Last week, the annual convention of Romance Writers of America (RWA) took place in Atlanta over a four-day period. More than 2,000 published and unpublished writers and their fans attended the 26th annual event. The convention broke the last attendance record with 2,152 attendees recorded for this year according to Publishers Weekly (PW).
To appreciate the event, you need to understand the scope of RWA. Founded in 1980 in Houston, the organization now has 9,500 members and 144 chapters. The author signing on Wednesday evening had 500 published writers signing their books with the proceeds going to benefit literacy causes. PW reported today that the event raised $64,000, bringing RWA's contribution to literacy to more than a quarter million dollars.
An Associated Press story by Kate Brumback on the convention said: "Romance novels generated $1.2 billion in sales in 2004 — about 40 percent of fiction sales — according to the latest market survey carried out by Romance Writers of America, which said that sales have remained fairly constant for the past several years."
Brumback indicates that part of the appeal of today's romances "is that romance novels are divided into a number of sub-genres that draw on other types of fiction. They include mysteries, thrillers, inspirational stories, paranormal plots and contemporary, historical and futuristic settings."
Nicole Kennedy, public relations manager for RWA, reported that "With the expansion of romance novels into science fiction and military tales, . . . male readership jumped from 7 percent of romance readers in 2002 to 22 percent in 2004."
The genre is also attracting professional women, both as readers and as writers. Among the authors attending the event were former attorneys and doctors who now write romance novels for a living.
Brumback's article opens with a telling comment: "Strong women and edgy plots about relationships are replacing the heated passion and ripped bodices of swooning damsels in distress traditionally associated with romance novels."
Romance ain't just for your mother and grandmother any more.