Snarky Sunday: A Rant About Labeling Books

I have a pet peeve.(That doesn’t surprise anyone who knows me.) And I might offend some people. But the label or classification some people apply to certain books offends me.

It all came to a head when I read this advice in a recent article:  “write a clean book”.

A “clean” book.

Well, my books are trayf–which is Yiddish for UNCLEAN.


  • In my upcoming  Halloween novella–there’s a shrimp appetizer in the form of a human brain. Definitely trayf. 
  • Pulled pork sliders put in an appearance, too.(Now there’s a dish with some double entendre built right in.)
  • Andouille (Cajun pork sausage) is eaten in the Mardi Gras novella I’m currently writing.
  • I’m sure one of my characters in one of my books eats a cheeseburger washed down with a glass of milk.
  • And bacon! Pages are spattered with bacon.

Why are Jewish dietary laws even a consideration in romance writing?

I don’t have a problem with sweet romance. I like reading sweet romance. And if the story I’m writing doesn’t call for a sex scene, then I won’t write one.

Labeling sex-free books “clean” is a passive-aggressive way of judging books that do contain physical love scenes. And it is insulting to the authors of those books by implying sex-free books are somehow better than others. They are not.

Insults, no matter how subtle, are not what the romance writing community is about. We lift each other up. We support each other.

So let’s get rid of the label “clean” and find a category description that is less polarizing.


8 thoughts on “Snarky Sunday: A Rant About Labeling Books

  1. Maggie Shayne says:

    Hear, hear! I also think calling sexless books “Clean” implies that books with sex in them are “Dirty.” Sex isn’t dirty, folks. Sex is how the species survives. What is this, the 1950s?

  2. Becky Lower says:

    I prefer the term “sweet” as opposed to “clean.” But, using the above analogy, that would mean books with sex scenes would be considered “sour.” And we all know that’s not the case. I guess there isn’t a good solution, except a PG and R rating system, like the movies.

    • mj says:

      LOL, Becky, I know what you mean. One of my crit partners loathes the term sweet. I think you’re correct about a rating system, but that worries me because of censorship. What I consider hot may be considered mild to other readers. It’s a tough call. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. Bill Blodgett says:

    I agree, MJ. Labeling is a touchy subject and can work both ways. Some people may shy away from a “Sweet Romance” or a “Clean” book simply because they may think it may not be adult enough for them and in doing so may miss out on a very special novel but readers who don’t want to read sexy scenes need some sort of help in finding their kind of book. Labeling may be a necessary part of marketing for both publishers and authors in order to reach their readers but Maggie is right. Clean conjures up the thought that the others are “dirty.” I prefer Sweet Romance to Clean any day.

Comments are closed.