearly a third of all romance novels are purchased as e-books, romantic and erotic fiction remains the top-selling genre of the book market. It seems the genre is stronger than ever, and It’s showing no signs of slowing down.

There’s no denying that much of this growth can be attributed to the fact that our views on romance novels and erotica have been undergoing some significant changes. A survey of over 1,000 men and women ages 18 and up revealed that
 41% now openly admit to reading erotica, and this has helped spark the industry. Publishers are now more willing – and even actively seeking out – writers of romance novels and erotica, in an effort to cash in on the craze. 

But what is it exactly about the romance genre that is so appealing? An article on the International Business Times says that it might have to do with how the genre
 offers a release for many women -- the core demographic of the genre. Women make up 84% of the genre’s total readership, and the modern woman often finds herself without the time or opportunity to experience romance. “We're assailed from every direction with so much garbage (telemarketers, family demands, tedious chores, etc.) that we become numb out of self-defense, said Picciano. Reading romance and erotica gives us a chance to feel, to remind us that we're human and that there is a beautiful, exciting world out there, waiting to be discovered under the piles of clean laundry that command our attention.”

Of course, some would argue that
 women have always loved romantic literature, and that this has hardly changed in the past few years, despite a seemingly growing market for the genre. It can’t be denied, however, that romantic literature is ripe for the picking, and academics are now taking notice. “We’ve been talking about this for 30 years: since the 1980s at least, it’s been about empowerment versus oppression. Is this narrative empowering or oppressive to women?” Sarah Frantz Lyons tells the Smithsonian. “We need new approaches to romance fiction.”

Frantz Lyons founded the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance along with Professor Eric Selinger, a scholar of American poetry who teaches popular romance at DePaul University in Chicago back in 2007. She has since been gathering academic support to look further into the techniques and styles of romance novel writing, and with the unprecedented popularity boom of the genre, her work may soon come to fruition.


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