Erotica in a nutshell.

Erotica author James Lear offers his opinion on why writing erotica (or porn – he uses the terms interchangeably) is a marvelous way to make a living, despite erotica being neglected by mainstream publishing.

I think that erotic literature serves the same purpose as other genre fiction, but with a more literal outcome. A good crime novel, be it by Agatha Christie or Alexander McCall Smith, provides a failsafe formula of crime, investigation and solution. The porn parallel is encounter, seduction and sex. While a whodunnit plots this pattern across an entire book, a porn writer must repeat it several times within one novel, allowing the reader time to recover before revving up the engines again. The reason why dirty books remain in the shadows is very simple: the book trade is not comfortable with masturbation. Books in which children are abused, women murdered and men brutalised crowd the shelves of WH Smith. Books in which consenting adults enjoy each other for the healthy entertainment of literate wankers do not.

Lear’s perspective is refreshingly blunt and analytic. No matter what anyone says about reading for prurient intentions, no one ever ignores money. Especially when that money is profit.

Thanks for Soni for the link.


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  1. 1
    Madeleine says:

    That was a very interesting read. Thanks so much for linking it.

  2. 2
    DS says:

    Yikes, I read The Back Passage.  I thought it was a bit boring so I’m definitely not the target audience despite the fact that I’ve enjoyed several m/m books in the past.  It was the lack of plot, character and emotion that bugged me rather than the presence of the sex act—although that was entirely too predictable.  Two or more people in a room and sex would happen.

    Admittedly, if it had been marketed as porn I would have known not to buy it in the first place.

  3. 3
    Diana Hunter says:

    And see, I take exception to the “porn is synomous with erotica” attitude. It ISN’t and that fact is very nicely illustrated by DS’s post above. Porn is sex for sex’s sake. It’s meant to provoke a physical reaction in the reader/viewer. Erotica may also produce that reaction, but more importantly, it also tells a story…one with plot, character and emotion!

    All that said…when you’re right, you’re right, Sarah…follow the money! :)

  4. 4
    Denni says:

    It’s always about the money.

    I agree with Diana, and consider erotica and porn seperate items. I don’t care for the impersonality (is that a word?) of porn. I expect my erotica to have well developed characters, a developing relationship, and an actual plot outside of the sex. 

    Maybe some authors and publishers don’t know the difference?  That would answer the question of why there is so much poorly done erotica available.

  5. 5
    Julie Leto says:

    I agree with Denni & Diana.

    That said, I recently read an erotica novella that did NOT engage me with the characters or plot.  But the author at least tried.  That made it erotica that didn’t work…for me.  But it certainly didn’t make it porn by any stretch of the imagination.

  6. 6
    rebyj says:

    The reason why dirty books remain in the shadows is very simple: the book trade is not comfortable with masturbation.

    Wonder if Lear ever read about women taking a good book with them for a long bubble bath? Did he ever wonder why? 

    As for the “erotica” vs “porn” question… I always thought porn was more visual/physical whereas erotica is more brain based.

    That said, my honey calls my books “naughtyca-erotica ” “lady porn” So maybe there isn’t really a huge difference.

  7. 7
    sara says:

    Ha: “literate wankers.” I love that. It’s like an alternate term for “NPR listeners.” And me.

  8. 8
    Raela says:

    Diana Hunter’s distinction between porn and erotica is on target.  If I don’t give a hoot about the characters and the story, why would I care if they get it on?  But for those who don’t distinguish between porn and erotica, well, different strokes. . .I’d just like for the authors not to confuse the two genres.

    I do appreciate Lear’s point about all the mayhem in print that’s acceptable in the well lit aisles of bookstores while stories about two or more people interacting sexually aren’t.

  9. 9
    LauraF says:

    I enjoyed Lear’s “The Back Passage”, but I wasn’t expecting serious character or relationship development, since it’s an erotic parody of a murder mystery, not erotic romance. It’s sexy in a silly, over-the-top, nudge-wink kind of way. The nekkid cover is actually quite beautiful and makes one expect something more literary.

  10. 10
    Soni says:

    I was struck personally by the fact that, apparently, the more money you can make writing something and the easier it is to sell, the less “legit” it is.

    Blathering, formless “high literature” that no one can understand and that sells maybe a full round of “friends and family copies,” is high art, while a good wank (which sells gazillions) is considered the equivalent of literary prostitution, even if they’re doing reasonably good writing.

    It almost seems that, aside for a few exceptions, the more money you make the less of a “real writer” you are.

  11. 11
    Tori Anne says:

    Hmm. The erotica vs. porn thing is really tricky, because I, as a burgeoning spicy historical author, don’t want to write ‘porn’ but, rather: really hot sex amidst very fleshed out (pun intended) storylines with characters you fall in love with. However, many of the submission guidelines for the established as well as brand new erotica lines are de-emphasizing some of the qualities that separate the words ‘erotica’ and ‘porn’ and those different worlds; perhaps leading to a more blurred distinction.

  12. 12
    snarkhunter says:

    Soni, I think that’s an old, old formulation. “Real” artists starve in garretts. Only sell-out hacks make money. (Please note that I am rolling my eyes.)

    I think Lear’s point is one that we should analyze much more often than we do. (And by “we,” I mean “society” < —-Said in a Monica-from-Friends voice.) Even sex is acceptable in books as long as it’s violent or degrading. (Norman Mailer, I am looking at you.) Pleasure for the sake of pleasure is directly correlated to writing for money. It’s the work of hacks or lazy writers. Bah.

  13. 13
    DS says:

    I thought Back Passages was supposed to be a parody—one reason I bought it.  British country house mysteries are ripe to be skewered.  Maybe I was expecting something like an erotic E. F. Benson novel,  but I just didn’t catch the humor.  I really enjoyed Gaywick (Virga’s gay send up of gothic novels)—but maybe I wasn’t supposed to find it hilarious?

    Back Passages cover is very nice and I liked the title, but the fun wasn’t there for me.

  14. 14
    Tori Anne says:


    I’m totally starving in a garrett BUT I’m writing pleasure for pleasure’s sake.  Oh no!  What will the literature snobs think of that?  *identity crisis*


    —you make a very good point.

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