Romance Novel Sales Statistics

  • Romance novels generate over $1.44 billion in revenue, making romance the highest-earning genre of fiction.
  • Romance reached over 39 million printed units sold over the last 12 months as of May 2023.
  • Romance sales grew by 52% compared to the 12 months ending May 2022, and this has been the third consecutive year with positive growth in romance novel sales in printed format.
  • Sales of romance novels more than doubled compared to 2021 figures (12 months ending May 2021).
  • Over 33% of books sold in mass-market paperback format were romance novels.
Year (12 months ending May)Romance print copies sold (in millions)Growth
  • Romance was the fastest-growing genre of fiction over this period, contributing to 66% of adult fiction growth in 2022.
  • However, e-book romance novel sales declined by 16% over the same period.
  • Ebook sales account for 60% of total romance unit sales.
  • Since July 2020, the rolling 12-month growth of romance novel sales was never under 0, reaching a 2-year high of 4.7% in July 2022.
  • According to Penguin Random House, romance book sales had increased by more than 50% in 2021.
  • Total unit sales for romance novels reached 47 million in 2021, including print and digital formats.
  • This is a 24% increase compared to 2020, which recorded 37.9 million sold units.
  • During 2021, romance sales accounted for 18% of total adult fiction sales, making romance the second highest-selling fiction category.
  • Romance novel sales grew by 49% in 2021 compared to 2020 in the UK.

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Romance market share by authors (2023)

  • Collen Hoover dominates the romance market, accounting for over 48% of the print unit sales for the category as of 2023.
  • Over the last 12 months, sales of Collen Hoover’s books increased by 316%.
  • Another major figure in the romance world in 2023 is Emily Henry, responsible for 32% of all romance novel sales in print formats as of 2023.
  • Collen Hoover and Emily Henry account for 80% of total unit sales of romance books at the moment.
  • Lucy Score and Ana Huang increased the sales of their novels by 23x and 11x, respectively, making it on the top 4 list of authors with the biggest market share when it comes to romance novels.
AuthorShare of total romance sales12-month growth
Collen Hoover48%316%
Emily Henry32%45%
Lucy Score4%2312%
Ana Huang3%1128%
Nicholas Sparks2%-14%
Julia Quinn2%-38%
Christina Lauren2%54%
Nora Roberts2%-29%
Ali Hazelwood2%71%
Debbie Macomber2%-26%

What are the best-selling romance novels of all time?

  • Fifty Shades of Gray (2011-2021) by E. L. James is the best-selling romance novel series of all time, reaching over 150 million copies sold.
  • The first title in the series is also known to be present in the list of all time audiobook best-sellers.
  • The Thorn Birds (1996) by Colleen McCullough has sold over 33 million copies.
  • Pride and Prejudice (1813) and Gone with the Wind have each sold over 30 million copies.
  • Pride and Prejudice is also America’s favorite book, according to WordsRated’s survey of over 78,000 Americans.
#Title (Year)AuthorCopies sold*
1Fifty Shades of Grey, Series (2011-2021)E. L. James150 million
2The Thorn Birds (1996)Colleen McCullough33 million
3Pride and Prejudice (1813)Jane Austen30 million
4Gone with the Wind (1936)Margaret Mitchell30 million
5Outlander (1991)Diana Gabaldon25 million
6Love Story (1970)Erich Segal21 million
7Fear of Flying (1973)Erica Jong20 million
8Bridget Jones’s Diary (1996)Helen Fielding10 million
9The Time Traveler’s Wife (2003)Audrey Niffenegger2.5 million
10Jane Eyre (1847)Charlotte Brontë2 million
(*Other titles may be excluded due to sales reporting differences.)

Romance authors’ diversity

  • Authors’ diversity in romance novels is very unbalanced:
    • 92.2% of romance novels published in 2021 were written by white authors.
    • 7.8% of romance novels published in 2021 were written by BIPOC authors.
  • Romance novel readership is also dominantly white:
    • 73% of romance readers are white/caucasian
    • 12% are African-American
    • 7% are Latino/Hispanic
    • 4% are Asian/Asian American

Who reads romance novels?

  • 82% of romance readers are women, and 18% are men.
  • 45% of romance readers have a college degree.
  • The average romance reader is 42 years old.
  • Romance readers are getting younger:
    • 10 years ago, the main romance-reading group was women ages 35 to 54.
    • Today, the main romance-reading group is women ages 18 to 54.
    • 44% of readers purchasing a romance book are ages 18 to 44.
  • 70% of romance readers discover the genre between ages 11 and 18.
  • 35% of romance readers have been fans of the genre for more than 20 years.
  • 59% of romance readers are married or living with their partner.

Reading habits of romance novels readers

Publishers print a high number of Romance titles annually as novels within the genre have short lifespans. Due to this, 50% of the most competitive Kindle genres are related to Romance.

  • 29% of romance readers usually carry a romance novel with them.
  • Romance readers usually finish a novel within 7 days.
  • 46.4% of romance readers read at least one novel per week.
  • 78.3% of romance readers read more than one novel per month.