Despite the absolute deluge of romance novels on the market today, there’s never been a better time to be a romance author. The interest in romance books has never been higher, with the genre proving the most popular among readers and raking in 1.44 billion in revenue last year.
With such a large market, it’s possible to jump in as a first-time author and quickly build an audience around your romance writing. You’ll need some marketing savvy to build your author brand and break into the contemporary romance genre. Luckily, that’s exactly what you’re reading!
Marketing Romance Books
The first and most important step is to write your book. As a self-published author, you’re going to need to see to editing and revising too. Get that book nearly ready to publish and then you’re ready to dive into marketing.
To market your book, you’re going to need to think about the following:
- Who is your audience?
- How will they find you and your new books?
- How will you draw in potential readers?
- Is your cover and blurb enticing?
Let’s answer each question and in the process, build an outline for your romance marketing plan.
Finding Your Target Audience
The romance category is pretty broad and has a lot of sub-genres, including historical romance, paranormal romance, LGBTQ+ romance, YA romance, Contemporary romance, and many more. You really need to pick a category for your love story and lean heavily into it. The more specific you can be, the better.
Now you need to read as much as you can within your chosen category. Get a sense of the popular trends other romance writers are following. The people who read books in your chosen category are your audience.
Take this a step further and see where these other authors are marketing their books. Do they congregate in Facebook groups or through email lists? Do your peers maintain blogs? Podcasts? Maybe a YouTube channel?
You’re not aiming to copy what other authors are doing, but utilizing the same channels as the most successful writers is a good way to start building your audience.
Romance Readers Love To Read
It’s true. Readers who like romance fall in love with the genre. Ever wonder how well romance novels sell? According to research from WordsRated, romance as a genre is the fastest growing with nearly 40 million books sold in the last 12 months!
This is a huge benefit for romance writers—it means when you capture a reader’s interest, you can be pretty sure they’ll try another book from you.
Use this to your advantage by developing a consistent stream of content. Even if you’re only releasing one or two books a year, you can also do short stories that expand your characters, teasers, and educational content like blogs, podcasts, and videos.
Building An Audience Around Your Brand
Once you understand who you want to present your romance novels to, you need to start grabbing their interest. This is where the real marketing starts.
The most important part for any romance writer preparing for a book launch is to keep the focus on you and not your book. That might seem counterintuitive (and you should still promote your new book), but the key to long-term success is tied to your author brand.
All creators hoping to build a business around their content need to create a continuous stream of new content. For romance authors, that means you need to be writing your next book basically as soon as your latest book is released. Your readers will have favorite books, but they’ll keep coming back to see what you’ve written next.
Romance Book Brand Marketing
Okay, so the key element of your marketing strategy is going to be built around you and your author branding. But what does that look like in practice?
Here are a few examples highlighting the most popular channels for indie authors.
Despite being one of the oldest forms of marketing (in the digital age), blogs are still a popular way to share written content with your fans. Your blog can take a number of forms. You could write about your writing experience, your marketing strategies, your dogs—anything that hooks your fan’s interests.
The best part about a blog is that you can own it. Posts will live on your website and you’ll have ample opportunities to sell your backlist (or latest release) while they read, ask for an email address to continue marketing, and showcase your high-quality content.
Despite being less flashy than social media platforms, blogs are still a popular and valuable way to connect with your audience and build your brand.
As I mentioned in the last section, a blog is a great way to present content and entice readers to visit your author website!
No matter what genre or what kind of content you are selling, you need a website. There’s no way around it today. You need a place to send your fans who want to learn more about you, find your content, and buy your products. If you think that place is Amazon or some other retailer, you’re literally giving away money.
Jillian Dodd is a YA and Contemporary Romance author with a terrific author website.
An eye-catching image, a short bio, and simple navigation all make Dodd’s site a perfect example of how romance authors should build for their audience. The choice to include her genre front and center is a nod to how many different niches exist for romance readers.
Think about ways you can make it clear to anyone who lands on your page:
- Who you are
- What you write
- What you are offering/selling
It should be clear that your site is more than just a storefront, but also an opportunity for a new fan to connect with you beyond your books.
Retail channels are about readers discovering your books—your website is about selling yourself and your books to those fans. I’ll cover this a little more below, but you’ll always be able to earn more when you sell your books to your fans directly from your own website. And you’ll have the added (and invaluable) bonus of collecting data about your customers.
Building an email subscriber list can take some time. But it’s worth the effort! People who join your mailing list are actively seeking the content, discounts, and other exclusives you are offering. Expressing that level of interest is a huge opportunity to promote yourself and your books to a captive audience.
The first step is building an email list. The easiest way to do that is to simply ask. Offer a teaser chapter if they sign up. Make it simple to join your mailing list when someone buys a book (from your website). Developing an email allows you to foster more direct connections with your fans: you can poll them about the kinds of content they want to see, ask for direct responses, and gauge interest based on the links they click.
Finally, email marketing is one of the best ways to market your backlist. When you don’t have a new project to promote, include a promotion for an older title. This will help your new fans discover (and purchase!) from your backlist, helping you earn more revenue.
Dale Mayer is a bestselling author of numerous genre-bending romances. She values her email list so much that she’s placed a Newsletter button in her site’s navigation.
Along with making it easy to get on her mailing list, Mayer keeps the offer simple and direct: she’s going to send you emails about all things Dale. That’s a distinct promise that, since she keeps it, earns her a loyal following.
Keep your own email lead forms simple. You want to make one or two distinct offers that you can reliably speak to in your emails.
Your website and blog are great once readers have discovered you. But to get them on your site, you need a platform to discover new fans and followers. That’s where social media comes in. Social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok are huge platforms with millions of users.
You only need to get the interest of a small portion of those users. In fact, according to research we did in collaboration with The Tilt, you really only need about 4,000 fans to build a sustainable business around your romance books.
Social media platforms are pretty diverse—creating a post on Twitter (now X) can be as easy as typing a few lines. But posting on TikTok might take an entire afternoon of filming and editing.
The best advice for any creator, whether you are a seasoned writer or a new author, is to find one or two platforms where your ideal fans frequent and concentrate on those platforms. Don’t spread yourself thin trying to be everywhere or you’ll quickly burn out. Post where your fans and potential fans will see it and be sure to follow up on those posts by interacting.
Another key aspect of social media is to develop relationships with your peers. Interact with other (ideally famous) romance authors to build connections. If you do this well, you can build an overlap between your audience and theirs, helping both of you earn more sales.
Video & Podcast Marketing
Finally, we’ve got videos and podcasts. Both are extremely popular ways to create content for your fans and build a library of long-form content you can easily recycle for your social media and mailing lists.
Both forms of media require more tools, setup, and behind-the-scenes work to make happen. So don’t dive into either videos or podcasting unless you’re ready.
It’s also worth noting that there are numerous existing romance podcasts and YouTube channels already out there creating valuable content. If this is an area you want to get into, start by working with those existing creators. Maybe you can be a guest on a podcast to discuss the craft. Or maybe you feature your favorite YouTuber on your channels.
Designing Your Romance Books
The interior design is pretty easy. At least compared to other kinds of books. You’ll need to decide on a font and design the regular elements like front matter, back matter, and the header/footer. Luckily, we’ve got resources to help you get your interior file designed and ready for publishing.
There are two aspects of the book design process that are vital to your romance book’s success: the cover and the blurb.
Romance Book Cover Design
Your cover sells your book. Period. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you not to judge a book by its cover. Yes, they may technically be correct, but they’re not going to help you sell any copies.
Your cover needs to convey the themes, mood, and setting of your story. Many romance book covers use specific colors to convey meaning. Others rely on the style—be it illustrated or photographic.
Romance books in particular are heavily reliant on effective covers to sell the genre and themes of your book. You need to be conscious of the choices you make for your cover to ensure it effectively pitches your book.
Here are four basic cover styles romance readers look for and an example for each from a bestselling author.
- The Couple’s Embrace – This iconic cover design features a couple in a passionate embrace, usually with a background defining the time and place of the story. Romance author Helen Hoang employs the couple’s embrace in her book The Kiss Quotient.
- The Hero/Heroine – These covers feature the hero or the heroine, often looking dreamy, mysterious, or empowered. It emphasizes the role of the protagonist and their journey. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid is a great example of a heroine-based cover.
- Illustrated Cover – A newer trend popular in contemporary romance, illustrated covers are colorful, featuring illustrated characters and whimsical fonts. Emily Henry’s Beach Read is a popular romance novel that uses an illustrated cover to capture the reader’s attention.
- Minimalist Cover – As the name implies, minimalist covers are simple and focus on using color to convey emotion or meaning. Perhaps no romance writer is more well-known for her minimalist covers than Colleen Hoover.
Remember, your book cover is your first impression, so make it count. Whether you’re self-published or working with a publisher, investing in a professional cover design can pay dividends. You need to grab attention with your cover or you’ll struggle to attract new readers to your stories.
Romance Book’s Description
While your cover hooks a potential reader’s attention, you’ll need a compelling description to earn book sales. Your book description is the very brief opportunity you have to sell your new customer on the story. The cover needs to convey the genre or general theme of your book. The description is what will sell the book.
Take your time writing the description. In fact, if you can, workshop it through your network of fellow writers, friends, or even your social following. The description must tease your story, introduce your protagonist, and drive that reader to want more.
Alongside the description, you’re going to want a short author bio to identify yourself. Remember, because romance readers will read a lot of books, they need to identify you more than any one book you’ve published. Make that easy with your bio and a headshot prominently added to the back cover or front matter.
Finally, you need book reviews. A plug from another well-known or popular romance author is best, but even posting a “4.5/5 on Goodreads” can help your book stand out in a crowded market.
Romance Book Marketing Ideas
To close this out, I’ve got five ideas you can put to work when marketing your next romance book or book series. Marketing for genre romance is a little different than other genres—primarily because of how popular romance books are and how many different authors and stories are out there.
But with those challenges come opportunities and large communities that can help you turn your own romance books into a thriving business.
1. Join Book Clubs And Romance Writers Of America
Join communities! Not all of them, of course, but find one or two that really fit your genre or subgenre and get active in them! The Romance Writers of America is a terrific place to start—they’re a nonprofit group that advocates for romance writers and helps build networking opportunities. If you’re working on building your career as a romance writer, you should consider joining the RWA.
You can also look for smaller book clubs or discussion groups that focus on romance. Most of these groups meet online and are easy to join. Find one that fits your genre and start participating. Don’t rush into pushing your own book; instead, build a rapport with your fellow book club members and make yourself part of the community. Doing so will naturally lead to interest in your books.
2. People Want Print Books
Despite ebook sales accounting for about 60% of romance sales, that number is on the decline. Broadly, readers favor print books by about two to one.
Romance readers buck the norm because they read so many books. Even still, there’s a noticeable dip in interest for ebooks. This presents indie authors with an opportunity to market their print books through direct sales.
While there is value in having your romance ebook available on Amazon, that value is locked into name recognition. You won’t know anything about the reader other than that they bought your book.
But direct sales bring those readers to your site where they can provide an email address, interact with your other content, and give you a better revenue margin when they purchase from you. As you’re working to market your romance novel, be sure to point readers to your print books on your own site to maximize both profits and long-term connections.
3. Discounts And Deals
This one goes hand in hand with selling from your own site. If you’ve got control over how you sell your books, you can control the pricing, bundles, and more for your customers.
A simple, yet effective bundle might be to offer both the print and ebook together. That helps on-the-go readers take your book with them while also earning you the increased revenue that comes with a print book sale.
Again, you know you’re working with a group of readers who want a ton of content. Discounts are a big draw for people who buy 50 to 100 books a year. Use that to your advantage to push backlist titles, give your new release an extra boost, or just test the waters to see which of your books readers will jump on given a reduced price.
4. Crowdfunding & Subscriptions
If you’re creating a regular stream of content—new books every year, new blog posts, podcasts, or videos weekly—you’re ready to look at crowdfunding and subscription options. Crowdfunding your next book will help you understand how many readers are interested. And you’ll have a group of backers ready (and eager) for you to test cover ideas or sample chapters on.
You could also use a service like Ream, which helps authors build a subscription into their existing audience. Subscribers are the most valuable kinds of fans and give you a terrific opportunity to offer them something unique or exclusive in exchange for their loyalty (and regular subscription payments).
Another tool authors can use to build a subscription for their content is Substack. Their platform is a content distribution tool that allows you to gate whatever content you would like behind monthly or annual subscriptions.
Finally, events are a great opportunity to promote your newest book and build your author brand. You can find romance-focused events all over the world, both in-person and virtual. Here’s a good list of some upcoming ones.
You should look outside just romance conventions too. Events like 20Books in Las Vegas emphasize the business side of being an indie author. It’s an opportunity to meet a new potential audience while also learning and refining your own business skills.
Putting Together Your Long-Term Book Marketing Plan
For many authors, marketing is the least fun and exciting part of their business. But it’s critical to your long-term success.
Romance writers have to be even more conscious of their long-term marketing. There’s a good chance you’ll be writing at least one book series—that demands an added level of consistency in the style, the book design, and the cover art. You’ll need to have all of that in mind while marketing those books.
A marketing plan will have a lot of parts and phases. And it will naturally have to adapt as your business grows. But these few takeaways are important regardless of where you are in your author or marketing journey.
- Know your audience
- Build community
- Offer a hub for you and your content (your author website)
- Stay on-brand and on-genre with your covers
Focus on each of these and you’ll be setting yourself up for success when you launch your romance books!
Paul is the Content Marketing Manager at Lulu. When he's not entrenched in the publishing and print-on-demand world, he likes to hike the scenic North Carolina landscape, read, sample the fanciest micro-brewed beer, and collect fountain pens. Paul is a dog person but considers himself cat tolerant.