My close friends all know. My immediate family knows. Some of my workmates (past and present) also know. It’s not like I keep it a secret, so why don’t I make more of a fuss about it?
My name is Sofia, and I write romantic fiction. There, I’ve said it.
Despite its market share, romantic fiction is still seen as a joke. The dweeb at the office party. Not important enough to have an opinion. Not cool enough. The dim-witted fool that nobody takes seriously.
It frustrates the hell out of me.
When I tell someone new, the conversation follows a predictable path.
Me: I’m a writer.
Them: Really? Have you been published?
Me: Yes. Over 20 solo titles, and 11 short stories in anthologies.
Them: That’s exciting. What kinds of books do you write?
Me: Romantic fiction.
* tumbleweed drifts by *
Them: Umm. Like Fifty Shades?
Me: Not really.
Them: * snickering * I wouldn’t have thought you wrote romance.
At this point, I really want to drive home the statistics. Largest share of the genre fiction market. Approximately 15% of the entire adult fiction market. Over 70 million readers in the target market. Over half the mass market paperbacks sold in the USA.
Do I? Nope. I’m usually eyeing up my rapid exit and wishing I’d kept my mouth shut.
The next set of questions are predictable:
Them: How many have you sold?
Me: < Per day? Week? Grand total? > Difficult to calculate. More than I realise, but way less than many others.
Them: How much money have you made?
Me: < This one makes me feel like asking how much they earn. Again, I’m non-committal. > Not enough to give up the day job.
Them: Where do you get your ideas?
Me: < smiling sweetly > The office.
Them: Have you tried everything you’ve written about?
Me: Well of course. < If I said I wrote sci-fi murders, would they still ask this? > Yes, I bludgeoned a five-eyed green alien with my blaster on my way in today.
Them: Why don’t you write a proper book?
Me:< This one stings. I want to stamp my foot and reply, “because romance isn’t ‘proper’, or isn’t a ‘book’?” >
A close family-member recently informed me that I’m not a “real writer”. Not sure what criteria they were using, either.
Romance novels regularly top the major bestseller lists (New York Times, Publishers Weekly and USA Today), and have a large, dedicated audience of readers.
A 2014 report on RICHEST.COM (http://www.therichest.com/rich-list/which-5-book-genres-make-the-most-money/), looked at genre fiction, and which is the most lucrative. They collated information on leading authors’ earnings and reports of industry trends, to compile a list of the 5 most valuable, highest-earning genres in the book business.
5. Horror ($79.6 million)
4. Science Fiction & Fantasy ($590.2 million)
3. Religious / Inspirational ($720 million)
2. Crime / Mystery ($728.2 million)
1. Romance / Erotica ($1.44 billion)
I’d love to think that next time I tell someone new, I’ll be loud and proud, but I bet I won’t. I might even be vague. Perhaps I’ll say I write contemporary fiction. Does that make me more acceptable?