The Difference between My Books and Erotica

posted in: Various Musings | 0

I recently had a bit of an upset with a major online bookseller who refused to sell one of my box sets, Nicki Sosebee Foursome, because I had “incorrectly” not labeled it as erotica. Here specifically is what they said about rejecting the book:

The subject category must best describe the book. Books must not be obviously misclassified (for example, a nonfiction history book submitted as “Sci-Fi & Fantasy”)….The primary subject category for erotica must reflect that the book is erotica (i.e., the primary subject category needs to be “Erotica”). Please list FICTION / Erotica / [Subcategory] as your primary BISAC category.

If my Nicki Sosebee books were erotica, I would gladly do so, but—for example—Got the Life, the first book in the series, has two sex scenes. That’s it. In a full-length (although short) novel. Sex is NOT the point, unlike erotica. The book is, at best, erotic romance, but I don’t even classify that as the main category for the Nicki Sosebee series. The closest category is romantic suspense.
But, talking with readers after venting a little on social media (like I often do)—as well as discussing the problem with a rep from Draft2Digital (who was amazing, by the way)—I realized that some readers don’t know the difference between erotic romance and erotica. So let’s discuss that. First, here is the appeal I wrote to the bookseller above:

My books (including this one) are most certainly erotic romance but by no stretch of the imagination are they erotica. As you folks probably know, the difference between erotic romance and erotica might be fine, but to readers, the gap is wide. The point of erotica is sex, whereas sex happens in erotic romance but is not the entire point of the novel. To me, it’s like the difference between a movie that’s rated R and one that’s rated X. I cannot in good conscience label my work as erotica, because readers looking for erotica would not be very happy to pick up one of my books and discover that they really are not erotica.

So here, then, is a quick list of both, the differences as I see them:

• Has a solid plot that, if the sex scenes were removed, would still constitute a major portion of the book
• Changed into a movie would likely be rated a hard R (even if it needed to be toned down a bit)
• Sometimes even the sex scenes will drive the plot
• Sex scenes might be graphic
• Sometimes the sex scenes are viewed as “emotional”
• Sex scenes are expected but are not the point of the book

• Has a thin plot that probably couldn’t stand alone if the sex scenes were removed
• Changed into a movie, it would be a porn (and likely hardcore)
• Oftentimes feels like it’s sex for sex’s sake
• Sex scenes are always graphic
• Sometimes, in contrast to erotic romance, viewed as “sexual” or “arousing”
• Sex IS THE POINT of the book

• Can have hot sex scenes (or not, depending on the writer! LOL)
• Well-written sex scenes might be arousing, even if not written as erotica
• Have their fans who have particular expectations when a book is classified in a particular way!

Ultimately, I chose to not publish the box set to that bookseller, especially after the long conversation I had with the rep at D2D. She said we could certainly move forward with the appeal, but that bookseller already accepted all the individual Nicki books as they were classified (romantic suspense and erotic romance). She said we could maybe cite those books in my appeal but I would be risking having them then reject all the Nicki books unless or until I put them in the erotica category…and I’d much rather not sell them at all if that was what it came to. If you mislabel a book, you’re going to have some pissed off readers—a chance I’m not willing to take. So the box set not being sold on their site? Their loss.

How do you feel when you come across a book that’s misclassified?

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