Romance Book Sales Spike From Interest Of Gen Z Readers

“Now reading romance is super cool.” Coming from bestselling author, Ali Hazelwood when talking about the impact Gen Z has on the romance genre! Let’s talk BookTok!

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Are we surprised that Generation Z is once again affecting some portion of our economy? No, but I’m definitely happy that it’s benefitting the romance genre so much! As the Resident Romance Redneck, I’m all for the world beginning to recognize the romance genre as valid as any other genre of book. For years we’ve been pushed to the side as a lesser genre, stemming all the way back to the Victorian era in which women weren’t supposed to read the ‘scandalous’ books of the French. No longer will we take this because Gen Z is helping romance books to the top of any (and all) bestseller lists!

As of the beginning of this month, popular romance author Colleen Hoover, who’s penned the likes of Verity, Ugly Love, and It Ends With Us (soon to earn an on-screen adaptation), has fifteen books dominating the bestseller’s list! Not only that, she’s making records in ways that we would’ve never thought of.

Colleen’s upcoming book, It Starts With Us— the sequel to one of her most popular books, It Ends With Us (mentioned previously)– is set to release on October 18, 2022, and has broken the previous record for pre-orders from the publisher. Pre-orders of It Starts With Us have surpassed that of Stephen King’s Dr. Sleep, setting a new high bar for other Simon & Schuster publications to strive for.

As of 2017, according to the Romance Writers of America, the people who most enjoyed reading romance were women between the ages of 35-39 years old. However, we’ve got it on good authority that this age range has expanded to women of 18-54 because we all need a little romance in our lives. When talking about her new Gen Z readership, Colleen remarked:

Gen Z is my favorite of all generations for so many reasons, and their love for reading is just one of the many. I love that they are consuming books and sharing books and recommending books. They’re reading so much — not only my own books, but across genres.

Though Colleen isn’t the only romance author in the sights of Gen Z. Emily Henry, with three bestselling books– People We Meet On Vacation, Beach Read, and one of her most recents, Book Lovers— has soon become a fan favorite. Although Emily didn’t get her start in romance (see her Young Adult novels, which are just as phenomenal), she’ll always end up being on a Gen Z’s romance recommendation list.

And you don’t even have to be a Colleen Hoover or Emily Henry fan to recognize the immense power and influence that Gen Z has had on the industry as a whole. Booksellers worldwide are seeing an increase in purchases for books with those iconic cartoon and eye-catching covers (because, as I’ve said, we all judge books by their covers).

Every few years or so, book lovers move to the newest and greatest platform for sharing their passion. As of right now, that platform happens to be BookTok. With the amount of recommendations flying across people’s FYPs, it’s no surprise that booksellers have seen an increase in younger readers.

With creators being the same age as the people that they’re recommending books to, it feels more personal! On top of that, the characters and situations they’re in are somewhat relatable for a Gen Z audience. And let’s be honest, significant others written in fiction are typically always better than real life.

One thing can’t be dismissed, though– and that is the absence of BIPOC authors and their works from bestseller lists like the New York Times. A large (incredibly so) majority of the users on TikTok are Europeans, who don’t have any issue finding main characters that look like them. Bestselling author of The Love Hypothesis and Love on the Brain, Ali Hazelwood, recognizes this too, saying to NPR:

There are so many books that I think are excellent and don’t make [bestseller] lists, and so many of these books are written by non-white authors. There’s definitely a pattern and a marked disadvantage that authors of color have to face in publishing.

Personally, I think this is in part due to the creators with a platform being usually white and also due to BIPOC authors not getting traditionally published at the same rate as white authors. And the one thing that nobody wants to talk about (it seems) is that we’re almost trained to just accept the status quo of only reading white authors. That status quo could also be described as racism, deeply conditioned from generations tracing (again) all the way back to when women weren’t allowed to work.

That’s not to say that BIPOC authors aren’t on the charts at all. Helen Hoang, the author of The Kiss Quotient, The Heart Principle, and The Bride Test, has all three of her books on bestseller lists from when they released. Beverly Jenkins, who just added another book to her Women Who Dare series, is also a bestselling author, but I hardly ever see her books being promoted quite like that of Colleen or Emily. This is just to say that white authors tend to gain more exposure to the masses than BIPOC authors do.

Being the Resident Romance Redneck– and a white, cis-het, woman myself– I can’t help but acknowledge the privilege I’m given by being able to talk about subjects like this without fear of prosecution. Several authors, like Emily Henry and Ali Hazelwood, are also clearly aware of the situation, but until real change is made, we’ll be stuck as it were.

We’ve already made the impossible possible by helping to legitimize romance as not an ‘ick’ genre; why not do the same for non-white authors? This is a matter not easily done but incredibly doable. It’s up to those with a platform to enact change. We’ve clearly done it once before; case in point here.

If you want to learn more about the romance industry in the United States, click here!

FEATURED IMAGE VIA BOOKSTR / GRACIE LAMBRIGHT