The Rebranding Of Chick Lit And The Rise Of Romance



When was the last time you came across a proper chick lit novel? You know the kind: cutesy pink cover featuring a cupcake, maybe a martini glass or two; a main character who is a shopaholic or magazine editor (or both). It was likely at an op shop or holiday house or the home of your middle-aged aunt, and not in the window of a bookshop, right? That’s because chick lit – the type of fiction popularised by Candice Bushnell and Helen Fielding – has been out of fashion for longer than skinny jeans.

But stories about the minutiae of women’s lives which position women as the heroines (the basic criteria of chick lit) are still being told. Only they’re no longer called chick lit. And there are very few cupcakes or stilettos to be seen. Thanks to some smart rebranding, the books formerly known as chick lit are now simply labelled ‘romance’ or ‘general fiction’. And, partly as a result, the genre is racing back up the bestseller lists, with sales of romance novels in Australia up by 77 per cent between 2021 and 2022, according to Neilsen BookScan.

“Young readers are no longer ashamed to be seen reading romance. They’re embracing the genre of love, posting about it online, fangirling over the authors, causing books to go viral and this has had a knock-on effect.”

– Rachael Johns, Australian romance writer

“Books consumed and enjoyed primarily by women are often sidelined as less intellectually worthy or highbrow. This effect is doubled when they’re massively popular – I think lots of people even in the industry are guilty of this."

Caitlan Cooper-Trent, Curtis Brown Australia

So, why the rebrand? After the late ‘90s and aughts when chick lit was absolutely everywhere, the genre suffered an image problem, which many publishing insiders now put down to internalised misogyny.

“I think women’s fiction has always been a trojan horse for big topics and themes, and romance is often at the forefront of evolving sexual/relationship mores. Women’s agency and pleasure, consent and contraception are non-negotiables for romance now.”

Clare Fletcher, Australian Romance Writer

Meet The Women Making Thousands From Their Wardrobes



Read more about the rebranding of chick lit an the rise of romance PRIMER.


Improve your inbox.  Sign up to our free  weekly newsletter.


Would You Pay $100 For A Face Massage?


Yes, You Really Should Be Using Acids For Your Skin


“Should I Have Kids?” One Woman On The Mother Of All Questions


Want more stories?