For Valentine’s Day and Respect Romantic Fiction week, we spoke with Amy Richards, owner of Words & Kisses online romance bookstore, about her love of romance, current trends, the RNA, and how authors can get their books onto her site.
Tell us about Words & Kisses. Why did you decide to start a romance-only book store? Essentially, I couldn’t find what I was looking for so I decided to start it myself! The longer version of the story is that I was very jealous of all of the great romance-focused subscriptions that existed in the States, but the postage fees were just too high for me to justify. So I decided to start one myself! When the pandemic hit, I had a bit more time on my hands so I expanded into keeping stock alongside the subscription so Words & Kisses became more of an online bookshop. Romance has always been my focus because it’s something that I felt was lacking in a lot of bookshops – certainly in any that were local to me at the time – and it was what I knew and loved best. I just wanted to share my favourite books with other people, and I’d say that’s a mission I have achieved!
What was the first romance book that you read? Looking back, I think Sally by Freya North, stolen from my mother’s bookshelves, was probably my first romance and certainly sent me scouring the shelves of WH Smith for more of the same. I fell out of reading ‘chick lit’ when I went to University but after stumbling across Sarah MacLean’s A Rogue By Any Other Name many years later, I became re-obsessed with the genre – and here we are now!
Who are your favourite current romance authors? There’s always too many to name! But I’ll always pick up new books from Alexis Hall, Talia Hibbert, Kennedy Ryan and Katee Robert without fail.
Have you identified any current trends in romance? Any predictions for 2023? I think TikTok’s influence over the genre will continue to reign in 2023; we’re already seeing publishers snapping up a lot of previously self-published books which have gone viral over there and I think readers will be hungry for more of the same. With the popularity of Colleen Hoover, I think we’ll see a lot of angst coming our way, too.
There was a strong swing towards witchy romance this year, which I’m definitely a big fan of and I hope it extends to other paranormals this year – I think it’s time we saw some more vampires and werewolves on the shelves again!
I also think that Bridgerton has given us an appetite for some more diverse historicals, which I’m excited to see – I’m looking forward to reading The Davenports and KJ Charles’ upcoming The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen.
How do you decide which books to sell? I wish I could give an answer to this that wasn’t just that I’m essentially just building my own dream bookshelf! I’ve learnt over the years which books are likely to be popular with my customers but ultimately, if a book sounds like something that I would enjoy, then that’s the only real criteria!
If an author was interested in getting on your list, how would she or he go about it? Email me! I’m not always the best at getting to the bottom of my inbox but I do read everything and it’s the best way to put something in front of me – my email address is email@example.com so please send me all your press releases!
Do you give equal “shelf space” to independent and traditionally published romance? There’s definitely more traditionally published books on the shelves as it stands, partly due to availability, but in my heart the two are definitely equal and I’m as likely to read or to recommend you an indie book as I am one that’s been traditionally published. A lot of my favourite romances are or were originally indie published, when I think about it!
If somebody was just getting started with reading romance, which five books would you recommend they started with? This is a tricky question! I think I would give you Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert, Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall, The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary, The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang and Written In The Stars by Alexandra Bellefleur.
How has the RNA helped you with your business? Being shortlisted (and winning!) the RNA Romantic Bookseller of the Year award has definitely given Words & Kisses a boost, and put me in front of people who maybe weren’t aware of the business before, which I really appreciate. I think we share a similar mission so it’s honestly such an honour!