Many erotic romance readers love the genre so much, they turn their hands to writing a novel and some writers are good enough to get published.
You’d think that would be the end of your troubles, getting published, wouldn’t you? You only have to read around a handful of how-to-write blogs and sites to figure out that getting published these days is an odds-against-you exercise in frustration, ego-crushing rejection, hard work, long hours and no promises. So actually landing the contract and signing it should signal a breakthrough, the end of that awful struggle and onto many more successful novels, right?
Wrong. If you’re writing erotic romance, you have another completely different set of problems you just inherited, that you may not have given a spare thought about until your spicy, flaming hot book hits the shelves with naked men and women on the cover cavorting in suggestive poses, and your name emblazoned beneath them.
Regina Carlysle, fellow Ellora’s Cave author, recently posted on her blog “I write erotic….SO WHAT?”, where she vented about the frustrations of being an erotic romance author, and the prejudice and rudeness she has put up with from people who knee-jerk label both her and her novels. There were quite a few authors who waded into that discussion with their own tales. If you’re thinking about writing erotic romance, it’s worth a read.
The bias and prejudice you get from the public is a very real thing. Sadly, you don’t just get it from the public, either. Other writers and sections of the industry look down on the erotic romance genre as being barely half a step above porn, and the fact that erotic romance authors can make some very serious money from the genre doesn’t help endear us to authors who struggle along in the less popular genres.
I’ve dealt with this idiocy for years now. It was much worse a few years ago, before erotic romance really got traction with the New York publishers and shows like True Blood and Sex And the City mainstreamed the genre. But the attitude still lingers and I guarantee that when it bites you, it’ll be from the most unexpected sources. You’re usually braced for the older generations to disapprove, along with upright authority figures and employers. But what about that sexy guy you’ve had two dates with, who suddenly finds out you write what he thinks of as porn? He might be the sort of guy who doesn’t mind reading it himself, but can’t stand the idea of his girlfriend even being aware of that sort of stuff. Yeah, you probably don’t want him in your life, but cutting him out will hurt like crazy all the same.
I have too many war stories to tell about this to narrow it down to just one. I’ve learned to spot when the reaction is coming. There’s a drawing back of the shoulders, and a downward curl of the mouth, and then there’s the silence. It only lasts about three seconds in reality, but depending on how low your defense shield energy is running, that silence can last a whole lifetime, while you wait for the toxic barb to come back at you.
On the positive side, the longer you write in this genre, and the more you look people in the eye and tell it like it is, the better you get at fielding the staggering array of reactions you can get, and the less it bothers you when the reaction is negative.
Even if you’re writing under a pen name, you will still have decisions and difficulties ahead because of the genre you’re writing in. What do you tell friends and relations when they, very naturally, ask you about your latest book? You can’t stay closed-mouthed forever, and vague answers may only incite their curiosity even more. Do you lie? Tell them to mind their own business? Lay down the truth and hold your breath? These are decisions only you can make and the answer depends upon your own particular social circumstances, family values and the tolerance level of your friends and family.
But if you do decide to go underground, as many erotic romance authors have, after a few years you may find the subterfuge just plain tiresome. If you decide to step out of the closet after a number of years or books, will your family and friends hold it against you for staying silent for so long? More decisions….
The impact on your personal life that comes from writing erotic romance can be quite dramatic. While there are some very strong upsides (the money, the open-mindedness the genre imparts, improvements to your sex life, you’ll be in very good and very friendly company), if you’re in a situation where everyone around you will pillory you for writing “filth”, consider your options, because they could make life very uncomfortable for you. It has not been unknown for authors to get fired from their day jobs for the books they write. Being cast out from your family and community might seem a little medieval, but if they can fire you for writing the stuff, the pressure that families and strongly-knit communities could bring to bear on you might be overwhelming, forcing you to make the hard choice: Your career or your life. If you think I’m being dramatic, you haven’t properly grasped how rabidly some people react to the idea of erotic romance. They don’t understand it, nor do they grasp the difference between erotic romance, erotica, and porn. They lump it all together and brand you with that label. They don’t want to know the differences. You can’t explain it to them because they won’t listen.
Think it through if you’re just easing into this field. Get your ducks (responses) in a row before you start publishing, because as soon as anyone knows you’re writing a book, they’ll immediately want to know what type of book and you’ll be neck deep in sticky questions you don’t have answers for yet.
Just a cheery thought or two for your Saturday. 🙂