Sunday, September 15, 2013

@dochappycamper Says: There's More to #Romance Novels Than the #Sex Scenes

I've been sitting back on the sidelines watching a bit of drama unfold in the publishing world. Well, I should say in the self publishing world. I'm sure this sort of thing happens with traditional publishers too from time to time, but not to the extent it does with the Indie/self published group. Now that I've entered the publisher realm with starting up Sassy Vixen Publishing LLC, I've noticed this particular problem occurring more often than ever. 

You all know my opinion of authors and publishers labeling stories of whatever length, "erotic" when they're barely sensual at best. I've written blog articles as myself, The Vixen and Lia Michaels on this very topic. Don't worry, I won't go into it again here, but today's topic is related.

Glancing through the descriptions of some of the "romance" books on Amazon, Smashwords, ARe and other sites, I've spotted a few that don't quite fit the bill of a romance. That in itself didn't raise my hackles up all the way. What really got my blood simmering was listening to other authors talk about their current works in progress. Not one of them had any elements in their books to justify the romance genre label and yet it's exactly how they were going to market it.

What??? Where on earth do these folks get the idea that slapping in a sex scene or two makes their book a romance?  

Before I answer that question, how about I fill you in on what actually makes up a romance, regardless of the genre. Whether it's erotic, paranormal, fantasy, sci-fi, historical, or contemporary all follow the same set of rules. 

  1. The primary focus is on the RELATIONSHIP and ROMANTIC LOVE between two (or more in the case of menage) individuals.
  2. There must be a happily ever after for the couple or at least a happy for now. Some romance series have the HFN with the HEA coming in the following book.
  3. The conflict and climax of the novel must relate to the relationship between the two main characters. They must overcome these conflicts in order to build their relationship and future together.
Notice how in all three items the central theme is the love story between the main couple. If you write a story where your heroine spends 90% of the story doing anything and everyone other than the one she thinks is her soul mate, you can't label it a romance.

At least 70% of the story has to center around the couple who'll get the HEA at the end. You can't just have the hero show up in the last scene and declare his undying love for your heroine without showing any of the story of how he got to that point. Well, you can do it, but it's still NOT a romance and you shouldn't try to label it as such.

"But romance novels do so well in sales. I want to be a part of that too."
Then go ahead and write one. Just don't take another fiction genre and try to squeeze it into the romance world unless you're willing to do some serious rewrites. 

Why can't I write a science fiction romance?
You can. You just have to make the main focus of your story the ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP between your hero and heroine or whatever romantic pairing you choose. 

You can write any kind of romance be it LGBT, paranormal, historical, science fiction, fantasy or contemporary as long as the main focus of the entire story is the relationship between your main couple. Period. End of story.

Well, I'm just going to label it a romance and see how it goes.
Good luck with that. You'll find romance readers, other authors and reviewers won't take too kindly to it. Get ready to develop a very thick skin. You're writing may be flawless and error free. Your e-book formats can look perfect on any e-reader but you will be slammed in reviews for not delivering what you promised...a ROMANCE.

So where do authors get the idea just adding a sex scene to their work makes it a romance?  
More often than not they just assume that's all they need. No research into the genre. No reading actual romances to get the feel of what they need to do. If you want to write in any genre, it pays for you to do your research to be sure your work fits the guidelines. Read books by different authors in these genres to see if you enjoy them first as a reader. If not, you have no business writing in that genre. Find another one.

Recently I've received numerous submission requests to my publishing house Sassy Vixen Publishing. Nearly all of them have been labeled as romances—almost half of those are definitely NOT

When I do open up for submissions, there will be multiple fiction genres, not just romance. Some of these early submissions fall into those non-romance categories and I'll be happy to consider them at a later time—without the romance label.

By marketing your work in the incorrect genre, you sell yourself short. Don't be in such a rush to get published that you force your writing into a slot it will never fit into. 

Find your own niche, put your best work out there, and shine for all to see.

Until next time


  1. Thank you for posting this article. There seems to be a lot of confusion in the indie publishing world about what makes a book a "romance".

  2. You're welcome. I tried to help some of the authors who inspired this article, but was met with resistance. If they want to go down that route, they'll find out the hard way I was only trying to save them from the thrashing they'll get in the romance community.

    Just like we're told growing up, sometimes those who came before you really do know what they're talking about! LOL

    Thanks for stopping by Alex!


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