How to Write a Romance Novel (& Publish)
Romance (including erotica) is the hottest genre to sell in, being the most profitable on Amazon by $1.44 billion. Since the pandemic, romance ebooks saw an extra 17% boost in the US:
Romance is a great space to be in for self-publishers, more so with its recent rebound. I quickly go over the trends below. Then, I break down how to get started with writing and eventually publishing your book.
The myth about self-published books being priced at $2.99 or below? That’s now broken as reported by the self-publishing platform PublishDrive. In 2020, romance was its 2nd highest-priced category at around $7. The platform also saw crazy spikes in romance subcategories like a 2,728% increase in vampire and a 1,377% increase in new adult.
Overall, indies made 69% more digital book sales in 2020 via PublishDrive. The growth was apparent across digital formats like audiobooks, models like subscription services, and channels like libraries. And 70% of the sales came from international markets. Going global, digitally, is the best move for romance indies right now.
Tips on how to write a romance novel
Now you know just how profitable this genre is. Whether you’re an avid romance reader wanting to transition into a writer or an experienced author looking for a refresher, let’s go over the basics for writing romance.
First, read as many romance books as you can. Get specific with the subgenre, like vampire, contemporary, or historical romance. It’s important to get a good grasp on how your category is typically structured. Figuring out your subgenre also helps with launching your book later on (I go over this further down.)
Don’t know where to start? Check out the works of these romance writers and see how it’s done:
- Jane Austen is a classic and celebrated romanticist who wrote about love, marriage, societal drama, and more. Start with Emma or Pride and Prejudice (you can watch the film too.)
- Nora Roberts is a New York Times bestselling author of over 215 novels. Standalone favorites include The Villa, Northern Lights, and The Collector.
- E L James’ Fifty Shades of Grey started off as a raunchy self-published book, quickly rising to fame as a cultural icon.
- R.R. Banks is one of PublishDrive’s bestselling contemporary romance authors, making a splash in the realm of audiobooks.
- Here’s a list of the best romance novels.
A good romance novel should keep the reader glued until the end. Here are common tropes to know:
- The main characters have complementary personalities or reasons to click.
- The couple goes from friends to lovers or rivals to lovers.
- The story is plot-driven, with twists, turns, and conflicts. For example, forbidden love.
- The first meeting is memorable. Romantic comedy? Maybe an embarrassing one.
- The main characters can’t help but be in each other’s orbit, mainly due to external forces.
- There are fun interactions and banter.
- The lovers challenge each other (to be better humans) and share vulnerabilities.
- The breakup is dramatic and soul-crushing. ”This will never work out!”
- The character development arc includes sacrifices to get back together. Love over ego.
- Eventually, the story rushes to a big declaration of love and commitment.
- 99% of the time, the lovers end up together happily ever after.
Keep in mind that people reading romance stories usually do so for cliches and stereotypes. As successful romance writer Jane Eyre said, “there is no happiness like that of being loved by your fellow-creatures, and feeling that your presence is an addition to their comfort.”
More recommendations for your writing process:
- Watch Brandon Sanderson’s free video courses for general writing advice. Here’s one where he covers romance.
- Read Writing a Romance Novel For Dummies or On Writing Romance.
- Join online writing communities to bounce off ideas, get feedback, and connect with others. Check out Reddit’s Writers’ Group, romance authors group, and Discord’s Writers Society.
- Practice with romance writing prompts.
At the end of the day, pull inspiration from your real-life experiences and daydreams.
Tips on self-publishing romance novels
After completing your manuscript, it’s time to prepare for publication. Here’s what to expect:
- Editing – Hire a proofreader or find a beta reader.
- Cover design – This is a crucial marketing element for attracting attention. Look at PublishDrive’s bestselling romance book covers for inspiration. ↓
- Layout formatting – Convert your manuscript file(s) for ebook, audio, or print-on-demand.
- Distribution – You can sell only on Amazon KDP (a common choice among indies), but you’ll miss out on billions of other readers. Instead, go wide by distributing everywhere via book aggregators like PublishDrive.
- Marketing – Grow your author brand and business with a solid marketing strategy.
I suggest reading this guide which expands on every step of the publishing process.
PublishDrive helps prepare your manuscript for ebook, audio, and print conversion. It takes only a few clicks to distribute your book in stores like Amazon, Apple, and Google:
Tip #1: When prepping your book, be sure to optimize metadata. This includes choosing the best (sub)categories, cover design, and adding the strongest hooks in the first two sentences of your blurb. Doing so helps your book rank higher in stores and engage the right audience.
Tip #2: Don’t just publish an ebook; expand your reach with audiobook and print-on-demand. The most successful indies on PublishDrive sell in all three formats to maximize their selling potential. On PublishDrive, you can publish and manage these different formats with a simple upload process.
Tip #3: Distribute your book in multiple countries where the demand for English-language content is high. Go beyond Amazon, and distribute in multiple stores as well. Along with major retailers like Google Play Books, online libraries like Odilo are dominating in growth:
Tip #4: Try publishing a series, an effective way to build up author credibility and relevance in search results. Indies use this tactic to add more reads on platforms like KDP. By the way, a series doesn’t mean sequels. You can write three unrelated romance novels and package them together with a series name like “Romance to Read While Traveling.”
Tip #5: Invest in your marketing, seriously. PublishDrive analyzed 800 price promos for online retail stores. These promos achieved 10x more sales and an additional 2% bump for non-promoted books.
Tactics like discount campaigns, Facebook ads, Amazon ads, Bookbub ads, newsletter features, and social media swaps with published authors make up a powerful strategy. Promotions help attract readers to your book. Then, items like your cover design, title, blurb, and reviews help convert to sales.
Absorb everything you can on writing and creating a romance book. Afterward, treat self-publishing as a business (going global and digital is key!)
In an environment like the pandemic, we see why the demand for love stories has gone up. In the words of bestselling romance author Gena Showalter, “I went online and ordered every romance novel I could find. They're fairy tales for grown-ups.” ❤️
When you’re ready, sell and promote in thousands of stores worldwide with PublishDrive. Publish easily in no time:
PublishDrive in action. ↓