June 10, 2015

Do We Need Sex To Sell?

Well Strung
Well-Strung … and possibly, well-hung.

By Elizabeth Shore

Some people have all the luck. If you’re a guy and an outrageously talented baseball player  – as in talented enough for the MLB – you have the opportunity to have a great career and make an outrageously insane amount of money. But what if you’re equally as athletically gifted except your sport just happens to be discus throwing? Not only can you not give up your day job, you probably have to take a second one just for the money to participate.

For those in the fringe areas of any genre, whether it be sports or pop culture or even the corporate world, extra steps are often required for any chance at all to stand out. Take the world of classical music. Quick – can you name the top artist in opera right now? How about the best-selling violinist? Go ahead and think on that. I’ll wait.

Here’s the thing, though. Unless you high-tail it over to Google or you happen to love classical music, chances are slim that you’d know the answers no matter how hard you think. But classical musicians are no dummies. Despite their high-brow image they know as well as anyone that sex sells. So nowadays, even for classical musicians, if they’ve got it, they’re flaunting it.

Chris Marchant
Chris Marchant

Take Well-Strung, for example. A quartet of string musicians, Well-Strung has been making a name for themselves with a combination of talent, music that mashes classical with pop, and, let’s face-it, their frequently shirtless, ripped-bodied second violinist, Christopher Marchant. Chris isn’t shy about taking his shirt off. In fact, he’s not shy about taking all his clothes off, much to the delight of his fans. Chris and his pecs have begun earning the quartet attention, as evidenced by articles in New York magazine and the Huffington Post, among others. But a couple of years ago they received a less-than-favorable review in the august New York Times, where it was written of them, “as a classical ensemble, the quartet barely passes muster.” Ouch! A spank like that one might have sunk another group, but with near-naked pix of the well-built Marchand going around, Well-Strung has managed not only to survive but to thrive.

Lara St John CD Cover
Lara St. John’s controversial CD cover

Several years ago musician Lara St. John caused a stir when she appeared topless on the cover of her CD, with only a well-placed violin coming between her girls and the viewer. Now, admittedly, part of the kerfuffle was caused also by the fact that St. John looked as if she were a mere teenager instead of in her mid-20s, which she actually was at the time. But did that cover help with the CD’s sales? asked no one, ever. You can bet your sweet Stradivarius it did. Was Lara St. John pressured to do it? She said in interviews years later she wasn’t and has no regrets about the picture. Yet one has to wonder who came up with the idea in the first place. Those other than St. John with skin in the game certainly benefitted from her titillating CD cover photo.

So yes, as we come to the Captain Obvious conclusion, sex sells. Everywhere. In order to get some needed attention, should we romance authors take a cue from classical musicians and market not just the sexy content of our books but our sexy selves as well?

With annual sales well over a billion dollars every year, romance isn’t exactly a fringe genre. Everyone knows that. And with the spike in indy publishing the market is more crowded than ever. How does an unknown author get her books to stand out among the Nora Roberts and Debbie Macombers of the world? Should we adapt an equally sexy image as the heroines we create and leapfrog our way to the top by baring all – or at least by baring some?

What do you think? Would you drop your top to sell more books or are you and your girly bits staying under wraps. Share your thoughts in the comments section below, and don’t forget to follow us at Lady Smut. We’ll always give you the naked truth.



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  • Post authorKat Attalla

    Sadly I’m afraid if I dropped my top I would sell notebooks. I leave that up to the scantily clad hero and heroine I choose for the book cover.

    Reply to Kat Attalla
  • Post authorKel

    I think with Romance, sex is already selling the books…

    I mean, the whole point is kind of that the book is about interpersonal interaction of some kind. There might be world-saving and their might be erotic encounters, and their might be fights or rock stars or race cars or whatever.

    But we’re pretty much guaranteed characters interacting. A good romance will have interesting and captivating characters with believable situations (whatever they are) and not too many gaping plot holes. The story will be about the people, not the spaceships (unless the people happen to be the spaceships, thank you Ms. McCaffrey) and the interesting thing might be the relationship, not the battle to save the kingdom (or wherever).

    Romance is a more sophisticated selling of sex. It’s the whole shebang, not just the pretty, pretty pictures. Romance is the tension, the touch, the longing, the moment when skin meets skin, the anguish of loss, the feeling of betrayal or the vindication of revenge. Romance is the fantasies that other people don’t let themselves have because they’re too raw, or too forbidden, or too intense.

    The question isn’t “Would you use sex to sell?” it’s “What sex are you already using?”.

    • Post authorElizabeth Shore

      All excellent points, Kel (and nice to have you back!).

      We do indeed get all of that in the content of the books, which for me is why I love them. But there are lots and lots of posts and talk about romance covers. I’m wondering if it would spark more talk, more posts, more overall publicity, if the writer herself decided to get all dolled up and sexy and stick herself on the cover. Be the scantily-clad heroine. Be the slinky woman whose got the hunky guy’s arms positioned just so around her naked body. If that cover photo was the writer herself, would the talk promote sales?

      Reply to Elizabeth Shore

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