Sunday, April 11, 2010

My One and Only Sci Fi Romance - Should I Write More?

I had a lot of fun writing Lucy in the Sky - my one and only sci fi romance - erotic romance. It's based on a thought I used to have - what the hell would I do if I found a spaceship in my garden and it's a humorous story about what followed when that happened to Lucy.

The book came out a few months ago and - to be honest - has sold very poorly compared to my other books. There seems to be some nervousness among authors about revealing sales figures but I don't mind being open about it. In 3 months Lucy sold 258 copies. In one more recent month a contemporary sold 720. It makes me think - why bother with sci fi if readers don't want it.

Maybe it's not that. Maybe the blurb sucks. If anyone has any thoughts, I'd love to hear them but I must admit, as it stands at the moment, I don't see any point writing another story set in space.

For a comment selected at random - I offer a free e-copy of Lucy in the Sky. Please let me know what you think.

Lucy in the Sky - the blurb

When you wake up to find a spaceship in your backyard, what do you do? Choose from three:

Phone the police.


Go yell at the alien for wrecking your garden.

Lucy storms out of her house to confront the inept pilot and the last option turns out to be both the right and wrong choice when she finds the gorgeous hunk’s name is Three. She’s torn between fury that he’s crushed her roses and decapitated her statue of Eros, and a longing that he enliven her boring life and whisk her to the stars. Three doesn’t give her a choice when he throws her over his broad shoulders and takes her into space. Lucy soon finds herself exploring alien territory in ways she never imagined.

Three’s efforts to hide and protect her on the mother ship are stymied by his inability to keep his hands—and other body parts—off the luscious Lucy. But the two of them are being observed, Three's friend Hyll has been in unrequited lust with Three for years and he wants what Lucy's getting. Poor Lucy looks as if her immediate fate might be a solo trip into space without a spacesuit.


  1. Hi Barbara,

    It *is* discouraging, isn't it? And I have to admit, I've wrestled (still am, actually), with whether or not to continue writing SFR books that no one seems to want to read. Bottom line, what do you WANT to write? Because if you aren't enjoying what you're doing, you'll burn out and stop writing completely. If you like SFR but prefer contemporaries, maybe you could squeeze a SFR in every few books just to keep your muse happy. Either way, do what makes you happy and it'll show in your writing.

  2. I like both the blurb and sci-fi romance.

  3. Our readers can be an unpredictable bunch... just as an example, my other self (who writes erotic fiction) had a contemporary released by one publisher to rave reviews and hot as heck sales. That pub folded, my erotic half published new stories with a new pub that were urban fantasy instead of contemp. Then new pub re-released same rave-review contemp, mind you - the SAME darn book - to tepid sales and tepid reviews. (same blurb, more established readership - what the heck happened?)

    I think part of it has to do with reader expectations. If a reader has something of yours they enjoyed, they want more, not something different. It takes a bit to establish a following for the 'something different'. I search for Ava March books because I want her Regencies; I don't want to see her writing about motorcycles.

    Now - does that mean you should give up the SFR? Certainly not - just keep plugging and have some patience. Your readers are out there, you just have to find each other.

  4. I think you're dealing with a brand issue and I can relate.
    I write both contemporary BDSM erotic romance and Erotic Sci fi.
    I'm starting to get a "name" in both. For over a year, my contemp sold better on Fictionwise than my sci fi.
    But now, it's beginning to change. Why? Because I'm becoming better known as a erotic sci fi romance writer.
    The one thing you DON'T have as an Ellora's Cave author is access to the voracious appetite of the Fictionwise reader. There, my sci fi has kicked ass, selling 400-500 copies.
    But I know what you mean. Plus, EC isn't "known" for its sci fi.
    Branding, marketing and location is everything.
    That's my opinion.

  5. Hi Barbara - Okay, I'll pick at the blurb. :)

    I will read Lucy because I've read two of your other books and know I love your voice. You write fabulous, engaging dialog and endearing heroines.

    But the blurb is not grabbing me. I think it's because I'm not getting a sense of Lucy's story/motivation. We know she's feisty right up front, but then the blurb seems to focus more on what happens TO her...she gets kidnapped, hidden on the ship, "loved up" by the hero (to borrow one of your phrases!), and then targeted by a jealous third. I also find myself wondering what's going on in this spaceship? Who are these aliens and what is it they're up to?

    So, just a few thoughts, FWIW! (And since I haven't read very much erotic romance, my thoughts may be worth LESS than 2 cents.) If the blurb is an easy thing to change, might be worth trying another just to see what happens?

    No need to include me in the drawing - I have Lucy already!

  6. Thanks, guys.
    Katherine - I think maybe my 'problem' is that I like writing everything. I like contemps, paranormal and I've even written two suspense novels. I don't think I want to get pigeon-holed into one type of writing. The one element that does unite all my stories - except the suspense ones which are very dark - is the humour. I can only write romance if there is humour in there. You're right that I need to write what I'm happy writing.
    Linda - thanks - glad it works for you.
    Sandra - so its not just me then! LOL. I hope you're right and in the end I'll be read for my name and not genre! I do know what you mean about having expectations of authors. I like regency romances and picked up one of my favourite authors - bought the book on name only and found it was a contemp - and I didn't like it. So disappointed. But it was very different to her other writing. I have to admit - I don't feel my writing changes much - just the genre. I'm maybe under an illusion. Not unusual.
    Jennifer - that was useful. Thank you. I think maybe more judicious placing of another would be better!
    Sharon - thank you. Well, I can change the blurb. Ellora's Cave are always agreeable to authors doing that. I have another blurb I need to alter for another book where the sales were odd compared to my others. I just sooo hate writing blurbs. It shows.

  7. Lucy and Three are worth the time invested in yet another blurb. It's a great story, but, to be honest, I dont care if your settings are in space, past history, paranormal, normal, where ever. I love your voice, strong plotlines and constant undercurrent of humour. I'm sure those numbers will climb and a fresh blurb can be just the thing that's needed. Now, where's the goddess of blurbs hiding. Dawn?

  8. I don't read Erotica or Erotic Romance, period.

    When you take a niche subgenre like Science Fiction Romance and narrow its scope even further, your audience is going to shrink. This means one of two things in the long run. One, it dies on the vine. Or, two, it takes a slow build-up as word-of-mouth gets around to readers who are shy of one or more elements in the story that it really is worth their time and money. For the sake of SFR, let's up it's just the slow build-up of word-of-mouth.

  9. I have to admit that Barbara's STRANGERS was the first erotic romance I ever read. Charlie Storm could lure me ANYWHERE. Anytime. For any reason.

  10. I'd never read erotic romance before Barbara's either, and yep, along with Charlie there's shifters and vamps that can lure me anywhere, anytime too. And Three is one hot, out of this world, guy well worth turning the pages with again and again. Sci-fi romance needs more, much more, from such a versatile imagination.

  11. Now there's an idea for our motto...Anywhere, anytime. :)

    And it's a direct quote from Aliens, too. :)

    I heartily second Sharon's comment about Charlie Storm in STRANGERS. And on that note, Three (in LUCY) is a pretty amazing hero, too. *double sigh*

    Barbara, I'm not sure why this novel didn't sell better or get more word-of-mouth promotion. Maybe rewriting the blurb would stir some interest, it's certainly worth a try. The artful way you mixed the dark and immediate threat to Lucy's life with scenes of delightful humor was amazing.

    I think Sandra and Jennifer brought up a very good point. Maybe another house would be a better venue for your SFR work, as Loose-Id was for your paranormal Trueblood series. How about Samhain? Crescent Moon? Carina Press? Authors, do you have other suggestions?

    Maybe when we do our publisher's spotlight in May you'll get good ideas for other avenues you could pursue? I truly hate the thought of this being your last SFR.

    And, of course, don't put me in the running for the book giveaway. Got it. Love it.

  12. Based on the blurb & excerpt, I purchased Lucy in the Sky through EC soon after it was released.

    SFR is one of my favorite categories to read and when I see EC has an AEON book out, I'll read the blurb & the excerpt, where I usually won't for the MODERNE line.

    I was trying to think of any epublisher that I associate with SFR, erotic or not. But, looking through my Calibre library, I've purchased SFR from all the houses - Samhain, Loose Id, Liquid Silver, New Concepts, Midnight Showcase, Total Ebound....

    Bottom line, I think you should write something that you want to read.

    Don't include me in the give-away, I already purchased Lucy.

  13. As for the initial question, should you write more, yes! If you love it. If you love it, the readers will know 'cause it'll show. If it's a slow to build up thing, your readership will grow with each new one. Conversely, if you don't love it, then don't write it because that will show too.

    Readers are tired and busy, but they're smart and sensitive.

  14. I read all SFR that I find whether erotica or not, BUT lately I find I'm passing on the SF erotica because the plots are so thin as to be nonexistent. If the blurb describes a good plot plus sex, I am so there. Funny someone said EC is not known for its SF, because that's how they got their start. It was THE place to go for a good erotica SF about eight years ago.

    Having said all that, my preference is for a non-erotica SFR. I also already own a copy of Lucy in the Sky.

    Vicky W

  15. If you had "a lot of fun" writing SF then you should continue on that path. I believe that enthusiasm comes through and your following will grow. I am not familiar with your past writing, but would be drawn to this story because I am crazy about my garden and could relate to your heroine!

    Good Luck, Miranda

  16. I've only just returned to buying ebooks after being burned a few years ago buy some truly bad ones. It's hard to get over the feeling you've wasted money you don't really have.

    Katherine, I actually just bought Close Encounters. Haven't read it yet, but I will.

    I'm another who's scared off by the "erotic" label. I used to read some and found that nearly every one passed my tolerance boundary in some way whether it's too graphic, too kinky or too full of cussing. I'm not a prude, but I don't read for graphic sex, I read for story, and love, and "erotic" automatically tells me it's probably too hot for me. I do realize that as the author you don't control the advertising, still, that label probably both helps and hurts sales.

    I did read your blurb before and have heard of this story, but again, I don't trust that label and don't have enough disposable cash to risk buying a book I won't finish. It was on my "check again and decide later" list, though.

    That's why it's good to read your blog via one of the other sfr blogs. I can find out more about your stories here.

  17. Wow, too many comments to go through individually but thanks so much to all of you. You might be interested to know that I hadn't read any erotic romance - other than on Critique Circle - before I wrote my first book and had it accepted. If I hadn't gone down the erotica route I'm fairly confident I'd still be unpublished. If I'd been in my twenties I'd have held out longer but I'm not so I didn't.

    Do I like writing erotic romance rather than straight romance? I have no preference now. I only write what I like to read. I don't like erotic romance with poor plots and shallow characters. My stories would stand without the sex. The fact that they have sex has made them sell. The menage books have sold in the thousands. Guess what people like to read!

    But what I like is variety. I like almost all genres - I just feel a bit sad that readers aren't perhaps yet at the point of reading outside genres they always go for. Until I read Laurie Green's P2PC - I hadn't read any sci fi romance. I didn't know what I was missing. So we do need to spread the message that this genre has something special.
    Thanks again for all your supportive comments.

  18. I think part of the problem with getting SFR adopted by the masses is that romance and traditional sci-fi target separate audiences. Romance and erotica are, by and large, read by a female audience somewhere between age 12 and dead. Traditional Sci-Fi more usually targeted at teenage computer geeks, older geeks, and science geeks of all ages, but mostly male in gender.

    I'm coming into the SFR arena from the sci-fi side. I'm a geek, would-be biohacker, and I love good plots with genetic tweaks, fast ships, and big guns. I stumbled across some SFR by Linnea Sinclair *waves hi* and Louis McMaster Bujold. None of the books I started with were erotica, they were good sci-fi stories with some romance elements.

    I love the great sci-fi plots, with a stolen kiss, a meaningful glance, and HEA ending.

    My guess is that SFR books that straddle (no visual pun intended) the line between Traditional Sci-Fi and Romance will reach a wider audience than SFR/Erotica will. The geeky girls who read hard military sci-fi (like me for the past ten years) aren't looking for hot and sweaty. They want the serious sci-fi with an added emotional punch.

    Luring the male readers from the TSF to SFR... we need gateway drugs. Something that introduces the idea of emotionally involved science fiction without scaring them (or their parents) away.

    That's just my opinion. I'm probably the outlier here, since I'm not coming from a romance background.

    Do keep writing SFR. The more explosions, the better :o)

  19. Liana, I agree completely. I grew up on Dune and Asimov so I guess I'm a geek too. LOL. I like the hard science with some romance too and if there's even a HFN it's a romance to me. LOL. I know that's not the industry standard answer though.

    I've been purposely trying to broaden my reading horizons in the past few years.

    I adored Bujold's Shards of Honor/Barrayar. Loved it. To me it was a terrific romance.

    I want everyone to keep writing their sfrs, no matter how they sell. Call me selfish. LOL.

    Barbara, I didn't think P2PC was out yet. I keep trying to find it.

  20. I can't add too much more to the insightful comments here, other than to say that another strategy might be to hand sell your story to readers. Go where the SFR and paranormal romance readers are, get your name out there, and when it's appropriate, describe your story.

    I realize it takes a lot of work--lots and lots of work--but keep in mind that as far as the Web is concerned, your story has a much longer shelf life than you think. SFR communities like the one we've been building can resurrect titles ad infinitum.

    That said, the stories (speaking generally now) have to resonate with readers for the magical buzz to work. And humorous SFR/erotic SFR is a niche within a niche, which makes connecting the story with readers all the more challenging.

    Another idea popped into my head: In addition to tweaking the "jacket copy," why not consider teaming up with other authors who write humorous/tongue-in-cheek SFR/erotic SFR? Arrange a blog tour, giveaways, an author group blog, etc., and revel in it. Carve out that niche and make some news!

  21. AbbaM. - You are my new best friend. I bought the Cordelia books as the combination (Cordelia's Honor) and I *LOVE* the ending. The series is amazing. That's the kind of SFR I love to read, and aim to write.

    Barbara - Blogtours are an excellent idea. I've reread the blurb. It's o.k. But it isn't doing the best job of telling me why I should care. It's almost a flash fiction piece: girl meets boy, boy whisks girl off her feet, girl and boy make everyone jealous with their hot romance. End of story.

    Could you give it more of a teaser blurb?

  22. Thanks again, guys!
    Anna, P2PC isn't out yet - Laurie is still waiting for someone to realize what a gem it is but I've read it in - er - several versions and critiqued it.
    One day - Laurie!!!!!!
    Heather - some great ideas there - except I don't know of any other writers who write humorous erotic sci fi. Are there any of you out there? Well, I know Mary Janice Davidson did write a great short story but I don't think she'd team with me! LOL
    Thanks, Liana. It seems the blurb isn't working overall and that is something I can work on. I'll have to force myself. Sigh.


    The Randomizer has selected Jennifer Leeland to receive the copy of Lucy! If you already own it, speak up and I'll randomize again...


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