I’ve just returned from attending the RNA’s annual summer conference, which this year took place at Lancaster University. This is the UK’s equivalent of RWA.
The word from attending publishers and agents was that, in the UK romance fiction market, the overall trend continues to be escapism, so think city girl goes cosy—country cottages, seaside idylls, sewing bees and tearooms. There must be touches of luxury, glamour and material comfort too. The writers who succeed are those who can pick up and run with these themes and give them a fresh spin and a unique voice. This ‘cupcake’ genre has a healthy pick-up overseas; one author, Alexandra Brown, showed how she had scored great success in North America with a series based around a knitting circle, and also in Indonesia with books set in an old-fashioned department store.
Cupcakes have dominated the romance market since around 2008-9 and show no sign of waning. This doesn’t surprise me. It feels like the world has been very unstable since then. Recession, terrorism, war and mass migration surround us. No wonder women seek comfort in intensely feminine themes and dreams, tinged with nostalgia. But I do sometimes wonder if this wanting to have our cake and eat it over and over again is leading agents and publishers to narrow their acquisition strategies and not take so many chances on talented new writers aiming at other romance genres.
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