What Sets Erotica Apart from "Typical" Romance Novels?
Though it has always been around--and I do mean always--erotica has gained more mainstream popularity over the last few years. Authors such as E.L. James, Alexa Riley, and Odette Stone have taken the world by storm. Erotica, though having a name of its own, is classified as romance. And while there is no doubt there are romantic elements to erotica, this subgenre has an interesting dynamic with its parent genre.
There are many romance readers who refuse to read erotica novels because they feel the books are too sexual or consider the love scenes too graphic. But, there are also erotica readers who think traditional romance novels are too sappy--they want fun, hot stories, not the sweet, emotional romances. Then of course, there are those readers--like myself--who love both and everything in between.
So, we have to ask, what makes erotica different from a romance novel, despite its subgenre status?
The main difference between these two types of novels is the sex--how much of it, how graphic it is, and its role in the story. Romance novels can range from no sex to only hinting at sex, and, hey, some just have a lot of sex. But in erotica, a large part of the book or novella is devoted specifically to sex.
Romance novels focus on the relationship between the couple. This is what drives the story; most of the content will focus on the building of their love. Most romance novels do have sex, while some (usually Christian or young adult romance) have no sex. Sex in romance novels typically acts a catalyst or affirmation of the relationship, either starting the relationship, bringing the couple closer together, or allowing them to be close to one another in their love.
Erotica, on the other hand, is about the sex. One of the purposes is to incite feelings of sexual arousal. A relationship may be part of the story, but it isn’t the most important part. Sex is graphically detailed and appears often through the book. It’s more important than the relationship. For instance, the book may be about a couple opening up in their sex life and trying a new kink they are both interested in. Though there will be relationship aspects such as communication, trust, and transparency, the story is still about the sex.
An important distinction to make is that erotica is not considered pornographic, because there are still components of story and relationship. Most consider erotica to be more geared toward women, while pornography is focused on a mainly male audience.
Through Kindle, there has been an increase of short, sweet, ultra-hot erotica-romances. They’re a good middle ground for those readers who want the best of both worlds. Alexa Riley and Lynda Chance are masters of this in-between realm--some of their books are sweeter, and others are more sexually focused. Some of my personal favorites are The Sheriff and the Innocent Housekeeper by Lynda Chance and Finding Snow by Alexa Riley. These are both sweeter novels, but still have the hot alpha males we all love.
An important thing to remember when writing erotica is to provide some sort of heads-up to readers before they read your book, especially if you are writing about a subject that could be considered a kink, such as bondage, public sex, or group sex. For instance, the book description for Condemned by Cari Silverwood includes this warning in a Publisher’s Note: “It includes spankings and rough, intense sexual scenes. If such material offends you, please don’t buy this book.” The Reader’s Note for Piece of Tail by Milly Taiden is a bit funny, while still getting the point across: “This book is smoking hot. Like it dirty? With biting, scratching and…you know? If you do, check this baby out. It’s sure to please your dirty mind. If you don’t like these types of romances, keep it moving.” The purpose of this type of note is not to label your book, it’s to give your readers a fair warning. This will also help steer away readers who hate this kind of stuff, so they do not give you an unnecessary bad review or send rude messages to your author accounts.
With erotica’s strong foothold in romance, it has opened up a whole new avenue for romance authors that is certainly not going away anytime soon. These books are awesome to read and fun to write, so if you’ve thought about exploring erotica before, today is the day!