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For years, erotica has been a dirty little secret; those books with lurid covers that people keep hidden deep in their closets where no unsuspecting houseguest can stumble upon them. But thanks to the rise of self-publishing, erotica has hit the mainstream, making it easier than ever for readers to get their hands on well-written, complex adult stories. In fact, BookTrib even has its own area dedicated to erotica authors, called After Dark. So, to shed a little more light on how the genre has grown and developed, here’s a complete user guide to the ins and outs of erotica:


Erotica has been around for thousands of years, but lately it’s evolving within the publishing industry in a new and exciting way. While almost every generation has an erotic novel that creeps into mainstream culture –- ours is 50 Shades of Grey, for example -– for the most part, erotica has carried a stigma that’s been difficult to overcome. But the anonymity of the Internet has allowed erotica to crawl out of the shadows and has created a much more interactive community where anyone can publish their erotica online.

50ShadesofGreyCoverArtNow, instead of having to buy potentially embarrassing books at the bookstore, readers can simply download and hide those titles on their e-readers. Not too long ago, most traditional publishing stayed far away from straight-forward erotica, with x-rated novels regulated to small indie presses or tucked away imprints. But the success of 50 Shades has helped usher in a new wave of erotic publishing, with previously self-published books now getting picked up by larger presses.

Erotic novels are defined as fictional or nonfictional stories meant to sexually arouse the reader. The amount of plot and/or character development varies depending on the book –- and what you’re looking for. Diving into the world of erotica is all about finding your tropes, or those certain elements you find more engaging and titillating than others. Maybe you’re interested in reading about spanking, or light bondage, or threesomes. No judgments here. And luckily, no matter what your trope is Amazon probably has a book, or two or several thousand, to meet your needs. Don’t believe me? Then here’s some gingerbread man erotica.

Just like any kind of publishing, certain trends tend to dominate the market more than others. Since the commercial success of 50 Shades of Grey, light BDSM or “mommyporn” as its been dubbed, has saturated the shelves. But there’s also been a huge rise in monster porn and alien porn. Neither are new concepts; tentacle porn has existed in Japan for hundreds of years, though all the alien sex is a more recent phenomenon. We’re also starting to see the rise of something called “romantica” (which may deserve its own User Guide – stay tuned!), a newly named genre that combines classic romance novel tropes with more explicit sexual content than we’re used to seeing in normal bodice-rippers. Regardless, self-publishing has marked a boom in erotica that we’ve yet to see the end of. And probably never will at this point.


41MVA2kIpQL._SX346_BO1,204,203,200_We have to assume erotica has existed for as long as humans have been capable of communication. Even aboriginals were etching pictures of sexual acts into their cave walls. Every culture has their own experience and history regarding recorded sexual content. In the Western world, we’ve uncovered erotica in almost every era, from ancient Roman texts to drawings and books from the middle ages. But erotica as we know it really started to develop in the 18th century along with the rise of the novel. Instead of the nonfiction or instructional erotic material readers were used to, authors began penning explicit and often critically-acclaimed stories such as the classic Fanny Hill.

41olfzYn9JL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Erotica took a hit during the Victorian era, when puritanical ideals dominated mainstream culture. Erotic novels became increasingly taboo and were considered low-brow, and the quality of writing dropped significantly. Erotica didn’t really hit the mainstream again until the early 20th century when writers like Nabokov, Henry Miller and Kate Chopin began publishing more explicit books through traditional means. Since then, certain erotic stories have been embraced by mainstream culture – like The Story of O – with popular writers dabbling in the genre. Anne Rice with The Sleeping Beauty Quartet, is one example. When the Internet took over our culture climate, it brought with it fanfic and communities where users could post their own erotic stories. From there, combined with the rise of self-publishing and e-books, erotica has become more accessible and more prolifically written than ever before.

51WnanyZDEL._SX298_BO1,204,203,200_It’s important to note that our perception of erotica can change sharply by generation. Take Lolita for example. Definitely taboo, but we would probably no longer classify it as straight-up erotica. With the broad reach of the internet, how we label genre is becoming more nuanced even as the genres themselves expand significantly. By self-publishing erotica through fan appreciation sites and Amazon self-publishing, readers are able to fully explore niche areas of erotica in a way that is more public than ever before. The result is that more taboo topics are starting to feel mainstream, and ‘fetishes’ are at once more bizarre and more normalized.


Current Faves:

My Lady Series by Shirl Anders

511dI6wo57L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Anders certainly knows how to write a steamy love story, and she’s not afraid to touch on some taboo tropes. But her main, uh, passion is alpha men, who aren’t afraid to exert their dominance in the bedroom. Some of them like to tie their ladies up, while others walk the line between captive and lover. These might not be the most PC stories, but they are definitely very hot. Anders’ series follows a group of former spies, soldiers and noblemen in regency England as they all find love. A lot of the self-published erotica out there is either too short or poorly written, but Anders gives her readers a well-crafted story that’s almost always book-length. She has since started a new (just as hot!) series called Texas Alphas. Her latest book, Their Ex’s Redrock Twilight, came out on March 10, and you can bet it’s full of some very sexy scenes.


The Sinners on Tour Series by Olivia Cunning

51J0h3YEOxL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_If you like sexy stories and super hot rock stars -– and who doesn’t? -– then Cunning’s books are definitely for you. She’s up to 8 books in her popular series, all focused on the members of popular rock band Sinners. Each man has a different sexual proclivity and their lady loves are more than willing to play along. Start with Backstage Pass, the story of lead guitarist Brian and Myrna, the psychologist he falls hard for. Plus some other band members might make a cameo or two in their bedroom! The latest story in the series Almost Paradise came out March 15, starring drummer Eric and his new wife Rebekah.