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    Romance Reader Statistics

    Romance Writers of America commissioned Bowker Market Research to perform the creation, implementation, and analysis of the 2011 and 2012 Romance Book Consumer surveys. The Romance Book Consumer surveys were web-based surveys of romance book buyers conducted in 2011 and 2012.

    The Romance Book Buyer

    (Statistics from Bowker® Market Research, Q2 2012, New Books Purchased and RWA's 2012 Romance Book Consumer survey)

    • Women make up 91 percent of romance book buyers, and men make up 9 percent.
    • The U.S. romance book buyer is most likely to be aged between 30 and 54 years.
    • Romance book buyers are highly represented in the South.
    • The greatest percentage of romance book buyers (39 percent) have an income between $50,000 and $99,900.
    • According to RWA's 2011 Romance Book Consumer survey, slightly more than half of survey respondents live with a spouse or significant other.
    • Forty-four percent of romance book buyers consider themselves "frequent readers" (read quite a few romances); 31 percent are "avid readers" (almost always reading a romance novel); and 25 percent are "occasional readers" (on and off, like when on vacation).
    • Readers have been reading romance for a long time: 41 percent of romance book buyers have been reading romance for 20 years or more.

    Geographic Location of Romance Readers

    (Statistics from Bowker Market Research, Q2 2011, New Books Purchased)

    Geographic Location of Romance Readers


    Location of romance readers in the United States (see graph above)

    The percentage of people in each geographic area who purchase romance novels:

    • Northeast: 17 percent
    • Midwest: 26 percent
    • South: 38 percent
    • West: 19 percent

    The Age of Romance Readers

    (2011 Romance Book Consumer survey)

    • Mean age for print romance book buyers: 49
    • Mean age for e-book romance buyers: 42

    Purchase and Acquisition Behaviors

    (2012 Romance Book Consumer survey)
    • The top overall decision factor in buying a romance is the story (50 percent), with the author following at 19 percent.

    • Twenty percent of romance book buyers surveyed purchase romance at least once a month. The remainder purchase every two or three months (22.8 percent) or less frequently.

    • Impulse purchases account for a significant portion of romance book purchases, with 27 percent of purchases being "pure impulse" -- they had no prior intention of buying a book.

    • Romance buyers are buying e-books to a greater extent when compared with other major fiction subgenres. E-book sales of romance books have proportionally doubled in one year, from 22 percent in Q1 2011 to 44 percent in Q1 2012.

    Where Is Romance Bought?

    (Statistics from Bowker Market Research, Q1 2012, New Books Purchased)
    • 25 percent
    • E-commerce less Amazon: 19 percent
    • Walmart: 13 percent
    • Book clubs: 11 percent
    • Barnes & Noble: 11 percent
    • E-book/audio download site: 10 percent
    • 4 percent
    • Other online retailer: 4 percent
    • Supermarket and grocery stores: 3 percent
    • Warehouse clubs: 3 percent

    Purchase Influences

    (2011 and 2012 Romance Book Consumer surveys)
    • Top "offline" factors in influencing purchase decisions:
      • Enjoying the author's previous books
      • Book is part of a series they're reading
      • Description on the back cover or flaps
      • Recommendation of a friend or relative

    • Top "online" factors in influencing purchase decisions:
      • Online bookseller websites (,, etc.)
      • Reading about it/seeing it online
      • Seeing it on a best-seller list
      • Author website

    • Top overall decision factors when deciding on a romance:
      • The story
      • The author
      • It's part of a series
      • Back cover copy

    Information Sources

    Where Romance Buyers Seek Information on What They Read

    (2012 Romance Book Consumer survey)

    Information Source
    Bookstore shelf
    Other, online sources
    Free promotional chapters on my e-reader
    Book club
    E-mails from author
    Other, offline source
    Online community (e.g., GoodReads)

    Discovering New Romance Authors

    (2012 Romance Book Consumer survey)

    • Friends and/or family are the top source by which romance book buyers discover new romance authors; other important sources include browsing physical bookstores, store displays, and browsing a book retailer website.
    • E-books, to some extent, are seen as a good way to try a new author.
    • Romance book buyers are pretty open to trying out a new-to-them author: 57 percent are "very willing" and 39 percent are "somewhat willing."
    • What prompts a buyer to read a new-to-them romance author? The top factors are:
      • Subgenre
      • Title
      • Cover art
      •  Recommendation from an author

    Book Formats Use to Read Romance Novels

    (Statistics from Bowker Market Research, Q1 2012, New Books Purchased)

    In what formats is romance bought?

    • 44 percent: e-book format
    • 29 percent: mass-market paperback
    • 17 percent: trade paperback
    • 8 percent: hardcover
    • 1 percent: audio
    • 1 percent: other binding

    Romance & E-books

    (2012 Romance Book Consumer survey)
    • Forty-five percent of romance book buyers read e-books on any device; 55 percent do not.
    • Of those who do not read e-books, 53 percent are not at all likely to buy/read e-books in the future.
    • What devices are used to read e-books? The top device used is the Kindle (41 percent); the next most popular device is the Nook (16 percent), followed by the Kindle Fire (13 percent), and the iPad (10 percent).
    • Fifty-two percent of romance book buyers have downloaded a free romance e-book, and 22 percent of those buyers said it caused them to buy another book by the author of the free book; 21 percent read the free e-book instead of purchasing a book; and 11 percent said they now only read free e-books.

    Romance E-books vs. Print

    (2011 Romance Book Consumer survey)

    Romance e-book buyers tend to purchase a similar range of romance subgenres as the print buyer, with two notable exceptions: e-book buyers are more likely to buy erotic and paranormal titles.

    romance subgenres

    Mystery ranks the highest in other, closely related fiction subgenres that romance book buyers read.



    Romance E-book Pricing

    (2011 Romance Book Consumer survey)

    From the data in the survey, Bowker Market Research was able to use a methodology known as the van Westendorp pricing model to establish a bottom price (floor), a top price (ceiling), and a target price for the typical romance e-book. In the survey, they offered two scenarios: the first was assuming that a $9 mass-market paperback was available as well as the digital format; while the second scenario assumed that the e-book was the only available option. The results were as follows:

    If a $9 paperback is available
    Only e-book is available
    Too expensive
    High price, but still reasonable
    Fairest price
    Floor price (would question quality)


    A follow-up survey showed at what price a romance e-book would be:

    Too expensive
    High price, but still reasonable
    Fairest price
    Floor price (would question quality)


    Other Activities of the Romance Buyer

    Activities that Do or Do Not Interest the Romance Buyer

    (2011 Romance Book Consumer survey)

    readers activities of interest

    Survey Methodology

    The sample for the Bowker Market Research primary research projects, including the romance project for the Romance Writers of America, is derived from a panel of U.S. book buyers created by Bowker Market Research. A “book buyer” is defined as anyone who responded to a monthly survey that asked a representative sample of Americans whether or not they bought a book in the previous calendar month. If yes, they are asked to complete the survey and are added to the pool of book buyers that are available for follow-up surveys, such as this one asked of romance buyers. This sample is built by monthly recruiting of over 6,000 book buyers per month.

    For the Romance Writers of America (RWA) project, Bowker Market Research drew on this sample to recruit people who purchased a romance book. The fielding period was conducted during March 2012.

    To ensure the highest quality sample, our sampling partner MarketTools, Inc. (MTi) used their patented “TrueSample” methodology to ensure that the people who responded were who they said they were and were completing the survey thoughtfully and accurately. As incentive to complete the survey, all respondents were rewarded with “ZoomPoints” which they can redeem for various good and services.

    A sample size of at least 1,000 respondents was targeted. As part of the process of rebalancing the sample to more closely match the romance market “landscape,” the sample of 1,069 was eventually gathered for the study.

    The data from this study can be viewed as a statistically sound representation of the total market, with error margins of +/- 3.0% at a confidence level of 95%. Error margins of sub-segments of the sample will have somewhat higher error margins.