The New World of Romance Fiction

The way romance fiction is being written, published, and consumed is changing.

There have been dramatic changes in the world of romance fiction in recent years. The number of online romance fiction communities is rising, and there is an ever-growing list of new platforms for reading and publishing romance. The genre is shattering old stigmas and gaining more popularity than ever.

More people are reading and writing romance than ever before.

Covid created a need for stress-release and entertainment sources we could enjoy from the comfort of our own homes. This is likely why romance fiction book sales spiked 24% in 2021, making it the second most popular fiction genre on the market.

But the pandemic didn’t just have more people turning to books for comfort. It also resulted in a spike in online communities. BookTok and Bookstagram have sky-rocketed in popularity for both readers and writers of the genre. Facebook groups are being used to create smaller, more niche groups for authors to support each other, and for readers to find more book recs.

Connections aren’t just strengthening within writer and reader groups respectively. They’re forming between the two groups, resulting in more platforms authors can turn to for ARC reviews, growing their email marketing lists, and building their followings.

It’s a snowball effect that turns more readers into romance fiction fans, many citing the feeling of community in itself being a major benefit. And from that, more of those readers are dabbling in writing their own romance fiction. As the number of readers turned writers grows, so does the number of them that are taking the leap into self-publishing their work.

Writers are turning their hobby into a career that pays the bills, and the demand is there for it.

The pandemic transformed work as we know it. People are demanding work they actually care about that they can do from home. This has opened aspiring writers' eyes to how achievable it is to turn their hobby into a career. As they take that leap, they’re finding that the demand is there.

It creates a perfect breeding ground for self-publishers to scale. There are more quality, talented writers within their reach, and many of them are seeking ‘work for hire’ and ghostwriting gigs that self-publishers provide. 

Self-publishers can now achieve true scale in their businesses.

This means there are more quality writers available for work. And self-publishers who have gained some traction but are now looking to scale have real options for doing so.

There are still plenty of obstacles. Like how to keep their favorite writers once they find them. Or how to manage a high volume of ongoing book production. But publishers are rising to the challenges and forming partnerships to help them scale.

The way we engage with content has changed.

Businesses are now under pressure to become meaningful brands - to build communities of their own and provide experiences to their customers. It's not enough to put products and content out there anymore. Audiences want us to take it a step further.

There’s a lot of competition when it comes to getting and keeping someone’s attention now – no matter what the platform is. People want the unexpected. More than that, they want a conversation. They want to feel a personal connection, and they want an interactive experience that feels fun, easy, and genuine. 

How can publishers create a conversation and experience for their audiences?

Reading apps are taking the cue and creating those engaging experiences through the design and capabilities of their platforms, along with how the content is presented to the reader. “Texting” experiences within the books and phone vibrations or sound effects are great examples of this.

Outside of the apps and the platforms we’re reading romance fiction on, there’s the digital world where we’re connecting to our favorite authors. Romance writers are getting creative with their fan bases, and social media is giving them tons of traction. The digital space has allowed for a whole new level of interacting with and staying connected to our favorite romance authors.

The new world of romance fiction has changed the way writers write.

The way we communicate, interact, and express ourselves online is changing. With that shift, the 'rhythm' of best-selling romance writing is changing too.

You can imagine the obvious differences between writing a standard fiction novel and writing content that can easily and seamlessly integrate into an app designed for interaction and other effects. But there have been other shifts.

Thanks to our phones and scrolling in combination with the volume of online content we’re used to consuming, our eyes are becoming trained to move quickly through a piece of text. Our fingers also have that habitual instinct to scroll. We read snippets and only stop to focus on what truly grips us.

This creates a very short window of time for romance content to grab onto readers. Attention spans are short, and readers are becoming more fickle. And why shouldn’t they be quick to ditch content that doesn’t hook them from the start? There’s plenty of it out there to choose from.

Authors are learning to combat this by formatting their writing to suit the urge to scroll: Short and choppy sentences and no long blocks of text. Lots of dialogue and action. Romance writing today should be in constant forward motion, just as we are in our daily lives. The writing is shifting to match the rhythm our brains are used to.

Characters move and speak quickly, if not outwardly, then inwardly. Seeing the inner world of characters is also trending in romance. As we touched on before, readers want a conversation. Writing that’s rounded out with lots of inner dialogue makes them feel like they’re having that conversation with the characters.

This brings us to…. Serialized Fiction.

Stylistic changes, restless behavior of readers, the longing for connection between readers and writers, and the continuous rise in popularity of self-publishing. All of these paths converge in serialized fiction. It hits all the good spots, and it’s why we’ve seen such a spike with it.

Serialized fiction releases bite-sized portions of novels, but delivers more in overall length. Readers get more of what they want but in shorter increments, which is perfect for that scrolling urge in our eyes, fingers, and brains. And with more content in total - novels often resulting in ongoing series with 100k to 200k words per installment - readers build a true connection and relationship with the characters and their worlds.

The biggest demand for freelance writers right now is versatility.

What we’re seeing now more than ever before is that what makes a great writer is no longer just about storytelling skills and craft. A high level of versatility is now needed.

In ghostwriting, while most clients used to review a batch of samples and select the writer they thought was the best fit for them, the expectation is now becoming that the client tells us what they want and the writer adapts to meet their needs. The ability for a writer to do this has always been the marker of a great ghostwriter, but as the competition in that market steepens – the most adaptable writers will continue standing out from the rest.

As we change, writing does too. 

In order for romance fiction content to perform well, it will need to continue matching how we speak, interact, and consume. And on that ever-evolving course, romance writers and publishers will need to learn to adapt – not just once, but continuously.

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