The Rise of the Cozy, Clean Fiction Novel – Profitable Escapes
I have organized a lot of Instafreebie Giveaways. And I join as many as my books will fit into. (See my Free Books page for a current list.)
The biggest disappointment is when I put in the first line of the description “Sweet/Clean/Cosy Only, Please”) or some variation. And then get bodice rippers and graphic sex acts hidden in the middle of it. Not to mention foul language that you wouldn’t tell your aunt or much less the pastor in church.
Sure, if you say “no six-pack abs covers” this will rule out a lot of them. And if they have “erotic” as one of the genres (face palm – what were they thinking?) Clean fiction? Not hardly. (And I reengly I caught 5 of these from one “author” under 5 different pen names – submitted recently as “regency romances” with floor-length hoop-dresses on the cover – and one of those even had graphic sex in the introduction…)
Why I organize for this is simple: these clean/cozy/sweet fiction books convert to subscribers better and are more profitable on Amazon. The second reason is that this is the type of book I write, so I want to build an audience that likes this type of book – and will buy mine.
The probable cause for their rise is that in our modern days of graphic everything (especially corporate news, and Facebook, Twitter) and where comedians/ennes, politicians, and pundits persist in c*ssing on-air, in print, and on video (especially corporate news, and Facebook, Twitter), where special interest groups are pushing their own world view down our throats constantly (especially politicians, Facebook, Google, corporate media, and celebrities) – it’s small wonder that G-rated movies and books are more popular than ever. Like the interesting sudden rise in viewership for the Hallmark Channel movies.
People simply want a break. They want entertainment that isn’t depressing.
I’ve looked around on the Internet to get some idea of what the general consensus for this type of book is.
Michelle M. Pillow has this “sensuality scale”:
- SWEET/CLEAN: Behind-closed-doors sex and/or very mild love scenes and sexual encounters
- SENSUAL: Love scenes comparative to most romance novels published today
- SPICY: Heavy sexual tension; graphic details and more sexual encounters
- CARNAL: Graphic sex and language; may be offensive to delicate readers; contains many sexual encounters and can include unconventional sex not normally found in romance; typically known as erotic
Christy Mauer describes her view of cozy mysteries:
My mom and I went to the library recently, and she was in the mystery section. We love reading cozy mystery books, but sometimes you’ll pick a series that’s not all that clean. Sometimes they’ll have sexual situations or not very nice language. When I pick up a cozy mystery, I want it to be cute, quirky and clean. A lot of them are just that, but you just never know anymore. My first experience with cozy mystery books was The Cat Who series by Lilian Jackson Braun, so that shaped my idea of the cozy genre. They include no sex and very little cursing. The murders aren’t gruesome, and they are always solved by the lead character in the book.
Kristin Holt has a long shopping list she’s pulled from a wide selection of authors, particularly about what are sweet romances:
1. Sweet romances emphasize emotional intimacy and may contain sexual tension (G to PG heat levels).
2. Sweet romances show no explicit sexual details, contain no sexual scenes, and do not contain pre- or extra-marital sex.
3. However, hero and heroine may have a [sexual] history—either involving each other or someone else altogether. But during the story they are chaste. Most couples will share a single kiss, or a little more. It’s possible to see sexual tension while retaining characters’ purity.
4. Sweet Romance is slow and it simmers and it’s not expressed so blatantly. The hero and heroine may not ever make the declaration until the end, but you feel it as you read, you know the love is grow[ing].
5. Sweet romance is an uncomplicated story about one person finding another. They do have conflict and obstacles however it does not change how each character the hero and heroine feel about each other.
6. Well-written Sweet Romances contain major setbacks, characters who struggle. Sweet romance can be angsty (good emotional conflict). After all, happily-ever-after is infinitely sweeter when EARNED. However, there isn’t a lot of ugliness, such as cheating, breaking up, nasty fighting between hero and heroine. Progression of the relationship is a little more complicated than the darker romances.
7. Sweet Romances are not to be confused with Christian Romance or Inspirational Romance. Sweet romances are not preachy; faith may intertwine with life, but religion is NOT a key element of the story, and characters do not have a faith crisis.
8. Sweet romances often contain strong themes along the lines of: ‘community is important’, ‘traditional values’, ‘faith and hope play a role in the story’.
9. Sweet romances have no offensive language, (though they may contain some mild language).
10. Sweet Romance must have an optimistic ending.
11. Sweet romances have ooey-gooey characters that can’t stop thinking about romance.
12. Sweet romance is young adult fiction, an immature attempt at romance, or a fiction that ignores a very integral part of life (sex, to be blatant).
Modern “Tastes” and Building an Audience Based on What They Expect
(Warning: This section below is controversial. Some might call it a rant. So be it. It explains a few things and needs to be said.)
Being frank, “LGB*” is a four-letter acronym and triggers people probably worse than an f-bomb or “N-word” or saying “sh*t” multiple times in a book or article or description.
Readers buy more of what they expect. That is what makes genres. So when people are looking for “clean” romance, “cosy” mysteries, or “sweet” YA/Teen books, they aren’t particularly looking for LGB* characters or plots or innuendos.
The vast majority of public domain books do not include such material, but a tiny minority do. Similar to the amount of LGB* books available as fiction in all the millions on Amazon.
My own opinion is that including such works under the Clean/Cozy/Sweet banner just betrays the trust of the majority of readers coming to my giveaways who aren’t expecting the “surprise” of being shown something that is offensive to them.
So I simply don’t accept anything like that into the giveaways I organize.
There is a category of giveaways on Instafreebie just for LGB* giveaways, but it is little used. Anyone is able to set up their own “Clean Romance” under that genre – but no one does that I’ve ever seen. So people who believe in that lifestyle and promoting it have no limits on what they can offer to people. Except in their own minds.
Just like there are plenty of Erotica giveaways, and they do very well. It’s just that readers who want Clean Romance, don’t want a steamy, sex-filled book snuck in on them. It violates their expectations.
If there are few LGB* giveaways, like there are very few cookbook or non-fiction giveaways, it’s probably because it’s not a widely demanded genre. Or – those agitators are just trolling destructively instead of doing something constructive to promote their cause. And yet, some at IF have insisted I not “discriminate” against these authors who consider (like the erotica and steamy romances) that they are just as “clean” as the next romance book. (Sigh.)
I am saying that in my personal view, LGB* books do not fit in Clean/Cosy/Sweet arena. And I’m also saying that I am discriminated against for saying anything like that in my Instafreebie descriptions. No minority has any more rights than any one else. And IF has every right to protect itself from the litigious few.
Meanwhile, I have to put up with not restricting LGB* books in my own giveaways – at least saying that openly in the descriptions. Why? A very few over-vocal agitators (trolls) making it hard for the rest of us giveaway organizers on IF. IMHO.
It’s a good thing I have endless patience. Because I don’t have to accept any books into my giveaways. It just gets tiring having to read or scan through all the submissions – and disapproving these “six-pack ab” covers, and historical romances that have on-page sex in the introduction, as well as authors who think that LGB* books “should” fit as Clean/Cozy/Sweet to the bulk of humanity out there. Regardless of what those readers expect. You can call my filtering “shadowbanning” like Twitter and Facebook do. Call it anything you want. It’s my giveaway, not the troll’s or the complainer’s.
And if I start having to search for LGB* terms inside these submissions, I will. Again, because those authors aren’t considerate of the giveaway organizer or the readers he wants to attract. They don’t care about reader expectations. They are simply selfish and intolerant. Like spammers and scammers.
Bottom line is that giveaways give me subscribers. I want an audience of people who appreciate what I write and want more of it. I don’t write erotica or LBG* – and I don’t submit books to those genres. Because I don’t want subscribers expecting me to give them more of that. Ultimately, those will just unsubscribe or even complain – at best they will go inactive and I’ll delete them after awhile. But meanwhile, I pay for every email I send to them.
You’d be surprised how many submissions I reject each week because I search first for the f-bomb in them. Cursing has long been held as an indicator of insufficient vocabulary. Sure, in some military SF, that is almost expected. But there also isn’t any real demand for “clean” SF or even “sweet” fantasy.
Again, the purpose of genres is to silo the expectations of the readers. So they can find more of the type they like.
The bottom line is that you need to label your books and giveaways what they are. You should get what you expect to find. You shouldn’t be disappointed or disgusted by being surprised with something that claims to be one thing and is filled with another. (The actual reason the FTC was created – snake oil salesmen and other scammers.)
And people who have a problem with their view of life not being accepted should organize their own giveaways for that particular view.
Like I do.
(And of course, if you feel triggered or offended by the above, please make sure you unsubscribe from any list of mine. Also, guess who has to approve comments on this blog before they can show up? And, no – I pay no attention to Twitter or Facebook…)
Clean Romances and Cozy Mysteries Are More Profitable
K-lytics.com has discovered a few of these to be profitable niches. K-lytics, the brainchild of Alex Newton, is a nerd’s heaven for analytics and spreadsheets. His system finds the profitable categories by supply and demand. And tells where the market is saturated.
Both Cozy Mysteries and Clean Romances have been uptrending like crazy, while the major genre of Romance is downtrending steadily for the last year while prices for these 200-300K word books has been averaging closer toward USD .99. (Meaning: unprofitable – especially since it takes someone usually over year (or longer) to write, edit and publish a single book that long.) (Note: his recent update shows that the price has started up-ticking again, while Mysteries are nearly overtaking Romance in sales.)
Here’s the k-lytics links to their seminars on this (only intro’s):
An initial study of my completed giveaways for this year so far showed that the ones getting higher levels of subscribers per book were all clean and cozy.
So I simply set up several more giveaways for romances and mysteries, all stating that they needed to be Clean/Sweet/Cozy.
You’d think authors would agree on those, or at least try to follow the instructions.
But then I started reading the books in order to make blurbs and found this wasn’t the case.
How to Find Out if Your Giveaway Submissions Aren’t As Promised
You have to read them. (Although sometimes you can get a clue in the description.) That means claiming the book on Instafreebie and downloading it to your device. It’s a pain. Sorry. Well, there are some shortcuts to reading the whole book, though…
- For sweet books of any type, you can check the above, but also check for impolite terms (sh*t and f-bombs usually will tell you of non-sweet language. (If you don’t like “damn” then fine. Note that these days you don’t have to put an asterisk in that word anymore, so…)
- For clean romance, search in your copy for “kiss” and “bed” to see what scenes these occur in.
- In a cozy mystery, searching for “body” and “blood” should show up that problem – but I haven’t gotten that deep so far, since if the book isn’t sweet or clean, it isn’t cozy.
- (In looking this over, those terms above should rule out any hidden LBG*-themed books as well.)
Searching right from the first page will save you a lot of time. Right now, you can’t download easily to your computer if you also have the Instafreebie app. But from a smartphone, you can also simply delist books you’ve previously approved.
And you know that when I find someone has tried to sneak in a bodice-ripper or a foul-mouthed submission, then I have just noted that author’s name somewhere.
It’s called a shadow ban. Same thing I apply when someone submits a book which has an Erotic or LGB* genre. My readers don’t like those books, I don’t accept them.
Your Submissions and Giveaways Make Your Brand
The quality of your books, how they meet reader expectations, will determine your followers. And the books you submit to giveaways and how you work to promote those giveaways will tell what kind of author you are.
Scammers come up pretty fast. They don’t promote, they generally have several books in the giveaway, and their books may not follow the requirements you laid out in the description. I do a careful study at the end of each giveaway to compile lists of people who don’t promote. Single book authors who are just starting out I always give some slack. But if that same book keeps showing up and that same author refuses to promote, then they also get noted.
Authors on that list generally don’t get accepted later for any future giveaway. That same list of people seem to turn off their email notifications, because they never respond to your notices. A recent scene where I needed to delete a short list of non-compliant people got only two complaints out of eight authors. And I went through several comments figuring out and telling them how I could add them back in. But none did.
So I deleted their comments as well, so the rest of the authors had a better experience. Like removing a few bad apples to help the rest of them.
Similarly, I take great care with my own giveaways to be supportive and (hopefully) non-offensive. Because that is my own brand.
And like you have only one chance to make a first impression, once a brand is tarnished, it can take a great deal of work to shine it up again. Trust is a valuable coin. And burnt bridges aren’t easily rebuilt. (Enough old metaphors for you?)
When people see my name on a giveaway, I want the hard-working, honest authors to submit their books. I want the scammers and freeloaders to stay away. I want people who attend my giveaways to know I’ve got clean/sweet/cozy books when I organize them. (And if people want to attract audiences with LGBT or Erotic readers, then let them run their own giveaways.)
If You Want to Succeed in Giveaways, Do These Steps
- Follow the directions.
- Refuse and delist all authors who won’t follow the directions. Make a list of these authors.
- Make a list of authors who repetitively won’t promote. (They’ll show up after two or three or so giveaways.)
- Refuse and delist authors who make either list.
- Collect emails of authors and help them as you can. Invite the best promoters and authors to your giveaways first.
- Join all giveaways you can, where your book meets their descriptions, as long as you can effectively promote those giveaways. Join only those you write in (erotic romance is not clean romance.)
- Always have a giveaway running that you have organized. Always analyze the results to make the list above.
- Do everything you can to help out authors who are just starting out – we’ve all been there.
UPDATE: I’ve had a lot of viewers to this article, but very few comments. The vast bulk of those few were trolls.
Meanwhile, I’ve found that having to inspect every book for meeting these simple standards wasn’t worth the time. I backed up to simply setting up giveaways for the main genres (Fantasy, SF, Mystery). And only accepted YA Books into any Romance giveaway. Because the Romance genre is polluted with GRQ people who interpret “writing to market” as “what you can get away with”. And I still had to battle with really stupid submissions. One “author” got so bad that I had to report “her” several times over a few month – where “she” didn’t quit and so apparently was banned. (Six-pack-ab covers and blank description – both specifically spelled out in the description.) Otherwise, the shadow ban of “erotic” and “LGB*” genre books seems the most quietly efficient mode.
Separately from this is the entire industry of making income from giving away books – which gives you fairly low-converting subscribers that have to be trained into being supportive fans.
And elsewhere, I mention that IF/PW converts only about 30-40% of the claims, and within a few months, 50% of them unsubscribe or have to be manually unsubscribed via “list hygiene”. (Simply put: they never open anything, or quit opening anything, and so I have to sort them out and remove them.) While IF is probably one of the least expensive ways to get subscribers, just realize that you’re only getting between 15-20% out of all the books you’ve just given away.
And then, you’re hoping that they actually read your book and opt-in through the ads in it. Which is where they actually become organic subscribers and then be trained into superfans.
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Also published on Medium.