Wednesday, July 20, 2011

SFR - Does it need the sex scenes?

"First Duty" is the clean, YA version of a novel I sold to Eternal Press. This second version, "Ultimate Duty," has some semi-explicit sex scenes, but doesn't go into erotica as such.

When I rewrote the novella (originally published by Sam's Dot Publishing), I added 22,000 words so buyers would get their money's worth. The book sells around the $5-$6 range depending on the discounting.

But when I got back my right to First Duty, I did just a touch up and left it squeaky clean. Yeah, there's some romance, but I concentrated more on the SF side of the SFR. It sells for 99 cents. Not bad value for 38K words.

I'm only mentioning this to let you SFR writers know that there is a good market for SFR without explicit sex. I know. I know. Many readers want that in their books, but I don't think it hurts to consider those of us who get a bit red-faced when bodily parts are strewn across the pages as well as the people (and aliens).

So, I ask your opinion. If you've written no-sex SFR, how was it received by your readers? If you haven't, would you consider it to pick up a potential market?

Not a very inspiring cover, but I never claimed any artistic pretensions. First Duty is still only 99 cents even though I set the Kindle price to $2.99 for the 70% royalty.

Nyra Hutchings, a young woman born into a life of servitude on a repressive factory planet, is desperate for a different life. When she's accepted into the Space Service Academy, run by the organization that enslaves her planet, she discovers the truth behind generations of rebellion. Now, she must decide what to believe, where her first duty lies, and fight for more than her life against impossible odds.




Much nicer cover thanks to Ally Robertson, but the Kindle price discounted is $6.69. Too bad. I think a better discount would sell more copies. It can be bought at Fictionwise for a bigger discount to $5.91.

Oath or love?What is her ultimate duty? Remy Belieux, a woman born into a life of servitude on a repressive factory planet, is desperate for a different life. When she's accepted into the Space Service Academy, run by the organization that enslaves her planet, she discovers the truth behind generations of rebellion. Now, she must decide what to believe, where her ultimate duty lies, and fight for more than her life against impossible odds.

12 comments:

Liana Brooks said...

I write no-sex SFR, but haven't published it yet. I think it can be hot without showing anything, but we'll see what sales say.

Marva Dasef said...

I think there's a place for both styles. I only bring it up since I see most of the books featured here tend toward the "let's show the body parts" style.

Sales will no doubt redound to the body-parts school, especially since ebooks has become the plain, brown wrapper that allows readers to go out in public with their reading material.

I know my Kindle sometimes sizzles. I have to bat out the flames in a few cases!

Jenna McCormick said...

No. Yes, there is a market for it, but just like I won't write inspirational or the accursed vampires to pick up readers, I have nothing to add to nookie-less SFR. And as a reader I'll probably be annoyed by something billeted as SFR and then closes the door in my face when the chips are down. I don't need graphic detail but I do need consummation.

Melisse Aires said...

I wouldn't deliberately try to write a sweet SFR or YA SFR because I would be forcing it and doubt the readers would transfer to my other SFR. I would have a hard time trying to write enough stories to build that readership. I have written sweets but they were very short(2k).

I also don't really write erotic romance, I'm more hot vanilla m/f--and that is generally what I prefer to read. One or two hot scenes in a 30k story is not an erotic romance. Too many sexy scenes and I get bored, just like I do with too many fight scenes etc.

I'm comfortable with my current heat level.

heidi ruby miller said...

Marva, you've done something I've had people suggest to me about making a cleaner YA version of my most recent novel. I considered it for a while because apparently the sex scenes in the original version were so anemic I asked my husband after he read one what he thought about it and he replied, "What sex scene?" ;) I spiced it up a lot after that. I'll be curious to see which version does better for you.

I'm with Jenna on this one. Maybe it was realizing my own shortcomings, but now one of the more disappointing aspects of some SFR books I've read is not only the lack of consummation, but sometimes the "too subtle" sexual tension between characters. Like they're too shy to even look at one another for too long. At times the sexual tension (which for me equals romance) is almost non-existent.

Having been a former high school teacher and dealing with parents who had a problem with certain books I had on my syllabus (interesting how violence is never a consideration for parents, but hint at sex or some type of witchcraft or wizardry and wait for the phone calls to come in!), I can understand not wanting to get too graphic with YA, which is probably why it never interested me as a writer and why I ultimately chose not to do two versions of Ambasadora.

Here's another question for you and anyone else who might have dealt with this issue--do you believe publishers push for a certain level of sensuality?

Lizzie Newell said...

I've started deliberatelly writing erotic science fiction. I've always had some sex in my SF because I'm interested in biology and genetics. Sex is pretty basic to human biology.
I can't explore issues I'm interested in without showing sex.

A.R. Norris said...

For me sex and romance are two different things. I like most of the R in SFR (and any romance really) to be actual romance and the falling in love/connecting. A little action is okay as long as the relationship/dynamics of it make sense.

Melisse Aires said...

Quote'Here's another question for you and anyone else who might have dealt with this issue--do you believe publishers push for a certain level of sensuality?'

Other than publishers who only take erotic romance who would not want one of my romances, I have never had a problem. The e-pubs I have contracts with take sensual romance and none have pushed for a higher heat level.

heidi ruby miller said...

Interesting, Melissa. Thanks for your follow up!

I had this discussion with several SF writers (not all them SFR) at some recent conferences and conventions and some of them were told if their project was not of a certain heat level, then the publisher would prefer to classify it as SF without the R.

Personally, I thought the idea was a little ridiculous on the publishers' part, considering some of what is classified as plain SF has a fair amount of sex, though perhaps not as graphic in nature and not several pages long. ;)

Melisse Aires said...

Heidi--I wonder what publishers they were talking about?

Most of the epubs I target only take romance but take different heat levels.

Heather Massey said...

If the stories call for them, yes. If they don't, then no. Sexual tension is a given, though.

However, like you mentioned in your comment, Marva, there's a marketing side to this issue. Will non-erotic SFR stories sell, or sell as well as their erotic romance counterparts?

Erotic romance dominates the digital market, but as more digital-first publishers enter the field, I can see the market opening up for more non-erotic SFR stories.

Actually, it's already happening. Like Melisse said, many epubs accept a range of heat levels. Others will undoubtedly expand their offerings to include non-erotic/less steamy SFR in order to diversify.

And as ebooks become the new mass market paperbacks and more mainstream print publishers enter the digital arena, I believe we'll see a wider array of non-erotic SFR (and other non-erotic romance subgenres). That, of course, will take a little bit more time.

Until then, I don't see why non-erotic SFR or less steamy SFR can't succeed as well as erotic SFR, although a lot depends on how the book is marketed, since it will have some fierce competition.

>do you believe publishers push for a certain level of sensuality?

Do you mean print publishers or epubs?

I've heard similar stories about mainstream print publishers pushing for higher levels of sensuality or numbers of love scenes, but with epubs, you know up front what they want.

Sure, after reading the ms, epubs might ask for more erotic scenes, but an author always has a choice to decline, and chances are another epub will accept the story as is. Still, the guidelines are pretty clear, and authors can sample lots of stories to get an idea of what the epub releases. So there shouldn't be any surprises.

If an author submits a ms via her agent to a Big 6 publisher and is asked to increase the heat level as a condition of publication, I can see an author feeling pressured, especially if she has no other offers on the table.

And it's possible some authors are asked to increase the heat level to meet market demands or risk being dropped.

But I hear those anecdotes in conjunction with mainstream print publishers, not epubs. In general, we're seeing a higher level of sensuality in romance in general, which as far as I know basically reflects recent demand for steamier romances.

If such demand didn't negatively impact the market for non-erotic/less steamy stories, great, but that seems to be happening to a certain degree. Will ebooks level the playing field? Only time will tell.

A complicated issue, for sure.

Pauline B Jones said...

I lost a contract with a NY pub because I wouldn't write the sex scenes. Shrug. So, it depends on the publisher and what they want. My SFR has sexual tension, but the sex, if it happens, is off screen. I'm glad I have the option to write what i want, how I want. So far I've had no complaints from my readers, though a few have asked me I'd ever write sex. I told them no. (grin)

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