E-rotica or E-romance?
by Rebecca Forster
Oh, that word erotica. Written, it looks naked and naughty; spoken it sounds enticing and exciting. Close your eyes and – well, only you know what images it conjures up. Which brings us to the topic of the day: When it comes to sexy books, where do both reader and writer draw the line between erotica and steamy romances?
Normally, this is not a topic I would have visited but a few things have caught my eye in the last few years. First, erotica started being pulled into the mainstream of my local bookstore. Second, category romance became more inventive and definitely steamier. Finally, the advent of E-books and independent publishing allows more sexually explicit material do be read in utter privacy. Think of your Kindle or Nook as the new brown paper wrapper and there’s lots to put inside. Nookbooks (Barnes & Noble) offers 7,718 books defined as erotica; Kindle (Amazon), 24,901 (as of this writing). One online publisher reports that 12% of his offerings are listed as erotica but, in all instances, romance inventory is far greater.
That still left me curious as to the blurring of the line between erotica and steamy romance. Audrey LeFehr who edits books for Kensington’s Aphrodisia imprint as well as other genres was very clear about what she looks for. There are no ‘romance rules’ in erotica (one woman, one man, commitment no matter how steamy the sex). Rather erotica explores the boundaries of a woman’s sexual satisfaction without being depressing, degrading or seriously frightening. This could include same sex or multiple lovers.
The Erotic Author:
The reason an author decides to write erotica are basic: a burning story line, creative expression, pushing the boundaries of their art.- not to mention that the adult entertainment market is huge and there is money to be made.
Locklyn Swallow, author of numerous shorts including her most recent Love By Disguise, admits money was her initial motivation and her objectives have been met. While not making her a millionaire, the return on her short stories, published for digital download and reasonably priced, has been greater than expected.
I.M.Beckett, a pseudonym for a traditionally published author, saw erotica as a challenge after reading a classic erotic novel. According to Beckett, there was an extraordinary beauty that came from linking life and death to sexual encounters with an emphasis on writing style, not just sexual description. The Traveler: An Erotic Journey (part I) is a nod to noir erotica.
Victoria Hawke, a newcomer to the erotic scene with her Wet, Wild & Wacky, 3 sexy shorts that have a wonderful, tongue in cheek energy, liked that erotica offered a greater range for readers. With erotica, there are not tonal rules that need to be adhered to as in traditional genre writing.
All three met their original objectives but then went on to say that, as authors, the genre allowed them to grow in ways they never expected. Erotic readers, they believe, don't just want to be sexual voyeurs. These readers also want to be invested in character and plot. Short or long, erotica must deliver on all traditional literary levels and then one more – the sexual narrative.
Recently, I saw a reader on an Amazon Kindle thread apologize for being an avid romance reader. That doesn’t happen very often any more. The days of being embarrassed about enjoying a romantic reading experience are just about over. Not so for erotica.
There were some erotica threads on the boards but no one answered my query about why erotica was a genre of choice. Surprising? No. Erotica is, perhaps, the most personal of all reading choices. As with all genres, there is a range within erotica that will blur the lines. What one person calls erotica, another will deem a hot romance and yet someone else will swear it crosses the line to pornography. Then again, isn’t it the same for mainstream genres? What some call literature, others dismiss as commercial fiction.
Bottom line, E-books have brought both erotic readers and authors out of the shadows. I for one will be curious to see what the future brings for this genre. Will it bend toward true E-rotica or will it somehow be embraced and engulfed by E-romance? One thing is for certain, as ownership of e-readers grows erotica options will find ever broader distribution. It will be up readers to determine how successful this genre – like all genres – will be.