I don't really know how to approach this, because I'm not a particularly subtle or nuanced person. I certainly can't approach it from the point of view of anything resembling social justice, because this thing I'm going to talk about is at least somewhat motivated by my own personal frustrations at getting left behind and overlooked in the erotica market.
Right now, I'm in the middle of updating my entire backlist with new cover art and formatting, in the hopes of appearing a bit more put-together and possibly drawing in additional readers. For the most part, I try not to just fire and forget my stories. Unfortunately, I have over 200 titles, (almost all of them short or collections), so it's taking, like, fucking forever.
But sometimes I peruse the best sellers, or even just check out titles I see in the also bought section of my own works.
I shouldn't. It's a bad idea because it's just depressing. It seems like pretty much everyone else is doing better than me.
What's starting to really get to me though is that it seems like erotica that goes out of its way to intentionally objectify women is selling off the shelves. It's always hitting the top charts. Now...I don't really want to swerve into 'moral high ground' territory, partially because I do write erotica where one guy fucks a lot of women and it pretty much always turns into a harem situation, and partially because I understand the difference between fantasy and reality, and I think pretty much everyone has fucked up fantasies, and that's fine.
So I'm not here to shame people or advocate tearing these stories down or anything. I actually just want to co-exist.
It's just that...when I check out the 1 and 2 star reviews, they almost always say the same things: The women are flat, one-dimensional, useless characters who exist only to be fucked and satisfy the male lead. I mean, that's a pretty common complaint.
To be clear, I don't think I'm an amazing writer, or that I have great characters, but I do at least intentionally try to inject certain things into my writing. Namely, I try to give the female characters some depth, with their own motivations and problems that don't revolve around getting fucked by the main character. Nor do the women rely entirely on him. I try to mix it up, but I frequently feature strong female protagonists and side characters. I try not to make it overt, because I know how easily that gets subverted into other things. I also try to work in themes like consent and respect and trust and communication. Again, I try not to make it overbearing, more just work it into the narrative.
As the author, I don't know how well I do, but no one's really complained so far, so that's something at least.
But I guess what got me really thinking on this was this title called Alpha Online. I don't want to link to it because clearly it has enough exposure and maybe that's just being petty but I'm honestly in a shit mood right now because it's been a really fucking stressful year so far.
Anyway, it's got all the sort of cliched, annoying things I've spent a long time trying to avoid in the description, with the bold-faced words about SEXY, SUBMISSIVE WOMEN just waiting to be DOMINATED BY A TRUE ALPHA. Like, come on, am I the only one who finds that just laughably lame? And I'm not even ripping on the author. I mean, I find this shit in like lots of top-selling erotica. Who are all these people that don't find this blatant, in-your-fucking-face marketing a total turn off?
I guess what I'm really digging at here is...where are all these people who lament how blatantly stupid and pandering erotica writing and marketing has gotten? I mean, I get it, I know that erotica is mainly here as fantasy fulfillment and to get you off. And that's fine. But this is just getting ridiculous.
Where are these people who apparently hate shallow, one-dimension characters and pandering wish-fulfillment fantasies? They apparently have bought a lot of this stuff that they hate, because they're frequently leaving reviews complaining about how much they hate them. So what's preventing them from following that thought train through to the end and seeking out erotica that has more positive views on strong female characters and consent and happy, trusting relationships? Those don't seem to be hitting any of the bestseller rankings.
Like I said, I'm not completely sure how to go about this, and I'm not really trying to tear down anyone else. I just wish me and authors like me would stop getting passed over when we are apparently trying to service an aspect of the market that is being sorely asked for, and yet the askers are just ignoring us.
It's almost like there's an abusive relationship theme in there.
Should I just give up? I don't just 'write whatever sells'. I try to find a happy balance between writing what I want to (and can) write and what people want to read. There's some stuff I won't write because I suck at it and some stuff I'm not so sure about writing because I feel like it would clash with the themes I've been cultivating for over three years now with my works.
But should I just compromise on that? I need to pay my bills, I'm not even asking to be rich or mega successful. I guess I'm just wondering if I should start writing about A HAREM OF HOT SLUTS just begging for TOTAL DOMINATION by a REAL MAN.
Shit, I don't know.