What do romance readers really want?
That is the million dollar question and as a writer it’s the one thing I’m always dying to know.
What do my readers really want to see in the romance books they pick up?
Of course there has been thousands of articles and books that have covered this topic from one end of the spectrum to the other. Not to mention the countless surveys that have been given to hundreds of thousands of readers throughout the years.
So, you would think that there would be no question as to what a romance reader wants to read.
No one reader likes the same things. What might excite and enthrall one could repulse another, etc…
That’s why there are so many sub genres in the romance world.
Each sub genre has it’s own “guideline” of what to expect in their books making it easier for a reader to find the type of book they like to read.
However, even in each sub genre there is still a wide range of likes and dislikes to be found.
Therefore, I believe this question will never have a simple answer.
You might think, “Well, of course one common answer for all romance readers is that they want a Happily Ever After ending.”
There are quite a few romance readers who would prefer an ending that makes sense and is more “realistic” to the current relationship between the hero and heroine.
So what do we do as writers to ensure we write a book that a romance reader wants to read?
Well, that’s actually pretty easy.
⇒ Tip 1: Write the story that is in your head.
As long as you write it clearly with interest and your characters shine and are relatable there will be a reader out there waiting to read your book.
If you write it they will come!
⇒ Tip 2: Get in touch with your readers and ask them what they want to see more and less of.
It really is that easy!
Last week I did an impromptu survey where I asked a few romance reading Facebook groups some questions in regards to what they liked and disliked and what they want to see more and less of in their books.
Below is a run down of some of the answers.
Questions #1: What do you want to see more of in your romance books?
- Depth of feeling
- Great girl friendships
- Crazy twists pulled off right
- I want something out of the ordinary
- Great supporting characters get me
- I like when there is a strong underlying plot in addition to the romance. It keeps it from getting too one-dimensional.
- More average people in terms of career
- More heroines with different heights, race and weight
- More men of color (African American, Indian, Middle Eastern…) being the hero.
- More heroines who are African American with kinky hair, brown eyes and dark skin.
- Older characters. The genre is inundated with college students and 20-somethings. Makes you think love doesn’t happen over 35!
- More everyday couples please
- More build up
- More stories about characters who are already strong and whole to begin with.
- More authentic diversity and less reliance on stereotypes of ethnic groups to illustrate character
- Positive Black men and women
- Characters that have common sense.
- More interracial between American Indian and Black women.
- Longer stories
- Stronger plots with interesting characters
- Villains that actually follow up with their evil plans
Questions #2: What do you want to see less of in your romance books?
- Less graphic sex.
- Sex scenes that are always the same. I end up skimming over them.
- No more billionaires!
- No more heroines that are portrayed as “incubators” popping out kids for the man.
- Heroines that are broken because of her past relationships or because of her weight.
- No more talk about huge dicks
- No more emotional abuse or emotional issues
- No more gross words like “moist” in sex scenes
- No more interracial titles with the phrases Billionaire Black Baby or His Black Mistress or Rich Man Black Wife
- No more short books that cost $2.99 or more
- Less “purple prose”
- No more unrealistic expectations
- No more overly exaggerated descriptive writing
- No more poorly written sex scenes
- No more “throbbing member”
- Less F word please! When used sparingly the word can express emotions and have an impact but when used every other sentence it becomes meaningless.
- Less sex manual
- Less heroines who turn slutty when the hero walks in
- No more dominant ass holes
- I don’t care for romances written in the first person
- I don’t like new adult romances
- No more werewolves
- No more humiliation scenarios played off as romantic
- I want to see less far fetched story lines
Question #3: Do you want the love and action to happen right away or have a build up?
- I like to get to know the character but I don’t want to wait any longer than 5 chapters for the relationship to start.
- I prefer for characters to NOT fall into bed in chapter one
- I love a slow burn full of lots of sexual tension.
- Put the romance back in the romance books. I’m kind of over books that have couples having sex when they first meet. Give me a great build up with the couple getting to know each other.
- Give us a chance to get to know the main characters.
- I want to see the characters getting to know each other rather than jumping in bed.
- Most stories are rushed now…I hate that.
- I like characters to have a good back story and to develop throughout the book.
- I like to see an evolution of the relationship
Question #4: How do you feel about plus size heroines?
- Heck yes, I really like reading about plus size heroines!
- Let the realistic women have a romance
- I’m fine with plus size women as heroines but why do they always have to be paired with men who are ripped?
- Love BBW romance!!
- I love it when my heroine is plus size
Questions #5: How do you feel about Plus size heroes?
- Yes to the plus size heroes as long as they are bad ass alphas
- I’ve never dated a guy who was ripped so I’m fine with chunky guys.
- A non ripped hero is fine with me.
- Honestly, I’d rather read about a sexy built guy.
- I have a major weakness for alpha males.
- I like my heroes to be cuddly, nice guys but I also like alpha males
- I’ve never actually read a book with a plus size hero but a guy doesn’t have to have visible muscles to convey strength and power.
- I love it when my heroes are plus size because it makes him feel more real.
Questions #6: Do you want your romances to be realistic with real life situations and outcomes or do you want a fantasy scenario that helps you escape?
- I like things that are realistic or fantasy based in reality
- I like it when a romance is reality based, it makes it easier to relate to the story and sort of get lost in it.
- I want realism in contemporary and pure fantasy in paranormal and fantasy.
- I love HEA’s and that’s what I want from my romance book.
- Real life or fantasy, I don’t care aslong as it ends in an HEA!
- I like a little of both. However, if a character is going through real…ish problems they should act real and those things/events shouldn’t be trivialized.
- I don’t need an HEA. I like HFN as long as it’s an ending that I can sink my teeth into
- More realism
- Real Life…mostly
- I really prefer real life. Perfect fantasies drive me crazy.
- Happy Ending no matter what.
- I like both.
- I want fantasy, an escape. I do reality all day long
Question #7: How do you feel about multiple point of views?
- I love it when the story is told from both sides. Switching POV one chapter at a time is my favorite.
- I love it when the story is told from both sides. No stories within a story.
- Switching POVs from chapter to chapter is my preference but I can follow either way.
- It ‘s nice to see the true feelings of the male side. It makes them seem more believable.
- All point of view styles work for me.
Question #8: What scenarios or themes do you want to see more of?
- Firemen that don’t have to have 6 or 8 packs!
- Desert Sheik
- Quirky Guy
- Disabled/scarred (physically or emotionally) Hero and/or Heroine.
- Marriage of convenience
- Single parents
- More family series
- Fem Dom Romances
Question #9: Do you prefer more dialogue or more descriptions?
- Funny dialogue gets me.
- I would love to see more of their conversations
- I want more real life dialogue between the characters
- I want more conversations that are meaningful and builds up to a relationship.
- More dialogue with involvement of friends and family
- I want more description of dates and events and less description of how people look.
I would like to thank the wonderful members of:
- Romance Readers
- Interracial Romance Readers
- Romance Novel Junkies
- Curvy Girl Romance: For Readers Who Love Alpha Heroes and Curvy Heroines
- Erotic-Romance Book Group
For their time and their thought provoking and insightful answers.
What do we as readers need to do to ensure that the stories we want to read get written?
We need to let writers, authors, agents and publishing houses know what we are looking for.
- By following our favorite writers and authors, talking to them and letting them know what we like and dont like.
- By leaving reviews for books that you’ve read explaining what you liked and diddn’t like
- By emailing publishing houses and letting them know what kind of books you are looking for (believe me, they will be interested in hearing what you’ve got to say)
- By participating in surveys like the one found below.
https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/JLLN7HX (This is a link to a Romance Reader Survey that asks 1 Question. It does not ask for any of your information.)
Friday @ 9 am “What is Body Confidence?“
Monday @ 9 am “Your Formatting Word Count and Page Length Questions Answered“
- What do you wan to see more of in your romance books?
- What do you want to see less of?
- Do you agree or disagree with some of the answers from above?
- Where you surprised by any of them?
8 thoughts on “What Do Romance Readers Really Want?”
Well, that was a ton of brilliant information! This is going on my bookmarks to refer back to later 🙂
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Thanks for posting this! I was worried that the book I’m working on wouldn’t be right for the market because it doesn’t have graphic sex and the couple gets to know each other before they start a relationship. So it’s nice to see that I might find some readers 🙂
You’re welcome 🙂 I had the same fear until I started joining book reader groups and heard what they wanted out of a book. Just remember, there is always a reader out there for whatever you write. The key is, you have to be the one to find them. So think about what type of book you have and start engaging in book groups that fit it.
Very informative. Thank you!
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Very informative. But I’ve also noticed that a lot of the successful romance novels out there followed a tried and tested formula. I’ve rolled my eyes so often at some cliché blurbs that nevertheless ended being lapped up by other readers…
Sorry, I probably sound very cynical, and I’m a romance author myself! 😀
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I find us Romance authors are the most cynical because we are constantly defending our work.