Sex Sells

No shit, you say?

I personally find it disappointing that so many authors are adding more sex scenes just to boost sales. How insulting. How about creating stronger characters, better plots, realistic dialogue? It’s no surprise really when you have readers express their preference for books rated “hot” vs. “warm” online. I read my share of “hot” books too but rarely do you find one that has the solid characterization along with some strong chemistry to back it up.

This is not a new argument from me about sex. From my experience, a book with more sex scenes just means little to none on character development. That’s not necessarily true for all books but the majority of them.  It just spells bad news for me and for romance, really. I do find it disturbing that sex scenes are added as a boost for sales rather than have them added as a natural part of the relationship. This article from JMC’s site sparked this blog topic this morning and you can read it here.


About Keishon

Voracious reader of just about everything.
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18 Responses to Sex Sells

  1. Jane says:

    Agree. But we must be in the minority. I know that authors like Deidre Martin and Marianna Jameson, who write smart contemporary romances, are being overlooked because their sex scenes don’t happen until later in the book and are less plentiful. I always thought that Lisa Kleypas’ demise (for me) began when she started inserting rote sex scenes every other chapter.

    The other thing that was scary was this statistic:

    Of the paperback titles that carried “romance” on their spines, 1,468 were considered “contemporaries”; 477 were “historicals”; 167 were “inspirationals,” aimed at readers interested in Christian, “faith-oriented,” books; and 173 were “paranormals,” or books, according to the RWA’s definition, with ” ‘other-worldly’ elements.” And those are just the broad categories.

    Of the over 2000 romances published, only 1/4 were historicals. That’s sad.

  2. Keishon says:

    I agree with you about Kleypas’ demise as it’s the same for me, too. I felt that her focus shifted from character to sex – and then she slipped and wasn’t able to maintain both. It’s either one or the other for most authors and she’s one of them.

    I saw the dismal sales for historicals – it is sad.

  3. Karen Scott says:

    I’ve only just recently discovered Lisa Kleypas, and her sex scenes seem kinda tame to me. Having said that, I read EC books, so anything seems pretty tame in comparison.

    I think the sex issue works both ways actually, there are some books where the love scenes are an important part of the story, and if they hadn’t been as graphic, the impact would have been much less than they were. Passion was such a story, and although the no-sex brigade lambasted Lisa Valdez for the gratuitous amount of sex in it, I personally thought it was in keeping with the feel of the book.

    I have read books where the sex took over the story, and that’s just wrong. I remember reading a book where one sex scene lasted for over half the book. Total overkill.

    The pressure to push the envelope, sexually, is one that more and more contemporary romance authors will probably be facing in the future, or at least until readers decide that inspirational stories are the way forward. *g*

  4. Angie says:

    I understand where you’re coming from, Keishon, because I feel the same way. But I’m not sure you’re internalizing the “sex sells” when you say it. It SELLS. Readers who like hot and sexy are the ones speaking with their pocketbooks, not the readers who like plot and character driven books. So, do you demand the author write for THEIR pocketbooks or do they write for the “art” of writing and to satisfy you and I. There are authors out there who can skillfully interweave both, authors who can’t. But regardless, sex sells and not only that…money talks *grin* So until a majority of readers starts saying (with their money) that hot and sexy is passe and they’re ready for plot and character driven books, I think you’re looking at a status quo.

  5. Keishon says:

    Hi Angie, I know sex SELLS. In just about EVERYTHING.

    I can just see the comments from left and right on romance message boards saying the hotter the better.

    There’s a little bit for everybody in this genre but I have to applaud authors who are willing to go against the status quo and write what they feel comfortable with rather than write what SELLS. I would think authors would feel somewhat FORCED to write what they usually don’t write in such detail – love scenes.

    It just means that I just have to look a little harder, pay more attention to readers who like the same books that I do. I hear what your saying Angie trust me. I can just add my voice along with a million other readers who have problems with publishing these days. Thanks for sharing your feedback.
    Hi Karen, I’m not against love scenes altogether. I just think it sounds rather forced to have authors write sex scenes when they weren’t before. I’ve read plenty of romances where the bedroom door was partially closed or where there were no sex scenes at all and I didn’t miss it. Often, there is plenty of chemistry and I love good chemistry in a book more than I do than reading about the act itself.  

    Stephanie Laurens – having never read her – is notorious for writing multiple love scenes that go beyond the three that you usually will get from most romance books and last I heard she had complete sell through on one or several of her books.

  6. Bev (BB) says:

    I must be reading the wrong books because I’m seeing the reverse and less sex scenes. At least with my favorites, that is. And generally less too with new-to-me authors I pick up.

    Actually, I think there’s still a pretty good range out there, so I guess I question the claim that the majority of authors are doing more. Yeah, sure some are, but some certainly aren’t. Not sure what that means for the majority, however.

  7. Keishon says:

    I guess I question the claim that the majority of authors are doing more

    It depends on the authors you read certainly. I used to read Lisa Kleypas and my experience is only with her but she is one author whose work has slipped big time with the focus on MORE love scenes and LESS characterization. I can’t really say much for the rest because it’s what they were doing before they entered the market but as the article mentions, some authors have boosted their sales by adding more when there were none…

    Just curious what authors are YOU reading? 🙂

  8. Bev (BB) says:

    Oh, a little bit of everything except erotic romances I guess. I don’t read Klepas . . . think I tried her years ago and just didn’t find a comfort zone with her. Do like Laurens but I’m probably there are only about three or four of her books I consider top favorites. The rest are simply enjoyable. Same thing for Feehan. Love her universes, to a degree, but a steady diet of her stories give me problems. I love Garwood & Krentz’s older books but haven’t gotten anything new by them in years.

    I went on a Sherrilyn Kenyon/Kinley MacGregor kick for a while there but that’s subsided, somewhat. Let’s see, of the authors I’m currently trying to fill out backlists for, the top of my list is Donna Fletcher, Stobie Piel, Lori Foster and Merline Lovelace, in no particular order. I like elements of all their writing.

    That’s only the tip of the iceberg of the ones I have, say, ten or more books by but it should give you some ideal of what my tastes are. Or not. (VBEG)

  9. Keishon says:

    Feehan I’ve been curious to try and I did buy two more of her books that are stand alones (fantasy or paranormal stuff). Merlin Lovelace, never read her or Lori Foster or Kenyon/McGregor.

    I’ve also been curious about Stobie Piel as she’s received good reviews on her last two books, I think? Donna Fletcher, maybe own one book by her but never read her.

    Agree with you on Krentz but not on Garwood 🙂

    Thanks for stopping by and I’ll have to add you to my side bar.

  10. Jane says:

    I just can’t see you liking Lori Foster or Kenyon/McGregor. I have tried both their stuff and find the characterizations to be either melodramatic, boring, over the top characters with little depth to them.

  11. Bev (BB) says:

    So many of Foster’s books are simply too short to have that much depth to them, but a couple have truly been surprising hidden treasures. The most recent that really wowed me was JAMIE.

    It’s one of those books in a connected group that finally gives readers the hold-out character’s story. Only, unlike so many books of that nature, it actually works quite well all on its own. He’s this more or less hermit, by necessity because of his extremely strong psychic powers, who only comes off his mountain to warn his friends of problems. Don’t get me wrong, he isn’t exactly a brooding loner. He just likes living on the fringes of things and suddenly there’s this woman invading his life and opening up all kinds of possibilities.

    He doesn’t handle it very well at first but watching him adapt is, well, adorable . . . which was a completely unexpected track to take the character down. Adorable was definitely not an adjective one would’ve applied to him in the earlier books. (G)

  12. Kristie(J) says:

    I’m of two minds on this one. If the sex scenes are well written – which to be honest I think few are, then have at it. Put in as many as is needed. On the other hand, I just get the feeling that many authors just aren’t comfortable writing explicit scenes. I skip many of them. (the sex scenes – not the books) Yet I want at least some in my book. I prefer either warm or hot books to kisses only.
    Mind you – I’m not talking romantica – haven’t gotten into that much at all since most of it is in ebook form and I’ve read very few of those. But I think Harleqin made a grave mistake when they stopped their Tempation line – which had hot sex and characterization – in favour of Blaze which upped the sex, but to me anyway, did away with a lot of the characterization.

  13. Tara Marie says:

    I’m going to start by saying, my thoughts are very similar to Kristie’s. It doesn’t matter how many sex scenes there are, if they’re poorly written or interrupting a good story, I’m going to skim them or skip them all together. Having said that, I like romantica, not too much of it, but occasionally, it’s a nice change. I used to read erotica for that, but always found the missing HEA rather lacking.

    I just can’t see you liking Lori Foster or Kenyon/McGregor. I have tried both their stuff and find the characterizations to be either melodramatic, boring, over the top characters with little depth to them.

    I’m always relieved when someone else makes comments like this. It some how validates that I’m not crazy for not being a fangirl, forget fangirl, not even remotely liking their work.


  14. Jane says:

    Karen Scott – Lisa Kleypas sex scenes are vanilla. The problem is the number of them compared to plot progression. It was as if (and I particularly remember this to be true with the Bow Street Runner book) that if the characters hadn’t had doggy style sex, the next scene could not happen. The sex had overtaken the book completely.

    And I am all for hot sex too but a regular diet of sex books kills my desire to read. It’s deadening in its affects. It’s strong characterization that keeps me reading book after book. It’s not a plethora of sex scenes which begin to sound the same. In Megan Hart’s books, I began to skipping the sex scenes to get to the “good stuff.”

  15. ag says:

    Kristie and Tara echoed my thoughts. If the sex scenes don’t carry off the story’s and the characters’ development, I’d skip them. I don’t really mind if there’s no sex at all. End of the day, it’s the relationship that will grip my attention.

    Jane, I’m ever so thankful I stopped after the second Bow Street Runner book, else … After a while, when the steamier scenes seem to read like one from another book, you tend to skip.

  16. Bev (BB) says:

    What’s interesting to me about skipping/skimming the sex/love scenes if they’re not working is that in some way, to me at least, the very ability to be able to “skip” something shows a break in the narrative. I mean, I skip a lot of villain scenes, and drive authors crazy by admitting it freely, but normally they’re so obvious it’s easy to do. For a love scene to be that obvious just screams that something is seriously wrong going on in the narrative. Am I crazy for believing this or not?

    And to be honest, one of the authors I’m the most apt to skip a love scenes is, wait for it, Stephanie Laurens. Always have had that problem with her writing, starting with Devil’s Bride and I LOVE that book and for the most part love her stories. It’s just that her love scenes have almost always struck me as out of rhythm or something with the rest of the narrative.

    By constrast an author that has always surprised me with her ability to interweave love scenes into the the narrative itself is Stobie Piel. I honestly don’t believe I could skip one of her love scenes because I tend to be in the middle of them before I even realize what’s happening. Simply smooth transitions.

    But to be completely honest here, the biggest pet peeve I have in this area isn’t too many/too much but too little – not simply none or very little but an inapproiate amount when it’s obvious there should be more. That harkens way too much back to decades ago when we got the bedroom door slammed in our faces all the time. I’ll take an overload that “I” can choose to skim/skip or not over that unnaturally glaring ommission any day of the week.

    I guess it’s all a matter of balance.

  17. Jorrie Spencer says:

    Fascinating discussion! I’ve certainly skimmed sex scenes, but if I do, they are rarely the only scenes I skim in a book. I’ve seen a few of these discussions about sex and character development (or sex and emotion) and I can’t help but conclude that it depends on the reader. What one person thinks is a scene chock full of character development, another person does not.

    It reminds me of a discussion I had with a friend of mine who occasionally reads romance, though it’s not her favorite genre. She can find the emotional detail tiresome and repetitive whereas (sometimes) this can be my greatest joy in a book.

    It seems to me pacing comes into play here, too. Some people don’t mind if the rest of the plot stops while the hero and heroine have sex and/or make some emotional connection, whereas others want the author to get on with the rest of the story.

    I’m just glad there are so many different types of books to choose from these days. (Yes, there are gluts in certain areas, but still.)

  18. Keishon says:

    But to be completely honest here, the biggest pet peeve I have in this area isn’t too many/too much but too little – not simply none or very little but an inapproiate amount when it’s obvious there should be more.

    Yep, that’s a problem too. I remember there was a Crusie book, where the secondary characters had so much chemistry and then when you’d think they’d get hot and heavy, all they did was kiss. I was like WHAT? The emotion, the drive was there but no execution. So there is a problem of too much and too little. I’ve run into a few of those, too. You betcha.

    I just can’t see you liking Lori Foster or Kenyon/McGregor. I have tried both their stuff and find the characterizations to be either melodramatic, boring, over the top characters with little depth to them.

    I can’t either, actually, which is why I don’t read them.

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