Romance Writers of America commissioned Nielsen to perform the creation, implementation, and analysis of the 2014 Nielsen Romance Buyer Survey. Below is some of the information discovered about romance readers.
The Romance Book Buyer
- Women make up 84 percent of romance book buyers, and men make up 16 percent. (Update: According to Nielsen, as of Q4 2014, women make up 82% of romance book buyers.)
- 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.
- Romance book buyers have an average income of $55,000.
Source: Nielsen Books and Consumer Tracker
What They Read and Buy
- Reading versus buying romance: 64 percent read romance more than once a month; 35 percent buy romance more than once a month.
- How long have been reading romance:
- 35.1 percent: 20 years or more
- 20.6 percent: 5 to less than 10 years
- 20.4 percent: 10 to less than 20 years
- 16.1 percent: 2 to less than 5 years
- Top romance subgenres by format read primarily:
- Print: romantic suspense (53%); contemporary romance (41%); historical romance (34%); erotic romance (33%); New Adult (26%); paranormal romance (19%); Young Adult romance (18%); and Christian romance (17%).
- E-book: romantic suspense (48%); contemporary romance (44%); erotic romance (42%); historical romance (33%); paranormal romance (30%); New Adult (26%); Young Adult romance (18%); and Christian romance (14%).
- Top 10 popular romance tropes: (1) friends to lovers; (2) soul mate/fate; (3) second chance at love; (4) secret romance; (5) first love; (6) strong hero/heroine; (7) reunited lovers; (8) love triangle; (9) sexy billionaire/millionaire; (10) sassy heroine
- What else romance buyers read: generally, romance buyers also read mystery, general fiction, cooking/food books, young adult, and erotic fiction. When broken down by age, a majority of older readers buy mysteries, and younger readers buy YA and erotic fiction.
- Regardless of format, 61 percent of romance buyers are reading about the same amount of romance novels as compared to 12 months ago. Twenty-three percent are reading more often, while 14 percent are reading less often.
How They're Getting Their Books
How do romance readers acquire romance books?
(1) Buy them in stores
(2) Buy them online at a retail site (e.g., Amazon.com)
(3) Borrow them from a library
(4) Download them to my e-reader (e.g., Kindle or Nook)
(5) Receive or borrow them from friends/relatives
(6) Buy them via a mobile app to use on a tablet/smartphone and/or read later on a dedicated e-reader
(7) Acquire them through book club subscription
(8) Acquired them as part of a subscription service (e.g., Oyster, Scribd, Amazon Prime)
Which stores have they bought from most often?
Physical store (top five):
(1) Barnes & Noble
(4) Used bookstore
(5) Supermarket/grocery store
Online store (top five):
How They Discover Romance Books
Most-important factor when deciding on which romance novel to buy (ranked from most to least important):
(1) The story
(2) The author
(5) Part of a series
(6) Back cover copy
(7) Cover art
(8) Recommendations on a social media site
(9) Deal/bundle/bargain/special offer
(10) An endorsement by another leading author
In the last six months, the top activity done in regards to romance reading is searched for a new romance author to read, followed by: received social media updates from favorite authors through either Facebook or Twitter, shared author or book information on social media, offered feedback on romance to others, and participated in discussions online about romance books.
Top 10 ways romance buyers are most likely to discover new romance authors or titles to read (ranked from most likely to least):
(1) Browsing in a bookstore
(2) In person recommendation from people you know
(3) Browsing online book sites
(4) Best-seller lists
(5) From books I've sampled
(6) Following favorite authors on social media
(7) From book recommendation lists
(8) Library or library staff recommendations
(9) Book review blogs and sites
(10) From online retail sites that recommend based on what I've bought/read before
Do romance readers talk with friends and acquaintances about romance books they're reading?
- 76 percent said yes; among romance buyers in the under 30 category, the number jumps to 82 percent saying yes.
- The most-popular way romance buyers like to share what romance books they're reading is in person/one-to-one with friends and family.
What Formats Do Romance Buyers Use?
Formats read versus formats read most often
- Formats read: 86.7 percent
- Formats read most often: 67.5 percent
- Formats read: 47.5 percent
- Formats read most often: 29.5 percent
- Formats read: 11.0 percent
- Formats read most often: 3 percent
Source: Nielsen Books and Consumer Tracker
Top genres for e-books: erotica, romance, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, historical, and adult fiction.
E-book pricing: The $6 range is considered a "fair price" for e-books.
E-book for one device versus across multiple devices: 77 percent said that when they buy romance e-books, they tend to buy a title for use on one device; 23 percent buy a romance e-book to use across multiple devices.
E-book deal services: A little over 36 percent of romance buyers subscribe to an e-book deal service that recommends romance e-books for purchase, matching their interest, often providing free and/or discounted e-books. The most-subscribed-to service is Bookbub.
Deep Dive Methodology/Limitations
The results are from an online survey, fielded April/May 2014. A sample of 2,000 "romance" book buyers was drawn from Nielsen's Books and Consumers survey tracker from the previous 6 months (October 2013 through March 2014).
The survey is not representative of "offline" populations.
Nielsen used "return to sample" from their sample provider "MetrixLabs."
Nielsen did not go after readers who don't buy, though they did get data about readers who read significantly more than they buy.
The sample closely matches the demographics of romance book buyers in Nielsen's Books and Consumers tracker.
A little from BookStats (BISG/AAP): comprehensive view of overall Book Publishing Business.
A little more from Nielsen Books and Consumer Monthly Tracker: yields 6,000 book buyers per month, representing 18,000 book purchases.
Mostly from Nielsen Romance Buyer Survey for RWA: proprietary deep dive study for RWA; drawn from the Books and Consumer Tracker who bought a romance book in the last 6 months.