Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Romance Books Comprise 21% of the $6.31B Book Industry


According to the Business of Consumer Publishing 2006, the net revenue from retail sources in the U.S. accounted for $6.31 billion in 2006. Romance sales accounted for $1.37 billion or 21% of the overall sales just behind religious/inspirational sales which accounted for $1.68 billion. According to the Assocation of American Publishers, religious/inspirational sales includes the sale of Bibles.

Other genre sales figures include: (after the cut)

  • Science fiction/fantasy $495 million
  • Classic literary fiction $448 million
  • Mystery $422 million
  • Graphic novels $128 million

Other mile markers for romance books include the dominance on the bestseller lists. There were 288 titles on the list (some represented twice because of the different formats for a total of 304 books) and 161 romance authors making the lists.

The most romance fiction sold? This may surprise you.

  • Harlequin ($418 million)
  • Random House ($81 million)
  • Penguin Group ($71 million)
  • HarperCollins ($64.8 million)
  • Kensington ($37 million)

I was surprised to see that Simon & Schuster isn’t there at all, but now that I think about it, Pocket only releases a couple romance books a month. It is has its stars like Sabrina Jeffries and Kresley Cole but apparently not a large enough stable to break the top five.

The most surprising part of the report, though, was not which publisher sold the most, but the percentage breakdown of the sub genres. Most people would say that there are too many paranormals and not enough historicals being put out on the market right now. The numbers don’t bear this out. According to the report, the number of books PUBLISHED (rather than sold) are as follows:

  • 40% category/series romance
  • 17% historical
  • 16% contemporary
  • 9% paranormal
  • 7% romantic suspense
  • 6% inspirational
  • 5% other (includes chick lit, young adult, erotic romance, women’s fiction).

Source: October 2007 RWR.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Jorrie Spencer
    Nov 14, 2007 @ 10:43:33

    Interesting stats! I would have thought mystery had a larger slice of the pie.

  2. Charlene Teglia
    Nov 14, 2007 @ 10:59:50

    I read that and was surprised that erotic romance is in that 5% other (not even 5% alone). By all the noise and clamor, you’d think erotic romance was everywhere and had taken over the bookstore shelves. Anyway, I found the numbers interesting!

  3. Wendy
    Nov 14, 2007 @ 11:12:42

    I’m surprised by 16% contemporary and the fact that scifi/fantasy is ranked higher in dollars than mystery. From a library standpoint though, mystery circulated very, very well – so maybe mystery readers are utilizing their local library more than scif/fantasy readers are?

  4. Jane
    Nov 14, 2007 @ 11:22:44

    Do you think that this could be due to the fact that so many mysteries are hardcover and not paperback?

  5. Wendy
    Nov 14, 2007 @ 11:26:07

    You know, that’s a good point. Even if we’re looking at the most expensive mm pbs, you can buy three of those for the cost of one hard cover. That said, I’ve bought some hard covers at places like Costco, and with the discount it’s like buying a trade pb.

    It could be my perception, but scifi/fantasy seems to be crossing over more and more to hard cover. I wonder if the emergence of urban fantasy is playing into those numbers?

  6. Jane
    Nov 14, 2007 @ 11:30:31

    I wonder if the report makes a breakdown. I bet it does. I should see if I can get this through interlibrary loan.

  7. Jackie L.
    Nov 14, 2007 @ 11:45:42

    I think a lot of the fantasy-romance stuff must be going into the SF/F totals. Because I can seldom find any hard SF for my husband, which alas, is all he reads. When I go to Amazon for suggestions for SF, I get Star Trek and Laurel K. Hamilton. (Ewwww.)

    And at the high quality independent bookstore here in Denver, SF/F used to be 2 long shelves front and back for hardcover alone. Now 1/2 of one of those shelves holds the kind of stuff my hubby will read.

    I think genre blurring is changing the numbers, not actual reader preference.

    For instance, Jasper Fforde is shelved in literature. Where are the genre police when you need them?

  8. Jane
    Nov 14, 2007 @ 11:47:40

    So was the Time Traveler’s Wife. Connie Willis, though, is shelved in SF/F, right?

  9. Patrice Michelle
    Nov 14, 2007 @ 12:18:29

    Interesting breakdown.

    The Time Traveler’s wife was shelved in general fiction not SF/F when I went looking for it at Borders.

  10. Jackie L.
    Nov 14, 2007 @ 12:36:40

    Yeah, Connie is in SF/F. Some of the paranormals are in SF/F, like Krinard. as well.

  11. Janine
    Nov 14, 2007 @ 12:46:57

    I wonder if “Classic literary fiction” includes both classics and contemporary literary fiction, or just the former?

    Also, I wonder where general fiction is included.

  12. Ann Bruce
    Nov 14, 2007 @ 13:04:21

    I thought the percentage of paranormals would be bigger. It certainly seems that way when I hit the bookstores or library. Of course, it could mean (1) there’s better marketing for paranormals or (2) all the historicals and contemporaries were taken by readers before me.

  13. Rebecca Goings
    Nov 14, 2007 @ 14:05:49

    Holy crap, I need to hurry up and send in my Silhouette Desire submission! LOL

    Wow, Harlequin leads the pack. That kinda floored me. Not that it’s in the lead, but that it’s in the lead by such a large margin.


  14. sherry thomas
    Nov 14, 2007 @ 14:14:55

    Wow, Harlequin leads the pack. That kinda floored me. Not that it's in the lead, but that it's in the lead by such a large margin.

    I was really surprised a few weeks ago, when reading the top 100 romances compiled by Bookscan, I noticed that a whole lotta everything jumped down 40-50 places. The reason, the next month’s category titles had hit the shelves. I had no idea categories had such strong sales.

    Now I’m not surprised that Harlequin would lead the pack, and by such a large margin. They produce 120 titles a month. No other publisher comes even close to that publishing that many romances.

  15. Gwen
    Nov 14, 2007 @ 15:16:38

    How many imprints are Harlequin? That might account for why that number is so big. They’ve got MIRA, Silhouette, Nocturne, HQN, etc. I can’t think of them all off the top of my head.

  16. Kalen Hughes
    Nov 14, 2007 @ 17:47:23

    Category books are a HUGE market (and mysterious to all of us who don’t read them). Not only do they come out in large numbers, on a monthly basis, but they're sold via subscription as well as in the stores (and those readers who don't subscribe, are trained to buy them early so as not to miss out).

  17. Sela Carsen
    Nov 14, 2007 @ 19:03:50

    Should Jasper Fforde be in mystery, then? He makes sense in fiction, to me. I think I was most surprised by the share that graphic novels have. It’s getting bigger every year! Interesting development.

  18. Jackie L.
    Nov 14, 2007 @ 21:14:19

    I think of Fforde as fantasy–alternate reality. But the argument has been made that he is too literate and articulate to belong to a genre. Hence, sticking him in litterachoo. But I think that there are a fair number of genre writers who excel. Without needing the “elevation” to literature.

  19. francois
    Nov 15, 2007 @ 05:55:00

    I can understand Mystery being more popular in libraries than bookshops – I can’t stand re-reading mystery books if I can still remember whodunnit or whatever. And mostly I only buy books if I am going to re-read them.

  20. Leeann Burke
    Nov 15, 2007 @ 08:30:09

    It’s nice to see that romance books are still selling so well. I was shocked to see how low paranormal is ranked. I was happy to see Historical Romances are going strong.

    I know you mentioned being surprised Simon & Schuster isn’t listed but I thought Avon would be listed as well.

  21. Kristen
    Nov 15, 2007 @ 09:08:00

    If those SF/F numbers include sales figures for Harry Potter, then they might be more skewed than you think.

  22. Jane
    Nov 15, 2007 @ 10:09:10

    Avon is HarperCollins.

  23. Jan
    Nov 15, 2007 @ 11:34:31

    Are those last numbers by subgenre the numbers published or the numbers sold? If they’re how many sold they would make sense because that would mean people are wanting more historicals and not wanting paranormals as much, so historicals sold more and paranormals less.

  24. Jane
    Nov 15, 2007 @ 13:51:29

    Nope, those last set of numbers by subgenre is the number of books published rather than sold which is why I was so surprised.

  25. Sabrina Jeffries
    Nov 16, 2007 @ 10:02:12

    Thanks for the info, Jane; it’s very interesting!

    I would guess that the paranormal market is lower than expected because its main readership still buys in bookstores. If you’ll notice when you shop in the wholesale market, paranormal tends to be less well-represented than historical and category. I talked to a wholesale buyer at RWA who said paranormal doesn’t do as well for them as historical does. If that’s true, then that would make a huge difference, since the wholesale market (Target, Walmart, groceries) is a much bigger chunk of the market than brick and mortar stores (which isn’t entirely reflected by Bookscan, since Bookscan doesn’t track Walmart numbers).

    Actually, that would go for mystery and literary fiction as well, since their big sales come in hardcover, and wholesale markets don’t carry as many hardcovers.

    Very interesting stuff.

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