I’ve been misled quite a bit lately on Amazon. And no, this is not an anti-Amazon rant (not that we haven’t done that in the past). I’m talking about books that are being advertised as romance—or a certain type of romance—that clearly aren’t all they claimed to be. I’m seeing a few reasons for these misclassifications:
So, there’s not much we can do about #2. The ‘Zon is gonna do what the ‘Zon wants to do. No one is the boss of them. But for the authors and publishers...listen up and take note.
Rom coms that aren’t funny
Rom coms are super popular in the romance genre. But what I think some authors and publishers aren’t realizing is that the “com” in “rom com” stands for “comedy.” I’m seeing TONS of books lately in the rom com category on Amazon that simply aren’t funny at all. And I’m not talking about a “humor is subjective and just because it’s not funny to you doesn’t mean it’s not funny to others” thing. I’m talking about angsty contemporary romances being tossed into the rom com category. If your book is angsty and super emotional and designed to make people cry, it’s NOT a rom com, folks. End of story. Same goes if you only have one or two jokes in your book. One or two jokes is not enough to classify your book as a rom com. Rom coms should be light, low-angst, and laugh-out-loud hilarious. If I don’t snort laugh at least twice while reading a rom com, I’m going to be irritated when I review that book. (And you wouldn’t like me when I’m irritated. Or hungry. But I digress…)
For examples of what rom coms SHOULD look like, check out this list.
Erotica, not romance
Pretty much the entire shifter romance category has been taken over by erotica. It seems like every other book you find in the top 100 paranormal romances on Amazon is actually menage erotica. We talked about the differences between erotica, romantic erotica, romance, and porn at one point, but in the simplest of terms: if you were to remove all the sex scenes from a book and there was still a good story left about folks falling in love, you have a romance. If there’s nothing left after all the sex scenes are gone, the book is erotica.
Authors, I understand that when you classify your book as erotica, Amazon doesn’t promote it as much for you. But that doesn’t make it OK for you to put it in the romance category in an effort to find more readers. When romance readers want erotica, they look for erotica. Authors and publishers shouldn’t be under the impression that romance readers aren’t sophisticated enough to realize when a book has been intentionally misclassified. (And when we DO realize it? We’re pissed and ready to leave a ranty review. Spoiler alert: ranty reviews are book sales killers.)
Look, I have no problem with clean romance that doesn’t have any sex scenes. But since more than 90% of the books in the contemporary romance category have explicit sex scenes, if you write clean romance, I want to KNOW that you write clean romance. If you have 2 people looking intimate on the cover of a clean romance, I’m going to feel misled when I find out the book doesn’t have any sex scenes. (I’m looking at you, Librarian and Her Beast!) If you write sweet, clean romance, you need to disclose that in your blurb. And consider putting your book in the “clean romance” category, versus the contemporary romance category on Amazon. Most of us picking books in the contemporary romance category expect a little pay off for all the sexual tension we’re reading about, if you know what I’m sayin’.
So, now what?
I’m assuming I’m not the only one who is irritated with the rampant misclassification of books on Amazon (and all the other book vendors). So, what are we going to do about it? Well, one of our followers on Facebook had a great suggestion. What about a rating system that indicates the book’s heat level? That won’t solve the unfunny rom com dilemma, but it would take care of the clean romance and erotica issues I’ve been having lately. I would propose something like this (and if y’all agree, we’ll start using this very rating system for our own book reviews going forward):
5 chili peppers: All erotica would include a 5 chili pepper rating. This is going to include all menage reads, books with heavy bondage scenes (I’m talking about more than just handcuffs here, folks), reverse harem stuff, and all the books that don’t have a real plot (according to the guidelines above). But to make the whole “plot” issue clear to authors: if sex scenes make up more than 75% of your story, your book is getting a 5 chili pepper rating.
4 chili peppers: Romance with 3 or more explicit sex scenes that use all the naughty words for body parts that would get your mouth washed out with soap if you said them in front of your parents as a kid. (Cunt, pussy, and cock being the prime examples, of course). Reads from Tia Louise, Sawyer Bennett, Penelope Ward, Vi Keeland, LJ Shen, and Melanie Harlow, would probably fall into 4 chili pepper territory.
3 chili peppers: Romance with 2 or more explicit sex scenes, but generally milder language. Reads from Jill Shalvis, Isabel Jordan and Jennifer Crusie would fall into 3 chili pepper territory.
2 chili peppers: Romance with plenty of sexual tension and foreplay, but closed-door sex. I’m thinking Kristan Higgins reads are in the 2 chili pepper territory.
1 chili pepper: Romance with some sexual tension, maybe some kissing and hand holding, but no sex. I’m at a loss for examples. I don’t read much clean romance. Like Jane Austen novel movie adaptations, maybe?
0 chili peppers: Amish romance. Nothing but longing glances. Not even any dirty thoughts, though. All the Christian romance would belong here (i.e.: romance were spiritual enlightenment and being “godly” is more important to the characters than anything else).
I dunno. What do y’all think? Let’s discuss!
11/26/2018 10:25:38 am
I like your suggestion. I always read your reviews (except paranormal romance - I just don't like to read them - nothing to do with you).
Jennifer, Romance Rehab
11/29/2018 07:22:59 am
Thanks! We'll be using the chili pepper rating scale from this point on. (And no worries about paranormal. We totally get that it's not for everyone!)
11/26/2018 08:19:05 pm
I absolutely love your definitions of the various pepper levels, and especially the recognition of the difference between 3-pepper and 4-pepper reads. I think this will really help readers find what they're looking for, and I wish Amazon and Goodreads would adopt your pepper scale too.
Jennifer, Romance Rehab
11/29/2018 07:23:47 am
Thank you!! I wish Amazon had a system like this, too. It would make book shopping so much easier!!
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