Thursday, November 5, 2009

It Takes A Village

Hokiest blog post title ever? Sure, but in light of my recent posts on branding science fiction romance, I experienced a few light bulb moments. It was partly because of personal reflection, but also because of insights shared by my astute passengers both here and elsewhere. These insights are related to the role that erotic romance has played during the growth of the paranormal romance genre, and by extension, science fiction romance.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that paranormal romance has roots in the erotic romance market. In a nutshell, paranormal romance began as a niche genre nurtured by small/digital presses. Then it branched out into the erotic romance market where it fed readers’ needs for such stories. Later, authors like Christine Feehan bridged the gap between niche and mainstream. You know the rest of the story.

We’re seeing a similar pattern with science fiction romance. The sub-genre has deep roots in Star Trek fanfiction (which, like most fanfiction, isn’t without its share of stories that include graphic sex scenes) and small presses/digital publishers (with heat levels ranging from sweet to explicit). Currently, small/digital publishers are a significant source of science fiction romance books. Most of them are erotic romances, but not all.

All of the above is why I feel it's important to point out that SF erotic romance is simply another slice of the SFR pie. It’s another way for readers so inclined to feed their need for this sub-genre.

I asked author Jennifer Leeland (MARKED FOR PLEASURE) to fill in some of the background regarding paranormal and SF erotic romance for us, and here’s what she had to say:

[Begin quote]

“…the popularity [paranormal romance] has now was certainly spurred by Ellora's cave. Though many authors had already written paranormal romances (Feehan's Carpathian series as an example) they certainly didn't have the same success that paranormal seems to have today.

Nora Roberts and other romance authors dipped their toes into the paranormal (Nora's three sister's trilogy is one of my favorites featuring three witches) but contemporaries were (and still are) their bread and butter. So, where did this popularity for urban fantasy, werewolves, other shifters and magic worlds come from?

Go to Amazon and put in "paranormal authors" and many familiar names pop up--Sara Reinke, Larissa Ione, etc. And Dawn Thompson who began at Highland Press. Sylivia Day began at Ellora's Cave. Anya Bast began at Ellora's Cave. Shiloh Walker began at Ellora's Cave. Names that are familiar to us in Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance were once slogging it out in epublishing. The popularity of Joey W. HIll's ebooks have led to a good New York publishing career. Kate Douglas carried her successful werewolves to Kensington.

Heather Osbourne moved from editing for Ellora's Cave to the editor at Tor, the Holy Grail of publishers for paranormal, futuristic and fantasy authors. There's a connection between the success of paranormal on the shelves of Walmart and the continued success of paranormal erotic romance on Fictionwise. Believe it or not, it's working for SFR as well. Nalini Singh has created an audience for her Psy shifter series.

The audience is there.

I've written Romantic Suspense (under another name), contemporary erotic romance, BDSM contemporary erotic romance and science fiction erotic romance. Guess which ones are the most successful?

Yep. The BDSM contemps and the sci fi erotic. The audience is there. Hell, Kaitlyn O'Conner is kicking ASS on Fictionwise.

So, we have a subgenre in erotic romance that makes the top ten on Fictionwise regularly (Science Fiction Erotic Romance). We have paranormal authors that topped the erotic romance ebook best seller lists five and ten years ago that are now selling paranormal titles in the brick and mortar stores.

That's exciting for someone like me.

Like any genre, Erotic Romance has good writers who represent the genre, and not so great writers that don't.

For me, it's all win/win since I love Linnea Sinclair and I also love Robin Rotham who wrote "Alien Overnight" one of the HOTTEST, SMOKIN' futuristics I've ever read. So, I'm good. I can read "Grimspace" and be totally thrilled and I can read Mima's "In Service" and be thrilled in a totally different way.

As a writer, I like to write the erotic space adventures. I love the idea of sexual freedom leading to different moral, political and social issues for future man. That's my fun.

Right now? Nobody knows how to market it.

Is it possible to have dynamic world building, romance and erotic sex scenes? Yes.

Is it possible to have dynamic world building, romance and NO erotic sex scenes? Absolutely.

I love to write sci fi. It's the ultimate writer "What If". I also love writing the psychological aspects of D/s and other kink. I'm hoping the popularity that's beginning to come in ebooks will start to show in the NY publishers soon.”

[End quote]

In conclusion, I want to emphasize that SF erotic romance is another example of small/digital presses taking risks when others can’t or won’t. It’s about authors paying their dues and investing much time and effort for very little money in the hopes that the sub-genre as a whole will enjoy greater success down the line. Finally, it’s very possible that some or more of the mainstream SFR authors of the future are the SF erotic romance authors of today. These factors are important to acknowledge and embrace regardless of one’s individual taste.

Joyfully yours,