Romance Novel Sales Statistics [+Books and Authors]

By Bedbible Research Center / March 07, 2023

Romance novels have been a popular genre of literature for centuries, capturing the hearts and imaginations of readers around the world. As the publishing industry continues to evolve, understanding the sales statistics of romance novels becomes increasingly important for authors, publishers, and enthusiasts alike. In this article, we will explore the latest romance novel sales statistics and trends, examining factors such as the most popular sub-genres, distribution channels, and demographic trends. By gaining a deeper understanding of the romance novel market, we can better appreciate the enduring appeal of this beloved genre and its impact on the literary world.

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Romance novel and book sales

Romance novels and books have consistently been a top-selling genre in the publishing industry, with a loyal and passionate fanbase. Romance fiction accounts for 26% of all fiction books sold in the United States in 2022. In the same year, romance book sales generated $1,53 billion in revenue, making it the second-highest-earning fiction genre behind thrillers/mystery.

  • Romance novels and books generate over $1,53 billion in revenue every year.
  • 33% is the increase that romance novel sales increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Romance is the 2. highest-earning fiction genre behind thriller/mystery.
  • 25 million units (books/novels/ebooks/etc.) on the topic of romance/romance were sold last year. Making it account for 35% of all book sales.
  • Romance novels accounted for 26% of all adult fiction sales in the USA.
  • E-books make up a significant portion of romance novel sales, accounting for 49% of all romance novel purchases in 2022.
  • 72% is the growth rate for romance books and novels in the past 5 years. Making it the fastest-growing genre within books/novels/ebooks.
  • 2-5% is the AAGR (Average annual growth rate) that romance novels/books have increased in sales in the last 23 years. This AAGR is expected to keep increasing over the next 7-10 years.
Sales of Novels and Books (in millions)

Distribution, logistics, and production

  • Romance novels are popular worldwide, with the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada being the biggest markets.
  • Romance novels were the most popular ebook genre, accounting for 39% of all ebooks sold in Canada. Romance novels account for 40% of all book sales in the USA.
  • Romance novels have been adapted into successful films and television shows, such as Bridgerton, Outlander, and Fifty Shades of Grey.
  • 60% buy their romance novel online, 30% buy in a physical store, and 10% other (e.g. private selling through marketplace/eBay/etc.)
  • +50% of romance novels/books are printed/produced in the US.
Romance novels share of total books sold by country

The Authors; Demographics

  • The top-selling romance novel authors in the United States are Nicholas Sparks, Nora Roberts, and Danielle Steel.
  • 9 out of 10 romance novels and books are written by white authors.
  • 86% of authors are women.
  • The authors are typically between 35 – 60 years old.
  • The top five traditional romance publishers are:
    Harlequin accounts for 12.8% of all romance sales.
    Penguin Random House accounts for 8.7%.
    Hachette Book Group accounts for 7.5%.
    St. Martin’s Press accounts for 5.5%.
    Sourcebooks account for 5.4%.
  • The median income for romance authors is $6,000, but 17% earn more than $35,000 per year from their writing.
  • 2 out of 10 romance authors have included an LGBTQ+ character in their novels/books.

The Readers; Demographics

  • The average romance novel/book/ebook reader is a 45 years old married white woman with a college degree living in a big city and has a middle to upper income.
  • 7 out of 10 readers get to know the genre when they are around 15 years old.
  • Education: Romance novel readers are typically well-educated, with many holding college degrees or higher.
  • The most popular age range for romance novel readers is 30-54 years old.
  • Romance novel readers are 84% female and 16% male.
  • 60% of romance novel readers are white persons, 20% Asian, 15% Black, and 5% other.

The 20 best-selling romance novels/books and authors

The top-selling romance novels and books (also e-books) do have an interesting difference in the publication year. Some go back to the 16th century and others are only a few years old. See the below overview to find the most popular one, the author behind it, and the estimated sales in millions.

If we excluded the ebook sales of Fifty Shades of Grey, it would only be listed as number 5 with just below 50 million copies sold.

RankTitleAuthorYear PublishedEstimated Sales (Millions)
1Fifty Shades of GreyE.L. James2011150+ (including ebooks)
2Pride and PrejudiceJane Austen181350+
3The Bridges of Madison CountyRobert James Waller199250+
4Gone with the WindMargaret Mitchell193630+
5OutlanderDiana Gabaldon199125+
6The NotebookNicholas Sparks199620+
7TwilightStephenie Meyer200520+
8Wuthering HeightsEmily Bronte184720+
9The Fault in Our StarsJohn Green201216+ (including ebooks)
10Me Before YouJojo Moyes201215+ (including ebooks)
11The Time Traveler’s WifeAudrey Niffenegger200310+
12The Lovely BonesAlice Sebold200210+
13The Best of MeNicholas Sparks201110+
14Safe HavenNicholas Sparks201010+
15The Hunger GamesSuzanne Collins200810+
16The HostStephenie Meyer200810+
17The Notebook (Film Tie-In)Nicholas Sparks199610+
18The Bridges of Madison County (Film Tie-In)Robert James Waller199210+
19The Twilight SagaStephenie Meyer2005-200810+
20The Notebook (Ultimate Edition)Nicholas Sparks199610+

There are different genres of romantic novels and books. Fifty Shades of Grey is for example an erotic romance. Below are the top 15 most popular genres of romantic novels and books:

  1. Paranormal romance – featuring supernatural creatures such as vampires, werewolves, and witches.
  2. Contemporary romance – set in the present day, featuring realistic characters and situations.
  3. Historical romance – set in a specific time period in the past, often featuring historical events and figures.
  4. Romantic suspense – combining elements of romance and suspense or thriller genres.
  5. Romantic comedy – featuring humorous and lighthearted elements.
  6. Erotic romance – featuring explicit sexual content and often exploring themes of BDSM or other kinks.
  7. LGBTQ+ romance – featuring relationships between same-sex partners or other non-heteronormative relationships.
  8. Inspirational romance – incorporating religious or spiritual themes and values.
  9. New adult romance – featuring protagonists who are transitioning from adolescence to adulthood, typically in their early twenties.
  10. Fantasy romance – incorporating fantastical elements such as magic, mythical creatures, and alternate worlds.
  11. Sports romance – featuring protagonists who are athletes or involved in the sports industry.
  12. Medical romance – featuring protagonists who work in healthcare settings such as hospitals or clinics.
  13. Billionaire romance – featuring wealthy protagonists and often exploring themes of power and control.
  14. Military romance – featuring protagonists who are members of the military or veterans.
  15. Small-town romance – set in a tight-knit community and often featuring themes of community and family.

What influences the sales of romance novels and books?

There are many factors that influence the sales of romance novels and books. We have listed the 4 most important ones:

  1. Popular sub-genres: Different sub-genres of romance, such as contemporary, historical, paranormal, and erotic, have varying levels of popularity among readers. Publishers and authors often tailor their marketing and content strategies to appeal to the preferences of their target audience.
  2. Author popularity: Readers often follow specific authors they enjoy, which can lead to increased sales for their latest releases. Established authors may have a larger following and a higher level of brand recognition, which can also help boost their sales.
  3. Marketing and promotion: Effective marketing and promotion can play a significant role in driving sales of romance novels. Publishers and authors may use advertising, social media, book tours, and other promotional strategies to reach new readers and build buzz around their books.
  4. Distribution channels: The availability of romance novels in different distribution channels, such as physical bookstores, online retailers, and digital platforms, can impact sales. The growing popularity of ebooks and audiobooks has also changed the way readers consume and purchase romance novels.