by Will Viharo
Some write for love, some write for money, many write for love of money – and of writing! That’s where Romance comes in, meaning the genre –one of the most popular fields for indie authors to introduce themselves to a built-in, pre-sold audience. But as with any intimate relationship, getting a date is only the first step in the courtship process…
With the highly anticipated film version of Fifty Shades of Grey coming out this Valentine’s week, it seems like love is in the air – and the sweet smell of success, too. Fledgling author E L James’ self-published trilogy (later reprinted by Vintage Books for a record sum) about an obsessive sexual relationship between a wealthy businessman and a naïve young woman became an industry phenomenon, a household name, and global catchphrase for all things trendy and erotic.
But James’ professional story, though unique, was also carefully calculated in the sense that she chose a proven market for her debut work: Romance/Erotica, which comes down to simple, universal sex appeal, mostly female’s fantasy entanglements with ideal males, as evidenced by the titles and covers of current bestselling eBooks in the Romance field. So while James helped popularize this trend, she is in fact carrying on a long, lucrative tradition, going as far back as the novels of Jane Austen (Pride & Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, etc.) Due to the continuing appeal of these literary classics, setting one’s love story in a historical time period is also a frequent choice made by contemporary authors in this genre, whether indie or professional.
Romance novels have been extremely popular (and ridiculed by academic snobs) for many decades, often reaping consistently reliable profits by turning a single initial hit into a series. Most of the authors have been women, but a few men have tried their hand at it too (most recent notable example being The Notebook's Nicholas Sparks). However, it’s the feminine perspective that gives the target audience the most instantly relatable material. Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind (published and famously filmed in 1939) remains one of the bestselling books of all time, and though the colorful Civil War saga covers a number of compelling and even controversial topics, it’s the central tale of fiery femme fatale Scarlett O’Hara’s stormy relationship with rascally rebel Rhett Butler that dominates the epic story.
Teen romance novels are probably the best bet for indie authors just breaking into the market, because, again, readers of this fare care less about the byline and more about the storyline and subject matter, so they’re willing to give newcomers a chance (as best exemplified by the amazing self-published success story of Amanda Hocking). Adding supernatural elements like vampires, unicorns, mermaids, and even zombies seems to help seal the deal and broaden the potential appeal as well, a la Stephenie Meyer’s hugely influential Twilight series.
So are you planning to write a romance novel, maybe with a new twist added to the tried and true formula?