Pretty much since the day I sold to Ellora’s Cave I’ve been taking hits for one of the genres in which I write. Books unread, people get high nosed and all knowing, making grand pronouncements that what I write is just plotless garbage. Disgusting porn. The downfall of romance, etc. (Like I can’t fit some plot in a 130K book!) I’m sure you all can add a few more descriptive terms. This particular discussion has been going on for years.
Quite frankly, I find this amusing. (Yes, I am easily amused.) Especially when one considers how I sold the four series I have to the houses I have. Pretty much, I just wrote up a short standard series overview, a synopsis that focused entirely on the plot of a 100K book, and a partial. The only reference to heat comes in the query letter with the simple head’s up if the editor would prefer to have the story sell erotic, they need to add 30K to the word count. As a character driven author, it’s easy to adapt the structure to incorporate the love scenes into the momentum that drives the story forward. Just a tweak in the structure that creates a seamless blend of love and action.
So basically, I sell the story line and leave it to the purchasing editor to decide what line they want it for. So far, two series have sold as erotic romance and two as non erotic romance. And *sigh* I didn’t guess correctly once which way a series would sell, so it’s probably all well and good that I left that decision to the editor’s discretion.
Too often I think what makes a romance a romance gets overlooked in these discussions on whether erotic romance is romance, erotica or porn. As in real life, the speculating on what the H&H could be doing, might be doing or shouldn’t be doing, seems to have a high distractibility for the participants drawing them away from the bottom line: The level of heat in a novel has absolutely nothing to do with the romance of a novel. They are two different components of story structure. A well done erotic romance can steal a reader’s breath the same way a sensual romance can because those breathless moments don’t come from the love scenes. They come from the characters and how they interact. And more importantly, from the author’s skill in handling that interaction.
Obviously, reader preference as to what heat level they prefer to have their breath stolen will vary, but there is no direct correlation between heat level of a novel and a novel’s breath-stealing potential. That all takes place within that perfect dark moment when characterization, conflict and plot collide hopefully with enough emotional impact that the aftershocks linger in the readers minds long after they close the covers of the books.
That being said, just to complicate the issue and to add fuel to the fire, not every book labeled erotic romance is actually romance the same way not every book labeled romantic suspense actually contains romance. Publishers market books the way they think they will sell. An author has no input. I will wager, however, that when a reader finds a well written romance that steals their breath, makes their heart twist, and lingers in their memories, they recognize it, no matter what the genre label on the spine. So while it may not be easy to identify an erotic romance on the shelves, it’s pretty easy once you’ve read one to understand you just read a romance.
Now, to continue our controversial theme, and as you all were busting on my Ellora’s caves earlier, *G* lets talk covers. On the whole, I’m pretty oblivious to covers. Once in a blue moon a spectacular one will catch my eye, (Ie: Irish Devil) but mostly I shop from readers’ recommendations and online, so covers just aren’t on my radar. Unless they are too explicit.
Yup. I said it. Too explicit covers are a problem for me. You know the one’s I’m talking about. The ones that, in essence, catch naked people with body parts exposed mid coitus? *sigh* Chances are if a book has a cover like that I probably won’t buy it unless I can get it in e-form. I’m not a hypocrite. I write erotic romance and I enjoy reading erotic romance and I’m ashamed of neither, but those too explicit covers, no matter how beautifully rendered, simply don’t fit my lifestyle. I have children in my house. Other people’s children visit my house. Much of my time is spent at child heavy locales, pediatrician’s offices, dentists offices, football games, family events, etc. I like to take a book everywhere, but like a smoker wanting a cigarette, when I’m out in public, my views aren’t the only ones that need be taken into consideration and the same way I appreciate smokers not assaulting my lungs with second hand smoke, I tend not to want to visually assault someone else’s sense of propriety with the cover on my reading material. Yes, I know I could put a cover over my book, but it strikes me as wrong that I would even have to.
Since we’re on the subject there’s something else I have to confess. Something of which I’m not proud. I have to say, when I see an uber graphic cover, it does *hanging head in shame* land right on my one big fear when I reach for an erotic romance—that there won’t be a love story between the pages just sex scenes strung together. Now, that’s my knee jerk reaction which does almost immediately get tempered by logic and a second look because I do know authors don’t have a say in covers and publishers often explore marketing techniques, but while the highly graphic covers do grab my attention it doesn’t seem to be in a positive way.
I’m pretty sure this puts me in the minority, but how about the rest of you? Do you make assumptions based on covers? What cover types do you like? What covers have called you across the width of the bookstore and tempted you into a moment of indiscretion with a blurb? Seduced you maybe even into peeking beneath the cover? Right there in public? In front of everyone?