So, last month, we took a look at the romance market and things haven’t really changed from last month to this. What I am seeing, however, is that more people are reading. More people are buying books. This is good for all authors of all genres.
Originally, I was going to tell you to think about feeding this trend. I really, really feel this is a trend that readers A.) need filled and B.) are willing to pay to read.
However, not everyone is going to be able to write in this genre. I don't want to see what happened to the science fiction market when Chris Fox told people to write military sci-fi to happen here. Sci-fi readers and historical romance readers both have higher expectations on the books they devour. So, I’m going to start the tropes and trends for this genre with the strengths and qualities authors of this genre need.
Current Events Shaping Readability Issues
If we look at the current events, we can guess that there’s a kind of relief around the nation (and possibly the world) as our political structure settles into something a bit more stable. Some are mourning the loss of their leader, sure, but they still have this sense of knowing, this relaxation of the terror that had gripped us. They won’t admit that out loud, but the pulse I see shows that.
This means people’s brains will be able to function again. When your reader base is in high levels of constant stress, their ability to connect dots, remember information, read through or over typos, etc is severely restricted. This is reading comprehension, something we teach in school and rely on our readers to have if we’re going to succeed. If our readers can’t comprehend what they’re reading, if they’re staring at the same page for several minutes, if they can’t keep track of dialogue or information, if they’d rather click on their on-phone game or turn on Netflix to watch a show they’ve seen three times already, it’s going to be hard for us to sell more books.
This is the reason we have to keep an eye on current events. The souls and minds of our authors affect our ability to make money. This is also what I look for as I’m trolling the lists looking for tropes.
Readers are reading again. Cue the sparkles and rainbows.
But now let’s dig in and see if there are things we can glean from and to see if there are trends or tropes that we can use to feed their starving souls.
Historical Romance - $4.5M ↑
Bridgerton continues to be the most watched TV show on Netflix with over 82 million views. Last month, Julia Quinn dominated the top 100, securing most of the bestsellers slots. This month, she’s sharing more of those slots with other authors, which is a very, very good sign. It means that after people are finishing her books and watching her TV show, they’re looking for more and are willing to branch out to other authors. So, this week, we’re taking a deeper dive to figure out what they’re looking for and what they will not abide.
This seriously looks like a growing trend. I don’t know how long it’ll last, but this appears to be much more than a fad. If you’re already a regency author, rejoice and get your name out there. Get your books and covers out there. And think about finding a narrator to get your books into audiobook. Regency audiobooks are rare, but the ones out there are selling really well.
If you’re thinking of hopping on this genre train, there are a few things you need to consider before you do. The historical romance authors have certain strengths that make their books sell, strengths that we generally don’t have in contemporary or paranormal romances. I’m not saying they’re less than. I’m simply saying the reader expectation is different.
Strengths Needed to Write This Genre
Great vocabulary. The readability scores for contemporary and paranormal romance (PNR) are around the 4th grade. They’re brain-candy books. The readability scores for the average regency novel is closer to the 7th grade.
More complicated sentence structure. This goes back to the readability, but it also goes to historical accuracy. People talked differently back then. They had more time. They weren’t always in a rush. They didn’t have to multi-task. They had time to get everything done and have a meaningful conversation.
Creating a full set of deep characters. The thing that most of the reviewers of almost every single bestselling regency romance novel commented on was character depth. Not just the hero and the heroine, but the supporting secondary characters as well. To write this genre successfully, you need to be able to carry an entire cast of deeply rounded characters with individual character growth arcs.
Creating well-rounded and well-researched settings. The readers of this genre will cut you a little slack here, but not a ton. If you stumble and inject 21st century opinions or terms into your 18th and 19th century narrative, they will eat you alive. Regency romance is 1811-1820, but you’re free to write any historical era. Right now the 1800s and the early-early 1900s are the hot zone. But do not claim that your 1830s book is Regency. Know your terms.
Creating intrigue-rich plotlines. Great plotlines is more than chase scenes and murders. In Regencies, you have a full cast of high-developed, rich characters living their own lives on and off screen. Readers of this genre eat this part up. Part of the intrigue-rich plotline isn’t about the heroine being forced into marriage because of a dalliance, but is more about all of the other character-plot lines of all the other characters. You have to be organized and be able to see how all of these interweave together.
Tropes For This Genre
Royals or highborn – but keep in mind, there were only about 300 title aristocrats.
Clans or large families
There’s a growing trend of the working class getting their own stories.
Sweet, yet strong heroines
Dark character pasts that have to be overcome
Full casts of characters to choose your next books from
Distant 3rd with the narrator’s voice
Dual POV, but don’t worry too much about needing a unique voice for each character.
Price and KU vs Wide
The price point is all over the map in this genre. The authors who are priced lower seem to be in KU and the ones priced higher are widely published. This is counter-intuitive, but… still a thing? I don’t know why.
Julia Quinn is firmly priced at $7.99 and that’s working great for her. For everyone else, it looks like the sweet pricing spot is $3.99 and $4.99 evenly split.
There are few audiobooks available in this genre, but the ones available have thousands of reviews, which leads me to believe there’s a hole here. The readers want more historical audiobooks, but they want quality. So make sure the audio is good. These readers have slightly higher expectations.
Notes For Working With Your Outliner
It’s important for you to know that when you’re working with your outliner on your historical romance novel, they will focus primarily on your main plot line. It’s an outline, not a first draft that you just add words to.
That means that you’re going to have to do your own research. Don’t put that on your outliner. Your research or lack thereof will flavor your narrative and your readers will be able to feel it.
You will also need to come up with the remaining depth for your entire cast of characters. Your outliner can provide the initial depth, the driving force behind your main characters’ actions and reactions, but the rest is up to you. As you grow your cast of secondary characters, you will find that your plot and your intrigue will grow by leaps and bounds!
In this genre, if you’re relying too heavily on the work of your outliner, it will be felt by your reader. Let your outliner clear the initial path for you but invest yourself in clearing the rest and paving the road for your story to travel on. Using an outliner isn't something to be ashamed of. Crippling yourself by telling her to do most of your work, however, is. There are other genres where this is totally acceptable. This genre is not that.
I’ll keep watching the trends in Romance and will let you know each month how they shift.
Next week: Contemporary and Paranormal Romance which is also rising