Thursday, September 11, 2008

Too Much Sex?

How much sex is too much in a romance?

I suspect there are as many different answers to that question as there are readers. I write both erotic romance and mainstream romance. Both have lots of sex, both have it fairly well spelled out, but there are differences. I use certain words much more frequently in the erotic. The ratio of sex to other plot points varies dramatically. The sex in the erotic romance tends to be a bit kinkier, a bit, well, rougher. And yes, it happens much earlier in the story.

I've had reviewers complain that some of my short stories are nothing but sex. Well, in ten thousand words for an erotic publisher, I'm sorry, but you're not going to get much else. I'd strongly suggest not picking up a story labeled "Quickie" or "Lust Bite" if that isn't what you want. On the other hand, those are far and away my best selling books. So I'm guessing there must be readers out there who like that. Honestly? I've got no problem providing that if that's what my publishers and readers want.

On the other hand, I've had people complain my mainstream titles have too much sex. For my cowboy series, which are labeled "spicy", that means usually two to three scenes per book. Hmmm. That publisher has a rating system, folks. You want sweet, buy the ones labeled sweet. If you want HOT buy those. Seems pretty easy to me.

Of course that doesn't mean I want my teenage sons to hand my books over to their female friends. I keep waiting for their parents to come after me with pitchforks and torches. (Yes, we are talking about the spicy cowboys here, not the erotic menage, for example. But still...) On the other hand I think it is a bit hypocritical for them to get bent about my romance with a bit of lovemaking when they LET their kids read some of the anime and manga titles out there. Really. I can learn stuff from those books. Yowza! But parents are not always rational, so until they're all in college, I'll keep telling my sons no when they want to pass my books out to their friends.

There are segments within the romance industry that claim erotic romance is ruining the genre. My response to that is a more politely phrased, WTF? Please. If some of the drivel that's been out since the 50's didn't manage to kill the industry, I doubt my sexy romances are going to do the trick. And I DO get pissy when someone implies that with 20 contracts under my belt, I'm still not a "real" published author. Yes, e-publishing is still the new kid on the block. Doesn't mean we're not the wave of the future. I mean where's the problem with E-books AND print-on-demand. Seems like that way we don't have warehouses full of dead trees, but those who want paper books can still get them. Wouldn't be surprised if that was where the industry eventually ended up.

So what do you think? Is there such thing as too much sex? Not enough? And do you like pixels or paper, or a mixture of both? Where do you see the romance industry headed in the future?


  1. I don't think there's a right answer to this question. The audience is ever-changing. So while it appears sales are higher for the highly sexed books, it may be that things will wane and the industry will move to tamer stuff. Dunno.

    Good blog.

  2. I agree, Kelly. As soon as we could come up with an answer with statistics to back it, the industry would shift and the data would no longer be relevent. I think it will ultimately just come down to personal preference and comfort level.

    I indulge in both pixel and paper, but I still lean more towards paper in my library, though the gap in the ratio is shrinkig.

  3. Actually I agree that there is no right answer...just shades and gradations. And I DO think that the emarket and the bookstore market are two very different things. The really racy stuff sells much better on-line. I'd assume due to the anonymity and immediacy factors.

  4. Crap. My post went to la-la land. Dammit. Uh, what did I say? Something like... every story has a different appropriate heat level. My characters tell me exactly how much of their personal life they want to share. For some stories, the characters just aren't ready to share that much of themselves. Sales aside, if my characters don't want to talk about that, then they don't.

  5. coming after you with pitchforks & torches? :D do they really do that?

    Here , parents wouldn't even know what their children were reading! :D

    & for those who think books are spoiling the younger generation
    read 'The seven minutes'

    Where is the romance industry headed with pixels?
    I'm sorry, I have to break it to you, but it just might be headed to the piracy land!
    For all you may know, your books might be selling like hot cakes on unknown websites & also their printouts taken & published on cheap recycled paper!

  6. To answer the first question...NO there can't be enough sex in a book. Especially if that's that the reader wants. As to reviewers, too much sex here? Well, grow up and choose something tame if explicit sex bothers you. It's the same premise as someone who buys a ticket for an X movie and then bitching about it. That's just stupid.

    I think there's plenty of room in the market for all sorts of books. Sweet to spicy. Print or E.

    Terrific post, Cindy. other thing. If a review complains about a book being TOO SHORT...that's just stupid. Pick a longer one to review.