I just read A Most Dangerous Profession by Karen Hawkins. It’s a mainstream romance novel published by Pocket Books. Ten years ago, it would've been considered erotic romance. Heck, five years ago it would've fallen into that category.
But this book, published in 2011, is marketed as a Regency romance and the sex is explicit, uses all the terms erotic romances use, and brings the readers right under the sheets with the characters—the same way erotic romances do.
I sat there amazed. There isn’t any kink, it’s all straight vanilla sex, but it’s explicit vanilla sex. I’ve given my definitions of traditional, modern and erotic romance genres before and this book definitely crosses the line.
Or maybe it erases the line entirely. Is it possible? While I’ve been busy writing what I thought were erotic romances, the genre has shifted under my feet?
For the most part, Ms. Hawkins used all the same terms erotic romance writers do: cock, pussy, nipples. The only exception I took was when she described “his turgid cock.” Turgid? Really? That word pulled me right out of the book. It’s an old, purple prose word. She did not use the more modern “hard-on” anywhere.
Because it’s a Regency, I’ll cut her slack, though. “Turgid” is definitely an older word and a case could be made for its use. In dialogue. She used it in description and that’s where I have the issue.
My mom and m-i-l read Nora Roberts and Lisa Kleypas and Debbie MacComber. Writers I consider modern romance novelists (especially since they’re still publishing new novels). Because I’m the mule that passes these books between the two of them, I grab one now and again and read it, which means I haven’t read many of the newer writers. Apparently that was my mistake.
Writing, for me, is not only a creative outlet, it’s a business. I’ve always considered it that, ever since I first found out Ellora’s Cave had no publicity department dedicated to promoting its authors. It can’t. It’s a small press. EC publicizes EC with the philosophy that all boats rise when the mothership does. I’m okay with that. They’re a business and have to make decisions based on what’s right for them.
But I’m a business, too, and have similar decisions to make. Once I finish a story, do I send it to an agent, send it directly to a publisher, or self-publish it? Besides my blog and Twitter, where else can I let readers know it exists? What do I do about a book that isn’t selling? Change the price, change the cover or change the book? Every day I have business decisions to make along with the creative ones that go with writing a good story.
And now the genre itself is moving under my feet.
Now I have a whole host of new decisions to make. For example, do I change the marketing of Shooting Star to that of a regular romance? Its primary focus is a mystery, but it has scenes of BDSM as well as explicit vanilla sex, so is it still erotic romance if Regencies have nearly the same thing?
It’s enough to drive a person insane. I seriously have considered going back to school and getting an Associates in Small Business Administration except that I’m not so sure it would answer questions like the ones I have. I’m a data junkie already, so I know what’s selling and what’s not. I just don’t know what to do next. How do I move those that aren’t selling into the profit column? What more can I do to get the word out about new releases? Another college degree isn’t going to give me those answers. Or is it?
A writing career is a two-part job: the creation of story plus the marketing of story so please pardon me while I play around with the marketing side for a while. Over the next few months you may see some older titles repackaged and re-covered (as in re-released with new covers that might be more eye-catching). My static website will be undergoing a huge overhaul – or it might be abandoned completely and the addy point here. The marketing of a single book might follow several avenues at once (same book, two covers for two different genre?). Everything's on the table as I deal with this new shift.
As always, I will alert my readers here and subscribers to my newsletter first of any of these business changes. And, as always, I will continue to write good stories, no matter what genre designation they end up with.
I want to give a special shoutout to Kathryn and Dean. I have learned much from your blog series. Thank you!