February 19th, 2013
Let’s Talk About Sex…In Books

I’m probably not the only one confused by the term ‘erotic romance’ anymore. When I first started writing, I didn’t actually write erotic romance. Oh, I wrote pretty hot, but nothing compared to when I sold to Ellora’s Cave. Back then, it was pretty easy to distinguish between regular romance and erotic romance. These days, not so much. Let’s face it, New York publishing has been releasing hot material for over eight years now–thanks to the early ebook revolution. The ‘stigma’ is gone. But along with the stigma, what has also disappeared is a clear line between regular romance and erotic romance. You can go to just about any bookstore, pick up a random paperback, and there is no way of telling what the heat level will be.

As a writer, I’m finding it harder and harder to designate what my books are these days. I have books in the same series that wouldn’t necessarily go into the same category, if you were looking at ‘hotness’ alone. Which is why I’m truly curious what you all think. What in your minds constitutes an erotic romance book? Is it the graphicness of the love scene? Is it the language used? Is it the frequency of love scenes?

I remember after I wrote RED and it was released that I received a review where the reader was upset that the book only had one love scene. At the time that I wrote the book, I honestly couldn’t see fitting another one in that would make sense for the story. Shortly thereafter, I received a review where the reader was upset that I’d put a love scene in RED. They believed I should’ve waited until the very end of the series to do so. I know you cannot make everyone happy, but it’s tough when you’re getting polar opposite opinions.

Which brings me to the point of this post. I worry that I’m disappointing readers by accident or worse, that I’m missing my readership because I’ve mislabeled my books. Some books are easy to label (ie The Dark King). Others are far more difficult. Does it even matter if books are labeled any other way than by genre? (ie historical, paranormal, contemporary, etc.) I’m honestly confused about what I should do. How do you judge a book?

8 comments to “Let’s Talk About Sex…In Books”

  1. I’m very particular – I like erotic fiction, but not erotic romance. Probably because a lot of erotic romance seems to just be romance with graphic sex.

    “Erotic” should describe the plot. To me, romance is about the heart, but erotic fiction is more about the psychology. Romance is about feelings, and erotic fiction is about WHY characters feel the way they do. Currently, I’m absolutely loving Tiffany Reisz’s novels. Megan Hart’s novels for Harlequin Spice (now for Harlequin Mira) are also pretty good.

    Then again, I’m not much for romance. I’d rather a believable, realistic ending than a guaranteed “good” one 😉

    Of course, I’m in no way a publishing professional, so my ides of what classifies as romance and what classifies as erotic fiction could be entirely incorrect 😉

  2. Actually, Tez, it’s interesting that you’ve broken it down even further. I’m not a big erotic fiction reader. I know there are some amazing writers out there, but it’s just not my cuppa. I agree that erotic fiction deals with the character’s personal journey, not a ‘couple’s journey’. Romance deals with the couple’s journey. There can be personal journeys happening at the same time, but that’s not the focus in most romances.

    I do think it’s interesting that as a reader, you look at romance as romance whether it has graphic sex or not. (ie It’s all romance.)

    That’s pretty much what I was wondering. I’ve hit the point where I don’t even think/notice graphic love scenes in a book unless there’s something ‘different/odd’ about them or there are too many for no apparent reason. I take that back, I also notice when they’re ‘missing’. I want good (not necessarily graphic) love scenes in the books that I read, but I want them there for a reason. They have to make sense for the story.

    Thanks! This helps a lot. 🙂

  3. “Romance” classifies the ending – not the journey 😉

  4. Thanks for clarifying. 🙂

  5. I still believe the graphic nature of love scenes in a book determine its eroticism, but you are also right that the line has indeed been blurred. In YA novels particularly, it’s becoming a lot more difficult to understand how much detail can be included in the genre.

  6. Bernard, Okay, so you’re talking about the details. More details equal more graphic. That’s how it used to be determined, but I’m not so sure it is anymore.

    As for YA’s, the level of detail depends on what kind of story you are trying to tell and the characters involved. You can have sex scenes in YA books, but YA readers do not want graphic love scenes. They aren’t looking for the ‘romanticized’ version of a love scene like a romance reader would be/might be, which is why there is now a new category (ie New Adult) for the college age. You can get away with more in those books.

  7. I think in YA, the key to a romantic scene is conveying the surprise, angst, and overwhelming newness of attraction… without the detail of course. 🙂 That ‘New Adult’ category is an interesting progression tag.

  8. Bernard, Yes, all those things are important, but they have to be magnified to ‘end of the world’ status. If this doesn’t happen, it’ll be the end of the world. If this does happen, it’ll be the biggest thing ever. Etc.

    Yes, it’s an interesting tag. Not sure who came up with it, but they needed something given that the kids are getting older and so many adults are reading YA.