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Old 09-29-2011, 09:29 PM   #1
Steven Lyle Jordan
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Question Playing the sex card

I'd written a book a few years ago about a mystery that led the investigator into a Goth and bondage scene in Nashville (Lambs Hide, Tigers Seek). The story included some sexy moments, but I basically wrote past them (kiss-to-cigarette scenes), including a scene which was a major turning point for one character.

I released the book, but because of the bondage element, most potential customers said, "I think I'll pass, that's not my thing." Even though I tried to explain that the story was not a heavy-handed XXX dungeons-and-chains kind of story, the book was read by very few people, and I never heard a peep out of any of them.

Now I'm re-editing the book (boy, did it need it!), and in the process, I've decided to go ahead and put the turning-point sex scene in. Put it this way: I've read much racier stuff in major published series, so it's nothing outlandish or overly-shocking (though bondage figures in it, it's not whips-and-chains hardcore). I think it really helps to flesh out the characters involved and give complete clarity to the moment.

Well, now that I've done it... I find myself wondering if I should re-release the book.

It's interesting: The line that used to exist between sexy scenes and what most people call "porn" has become almost razor-thin or even invisible; shows on pay-cable now feature sex and nudity that would never have been accepted on TV just a few years ago, except after midnight; and the same thing has happened with literature. Yet I find myself reluctant to release the book, even though it isn't nearly as hardcore or shocking as other material out there on bookshelves, legal to sell to anyone of any age.

I've already re-released a few of my other books, with sex scenes rewritten from kiss-to-cigarette moments to more detailed descriptions, and haven't had a complaint about it (nor a complement, I admit). But when combined with the bondage element, I expect many to assume it goes too far and avoid reading it.

Any thoughts about my situation? Should I just release the book? Or hide it away? How do I convince readers that this book will entertain without shocking them, that it's not just another stereotypical porn ebook?
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Old 09-29-2011, 09:36 PM   #2
Elfwreck
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I am (substantially) more likely to buy a book I know doesn't just fade-to-black every time the characters start getting intimate. (I'd mention my personal limits, but so far I haven't found any; several years of fanfic reading have left me with a frightening level of understanding of human anatomy & emotional reactions to touches applied thereto.)

If you look at the sales numbers, it's obvious that romance sells, erotica sells, and everything between kiss-to-cigarette and [censored] has its market--and those markets aren't small. They just may not be your *previous* market.

The self-publishing marketplace means we no longer have corporate decision-making about what content does or doesn't fit in what genres. The questions should be, is it important to the plot & characters? Does it enhance the story? Is it well-written?

Not, "will it offend or shock readers who expected this to fit in the same style conventions they've gotten used to for this genre?"
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Old 09-29-2011, 09:54 PM   #3
MeiLin
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As a writer with a lot of sexual content, I look at it this way: Does the sex advance the plot or speak to character? Then it gets written in. If it doesn't, it fades to black. Simple rule.
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Old 09-29-2011, 10:21 PM   #4
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I agree, if the sex pushes the story forward then use it. My problem is when the book is full of filler sex. You know where the book is 70% sex and 30% story. Because of it I tend to avoid erotica all together. There might be some good ones with a real story but I've been jaded by filler sex.
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Old 09-30-2011, 03:35 AM   #5
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Sex deserves to be placed along every other plot device that an author has at his/her disposal, and like all of them it has it's benefits and risks. I'd say re-release it if you think the edits warrant it. Let readers decide for themselves.
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Old 09-30-2011, 04:01 AM   #6
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Quote:
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I'd say re-release it if you think the edits warrant it. Let readers decide for themselves.
Pretty much this. You made those edits for a reason, namely that you think the book is now better than it was before. And given the poor reaction you got the first time around, what's your fear? If people avoided reading it before, how much worse could it possibly get?
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Old 09-30-2011, 06:16 AM   #7
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If it's an ebook, just release both versions in one volume and let the reader decide. I'm a fade to black person myself. Partly because I know I'd probably suck at it (hoho), and partly because I would feel a bit weird having my daughter read my sexual fantasies and then have to ask her what she thought about it.
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Old 09-30-2011, 06:31 AM   #8
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It depends how well you can write sex scenes. I remember one leading adventure writer who had obviously been instructed to put a sex scene into an otherwise rollicking good yarn. It was a cringeworthy two pages, that the poor man obviously hated writing, but his editors had pressured him to put it in. You could almost hear his sigh of relief when it was over and he could get back to the spy action.

So, if you can write good sex, do it.
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Old 09-30-2011, 09:07 AM   #9
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i usually find sex in books to be more giggle-worthy than anything. there are only so many metaphors and slang one can use before the whole thing becomes cartoonish.

keep them quick and to the point, i don't need to know every position and every expelled fluid lol.

maybe i'm just getting more tasteful as i get older but i find a good tease or intense sexual tension far more erotic than any possible sex scene.
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Old 09-30-2011, 09:51 AM   #10
Steven Lyle Jordan
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gudy View Post
If people avoided reading it before, how much worse could it possibly get?
That's a very good point...


Quote:
Originally Posted by mr ploppy View Post
If it's an ebook, just release both versions in one volume and let the reader decide.
I hadn't thought of that. Offering the full and "sanitized" versions together sounds like an idea that might satisfy a lot of people, but I'm conflicted enough in being a self-censor. I'm not sure multiple volumes of a book is the way I would want to go. Have to give that further thought.

Thanks for the comments so far... they're very helpful!
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Old 09-30-2011, 10:27 AM   #11
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In general, I'm not a fan of sex in books, but that's mostly because 99% of the time I read it, it was a pointless sex scene either meant to attract a bunch of horny guys or to let the author play out his/her fantasy. My other biggest gripe is also the way that it's written. A bunch of crazy metaphors combined with the most cheesiest and unrealistic dialogue.

However, if it's there because it actually serves purpose to the plot or character development, then I have nothing against it. "Pillars of the Earth" had a couple of pretty graphic scenes, but it never made me question it once. It served a purpose in showing the horrible character of a person. The author wrote what was needed to show it, nothing more or less.

Keeping that in mind, if you believe it helps the character, then go ahead, especially if it's on the conservative side compared to the other things you read.

Like others said, how much worse can it get?
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Old 09-30-2011, 05:40 PM   #12
M T McGuire
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elfwreck View Post
The self-publishing marketplace means we no longer have corporate decision-making about what content does or doesn't fit in what genres. The questions should be, is it important to the plot & characters? Does it enhance the story? Is it well-written?

Not, "will it offend or shock readers who expected this to fit in the same style conventions they've gotten used to for this genre?"
Bang on. If the scene contributes and means something it goes in. Nowadays even if you're writing at a niche then internet publishing means that eventually, more of the people in that niche can reach you. Because it's the itnernet, so potentially, you can reach any of them in the world with a computer.... if that makes sense.

Cheers

MTM
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Old 09-30-2011, 05:51 PM   #13
MeiLin
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i usually find sex in books to be more giggle-worthy than anything. there are only so many metaphors and slang one can use before the whole thing becomes cartoonish.
That's why I don't use much metaphor or slang. I try not to descend into crudity, but sometimes a scene requires crudity.
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Old 10-01-2011, 02:28 AM   #14
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Another thing to consider I think is 'is the sex good sex or bad sex?' Sometimes bad sex (where things go wrong) might make for more interest than good sex. I mean if the hero and heroine are trying to get together for example and just as they are thinking that they will finally consumate their desires for each other something happens to derail it again then you have more tension in the story. It might keep the reader guessing. Will they get together? If they do then when will it be?
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Old 10-02-2011, 12:06 AM   #15
Steven Lyle Jordan
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Quote:
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That's why I don't use much metaphor or slang. I try not to descend into crudity, but sometimes a scene requires crudity.
I also find that I'm not a "metaphor and slang" writer when it comes to sex; I write it like it is.

Fortunately, I can also go back and re-edit the material to make sure I don't go too far. It's tricky, because it's a very intense scene, not just for the obvious reasons, and I don't want to be overly or annoyingly graphic.

So: I rewrite the book, then I re-release it. At this point, I'm planning to add a simple "some scenes not suited for children" notice in the book's description. Is that enough?

I also need a way to get across that there is sex, but not hardcore bondage, depicted in this story. This is mainly to avoid scaring away potential adults who are not comfortable with bondage, and will avoid the book at the first suggestion of whips, chains and dungeons (of which there are none).
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