by Monica Murphy

Let me kick this off by stating how many years it’s been since I had my first book published: eighteen. Just typing that number has me clutching my pearls. Eighteen years? And I’m somehow still standing? Writing and publishing? Sometimes, I look around and wonder how that’s still possible.

I’m probably being a little dramatic. I can see how that’s still possible—I’ve never given up. And that’s the advice I give my fellow writers now when they ask—don’t give up. In the last eighteen years that I’ve been publishing (I was first published in 2006 under my other pen name, Karen Erickson), I can count on one hand the number of writers who are still at it that I personally know. I’ve seen writers come and go. I’ve seen trends come and go. I’ve seen editors and publishers come and go. That’s just part of business, I think. And I’ve seen readers come and go, too. But it’s the cycling of trends that I find so very interesting…


What was popular when I very first started writing isn’t so popular now…or is it? A lot of the time, they just call it by a different name. Chick Lit was everywhere in the early to mid-2000s. Chick lit was the hottest thing ALIVE. Then it died a tragic death and editors and agents would tell writers, don’t even label it chick lit. We’ll reject it outright, sight unseen.

But now I feel like a lot of the humorous women’s fiction and even romantic comedies that are on the shelves these days are basically…chick lit. It does really well too!

Then there are the trends that “they” (publishers and editors and agents) swear are going to do amazing. The big one I remember is steam punk. It was steam punk this and that. Publishers were snapping it up. Agents were selling it like crazy. There are only a few authors though, who I think carried it off properly and had some mild success. It didn’t take off like “everyone” said it would.

What it comes down to is that no one really knows what’s going to be popular or not in publishing. A lot of the time, it feels like it happens almost by accident. Oh, there are purposeful campaigns that publishers put together for a book/series that we all know are going to do well just be sheer force of will. Though the product itself always has to deliver as well.

When I first started writing, self-publishing wasn’t necessarily an option. It was very much frowned upon and besides, during this time there were a lot of small, independent digital publishers popping up, and they were publishing very sexy romances in a variety of subgenres, which is exactly what I wanted to write at the time. That’s how I got my start – writing erotic romance novellas for various digital publishers, including the big ones of their day like Ellora’s Cave and Samhain Publishing.

During this time, a lot of the traditional publishers were also releasing erotic romance. There was so much of it that eventually there was a glut in the market. The tides turned, and other romance subgenres became popular. I remember historical romance did really well for a time period (it always comes in and out but never really fades away). Paranormal romance was also huge—thank you Twilight.

Speaking of Twilight, it created the next big popular wave in romance—erotic romance (wait, didn’t that already happen?). Fifty Shades of Grey was written originally as Twilight fan fiction, and there were plenty more that came along after it (such as Beautiful Bastard, by Christina Lauren). At one point, it felt like for every five romance authors I knew/met, one of them got their start writing Twilight fan fic. I even knew a couple of authors who would set their books in Seattle on purpose to give them a Twilight vibe…

They’ve smashed the “rules”. They do what they want.

Self-publishing was starting to make its mark during this time, and this is where I as Monica Murphy come in. There were all of these books coming out that were considered new adult, and I devoured so many of them (Colleen Hoover, Abbi Glines and Jessica Sorensen, I’m looking at you) in a short amount of time. I had an editor reject me once because my voice was too young—so I thought hey, I could probably write a new adult romance! Which I did. And the book did really well.

Like…really, really well.

The book (and the second one too) hit major lists and the series got picked up by a publisher in an auction and eventually, my books were in Walmart and Target. I thought for sure it was going to last forever. Yeah, trends come and go, but I was with a publisher now! I’m safe! I was on a high and nothing could bring me down.

But I did come down. Spectacularly. My publisher tried to guide me into writing something a little different and the series flopped. My print sales were trash. The publisher eventually dumped me but I kept on writing, figuring that was it. I wouldn’t be in bookstores again. I wouldn’t be with a publisher again, but that’s okay. I kept my head down, went back to writing new adult romance and was doing well.

When the pandemic happened, I suddenly had a lot more time on my hands. I know it was hard on a lot of writers and their creativity, but it thankfully helped me. Gave me the time to work more and publish consistently. My two younger kids didn’t need me as much because they had jobs and friends and cars and were eventually graduating high school.

I wrote something a little different and it did well. Then I wrote the second book in the Lancaster Prep series and it went bonkers—#booktok came along and sold a bunch of paperbacks for me. I was back in bookstores—on my own! I got a print only deal—unheard of ten years ago but so many of my fellow romance authors have them now, and they are dominating book sales! I even got a couple of traditional publishing deals again. I’m in Target and Walmart and various bookstores across the US and internationally. I never EVER thought this would happen to me again. And so much of that is thanks to the new readers.


So what are current trends? Contemporary romance. Small town romance. Bully Romance. Dark romance. Extra dark. Super duper spicy he’s your freaking stalker dark. Boy obsessed. Enemies to lovers. Fake dating. Cowboys. Sports romance. HOCKEY romance (this one is dominating right now). Football (thank you Taylor and Travis, since that’s my sport of choice I write about). Romantasy (romance + fantasy). A few years ago, I swear fantasy was dead (but not YA fantasy). Now I’ve got my UK editor asking if I ever thought about writing one and I’m like…no. But I wish I was because they are so HOT right now.

Plenty of things have come and gone in the romance publishing world. There’s been a lot of change. But like I mentioned earlier, there’s this cycle going on. One that you witness if you’ve been around long enough. Subgenres and tropes come back into popularity eventually. There’s always an audience for something, and eventually a new one comes along and changes the landscape. Publishers jump on the hottest trend(s) only for it to fizzle out quickly. Or they publish so much of the same kind of thing, readers get sick of it and want something new. And fresh. Different.

Like vampires. Or historical romance. A rom com perhaps?

What it comes down to is that no one really knows what’s going to be popular or not in publishing.

None of the above are new, but they feel new if we haven’t read something like that in a while. As much as things have changed over the years, they always seem to remain the same too. Though wait…here’s my favorite thing that new readers and writers have brought to the table.

They’ve smashed the “rules”. They do what they want. This happened over ten years ago too, when a certain romance author had her main male character kill for the woman he loves. That felt so ground breaking to me! She went there, and gave me the courage to push against the “rules” the establishment (aka the pubs and editors) had formed.

It’s happening again. It’s been happening for a while. I remember talking to a college student about the black moment in a book. Otherwise known as a third act breakup. The newer readers reject it. “Why is it necessary?” the college student asked me.

“Well…that’s what we’ve been taught. That’s how you write a romance,” was my reply.

“Who says you have to follow that rule?” she asked and I realized something.

She was right. And I love that. I love the new readers too.


Monica Murphy is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the One Week Girlfriend series, the Billionaire Bachelors and The Rules series. Her books have been translated in almost a dozen languages and has sold over one million copies worldwide. She is both a traditionally published author and an independently published author. She writes new adult, young adult and contemporary romance. She is also USA Today bestselling romance author Karen Erickson.

She is a wife and a mother of three who lives with her family in central California on fourteen acres in the middle of nowhere, along with their one dog and too many cats. A self-confessed workaholic, when she’s not writing, she’s reading or hanging out with her husband and kids. She’s a firm believer in happy endings, though she will admit to putting her characters through many angst-filled moments before they finally get that hard won HEA.