The Writer’s Bag of Tricks

Genre and Trope and Stuff


We’ve been talking about the romance genre over the last couple of weeks. Romance is the hottest selling genre of any the mass market fiction category, which means that if you are an established writer of romance, chances are you are doing very well for yourself. But how do you break into becoming a romance writer with enough umph to make a living at it?

I asked one of my very successful romance writer friends, Desire Holt, if most romance writers are able to make a good living.

That’s a dicey question. For some people yes, they can make a living, but for others, no. It really is a crap shoot. No one knows for sure what will catch the public’s attention. Or when.

Prior to 2013, Marie Force had made something like $2,500 in total writing romance. That year she had the first of four books in a series written, but not one publisher would take a chance on her, so she decided to self-publish. She put the first book up for free, which can be a great idea for new authors with a series, and it took off like crazy. Since then, she has written nine books in the series, sold more than a million copies, and signed two lucrative contracts with two different publishers. But that’s just one person, and you don’t know where the gold will strike.

I know authors who write great books and don’t have even moderate success. It helps to be prolific, most definitely. One or two books a year aren’t going to be enough to live on unless you are already an established author with a six figure income. You hook the reader with the first book and then have more ready for them to feed their appetite. You really need to write six or seven per year.

For every successful* romance author I know, also I know many who are not successful (yet).

So, what does it take to be successful?

  • You learn the requirements for your genre so you never disappoint readers.
  • You love what you do, and do it in spite of any financial situation.
  • You have your goals established and a plan of action to achieve them.
  • You work at improving your craft. Always.
  • You develop relationships with your readers through various networks and communities.
  • You are visible on social media and work to establish a following by developing relationships with your readers even if you haven’t published yet.
  • You are professional at all times and you behave professionally.
  • You don’t give up. EVER.
  • You think of yourself as a successful writer.
  • You work hard to plot several books at a time and/or plot a series.
  • You are a serious writer and you write daily.

There are those who think romance as a genre is trite. There are those who read romance in secret (though of course e-readers have simplified the reading of romance since others can’t usually tell what you are reading). There are those who believe that the reading of romance is bad for your health (really!) and psyche, and those who believe reading romance novels negatively effect  relationships because the stories give readers a false sense of love and sex.

People say negative things about TV, music, and video games.

Here’s the thing. If you want to learn the craft of writing genre fiction novels, romance is as good a genre as any to hone your craft on, and probably better than most. You will have to learn tropes, learn plot and structure, and create dynamic characters. You will have to write strong emotions. And, if you are daring, you will have to learn to write a sex scene (something much harder than you think it is. I double dog dare you to give it a try). You also have to write on a schedule so you can write several books per year.

If you do write a romance novel, but you don’t want anyone to know it was you, don’t feel embarrassed. Just publish using a nom de plume (pen name). I know many writers who publish using a fictitious name. It’s all good, and the more outrageous the pen name, the better.

I also know writers who started out writing romance just to learn the craft of writing, and fell so hard in love (pun intended) with the genre that they never went back to their “real” writing.

Just think about it.

*I am defining success here by the ability to make enough money on a regular basis for writing to be the sole source of income.

Next week we move on to a different genre.

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