Is it Erotica?

I'm published now and that's a wonderful feeling, but there are still a few things that confuse me. Okay, there are a lot of things that confuse me, but we're only going to talk about one today.

I chose Pink Petal Books as my publisher, at least in part, because they have such great covers. (See? Over there on the right. Isn't mine fantastic?) Traditional publishing seems to be falling apart at the seams, so the decision to go with an epublisher made sense to me. Epublishers pretty much got their foot in the door with erotica, and I think, in some people's minds, that mostly what you find there. Now you can find anything from sweet romances to hard-core erotica. I don't know if the numbers still show most of the royalties being paid to erotica authors, but for a long time, that was the common knowledge.

So what am I confused about?

I'm confused about what earns a book the label "erotica."

You see, when I was trying to figure out where my story fell in this wide spectrum, I read some erotica authors like Emma Holly. Some were good, some were not to my taste, but what they had in common was the intense focus on sex. And usually, sex long before there was any sort of emotional bond. Often, at least one of the characters had very liberal views about sex partners and sexual activity (bondage, threesomes, orgies, etc.) Yes, they had a story. Well, the better ones did, but in most cases, I don't think the audience for these books are reading for the riveting plot.

I was saddened. Mostly because I could see I was not going to be getting any steaks from this cash cow. I knew I couldn't write like that. Not comfortably anyway. Yes, my stories are sensual. Spicy. Sexy. I don't close the bedroom door, and I don't wait until the end of the story for my characters to consummate. Love is the payoff, not sex. For me, the emotional lives of the characters are the heartbeat of the story.

So imagine my surprise when I saw that my publisher had listed the book on several distribution sites as, not just erotica, but as five-chili peppers hot erotica.

I cringed. I considered asking them to change it. I knew anyone who expected an Emma-Holly-type story would be disappointed.

In the end, I decided to let it stand. This is their business, after all, and I'd chosen to trust them with my baby. I don't want to second guess their every decision, but it has led me to question how one decides what is erotica and what isn't. Is it like my definition of kinky? (Kinky = something I wouldn't do. This is a wonderful definition, BTW, since it means that if I'll do it, by definition, it isn't kinky.)

Isabel Allende is quoted as saying, "Erotica is when you use a feather, porn is when you use the whole chicken." So maybe erotica has to do with the size of your feather because there's a whole world of difference between a chicken feather and an ostrich feather.

So help me figure this out. What makes a story erotica in your mind? Where do you draw the line? 


  1. It's a tricky question, and it's one of those eye of the beholder sort of scenarios. I do like Isabel's definition!

    I think it's easier to classify porn... we've got nudity and titillation for the sake of nudity and titillation alone. There's really no emotional content. In the end, it's hollow.

    Erotica, I'd say, would have much more depth to it, real feeling and characterization.

    At the same time, like you say, there are all sorts of branches of erotica. Someone might find, say, S&M sexy, but someone else would not. That comes down to personal preference.

    Of course, maybe I'm rambling.

    And yes, your cover's fantastic!

  2. Had to leave a comment on this one. I have no idea what is erotica. My work has been classified as everything from tame, spicy, sizzling, and white heat--and that was all on the same title. :)

  3. I've been thinking about your post since you posted it. I'm not sure how do describe it. I don't feel like I've ever read a book labeled erotica that made me feel as if it didn't deserve to be in that category.

    I feel like erotica handles sex straight-on without the glossy words and vague actions.

  4. I'm over here testing links for your interview tomorrow and I had to respond to this, mainly because I feel almost EXACTLY the same way. Although I enjoy reading all heat levels, I just don't have it in me to write porn and I feel my royalties will forever suffer, LOL, but so be it. (And my second book was labeled erotica, much to my WTFery. LMAO!) I write the sensual, emotional kind of sex and I am PROUD OF IT! LOL. Great post, and so very well expressed. :c)