I feel so blessed. Friends who don't buy or read erotic romance have purchased Bad Girl--and written public reviews--just to support me. I'm very grateful.
Interestingly enough, there's been an unexpected side effect of this willingness to be helpful. Friends who have purchased Bad Girl have been amazed that this genre even exists. Since the novel's release, I've had numerous people call or email, asking questions. Some are writers considering writing an erotic romance. Up until now I've been answering those questions on an individual basis.
Yesterday, however, a fellow writer wrote me with a list of questions. Her list was more comprehensive than the previous ones I'd been asked, and I decided to respond here, adding some of the other questions I've been asked over the last six weeks.
1) I've never seen anything like this. When did these books start appearing?
Erotic romance began appearing in the late nineties. Kensington, an independent print publisher, released The Lady's Tutor, a historical erotic romance by Robin Schone (and my introduction to the genre), in 1999. Ellora's Cave (EC), an e-publisher, opened in 2000.
e-Publishers offering erotic romance popped up everywhere: Amber Quill, Freya's Bower, Liquid Silver, Loose Id, New Concepts, Samhain . . . the list goes on and on. Then New York realized erotic romance was selling and jumped on the bandwagon. Almost every major publishing house now has a eroromance imprint.
2) Must there necessarily be romance (apart from sex) between the main characters? And must the endings be happy?
It depends on what you are writing--erotic romance or erotica. Erotic romance DOES demand a romance. Erotica may or may not.
Erotic romance focuses on the protagonist's romance. Erotica focuses on the protagonist's sexual journey.
Erotic romance MUST have a happily-ever-after (HEA). Erotica may or may not have a HEA.
If you're thinking about writing either erotic romance or erotica, I'd suggest buying a variety of books in both sub-genres. When I was thinking about writing one, there were very limited eroromance books in hard print. I went to the anthology section on EC here. I bought the Ellora's Cavemen series. There are six short stories in each volume, and they offer a good range of what is selling today.
Fictionwise has an erotica section here.
A note of caution: Fictionwise does not appear to distinguish erotic romance from erotica from porn. Some time ago, I bought a book listed as erotica. It was straight porn where the female character was treated by the male characters as an object, nothing more. The protagonist was used and abused in a very creepy way. I found it offensive and have not purchased from Fictionwise since.
3. Must the protagonist always be female? Can the viewpoints alternate between female and male perspectives?
Initially, the audience for erotic romance and erotica was female (and still is the primary audience). These women shared the books with their partners, and some authors now have a heterosexual male audience, too. In addition, Ellora's Cave says they have a loyal gay audience.
Interestingly enough, heterosexual women are increasingly buying gay male erotic romance. It is very hot on the market right now.
I just checked the Ellora's Cave gay/lesbian releases. Of the fifty-five books listed here, only two include lesbian relationships--and one of those includes a menage a trois with a male. That means there are fifty-three m/m books although a number included a female as a third.
Remember erotic romance is primarily about women's fantasies. Menage a trois--and I have to admit I think of it as menagerie [grin]--or m/m stories are written to appeal mostly to women. A gay guy I know said the m/m erotic romances he's read are nothing like reality. He described the men as women with penises. When I said that gay guys are buying them, he told me, "Then THEY'RE fantasizing; it doesn't represent reality at all."
It's helpful to remember that bit of advice. I suspect the reason m/m erotic romance is selling so well is that women like to imagine sensitive, thoughtful, articulate males willing to discuss their feelings, insecurities and issues.
4. Must the sex be entirely heterosexual? Does even a little homosexual sex push the book into the gay/lesbian category?
I've already addressed the first part of this question. Male homosexual relationships sell; lesbian relationships don't--unless you are marketing to a lesbian publishing house.
I wouldn't worry about how the book will be classified. That's the publisher's job.
5. What behavior is out-of-bounds? Frowned upon? Unlikely to get published?
Almost all publishers observe the same guidelines. No pedophilia, no incest, no bestiality (unless between shapeshifters).
6. Just how hot can it get?
At this point, I'd say the sky's the limit. But keep in mind the "ick" factor. People read erotic romance to feel a certain way (aroused but warm and fuzzy). If you knock them out of the mood, they're not going to be happy with your book.
Hope this helps anyone with questions.