Romance is a hugely popular genre in the audio market. Listeners seem to crave romance above most other topics. Add some sexy steam to it, a few shirtless dudes, and a happily ever after- you’re golden. But, the hard thing about the romance genre is that there are so many different types of romances. There’s contemporary, historical, erotica, new adult, regency, gay/lesbian, western, paranormal, and the list of sub-genres can go on and on. Which one should we focus on? Where is the biggest market/audience? What qualities lock a book into a particular category? Is one category more perceptible to audio than another? The answers to these questions are often complicated, long winded, and often changing. But the one thing we always know is that romance sells, whether you are a sexy duke, hot cowboy, or irresistible vampire.
The same problems/challenges can also come up when writing a good romance novel as well. There are so many possibilities, how do you know where to start? Which category do you want to lock into? Do you need to pick one? Or is there potential for a crossover? Unfortunately, I can’t answer those questions for you. You need to feel what you write. You need to write from your heart, staying true to your own interests, and go from there. But, there is always room for advice- especially from those with more experience. That’s why I was pretty excited to run across an article in The New York Times Magazine by Malia Wollan, entitled “How To Write A Romance Novel.”
My mind immediately went, BINGO! Right? Well, sort of. There’s obviously a lot that goes into writing a romance novel, or any type of book, but this article gives some great advice to help get writers to where they need to be.The article featured Jayne Ann Krentz, a New York Times bestseller romance author, and her advice to romance authors.
Krentz immediately points out that romance novels end happily. No matter the struggles that the characters go through within the story, they always need to end up together at the end. You might think, well that takes the suspense out of it- right? But think about it- would it really be a romance novel if it ended without any happy, sappy love?
She also recommends reading many different types of romances before starting to write. Figure out where you fit within these categories, but don’t get bogged down by it. Krentz wants writers to remember that romances focus in on one particular relationship and “every twist in the plot must create a twist in the relationship, and vice versa.”
Krentz encourages writers to send their work to editors, but don’t shy away from self-publishing, especially if you are a new author. Romance is a vast genre and there are many other writers out there doing the exact same thing you are. Taking the self-publishing route can actually make you stand out. It opens up the possibility to brand yourself better, which is really important. I can’t tell you how many totally different romance books I get on submission that pretty much have identical covers from each other. At a certain point they all start to blend together and you don’t even know what you are looking at anymore. When you self-publish, you control that image. It’s the first impression that readers get of your book- make it count.
The best part? As Krentz mentions, you can brand yourself as many times as you want. You can create different pen names if you want to branch out onto other romance platforms. Self-publishing gives you an immense amount of flexibility. She also cautions against using too many alias’ because it does create double, triple, or quadruple the amount of work for yourself. If you can’t give each name your 100%, then don’t do it.
Her bottom line is that sex sells. Don’t be afraid to add it in and have some fun with it. But, don’t lose sight of the what romance novels are all about, “The heart of the romance novel is animated by the classic heroic virtues like honor, courage and a belief in the healing power of love.” I couldn’t put it better myself. Write on.