Monday, September 14, 2015

Answers for Authors: Do books with sex and cursing really sell better?

Dear Deirdra,

I am an author and I want to know if books with sex and cursing really sell better? Would it make the emotions of the scene stronger? What if its part of the character? What if its culturally acceptable?

Sci/fi Author

Dear Author,

You asked a lot of great questions that many authors wonder about.

When it comes to sex and profanity you need to think about target market audience.
When writing, most authors don't think about marketing. Its the left brain interfering with the right.

You want to make your target market as wide as you can so you can get more readers.
There is a massive reader population (I would say a majority) who don't enjoy media entertainment with sex and profanity. I have read so many reviews and heard people say things like, "It was really good - except for that one part." You don't want that to be your book.

When it comes time for readers to review you on Amazon, Goodreads and other sites, you have a greater chance of getting negative reviews and offending people IF you include these things that may be considered inappropriate.
I have never seen a legitimate or credible negative review where the reader says, "I wish there was more sex and swearing."

Just think about that as you consider your success.

Now you may ask, "Is that selling out and giving into the money and marketing rather than creativity?"

There are ways to incorporate sex and profanity emotions without crossing lines. It just takes MORE creativity and allows the readers to be creative with you.

For example:
In one of The Watchers books there is a pirate. He is very rough around the edges and its in is character to swear. This is the spot in the book where he swears:

Alamar’s feet hit the ground and he bolted upright in his chair. His eyes popped open wide and a profanity so foul only a pirate would use, burst from his lips and burned my ears. “Those druids won’t have me!” He swore again.
I narrowed my eyes. “Calm down!” I demanded. “Don’t you dare speak like that to me or we won’t speak at all.”
And another spot:
He’s gone soft and scabbed us all,” the pirate accused. The men grew restless and mumbled profanities under their breath.

See how that worked?

As far as sex goes, there are SOOOO many ways to be intimate and still get that intense feeling without taking it to the bedroom. I have two characters that are intensely intimate WITHOUT sex. The glances, the light touch of their fingers woven together, the surge of energy when they embrace in victory can be just as intimate.

If you do want to write a sex scene, because it moves the story along in some way (like a child being conceived, etc.) there are still ways you can do this.

For example:
A couple races to their honeymoon suite in anticipation. They check into the hotel, they get the key, find their room, but its the wrong key so they race back to the lobby and get the right key. Then finally, they open the door walk in, then the reader sees them shut the door.
In the morning the characters wake up smiling and the blankets are all a mess.

Okay, authors. You and every reader knows what happened without taking the risk of including a full blown sex scene that could drastically narrow your market or offend readers into leaving a lower review.

Hope this helps you both creatively and with your marketing and business strategies. 


  1. I totally agree. There are ways to express those feelings or events without polluting the readers mind. Thanks for the great post and setting an example for other authors!

  2. I totally agree. There are ways to express those feelings or events without polluting the readers mind. Thanks for the great post and setting an example for other authors!

  3. I've never tried to sell books like that, but I can tell you that rather than hitting periodic slumps, my books tend to hit period sales.
    As a reader, I can honestly say I don't buy, read, enjoy, recommend, etc., etc., books like that. In fact, lately I've begun taking recommendations from my teenage nieces as to which new authors are safe to read!

  4. What target audiences are we talking about when it comes to sex? And why are sex and profanity being placed under the same umbrella? Why is murder and human suffering appropriate to readers but not something as natural and beautiful as sex?

  5. I actually did get a couple of 1-star reviews where the readers complained that there was no sex. I write inspirational Christian romance. My books are clean, but very passionate, I get you there and the door is closed. But I guess that's not passionate enough for some people. Oh, well:-)

  6. This is one of my favorite reviews for "Another Sunset":

    This segment from it says it all:

    "I really enjoyed this book and it was fun to read something that had no violence, sex or even swearing, which I couldn't put down. "

  7. I'm with you. There is a great deal of pressure on authors to put "realistic' language in books, and romance authors are pressured to put sex in books because "sex sells." Even my own agent has mentioned that on more than one occassion. But you are right; there are a lot of creative ways to make language realistic without listing the curse words actually used. And characters can become very intimate and have a great deal of chemistry without resorting to sex or naming body parts. I hope more and more readers make their preferences known by using the almighty dollar to prove to publishers that there is a demand for clean books.


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