The short answer to the panel's question is: Romance readers buy 2-3 dozen stories a month versus other genre readers who may buy 1-2 stories a year.
The modified short answer is: a romance story is about 'the relationship' and a romance story has a guaranteed outcome - a happy ending. Readers consume romance stories like a drug to experience the "high" of a happy ending. The 'romance' is the plot.
Long answer: The panel of romance writers write in various 'Romance' genres where the romance occurs in various settings like: sci-fi, western, mystery, fantasy, paranormal, suspense, and more.
Romance stories are also categorized by 'Heat Level.' Some romance stories have no 'sex', some have 'sweet, innocent, sensual contact', some have light to heavy sex, but if the sex is categorized outside of these labels it may be labeled erotica. All publishers have their own definitions of 'Heat Level' and readers learn to trust publishers' categorizations.
If the story contains a romance but the romance does not drive the plot, then it is not a romance.
The panelists advised writers to build up a backlog of romance stories set in various sub-genres or different settings to prepare for the ebb and flow of what is popular. Zombies, Magical stories, and Dystopias are beginning to lose their appeal. In a nutshell, the market for these types of stories is getting saturated. So, what will be the next popular sub-genre?
You are writing for a market of competing desires: the desires of the readers, the desires of the editors and the desires of writers which are always in a state of flux. Each group is seeking something familiar or something new.
Some Marketing Romance Tips:
- Use social media.
- Use teaser quotes in social, print and electronic media.
- Use Google hangout for interviews or parties.
- Use taglines to help the reader determine if it will fit their needs. For example, highlight unusual aspects that may make the romance unique.
Burke also noted, if you can be a diversified writer and have a strong voice, publishers may advise you of upcoming markets.