With romance novels dominating so many shelves at bookstores, the idea of writing romance books for a living is appealing to many. The actual amount of money you can get writing romance books varies greatly, and for most who do manage to get published, it is not enough to earn a full-time income.
The term "earnout" indicates the total amount of money an author makes on a book, including both the advance and royalties. According to American Writers and Artists Inc., the average earnout for romance novelists ranges between $1,200 to $26,000, depending on the publishing house.
The advance a publishing house offers to a romance novelist is based on its marketing department's prediction of how many copies of the book will sell. After a book "earns out" the author's advance in sales, the author will begin to receive a cut of royalties. For example, if an author receives an advance of $10,000, once her romance novel sells enough copies to earn out that $10,000, she begins to earn royalties.
Whether writing romance books yields a full-time income is up to both the author and luck, as not every book is guaranteed to sell. If a writer is successful in selling her first romance novel for a total earnout of $6,500, she can use that as a general estimate of how her other books will do. Writing an average of five romance books a year would eventually generate full-time income, though not all writers would be capable of writing that many books a year.
Most publishing houses do not accept unsolicited romance books from unpublished writers to consider for publication. The best route for romance novelists interested in selling their stories is to find a literary agent. Agents not only find the most appropriate houses and editors for a romance book, but they work to negotiate publishing house contracts in order to get the best advance possible for the author.