“If you do not have a happy-for-now or happily-ever-after ending, you aren’t writing romance. You will let your readers down.” Lynn Lorenz, a romance writer gave that advice to novices at a conference held in Las Vegas last August. While literary authors like Phillip Roth or Margaret Atwood may sneer at the genre, if money is your interest, love is your game. According to reporter Jesse Barron, romance novels brought in over $1.4 billion dollars last year and E. L. James, who self-published Fifty Shades of Grey, brought in $95 million of that total — more than any other writer in the world during the same time period. (“Bad Romance,” by Jesse Baron, Harper’s Feb/ 2014, pg. 71)
For the unschooled among us, romance comes in different flavors, starting with regency stories and extending to guy-on-guy passion written expressly for women. Each form offers a differing shade of erotica but they operate on a common formula. Lorenz insists a book of 24-chapters should have three plot turnings and one dark moment. The heroine must be admirable but the hero can be dark, menacing, or even dangerous because, as she explains, these novels give women the opportunity to read about “aspects of men that frighten them.” Fiction is a safe place where they can explore “a sexual hunger that [they] don’t always really understand.” (Ibid pg. 74)
Libidos aside, the real money to be made as a romance novelist may not be in selling books. Since the format makes no pretence of being literature, the illusion is that anyone can do it and in that hope, thousands flock to conferences to learn secrets of the trade. Many hopefuls pay dearly for the experience. One attendee Baron interviewed not only paid $250 to participate in the Las Vegas conference but he admitted, “I registered for the full convention period. Six hundred and ninety dollars. I got two extra days tacked on, plus five-hundred-dollars for the flight…” His total? “One thousand four hundred and forty dollars,” (Ibid pg. 75)
My last two novels, Gothic Spring and Trompe l’Oeil, played with some aspects of the romance novel then tweaked the format. Whether the experiment succeeded or failed depends on the reader. But if money had been my goal, I’d have done better as a conference speaker. As it was during the gold rush when shopkeepers made fortunes selling equipment to miners, those who support the ambitions of others often reap the greater profit.
(Courtesy of www.fantasy-illustration.com)