At HotGhostWriter - soon to be Inscrive Scale - market research is what fuels our creative staff training, content development, and the guidance we offer to clients. We stay ahead of the curb, tracking what readers want right now and anticipating what they’ll be craving next. Stay tuned to our blog for regular updates on the current Romance Fiction market trends.
Romance Fiction Trends - Summer 2022
It’s hard to talk about any facet of recent women’s fiction without mentioning Colleen Hoover and Taylor Jenkins Reid. Though not strictly romance authors, the force with which they have topped bestsellers charts is no doubt rippling into all areas of fiction.
Colleen Hoover is skilled with psychological thrillers but carries those dark, gripping themes across all of her works. The result is an addictive reading experience that has her dominating the charts.
Before Hoover’s books started spreading like wildfire, Taylor Jenkins Reid had readers captivated with books like The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Daisy Jones & the Six. The former was actually published five years ago, but its popularity spiked in more recent years through buzz on BookTok, Bookstagram, and Goodreads, and is still lingering at the top of the charts today.
So what do Hoover and Reid’s books have in common and what do they mean for romance fiction publishers right now?
The popularity of these two authors has shown that readers want an easier read in terms of writing style, but that does not mean easy themes. Both writers deliver raw and emotional stories that keep readers hooked. They don’t shy away from dark themes or characters that are both loveable and hateable.
It’s hard to say if the recent spike in popularity of dark romance and mafia romance is because of that ripple effect, or if the two have happened independently. Regardless, it’s clear that dark themes are on the rise.
Complex Characters and Plots
Even in lighter contemporary romances - raw, believable, and complex characters are still in demand. They want leads that feel very real and human with both dark and light sides, likable and dislikeable qualities.
More than anything, they want characters they can see pieces of themselves in, and they want to feel as if those characters’ actions and emotions are things they can easily imagine themselves experiencing.
This goes in hand with the abandonment of a lot of outdated themes that have been casting a shadow over romance novels for a long time. People want more diversity in their entertainment, including their books, and this means the old strong man/weak woman dichotomy is finished. Do they still want strong alpha males? Definitely. But only with a strong alpha female in opposition.
Across all sub-genres, tropes, and themes, readers want to go on a wild ride with crazy experiences - but through the lens of deeply humanized characters. Anti-heroes are bigger than ever, as is the idea of ordinary, flawed people being yanked into extraordinary and unexpected experiences.
On the darker side, this means more relatable characters in paranormal and mafia romances - while the worlds around them remain larger than life. And in lighter romances, the circumstances for fake fiances, secret babies, and office romances have to be crazier than ever but orchestrated in the most believable ways.
Contemporary, Small Town, & Western Romances
In Contemporary romance, there is resistance to anything that feels too light or fluffy, or cheesy. After the pandemic, nobody has the patience for that anymore.
This might explain the boost in demand for Medical series - all the usual contemporary tropes we typically see with billionaire bosses, but now with doctors. The realistic drama and mortality of medical facilities might feel closer to home for many these days, even if it is with a dose and tried and true romance tropes.
On the flip side of all of that, there has been a big resurgence in westerns and small-town romances. Many of these are keeping up with competing genres in their themes of suspense and tension. While others just give readers something comforting, pure, and classic to escape into while there is so much going on in the world.
Immersive reading experiences reign with first-person, present tense being preferred for most genres, both serialized and standard. Today’s readers want straightforward, digestible writing with zero fluff. Believable dialogue and actions are a must.
Shorter, choppy rhythms are common in today’s top-performing content. Even if a book deviates from the short and choppy style, writing that’s high in action and constantly propelling forward is preferred over long inner dialogues.
Trend Forecasts for Fall/Winter of 2022
Fall and Halloween will likely bring an added boost to the already popular psychological thrillers and romantic suspense novels, putting them in a close tie with paranormal romances.
With so many dark romance series picking up steam at the moment, it’s doubtful the usual paranormal romance spike around Halloween will cast too big of a shadow over mafia or romantic suspense novels. Many will carry on strong through the fall.
After that - mafia and dark romance writers would be smart to play on the holiday season, using it as an opportunity to show a more human side to even their darkest of characters. Holiday themes are a fun contrast to the darkness of those worlds, and give ample opportunity for fresh scenarios during the holiday reprieve - perfect to prevent popular, ongoing series from going stale.
When planning your upcoming publications, here are the market trends to keep in mind:
- an addictive reading experience
- raw and emotional stories
- dark themes
- Raw, believable, and complex characters that are both loveable and hateable - deeply human leads
- dark romance and mafia romance
- Classic alpha males but only with strong alpha females in opposition.
- Ordinary, flawed people being yanked into extraordinary and unexpected experiences
- Typical contemporary romances have to be crazier than ever but orchestrated in the most believable ways
- themes of suspense and tension
- Immersive reading experiences
- first-person, present tense
- straightforward, digestible writing with zero fluff
- Believable dialogue and actions
- Shorter and choppy rhythms
- Dark romances should take advantage of the holiday season and deliver the unexpected