In a world as divided on sexuality as ours is, any writer or even artist will have to decide whether they express sexuality in their work or avoid the issue. It is possible to write books with no sexuality at all or with just the implication some might be there. Think back to the days of Gunsmoke when Marshal Dillon had a girlfriend who ran a bar and maybe a bordello but did anything ever go on between them? You could imagine what you pleased. A writer of romances or any genre, except erotica, has that option.
Once the writer has written the book and a sexual relationship is there, then the question of covers arises. Famous writers, who sell books on their reputations, don't need anything to tell the potential reader what will be inside. For those not so well-known, a cover is part of what alerts the reader to what they will find and this benefits reader and writer (writers do not want disappointed readers).
How readers see covers has been an education for me. For some, a sweet cover with a man's shirt buttoned to the neck would be better. And that is probably true-- if the book is a sweet romance with no sex, but when someone writes what I do, I think a cover should depict the energy of the book. My sex scenes are not graphic, but they are there.
In the culture in which I live, nudity is suspect (especially male)-- even if it's just the guy's chest. Violence is fine but absolutely no bare skin of desirable parts (and a man and woman both have desirable chests). I ran into this zeitgeist with my painting and sculpture. I got past personally worrying about it with both.
Besides doing sculptures of nudes of both sexes, I also painted women and men without clothing (some more discretely than others). I did it when I felt it better told the story-- and I always felt my fantasy paintings or sculptures of people told a story often ambiguous but nevertheless a story.
A story that goes along with it involves my going into an art gallery and seeing a clay bas-relief of man and woman that I liked. As I discussed it with the owner, she said a mother had come into her gallery with two sons, saw a nude male sculpture, and expressed her offense as she took them right back outside. These were boys. Shouldn't they know already how nude men look? This thinking regarding nudity-- partial or otherwise-- goes way back in our culture and not apt to change soon.
So by the time I got to putting my books out, I knew sex would be a public issue. I took time to think about it, as who likes to have people think poorly of them? It took me awhile to decide how much sex would be in the published books.
What I decided is we need more depictions of healthy sexuality-- the steamy, consensual, responsible kind, which is not abusive nor manipulative. I am not trying to write about sex as it always is but as it can be. I also don't write about casual encounters, but that doesn't necessarily mean married. When the sex occurs, it's when it naturally would for these two people. It also does not solve all their problems as if by magic. It is part of a whole relationship-- not all of it.
This year I had brought out a series of asexual novellas-- fantasy western contemporary. When I decided to put them together in one book, I added back in the sexual encounters I had glossed over and only suggested before. I frankly liked the book better. It felt more complete. I then pulled the novellas as I didn't want to confuse readers. They get all three in the book but they also get the whole enchilada for each of the three couples.
Where it comes to reading someone else's books, I don't buy them based on sweet or spicy. I buy based on wanting a certain type of story. If there is too much sex in a book, dragging on and on, I'll skip those scenes. I also don't mind if there is none. It's not a factor to me. What is a factor is responsible behavior in hero and heroine. If it's not there, I will toss a book into the garbage, and if it's an eBook, it's getting deleted.
Since my stories do have sexuality in them, my covers show that. I don't put out covers hoping they will sell a book-- although I do take into account what readers enjoy in a cover. Creating covers is recreation for me and changing them once in awhile, even leaving behind a cover I liked for something new, is a nice break from writing. Every cover out there on my books is one I like-- yes, including all those bare chested, hunky guys ;).