Genre Research for Romance Authors


Nat 'Nose' Connors

The power of trends


For experienced authors

  • Understand how popular genre elements can fit with your brand
  • Stay connected with your readers as they change
  • Avoid feeling stale or creatively unchallenged

For new authors

  • Find your distinctive voice, and from it build your brand
  • Discover elements that resonate with readers

Follow along!


  • Weekly and monthly information for your romance genre
  • First month free
  • With the code 'RWNZ2021', it's only USD10/month.

What we talk about

when we talk about genre research


Writing to market

Writing to trend


An example

In horror, 'vampires' 
might represent:
  • Loss of humanity
  • Damnation
  • Tragedy
In romance, 'vampires' 
might represent:
  • Eternal love
  • Obsession
  • Loss of innocence

A story element

is a shorthand for a 'package' of emotions and experiences

Another example



Genre research

in one sentence

Understand the essential story elements in a genre/subgenre/niche, and see how those elements are promised in a cover, detailed in a blurb, and then delivered in a story.

Our own style, our own stories

Four parts of research

Four parts of research


Four parts of research


Keep in mind

Covers make a promise to the reader

That promise is developed in the blurb

Then delivered in the story itself
"Will she marry him?"
"Reader, I married him."

Four parts of research



or, what's in your book


  • Emotional content as much as craft
  • Identify key elements/scenes
  • Read reviews
  • Common features between books

Emotional content

and recurring themes

Choose a few relevant books

Work through each book

in turn

Look for story elements, more than beats 
(although the two are not exclusive)
Take a lot of notes - this is not always easy to remember
Recurring elements are the most important

The role of craft books

Next, read reviews

Note down the memorable story elements

What readers say is often less important than that they say it

Finally, compare your notes

Which elements are the same, and which are different?

How do similar or different elements affect the plot?

Which elements are consistently commented upon by readers?

The point


or, what's on the buying page of your book


  • The last thing a reader sees before they make a buying decision
  • (Relatively) less cost and effort to optimise/change


Find a small number

of relevant blurbs


Write my blurb in the style of each of these

A (slightly silly) example

Three different blurbs for a contemporary MF romance

A witty tagline about flirting and falling in love!

Hank McMacho-DarkPast
I'm incredibly good at whatever it is I do, but I mask my emotional wound through performative masculinity.   Now I've met this woman, and she's an obstacle to my unspecified goal.  I'm definitely going to ignore her and achieve it.  

Helen von NoMan-Required
Being single is lousy, but men are useless and I have good friends.  Now there's this infuriating Hank guy and his unspecified goal.  Performative masculinity definitely doesn't work on me, buster.  
A 50k contemporary romance featuring an italicised description of the contents with a guaranteed HEA and no cheating!
A short and punchy blurb
asking the reader to imagine what happens 
when a macho guy with a dark past
and an independent woman
are thrown into conflict
but their attraction threatens everything?
I'm Hank, and my tagline is in bold, because I'm a bold kind of guy

This whole blurb is from my POV, because the author wants the reader to identify with the FMC.  From the moment I saw Helen, standing there, opposing my unspecified goal, I knew I had to make her mine.  
Even if my dark past threatens to ruin everything, I won't give up, because that's how strongly I feel about her.  

Then back to my notes on content

  • Beats, scenes, themes
  • Each sentence needs to do work
  • Look at reviews again

Finally, ask for feedback

  • Testing blurbs on other people has given me the best results by far
  • Ranking seems to give me more useful feedback
  • Sometimes there's a clear winner, sometimes there isn't


or, what's on the front of your book

Covers make a specific set of promises to the reader

Genre & content

Dark romance
Supernatural mystery

Individual elements

Carry content

Carry branding

Another example

Another example

Genre research for covers

Scan relevant categories and searches
Identify the major styles over a few weeks to a month

Genre research for covers

Make notes about styles

Then dive into your comps

Medium shot, no faces shown
Long shot, couple with faces shown
Object relevant to story
People: how many?
Shot choice: face, full/half, medium, long (whole body)
Objects: what and why?
Dominant colours and shades
Other recurring visual elements (branding)

The key question

What does each element say about the content?

Typography is important


Back to the blurbs

for those books



Genre mechanics

or, everything else

Everything else

...that isn't your book

Release frequency

How often are new books released?

Age of books

Up to 30 days post-launch: Initial interest, promos, ads, newsletters
1-6 months: Major revenue period
6+ months: Backlist, focus on series/cross-selling

But not all genres are the same!

Science Fiction Romance

Trad vs indie publishing
Standalone vs series
Book length


Why do we care about genre mechanics?

You could write a fantastic book, with a killer blurb and a great cover - but if it's not priced appropriately, or it's a standalone where series are expected, it might not do as well as it could

Perceiving genre mechanics lets you decide how you want to fit into your market


A weekly and monthly genre research newsletter

Research done for you, in your inbox every week


Cover montages

Blurb trends and details

Filter for specific elements

14 genres in one subscription

One-Hour Romance (KSR)
Paranormal Romance
Gay Romance
Historical Romance
Science Fiction Romance
Mystery, Thriller & Suspense
Cozy Mystery
Science Fiction & Fantasy
Science Fiction
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No binding rules

Understanding norms

Established authors

New authors


Lana Love

Sansa Rayne

Sacha Black

TK Eldridge

Frankie Love

Lizzie Dunlap from Pixie Covers

Elizabeth Brady

Steff Green

The RWNZ2021 team

Thank you for listening!