Writing to Market

I had a reader rate my book the other day, and in their review they said the reason they gave the book only four stars was because there were no sex scenes. It just wasn’t what she’d expected.

I get that. I really do. And I appreciate the review! But here’s my take on it. A little explanation as to why I don’t write the booty romps.

Authors give and get a lot of writing tips. After all, we write to make money. Isn’t that the reason everyone takes their ass to work? Sure, we can get all Bohemian and say that we LOVE what we do and we would write books even if what we wrote never made any money. But seriously. Authors have to eat. And we have to have our coffee–trust me. The coffee. Jesus.

The one piece of advice I tend to get the most is to ‘write to market.’ This is SMART advice. Very smart advice. Because when you write to market you’re targeting a demographic of readers who know what they like and devour book after book in that genre. And when you write to market your actual marketing becomes much easier–because you know the reader you’re trying to introduce to your books. Marketing becomes SO much easier when you have a specific target.

Well, when it comes to small town, cowboy romance, there are essentially two categories: Sweet and Sexy.

If you write sexy romance (think Maisey Yates) you write at least three vivid sex scenes in each book. And her sex scenes are fantastic. I can read a Maisey Yates book in one day. And when you write hot cowboy romance, you can drop in some curse words here and there (Which is SO me. I’m such a potty-mouth. Might come from being in the military, who knows.). When you pick up a sexy cowboy romance you usually see a hot man on the cover, probably sweaty looking, holding something like a hay bale or leaning against a fence. His shirt might be open, or there might be no shirt at all (My personal favorite). Muscles galore. He’s usually scowling. There may or may not be a woman on the cover with him, but if there is, they’re usually touching intimately. Here are a few examples:

With one glance, most romance readers know that if they dive into those books, they’re gonna get some hot sex. Period. Those sexy covers are created with a specific reader in mind–the readers who expect a handful of sex scenes. And cussing? Those readers also expect a few curse words. Doesn’t bother them.

Now, if you write sweet romance (think Liz Isaacson) you don’t include sex scenes in your book and you don’t curse. You just don’t. And her readers expect a clean romance when they pick up one of her books. The covers of these books are usually much tamer. For example:

When I see those covers I’m thinking I’m about to read a cozy, sweet romance.

So, where does that leave me as an author?

I have what authors call ‘closed door sex scenes,’ which means that yes, my hero and heroine get it on, but no, you don’t get to ‘see’ it. I leave all that lovin’ to your imagination. So that makes my small town romance novels sweet, right?

Wrong.

My characters cuss. Shit. Damn. Screw it. Asshole. They cuss because farmer’s cuss. LOL Normal people cuss. And…normal couples have sex. I just don’t write out the sex.

In short, I don’t write to market (which is a GRAVE sin as far as most writers are concerned). Is that going to bite me in the ass (er, wallet)? Yeah. Hell yeah it is. It’s hard to market my books to the sexy readers, because they don’t get that raunchy sex scene payoff that they expect. And imagine a sweet Christian reading my book and coming up on the line, “Are you fucking kidding me?” <– They no likey. At all.

So, I tried to go with covers that speak ‘sweet’ but slightly ‘sexy.’

Suffice to say, that last cover is a little sexier, but then again, they’re just a sexier couple. If you’ve read my books, Shane is…well. He’s Shane.

I think writers attempt to give readers what they want while staying true to themselves. To their core moral values and likes and dislikes. I have a foot in each camp–sweet and sexy, because that’s just who I am. I’m certainly not the only writer like this, but we are rare.

I’ll read a JR Ward paranormal (crazy cursing and HAWT sex) and a Liz Isaacson book (sugar sweet) two days apart and love each one. Which is why my books are a little of both. I want my books to reflect the realities of small town life. Ranch life. And here’s the thing: People cuss and have sex, and I feel both should be included in my stories. I’m just not a fan of writing sex scenes, or what some people have deemed, “One-handed reads.” LOL (I just about spit my coffee out when I first heard them called that.) I’m not against these books, or the sex scenes–I read them! I’m just not down with writing them.

I hope my readers come away thinking they’ve read a good story and had a good time with my characters, and I hope there’s enough room in the marketplace for a sweet-ish, semi-sexy small town romance. 😉

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