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Heat Levels (where we are in 2021)


We’re doing a #RomanceClass lecture on Heat Levels on Saturday, and I’d like to share a timeline of how we’ve started writing sex scenes. Just to illustrate that it’s good to constantly evaluate our position and advice on this and update ourselves based on seeing the response to the books we’ve written.

Previously on RomanceClass writing sex scenes:

2013, first ever romanceclass. No finished manuscript and published book had open-door sex scenes. Someone asked, was that a choice? Were they not allowed to write it? And there was no rule against writing open-door sex! But none of the authors wrote it. Why not? Answers ranged from they didn’t know they could, they weren’t comfortable writing sex scenes, they didn’t like sex scenes in books, their story didn’t involve sex, etc. Many of us actually read books with open-door sex scenes, so this required some unpacking as to why we read it but didn’t write it. Eventually some of us decided we would write it (and learn how).

2014, buqosteamyreads. With a corporate retailer sponsor, we did a class that required open-door sex scenes, and established our first guidelines: sex scenes must show consent, and “responsibility” (ie condom use, mention of testing, acknowledgement of pill, as needed). Personally I hadn’t been writing open-door sex scenes before this and only started with the class. Some RomanceClass authors did not participate in this class, and continued to write books with no sex scenes, because that’s absolutely ok.

– After 2014, the RomanceClass catalogue began to diversify from no books with sex to almost 50% with closed-door sex or open-door sex.

2017, Feels So Hot. We had our first adults-only event, featuring a live reading program composed of only sex scenes from selected books. The event tickets sold out in hours. Main takeaway: Contrary to what we had assumed, Filipinos are ready to write and read and buy (and also watch people read) books with sex scenes, provided we create a space where we can enjoy this without judgment and maybe make it fun.

– At some point within this timeline we introduced Heat Levels to RomanceClass authors. Sometimes our Heat Levels infographic will be seen by another romance community maybe in another country like the US, and it leads to questions that maybe inspired me to write this timeline so I can link to it. We developed this infographic for RomanceClass, based on our experience as Filipino authors writing romance and sex, and having to find venues to sell our books in the Philippines but also factoring in world retailers. Some countries have a totally different culture regarding sex, and what a safe environment to discuss sex looks like. What we designed has so far matched ours, and results may vary. We’ve also updated the infographic to make it describe only whether there is sex and how much sex you can expect. A previous version called a low heat level “Sweet” and a high heat level “Steamy” which over time we learned is entirely inaccurate because we’ve written books that have explicit sex where characters are very sweet to each other, and books that have no on-page sex but a character’s inner monologue is quite raunchy and steamy.

2019, Heat Levels. This has been mostly for authors who are still figuring out which heat level to write in. If an author already knows, this won’t be necessary or new even. But as we saw RomanceClass readers pick up on the heat levels and what they mean, and make reading choices based on heat level, we saw how helpful it is to have a shared vocabulary. Usually publishers establish this with imprints and cover design and author branding. In a community of self-publishers you’ll need to do some work to establish that shared meaning among authors and also readers. This is a straightforward way to do it, and when included in the book description and inside pages, helps a new author reach the readers looking for exactly that thing.

2020, Heat Level 0 Represent. As more books were written and more authors were choosing higher heat levels, we wanted to remind our community of authors and readers that low heat levels are absolutely still part of romance (absolutely still part of adult romance also). Again, over time, we saw that our lower heat books were being recommended for a range of reasons. We’re glad we can provide that for readers and will continue to support authors who choose to write lower heat.

– 2021. On romanceclassbooks.com you can sort our list of books by heat level. There are 33 titles under Heat Level 0. There are 47 titles under Heat Level 3.

– Maybe 2021. Author Brianna Ocampo wrote Truth or Dare, a short book that has a M/M/F threesome with M/F HEA, so far the first Heat Level 4. (It’s not available to purchase yet.)

And now you’re all caught up. Will be seeing some of you on Saturday! Don’t forget your earphones.

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Mina V. Esguerra writes and publishes romance novels. She founded #RomanceClass, a community of Filipino authors of romance in English.
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