Those on the following list of authors have something in common: Douglas Adams, Winston Churchill, Lee Child, Carl East, Elizabeth George, Stephen King, Selena Kitt, Stieg Larrson, Carole Lynn, Anne McCaffrey, Brynn Paulin, Oscar Wilde, and P. G. Wodehouse. They are all best-selling authors of e-books. The subset of East, Kitt, Lynn, and Paulin are distinguished from the rest in that they write erotica. Well, there's also Oscar Wilde, I guess.
For more than a decade readers and writers have been hyped by the anticipation and claim of a great wave of e-book sales that was just out there on the horizon. Well, that great wave is crashing on the shore now, and the genres that are benefiting the most from the first wave to land are Romance and erotica. It's not something to be predicted or anticipated or wished for or wished against—it's here.
The British newspaper, The Guardian, reported that Amazon's e-book Christmas-season sales overtook their print sales for the first time in 2009, and in June 2010, Steve Haber, president of Sony's digital reading business division, predicted to the Huffingtonpost that total e-book sales would be overtaking total print book sales within five years. E-book sales subsequently were reported as already having overtaken hardcover sales.
Even a recent Newsweek feature, "Who Needs a Publisher?" by Isia Jasiewicz, focuses on—and celebrates—the droves of authors who are bypassing the frustrating and highly iffy process of submitting to mainstream print publishers and going straight to putting their works out on their own, most of them via e-book publishing. And selling the books. The "and selling the books" is the shocking change that has swept over the world of publishing.
Many authors these days are also bypassing the self-publishing print world (you can almost hear the screams of angst in the halls of such self-publishing packagers as iUniverse and of LightningSource, their main print-on-demand manufacturer) and are seizing the world of e-publishing. And actually making money doing so. Until very recently, it was right to scoff about "cigarette money" in discussing the potential for profits from e-publishing (or POD self-publishing, for that matter), but as thriller author (Whiskey Sour) J. A. Konrath was quoted as noting in the Newsweek feature, there are authors who are now paying their mortgages—and more—with their e-book royalties.
It isn't the purpose of this essay to get into the argument of print versus e-book as desirable or preferable to either the reader or the author—especially when now you don't have to make a choice; via Amazon's CreateSpace program you can cheaply put an e-book into print. You can have both worlds. The purpose of this essay is to help get authors of Romance and erotica—the two "first takeoff" genres of e-booking—to consider whether e-booking is for them—and, if they think it might be, to help get them on the road to getting it done.
The quick and simple (and still true) answer to the question of why e-publish rather than attempt to print publish is that it is quicker, simpler, easier—and, for Romance and erotica, at least—more potentially profitable and enjoys a more larger market in e-books than in print. Beyond that, for many authors it is, realistically, the only option to seeing their work for sale internationally under a book cover.
What is the advantage of e-booking over print submission/why has the "great wave" arrived? The computer and electronic reader have progressively moved into the center of people's lives. And this has been goosed along by faltering economies that favor the cost effectiveness, ease, and convenience of electronic shopping over stocking and operating brick and mortar stores. There will always be people who "just gotta" stand in the store and feel the book in their hands before buying, but natural attrition is doing a job on that subset and, proportionally, there are increasingly more people who are comfortable with—even preferring—to do their browsing and shopping in electronic stores. In responding to this trend, the electronic and publishing worlds are providing e-reader devices that are getting cheaper and more acceptable to use. And (surprise!) the mainstream publishers are branching out to electronic publishing themselves.
Individual readers and authors grouse about this not happening in their lifetime—and certainly not to them. But if they'll take a look around they'll see that mainstream publishers and best-selling print authors have seen and are melding to the trend—and are riding the e-book wave themselves. Name a best-selling author and/or a major print publisher and then go out and check for yourself what they are doing in the realm of electronic publishing.
For readers, e-book devices are getting easier and more acceptable to use—and cheaper. E-books are also convenient; they are mobile and disposable, easier to acquire, and don't take up the space that print books do. And, as noted already, readers increasingly are growing up adapted to centering their life on electronics.
For authors, it's easier, faster, and cheaper to put out an e-book over a print book (even a self-published print-on-demand book). It's also easier and cheaper and more convenient (and takes up less storage space) to market, sell, and distribute a book via the Internet than through traditional marketing. And because of all this, there is a greater per-unit profit margin at a lower reader cost for an e-book over a print book. On top of this, an e-book doesn't go off the shelf like a print book does. The publishing industry-standard of the shelf life of a print book is two weeks. At some point e-books will probably have to be pushed off distributor's Web sites—but there's no indication how many decades down the line that will have to happen. In the meantime, the e-book is on display across the Internet—on equal footing with mainstream publisher books (did I mention that the number of e-book stores is increasing as well?), whereas most print books are gone (although Internet distributors such as Amazon and B&N are now helping to give print books longer shelf lives than in past centuries).
And for those who simply must have a print book in their hands, Amazon's CreateSpace program makes that option more cheaply available than the prior wave of print-on-demand self-publishing does. And you get the Internet marketing and distribution services to go along with it.
For the author (and the reader) there are creative advantages of e-books over print. There are cost-effective limitations with print books—they can't be too short or too long, or there's little or no hope for them to pay for their production, marketing, and distribution costs. In e-publishing, there are no lower or upper limits to the words in a work. The e-book industry might, in fact, be the savior of the novella—which can't be cost-effectively put into print through mainstream publishing processes unless your name is Steve Martin. Also, although it hasn't been fully exploited yet, e-books can be multimedia in content—and they can be constantly updated, corrected, and evolving. It's actually an exciting publishing realm for author and reader alike.
But why is e-booking especially attractive for writers/readers of Romance and erotica? For erotica writers, it's attractive because the e-book market is bigger and more accessible for Romance, and especially erotica, than the print market is. And it's far easier and cheaper either to find a publisher or to publish it yourself (and, if you are publishing it yourself, you encounter far fewer self-publisher barriers in e-publishing than you do in print publishing). It's attractive to the writer, because it's attractive to the reader, which proves out by the simple fact that readers are buying e-book Romance and erotica hand over fist. And the writers who are profiting from that wave are the ones offering new e-book titles to the buyers.
For the reader, buying e-book Romance and erotica is especially attractive, because e-buying and e-reading are more private than book store buying and print reading. You can easily and privately buy e-books on the Internet, you can more privately read them in public on an e-reader, you can store them more privately in a computer than on a book shelf, and you can more easily and privately dispose of them when you are finished. And they were cheaper to buy to boot, so you can buy and read more of them in comparison to print books. (This is especially attractive to Romance buyers, who are voracious readers.)
How to Get Your Erotica E-Published?
In every dimension—time, cost, submission acceptance, marketing, distribution—it's easier to get e-published than published in print. And, luckily for you, if you are writing Romance or erotica, the e-book market for those genres is much, much (much!) larger than the print market is.
First and foremost—and possibly the hardest for a budding writer to swallow—you need to write something readers want to read. At least if you want a second go at it. If you want to start making money at it, you need to invest the time, effort, and storytelling and presentation talent to play in the market. The e-book market is larger and more forgiving, but even it has standards and preferences (although here, too, e-booking makes niche subject publishing far more possible than print publishing does).
The good news is that you have a development platform at Literotica. Write, submit, and seek feedback for works right here on this and at other story sites. As you add to your portfolio, you will develop skills and build confidence—and, if you are or can become a good writer and storyteller—you'll start gathering that all-important fan base that will transfer over to be your buyers/readers in the marketplace. Seek out editors (who, as far as you can determine, know what they're doing) and beta readers. And possibly the best thing you can do is to read stories on the story sites not only to learn from them what to do/what not to do but also to pick out writers who write well and write stories you'd like to be writing. When you identify them, contact them directly to see if they'll read something of yours and give you advice.
Don't worry about giving your "precious babies" away for free on free-read story sites—or having them stolen because you laid them out where it's easy to snatch them. Writing is a renewable resource. The more you do of it and the better you get at it, the more inspiration will open to you for new and fresh stories and approaches to old themes. And the more marketable you'll become for profit sharing from your stories. (I use "sharing" on purpose. Anyone who helps you get a story published becomes part owner of the success of that story and deserves a piece of the profit as well. Thinking of a story as solely yours stops at the point that you need help from anyone else to get it published.)
When you have works you would like to see covers slapped on and competing in the marketplace, it's time to do a little research. Browse through the listings at such Internet distributors of e-books as Amazon, Fictionwise, All Romance E-books, Smashwords, Bookstrand, etc. and so forth, looking for books similar to yours. Take note of the e-publishers for these books (they are easily found in lists at Fictionwise and All Romance E-books with click throughs to the publishers' home pages) and check out their book lists (for compatibility with your works) and their submission guidelines. You could also check how their books do in the marketplace—where they rank in the distributors' best-selling and highest quality rating lists.
Then prioritize the most desirable e-publishers and start submitting to them, following their posted guidelines. Don't be discouraged by initial rejections. If they point out why they don't wish to publish what you sent, learn from those suggestions and adjust. And move on down the line in submissions. Be comforted in the knowledge that it's much easier to find an e-publisher than a mainstream agent or publisher for a print book.
If you want to ease into the process, try out a coop publisher like eXcessica, which flowed out of the large fund of authors right on Literotica and that continues to welcome writers from the Literotica pool.
If you wish to publish yourself—and, especially, if you have talents and abilities in setting up files for publication and designing covers—check out the Kindle and CreateSpace services at Amazon and the programs at distributors like Smashwords and All Romance E-books. With talent, skills, and patience you can publish on a near-equal footing with established e-publishers. When shopping on Internet distribution sites, readers rarely look at who the publisher is. They are looking for an evocative cover, an inviting blurb, an engaging excerpt, a cheap buy, and, ultimately a good reading experience.
The cover design is all important—maybe even more so on the Internet than in a brick and mortar book store. Whether you go with a publisher or are publishing yourself, you can find the same cover designs most others use on such photo service Web sites as 123 Royalty Free or Dreamstime. Peruse and dream about what would look great on your book and help bring it to life—and sell it.
The Bottom Line
The great wave of e-booking, especially for the Romance and erotica genres, has arrived at last. You can catch the wave if you put forward effort and talent. You can either stubbornly say that you won't be any part of anything but writing for print or reading books in print. OR you can do what best-selling authors and mainstream publishers are doing and broaden your potential readership to the extent possible, playing in all markets that are selling what you write well.
This essay isn't meant to be comprehensive in either arguing why the time for e-booking erotica is now or fully instructing writers on how to break into the market. But, if it's gotten writers to consider the possibilities and how these apply to their own writing goals—and given them some idea how to get started on the path—it's done its job.