What is Erotic Romance? –Thursday Rant


Recently I read a novel by a very well-known author. It’s hot and dirty and has toe-curling heroes. The sex is boundless including spanking and anal–and there is A LOT of it between these pages, folks.

Yet when I looked at the category on Amazon, this book is NOT considered erotic. Why? It’s every bit as dirty as my books. In fact, these characters might be having MORE sex than breathing! So how can this author call herself “mainstream romantic suspense” while my books are “erotic romance”?

My guess is some readers are afraid to admit they’re shopping for anything EROTIC. Putting that word into a search engine on Amazon is the equivalent to walking into an adult book store. Although are the fans of this author coming back for the amazing plots alone? No.

There’s a stigma attached to erotic romance. What is EROTIC really?

Erotic romance novels are stories written about the development of a romantic relationship through sexual interaction. The sex is an inherent part of the story, character growth, and relationship development, and couldn’t be removed without damaging the storyline–Wikipedia

If this is true and the author I read is NOT erotic romance…you could eliminate her sex scenes and have a fully developed book. Well, if you did, you’d have about 13 pages to read in this story.

What is your take on this strange phenomenon? Are authors labeling their work non-erotic in order to find a readership? Or are they trying to outrun the Amazon Feds? I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading,



5 comments on “What is Erotic Romance? –Thursday Rant

  1. Hi, Em … I’m about at the end of my tether on this subject. I try to write fully imagined, character-driven romance with a lot of careful consideration to plot, the writing itself, the culture, etc. ad nauseam. But there is sex. There is a lot of sex, but not so much that the story would collapse if it were left out. It’s there because my pub insists on a certain “percentage” of hottage and wattage in my books. And yet I am most definitely not a writer of “erotica.” In fact, I’m rather embarrassed when people look to my books to find the kind of raw, wall-to-wall sex I see in so many books. But … and this is a big but … if I do not include the word “erotic” somewhere in the tags, readers ignore my books. Of course, if I label it “erotica,” the designation likely to scare readers away, as you point out. Waaaah.

    Is there an “in-between” label we could invent that would attract the readers I want? I want readers who appreciate actual writing. The dirty word I want to use is “literature.” Maybe “literary eroticism”? Ah, no. That would scare away even more readers.

    Pissed I am. I live with book-returns from the readers who wanted more hotsex (yeah, one word), and nose-up avoidance from the readers who want “real writing.”

  2. I think now we’re at a point where, in all seriousness, “erotic” is just a buzzword. Let’s face it, there are romances that a lot of us romance writers would consider “sweet” and yet I’m sure there are people who would be aghast at the “content.” It’s so subjective. Instead of “erotic” or “erotic romance,” the system needs to swing more toward labels such as specific content (graphic sex scenes, kinds of content such as BDSM, anal sex/play, closed-door sex scenes, etc) instead of the now-nebulous “erotic” label. I mean, why should books with sex in them be shoved behind a virtual closed door, while “mainstream” books that have explicit violence in them (like some crime/suspense books) make the NYT list? “Ooh, the childrenz!” Yeah, sorry, I’d rather have the glorified violence locked behind a door. Maybe that’s one of the endemic problems of today’s American society, we’re more numbed to violence than we are sex. :/

  3. I fear the answer is yes to both questions. The recent attacks on erotic content via PayPal and the fallout that still trickles through the tagging system, the purging of so-called porn that had all D2D titles removed from virtual shelves, shut-downs of websites, legal actions taken in the UK, the see-sawing of Amazon on what constitutes erotic content vs. porn… The situation is in a word … fluid.

    OmniLit/ARe have rationalized their system, to some extent, by forcing the author to choose a category: erotica OR erotic romance. There are, unfortunately, no hard and fast lines as to how one can make that particular choice. They go one step further by having a clearly defined “rating system” that specifies how much sex, how graphic, etc. Smashwords also has a vastly expanded category set, and it also allows up to 15 tags so the author can clearly specify a target audience. Certainly that’s a far better system than Amazon has with its measly two BISAC categories that don’t come close to addressing what the true category is.

    A casual search reveals that erotica is the fastest growing segment in book sales (they rarely provide satisfactory metrics but for purposes of this discussion, I’ll take their word for it). If you are borderline, reason suggests you opt in for erotica instead of erotic romance (or some less-descriptive terms) for the content. Many authors go high-brow and then equivocate by disclaimers in the product description (added via author central) with cautionary statements, assuming of course, that browsers actually read that far.

    Reading reviews might be less than helpful: case in point… One reviewer of mine said there was too much sex, she was looking for a story with “a little sex”. It was clearly labelled gay & lesbian fiction:gay:erotic. I had a disclaimer in the description. I could wax poetic on that, but I won’t.

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