On Deciding to Write Dark Erotic Fantasy

by Oct 15, 2023Genre, Writing Journey

So quite a few things have happened since my last post on where I want to go with my writing, and while it hasn’t changed the direction I want to go in, it has inspired me to go even further in the non-commercial direction for my novels.

Here are the things that have changed my thinking:

  1. I published The Crow Prince, a dark erotic fantasy novella, and it did better with dark romance readers than I expected.
  2. I’ve seen several books trend in popularity among dark romance readers that aren’t romances.
  3. I discovered a new marketing framework that incorporates those who don’t write to market.
  4. I read a good dark fantasy romance book and just did not enjoy any of the parts that leaned into the romance.

Let’s go through each of these events in turn and expand on how they’ve nudged me toward a more radical novel genre direction.

The Crow Prince’s Reception

So let’s start with my late September release, The Crow Prince. It’s a 40K word novella featuring sharing, a MFM “romance,” and lots of fantasy plotting and worldbuilding. And it earned me more money than any previous book in just 5 days. From direct sales on my website. It bombed on Smashwords. Also, my beta readers absolutely loved the book, though they pined for a proper romance.

What does this tell me? That dark romance readers are willing to read other stuff, as long as there’s a hot, compelling villain and he gets with the heroine at the end. One path into more of a romance could be focusing on the heroine as a villain along with the hero.

Popularity of Non-Romance Novels in Dark Romance Groups

Over the past few months, I’ve noticed quite a few non-romance books make a big splash in dark romance groups. They all feature dark eroticism, lots of messed up “pitch black” elements, and are novel-length.

What does this tell me? Like with my own novella, dark romance readers are willing to read stuff besides romance, as long as it features a hot, compelling villain and lots of dark eroticism. Books that really lean into the blood and gore and elements of pitch black seem to do really well too.

A New Marketing Framework for Success Without Writing to Market

This is probably the biggest and most recent discovery that has convinced me to be just a little braver with where I want to go as a novelist. I recently discovered a framework called the author ecosystem that divides marketing and sales approaches for indies into five major categories that often lead to success. The quiz said I was a forest—an author that doesn’t write to trend or genre convention. The advice for such an author made a lot of sense to me. It’s a path I think I can actually follow, which is super exciting.

What does this tell me? That there’s room in the author world for those who don’t write precisely to market. And now I have a more focused framework that can serve as the blueprint for my marketing plan.

More Evidence That I Don’t Enjoy Romance

So I recently finished a big dark fantasy romance release. It was well-written with a great plot and characters, but I still only felt so-so about it because despite its relative darkness, it was sooo romantic. Every romancey scene made my interest wane. I couldn’t wait for those moments to end. Similarly, I’ve had so much trouble trying to make The Crow Prince into a dark romance. I dread the idea of weaving in romance beats because that’s so boring to me.

What does this tell me? This has been pretty self-evident to me from early on: I don’t like romance. I just don’t. I like some romance books despite the fact that they’re romances. Most of said books aren’t really romances, or they barely manage to qualify. But I do love dark love stories. I love dark eroticism. I love stories with full stories and complex characters. I love dark romance adjacent books.

Okay. So What Am I Doing Now?

I’m experimenting with the idea of writing dark erotic fantasy novels instead of dark fantasy romance. I absolutely love dark fantasy and dark erotic fiction, so that’s what I want to focus on writing novel-wise. I’m talking stuff like The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, Shadow and Bone, and the newest Star Wars trilogy (the one with Kylo Ren), except far more adult, with explicit sex and violence and heroines who end up with the villain. And a greater focus on those villains and their complicated relationship with the heroine. That’s what I yearn for, so that’s what I’m going to write.

I still want to focus my erotica on short noncon smut and hope that brings in more consistent income.

I think my novels will be reasonably popular despite not being real romances, but the only way I’ll ever know is if I try.