Tuesday, April 5, 2011


by Raelene Gorlinsky

All the authors around the luncheon table stared at me, mouths agape. "What did you say?"
"There was too much sex in the book."
"Uh, don't you think that's an odd thing for a publisher of erotic romance to say?"

Well no, actually I think I'm one of the people best able to make that statement. I work with erotica and erotic romance stories every day, I recognize what works and what doesn't, what the sex is supposed to be in a story.

The book we were discussing was the latest in my favorite paranormal series (from another publisher, not Ellora's Cave), and was by a bestselling author. The previous stories in the series had a huge amount of sexual tension leading to the climactic act near the end. That building sexual awareness and longing helped define the developing relationship between the hero and heroine, and affected the plot and the behavior of the othere characters. And totally grabbed the reader: "When are they finally going to do it?" But in the latest book, well, the h/h have done the deed, they are now together as a couple, they can have sex whenever and wherever they want. And they do. Too much. Yes, some of the sex scenes worked, they fit the emotions or illustrated the continued growth of the relationship. But several scenes seemed unnecessary--they interrupted the plot, rather than being a part of it.

The book is classified as urban fantasy romance, not erotic romance. Maybe if it were labeled erotic, I'd have been more tolerant--whether we like to admit it or not, erotic romance readers buy the books for the sex, and they want a lot of it. But on second thought, no, I would not have been tolerant. If I were editing this as an erotic romance, the author would be getting back revision notes from me explaining that having lots of sex was great, but the sex needed to more relevant and integrated into the story--so please rethink and rewrite, Madam Author.

Our Author Information brochure (available under Submissions on our website) provides the three elements of our definition of erotic romance. The first item is:
The sexual relationship must be integral to and an important element of the storyline and the character development. Sex scenes should contribute to furthering the plot or affecting the development of the romantic relationship or the growth of the characters.

So have lots and lots of relevant sex--but not Too Much Sex.

1 comment:

Barbara Elsborg said...

Oh what a tricky balance. I've had a few comments that my stories have too much sex. No one has ever said - not enough sex! Apart from my --oops. LOL But what I've noticed is the way more and more 'mainstream' authors have really hot sex in their stories. Not quite as much as an erotic romance, but just as graphic. I've just read a book - not erotic - where the hero has a sexual encounter with a 'prostitute' which was more detailed than the sex he eventually had with the heroine. The author was trying to show sex without love and sex with love but I don't know that it needed to be so detailed.
Trouble is there is no guide on how much to include. How much is too much? Raelene is right that the sex has to fit, to be integrated into the story so that you're not dragged out of the tale by the hot bits.But the truth is, you never please everyone.