A Look at the Romance Genre and Publishing

Romance is a huge genre in publishing. So many success stories, especially of indie authors, are around romance writers. It’s also a really interesting genre to watch, because it’s one of the genres with the most experimentation going on.

With that in mind, here are a few romance-related articles that recently caught my eye.

History of Romance Erotica

An article on Jezebel outlines the history of the romance genre, at least starting in the 1970s when erotica started to become popular (romance novels were being published earlier, but they weren’t always so straight-forward when it came to the sex scenes). The genre became big during the second wave of feminism, and the popularity opened the publishing doors to a whole new group of writers. According to the article, “All the way back to those first so-called “bodice rippers,” romance novels have been a quietly powerful stronghold of the notion that yes, women do deserve pleasure, and a series of thought experiments for individuals and communities attempting to determine what that pleasure looks like and how we can achieve it.”

Romance Covers

That said, it’s interesting reading the Jezebel article along with the New York Times article about how the “beefcake” models who grace the covers of romance novels don’t earn much money. In 2013, romance novels totaled over $1 billion in sales. Nearly 40 percent of purchases are ebooks. This means that covers have to look good as thumbnails, and nowadays there’s a lot of Photoshop involved.

According to the article, “Few romance models, if any, make enough money to eke out a living.” The article gives one example, a man named Jason Aaron Baca who has been on more than 500 covers and has an agent. Even in his best year he only earned about $20,000. So he has another job, in customer service. (What’s interesting though, is that Jason said he doesn’t do it for the money, but rather he enjoys the taste of fame.)

Another model, Jimmy Thomas, started a stock-image website. But self-published authors can’t afford expensive images, so he sells stock images for $10, pre-made covers for $45, and special orders for $300. He also started conventions, where fans can meet the models on the covers of their favorite books. It’s a cool idea, and a good example of the experimentation that goes on in the genre.

Romance and Experimentation

Romance is such a popular genre that even KFC has gotten in to it. Business Insider reported that KFC published a romance novella starring Colonel Sanders. It’s called Tender Wings of Desire, and was published to celebrate Mother’s Day. According to George Felix, KFC US’s director of advertising, “The only thing better than being swept away by the deliciousness of our Extra Crispy Chicken is being swept away by Harland Sanders himself.”

Apps have also been working with the romance genre. The social networking app Grindr got a poet in residence, according to The Guardian. LGBT writer Max Wallis is making video poems each month, which “play on the essential themes of the app – relationships, our increasingly unsympathetic world and quite a lot of sex.”

There’s also a romance book app, Crave, which provides bite-sized, multimedia (text, GIFs, videos) that only take three to four minutes to consume. The idea is to cater to people’s desire for instant gratification, and let readers interact with the men in the stories.

And last, but not least, is the Ripped Bodice bookstore, “the only store in America that specializes in love stories,” according to Vice. The store is in Culver City in Los Angeles, and was founded to empower women.

Have you heard of any exciting developments in the romance genre? Please share in the comments!


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