Now that I’ve got your attention… (Don’t deny it. You’re here, aren’t you? Just curious, were you? I’m sure you were.) My wife and I were having a discussion today about the old adage that “sex sells” and the fact that my blog stats clearly show the most visited entry to date to be the one titled “Making the Naughty List.” (Here’s the link, since you’ll probably be “curious” about that one, too: http://darkthingsrising.blogspot.com/2011/09/making-naughty-list.html) My regular visitors might remember that post being about graphic material—both sexual and violent—within my writings. I made it clear that I don’t set out to produce graphic content, but that I also make no effort to quash this kind of subject matter when the plot progresses in that direction. I tend to describe my work as horror, suspense, adventure and mystery, stressing these areas to draw new readers. I am careful to mention the sexual aspects of the story in the summary of The Box, openly telling potential readers in the plot summary that “their clothes lost in a moment of strange lust, they find themselves forced to navigate the unearthly stone corridors naked and vulnerable.” I want to be sure that no one who is easily offended by sex and nudity stumbles unwitting into my story. If I should get a bad review, so be it, but I’d rather not receive one simply because the reader is honked off at being waylaid by an unwanted sex scene. But otherwise, I’ve always downplayed the sexual content in my marketing, choosing to try and separate my work from the ill-perceived erotica categories. I’ve never actively advertised my books as “sexy” or “steamy.” But sometimes I wonder if I should.
When I first launched my author page on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/BrianHarmonBooks, for those who haven’t been there and “liked” me yet), I went in search of other independent horror writers with author pages, thinking I would insert myself into a community and hopefully get a quick boost for my still-infantile social network. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to find in the way of independent horror. Instead, I ended up having “liked” a bunch of paranormal romance writers and fans. Don’t get me wrong, these are fine people and I wish them the best, but they weren’t very much interested in my mostly non-romantic books and I wasn’t very much interested in their mostly vampire-heavy bodice-rippers. But I did notice that words like “steamy” and “spicy” and “sultry” were tossed around a lot in those circles. I found myself wondering if there might be another market out there for my books if I simply came out and instead described the plot with phrases like “inexorably thrust together into an unexpected explosion of unbridled passion” and “lost utterly in a fiery fury of intense and smoldering desire.” Sounds kind of corny, I know, but I feel like there is a noticeable sentimentality for this kind of dramatic romance.
In book three of The Temple of the Blind the cast has grown to four characters, all of whom, by the end of chapter seven, are navigating the dark passageways in the nude. I’ve not openly advertised this part of the plot as I have no desire to be perceived as the guy who writes books about naked people…although my titles so far do seem to suggest it as a common theme, when I stop and think about it… (Really, not all my books will contain sexual content.) But would more readers be drawn to this book to read about a cute blonde and a hot brunette and two really attractive guys attempting to seek out the answer to an ancient and dangerous mystery while clad in nothing but their birthday suits? I have to wonder if that would lead to more book sales than the promise of finding out what lies beyond the fear room…
Then again, would drawing attention to the sexual elements in my books frighten away more readers than it would bring in? After all, the books are not about sex. They are not really erotic. They merely contain some erotic content. Even when the characters are nude, it is mostly downplayed. It’s not as if I spend the entire narrative describing…things. (I promise I have not used the word “jiggle” even once so far.) Perhaps, then, it would bore a reader who only purchased it for the dirty bits while those who would not have been bothered by the actual amount of sex in the book might be given the impression that it is far smuttier than it really is and pass it by without giving it a chance. So the question really is does sex sell?
I also have to wonder what exactly it is that defines a book as erotic. Is it the amount of sexual content? Or is it the graphic nature of the sexual content? The language itself? My wife once commented that my use of the word “thrusting” might have been all it needed to put it into the erotic category. But I thought I kept it rather tasteful, considering the circumstances of the scene.
I suppose it doesn’t really matter how I choose to market the book. The content remains what it is. If you read The Temple of the Blind, you will find steamy sex. You will find romance. You will find hot naked women and men. You will also find an engaging mystery and terrifying suspense at every turn. You will find lots of things. So whether you’re looking for a good read or just…“curious”… I hope you’ll check it out, if you haven’t already. And let’s face it, you did just read a blog post titled “Hot Naked Women!”