And now, gentle readers, we come to the end (at least, of this genre-specific sales mini-series). Romance: you know it sells (don't you?). But what are the sales figures really like?
Well, there's a good rundown from 2007 here. You'll note that romance was 12.9% of the market at the time, and I can only surmise that this market share has increased, since the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and the Huffington Post all report that romance sales are up as a result of the recession. Some numbers:
• BookScan tracked romance sales as being up 2.4% against a down market in the first three months of this year;
• Harlequin has been doing particularly well with Q4 earnings up 32% ($3 million) over the same time last year, indicating both series and non-series romance are going strong;
• Romances generated $1.375 billion in sales in 2007 (according to RWA);
• Someone in the world buys a Harlequin romance novel every four seconds (also according to RWA);
• The U.S. News and World Report lists romance novels #3 on their list of recession winners.
Now, I chalk most of this up to three primary factors:
1.) Romance buyers typically buy more books, particularly more books at a time, and exhibit more brand (read: author) loyalty than readers of other genres.
2.) Romance novels are almost always released (either immediately or a year after their hardcover release) as mass market editions, the low price points of which ($4.99 - $7.99) are very attractive to consumers, especially during a recession.
3.) The recession drives consumers toward escapist fiction, and the reigning queen of escapist fiction is romance (followed closely, in my opinion, by fantasy). Thus, paranormal and historical romance are seeing exceptionally good sales right now.
Additionally, it seems you romance readers and writers are also on the cutting edge of the e-book market. From the New York Times article, above:
Romance novels have also captured a larger proportion of the electronic book market than other categories. Whereas most publishers say that about 1 percent of sales come from e-books, Harlequin says that digital editions make up about 3.4 percent of its sales.So, not only are romance novel sales performing admirably in the physical book market, but they're doing well in the e-book arena as well. Bravo, romance. Bra-vo.
Now, let's say you're currently working on your bodice-ripping, time-travelling, vampire-and-werewolf-battling historical romance. What kind of advance can you expect?
Well, to be honest, this one is tricky (aren't they all?), but not for the reason you think. Rather than there being a paucity of data, there's just too much data that aren't easily distilled into a narrow range; the best I can come up with is RWA's figure of "$3,000 to several million." Accurate? Well, yes. Helpful? Not really. But I'm afraid it's the best I can give you. While my oft-cited "$5,000 - $7,500" range is probably more or less the case here, you really can make a killing in romance if you do it right (then again, that's pretty much true everywhere, except maybe for poetry).
So, in summary:
• Romance is beating the pants off the recession right now. If you write a killer one, you'll be in a very fine position indeed.
• Again, with all my usual caveats, I expect paranormal romance, historical romance, and romantic suspense to lead the pack, with contemporary romance trailing but by no means performing poorly.
• Average advance: hard to tell, but somewhere between $3,000 and... uh... millions. I'd err on the $3,000 side, though.