I always encourage a writer to learn the craft by writing a genre romance - and that means a Harlequin/M&B style one. And why not? You have the highest chance of being published in this genre, it’s fun, it's a challenge and it’s shorter than many other books. It sure worked for EL James. But does that mean it is easy? Not a chance! It will put to the test all your storytelling skills. That’s why it is such a great place to start your career.
Depression and squalor are for those under twenty-five, they can take it, they even like it, they still have enough time left.
But real life is bad for you, you hold it in your hand long enough, and you’ll get pimples and become feeble-minded. You’ll go blind.
Margaret Atwood, What is a woman’s novel, Portfolio December 1986
Decades ago you may have hidden your Mills & Boon books under your mattress. I sure did.
My sisters and I passed a treasured Kathleen E Woodiwiss between the three of us for well over a decade Each of us must have read it at least ten times and the pages where threadbare and full of sticky tape by the time we finally let it fall apart (in our late 20s). I learned about sex from Cosmo, but from Woodiwiss and the Harlequin stable I learned about passion. Quivering breasts, aching nipples, bruised lips, midnight sighs, moist mounds and delicate thighs. Oh my, oh my! My teenage heart was pounding. I read about dukes and earls and naughty sheiks with a penchant for soft, sighing blondes.
But the covert thrill of buying of romance has long passed. Now it's a quick download ‘buy with one click’ order on my Kindle. In fact I often buy the four-pack deal. It’s like the CNA bestseller shelf, right in my bedroom. Nobody knows I am reading The Tycoon Who Kissed Me, and rightly so. I do also read fabulously intellectual stuff. Just not always. Do I care if people see me reading a romance? Well actually I do still care. That’s why my Kindle has a password.
And that is the secret to the meteoric rise and rise and rise of romance novels as a genre.
Romance is one of the biggest genres in the world. More than 200 million women a year read Harlequin books in the US alone. That is four times more than the entire population of South Africa. It is a market that is so huge it boggles the imagination. Generally over 50% of all paperbacks sold are in the romance genre and the most competitive category on Amazon Kindle is Romance -> Contemporary. Many of these books are self-published.
I glanced at the top titles and here’s a hint as to what is selling like hot sex.
Ten things that every romance novel needs
Romance novels of the type published by M&B or the large stables are not as easy to write as they are to read. It takes storytelling muscle and good writing to pull it off. But if you do pull it off you can rise to a bestseller pretty fast.
Mail me if you want to find out about the next How to Write a Romance course.