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Heat Ratings Bug Me

September 5, 2014

I want to talk about heat ratings.

This is something else that was brought up mainly due to an email I received from All Romance eBooks about the heat rating of Human Rights. When Kris uploaded it everywhere, she chose a heat rating a four. Four flames. I didn’t know this because I just let Kris do her job.

So, I got an email from ARe saying customer feedback made them think the flame rating was actually three flames. Now, I’ve been publishing on ARe for a number of years, and I’d never before received that sort of email. Several other titles have had heat ratings that differed quite a bit from the ‘Senusality Rating’ that customers can offer. To me, the heat rating and sensuality rating have always been different ratings in my mind, so I was surprised to see that ARe was using them interchangeably.

My issue with heat ratings—and why I absolutely hate them—is that they are utterly subjective. Why did Kris choose a four heating rating? A few reasons.

1. There are three full explicit sex scenes and one fade to black sex scene in 34,000 words.

2. There was a mix of gay sex and straight sex.

3. Most of those explicit sex scenes were between a human and a full-out anthro cat who was as anatomically correct as I could make him while keeping the scenes sexy.

4. There was a power inequality inherent in Jiat and Ewan’s relationship, and to me, that meant it had an air of dubious consent (though Ewan does consent, does want it, and understood fully what it meant, but the society presented a power inequality that might have rubbed some readers wrong).

In the end, we subjectively chose to rate it four flames based on our thoughts about the material. Now, readers vary in their reaction to books, and for some, four flames means some heavy duty, every other page sex scenes while for others, our rating was spot on. In the end, it’s subjective to every reader, and since I don’t even know how many readers contributed to that Sensuality Rating they disply, I can’t even say how big this pool is to draw from.

I replied telling them the four flame rating is what we feel is correct, and I gave some of my reasons. I just think this flame rating crap needs to be phased out. It’s not very helpful—and I’ve never been able to reliably count on the displayed heat rating at any retailer—and it can cause confusion.

If ARe wants publishers and authors to display accurate heat ratings, then they need to fully define what each one means rather than vaguely word it so everyone takes something different away from it. Because, seriously, trying to decipher the actual difference between three flames and four is like asking me to describe the difference between cobalt blue and sapphire blue.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. September 5, 2014 2:06 pm

    I have so many issues with the persnickety things of this genre, like heat ratings. I also have issues with the HFN/HEA thing, and the OMG YOU MUST LABEL THE GENDER OF THE PAIRINGS OMG ALL THE TIME EVERY LITTLE THING. I am putting together an LGBTQ antho, and it has F/F, M/M, and Bi characters. I bet you any money some reviewer will complain about the bi. and not being warned. LGBTQ HAS BI IN IT, JAGS.

  2. September 5, 2014 2:09 pm

    Oh, I expected all kinds of downgrading of HR due to the one het scene in it. Because, you know, I didn’t warn folks about WOMAN BITS in the gay storyline. -.-;

  3. September 5, 2014 4:18 pm

    ::eyeroll:: so tired of this BS.

  4. September 5, 2014 4:21 pm

    It’s absolutely ridiculous. ❤

  5. September 5, 2014 9:13 pm

    I think the het sex was necessary to Ewan’s realization of his attraction to Jiat. He learned at that point that he didn’t want anyone other than Jiat. Also, if readers are squicked out about about the owner/pet sex, Ewan always had the option to go with another human (I’m sure Jiat would have offered to find him a male if Ewan asked for it), so Ewan was completely free to choose to love Jiat as more than a master. It was just one more step to show that Jiat didn’t force him into anything and although it was obvious that Jiat didn’t like the idea of Ewan going off with a bed mate, he did it because he didn’t plan a sexual relationship between himself and Ewan. I thought this was all very well done.

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