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How to Make Money Writing Romance Novels

If you’re looking for a fresh challenge and just the right amount of adventure, you’ve come to the right place. We’re going to introduce you to a lucrative career option that doesn’t require much experience at all: becoming a romance novel writer.

What is a romance novel? Glad you asked. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a story featuring passionate romance and heart-wrenching emotional scenes between two lead characters.

Romance novels frequently come in a formulaic fashion. Most commonly, the story will consist of a handsome prince/princess charming and witty enough (yet naïve enough) to win the heart of the titular princess/prince. The twist? Typically, the roles of the male and female protagonist are reversed.

Why should you become a romance novelist? Because the market is exploding and the demand is high. According to the New York Times, American romance and fiction novel readers spent over $13 billion on romance products in 2016 (over 80% of this amount was spent on books).

This category includes everything from traditional romance novels to contemporary spin-offs, comic book retellings, and even graphic novels. Romance and fiction are two vastly different categories, but the lines between them are blurred.

Traditional romance novels usually center around the wedding industry and heavily feature weddings, engagements, and other “formal” events. Authors will frequently throw in a few jokes related to dating conventions and whatnot, but the stories usually come across as pretty serious.

But that’s not to say there aren’t any funny moments. Case in point: the heroine of Stephanie’s The Accidental Princess, Alanna Masters, is a career-oriented journalist who lands herself in the middle of a stolen wedding when her investigation leads her to the King. (He wants to marry her as a means of establishing an alliance with another country.) Naturally, things don’t go according to plan and she ends up embroiled in a diplomatic incident that threatens to ruin her reputation as a serious journalist and completely upends her social life. (Yes, that kind of serious.)

Luckily, Alanna’s professional skills are put to good use when she needs to get the story, and her journalism training comes in handy in that regard. But it’s also important to point out that the story is firmly entrenched in realistic portrayals of relationship and societal issues related to the post-war era. Despite the occasional joke about romance and dating, the author treats the subject matter seriously.

Contemporary romance novels have sprung up alongside the growth of e-books and tablet readers. These are the novels you’ll find on the shelves of your local bookstore or online store. They are a reflection of the “millennial” romance reader, and they often feature narcissistic, self-absorbed protagonists who are just a little too pleased with themselves.

Take the series by New York Times best-selling author Melody Chandler. In her story, The Billionaire’s Christmas Wedding, the titular character, Charity, believes her life is perfect the way it is. She has traveled the world, has a brilliant mind, and is supported financially by her two affluent fathers. When Charity’s best friend, Anna, suggests she use her gifts to help others, Charity is flabbergasted. (“How can I possibly help others when I’m so perfectly happy?”) Her attitude makes her an impossible match for a billionaire, even if he is Santa Claus himself.

Charity’s story is told in an epistolary format, using email to show how her snarky replies to Santa’s letters expose the inner workings of her heart. It’s a story about a rich, entitled young woman who lacks an understanding of how her riches affect others, and how Santa, being Santa, has to remind her of this in his own jolly, Christmas-y way. (Plus, let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a fat, happy elf?)

The problem with contemporary romance novels is that they can come off as preachy and condescending. There is a prevalent belief among the reading public that all stories should have a “happy” ending, and that it is the responsibility of the writer to give that ending to their work. If a story ends in tragedy, the assumption is that the author failed to do their job. (Not necessarily a fair assumption, but it’s there nonetheless.)

This attitude is most visible in YA literature, where happy endings are de rigueur, and even some adult books have succumbed to the trend. However, romance novels don’t always have to have happy endings. In fact, some of the greatest romances in history didn’t end in marriage for one reason or another. (For example, Lord Byron and Ada Lovelace’s notorious affair. Or, in the case of Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler, marriage was merely a matter of convenience.)

So, what is the alternative to a “traditional” romance novel? How about an “untraditional” romance novel?

Well, for one thing, you don’t have to limit yourself to just romantic relationships. Sure, the focus will still be on the love story between the two main characters, but you will explore other aspects of their relationship, such as their political differences, their friendships, and their families. (All of which can play vital roles in the story.)

Take the case of Sarah J. Maas, the New York Times bestselling author of the Throne of Glass duology and A Court of Thorns and Roses. In these books, Maas explores a wide array of topics, including alchemy, magic, swordfighting, rivalries, and political machinations. Yet, at its heart, each novel is a love story. After a lonely childhood spent in a castle, Feyre longs for the passionate adventures she read about in books. When she meets handsome King Arsinleus, she sees her chance for excitement and adventure, and she plunges right in.

Feyre’s first meeting with Arsinleus is a stormy one. He is offended by her audacity in showing up late to their arranged meeting and his pride is hurt when she does not cower before him, as he expects a female to do. His pride is also tested when she uses her wits and magic to best him in a swordfight. (Yes, you read that right. A female mage against a male duelist. And not even a regular duel, either. This was pre-arranged combat to test their swordsmanship. It wasn’t the first time either of them had fought a duel, but it was the first time they had ever done so with the purpose of evaluating their abilities as a couple.)

After their initial meeting, the two become fast friends. However, little do they know that soon they will be locked in an intimate competition, pitting them against each other multiple times, as both strive to be the best. (Even their enemies will come to respect and admire them for their commitment to excellence.)

One of the reasons why the romance genre has grown in popularity in the last few years is because of its diversity. In the past, not many people would have thought of reading a romance novel if it wasn’t set in the realm of fairytales. But these days, anyone can find a romance novel to fit their needs.

Another factor is the changing cultural climate. In the past, being a romance novelist would have been a “no chance” for a woman in particular. Being a traditionally “masculine” profession would have rendered any prospective employer instantly gun-shy given the social stigma attached to the genre. (And given how little most people understand about it, that stigma probably still exists.) These days, being a woman who loves to read and write is probably the only thing standing between you and a lifelong career as a romance novelist.

What’s more is that more and more people are demanding narratives outside of the “traditional” romances. The rise of the hashtag #ownvoices on TikTok highlights how important it is to give readers what they want. (The hashtag encourages users to post their own interpretations of famous songs, using their favorite artists and verses.) When fans of the meme see a book matching their interests, they will frequently leave a review praising the story and its unique perspective. This can help authors land lucrative contracts and even earn them a little money from the success of their novels.

The Money

The important thing to consider about writing romance novels is that it can be highly profitable. According to research, there are several factors that make this genre particularly lucrative for authors. First off, the demand is high. According to a report from the New York Times, American romance and fiction novel readers spent over $13 billion on romance products in 2016 (79% of this amount was spent on books). That’s a lot of money to put out just one book.