Most people who have not been lucky enough to read a romance book think that all romance books are the same.
Of course, those of us who actually read and enjoy romance know that this genre is vast and varied.
Romance is a literary genre that has many sub genres. Even some of the sub genres have sub genres or themes.
But no matter how many different types of Romance sub genres we have they all have one thing in common:
An emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending
I’ve been a reader of romance for more then a decade and I just started realizing about two years ago that there was a whole world of romance I didn’t know existed.
Why are there so many seb genres in Romance?
I think it all has to do with supply and demand. The writers and publisher hear what we want and write it and then it gets classified so that we can easily find it. Sometimes that’s a great thing and sometimes that’s a horrible thing.
How can this classifying system be horrible?
Let’s say you like romantic suspense and therefore you only look in the romantic suspense category when you are checking out books. Because of that you will only see books and authors that fall under Romantic Suspense. Big deal you say? It is a big deal. Just think about all the great stories and authors you are missing because your reading focus is too narrow.
I realized a few months ago that I was guilty of this. That’s why I decided to create the Ultimate Romance Reader Challange 2015. I decided the best way to widen my romance reading horizon was to read two books out of every sub genre of romance Amazon listed.
I hope by the end of this year I will find an appreciation for all the genres and even stumble across a new favorite author or two.
So, just how many sub genres are there?
Let’s break it down. (All definitions are from RomanceWiki.com and all links are to Amazon and GoodReads)
Category Romance: Also known as Series Titles. Category Romances are short books with no more then 200 pages or 55,000 words. The books are published in clearly delineated categories, with a certain number of books being published in each category every month. Each book in a line will usually share a theme but be different from each other.
Single-Title Romance: This label is given to any romance book not published as part of a category. They are longer books with 350-400 pages or 100,000-110,000 words. Each book is different and will stay on bookshelves until the bookseller decides to take it down.
The following are common themes of Contemporary Romance:
- Baby Love
- Chick Lit
- International Lovers
- Love in the Workplace
- Rock n Roll
- Rubenesque (also Curvy or Plus Size)
- Vacation Love
The following are common themes found in Erotica:
- African American
- Multiple Partners
- Science Fiction
The following are common themes in Historical Romance:
- 20th Century
- Gilded Age
- Native Americans
- Paranormal Historical
- Restoration and Enlightenment
- Suspense and Intrigue
- Western and Frontier
The following are common themes in Inspirational Romance:
The following are common themes in Paranormal Romance:
- Shape Shifters
According to RWA the following sub genres and tropes are the most popular in the Romance genre:
Top romance subgenres by format read primarily:
Print: #1) Romantic Suspense (53%) #2)Contemporary Romance (41%) #3) Historical Romance (34%) #4) Erotic Romance (33%) #5)New Adult (26%) #6) Paranormal Romance (19%) #7) Young Adult Romance (18%) and #8) Christian Romance (17%).
E-book: #1) Romantic Suspense (48%) #2) Contemporary Romance (44%) #3) Erotic Romance (42%) #4) Historical Romance (33%) #5) Paranormal Romance (30%) #6) New Adult (26%) #7) Young Adult Romance (18%) and #8) Christian Romance (14%).
Top 10 popular romance tropes: (#1) Friends to Lovers (#2) Soul Mate/Fate (#3) Second Chance at Love (#4) Secret Romance (#5) First Love (#6) Strong Hero/Heroine (#7) Reunited Lovers (#8) Love Triangle (#9) Sexy Billionaire/Millionaire (#10) Sassy Heroine
According to Amazon: the following Romance Genre sub genres are listed from the most amount of books to the least:
Amazon Romance Genre Print Books (559,350)
- Erotic (220,651)
- Contemporary (142,522)
- Historical (60,672)
- Paranormal Romance (41,098)
- Romantic Suspense (32,071)
- Fantasy (17,724)
- Romantic Comedy (17,058)
- Inspirational Romance (16,764)
- Gay Romance (15,664)
- Regency Romance (12,944)
- Young Adult Romance (12,507)
- Western Romance (11,277)
- New Adult (10,412)
- Vampire Romance (7,408)
- Multi-Cultural Romance (7,213)
- Holiday Romance (6,935)
- African American Romance (6,891)
- Gothic Romance (6,320)
- Military Romance (5,954)
- Science Fiction Romance (4,612)
- Time Travel Romance (4,364)
- Lesbian Romance (4,208)
- Sports Romance (3,337)
Amazon Romance Genre EBooks (251,571)
- Contemporary Romance (92,026)
- Paranormal Romance (31,021)
- Historical Romance (29,536)
- Romantic Suspense (26,276)
- LGBT Romance (18,655)
- Fantasy Romance (17,850)
- Romantic Comedy (14,710)
- Inspirational Romance (14,601)
- New Adult Romance (9,108)
- Western Romance (7,917)
- Multi-Cultural Romance (6,471)
- African American Romance (6,359)
- Holiday Romance (5,970)
- Science Fiction Romance (5,742)
- Military Romance (5,202)
- Sports Romance (2,977)
- Time Travel Romance (2,772)
- Gothic Romance (895)
No matter what sub genre you like to read or what format you like to read it on,
there is plenty of reading material to last you a lifetime!
So no more excuses. Go out there and explore the world of Romance!
Friday @ 9 am “Does Showing Pride in Your Appearance Really Make a Difference?”
Monday @ 9 am “How to Craft The Perfect Plus Size Heroine“
- What is your favorite sub genre of romance? Why?
- What is your least favorite sub genre of romance? Why?
- Do you feel a sub genre and/or theme was left out?
- What do you think of the popularity numbers and amount of books published per sub genre?
18 thoughts on “What Are The Most Popular Sub Genres in Romance & How Do They Compare?”
Huh. Romantic suspense is the most popular? I guess that makes sense – my tastes rarely match whatever ‘big thing’ everyone obsesses over. My personal romance favorites are Regency, Fantasy, and Young/New Adult. I have a few favorite authors who fall into a lot of other categories though, like SciFi and Mystery. I like to think I’m pretty broad minded with my reading. 🙂
LikeLiked by 1 person
I was surprised to see Romantic Suspense at the top as well. I was sure it was going to be YA based solely on tge fact that I dont go one day without seeing someone with a YA book or seeing a commercial for a movie adapted from one.
My personal favs are Romantic Suspense and Paranormal. Although im really interested in reading some horror or thriller themed Erotica. Im always up for a good scare! Have you read that genre or theme before? Any suggestions?
Hmmm. I haven’t done a lot of Erotica – or horror – but I was surprised to learn the Laurel K Hamilton’s Anita Blake series was classified as horror. It’s paranormal, and has some good romances (though it gets WEIRD after the first dozen books).
LikeLiked by 1 person
I am a big fan of Laurel K. Hamilton…especially her Anita Blake series. I was shocked to find out her books were classified under Dark Erotica (a sub genre I just learned about a few months ago). I didn’t realize she was classified as horror erotica too lol I wonder if those two classifications are basically one in the same…
I’m always surprised at the amount of people who don’t realise just how vast and varied the romance genre is! 😀
LikeLiked by 1 person
Just FYI; Some of the Amazon sub-genre categories are not very accurate because of rampant misplaced keywords. Ex. The link to “African-American romance” featured more general African-American fiction and lots of what’s called “street lit”( ex. Secrets of a Side Bitch — Books 1, 2, and 3 and Murderville Books 1,2 etc.) than actual A-A romance. In the top ten listed I only see one true African-American romance “Forbidden Love” by Beverly Jenkins. I know the list changes frequently, but most of the best-selling A-A books under this sub-category are NOT usually romances, but other types of non-romance genres or sub-genres.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks Ree for taking the time to let us know. It is definitely important to make sure the casual Amazon reader is aware that though books are listed in a certain category it doesn’t mean they necessarily belong there.
I was recently asked for “Dust Bunnies” Romance. has anyone ever heard of that Genre?
LikeLiked by 1 person
I’ve never heard of a genre called dust bunnies but if there is one then maybe the reader is looking for old romance books (the kind you’d find under your mom’s bed or in a box in her closet.) However, there is a book series, I think, called the Ghost Hunters by Jayne Castle (Jayne Ann Krentz) that has cute but lethal dust bunnies in them lol Maybe that’s what they were referring to.
My romances tend not to fit into any sub-genre of romance, and they are hero-focused, not heroine-focused. It must be my age-group, but I like strong male characters as well as strong female characters, but not female characters that are so strong that the hero becomes superfluous. I can honestly say I haven’t read ANY romances that have enthralled me enough to consider them “keepers” since Laura Kinsale stopped writing. I love historical romance the most, but mine are not all set in Regency England. I have one Regency period romance, one fantasy romance, two historical romances set in WII, a ghostly romance, and another set in a post-apocalyptic time frame. I have entered three of my romances in world-wide writing contests and have placed three times–3rd, 2nd, and 1st–respectively. I recently moved and have been trying to get back into a writer’s critique group, but haven’t had any luck due to Covid-19. I self-published my ghostly romance years ago, when Amazon opened up that option, but didn’t know how to market my book and sold few copies. I started writing fan fiction for La Femme Nikita and had huge world-wide success, but of course, could not make that pay. However the fan following gave me confidence in my writing enough to enter contests and win. Are there any hero-focused authors left out there?