Thinking about writing romance? You’ll first want to choose a sub-genre. That way, you can easily determine who your audience is and how to best cater to what they want to read.

Popular romance subgenres include:

  • Contemporary romance
  • Paranormal romance
  • Urban Fantasy romance
  • Romantic suspense
  • Erotic romance
  • Young adult romance
  • New adult romance
  • Historical romance
  • Christian romance
  • Clean romance

Understanding the different sub-genres of romance is really important when you’re just starting out and trying to establish your brand in the marketplace.  If you don’t understand exactly what readers are expecting, your book is not going to sell well.

To be successful in any form of writing, you need to know how to get “sticky”, and the easiest way to do that is by writing what your readers expect from the genre.

Romance Subgenres

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular sub-genres in romance:

Contemporary Romance – Contemporary romance is perhaps the most popular sub-genre of romance. Contemporary romance basically just refers to any type of romance that is set in modern times and doesn’t contain any other special differentiators. These stories are typical boy-meets-girl romance stories.

Examples: Secret baby, billionaires, bikers, location love (vacation spots, etc), BBW, Western/Cowboys, Chick Lit, Rockers, Sports.

Paranormal Romance –  is a broad overall sub-genre that includes a lot of smaller sub-genres such as vampires and shifters.

Examples: Paranormal romance includes supernatural beings and can include everything from vampires (think Twilight), shapeshifters such as were-bears and werewolves, and even sci-fi romance where the hero could be an alien!

Shifter Romance – Shifters are paranormal creatures who can shape shift from human form into an animal or supernatural creature form of some sort, such as a wolf, bear, or even a dragon. This is a sub-genre of paranormal romance, and one of the most popular at the time of this writing. This is one of my main sub-genres.

Vampire Romance – Although vampire romance isn’t as popular as it was when Twilight first came out, it still has some appeal, as proven by the immense success of Bella Forrest’s Shade of Vampire series.

Romantic Suspense – Romantic suspense is a very popular category in which a romance plot runs alongside a suspense plot. Many of them feature a strong male figure such as a cop or hit man having to solve a mystery or protect or save the heroine.

Romantic suspense is a very popular category in which a romance plot runs alongside a suspense plot. Many of them feature a strong male figure such as a cop or hit man having to solve a mystery or protect or save the heroine.

There is always an element of intrigue with these stories and quite often, the plots require a lot of structure and thought as the story is not primarily focused on the H/h relationship.

Think if Nancy Drew teamed up with a Hardy Boy, fell in love, and decided to solve crimes together. The focus would be on the crime solving, with their relationship being a part of the story, but not a central focus.

Historical Romance – Gilded age, gothic, 20th Century, Regency romance, Medieval, Scottish/Highlander, Victorian, Native Americans, and Viking.

Time Travel Romance – Time travel romance is an offshoot of historical romance, and generally features a heroine who somehow travels back in time and meets the man of her dreams, but may occasionally feature a hero who travels forward in time and meets the heroine. A popular example of this genre is the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.

Erotic Romance – General erotic romance is a very popular category, both for writers and readers. There’s a lot of competition, but plenty of readers, too. There are also smaller sub-genres of erotic romance, such as bad boys, taboo romance, BDSM and fetish stories.

Young Adult Romance – Young adult romance (or YA) might be a little confusing. It’s actually made for teens who are between the ages of 12 and 18.Most YA books do not have any sex in them, or only have hints at sex, whereas new adult can include explicit scenes but they are usually written in a softer style.

For example, in the Twilight books, the sex is barely alluded to, which disappointed a lot of fans. But since there are young teens reading them, YA stories tend to be fairly clean. YA books may fall into many other sub-genres, such as paranormal, as with Twilight.

Don’t confuse YA with NA, which stands for New Adult. The audience of new adult books is an older one, typically between 21-30 and these books quite often include sexual scenes between the couple.

Inspirational Romance – Inspirational romances are generally clean (meaning there is no sex, and often no kissing, and any romantic activity is only hinted at or implied). They may or may not contain references to God or religion, though some do. They often focus on the characters’ spiritual journeys and prayer life in addition to the romance aspect. Offshoots of inspirational romance include western romance and mail order brides.

Sports Romance – Sports romances generally fit into the contemporary and/or erotic romance categories. They focus on sports figures such as football players, soccer players, MMA fighters, baseball players, or race car drivers.

Billionaire Romance – Like sports figures, billionaires are popular with the ladies for obvious reasons—money, power, etc.

Multicultural Romance – Also known as interracial romance, this genre features two main characters of different races or cultures. The most popular version (BWWM) features a black woman and a white man as the main characters, but other variations are gaining in popularity, as well.

LGBT Romance – LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual) romances are also gaining in popularity, especially M/M (gay male) romances. These are generally focused on the relationship between the characters, not the sex, although there may be some sex in them. These are different from LGBT erotica, which focused on the sex rather than the relationship.

BBW Romance – Romance that features a plus sized (curvy) heroine. Most of them fall into the contemporary romance genre, but they can also be in just about any other romance sub-genre, such as shifter romance or multicultural, for example.

Science Fiction Romance – One genre that has increased in popularity recently is sci-fi romance. In this genre, heroines are usually captured by, or saved by, alien heroes. They often wind up on an alien planet. The hero is usually similar to humans in some ways, but also has significant and noticeable differences such as additional appendages, colorful skin, markings, or features like horns or tails.

This list is by no means comprehensive. There are many, many other smaller sub-genres out there that you could find with some research, but these are some of the more popular and profitable genres and sub-genres. If you are stuck, this list is a great place to start investigating.

If you are new to writing romance, consider starting with contemporary romance with a sub-genre mix.

For example, you could write a love story of a boy-meets-girl, but add in the BBW element and turn your story into a BBW Contemporary Romance.

Or for extra kick, make your hero a prince or bad-boy type, and add that keyword into your title on Amazon to appeal to sub-genre readers.

Have fun writing!

Posted by Kate

Kate is a New York Times Bestselling author who loves making money from all things writing. When she isn't writing romance novels or business guides, she's usually found creating tools and resources that help other writers cash in on their skills.

Leave a Comment!