Is Spicy Subject Matter More Important Than Quality of Content?

Written by Tiffany Monique

Scintillating subject matter can make books fly off the shelves. A witty heroine, a creepy and clever villain, or an inspiring coming-of-age story can do the same. Which is more important: red hot subject matter or quality of content?

With the advent of the internet writers are forced to make an immediate impact on consumers or get lost in the fray. Like literary speed dating, it is imperative we keep readers from moving to the next book on the virtual book shelf.

This is why both items–subject choice and quality of content–are equally important. But, they are important for two totally different reasons.

Spicy Subject Matter = Capture

The Fifty Shades of Grey series is a perfect example of capturing an untapped audience through subject choice. BDSM novels are not main stream, yet Fifty Shades tapped into a topic that was ‘taboo’ and capitalized on what proved to be both titillating and mysterious on a world-wide scale.

The trilogy ranked 1, 2 and 3 on the 2012 Amazon bestsellers list. The audience was captured but can interest in be sustained? That has yet to be seen. Can E.L. James continue to write and enthrall the masses without the media-hyped ‘scandalous’ lifestyle twist?

Quality of Content = Retention

Quality of content builds trust, thereby, building consumer retention. Here are three items that help to increase quality of content.

1. Research. Does the author know their topic? Having a fundamental understanding of a culture is imperative, especially if the culture is one of the essential components of the book.

Fifty Shades was resoundingly critiqued for its inaccuracy regarding the relationship dynamics of people who practice the BDSM lifestyle. Is this how an actual mature BDSM relationship evolves or is this a story of a predator and an ingénue? Know the character’s situational and emotional reality. If the emotional content is in question by the reader and the characters don’t behave authentically, an accurate description of a flogger or a St. Andrew’s cross means very little. When the characters ring false the author can lose the reader’s trust.

Research is also important if an author is going to mold or bend the subject matter to fit into a new world they are building. One cannot bend rules without knowing them first. If a reader is confident a writer knows the ‘basics’ they are more likely to suspend disbelief and let the author take them somewhere fantastic.

2. Dialogue. There is nothing more endearing than clever banter or honest, gut-wrenching prose. If the dialogue within a book is yawn-worthy the storyline loses its pace, its tension and finally its reader. Boring or superfluous conversations make bad content. No one wants to read filler.

3. Humanity. Is there a universal theme being sought after in your story? Introducing a universal theme is what drives that emotional impact.

Finally, when readers become fierce cheerleaders for, or loathsome enemies with a fictional character the writer has become successful on both fronts: subject choice and content quality. With the balance of engaging subject matter and quality content, regardless of a book’s outcome, the reader will be left with some indelible mark. The world the author has created is both sustainable and credible.

Here is an example of willingly suspending disbelief that always makes me appreciate a well-developed story: Jane Eyre’s call for Mr. Rochester to “…wait for me!” being heard by him over miles and miles of windswept moors.

At that moment, in Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë could have told me aliens were landing on my roof and I would have believed her. She brought humanity, intelligent dialogue, a socio-economic expertise and romance to my hungry literary mind and I am still here for it over one hundred and sixty years later. That’s what I call retention.

Bio: Tiffany Monique is a New England native with a southern heart. Presently living in New Orleans, she has been writing romance since her pre-teen years and has decided to open the doors to her imagination for the rest of the world. As a classically trained vocalist, movie-buff, traveler and foodie she lives in the perfect city (in her unabashedly biased opinion) to explore all of her vices, both good and bad. Please enjoy, read and review her books Audra’s Sin, Jordan’s Deliverance, A Thigh-High Christmas ( and drop a line to say hello via Twitter (@HeiressofEros) or her blog.


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