How Romance Is Fueling New Love for Print Books in Libraries & Beyond

8 min read

| By Tamara Butler and Tiffany Schofield |

Love for reading is in full bloom—and romance is soaring as today’s bestselling genre.

Following the pandemic, more and more people crave the escapism of fiction. Fueled by reader recommendations on #BookTok, sales of romance print books increased by 52% in 2022. Romance is quickly emerging as today’s fastest growing and highest earning genre, leaping past thrillers and manga.

But why are readers falling so hard for romantic fiction now?

Romance gives readers an escape from the stress of modern life into fictional worlds with happily-ever-after or happy-for-now endings. As social media sites drive demand for romance across all age groups, the genre is finding new younger audiences and its subgenres are shining.

Romantasy (romance + fantasy) is today’s hottest subgenre, regularly hitting the top 10 list of The New York Times and driving popularity for authors like Rebecca Yarros and Sarah J. Maas. These novels help readers escape into magical realms intertwined with timeless love stories. Other subgenres gaining attention are paranormal, sports-centered romances, rom-coms, and second-chance romances, with popular titles like Kate Robb’s This Spells Love and Katelyn Doyle’s Just Some Stupid Love Story.

It’s no secret that many readers on #BookTok are also unabashedly searching for spicy reads. In a recent article, Susan Swinwood, editorial director at Canary Street, explains “Erotic romances aren’t new; they’re now being presented in a fresh and contemporary and modern way. There’s less fear and shyness in wanting, talking about, or reading about sex.” Readers openly crave those steamy scenes that would make their grandmothers blush, and they’re on the hunt to find them in their next romance book.

As the romance genre and its readers evolve, more diverse protagonists are broadening the traditional definition of a heroine. Characters are more complex and relatable, and they experience ups and downs in their relationships that keep readers hooked. Strong female characters dominate novels, protagonists struggle with mental illness, and romances featuring people of color are on the rise.

LGBTQ+ romance is also booming—in 2023, sales of LGBTQ+ romance increased by 40%. Circana’s lead book industry analyst told NBC News, “There’s been LGBTQIA fiction forever, but what really makes this different over the last five years is that those storylines have been moving from a more niche area of fiction into the mainstream.”

The explosion of romance’s popularity has transformed the way people talk about the genre—and even the way it looks. Romance has transcended from yesterday’s mass-market paperbacks at grocery store checkouts to alluring hardcovers taking center stage in bookstore displays.

According to Ana Huang, bestselling author of If We Ever Meet Again, “BookTok has been a kind of revolution … you never would have seen romance so front and center in bookstores.” 

Readers want Instagrammable romance novels that make a splash on #Bookstagram. Gone are a sea of similar romance covers with couples mid-embrace. Today’s popular romances are as diverse as their readers, with bold cover designs that lean into magical, dark, and rom-com subgenres.

A 2023 report from the American Library Association reveals that “younger generations of people are reading books, buying books, and visiting libraries” at a higher rate than older generations. Survey data shows that Gen Z and Millennials read and buy twice as many print books per month compared to eBooks and audiobooks. 

On top of this rise in print demand, “romance fans read more than other readers by a ratio of two to one,” according to the Financial Times. It’s common for romance readers to devour multiple novels in just one week.

As more readers are reaching for print books, libraries are playing an essential role in connecting them to the fiction they crave.

Want to make the surging romance genre more accessible for all readers in your library? Spice up your shelves with the latest #BookTok sensations in large print.

With 16-point font and expanded line spacing, large print books allow readers to turn pages faster and enjoy reading more. Easier on the eyes than standard print, large print offers a much-needed break from screen fatigue. Large print is also proven to help English Learners improve reading fluency and comprehension.

Thorndike Press is expanding our large print romance collection to welcome authors who are dominating #BookTok, such as Sarah J. Maas, Kate Robb, Ana Huang (publishing in August and October 2024), Ali Hazelwood, and Julie Murphy, while still providing favorites like Jodi Thomas, Lori Foster, and Christine Feehan. Cater to the diverse needs of your readers by shelving large print regency romances and hot new subgenres like romantasy, sports-centered romances, and suspenseful paranormal romances.

If you’re looking for a way to effortlessly maintain an accessible romance collection, explore the Thorndike Press romance standing order plans. With multiple tiers, you can find a plan that fits your library’s budget and your readers. Start bringing your patrons fresh spicy titles every month straight from the bestseller lists of The New York Times and #BookTok in a format that’s enjoyable for everyone.

About the Authors

Tamara Butler is an acquisitions editor with over 20 years prior experience in public and academic libraries. She has a master’s degree in library science from the University of Buffalo and a master of fine arts in writing from Lindenwood University. When not checking out the latest Southern gothic novels, Tamara loves to spend time on New England beaches and hang out with her two energetic beagles.

Tiffany Schofield is a senior acquisitions editor who selects both youth and readers. In 1999, Tiffany, a University of Maine graduate, started her career with Thorndike Press and the first youth large print title published. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling the east coast with family and cuddling up with a good book and her goldendoodle dogs.

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