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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Now that my erotic romance novel is almost ready to be published, I'm writing a dozen erotic short stories to release as singles and collections. So far, so good.

In looking at the covers that other erotica authors use, I see they fall into two camps. I'll call them seductive and outright sexual.

The sensual covers seem to mostly have bare-chested men with women close by or in some kind of clench with them.

The sexual covers mainly look like very scantily clad women, women disrobing, or men and women in outright sexual positions.

My wife and I have been discussing these two camps. To my mind, they target different audiences. I think women and men. My wife isn't so sure it's that clear cut.

She favors the less provocative covers and I'm of two minds. I want to know which sell better. To that end, she is picking half the covers and I'll select the rest. Then we'll see if there is a difference in sales numbers.

What I'd like to ask here is, has anyone else conducted such a test? Does anyone have any opinions or guesses? Or even general thoughts on erotica covers in general?
 

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I think it depends on the kind of erotica you write. If it has a full-fledged story and results in a man and woman finding one another (or M/M or F/F) and being happy at the end, it's got that romance novel angle so the romance style cover may be your best bet. If it's like the short stuff I'm writing, it's more about setting up a situation where two or more people engage in sex, written with a lot of detail. I think the sexier cover sells that idea better.

I do think the racier covers have more appeal to men. The ones that look like they could almost be the covers for romance novels may turn away men.

 

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I tend to agree with you Terry. In many ways, the different covers do appeal to different readers. The scantilly clad female ones are more targeted to male readers who are looking for more erotic content and perhaps less focus on the romance. Whereas the covers that are more sensual and/or feature bare man-parts tend to be targeted to female readers who (generally) like a pretty decent amount of romance in their erotica.

I've changed a few of my covers since publishing them, moving away from the man-parts, toward the nekkid women, finding they tend to attract the readers who will appreciate the stories' content better. And yes, I saw a difference in sales, particularly of Claim Me, which had a very different cover when I first released it in November. My initial sales were far from spectacular. It's now in the top 10 in erotica on BN.com and doing pretty well on Kindle too (#19 in erotica).

Terry Mixon said:
Now that my erotic romance novel is almost ready to be published, I'm writing a dozen erotic short stories to release as singles and collections. So far, so good.

In looking at the covers that other erotica authors use, I see they fall into two camps. I'll call them seductive and outright sexual.

The sensual covers seem to mostly have bare-chested men with women close by or in some kind of clench with them.

The sexual covers mainly look like very scantily clad women, women disrobing, or men and women in outright sexual positions.

My wife and I have been discussing these two camps. To my mind, they target different audiences. I think women and men. My wife isn't so sure it's that clear cut.

She favors the less provocative covers and I'm of two minds. I want to know which sell better. To that end, she is picking half the covers and I'll select the rest. Then we'll see if there is a difference in sales numbers.

What I'd like to ask here is, has anyone else conducted such a test? Does anyone have any opinions or guesses? Or even general thoughts on erotica covers in general?
 

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As a reader, when I scan covers and I see a naked male chest, I assume it's ether romance or gay erotica.

That could be just me though.
 

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I see a lot of girl parts on Selena's books (Baumgartners...). I'm surmising they work for her books.

Oddly, this goes against what I'd always believed. My publishers have always put nekkid men on my covers. I thought that was the wisest way to go when I started self pubbing. It turns out, I'm having better results using sexy women instead.

Now, I will note that many of my books lean more toward erotica than erotic romance. The romance isn't necessarily the main theme of the book. The sex (exploration, experimentation, experience) is.

jillmyles said:
Selena Kitt would be a terrific one to ask. Ditto on Tawny Taylor.
 
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Terry Mixon said:
She favors the less provocative covers and I'm of two minds. I want to know which sell better. To that end, she is picking half the covers and I'll select the rest. Then we'll see if there is a difference in sales numbers.
A book cover is shorthand for your book. It should properly convey what the reader should expect. If your stories are sensual, the cover should convey that. If the stories are hardcore raunchy, they should convey that. Just using "whichever sells better" is like a bait-and-switch. I could put a picture of a hot twentysomething male with fangs on the cover of A Game of Blood and it would probably sell better, but I would be lying to the reader by doing so because I would be implying the book was YA paranormal romance instead of a paranormal thriller.

Of course, I am the first to note that I would be a wealthy woman if I was not hampered by my worrisome honesty. :eek: There are plenty of marketing activities indies use to sell books that I would never use myself simply because, as a reader, I hate being fooled.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Bards and Sages (Julie) said:
A book cover is shorthand for your book. It should properly convey what the reader should expect. If your stories are sensual, the cover should convey that. If the stories are hardcore raunchy, they should convey that. Just using "whichever sells better" is like a bait-and-switch. I could put a picture of a hot twentysomething male with fangs on the cover of A Game of Blood and it would probably sell better, but I would be lying to the reader by doing so because I would be implying the book was YA paranormal romance instead of a paranormal thriller.

Of course, I am the first to note that I would be a wealthy woman if I was not hampered by my worrisome honesty. :eek: There are plenty of marketing activities indies use to sell books that I would never use myself simply because, as a reader, I hate being fooled.
No bait and switch intended.

My stories cover both sides of that equation, though I would rather say they are both romantic / happy ending themes and have hot, explicit sex. Hardcore and raunchy, no. My questions only reflect my opinion that I have a foot on both sides of that fuzzy line.

If I fell clearly into one camp or the other, I wouldn't need to ask opinions.

Your comments do raise an interesting question, though. Are the markets clearly cut enough so that one style of cover or the other would be baiting and switching? Both imply erotic content. Does the outright sexuality of scantily clad women and almost naked people mean there can't be a romantic theme? Does the reverse mean that there can't be down and dirty, hot sex?

To be clear, I'm talking short stories. Novels with much more plot and development might make the choice and distinction easier to make. With a short story, it feels different.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
tawnytaylor said:
Now, I will note that many of my books lean more toward erotica than erotic romance. The romance isn't necessarily the main theme of the book. The sex (exploration, experimentation, experience) is.
My novels are erotic romance while my short stories tend to have the setup leading into hot sex. Often with nods toward a happy ending or with a committed couple. Like what you said above, my short stories are about the experience. I like the way you phrased it. That makes it a lot clearer in my mind.
 

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I get the impression Julie read something into my response I hadn't intended. As I said, I changed my covers to better fit the content, as I perceived a reader's expectations.

I don't think the line is clear cut. I don't believe you would be misleading a reader in either case. However, I do think you should do your best to identify your potential reader (based upon the content of your story) and then represent that content as clearly as possible. Like Julie said in her first response, your cover is shorthand for your book. You want to be as clear as possible in conveying the genre and tone of the story.

Personally, I'd expect a short story to be heavier on the sex and lighter on the romance. There's only so much you can do (and still make it somewhat believable) in 50, 60, even 100 pages. Thus, if this is the case, you'd want to package the book for a reader who isn't so concerned about a well-developed, deeply emotional romance relationship.

Terry Mixon said:
No bait and switch intended.

My stories cover both sides of that equation, though I would rather say they are both romantic / happy ending themes and have hot, explicit sex. Hardcore and raunchy, no. My questions only reflect my opinion that I have a foot on both sides of that fuzzy line.

If I fell clearly into one camp or the other, I wouldn't need to ask opinions.

Your comments do raise an interesting question, though. Are the markets clearly cut enough so that one style of cover or the other would be baiting and switching? Both imply erotic content. Does the outright sexuality of scantily clad women and almost naked people mean there can't be a romantic theme? Does the reverse mean that there can't be down and dirty, hot sex?

To be clear, I'm talking short stories. Novels with much more plot and development might make the choice and distinction easier to make. With a short story, it feels different.
 

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If this is the case, I'd market it as erotica, not erotic romance. And I'd pick a cover that suggests sex, versus romance. It's okay to have a nod to, a suggestion of a HEA in erotica. It's not okay (with most readers) to have ONLY a nod/suggestion of an HEA in erotic romance. Market it as romance and you'll get some irritated readers.

Does that help?

Terry Mixon said:
My novels tilt toward erotic romance while my short stories tend to have the setup leading into hot sex. Often with nods toward a happy ending or with a committed couple. Like what you said above, my short stories are about the experience. I like the way you phrased it. That makes it a lot clearer in my mind.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
tawnytaylor said:
If this is the case, I'd market it as erotica, not erotic romance. And I'd pick a cover that suggests sex, versus romance. It's okay to have a nod to, a suggestion of a HEA in erotica. It's not okay (with most readers) to have ONLY a nod/suggestion of an HEA in erotic romance. Market it as romance and you'll get some irritated readers.

Does that help?
It does. Thanks.
 

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I also agree that the cover has to match the story.  What's the tone?  Work from that end back to the picture and title.  The cover for something like Daddy's Daughter Does Dallas is not going to be the same as the cover for Mary's Journey.  Both can be equally explicit but the feel is probably different.
 

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I'd never thought about it before but do tend to subconsciouly (until now) class covers with couples in sexual positions as being more porn, less plot. 
 

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What is the ratio of men to women that read erotica?

As far as I understand it it's hugely stacked along the female side. I could be wrong mind you.

The interesting thing is this:

Ask yourself what are the dominant image/gender in the ads in men's magazines (I don't mean porn necessarily), GQ or whatever... 'female', the majority of the images will be of attractive females. Why? Because men want to.... you know what... with females.

Now take a look in Vogue, Harpers and Blah or wot-not, and find out what is the predominant images/gender in the ads. Is it men? Noooooo.... it's beautiful women :) Why? Because in female psychology all women consider that the first most important factor is becoming a beautiful woman (and how to become one) as a pre-requisite for getting the man they want.

Therefore.... women are always attracted to other beautiful women, as are men. So...

My point is...... you cant go far wrong with hot women on your cover.......

Unless it's gay erotica of course... in which case you could ::)
 

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in some kind of clench
That's "clinch." :)

I don't write terribly sexy erotica, and it's all erotic romance, so I tend to stick with the nekkid male chests. Anything too racy would promise more than I can give. :D I may try a sexy (but not too sexy!) female on my next hetero cover as an experiment, though, considering Tawny's advice on the matter.
 

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AnitaDobs said:
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My point is...... you cant go far wrong with hot women on your cover.......

Unless it's gay erotica of course... in which case you could ::)
Indeed, which is both of my m/m erotica stories, erotic romance (still not quite sure which camp they fall into) both have the half-nekkid man on cover. It's still very difficult to get that many with two men on the cover.
 
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