Gen Z is driving sales of romance books to the top of bestseller lists (2023)

Gen Z is driving sales of romance books to the top of bestseller lists (1)

Ask a Gen Z woman what she's read recently, and there's a good chance two names will come up: Colleen Hoover and Emily Henry.

"Gen Z is my favorite of all generations for so many reasons, and their love for reading is just one of the many," Hoover said. "I love that they are consuming books and sharing books and recommending books. They're reading so much – not only my books, but books across genres."

For months, Hoover and Henry have occupied multiple spots on the New York Times paperback trade fiction bestsellers list. The success of these contemporary romance writers has been driven in large part by Gen Z readers – and social media.

"It's the right person finding the book at the right time and then sharing it with the right people," said Henry. Her novels Beach Read, People We Meet on Vacation, and Book Lovers are all bestsellers.

(Video) Gen Z is driving sales of romance books to the top of bestseller lists

Hoover's upcoming book, It Starts With Us – the highly anticipated sequel to It Ends With Us from 2016 – has more pre-orders than any novel in Simon & Schuster history – and there are still seven weeks to publication. Its pre-orders have surpassed Stephen King's Dr. Sleep, which went on sale in 2013 – the publishing company's previous leader.

What makes a romance novel a Gen Z hit

A decade ago, the main demographic for romance was women ages 35 to 54. But in the past several years, that has widened to include women 18 to 54, according to Colleen Hoover's publicist Ariele Fredman.

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"Gen Z is a huge audience for romance," she said. "If you think about it, like millennials, their youth has been marked by global and social upset and unrest in many ways, so looking for a happy ever after or an emotional outlet in a book seems like a healthy way of coping."

Kaileigh Klein, a 19-year-old college student in Ontario, Canada said she loves Hoover's books for just this reason – for the big emotions she writes about.

"People [my age] gravitate towards her novels because they're really emotional. I feel like even if you can't express emotion in real life, reading it on paper, it's really easy to connect to it and relate to it," she said.

Sahar Kariem, a 22-year-old stylist from Maryland, said Emily Henry's "balance of romance and life lessons," as well as themes of coming of age, have cemented Henry as one of her favorite authors.

Meanwhile, marketing trends, like covering contemporary romance novel jackets with cartoon figures and bright colors, has also helped pull in a younger audience, according to Leah Koch, who co-owns The Ripped Bodice, a romance bookstore in Los Angeles.

"I don't know that I'll ever have a grasp on it, but I'd like to think they're responding to the entertainment factor," Hoover said. "The last few years have been wild in the best way, and I'm very grateful to readers who continue to share my books and the books of other authors on their social platforms."

Social media pushing romance to younger readers

Much of the success of the romance genre with Gen Z readers is driven by BookTok, a subcommunity on TikTok for recommending, reviewing, and discussing books. Sales for authors whose books have gone viral on TikTok had reached 12.5 million in 2022, as of July, according to NPD BookScan, a data service that tracks U.S. book sales. And as of April, nearly 41 percent of TikTok's global users were between the ages of 18 and 24 — with more than half of those being women, according to Statista.

Colleen Hoover is especially savvy at knowing how to connect with her fans. She's a frequent TikTok user, regularly engaging with her almost 950,000 followers. Emily Henry has chosen another approach, leaving the space to readers – giving her an almost a mythical presence on the platform.

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Bookstore owner Koch said she's noticed a large increase in younger customers coming into the store since early 2021 — something she "100 percent" attributes to TikTok.

"We'll get a rush of customers asking for something random and we're like, 'Why does everyone want this specific book?'" Koch said. The answer is always TikTok.

Ali Hazelwood, whose 2021 debut book The Love Hypothesis became a smash BookTok hit, said she had no idea of the book's virality until a friend told her a TikTok recommending it had 2 million views.

"The way BookTok talks about books is very different from your traditional review," Hazelwood said. "They make me want to buy my book."

The Ripped Bodice's top selling book, Koch said, is Hoover's It Ends With Us. Though it's not new, it received a surge in popularity last year thanks to BookTok. The book hit No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list in January 2022.

BookTok reduces romance stigma, but upholds whiteness

Ultimately, Koch said, what gets a reader in their teens or early 20s to pick up a romance novel is if they're able to relate to a character's feelings and circumstances. But this doesn't mean a character has to be exactly the same as them.

"I've never heard a Gen Z reader say, 'I don't want to read this because I can't personally relate to the characters [in race or sexuality]," Koch said.

Yet, the majority of the most successful BookTok romance novels are about white, straight characters and by white authors, with a few notable exceptions. The books that go viral on TikTok tend to be by white authors, and mostly white women.

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"There are so many books that I think are excellent and don't make [bestsellers] lists, and so many of these books are written by non-white authors," Hazelwood said. "There's definitely a pattern and a marked disadvantage that authors of color have to face in publishing."

Henry shared similar sentiments – and said she often wonders why certain authors, like Kennedy Ryan, haven't blown up on BookTok yet. She also said she wouldn't be in the contemporary romance game if it weren't for women of color like Helen Hoang and Jasmine Guillory, whose 2018 debut novels made her realize there was an audience for a book like Beach Read.

It's a broader issue than just BookTok — according to The Ripped Bodice's annual State of Racial Diversity in Romance Publishing Report, only 7.8 percent of romance books published in 2021 were written by BIPOC authors.

"There's so many good books by Black authors that get ignored," said Gen Z reader Kariem, who herself is Black and Muslim. "I think a lot of books by white authors are just advertised more, and there's a lot of up and coming authors that don't have the same resources."

Henry also reflected on the issue. "I don't know what we do to help BookTok make space for more authors beyond the white authors who are having this moment," Henry said.

But overall, the romance writers at the top of the bestsellers lists today said they rejoice in Gen Z's openness about loving the romance genre. It's "this embracing of pleasure and sexuality and openness to the things that make you feel good without denigrating those as like a lower form of art," Henry said.

Hazelwood said she, and so many others, grew up embarrassed of reading romance novels. "I just hope that this new generation is growing up without all that stigma that was unjustifiably there to begin with. Now [reading romance] is super cool," she said.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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FAQs

What percentage of books sold are romance? ›

During 2021, romance sales accounted for 18% of total adult fiction sales, making romance the second highest-selling fiction category.

Who is the target audience for romance novels? ›

The Audience

84% of romance novel readers are women. Romance fiction buyers span all age ranges but the largest segment (41%) is between 30 and 54 years old.

What is the best selling romance genre? ›

1. Contemporary Romance. Contemporary romance is the most prominent romance subgenre, generally encompassing stories set after the 1970s. Because contemporary romance deals with modern problems and themes, you can expect a degree of realism here that you won't often find in other subgenres.

Who is the number 1 romance author? ›

Nora Roberts

The first writer in the Romance Writer of America Hall of Fame, Nora Roberts is known as the queen of romance fiction.

Why do romance books sell so well? ›

Happy Endings Are Key

Happy endings are a given when it comes to writing a bestselling romance novel. Readers expect that things will work out between the characters that they've established a connection with. A guaranteed happy ending is one of the primary reasons people enjoy reading romances.

How big is the romance market? ›

Romance book sales exceed $1 billion every year, selling more than many other genres combined.

Why do people read romance novels? ›

The apparent reason - To read about an ideal and true love. We don't get flowers and chocolates and gifts every day. Everyday life is boring, so why not spark it up by reading about romantic love. Read romance because it's predictable – happily ever after.

Who has written the most romance novels? ›

If there's one author on this list who's a recognized household name, it's Nora Roberts. Since 1980, Roberts has written and published an astounding number of romances — her website claims the number stands at over 215!

Is the romance genre still popular today? ›

A 2018 study reported that 25 percent of all books and one out of two mass-market paperbacks sold were romance novels. As of 2016, 39.3 percent of genre fiction on the market was romance; mystery was not even close at 29.6.

What are the most popular types of romance novels? ›

6 Common Romance Subgenres
  • Contemporary romance. One of the largest subgenres of romance, contemporary romance is often set in the time it's written, encompassing the time after World War II all the way to the present. ...
  • Historical romance. ...
  • Romantic suspense. ...
  • Inspirational romance. ...
  • Speculative romance. ...
  • Young adult.
20 Aug 2021

Who is the best book boyfriend? ›

Tobias from The Finish Line

I don't know, Tobias is right up there with Rhys as the best book boyfriend of 2021.

What is the greatest love story ever written? ›

1. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
  • The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion.
  • Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel García Marquez.
  • Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy.
  • The Great Gatsby, by F Scott Fitzgerald.
  • Under the Udala Trees, by Chinelo Okparanta.
  • Middle England, by Jonathan Coe.
  • A Single Man, by Christopher Isherwood.
12 Feb 2020

Who is the best-selling female author? ›

Agatha Christie. Named “Queen of Crime”, Agatha Christie is considered the best selling female author of all time, with a sales record of over 2 billion books. She wrote about 78 novels that have been translated into 44 languages, in addition to 19 plays.

Who buys romance novels? ›

Romance book buyers are still more likely to be female than buyers of fiction overall, but with more attention than ever directed to the genre—especially given all the media coverage of Fifty Shades of Grey—more men are coming into the fold.

When did romance books become popular? ›

The genre boomed in the 1980s, with the addition of many different categories of romance and an increased number of single-title romances, but popular authors started pushing the boundaries of both the genre and plot, as well as creating more contemporary characters.

Why romance is considered as the most important genre of literature? ›

Romances give us better insights into relationships.

Romance novels can serve as mentors for what it takes to forgive, persevere, and make things work. They can also be mirrors that reflect what real love looks like, displaying healthy relationship skills, sacrificial love, and how to overcome obstacles.

Why is romance a heavily criticized genre? ›

Because romance is a female dominated genre, it is seen as more lowbrow than almost any other genre. Despite being a female dominated field, romance receives just as much backlash from women as it does from men. In 1856, George Eliot described women's writing as “frothy, prosy, pious, and pedantic.

What are the effects of reading romance novels? ›

Romance novels challenge societal norms about what is acceptable behavior in romantic relationships. When women see this modeled for them in fiction, they start to demand it in their own lives, and people who benefit from the current societal structure don't like it.

Why is romance so important? ›

Romance, at any stage of a relationship, helps solidify our bond and reminds us of our relative uniqueness to our partners. Notably, the study revealed that most respondents believe that romance's level of significance in a relationship grows as the relationship grows.

Why do girls read romance? ›

Women read romance novels because they're in a relationship, perfectly happy, and just like to read about other people suffering through the pangs of love. And occasionally keep a running commentary on their relationship. 5.

What does romance do to the brain? ›

Being love-struck also releases high levels of dopamine, a chemical that “gets the reward system going,” said Olds. Dopamine activates the reward circuit, helping to make love a pleasurable experience similar to the euphoria associated with use of cocaine or alcohol.

Why do men read romance novels? ›

In a culture that teaches men to conceal or suppress their emotions, romance novels model a more emotionally available form of masculinity—one where a willingness to be vulnerable is the key to intimacy with a partner.

What is the most liked book series? ›

The Harry Potter series is far and away the highest-selling series of novels ever. Written by British author J.K. Rowling, the series has sold at least 500 million copies, 150 million more than the next-highest selling series.

What is the No 1 novel? ›

Top 100 best selling books of all time
RankTitleGenre
1Da Vinci Code,TheCrime, Thriller & Adventure
2Harry Potter and the Deathly HallowsChildren's Fiction
3Harry Potter and the Philosopher's StoneChildren's Fiction
4Harry Potter and the Order of the PhoenixChildren's Fiction
45 more rows

Who are the best book couples? ›

Top 10 Romance Book Couples
  • Alexander & Tatiana (The Bronze Horseman)
  • Gideon & Eva (Bared To You)
  • Christian & Ana (Fifty Shades of Grey)
  • Kellan & Keira (Thoughtless)
  • Ryan & Taryn (Love Unscripted)
  • Nick & Alix (The Sweet Gum Tree)
  • Will & Lake (Slammed)
  • Jake & Tru (The Mighty Storm)

What is the most sold most read most printed book in the world? ›

Tolkien, that lack comprehensive sales figures. According to Guinness World Records as of 1995, the Bible is the best-selling book of all time with an estimated 5 billion copies sold and distributed.

What is the difference between a love story and a romance novel? ›

Characters in a romance may feel idealized in some way. They might have some type of flaw--but even this flaw is likely to be a strength in disguise. Love stories tend to have more deeply and authentically flawed characters.

Who is the greatest book writer of all time? ›

These are the 10 greatest authors of all time, by points earned.
  • Leo Tolstoy – 327.
  • William Shakespeare – 293.
  • James Joyce – 194.
  • Vladimir Nabokov – 190.
  • Fyodor Dostoevsky – 177.
  • William Faulkner – 173.
  • Charles Dickens – 168.
  • Anton Checkhov – 165.
2 Dec 2019

When did Romantic movement start declining? ›

However, in most fields the Romantic period is said to be over by about 1850, or earlier. The early period of the Romantic era was a time of war, with the French Revolution (1789–1799) followed by the Napoleonic Wars until 1815.

Why is romanticism still relevant today? ›

Today, Romanticism can be found in a wide cross-section of film, television, literature, music, and art. Whether it is a focus on the eternal power of nature or an audience's visceral reaction to a particular medium, contemporary society is ripe with Romance in the Romantic sense.

Is romance the most popular book genre? ›

Romance: Romance novels are perhaps the most popular genre in terms of book sales. Romance novels are sold in grocery store checkout lines, in monthly shipments from publishers to readers, and online, as well as via self-publishing services.

What are the 3 most read books? ›

We've got a list of the most read books in the world of all time.
  • The Holy Bible.
  • The Holy Quran.
  • The Harry Potter Series: J.K. Rowling.
  • The Quotations From Chairman Mao Tse Tung.
  • The Lord of the Rings.
  • The Alchemist.
  • The Diary of Anne Frank: Anne Frank.
  • The Twilight SagA: Stephenie Meyer.
24 Mar 2021

What kind of books are in demand now? ›

Non-fiction, fantasy, science-fiction and thriller genres are doing great. In May 2020, popular genres included fiction, especially fantasy books, science fiction, thriller, and crime books.

What are the top 5 most printed books? ›

The 10 Best-selling Books in History
  • The Bible. ~ 5 billion copies sold. ...
  • Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung. ~ 1.1 billion copies sold. ...
  • The Quran. ~ 800 million copies sold. ...
  • The Lord Of The Rings. ~ 155 million copies sold. ...
  • The Little Prince. ...
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. ...
  • Scouting For Boys. ...
  • And Then There Were None.
11 Nov 2022

What are the three sub genres of romance? ›

Each subgenre of romance has a purpose. Historical romance aims to reflect upon the culture and society of past civilizations, whereas contemporary romance delves into the more modern struggles we face with love. Erotic romance explores sexuality, while paranormal romance explores the imagination.

What are the two types of romance? ›

D., research has defined two major types of interpersonal love: passionate love (which is what we think of as romantic love, involving attraction and sexual desire) and attachment (also known as compassionate love, which can be between caregivers and children, between long-term romantic partners, and other deeply ...

Are there any male authors of romance novels? ›

Like any other category of writing, great romance fiction is written (and sold) by both women and men. One of the most successful writers in the early years of romantic fiction was Tom Huff, who wrote under the pseudonym of Jennifer Wilde.

Who are the most famous lovers in English literature? ›

Top 10 Greatest Couples In Literature
  • Peeta and Katniss – The Hunger Games series. ...
  • Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy – Pride and Prejudice. ...
  • Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley – Harry Potter. ...
  • Eowyn and Faramir – Lord of the Rings. ...
  • Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan – The Great Gatsby. ...
  • Ennis and Jack – Brokeback Mountain.
18 Nov 2019

What is the most beautiful love story? ›

Narrowing down our favorites wasn't easy but these are the 25 love stories we think everyone needs on their must-read list.
  • The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks. ...
  • One Day by David Nicholls. ...
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. ...
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. ...
  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. ...
  • The Fault In Our Stars by John Green.
15 Apr 2022

What is the greatest love story ever sold? ›

The streamer released the official full-length trailer for the show on Wednesday, Jan. 5, describing Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee's sex tape as "the greatest love story ever sold." In the clip, it shows how Tommy and Pam, portrayed by Sebastian Stan and Lily James respectively, came to know each other.

Who is the No 1 writer in the world? ›

List
AuthorMin. estimated salesNumber of books
William Shakespeare2 billion42
Agatha Christie2 billion85
Barbara Cartland500 million723
Danielle Steel500 million179
66 more rows

Who has sold the most books ever? ›

1. William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616) Often cited as the greatest writer in the English language and the bane of every high school student's existence, William Shakespeare has an estimated 4 billion copies of his works in circulation.

What book genre makes the most money? ›

Fall in Love with Romance

If you're looking for a genre that makes the most money, look no further than romance. Through the years, romance continues to be the most popular and profitable book genre.

What is the #1 book ever sold? ›

According to Guinness World Records as of 1995, the Bible is the best-selling book of all time with an estimated 5 billion copies sold and distributed.

Which genre of books sell the most 2022? ›

Young Adult

Young adults have the biggest market, as young people now know the value of reading as a pastime and an escape from reality. It is still popular among young adults going into 2022. The top genres here include sci-fi, fantasy, and romance.

What book genres are in high demand? ›

Most Popular Fiction Genres
  • Fantasy.
  • Science Fiction.
  • Dystopian.
  • Adventure.
  • Romance.
  • Detective & Mystery.
  • Horror.
  • Thriller.
17 Nov 2022

Which books can make me rich? ›

8 books to grow your money, wealth and financial prosperity
  • Rich Dad Poor Dad. ...
  • Think and Grow Rich. ...
  • The Millionaire Next Door. ...
  • The Total Money Makeover. ...
  • Secret's of the Millionaire Mind. ...
  • The Science of Getting Rich. ...
  • I Will Teach You To Be Rich. ...
  • Money Master The Game.

What type of writing sells the most? ›

Romance – Contemporary and Historical

Romance is consistently one of the top-selling book genres and has been so for many years.

What is the fastest selling book of all time? ›

25 Best-Selling Books of All-Time
  • #1 – Don Quixote (500 million copies sold) ...
  • #2 – A Tale of Two Cities (200 million copies sold) ...
  • #3 – The Lord of the Rings (150 million copies sold) ...
  • #4 – The Little Prince (142 million copies sold) ...
  • #5 – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (107 million copies sold)

What is the most read book of all time? ›

The most read book in the world is the Bible. Writer James Chapman created a list of the most read books in the world based on the number of copies each book sold over the last 50 years.

What is the 2nd most selling book of all time? ›

Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tsung, also known as the “Little Red Book”, is the world's second best-selling book, having sold around 1.1 billion copies worldwide.

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