Fifty Shades of Gray is not a romance novel.

There appears to be a misunderstanding about what makes up a romance novel.  I’m seeing more and more titles with romantic elements being advertised in the romance genre.

A romance novel is where the story focuses on the relationship of two people and the story must have an “emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.”*  So the novel needs a Happily Ever After or a Happy for Now ending.  So Fifty Shades of Gray, which doesn’t have HEA or HFN is not a romance, the trilogy maybe but the novel itself, no.

Here is a handy guide:  Did your hero die? Not a romance!  Did your couple split at the end?  Not a romance!  Is your couple together but miserable?  Not a romance!

By all means, use the phrase “with romantic elements” but if you promote your novel as a romance and it’s not, don’t be surprised when readers turn on you.  It’s a breach of trust.  People pick up a romance novel expecting a happy ending.  So they may leave a negative review, they will talk about it to their reader friends, and may never pick up another of your books.

So write that wedding, that exchange of vows, the promise of a happy life together.  The readers want it and expect it, when you label your book a romance.

*”The Romance Genre Overview”. Romance Writers of America. November 26, 2013.

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