10 Tips for Writing Best-Selling Romance Novels
Thinking about writing romance novels?
Writers like Danielle Steel, E.L. James, Nicholas Sparks, and Lindsey Locke dominate the market with their stories of love and lust. Their sales amount to over $1 billion dollars, making it one of the largest literary industries in the world.
If writing fiction is your thing, entering this industry might be the right step for you. However, writing good stories is one thing and writing romance novels that sell are another.
You need to know more than the basic writing angle, otherwise, your novel will collect dust in the back end of a bookstore.
Want to get a head start? Here are 10 strategies to keep in mind when writing romance novels:
Writing Romance Novels Involves Reading
This is the most obvious piece of advice but one not a lot of writers follow. Unlike other genres, romance and erotica follow a fluctuating formula. You have to understand what sells today and how the best-selling writers take advantage of what today’s readers like.
One good way to do this is to get a list of the top 20 best-selling romance novels. A quick search on Amazon will give you a good rundown of books to read. These books focus on what’s trending and what’s marketable so make time to read these.
Not only will you get a good idea of what you’re up against but you’ll also get an intuitive understanding of what sells today.
Look at the Numbers
Done reading? Now it’s time to look at the bigger numbers. This is where heavy research comes into play when writing romance novels.
First, you’ll need to take the top 20 best-selling books. That’s your first list and the one you’ll go back to when you need to read.
The next step is to look at the writers from that list. Look at the top writers and see how their other books perform. Check which of those writers is consistent with their sales.
Identified a writer who has a few best-sellers and positive reviews? Check which genre they write in. There’s a ton of sub-genres and you’ll need to check which ones are trending right now.
You can also look at the genre of your choice and then look at the best-selling books in that area. Read those books and see if your writing style can fit into the themes and concepts that readers enjoy and buy.
Understand the Formula
Yes, there is a formula for writing romance novels, especially ones that make an impact in the market.
Some of the common elements you’ll find in a best-selling formula includes:
- Imperfect characters
- Sex is not 90% of the book
- Happily ever after ending
- A strong conflict that impedes the romance
We’ll tackle each of these elements one-by-one. Understand first that every best-selling romance novel involves this formula in one way or another. There’s always a twist but these writers do rely on what works and what’s compelling to the readers.
One compelling aspect is a realistic character.
No Mary Sue Characters
The worst romance heroes and heroines are those who seem too perfect to believe in. If your main character has no flaws, it’s too difficult for the readers to project themselves to them. They can’t connect to perfect characters.
Your readers have flaws. Everybody has flaws. Always make it a habit to give your main characters some flaws so that the audience can identify with them and see them as real people.
Think of romance books that aren’t too well-received but sell millions anyway. Books like “50 Shades of Grey” are popular not because of the writing style but because the characters feel real. They have issues and a part of the romance is these people trying to forge a relationship despite their downfalls.
That’s compelling. That sells.
Sex is Natural, Keep It So
Writing romance novels that sell involves writing sex. There’s no way around it.
However, try to keep your sex scenes natural. Even in books that tackle topics like BDSM have to dive into the emotions and deeper character relationships that make such fetishes exciting.
Don’t come up with torturous devices either. Keep it grounded.
If you’re tackling a BDSM story, go to sites like Sexy Kitten and see what kind of toys people love to play with. If you’re writing a supernatural love story, add in the dark and magical elements but make sure the story still focuses on the relationship of the characters.
This means slow down a bit and write your sex scenes the way they would play out in real life. Don’t embellish things to extravagant ends because then you’re feeding readers with images they can’t connect with.
Every Character Counts
Don’t forget to add in other characters!
Every minor character you add to the story makes their world a little bigger and more believable. You want to make sure the story doesn’t unfold in a bubble and you’ll achieve this by giving other characters your main duo can interact with.
Keep the Action Going
Romance doesn’t need exploding cars and bullets flying but it does need to keep the action going. Don’t spend too much time with inner monologues in the characters’ heads. Those are important but they shouldn’t sum up the bulk of your romance novel.
Even simple actions keep the flow going. Let the characters emote, throw things, drink coffee, and walk around as they converse. Show them living their lives as they tackle the topics of romance and work.
The more you keep the characters moving, the more realistic they become. This helps the readers connect with them.
After all, who spends a whole day in bed thinking of their own monologue?
Know Your Audience
A common misconception is that the reader-base is all women in their late 50’s, stay-at-home housewives with nothing to do.
It’s surprising how different the landscape is nowadays. Recent surveys show women make up a majority of the audience but men read romance novels too. Women make up 84% of the reader-base while men take up the remaining 16%.
Surveys also show that while women in their 30’s love reading romance, there is also a large group of readers between the ages 18 and 24. Understand who you’re writing for before you sit down and get to work!
Conflict is the Name of the Game
Why do people love a good romance novel? The answer lies in the conflict within.
Here’s a good example: the girl loves a guy but the guy can’t reciprocate his affection for her due to his family and work getting in the way. There’s a second complication too because the girl is from a side of town that his family deems “unworthy” of their status.
Now the characters have to work around these obstacles. They have to struggle. The more they struggle, the more satisfying their victory will be.
Happily Ever After
A majority of romance novels have an HEA ending, which stands for “Happily Ever After.” This is the kind of ending where the two main characters resolve their conflicts, get married, and stay together. They secured their future.
Despite this, you don’t always have to follow that formula. It’s a publishing tip for writers looking to break into the industry but you can revolutionize and change things up.
There is another kind of ending known as HFN, which stands for “Happy For Now.” They’re together but their future isn’t stable. They could still break up and things remain hanging.
Start Writing Romance Novels Today!
With these tips, you’ll have a better understanding of the market. This is all crucial to writing romance novels that people buy and read.
Looking for other cool tips and tricks? You can find out more by visiting our blogs. If you’re aiming to market your book on your own, for example, we got you covered with this viral marketing guide!