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.
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.
So, if you want to write a book with a strong chance of actually getting published – write a romance.
Ten things that every romance novel needs
Sarah Bullen is a writing coach, literary agent and book editor. She coaches writers on how to become authors and how to write to get published.