Please help me welcome author Jennifer Probst to RU! I had the good fortune of meeting Jennifer at RWA’s conference last year. We chatted over breakfast, and then touched based after the conference via email. Before I knew it, we had a first date setup. Well, blog date, that is. I couldn’t be more excited to introduce Jennifer to the RU Crew.
Take it away, Jen!
The romance industry, like any genre, is constantly changing. As a writer, one of the first pieces of advice I was given time and time again is the following: Write the book of your heart and don’t write to the hottest trend in the marketplace, because by the time you’ve finished your manuscript, what was hot when you started may no longer be popular. When a multi-published author who frequents the NYT bestseller list spoke at an RWA conference, she shared a way to break into a market while increasing sales and still staying true to her style of writing. She took the “marriage of convenience” theme and placed it into a paranormal story. By doing this she was able to tell her type of story in a paranormal setting, allowing her to tap into a popular market.
Erotic romance is smoking hot, pardon the cliché. More and more publishers, especially in the e-book market, have seen a growing demand for this type of book and are opening up more venues to cater to these readers. The erotic marketplace is also seeing the expansion of more m/m and f/f , BDSM, and other once forbidden taboos. With the increased popularity of e-books, readers have gained the power of anonymity. The purchaser can now enjoy an erotic read without succumbing to the scrutiny of others.
With the rising popularity of the erotic romance, a question has been raised – Can your current romance be written for the erotic market?
This is a serious question that should be considered, but first, you must know yourself as a writer. If the idea of writing a sex scene causes you to blush and shudder, this market is not for you. If you do not enjoy reading erotic romances, you will probably not enjoy writing them.
It is also important to research various publishers to pinpoint the type of stories you enjoy reading, the quality, and the reputation of the publisher. With a growing number of small e-presses, you need to carefully read guidelines to see what each publisher accepts, and what you are comfortable writing. If you target a certain publisher, read many books to get a feel for the writing and the quality of the line.
If you are comfortable writing a sex scene, it’s a good idea to take a step back and look at your book. The key to a good erotic romance is to make sure the sex scenes are integral to the story. You can’t expect to take a regular romance novel, add additional sex scenes, and sell it as erotic. If you prefer a bit of an edge to your love scenes, and can handle more graphic language, you may be able to re-write the book for this market. The erotic market is wide open for all genres: paranormal, contemporary, historical and Regency. Each publisher has different requirements. Some need a certain amount of sexual scenes and others say as long as it blends with your particular story, there is no agreed number. Frank language is encouraged so if you are uncomfortable naming the terms of the body and prefer rose-colored, soft phrases, again this market may not be for you. But, if you’ve been looking to stretch and develop your writing into something different, to challenge yourself, you may want to try.
Romance Writers of America (RWA) special interest chapter, Passionate Ink, define erotic romance novels as stories written about the development of a romantic relationship. The sex is an inherent part of the story, character growth, and relationship development, and couldn’t be removed without damaging the storyline.
Erotic romances differ from erotica. In an erotic romance, there must be a happily ever after. With erotica, the relationship does not have to end happily. The following description was taken from the Ellora’s Cave website, defining the important difference between these two terms:
|” Erotic romance is defined by us as: any work of literature that is both romantic and sexually explicit in nature. Within this genre, the main protagonists develop “in love” feelings for one another that culminate in a monogamous relationship. Ellora’s Cave Romantica® must be both erotic and romantic. We also publish EXOTIKA™, our line of quality erotica for women. These stories focus on a woman’s sexual journey or adventures. Although they may contain a romance, they do not have to include that as the primary focus, the relationship does not need to be monogamous or end with commitment.”|
For the erotic romance, authors must have a skill for focusing on the art of physical lovemaking, developing conflict, and keeping a strong love story between the main characters to the very last page.
Most markets require a strong romantic connection with a happily ever after, and sexual monogamy. Other markets will let you explore threesomes, bondage, and any other sexual exploration the author is willing to examine. As in all romances, the bottom line remains key: write a great story with characters we care about. An erotic romance may contain more explicit sexual scenes, but it must enhance the relationship and development of story and character.
When I first sold my novella, “Masquerade” in Secrets Volume 11 to Red Sage Publishing, I specifically focused on mingling the level of sexual exploration along with my character’s growth. My heroine came from a repressed background and was taught to deny her sexuality. By using the setting of a masquerade ball, she was able to cover her face and allow herself freedom in expressing herself. This sexual freedom eventually opened her emotions and connected her deeper to the hero. The sex scenes became integral to the story and not just thrown into the book to fit the erotic category.
So, if you are ready to try and develop the story to fit the erotic category, look at these main points.
- Your sex scenes. They must be frank, riveting, and move the story along. Terms consistently used in many erotic romances include the following: pussy, penis, ass, cock, clit, etc. These words are not peppered into the scene just to make the romance erotic, but must fit the love scene and the characters. Also, make sure each character matches the sexual experience. If you have a virginal heroine, you may want to ramp up your hero’s background and have him use explicit language and initiate her into the experience. If your heroine is more contemporary and edgy, having her as the aggressor can be exciting. You can also take the opportunity to allow your character to express more sexual freedom that may not match her outward appearance. This is a great way to deepen your character.
- Secondary characters and subplots should not overtake over the story. This is not the time to shove the best friend at your reader continuously, unless she is developing her own physical relationship or setting the stage for a sequel. Erotic romances focus tightly on the main characters and their relationship.
- The sexual tension and relationship should be the main stage. In erotic fiction, the sexual relationship between the characters takes the main stage. You may need to write more scenes or intensify the physical relationship to make the sale. Extra characters chitchat, or too much plot without the physical connection may dilute the story.
- Conflict. Conflict will raise the stakes in the relationship, and the heat of the love scenes. Pit two different types of people together and watch what happens in the bedroom. This is a great way to explore character growth. In my book, The Tantric Principle, my hero practices tantra in the bedroom – an ancient method of controlling his orgasm. My heroine was a take charge sort of woman who liked to set the pace. The combination of backgrounds was a great opportunity to inject conflict and hot sex, yet tie it into my hero and heroine’s growth.
- Respect the genre. If you do not love or respect the erotic romance market, you will not be able to write a great story. Fans of the erotic romance genre are loyal and publishers generally want to purchase high quality work.
- Dig deep. The beauty of the erotic romance is the intensity of the love scenes. This is a time to dig deep into your character’s secret fantasies and fears. This is not a time to worry if your mother will ever read your book! Let yourself go as a writer and explore each aspect of sexual exploration to initiate conflict, growth, fear and love.
Remaining flexible and open to market trends is savvy business, as long as you remain true to your writing style. The erotic romance market is expanding, with many new and exciting opportunities. If your book has the core elements of a great love story, and you are comfortable writing a more sexually explicit romance, this may be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for.
* * *
RU Crew, do you love reading erotic romance? Tell us about your favorite authors. For our writers out there…have you thought about writing erotic? Jennifer’s kindly agreed to answer any of your questions.
Stop back Wednesday for author Tracy March’s discussion on Powerful Settings: Finding What is Unique for Your Characters…and You.
* * *
Jennifer Probst is published in contemporary romance, both sexy and erotic. Her first book, Heart of Steel, was published by LionHearted Publishing, and her novella, “Masquerade” appeared in Red Sage Secrets Volume 11. Her first children’s book, Buffy and the Carrot, was co-written with her 12 year old niece by Eloquent Books. Her new e-book release, “The Tantric Principle” is available now through Red Sage. Look for her new novella from Red Sage early 2012 entitled, Sex, Lies and Contracts!
Please check out her website at http://www.jenniferprobst.com
Blog http://jenniferprobst.wordpress.com or
Mommy Blog http://4badmommies.com
Twitter me! http://twitter.com/#!/jenniferprobst
Facebook me! http://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Jennifer-Probst-Fan-Page/111073648957581
- Erotic Romance Sub-genre: Hot? Not?
- Writing Hot Love Scenes
- Sloan Parker – Write What You Know: A Woman Writing M/M Romance
- Erotic Romance Part II: Hot? Not?
- A Male Perspective on Romance Novels