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TordenDar

Where have all the nipple clamps gone?

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I've been pondering where the erotic romance market is going.

Anne Rice's Beauty is still popular, but I've not seen anything like it in erotica or erotic romance.  Have others tried and failed, or is this kind of erotica not popular anymore among writers/publishers?  Or are there good examples that I've missed?

50 Shades was followed (and preceded) by several books that were marketed as being in the same vein, but none of them (not even 50 Shades) have that much sex.  Crossfire has about four sex scenes per book.  Why aren't there more?  Is that the way readers want it, or are writers hesitant to add more sex scenes for other reasons?  Or does keeping the romance in erotic romance not leave room for too many sex scenes that are still meaningful?

What happens to an erotic romance book that gets kinky without declaring itself a kinky book?  That is, would readers be turned off by BD and SM and DS that occurred in books that didn't have a "BDSM club" scene?  Other than Beauty and clearly-marked BDSM books, I haven't seen nipple clamps make an appearance.  Have I missed them?  Do only doms carry nipple clamps in erotic romance books?  Is the lack of these books a lack of supply or a lack of demand?  Are there two groups of readers:  1.  readers who want BDSM full-bore with contracts and dungeons 2. readers who want a little light spanking or bondage, with nothing in the middle?  The middle would be erotic romance that doesn't use the words BDSM, contract, club, or scene, but still has kink that goes beyond light necktie bondage.

Dan

Edited by TordenDar

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I'm currently reading Bared to You and there is tons of sex! In fact, the whole book so far (I have ~80 pages left) is: set up followed by an exhausting amount of sex + misunderstanding + more sex then another misunderstanding. However, I'm not sure how you are defining "sex scene". I'm defining it as a scene with any sort of sexual interaction, not just penetration (although there's tons of penetrative sex in that book!).

My books have tons of sex and my story arcs intermingle what I define as erotica (a sexual journey of a protagonist) with a romance (HEA). This is what I've defined as "erotic romance" (and I wrote what turned out to be a controversial blog post about my definitions). I'm not a huge seller, but I recently got a reader email that said (and I quote): "OMG! Why isn't everyone reading this?!!!" So some readers out there want lots of plot-relevant sex with their romance. I just have to find every single one of those readers!!

I write kink, but not full out BDSM. My hallmarks are role play and voyeurism, plus I throw in machines and light BDSM. I write historicals so do not have "BDSM club" scenes (although upcoming Victorian stories will have sex club scenes, but such establishments were not BDSM exclusive). I don't divide reader populations by desired quantity of BDSM equipment, I divide reader populations by genre and by heat level. So historical erotic romance readers might not like shapeshifter paranormal romance and don't generally read sweet histrom, but they will read all high heat levels in histrom.

The last few years I've been annoyed by the definition of erotic romance being a book with BDSM in it. That seems to be how RT Book Reviews defines it -- they might be driving reader expectations in this.

-Regina

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I'm also troubled by labeling of erotic romance as strictly BDSM. I've read some amazing books with explicit plot driven sex that are considered sexy romance and some books with no sex in them that are very obviously BDSM (Tami Veldura's Stealing Serenity comes to mind where the characters share only a kiss but lots of rope). I think good erotic romance can have BDSM but not all BDSM books are erotic. Likewise, I think erotic romance can have "vanilla" sex and be full of eroticism. 

But like all labels, I think this reflects the current cultural expectations. Education is needed to broaden the horizons or readers.

And yes, I am totally behind more nipple clamps! Such fun.

--Aidee

 

Edited by Aidee Ladnier

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Aidee you reminded me that I have a BDSM erotica short published by Cleis Press with no sex, only a kiss at the end!

Oooo! I'll have to check that out. I love sex in BDSM stories, but there is something so pure about the submission when there is not!

--Aidee

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This is great information for a newbie.  Thank you.

Asgaard has enough magic --and Thor has enough alpha-- that I feel free to create and explore ideas outside the standard tropes.  In the land of the Norse gods, there are no contracts or explanations of what it means to be a Dom or a Sub.  This is an ice nymph, who serves a warrior or shield maiden.  Watch what happens.  If you go with the ice nymphs, they will prepare you for tonight's feast.

Regina, I'm impressed with what you created without including any sex.  Thank you for expanding my thinking.

Dan

Edited by TordenDar

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Sometimes for me the sexiest sex has no sex! HA!

Aidee, spot on for me: I think good erotic romance can have BDSM but not all BDSM books are erotic. Likewise, I think erotic romance can have "vanilla" sex and be full of eroticism. 

I don't (generally) like to traditional / modern (popular) BDSM*, it doesn't move me and that's not the definition of "erotic" for me!

 

 

* I say this loosely. It depends on the BDSM toys used, the setting, the characters ... many many things that determine eroticism, and have nothing to do with the BDSM lifestyle per se. It's like, if two likeable hot characters in a well-written book get creative and display a BDSM relationship but use no "bdsm standard issue" toys you'd buy online, that's technically BDSM but not why I sought out the book, nor enjoyed reading it!

Edited by Mira Noire

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It's like, if two likeable hot characters in a well-written book get creative and display a BDSM relationship but use no "bdsm standard issue" toys you'd buy online, that's technically BDSM but not why I sought out the book, nor enjoyed reading it!

I hope this isn't gauche to ask, but can you suggest a book or two that are strong exemplars of this?

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Charity, thank you for the pointer toward Jennifer Kacey.  I looked at "Together in Cyn".  It's well written (thanks, Kindle instant delivery).  It does involve a BDSM club, and it's ranked 666,653 overall in Amazon, whereas Sylvia Day's "Bared to You" is 3,183 overall (no BDSM club).  Anne Rice's "The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty" is 13,556 overall.

I'm not sure what conclusion to draw.  Does a well-written romance set in a BDSM club draw fewer readers than a well-written romance that is hot without being in a BDSM club (Cross's nightclub doesn't count)?  Is Kacey's book not as well written as books from Day or Rice?  Is there something about the trope that Day follows that is more popular?  Is there a certain je ne sais quoi that makes one book do much better than another?

I apologize for being so coldly analytical.  Somebody, please let me know if asking these questions so directly is impolitic.

Obviously, being a good writer is important.  I'm working hard on improving my craft, and I love writing.  But what is it that puts Kacey at 666k rank while Day is at 3k?

Dan

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On one hand, it's more about promotion and name recognition. Day has a mega-serious-promo-machine behind her. Anne Rice is, simply put, Anne Rice and has huge cross-genre appeal. Jennifer Kacey is well-known, but not at the level of Day and Rice. Rankings have nothing to do with how well written or well plotted a story is. If that's all it took, we'd all be millionaires, right?! And I doubt the rankings have anything to do with the setting, either. Day and Rice and a handful of other authors are just in a league of their own for so many reasons and one really can't compare other authors to them.

That said, I also see that "Together in Cyn" is an Ellora's Cave book. I am not going to get in too deep about the recent history of Ellora's Cave -- there are plenty of blog posts plus the #notchilled hashtag on Twitter where you can read all about what is going on with EC in the event you are unaware of any of it. Back in Sept 2014, EC sued a blogger for defamation. After that, the entire romance reading and writing community decided to boycott all EC books. Later, some EC authors begged readers to not buy their EC books because they wanted their rights back based on low sales. Jennifer Kacey is one of those authors who has requested readers not buy her EC books -- in fact she has requested readers not buy "Together in Cyn" (see her website http://www.jenniferkacey.com/booklist.html). So in this very particular case Jennifer Kacey wants her ranking to be low so she can get her rights back to her book and republish it.

So, there are a plethora of reasons why a book may or may not be selling well.

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Regina, thank you for explaining.  I never would have known the EC aspect.  While I have already accepted that it takes more than strong craft to bring strong financial results, I am reassured to find that Kacey's low sales rank despite strong writing is due to special circumstances.

I've decided not to be afraid of the BDSM category.  This is my first book, so I didn't want to start out doing something that only the established writers can get away with.  While it won't be, "Welcome to Asgaard.  Here are your nipple clamps," I will give Asgaard some Beauty-like aspects.  This will be an environment that is naturally infused with sex and BDSM.  Warriors and shield maidens are natural dominants without clubs or contracts.  I also have Thor, the ultimate alpha.

I am aware that paranormals are on the outs right now (so I've been told), but I can't write Thor as a non-paranormal.  I could leave out the BDSM, but I'll keep the BDSM and remember to choose a publisher carefully.  Thanks again for helping me understand the publishing situation.

Edited by TordenDar

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I'm pretty new to this genre and new to writing on a professional level. But I think from your original post this is important: 

Or does keeping the romance in erotic romance not leave room for too many sex scenes that are still meaningful?

There is a big difference between erotica and erotic romance.  Erotic romance still centres around the love story, it has to come to a meaningful and happy ending, the sex isn't supposed to be thrown in. Sex for the sake of sex is erotica. So when you're writing you need to keep in mind audience (this is what I keep hearing). For me personally I'm not a big fan of erotica, I like there to be a central love story that works toward that HEA. While reading about things like rape and all the really explicit stuff is what some people are interested in, it's not really for me. When I was in high school a friend of mine lent me Beauty. She thought I'd like it because I was always reading romance novels. While it was definitely HOT it was too much for me and I never made it through the first one. It made me uncomfortable.

You might want to have a look around at various publishing houses (if you haven't already) and see what their guidelines are. Most of them will have a "Rules" list of things they don't accept. Also, if you aren't on Goodreads maybe you should consider joining there and joining a few groups to see what interests readers the most. Another idea is to look at the "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought..." section on Amazon, to see what those readers are interested in.

Now, again I'm new, so I might be off base with this, but I think that what most readers are looking for are a strong alpha hero, who ultimately does the right thing, and a woman who is willing to go head to head with him. They are looking for interesting plots. Some want the heat level turned up. Some readers will jump heat levels for a good story. Although I assume that you'll get more people willing to drop down a heat level or two, than those that will go up. 

I don't know if that helps at all,....or if I just went rambling. 

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Cameron, I appreciate you sharing your thoughts.  Your ideas are helpful.

Thor is a strong alpha, so that is covered.  You make a really good point about people being more likely to read down in heat for a good story than up.

I have a real romance plotted out, as well as some interesting sub-plots.  There are plenty of places to have sex that is relevant to the character and relationship arcs, and I had gotten a hint that readers would be looking for something with heat.  While the sex can't be pulled out, it could be toned down a bit, but that doesn't really feel like Thor.

I'll go back and review the publisher's guidelines.  That's another good point.  After seeing Carina's call for Cracktastic, I focused on that.

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Ok I'm back -- sorry about that, got caught up with being at Nationals! :D

So, I haven't had a ton of time to read lately and what I've been reading has been action/thrillers (*blush*) -- but, Beauty was one of my first sets of Erotica and blew my mind. I was in Beauty's shoes and responding in all kinds of ways to the scenes and I felt as if I were in a romance. I think the main romance that flipped my switch and made me decide to write erotica and romance was actually these set of books, and specifically The Captain character. The BDSM elements were there and not explicit in the way it can be today - a lot of it was relationships, historical elements that take away the modern toys and such. Some of it is mental. Let's look at a non erotica/romance version of Anne Rice's work -- Lasher. In her Vampire Lestat series, Rowan, the lead witch (it's been years it's blurry in my memory bear with) has a romance and gets married to a handsome, average, well-meaning guy (who I think has some latent power but is not as strong as her) -- Michael. Their romance develops, they get together, they're a solid couple. This is paranormal gothic romance whatnot, so it's not about their romance, but the whole time I was like, Michael is meh. Nice. I want her to be happy. But meh. Parallel to Michael, is Lasher. Lasher is a ghost who haunts the crap out of Rowan, her whole life. And her relationship with HIM -- someone she can't see, can't talk to, etc. -- is erotic and a relationship that is complex that I want her to actually have. Because he's a ghost and he came before Michael, I feel conflicted ... it never resolves cleanly for me, but there is a naughty forbidden helpless obsession shameful aspect to Lasher that pushes all my buttons in ways that Michael never could. Lasher is demanding, bossy, pushy, he exerts his claim on Rowan repeatedly and won't leave her alone -- just like a proper Alpha. Michael is a Beta, because Rowan is an Alpha. 

Back to Beauty -- it actually *does* have a central HEA from what I remember, but it's split into multiple books and will appear to be erotica for those who prefer *central paired character* for the majority of their romance. That's the tricky thing -- many people will dub your erotic romance erotica and emotionally disassociate from your main character if she / he has multiple lovers on the way to finding their HEA/HFN ending. (I think that's unfair, but that's life. I think a true work of "erotica" has no romance or very little whatsoever and ends with NO HEA/HFN, a la "Story of O." Something where people demonstrate no love or long term interest in loving each other, only desire and selfish exploration and fulfillment of that desire. But I feel a truly layered story will always include characters LIKE that -- the ones who just want sex / to serve their needs. But your hero/heroine is seeking more and ideally finds the character who truly loves them for who they are and understands/fulfills them sexually and emotionally.)

What people want to see (from my experience) is that the people who end up together at the end are standing next to each other in chapter 1 and 2 and clearly meant to be together even if during Chapter 3 onward there are trials and tribulations -- those central characters (m/m, m/f, f/f, mfm, etc) -- are doing their dance from page 1. 

In fact, what is HEA/HFN and romance for any reader is *as unique to the reader* as it is to the author to write. The difficulty is in writing in a way that makes you happy and then *finding your reader.* This came up in the conference this year -- how writing smart is writing to please your reader but also writing to please you. It's a fine line. The former will make you money and may follow more of a formula/model. The latter will help you stay productive and keep churning out stuff that excites you at scale in a way you can monetize while also enjoying what you do so you don't dial it in. Because readers can always tell when you do.

There's a blurry line here that we were talking about at our PI AGM this year -- we don't want to get into formulas and "there should be X many sex scenes, your HEA/HFN characters must meet and exchange words/romantic tension by the end of Chapter 1, etc." - writing is ambivalent, nuanced, and subjective. I had one guy author way back ask me explicitly as a female what I responded to in his works and when I told him "that M/M turns me on" he went off on a "let me insert mm into my works" kick. And it's not as simple as that. It has to make sense to the evolution to the characters, your story, who they are in life. As complex as your own life is and the things you have grown to like and love in a real relationship and in the bedroom, your characters will have had the same complex evolution over time and there is no rubric for painting that picture in a way that is guaranteed to win hearts/make sales. I'm sorry I have to bash that famous "mainstream mommy porn" title -- it had flaws but it also had characters that, stiffly as they were drawn, met a need in the reader. That's all it can take -- can your reader see themselves, or the one they want to make love to and own in their darkest deepest of hearts, in your characters?

Also, times are changing. What was once erotica is now considered erotic romance. Within erotic romance, there are storylines that are considered too dark for some and for others are pushing all the right buttons for both *erotic* and *romance.*

As an example, I do not like my heroines sweet and innocent. I also do not like my alphas incapable of having sense when they are ridden by testosterone. Other readers want both of those things and it's not a "romance" for them if they don't get that "hit." My personal "hit" needs my alpha to be a little cruel, highly intelligent, something like a DDlg. I don't need toys, whips, or chains, I need everything to be in the mind games. Check out some of our PI contest winners and finalists for examples!

Hope this helps some ... don't worry about being impolitic. ;)

 

 

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Mira, you made some good points. I didn't realize that Beauty had a satisfying ending. From what my friend told me it didn't sound like that's where it was going, but it's been like 12 years since I tried reading it (and I was pretty young at the time) maybe I should give it another try. Although since meeting so many new and amazing authors my reading list has grown drastically!

If you enjoy M/M you might want to give Over the Rainbow a try.  Only a few of the stories are erotic in nature, but mostly it's a good introduction to a lot of authors, many of them write M/M stuff. Alexa Land is just one that I'll probably end up picking up a few of her books.

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Mira, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and reactions so eloquently.  I've put Lasher in the top of my reading pile.  (I may eventually get to the first book in the series.)

In my book, I don't have a Beta like Michael to contrast with the Alpha (Thor/Lasher).  You have me rethinking this.  I made a chart of the contrasting descriptions of the Alpha and Beta from "What Women Want," which describes a similar Michael/Lasher duo, but when I looked back at the books I had read, I saw plenty of good ones that didn't have a significant Beta, so I figured I could go without.  But the way you describe Lasher and Michael has a draw to it that has me thinking.

My personal hit is being Thor, large and in charge, but what speaks to me most is the meta challenge of writing, accomplishing the impossible.  (Blame my artistic temperament.)  I saw an episode of Philly, in which the wife was on trial for pushing her husband off the balcony to his death.  She claimed that he slipped while she was pleasuring him.  The trial went back and forth with revelations about how he was having an affair (so she must have pushed him) and then revelations of how she already knew about the affair, and they were making up (the old fashioned way).  It went back and forth until everything was in doubt.  After she was found not guilty, she leaned over to her lawyer and described her husband's last words.  That one sentence instantly told the viewer everything that had happened.  In one sentence.  Total writer-gasm.  I wanted a moment like that, and Thor is written around it, with one revelation at the end that changes everything and settles everything.  That is what drives me.  For the sexual parts, I can't be left completely to my own devices, otherwise the ice nymphs go topless in a circle around Thor for what my critique partner laughingly calls the nipple dance.

Dan

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I wish I knew why Kacey is ranked 600K. I've read Together in Cyn and it's an amazing book. Maybe it's a marketing issue? Sylvia Day isn't likely to have problems finding new ways to market, whereas someone unknown will find doors shut to them. 

Edited by Charity Parkerson

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I don't know why I was thinking Together in Cyn had been indie published. I'd love for all my EC books to be ranked low, as well. Not that it matters, I'm well past the point where, with low rankings, I should've received my rights back, and they still won't give them to me. 

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 Is the lack of these books a lack of supply or a lack of demand? 

Very late to the party but the lack you are asking about, specifically the dire lack of even merely bad F/m BDSM erotica/erotic romance is what finally got me to move from "writing a book one day" to "writing this book everyday until it is done."  I am writing it because I'm tired of not finding it.  In talking to people in the scene there is some interest, especially among actual female tops, for this kind of book.  To quote one I talked to "I never see me in what is out there".

So I would say in my narrower niche it might be lack of supply not lack of demand.

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Welcome to the party, Tina.  Thank you for adding to the discussion.

In the F/m romance genre, are there any pinnacle works that stand out as "they don't make 'em like that anymore"?

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Thank you Torden.

My favorite novel in the area is The Virgin Bride which has some pretty hot scenes but really lacks in the relationship department and is very much male centric (we see him alone but not her).  I have a handful of anthologies with a few stories I really like.  When I'm home I'll get some titles and authors.

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Can you remember the author for The Virgin Bride?  The two I found by that name are far from F/m.  They were still enjoyable, and one of them gave me a good idea how to handle the god/human duality of Thor in my book (which, as you might guess, is about Thor).

Thank you.

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