I not only write erotica, but read it as well. I like to see how other writers approach the challenges inherent in the form. People like Maxim Jakubowski do a wonderful job of elevating erotica to the level that I would love to see more of it at. The stories of his that I’ve read whet my appetite for good literature with very erotic content. It inspires me to work harder, doing the hard stuff.
In every genre there are writers who manage to elevate the writing without losing readers. In reading them, the real difference between what they do and what others do is they take on the responsibility of doing the hard stuff. They don’t stop with good stories, but strive for masterful work. That means examining scenes to see that they convey texture as well as graphic sex, that they capture and convey emotions and passions, doubts and uncertainties. The things that make stories about humans complex and interesting.
That takes time, and not all readers appreciate it. The bulk of the erotica I come across is not particularly well written, and perhaps that makes it porn rather than erotica. That there is so much of that doesn’t mean it is what readers want, but it does mean that readers will tend to expect that, and letting them know that you are doing something else, that you are struggling to do the hard stuff, is difficult. If you market it as erotica, then these are its bed mates along with the exceptional ones.
Ultimately, I suspect it doesn’t matter a great deal what the writer calls his or her fiction, but how the reader views it. The point of writing is, after all, to communicate. Not to impress. Just communicate. In my erotica I assume that the reader wants a bit of a sexual fantasy. Still, when we publish it, or our publisher puts it out there, we are obligated to fill in the metadata to help the reader find the book. And of course the writer of an erotic book wants potential readers to know that it is erotic. That means either categorizing it as fiction>erotica or putting it in some other category and tagging it with tags related to erotica.
I haven’t a clue what the best approach is.
I am finishing a novel about female boxers that is clearly erotic and I have a publisher in mind for it that has already published me. That one I will simply call erotica and hope that it gets attention from its subject matter that turns into an appreciation for my style of writing (leading readers to my other books and stories).
Meantime, there is another kind of novel that I want to write. It will be erotic, but it is richer in its storytelling than that genre label implies. There is much of an erotic nature, but that results from the characters more than the storyline (perhaps that is the distinction I am looking for!) If I do the hard stuff well, if I lavish the appropriate amount of time and attention on it, it will be diminished by putting it a genre classification, especially erotica. So perhaps it will just be a novel that is literary, mainstream, or something else. And so the boundaries blur.
If I do the hard things, seriously tackle the difficult writing, and if I do it well, perhaps I create more problems for myself than solutions. Still, that is my job, improving my writing, becoming better at communicating.