A former university professor of marketing and communications, Sallie is an independent publisher and marketing communications consultant.
If You Love Romantic Stories, Why Not Share One of Your Own Creation?
Are you someone for whom the classic “boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl-back-again” love story always leaves you feeling:
- Wanting more?
Are you constantly rewriting the endings of romance novels where the hero and leading lady don’t end up together? Do you pine for hours pondering what “might have been?” After having your soul-stirred, and not shaken, by a riveting tale of romance, do you always feel splendidly lightheaded while thinking about how the amazing work of an amazing creation managed to weave those glamorous words into a passion-massaging potion? After reading a riveting romance novel, are you often left thinking the story should definitely be immortalized on film?
Are you drawn to movies where you know the male and female leads will ultimately end up together as a perfect (or imperfect) couple in love, where all you have to do is to try and figure out what series of mishaps, mazes, accidents, phases, situations, chances, storms, or circumstances will either tear them apart or bring them together for good? When you hear the words “rock star,” do you immediately think names such as Terri McMillan, Nora Roberts, Danielle Steel, Victoria Holt, and Rita Brown? And when someone mentions the words “timeless movie classic,” do you have to remind yourself they’re probably not talking about Boomerang, ("You know, I'm sick and tired of men using love as if it's some disease you just catch. Love should have brought your ass home last night."), Mahogany ("Let me tell you something... success is nothing... NOTHING!!! Without someone you love to share it with."), Waiting to Exhale (Angela Basset: "I give you eleven [f-ing] years and then you leave me for a white woman?" Male actor: "Would you be happy if she were black?" Angela Basset: "I would be happy if YOU were black!"), or even Gone With The Wind ("Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.").
If you’re a voracious reader of romance novels and your response was positive for all of the questions above, then you, my dear friend, are hooked on romance. And chances are you already know what you must do. You must at least try to write a romance novel.
Let’s face it. Romance itself is as old as the process that brought you and me into being. And since it usually precedes God’s biological manufacturing miracle that creates all humans, I’d say there’s a very good chance it will be around for as long as humans are around—being. So, since we’ve established that you’re already in love with love, then let’s talk about why you should take the plunge. Why shouldn’t you go ahead and see if you can lovingly piece together and then self-publish (or traditionally publish) a delicious and decadently beautiful and satisfying story about love?
Just so you know for sure, you shouldn’t be ashamed to admit you’re a lover of love stories. The sobering (and salable) truth about romance writing is that it long ago conquered a large part of the paperback book market, and it’s quickly gaining momentum in e-book sales. A 2017 survey, commissioned by the Romance Writers of America, found that one-third of all romance readers are over age 45. So, while more than seventy-percent of women under the age of 40 read romance novels, there is a well-defined market of older readers too.
Here are some other interesting findings of the study by the Romance Writers of America (RWA) organization (the statistics below are from a 2017 study conducted by the RWA, and I referenced the online site in 2019—https://www.rwa.org/Online/Romance_Genre/About_Romance_Genre.aspx):
- Eighty-two percent of romance book buyers are women, and eighteen-percent are men!
- U.S. romance book buyers are most likely to be between the ages of 35 and 39. Those most often reading romance are younger, with half of frequent and very frequent readers age 34 and below.
- Ethnicity: 73% White/Caucasian, 12% Black/African American, 7% Latino/Hispanic, and 4% Asian/Asian American.
- Of the 92% of the respondents to the RWA's survey (which produced these statistics) are print readers; 64% are e-book readers, and 35% are audiobook users.
- The most used devices for reading e-books are tablets and smartphones.
What do the previously mentioned RWA survey statistics mean to you? Well if you’re planning on penning that romance novel that you and I both know is begging to be written by you, then these stats might be your best friends. That is, if you have plans to sell your book after writing it. So go ahead, let this Hub be your wake-up call for your calling. If you dream of writing a romance novel, or if not something purely of the romance genre, perhaps romantic fiction, well maybe this time, it’s your time. And the good news is, if it’s really your calling, calling, then it won’t matter if you ever sell even one copy of your book (even though I hope you sell millions!), because the real reason you have to write romance is because it’s part of your purpose—your mission in life.
Don’t ever feel daunted by the naysayers who keep insisting that people don’t read anymore. Know what I say to that rubbish? Rubbish! Hogwash! And balderdash! According to a recent report published by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and the Book Industry Study Group, when it comes to the written word, the publishing industry is enjoying a “resurgence across all markets —trade, academic, [and] professional.” In fact, data collected by these groups shows the printed word is not only “alive and well,” it is being greedily gobbled up across all categories of books at growing rates, in paper and digital formats.
And that’s why self-publishing might be for you. Not only will it allow you to get your book published promptly in print and digital format, it will give you opportunities to show your work, to put your unquenchable passion in print, to create worlds and characters that you will undoubtedly love or hate until the end of time, and, because you went for it with all your gusto, your love of romance will be a piece of you that will live forever.
Case Study: Writing a Romance Novel
This Case Study is My Own
More than ten years ago, when I found myself unemployed and looking for work, I decided I needed more from life than just a job. That was when I decided to use my love of love and reading to start writing my own romance novels. A lifelong storyteller and a hopeless romantic, I had been making up stories in my mind and writing short stories for as long as I could remember. So, I started concocting what has come to be a collection of ten color-coded novels (I started self-publishing them under another series title which I have now changed to "Living in Color"). I am a Foundational Black American (a descendant of Africans enslaved in America), and I decided I was tired of what I thought of as “limited opportunities and possibilities” of the characters I saw as the norm for popular books and movies featuring Foundational Black American women and men. Always beat up or abused? Always broke down with no hope? Too often in the desert, so to speak, praying for rain. Always financially challenged and living from paycheck to paycheck, unless they were involved in a life of crime, a life connected to a life of crime, or a life I did not want to think about or put into a romance novel of mine. I wanted to write something I think of as more "normal" for my people. Something "different" from the usual fare.
I've been black all my life, and even though I've gone through tough times (like now), even tough times can have some redeeming qualities—love of family, bonds of lifelong friendships, a belief in a good and benevolent God (who does not have blond hair and blue eyes) who keeps hope alive, and the joy of being alive, and having another day to live and to love life and the people in it. But. The question "what if"? is never far from my mind. So, I started thinking, what if ... what if I write a collection of novels starring black characters who somehow transcend most of the negative stereotypes typically presented in order to appease folk who cannot imagine us living a life different from the lives many believe we live?
So I decided to write what I consider to be general fiction, with a romance novel type of emphasis. Correction, I decided to write several general fiction/romance novels, starting with a first one. When I started self-publishing my books, I used my alter ego—my pen name, Beax Rivers, as author of my books (but I now only use my pseudonym for my children's books). I am publishing revised editions of my first two books under my name (S.B. Middlebrook).
Since I have always known it was part of my purpose for being alive, many years ago, I decided it would become at least part of my mission in life to write novels. To blatantly, boldly, and beautifully present Foundational Black Americans, especially those of the Southern variety, in more complex and challenging settings, more “limitless” situations and circumstances, in my own voice, my own style of romance novels. I decided I would write romantic stories that could come from and go anywhere, unbound by society or economics. Stories that, while presenting infinitely interesting female-male love stories, characters, and plots, I wanted to be elevated from the norm the people and the possibilities of life for those in and from America’s black communities and neighborhoods. And, I wanted to celebrate, romantically, all of the beautiful and unforgettable skin colors of people in my race, in my family, in my past, and on my mind.
For me, it was an undeniable fact: African Americans are beautifully colored, in every way: Skin, character, life experiences, and soul. And so I had a vision and a mission, and I decided that neither was impossible. A lover of black history, I knew that historically, in the South, towns were once (and still are in many places) sharply divided by race and that where black people lived within the city limits was called “the colored folks quarters.” Hence, was born my “Tales from the Quarters” collection. I self-published Book One of “Tales” in December of 2011 (now titled, Silver: Waves of Transgression, and, in 2015, I completed and published Book Two, now titled, Gold, Fire, and Refinement. I am becoming an independent publisher, and I have changed the name of my ten-book collection to "Living in Color." I am revising and re-publishing the first two books of the collection this year (Silver and Gold), and I am publishing them using my name (S.B. Middlebrook) as author, instead of my pen name.
For Your First Novel, Consider—First, What Your Readers Want ...
When you are coming up with ideas for your first romance novel, the first thing you need to think about is your readers. Since you love love, and you love romance novels, there is a very good chance your readers will be people who are a lot like you. Therefore, it should not be all that hard for you to bring to mind a "portrait," or a "persona" of a typical reader of the type of novel you want to write. And, no matter what anyone might think or try to tell you, you do not need to use a formula to write a memorable romance novel. All you need is an inordinate amount of creativity and a knack for storytelling. That's it. Granted, there are formulas that have worked quite well through the years, and it a good idea to familiarize yourself with the "elements" that go into the formula. But. Doing this does not mean you have to follow the formula, or even allow it to influence your storytelling.
You need to be aware, however, that most readers of romance bring certain expectations to the idea of what constitutes a good romance novel. The first two most important expectations are a central love story, and a great and emotionally satisfying ending. Therefore, you must keep these expectations in mind, or risk alienating or not speaking to your audience. Following, I am sharing with you the things that research has shown to be the expectations of what makes a good "romance novel." And, while you are free to construct your story in any way you choose, you should do your best to make sure you meet each and every one of these expectations when you create your novel:
- A likeable heroine
- A passionate, appealing, and desirable hero
- Story emotion, conflict, and tension
- A convincing, attention-grabbing, stimulating plot
A satisfying, emotionally gratifying, happy ending
My New Avocation—Writing General Fiction/Romance Novels
I allowed my passion, my love of love, to lead to re-inventing myself as a writer of novels. I allowed my passion to lead me toward writing romantic fiction in a way I feel is unique and unexpected. And while I know it’s true that “there’s nothing new under the sun,” I believe it is possible to put things together in a unique way, following your unique passion and your unique vision, to romantically weave something that feels new.
I'm still following my passion, creating stories of love. And, as more and more people are noticing my work, I know in my heart I am creating something important, that I am doing something important that will make a difference. For example, in my novels, I allow my desire to create a business to become a desire of many of the black characters I create. Black people need to start and to own businesses and not simply always be "consumers." Therefore, although creating businesses is not usually an overriding theme, it is a theme in all ten of my Color of Love novels.
Not only do I believe I will get the sales I need to become a successful, full-time writer of novels, I also believe my books, at least some of them, will one day be made into motion pictures. And while that will be a dream come true, that's not why I'm writing. I'm writing because I have always wanted to write novels and short stories, and I have reached a place in my life where I know I cannot keep waiting for the "right time" to start writing the novels I have inside me. I am also writing because I know I'm creating something that is needed, and something that will create a lasting legacy for me, for my family, and, hopefully, for millions of other people. I'm in love with love and romance, and my collection of love stories proves it, beautifully—beyond a shadow of a doubt, in ways that are meaningful. In ways that are good, and in ways that make a difference.
© 2012 Sallie Beatrice Middlebrook PhD