Friday, August 24, 2012

Chase of a Dream: Which Sells Better, Erotic or Censored Non-Erotic Version

For those who don't know, when I released Chase of a Dream I published two versions of the same book. One was the unabridged erotic romance with all the original erotic scenes and one was the abridged version with all the explicit erotic scenes edited out of the book.

I did this for several reasons. One, because I wanted to see if it could be done without hurting the storyline. I discovered I only had to cut 7,000 words from the original 60,000 word novel and nothing at all changed in the story. It's still a romance, it's still as emotional, and it still has a happy ending.

The second reason I did this was to see if I could do it. I've been writing erotica for so long I truly wasn't sure if I could write something that wasn't erotic. What I discovered was interesting. While I do write explicit sex scenes in my books, I don't write that many. Again, interesting. After editing the erotic scenes out of Chase of a Dream I went back to other books I'd written and had published through publishers and I found the same pattern in almost each book. Of course some did have slightly more than others, but it all averaged out to not as much as I thought I'd had. I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. I do try to give my readers what I think they want because that's what matters the most to me.

The third reason I released two versions of COAD was to see which version would sell better...or if there would be any difference at all. I didn't know what to expect. I'd never seen this done before with an erotic romance where an author self-censors the sex scenes and releases both versions at the same time. One of the drawbacks of writing erotic romance is that readers are discreet and they don't like to leave reviews as much as readers who read non-erotic romance. So my only indication is how the book sells.

I also have had several reviews over the years where a handful of select readers have left reviews of my books that said there was too much sex. Or that something bothered them about the sex scenes. This always confused me because I'm a gay man and I know how gay men have sex, I know how they think about sex, and I know how they react to sex. They aren't that much different than straight men. Because this isn't a lecture on how gay men think about sex, you'll just have to take my word for this. I also don't feel like handing out free advice today from my own personal experiences. You can read about them in my books if you're interested. Almost every sex scene I've ever written was based on some kind of a personal experience I've had in the past.

Ultimately, my goal in releasing two versions of COAD was to give readers a choice. This way those who think I write too much sex, and have said this openly, would now have a choice. That choice is important to me. I want readers to have choices like this...but without compromising what I know is real. In other words, I'm not going to pander to a small group who doesn't want to read about what gay sex is really like. It is what it is, and what you saw on Oprah and Sex in the City about gay men is about as accurate as those women's magazines where the perfect working mom keeps a perfect house and never has a moment of stress. But I don't mind removing the sex so I don't offend that group who prefers not to read about what's real.

In any event, it turns out the unabridged erotic version of COAD is selling much better than the non-erotic abridged version. And that's not concentrated on any one web site in particular. It's across the board, from Amazon to Smashwords to ARe. Which means this will most likely be the last time I ever release two versions of one book at the same time. The next installment in the Chase of a Lifetime series will not be self-published on Amazon. And it will be the full uncensored erotic romance. I pitched the series to Ravenous Romance and they bought it. I'll post more about it in the future. I'm about halfway through it right now and I'm not sure which direction it's going. I can give you this small hint: Len Mayfield is forced to contact his family in Connecticut after many years of not wanting to deal with them at all. And Jim Darling finally finds out what his in-laws are like.

I will be taking a short break from self-publishing for a while to concentrate on books I've been contracted to do with ravenous romance. But this is by no means the end of the line for me. As difficult as self-publishing can be, I've enjoyed my experiences so far and I will do more in the future. I prefer working with a publisher. I like the collaboration and I love working with Holly and my editors at ravenous romance. It gives me more time to concentrate on the book, and not the technical or business issues that involve publishing a book. Tony and I have been planning a trip to Maine for a long time and something keeps happening to stop us. But I do plan on going soon, and I'm making a point to stop in at the ravenous romance offices in MA to see Holly. I'll post photos when I do.

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