So what kinds of stories do you read? Some publishers’ and book re-sellers’ statistics indicate that “erotic” M/M stories with the highest heat levels generally outsell “sweet” romances by a wide margin, which is probably why most authors don’t write a lot of the sweet variety. Those who write sweet romances haven’t made much inroads into your preferences. You say you want these books but you may be speaking with a forked tongue 🙂 when you indicate that you prefer M/M romances with less sex and more plot and romance (kissing, getting to know each other before diving into bed, having fun etc.), or the publishers’ and book re-sellers’ statistics are not correct.
There’s nothing wrong with adding sex to spice up M/M romances, but the characterizations of gay men as one dimensional sex machines seem to be a prevailing theme in many of these books, and after a while that becomes tedious and repetitive, so I thought I would give you some options, if you want them. Books with less sex seem to disappear off the publishers’ shelves soon after being released because very few of you buy them. It’s no wonder that the writers are concentrating on what sells – they don’t write for fun. I’m not saying that every book with a high heat level is a best seller – far from it – but the chances are, if you check the publishers’ sites, the best sellers will be those with the highest heat.
I read and enjoy my share of gay romances with heat levels that are off the scale, but my taste encompasses a full range of stories, from those with sex in the last chapter (or none at all, especially murder mysteries where the focus is on the plot and catching the killers), as well as menage stories involving three (or more) men in sexual relationships which obviously have more sex, because as my good friend Batboy told me once, gay men probably have more sex because there is more than one dick in play. 🙂 Sure, gay men may have more opportunities for sex than straight men, but it gets tiresome to read book after book where the “romance” doesn’t touch on other aspects of the guys’ lives and seems to focus entirely in the bedroom. I’m sure that many of you have different tastes in M/M romances with emphasis on varying plots and characterizations, but your buying patterns do not show a marked preference for the books that have a heat level of 1 or 2. Whenever I do my annual survey about what readers want in their M/M books, you indicate that you want more plot and characterization and less emphasis on sex, but what you buy does not seem to be consistent with what you say, since you buy waaaay more books with a heat level that’s off the scale, than the reverse.
I did a short email survey of a few publishers and a well known re-seller, and their conclusion is something we all know – sex sells!! However, what I didn’t realize was that the gap in sales between sweet and hot romances was so large, so it’s no wonder that the authors are going where the money is. If more M/M readers speak differently with their wallets, perhaps this trend could move slightly in the other direction. Here are some sales stats provided by ARe, one of the largest re-sellers of erotic books. Bear in mind that this data includes all erotic books, but statistically M/M readers’ preferences across the board are similar, whichever sub genre you buy:
Sales statistics for the last 12 months:
Heat level 1- .73%
Heat level 2- 1.9%
Heat level 3- 10.32%
Heat level 4- 32.61%
Heat level 5- 50.57%
One M/M publisher gave me two scenarios. In one, if you were to compare sales by new authors, those with the highest heat level in the same price range would outsell sweet romances by a margin of 10 to 1. In the other scenario, if a well known author with a large fan base were to release two books – one with a low heat rating and the other at the opposite end of the spectrum, the one with the higher heat rating would still outsell the other book, but by a smaller margin, perhaps between 2 – 5 times as much. Obviously, royalties are the deciding factor for authors, and most of them would determine that it wasn’t worth writing books with a heat rating of 1. Another publisher’s sales figures were not as dramatic in terms of the difference in sales, but they still showed a marked increase in book sales when comparing those at both ends of the heat level. They also indicated that authors promoted their books with a lower heat rating a lot more, but sales still lagged. Of course not all hot romances sell by the truckload because good writing is still important, but these books have a better sales record.
One publisher that is bucking this trend said that their experience shows that the books which sell the best are the ones in the middle, probably because readers who like heavily erotic titles will read books with lighter sexual content, but the reverse is not necessarily true. Also, a few of their books that have virtually no sexual content, but are wonderful romances, consistently sell a lot.
I have included with this post some of my favourite sweet romances and I also asked the guest reviewers on the site to come up with their picks, and did they ever deliver! If you want to try something different than what you have been buying to date, here are a few selections. I should mention that while these books have less sex a few of them may not exactly fit the definition of “sweet” because they are dark or angsty and there may be murders from time to time; 🙂 e.g. Cut & Run and Wicked Gentlemen, but strangely they are best sellers even though there’s minimal sex. One book, (I’ll Be Your Drill Soldier) might be a little hotter than the others – I can’t recall the intimate details since I read it awhile ago. 🙂 I have inserted the publishers where I remember them but they may only be 80% correct since I’m going from memory – so you take your chances.
The One That Got Away by Madeleine Urban and Rhianne Aile – Dreamspinner
Cut & Run by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux – Dreamspinner
Sticks & Stones by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux – Dreamspinner
Almost Like Being in Love by Steve Kluger
Faith & Fidelity Tere Michaels – Loose Id
Shining in the Sun by Alex Beecroft – Samhain Publishing
The Year Without Summer by G.S. Wiley (historical) Dreamspinner
Zero at the Bone by Jane Seville – Dreamspinner
Shades of Grey by Brooke McKinley – Dreamspinner
Counterpoint by Ruth Sims – Dreamspinner
Tigers & Devils by Sean Kennedy – Dreamspinner
Captain’s Surrender by Alex Beecroft – Samhain
Dear Mister President by Adam Fitzroy – Manifold Press
“Lessons In” series (Love, Desire, Discovery, Power, Temptation, Seduction and Trust) by Charlie Cochrane – Samhain
Wicked Gentlemen by Ginn Hale – Blind Eye Books
My Summer of Wes by Missy Welsh
Arson of the Heart by Sasha L. Miller
I’ll Be Your Drill, Soldier (title is deceiving *g*) by Crystal Rose
Scarlet and the White Wolf series by Kirby Crow – MLR Press
Arsen! by Cap Iverson
Finding Faith by Andrew Barriger
Here & Now by Lisa Marie Davis – Dreamspinner
A Dream Come True by Addison Albright
Another Dream by Addison Albright
Counterpoint – Book I of Song of the Fallen by Rachel Haimowitz
Love in the Library by JM Snyder
L.B. Gregg’s books – Aspen Mountain Press
Jackass Flats by Julia Talbot – Torquere
Take My Picture by Giselle Ellis – Dreamspinner
Quinn’s Hart by Cassandra Gold – Dreamspinner
Love Means Courage by Andrew Grey – Dreamspinner
Most books by Josh Lanyon (except Mexican Heat which is pretty hot) – Loose Id, MLR Press and Samhain Publishing
A Bid For Love by T.D. McKinney & Terry Wylie – Amber Allure
The Long Way Home by Z.A. Maxfield
Moving On by Fabian Black
Brushback by Jamie Schofield
Go Fish by H.T. Murray – Torquere
Pain Mangement by Cassidy Ryan
Allen, Tamara Whistling in the Dark historical. Sex scene level: 2, implied, but not shown. Sweet romance.
Crow, Anah A Sweet Gesture contemporary novelette. Sex scene level: 2, implied. Sweet romance.
Gabaldon, Diana Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade historical. Sex scene level: low 3, non-explicit.
Gabaldon, Diana Lord John and the Hand of Devils historical. Sex scene level: 1, none. No romance.
Gabaldon, Diana Lord John and the Private Matter historical. Sex scene level: 2, implied once but not shown. No romance.
Irving, Jan Summer Gardener paranomal, sex scene level: 2, non-explicit.
Kimberling, Nicole Turnskin Fantasy. Sex scene level: 2, non-explicit.
Kushner, Ellen The Fall of the Kings (with Delia Sherman) epic fantasy. Sex scene level: 2, non-explicit.
Kushner, Ellen The Privilege of the Sword epic fantasy. Sex scene level: 2, non-explicit.
Kushner, Ellen Swordspoint epic fantasy. Sex scene level: 2, implied but not shown.
Lane, Thom White Flag contemporary. Sex scene level: 2 to 3. Nonexplicit. Emphasis on romance.
Larson, Kara Defining Right Page of Pentacles contemporary. Sex scene level: 2 to 3, non-explicit.
Sims, Ruth The Phoenix historical. Sex scene level: 2, non-explicit.
Snyder, J. M. Bounty of the Heart historical. Sex scene level: 1, none. Sweet romance.
Snyder, J. M. Henry and Jim contemporary short story. Sex scene level: 1, none. Sweet romance.
Spencer, Sonja The Sheikh and the Servant historical. Sex scene level: 2 to 3. One slightly explicit scene at end, otherwise sweet romance with no sex.
Wiley, G. S. The Nest gay fiction / young adult coming-of-age story. No sex scenes.
If you have any sweet romances that you would like to recommend to other readers that are not on this list please add them in the comments.