Should I have turned up the heat in my novel?

Recently, I had a discussion with a hairstylist who read my novel, The Brevity of Roses, and recommended it to many of his clients. His opinion, shared by some of his clients, is that I should have written more explicit love scenes. “Sex sells,” he said.

I don’t deny that’s true. In the advertising world, sex sells everything from toothpaste to tennis shoes. It also sells certain genres of fiction. In my lifetime, I’ve read (and written) fiction rated from XXX to lily white chaste. I’ve concluded I prefer reading books that allow me to imagine the love scenes—designed precisely to my tastes, not the author’s.

Cathy Yardley of the Rock Your Writing blog, recently used my novel as an example when she wrote a 3-part series on how to profile your target reader and create a 10-step novel promotion strategy. She admitted mine was a difficult case because Brevity is a cross-genre novel. Cathy described it as a “women’s fiction/commercial lit fic novel”.

I appreciated her effort and expertise, and I’m implementing as many of her suggestions as I can. However, her next post after my case study spoke about the difficulty of marketing genre blends. Hmmm.

I’m not sure that Brevity qualifies as a true genre blend, but if so, I’ve certainly got a hard task ahead of me in marketing a “broccoli brownie”. As literary fiction, I don’t think readers necessarily expect explicit sex. As women’s fiction or commercial fiction, I’m not sure.

Now, I’m curious. If you’ve read The Brevity of Roses, would you have liked a little more steam in the love scenes? If you haven’t read the book, but have read the description, would you expect R-rated scenes?

35 thoughts on “Should I have turned up the heat in my novel?

  1. Truthfully, I’ve enjoyed fiction with mystery and action and twists and surprise and along comes the sex thing. It is almost as if the inclusion is obligatory. I am disappointed when it starts and say “Oh, here it is now” The scene may not even fit into the whole mood and character of the participants, but the authors seem to cave to the idea that such “interaction” belongs in every story and it does not. There can be love and passion and romance without the “scene” esp with it seems out of place with the whole flow of the story. Besides I don’t think novels sell based on the number of sex scenes. That’s a subliminal TV and mag marketing thing.


    1. Thank you for voicing your opinion, Carl. And nice to have a man’s point of view on this subject. I do believe though, that there are some popular authors known for their bedroom scenes. Or, since I haven’t read their work, maybe that’s just my mistaken impression.


  2. I’ve not read it–yet. However, I notice that it is available on Kindle for a steal…only $2.99. So, reading it may be in my very near future. 🙂 In general, I don’t think people want “sex” en masse so much as they want sensuality, romance, and the suggestion of sex. And by people, I mean women. I doubt men do either, in general reading materials that is. For anyone who does want that, there’s plenty of it out there, no romance or storyline required. Quite frankly, too many movies and cable t.v. shows have been ruined for me by too graphic sex scenes. I’m a big girl, and can imagine just fine, thank you. 😉 It really is true…the “steamiest” is often what the imagination can bring.


  3. I was actually a bit surprised that there were no steamy sex scenes in your book just because it’s difficult to find books without it these days ….but, I thought it worked quite well as is. It’s a book I could even let my mom read. Using our imagination isn’t a bad thing at all. 🙂


    1. Interesting, Laura. I can’t remember when I read a book with a steamy sex scene, so we’re evidently picking up different books. Which do you identify as the genre of the books with those scenes?

      And thank you. I’m glad you felt Brevity worked with restraint.


  4. I believe it was perfect the way you wrote it. I don’t think including sex scenes would have worked, it would have felt more obligatory I think. I think leaving that up to the imagination of the reader was the best way to go. I’m glad you wrote Brevity the way you did. Thank you!

    That said I also have to throw in that I mostly read/write YA, so there is little sex in them. Although, I do read some pretty steamy other adult books.


  5. Here’s an upside to not being pigeonholed into a steamy genre: you only have to include sex if you feel it’s needed. 🙂
    Neither your blurb nor your cover leads me to expect explicit sex (or to not expect it).
    I think the standard rule applies–include only scenes critical to the story / character development. Sex scenes can work well for some kinds of non-verbal communication and character revelations. But if other other interactions convey all that in a better way…well, there you have it.
    I’m looking forward to reading Brevity as my first Kindle book this weekend!


  6. I read Emma Holly and other erotic authors and their steamy scenes flow perfectly from their characters. In Brevity, your love scenes flowed beautifully and naturally. I think if you’d deliberately added in more steaminess to “commercialise” your novel, you would have lost some of it’s poetic beauty.

    Judy, South Africa


  7. IMHO I think people looking to read sex scenes go directly for the romance shelf and I’d never expect to see Brevity on the romance shelf. I think what you did worked perfectly. The Twilight books were full of sexual tension but no sex, and I agree, it is likely why all the ‘moms’ out there liked it as much as their daughters.


  8. I just finished Brevity last night and wouldn’t have changed a thing. I’m like you, I’d rather let someone else imagine all the gritty details. Plus, what would it have added? As readers, we’re in the dream with you and should be able to imagine the scenes if we want to.


  9. I never wish for anything than what’s in a novel because, well, if I didn’t like I should go read something else. That said, I’m pretty careful about love scenes in books. You’ll find this if you read my fiction because although Monarch has a lot of sex in it – none of it is described. It’s all tension or pulling the curtain because for my writing, I don’t feel it’s appropriate or necessary to show more than I do. If people want descriptive sex, they can go read erotica. In the end, write what you are comfortable writing and sharing with your audience. I would hate to put something out there that I’m ashamed of later or something.


    1. I feel the same, Michelle. I certainly don’t ignore the physical attraction, but I want to keep the focus on the emotional, spiritual, and intellectual attractions and interactions between my characters. I might be able to sell more books with steamy sex scenes, but they wouldn’t be the books I want to write.


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