A friend of mine and I were talking the other day about the slow demise of erotic romance. (Yes, it’s the same friend.) She theorized that one of the reasons that erotic romance took a nosedive was because of the interchangeable labels (ie erotica/erotic romance). I hadn’t thought about it in that way, but it does make a lot of sense. I’m a firm believer that you should never confuse the reader or mislead them. Every publisher has their own unique definition of what an erotic romance is–same goes for erotica. Some publishers found the terms interchangeable, while others created a clear divide. The problem is that it was never made clear to readers. Sometimes they picked up a book that was labeled erotic romance and got an erotica novel instead. The opposite happened, too. After a while, readers got tired of guessing which book was which and sales gradually tapered off. I should state for the record that I do believe that there will continue to be spicy romances in one form or another from here on out. The door has been kicked down, so there’s no closing it now. I doubt they’ll be labeled as erotic romance/erotica in the very near future.
Could part of this be the over-saturation that ends a publishing trend? Absolutely. But I do believe it was helped along by mislabeling. I know that as a reader I like to know what kind of book I’m picking up. I don’t like surprises. Period. If I reach for an erotic romance, I expect to get an erotic romance. Not erotica dressed up in nice knickers. Same goes if I pick up an urban fantasy. I have very specific expectations for those types of books. I don’t think I’m alone. The problem occurs when those expectations are not met. Hence the danger of interchangeable labels.
What do you all think? Are we completely off base? Or do you see a different reason for the demise that hasn’t been mentioned here?