Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Predictions for Erotica in 2013

2012The world didn’t end on December 21. *gasp* I guess I have to actually start paying on all those “No Payment until 2013″ furniture loans I took out in 2011! *sigh*
The good news is that no 2012 Apocalypse means there will be a 2013 to look forward to writing in (well, unless we all fall off the fiscal cliff of doom…)
So since I still have my tinfoil hat around, I thought I’d put it on and predict the future of the erotica ebook market in 2013:
1. Translations
I think translations are going to be big in 2013. Some moved very early into the German market (which is currently the largest and is growing by leaps and bounds) but as Amazon adds more International stores and Kobo (who focuses so much on International sales) grows, we’ll see more and more erotica writers looking for people to translate their works to gain foreign sales.
2. Audio
This is another big market for 2013. Now that Audible offers direct access for authors through ACX, we’ll see more and more erotic versions of novels, and even shorter works, being translated into audio.
3. Longer Works and the Return of Erotic Romance
This has already been happening, of course, and you know this if you’ve watched the erotica bestseller lists changing over time. Erotica readers will still enjoy shorts now and again, but they’re going to start looking for longer, more sustainable stuff as time goes on.
4. Tamer Covers
This goes with the former. I hate to say “I told you so,” but when the whole Paypal debacle happened, I warned erotica writers that the over-the-top titles and covers would only go so far for the attention-grab of readers—and would likely attract the wrong kind of attention eventually. Now the trend has shifted into tamer covers, ala 50 Shades of Gray. I think covers will re-cover somewhat this year, and we’ll see less plain ties and feathers and candles and more people, but less-skin is definitely in this year!
5. Growing Niche Markets
Niche markets are going to grow this year. BDSM is an obvious one, but other niche markets will find more readers, as the ebook market grows. Topics like lesbian erotica, BBW, cuckold, group sex, piercings/tattoos and furries are ripe and ready for a breakout audience.
6. Erotica Bookstore Breakout
Someone is going to create it. I don’t know where or how, but I’m sure that an erotic-focused bookstore is going to breakout this year. Maybe more than one. Competition is a good thing!
7. Erotica Serials
Erotica serials are going to grow in popularity, but I have a feeling readers are going to start demanding more story and length in their serials though. I think the era of 5K $2.99 serial pieces is past.
8. Paranormals
These somehow never lose their popularity, and I think 2013 is going to manage to gain some new paranormal ground. I predict some new supernatural sexy creatures this year!
9. Movie Crossovers
Not full “adult” movies (i.e. porn!) but erotic adaptations of books into movies. Yes, ala 50 Shades of Gray (I’m still wondering how they’re going to make that one… not much plot, honestly!) We’ll see some NC-17 rated movies out in 2013, I think!
10. Growing Audience—Fewer Writers
Readers are going to continue to look for erotica, but I think the amount of writers dabbling in erotica is going to wane. Those looking to cash in on the gold rush and recreate the boom of 2012 may find sales less satisfactory than they hoped and look for other revenue streams. I predict the writers who love the genre and are serious about it will prevail, and readers will find and focus on the writers who give them what they’re looking for—good writing, good stories, and hot sex!

Selena Kitt
Erotic Fiction You Won’t Forget

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Long-Term Erotica Game

dreamstimefree_8571973As a erotica writer, are you in the short-term game or the long-term game? Did you know there was even a difference? There is–an important one.
Even before the Fifty Shades phenomenon, writers were discovering that erotica was a gravy train when it came to writing. The fact that the erotica market supports selling shorter works for more money made it very appealing to writers looking to make a decent living. It also seemed “easy,” at least on the surface. You pump out (excuse the pun) 20-30 short titles in a few months, and you’re suddenly in the money, paying your mortgage with your royalties!
Since Fifty Shades, the erotica market has been literally flooded (excuse the pun again) with stories about billionaires doing naughty, wicked things to their secretaries. Mark Lefebvre from Kobo says “enhanced Romance” (which is code for erotica) sells the most on their ereader and when Mark Coker from Smashwords says “Romance is our bestselling genre,” what he means is erotic romance. When Mills and Boon starts holding erotic writing seminars, you know the genre has arrived.
I know several very mainstream writers–names you would easily recognize if I printed them–who have decided to get their hands dirty and supplement their “real” writing in their preferred genre (be it sci-fi, mystery, “regular” romance, horror or whatever…) with some erotica writing. I find it amusing that many of them, back when Paypal wouldn’t pay for that “smutty stuff,” self-righteously deemed it “too bad, so sad.” Some of them went so far as to say, “Serves them right for writing that nasty stuff!” Of course, their livelihood wasn’t at stake then. Now they have a dog in this fight. Now they’re writing erotica right along with everyone else, discovering that Amazon filters “certain” covers and “certain” content from their main search, that Apple bans “certain” titles altogether, that some smaller vendors deem “certain” subjects unacceptable.
Now these writers are discovering how erotica writers really get treated. Everyone reads it but no one wants to admit it. Erotica writers are excluded from certain blogs and groups because of their “content.” Erotica writers are the subject of snide remarks and disdain–yet lo and behold, they’re some of the biggest sellers out there. And now these writers know what it takes to write a good sex scene. Hey, wow, there is really more to it than inserting Tab A into Slot B! At least, there is if you want to sell well, build a brand, and actually make a living at it.
Which brings us back to the long vs. short term erotica game. Many of the people jumping on the erotica bandwagon are in it for the short term. They didn’t start writing it for the love of the genre—they started writing it for the same reason people set out to California in the 1850′s to pan for gold. Short-term erotica writers are looking to cash in, pay off some credit card debt or buy a few new toys, and ride it out until the wave crests and fades away.
Short term erotic writers are watching and following trends. Daddies? I can write about Daddies! Billionaires? I can write about billionaires! Werewolves? I can write werewolves! In fact, I can write about Daddy Billionaire Werewolves! Short-term erotica writers want to make short-term money.
Not that there’s anything wrong with short-term money!
But there are erotica writers who have been doing this for years, who do it because it happens to be the genre they fell in love with (like some writers fall for horror, or thrillers, or romance—it’s just where they “fit”) and it’s the genre they want to write in. These are the writers in the long-term erotica game. We’ve watched the market trend and change. Fifty Shades opened a few more doors for erotica writers, but the basic landscape hasn’t really changed.
The basics are still the same and will always be the same.
**Write a good story.
**Make it hot.
**Write what you love, what turns you on.
**If a certain trend is popular and it appeals to you, then go for it! But if you’re faking it, your readers will know.
**Your characters are real people, and if they don’t act like it, your readers will know.
**If you’re not that into it, your readers will know.
Erotica writers in the long-term game can take advantage of the short-term market, but please, don’t forget to look down the road. This is where you could really hurt yourself if you want to be in this long-term. Those who aren’t in this for the long-haul are near-sighted. Yes, you should pay attention to what they’re doing, but don’t necessarily model yourself after them. They aren’t thinking five, ten, fifteen years ahead.
Remember, if you want to be around and have readers in the future erotica market, you have to build a readership now. If you become some flash-in-the pan writer, spreading yourself thin with a hundred pen names and short, trendy titles with lots of cotton candy fluff but no real meat, your readers will go away dazed with the sugar-rush but ultimately unsatisfied. No one can live on cotton candy forever.
Writing what you love in any genre is important. Erotica is no different. Readers aren’t stupid, and they’re not reading erotica and erotic romance for any other reason than they read mystery or horror. They want something specific, and they want a writer to give that to them. They develop a relationship with the authors they love. Short-term erotica writers aren’t going to build that kind of reader base.
Long-term erotica writers will still be here, still writing, after Fifty Shades has trended and gone. And their readers will remember them and continue to seek them out. Those in the short-term game will have either moved back into their own “real” genres, or they will have found that writing erotica isn’t bringing them the cash it once did, and decide to do something else.
Those who love it, who are in for the long game, will still be doing it. They will be the writers of erotica’s future–as long as they remember not to fall into short-term traps.

Selena Kitt
Erotic Fiction You Won’t Forget
LATEST RELEASE: Becca (Daddy’s Favorites)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Writing Niche Erotica

Have you ever wondered why some erotica authors seem more popular than others? Is there some secret formula for writing a popular erotica story?

Yes, actually, there is—at least to some degree. Every erotica niche or fetish has its own essential theme, something that a majority of readers are looking for when they click on a story. These vary, of course, but just as there are real examples to fill any stereotype, there are formulas and reader expectations that apply to stories in each niche. So if you’re a writer who’s always wondered how to write “niche” erotica, read on!
First of all, I want you to note that the following advice is about how to write popular stories. I didn’t necessarily say the most literary or the best. We all know the books which make it to the NY Times Bestseller lists aren’t always the most well-written or important, and so the stories that make it to Amazon’s erotica bestseller lists aren’t always either. They just happen to appeal to the masses. This is a guide that will tell you what’s popular and how to make your stories conform more to those guidelines so you’ll be likely to draw in more readers.
Secondly, everything that I’m about to say is a huge generalization. Of course there are exceptions, and none of these are true 100% or even 99% of the time. All I’m doing here is trying to give you an idea of what most readers want, so that as a writer, if you want to cater to readers in order to write a more popular story, you can. This guideline then, by no means encompasses all of erotica’s readership.
Readers in this niche want long, detailed, lurid descriptions of anal sex. I know, I know, that seems so obvious—but haven’t you read anal stories that are pretty much just a normal sex story with only a paragraph or two tacked on at the end, like an afterthought, where the anal sex actually occurs? That won’t fly here if you want a popular story. Anal readers are… well… anal! They want the details, every last one, including long, preferably realistic descriptions of how it’s done and how it feels. If you can do that, you’ll rock the anal reader’s world.
True sadism and masochism aren’t often topics found in large quantities here. Popular stories are primarily varying versions and degrees of the domination/submission aspect of BDSM. The most popular stories explore the dom/sub relationship, how it manifests and how it looks and feels. Techniques and tricks and toys (which are all part of the BDSM world) are good, but secondary to the emotion and connection between the dom and the sub.
Erotic Horror 
A misunderstood niche if there ever was one. True erotic horror should encompass both eroticism and horror, in a way that’s not always titillating, but should at the very least be shocking and—here’s the important part—integral to the story. If you can take the sex out, and still have the horror, it’s not really erotic horror. Okay, down off my soapbox. How do you write a great story in this niche? Make it scary and horrific, make sure the sex and horror are somehow related, and make it a good story. Erotic horror readers are truly looking for a story, not just titillation.
Exhibitionist and Voyeur 
Exhibitionist and voyeur are two halves of the same whole, but that doesn’t always translate on the page. In a popular exhibitionist story, the arousal is in the enjoyment of exposure, which is usually accompanied by a certain amount of reluctance and shame. In a voyeur story, the focus is on the secret enjoyment of watching, unseen. Both of these require a different perspective and unfortunately often split the readership. The good news is that, while readers often prefer one perspective or the other, most can and do enjoy this niche from either side. So what makes for a popular exhibitionist/voyeur story? From the exhibitionist side, it’s all about the exposure and the thought of being seen. There are also common devices deployed in these stories: binoculars, cameras, dressing rooms, two way mirrors, watching from a crack in the door. A popular story in this niche will give the reader lots of teasing and titillation. These stories require a definite slow build and rise in the action, culminating in some sort of satisfying final climax.
To write a popular fetish story, you really have to know your subject and then you have to specialize and focus. Fetish stories are all about obsession. Pleasing readers in this niche is all about getting into the particulars. Whatever fetish you’re choosing to write about (and there are so many—panties, pregnancy, fisting, water sports, pantyhose, hairy women, milk, feet, you name it!) you must focus on the minute details. Readers will find the fetishes they’re interested in, and you can become quite popular if it happens to be your fetish as well and you focus enough interest on it.
First Time 
Stories in this niche are primarily about the loss of virginity, and the most popular ones are about girls. Readers in this niche want innocent teens being gently and lovingly led toward adulthood by a caring boyfriend. There usually isn’t a huge age difference between the two main characters, and the girl should be a little hesitant, as good girls should be, but still willing and sweet. There are readers who want first time stories that involve young men as the main character as well, but innocence is still paramount and key. This niche is truly about the loss of innocence, and the impact of that upon a character.
Gay Male 
In spite of the niche label, don’t assume your audience consists only of gay men. They aren’t the only people reading this niche—there are many bicurious men out there, and believe it or not, lots of women adore this niche. You have to be familiar with and know the ins and outs (ha, pun intended) of hot, sexy man-love. There’s a strong, physical aspect to gay erotica, a lusty sort of passion, whether it’s a story involving emotion and love, an in-depth exploration of sexuality, or a quickie in a parking lot. Whatever story you want to tell, in order to write something popular in this niche, you need to make it hot, physical, and descriptive.
A very popular niche. The biggest sellers are the male/male/female versions, although I have plenty of female/female/male versions that sell quite well. A popular story in this niche should have a threesome that will suspend the reader’s disbelief that jealousy and fear aren’t an issue for any of the people involved in the three-way. Remember, erotica readers want a fantasy, not what might really happen in that situation. Usually these stories involve a couple who adds a third (often the wife’s best friend) and leaves the reader with a warm fuzzy feeling at the end.
Humor and Satire
This is a tough niche, because humor is such a personal experience. Everyone’s idea of what’s funny tends to be different, so it’s hard to tell you how to “make it funny.” There honestly isn’t a formula for this one. You can’t appeal to the masses. Your best hope is to write what you think is funny and then publish it and cross your fingers! Your response will probably be relatively small, but people who “get” your sense of humor will give you positive feedback.
This is, surprisingly to many, a very popular niche. There are writers out there who, after seeing the sheer numbers this niche generates (at least before Amazon started to ban and filter it) wrote pseudoincest stories just to get that volume of readers! The primary ingredient in any popular pseudoincest story is (are you ready for it?)… love. It’s true. There are very few nonconsensual pseudoincest stories and they rarely do well.
Readers of pseudoincest want to see love, and they want that bond to be so overwhelming the two (whether it’s stepbrother/stepsister, stepmom/stepson, stepfather/stepdaughter, doesn’t matter) simply can’t deny it—the very strength of that love is what compels them to commit such a taboo act. Yes, sexual desire, teasing, obsession, all of those are involved in the beginning, but ultimately, readers want to see the emotion driving the characters. If you can give readers that, in whatever pairing you’re writing, you’re already halfway there.
Another aspect of pseudoincest that you have to pay attention to is dialogue. Remind readers of the familiar bonds by having characters state them—often. Have the stepbrother call his stepsister “Sis” or “Sissy.” In stepfather/stepdaughter stories, the daughter should call him, “Daddy,” and in stepmother/stepson, “Mommy” should be reiterated (as in, “Mommy loves her little boy…”) Without this, all you’ve got is another sex story. When you focus on those familiar bonds, you give the readers what they really want—the extra heat of the taboo. Just having related characters isn’t enough—they have to be extremely aware of that relationship and find it arousing.
On top of that, each pseudoincest pairing has its own set of genre requirements. Stepbrother/stepsister tends to be about the older sibling fulfilling the role of sexual teacher, leading the younger one into the adult world with love and knowledge.
The stepmother/stepson pairing focuses generally on a reluctant desire to give in. Stepmother should be full of angst over her attraction, but eventually, she finds it too much for her to deny, so she falls into a sexual relationship. There’s a great deal of reluctance at first, but she ultimately finds it totally amazing and fulfilling. As with any older woman story, here or in the mature niche, the reader wants to hear about certain physical attributes—larger breasts and copious amounts of pubic hair symbolize her maturity and maternal nature, for example.
The stepfather/stepdaughter niche tends to split on whether the reader is male or female. Women who read this niche want a daddy figure, and men want the young, nubile Lolita. For the most part, the popular stories in this niche should be a stepfather lusting after an innocent, beautiful young girl, and being drawn into a sexual relationship. The girl should be teasing and tantalizing, but in fairly innocent ways—just testing out her sexuality, but still generally sweet and pure. There are physical requirements here as well. The daughter should be petite, small-breasted, and have little or no pubic hair (all which symbolize youth and virginity).
Interracial Love
The politically correct tyranny of our society today often keeps this niche from going as far as it could. Still, the most popular stories in interracial remain black men and white women, with racial language playing a major role. Yes, the black man should be well-endowed, the woman usually fair-skinned and petite. If you want to know how to write popular stories, you need to give readers what they want. In this niche, I’m afraid to say, it’s still the stereotype. If you’re going to write a less popular interracial pairing, make sure to highlight the differences and the obvious taboo in the pairing of two races and cultures. Remember, that’s the titillating part for readers in this niche.
That said—there are stories breaking this stereotype all the time, and readers of interracial stories are wide and varied. It’s just that in the *niche* market for these stories, the above still applies.
Do you know the answer to the question: “Who watches the most girl on girl porn?” If you answered: Men! You’re correct. The majority of the readers in this niche are male, followed by bi-curious females, with actual lesbians bringing up the rear. So the majority of readers will be looking for stories of (legal, of course!) teen girls having gentle, exploratory sex with their friends. If you want to write popular stories, I wouldn’t write about rough sex, fist fucking, dykes, butches or ass play. To write a popular story in this niche, think about male-oriented fantasy porn, and you’ve pretty much got it. (And again, I know I keep saying this – but we’re talking about popularity here, and I’m afraid the stereotype still rules in this case too).
Basically, this niche involves some sort of infidelity. The idea, often, is that the wife or husband “loves” their partner so much they’re willing to give them anything they want—even another lover. To write a popular story in this niche, you need all the details. Readers here want to know characters’ histories, motivations, all the details of their lives that led up to the infidelity, etc. and often the aftermath as well. Revenge stories are popular in this niche. Usually, you’re going to split your readership no matter what you do, because there are those that like the cuckold fantasy, and those who feel anything short of shooting a spouse who cheats makes the wronged partner a “wimp.” There are authors who succeed here though.
Young men with older women (i.e. cougars) or older men with younger women (i.e. Lolitas). The key to writing a good mature story is that the older partner should be comfortable in their sexuality, knowledgeable, and willing to fulfill the teacher role. For older women, there should be a physical indication that she’s older—larger breasts and thick pubic hair, for example. For the older man/younger woman fantasy, the girl should be the petite, small-breasted, Lolita type.
Mind Control 
The most popular stories in this niche are about sexually immature males with little or no experience who dream of being able to have the power to make women fulfill their sexual desires. To write a popular story in this niche, you usually need to have a male adolescent main character who can suddenly get all the popular cheerleader types who have always been mean to him to do whatever he wants them to sexually. Revenge scenarios are popular here too.
This is a complex niche and one that’s difficult to excel in because so many readers will review stories badly because they don’t agree with the basic premise. The readership is also split along gender lines, making it even harder to write something that appeals to the masses. This niche is about power, either having it or not, and sex just happens to be the method by which it’s expressed in a non-consent story. Like the exhibitionist/voyeur niche, it’s two halves of the same whole, but it isn’t always expressed with the same perspective. Women who read and have rape fantasies want to experience a loss of control—they want to be dominated and forced. For men who read and have rape fantasies, it’s about being in control, dominating, and forcing a woman to his will. The most popular stories in this niche will come at the power dynamic from one of those two perspectives, and will give the reader a vicarious experience that is “safe” to live out in story form.
Now here is where we find our Anne Rice vampire wannabe’s. Also stories about aliens, ghosts, androids, fairies, demons, catgirls, Bigfoot, things with tentacles—you name it. If you want to write a popular story in this niche, you have to have a good grasp of the genre that the creature you’re writing about usually lives in. For example, most vampire lovers want the dark, brooding, irresistible sort. Also, readers here want sexual descriptions involving the weird and surreal aspects of these characters, so detail is important. Yes, they want to hear about large, hairy wolfman penises and tiny, little fairy vaginas. I’m not kidding. To write a really popular story in this niche, it helps to have a little bit of a fetish in one of these areas, to make the details appealing to the reader.
Sci-fi and Fantasy 
Storytelling/world-building is the key element in this niche. Writing popular stories in this genre is all about how well you can immerse the readers into your created world, whether that’s an alien universe or some magical realm. The sex in these tales is really just an incidental bonus as your readers are mostly focusing on the world you’re creating.
Toys and MasturbationThis niche caters primarily to men who like to see women masturbate. The most popular stories here should be female narrated, and about women. Toys and fingers and lots of detail will make the readership here very happy.
Transsexual and Crossdressers
This niche is almost a cross between fetish and gay male. As with any fetish, detail is paramount, especially in the case of a cross-dressing story. Also, your primary readers are probably men with latent homosexual/bi fantasies that read this niche who refuse to read gay male, so the pronoun “she” is important here, even if she has a male appendage.
* * * *
Now, those are obviously just guidelines about what makes a story popular in any given niche. It doesn’t take anything else into account. If you write a story with any of the above elements so riddled with errors and human sexual positions which defy the laws of physics that your reader can’t get past the first paragraph, you’re going to seriously lessen your chances of getting onto the erotica bestseller list.
If you already manage to write a decent story though, and you employ the aforementioned formulas, you’re going to increase your readership considerably—and probably make it onto an erotica bestseller list or two. Once you’ve made it there, you need to decide if and how you want to keep your momentum. There are writers who have made it to the erotica bestseller list once or twice, and that’s it. There are writers who have written hundreds of stories, whose names are all over the bestseller lists. You need to decide which you want to be.
If you want to keep and maintain a readership, there are three more ideas I will leave you with.
1)      Write erotica as a woman. A huge percentage of erotica readers are female, and most of them feel safer reading stories written by a woman (or someone they believe to be a woman).
2)      Never write a story in second person—first or third person is best.
3)      Keep your readers happy—write what they like, write it well, and write it often.

Selena Kitt
  Erotic Fiction You Won't Forget 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

To Agent or not to Agent

Just when you think you know what’s going to happen in the publishing industry, everything turns upside down again. I spent the summer recuperating from a back injury, and when I came back to the world of the Internet I found something rather stunning had happened. My genre (erotica and erotic romance) had exploded. Apparently, the flood of erotica in the market went crazy after the success of Fifty Shades of Grey. And what truly amused me was that writers who previously shunned the idea of writing “that stuff” were now invading the erotica genre like panhandlers looking for sparkly stuff in the early days of the California gold rush.

Of course, there’s no recreating the organic success of something like Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s like trying to recreate Harry Potter, Twilight or The Hunger Games. Yes, wizard, vampire and post-apocalyptic fiction can and has ridden the coat tails of such bestsellers. But you can’t recreate the first, because the original had an x-factor that the later copycats couldn’t capture. It’s like cloning – you can get a facsimile, but it’s never going to be the same.

That said, apparently my name has been bandied about this summer, after the popularity of the James’ series, because I’ve had not one, not two, but… well actually it’s now more than three, agents approach me in the past month or so with the promise of, “You could be the next EL James!” First of all, you’re assuming I want to be the next EL James. You’re also assuming I want to be traditionally published. Two pretty big assumptions.

I’m not sure I want to do either. Do I really want to open that door? Most of the agents have approached with the caveat: “I know you’re doing well on your own…” so at least they know the score. I’ve got 100 titles out there with my name on them and I’m pretty close to a million ebooks sold (if I haven’t passed it officially already… I still have to run the numbers) in the past two years. "Pretty well" is a bit of an understatement, I think.

I always said, “I’m glad I write erotica, because no agent is ever going to approach me with a ‘too good to turn down’ offer from traditional publishing.” I was so sure of this fact, especially given that everyone from Amazon to Apple to Paypal wanted to get rid of the stuff.

Then Fifty Shades of Grey became a runaway bestselling series.


Now I’ve got a decision to make. To agent, or not to agent? I know all the arguments for and against. I think we all do. But self-published erotica and erotic romance authors are heading toward traditional publishers in droves. Sara Fawkes recently signed with Amanda Hocking’s agent and he got her a book deal with St. Martin's. Maya Banks just signed a 7-figure deal with Penguin for a three book series.

Publishers are now banking on erotic romance.

Whhhhaaat!? Really!? Have I entered the Twilight Zone?

I’m leery, I admit. I’ve heard so many horror stories about traditional publishing from authors who have jumped ship to self-publish. But there are authors (like EL James or Amanda Hocking) who have decided to go the other way, from self-publishing to traditional, and they’ve had good success.

The fact is, I have a three-book series based on Under Mr. Nolan’s Bed waiting in the wings. It was a huge seller for me in the days before Amazon decided to ban "certain types" of fiction, and although its ranks have never recovered there, it’s also the book that spurred people to run over to Barnes and Noble to buy it and clock in record sales (over $100,000 in a month!) last year. It’s also my “most requested” book in terms of a sequel. It's different while still tapping into the erotic romance genre, it's controversial, it's already got an enormous following of readers who want to read a sequel and it's hot--in short, it has huge potential.

Now I have to decide… do I want to self-publish it? Or give it to an agent?

What would you do?

Selena Kitt  
Erotic Fiction You Won't Forget

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The difference between censorship and censorship

The Edinburgh International Book Festival is running at the moment and has thrown up some interesting articles. Patrick Ness put out this brilliant polemic on censorship and in particular how social media can cause problems of self-censorship for writers worried about their words being taken out of context and misunderstood. In the latter article China Miéville made the point it's only really censorship when the police show up.

This is a familiar argument and a problem with how censorship is defined. Selena Kitt brought it up here after the problems with paypal and online retailers banning some of eXcessica’s books. The articles around the time generated some debate with other people making the point that it wasn’t true censorship—no government body was actively banning the books; the booksellers were simply refusing to stock the books, which they had every right to do. I argued back then that the semantics of whether or not it was technically censorship were moot if they resulted in the same outcome. It might not be censorship in the pedantic sense, but the end result is still a writer being unable to get their work out for readers to read. There isn’t really a word to fit this ‘soft’ form of censorship, so we tend to use censorship even though it’s not strictly accurate.

This ‘soft’ censorship is especially appropriate to social media and I think Ness has it spot on. A writer either has to censor themselves and avoid trigger topics completely, or risk something being interpreted the wrong way and then have a baying online mob (most of whom probably didn’t even read the original work in the first place) stomp all over their reputation and career.

Ness raised the example of Salman Rushdie. Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses was not banned or censored by Western governments to my knowledge, but after seeing what happened to Rushdie, only an incredibly brave or reckless writer would attempt to tackle the same topics now. Again, this isn’t censorship in the pedantic sense, but the end result is the same—certain work will not be available for the public to read. It’s a kind of censorship by the mob.

And irony of ironies, this is the week when the Save the Pearls and Weird Tales controversy erupted on the internet, a situation that exemplifies Ness’s argument (although I don’t think he’d thank me for drawing the line from A to B).

I don’t want to talk about Victoria Foyt's book too much. I’ll be charitable and assume Foyt was aiming for an anti-racist message, but rather than hit the target, managed to spin around 180° and fire the arrow right through her foot. As a result plenty of people found it racist and were offended by it. They were also offended that Weird Tales (a fiction magazine with a long history) planned to run an extract. Further exacerbating the situation, Weird Tales had recently undergone some kind of editorial coup, with the popular Ann VanderMeer turfed out by the new owners.

This is where being one of those staunch Free Speech Warriors sucks. I fear and loathe all forms of censorship, which by extension means I also fear and loathe Political Correctness, as it’s another form of censorship, albeit by people with more honourable intentions. The moment you start to think certain things should be banned, for the “good”, is the moment you start opening the door to allow other people to ban other things, for their “good”, which might be vastly different and far more narrow-minded than your own “good”. That door should be kept shut and firmly locked. Unfortunately that sometimes means ending up on the side of the river you’d rather not be. As the famous quote goes: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Of course, freedom of speech does not mean freedom from criticism. If someone writes something bone-headed and stupid, someone else has the right to call them out for writing something bone-headed and stupid. There is, however, a fine line between honest and deserved criticism, and hounding a writer off the internet and leaving a smouldering crater where a magazine once stood.

I fear the chilling effects Ness talked about in his polemic. Culture is poorly served if writers are grinding their work down to tasteless gruel for fear of the PC police lurking at their shoulder. Free speech should mean exactly that, not “You can write what you like, but if you write things we don’t like it’s back to rounding up trolleys at Tesco for you.” Our culture shouldn’t be ruled by fear.

Given a choice between a world where people have the freedom to write what they want and occasionally fuck it up completely, and a world where people don't write because they're scared of an online lynch mob coming after them if they do fuck it up, I'll take the former. If that means the existence of the occasional disagreeable—even bigoted—book, it’s a price worth paying.

During the rather lively discussion beneath The Guardian article someone made the point freedom to be published is not the same as the right to be published. Ultimately that decision lies with the publisher or magazine. They’re not obligated to provide a platform to writers whose work they find disagreeable, same as readers are not obligated to support businesses they find disagreeable.

I agree with that, but this is not what happened in this case. Rightly or wrongly, Weird Tales had already taken the decision to publish an extract of Foyt’s work. Then—rightly or wrongly—a pitchfork-wielding mob turned up at the gates and forced the publisher into a U-turn. In doing so they denied other readers the chance to make up their own minds on whether or not to support the magazine’s decision. That choice was taken away.

This is censorship by the mob.

No matter the provocation, we should aspire to be better than this.

M.E. Hydra

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Big Head-Small Paycheck

I've been skirting my responsibilities as a blogger. Mainly because I'm not sure if it is a good use of my time. I received my Q1 sales spreadsheet and I am only making about $150 a month even though I have five novels on the market. It's mainly Cinderella Club selling. Apparently I did not sell a single Cinderella Thyme during the month of March.

So I think- maybe I should be doing more to promote? But that just gets me into more time spent on a dream. The books are available. People will eventually find them if they are good. It's that simple. Writing takes a long time. I can't whip something up and get it out there like the full time authors seem to be able to do. And as you all know, I'm not a people person. I'd rather make the art and let someone else sell it.

I'm almost done with the art stuff then I can spend the better part of the summer finishing my trilogy. After that I will reassess. It is phenomenal when I think about all the people who have read or bought and plan to read my stuff. I don't exist in the real world as a writer. Lunch conversation with my family turned into who's read Fifty Shades of Grey? I cannot believe how that book has sunk its teeth into American pop culture. But even so the next line is not I write erotica too. I'm Mia Natasha.

It feels so strange. But good strange because I wouldn't do it if people knew. It's like when I make art, there needs to be some element of wow-ie. The same as when you make an entrance into a room looking stunning. If people are looking over my shoulder, I'm out. Out for good.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Erotica Sustainability

There are plenty of midlist authors out there who have faded into oblivion. Not many authors can look forward to a career life-span of someone like Stephen King or James Patterson, or even Anne Rice. Some say epublishing is going to change all of that. Now books won’t ever go “out of print.” They’re all going to be on the virtual shelves forever, competing for the attention of the reader.

In an epublishing world, this seems to be true. Many midlist authors are finding a new audience for work that was previously out of print, making money off books that were unavailable for years. Most genres, especially those with big reader-return and high book-read counts like romance, mystery/thriller and horror, will sustain this kind of boom.

But what about erotica?

The good news is that erotica readers (and erotic romance readers) are as voracious as the readers in the genres I’ve already mentioned. The bad news is, as any of us who write in the genre can tell you, we are often the subject of round-about corporate censorship, something most other writers don’t usually have to deal with. I’ve been writing in the erotica genre since 2006, and I can tell you that things have changed exponentially since then, and I imagine they are going to continue to change as the ebook market shifts.

When I first started writing erotica, there was a lot of erotic romance in the market—where the story or book followed one relationship to a happy conclusion, with lots of sex sprinkled in along the way. But there wasn’t that much true “erotica,” where the emphasis was on sexual exploration that didn’t necessarily focus on one couple and didn’t always end happily. The largest romance ebook publisher at the time, Ellora’s Cave, had just started their “exotica” line, focused solely on erotica, and they were the first.

Fast forward to 2011 and the Amazon erotica bestseller lists have changed considerably. No longer dominated by the erotic romance market, it now looks like a shelf in the back room of your local video store, with titles like Virgin Cumsluts in Space Suits Get It On With Daddy. What happened? Nothing except the sale of more Kindles. Kindle readers discovered erotica and their demand for more created a huge supply of it from self-published authors. Nothing wrong with a little free-market capitalism!

Readers are buying and consuming these stories like popcorn, faster than writers can keep up, and authors are making a living writing erotica. It’s a win-win situation! There’s just one wrench in the works—Amazon doesn’t like erotica. How do I know this? First of all, they make it very difficult to find. The “erotica” category is hidden within “fiction” and there are absolutely no sub-genres, so readers can’t hone their search. Secondly, Amazon bans certain “taboo topics” it doesn’t like. Things like incest and bestiality. Sometimes topics like rape for titillation. They remove titles at their discretion, without warning or recourse. And lastly, Amazon “filters” adult titles based on their covers. If the cover is too risqué, Amazon will mark it “ADULT” and that title will no longer be searchable in their main store.

So how can an erotica writer make a sustainable career in a world where the subject matter they write about is often the subject of controversy and corporate censorship?

All erotica writers walk a fine line when it comes to this genre. We need to make it sexy and appealing, without stepping over the line into "porn." Unfortunately, too many writers recently have ignored that line altogether, moving into more extreme territory when it comes to titles, covers and blurbs. I understand that it isn’t easy, as a newcomer in the genre, to get yourself noticed when there are so many new voices calling out in the wilderness of erotica. A lot of writers have heard that you can make a ton of money “writing sex.” And many of them think it’s a gravy train and have jumped on board with both feet.

But it seems to me that the more mercenary folks tend to push the boundaries. They want to get noticed as fast as possible, to make as much as possible. They want a shortcut. They want the big bucks, the gold-rush. I think these newcomers truly believe that without the risqué title and description, no one will buy the book. The belief is that titling books with porn-keywords garners more sales. Maybe that's really true, maybe it isn't. But, unfortunately, it’s pretty much guaranteed that they also garner a lot more negative attention.

The kind of attention Amazon and other distributors don’t like.

The question is—is that a risk you’re willing to take? If you’re in it for the short-term, maybe it is. But if you’re looking to build a long-term sustainable career in erotica, I’d advise against it.

We’ve already had one distributor axe Indies altogether after these kinds of extreme titles flooded their bookstore. We’ve had another draw up restrictive guidelines about what they will or will not accept. The larger venues like Amazon and Barnes and Noble haven’t taken these steps. Yet. But how long do you think they’re going to let it go on without doing something about it? Indefinitely? Based on their past behavior of corporate censorship, I just don’t think so.

Let’s assume for the moment that it’s true—titles with porn-keywords do garner more sales. But at what cost? In the short-term, you have money in the bank. In the long-term, what have you gained? A fan base? I’m afraid not. If you are not putting out quality, professional product, you aren't creating a fan base. Your readers are drive-bys. Drive-thru fast-food eaters. They may get addicted to burgers, but if they can't find you easily in the top 100, any old burger will do.

My readers seek me out. My readers are loyal. They don't want just any old meal—they want a Selena Kitt feast. And I sold 500,000 books in 2011 without one porn keyword (that I can think of...) in my titles. If you consider me an "exception," then I can tell you that Excessica made over a million dollars last year, and we have the word "fuck" in just one of our titles. I would argue that you can garner sales without titling with porn-keywords. And you don't have to go all sunsets and vanilla. We've got "excess" in our name, for pete's sake. We're known for pushing the boundaries. But for the sake of all our authors, we walk the line, because all of us want to have a sustainable career in this genre.

So what else does this strategy of putting porn-keywords in your titles and description get an erotica author? Negative attention in the media perhaps? A lambasting on some snarky podcast show or review site? The loss of distributors and vendors? Not such a pretty picture. So a writer makes a few more sales than they would have—all impulse buys. Most of them won’t actively seek that author out again. And what was the risk in the meantime?

And please don’t think I'm talking about censoring content in erotica. What I'm talking about are covers and descriptions and titles. Inside the book, pretty much anything goes (as long as it's—please and thank you—proofread and spellchecked!) in terms of creating a quality and professional product. For me (and I think for most readers) titles run toward the extreme when they start adding porn-keywords like cumslut and cornhole and gangbang. The same rule applies to book descriptions and blurbs. Erotica authors are already self-policing their covers, because we all know Amazon will mark your book “ADULT” if you cross the nudity line.

Of course, there's a fine line there too. "Hotwife" in a title might not catch attention. Or "Cuckold." But they're borderline. And I think we're all adults. We write erotica. We know what might be deemed offensive. The trick is walking the line. Having porn-keywords in their titles and descriptions seems to be what books have in common when they become the target of the kind of corporate censorship we’ve seen at Amazon, Smashwords, ARE and Bookstrand.

The truth is, only you know if what you are selling is a quality, professional product, since self-publishing has no gatekeepers. Except, of course, the market. But that market is tricky. Everyone keeps saying, "People want this, and it sells, and I'm just writing to the market." That may be true, but you have to factor in the distributors. Even if the market will bear the current influx of extreme titles, the vendors aren’t going to let the market be truly “free” in the case of erotica.
If there was a longer, say, five-year stretch of evidence that Cumsluts Doing Daddy in Outer Space With Werewolves Parts I-XII were great long-term investments for you, as a writer, I'd say so. That isn't the case. I’m encouraging erotica authors to look at their current investments and decide whether or not they're going to pay the dividends you want. If not, you might want to consider changing your investment strategy.

The problems at ARE and Bookstrand were directly related to the influx of extreme titles, blurbs and covers that flooded the virtual shelves. Most of them were written by authors thinking with short-term views and goals, many of whom were trying to compete with one another for spots on the Amazon erotica Top 100, so they attempted to one-up each other with more and more ludicrous and extreme titles. It was a gamble, and in the case of two distributors, it didn't pay off. It's still paying off well at Amazon and BN and Smashwords. For how long? Maybe forever. Maybe not. I'm betting on "not."

I could be wrong, but there's no way to tell the future, either way. If you want to think in a mercenary way about your work, then it makes sense to hedge your bets.. If you're going to post extreme titles or covers or blurbs, I suggest making sure you've got a backup in case that content gets slammed. And having been around for six years, I've been through enough censoring cycles to know it's going to happen, it's just a matter of who and when. And the main identifying factor will be your titles, covers, and descriptions, because no one has time to read that much erotica!

So it stands to reason that the more extreme your titles, blurbs and covers, the bigger target you paint on your forehead. Is that really part of your long-term business plan? Unfortunately, the “free-market” doesn’t necessarily apply in this genre. The distributors will only allow things to go so far before yanking the chain. They’ve proven this over and over. So even if the readers want it, a long-term career in erotica doesn’t involve writing short stories with porn-keywords in the title and description. Only you, as a self-published erotica writer, can decide if the long-term risk is worth it for short-term gain.

I’m going to be brutally honest with you. Writing twelve 3,000-word short stories a week about vampire werewolf daddy cumslut gangbangs and charging $2.99 for them isn't going to make you rich, or famous, or give you any sustainability in this genre.

Even if you have 100+ stories in your catalog, as the market becomes more saturated with writers who want to jump on the bandwagon and as ebooks tip the scale toward a majority of readers, even the drive-by readers are going to disappear. The glow of the “new Kindle” will fade, and the idea that you can read “naughty fiction” on it and no one will know will become passé.

Eventually practically everyone will have an ereader and the people who always read erotica will still be reading it—and those readers will turn their tastes toward known quantities. The erotica writers who delivered quality, professional product, again and again, will be the ones still standing.

Ultimately, it's up to you. You decide, you make the choice. Are your goals short-term or long-term?

What kind of erotica writer are you?

And what kind of erotica writer do you want to be?

Selena Kitt  
Erotic Fiction You Won't Forget

Thursday, May 31, 2012

No one ever said it would be easy...

“Lies, damned lies, and statistics” as a great man once said.

This survey by the Taleist website has been doing the rounds of the media recently. It’s interesting to see the headlines it’s generated.

“Half of self-published authors earn less than $500”
. That’s pretty good considering half of those writers (and others like them) were probably earning $0 a decade or so ago.

“Self-Publishing: under 10% of authors earn living”. And they were before…

It’s a Writer versus writer thing. People in media tend to be Writers. They have a strong vested interest in stamping on the fingers of those ‘orrible grubby hobbyist writer-types currently clambering over the ramparts and threatening to eat their lunch. And so we get “Half of self-published writers earn less than $500” instead of “Half of self-published writers earn enough extra lolly for holidays in the south of France”, or “10% of self-published writers earn enough to give their boss the finger and live the dream, baby!”

Last year I did better than the median, but I still fall more into the ‘free-holiday-somewhere’ category rather than the ‘give-the-boss-the-finger’ category. I have a day job and I write part-time in the evenings. I expect this arrangement to continue for the foreseeable future. There is nothing new with this. Look at the bio’s of your favourite authors and you’ll see many of them continued with their day jobs even after their first couple of books were published.

You become a full-time writer when you earn enough to become a full-time writer. That’s the way it’s always been.

It’s heartening to read that one in ten self-published writers managed to pass that threshold. Congratulations. Well done. I wonder what percentage of writers submitting manuscripts to publishing houses ever reach that goal. I suspect it’s much smaller.

And for the rest of us floundering around in the long tail, it’s not actually that bad. A book is like a little mini-me you cobble together from grey matter and bits of your soul. It runs out into the world like a demented little busker, eager to entertain the masses and be showered with their pennies. Then it collects those coins in its hat and brings them all back to you. And it does this year after year after year. It takes a lot of time and effort to create that mini-me, but once created it will continue to collect those pennies on its own, leaving you free to make more and more, until you have a whole army of mini-me’s out there working for you. At that point we’re talking about a lot more than pennies.

It’s not surprising that 95% considered themselves successful. They finished a book and put it out there for the world to read, an achievement in itself. They earned some money for that achievement and will likely continue to do so in the future. Most importantly, their work is out there and ready to be discovered rather than mouldering away on a slush pile or in a desk drawer somewhere.

Statistics. Make of them whatever you want…

M.E. Hydra

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Top Ten Myths About Erotica Writers

1. We're sex experts.

I can't tell you how many emails I've received over the years asking for sexual advice from readers who were sure, since I write about sex, I must have the answers they're looking for. While I, personally, do happen to have a degree in psychology, I'm not a sexual therapist and don't profess to be one. I've made my best attempts to answer questions, always with the caveat that I am not an expert. Writing about FBI agents doesn't make thriller writers qualified to guard the president and writing about sex doesn't make me qualified to tell you how to do it.  

2. We’re nymphomaniacs.

I'm sure a few of us are, but for the most part, no. I'm not having sex on every surface in my house twice a day. I'm a sex writer, and not a sex blogger, for a reason. I write about the sex lives of imaginary people, not my own. While the two may cross on occasion, that line is blurry and indefinable. The reader doesn't know which part is mine and which part belongs to the character. Don't get me wrong--I like sex. I wouldn't be writing about it if I didn't! But I'm not a nymphomaniac or a sex addict by any stretch of the imagination.

3. We're all gorgeous.

 Right. Sure we are. And all those pictures erotic authors put on their Facebook profiles are really them. We're all busty, nineteen-year-old nubile beach bunnies who love sex and writing about it in our books, just for you. And if you believe that, I've got some unicorns for sale... The fact is, I've been to gatherings of erotic writers and we're all pretty normal people. You'd never spot one of us in Target and think, "I bet she writes erotica!"  

4. We're immoral.

This is so not true. Most of us have very solid values and beliefs. Morality is a touchy subject, but the fact is that erotica writers do have morals and we're usually very clear about what they are. I wouldn't commit adultery, for example. I happen to take my marriage vows very seriously. They're sacred to me. But I also think that marriage can take place between a man and a woman, or a woman and a woman, or a man and a man, that the only thing that makes it a marriage is that sacred commitment. I think most erotica writers are probably more liberal in our moral beliefs than non-erotica writers, but for the most part we're not immoral or even non-religious. I know many Christian erotica writers, believe it or not. And many more who are spiritual and believe in a higher power.  

5. We're ashamed of what we write - that's why we use pseudonyms.

We usually use pseudonyms to protect ourselves from judgment, yes, but not because we're ashamed of what we write, but because other people are. I know some erotica writers who use their real names, and good for them! Most of those don't have children, or have children who are grown. There is a stigma in our culture about sex, unfortunately, but the labels pasted on an erotica author's forehead say far more about those applying them than they do about the writer. I'm not ashamed of anything I write, but I do go out of my way to protect my family and my children from any possible fallout from religious or anti-porn zealots. I also know that because there is a myth that erotica writers are gorgeous, immoral nymphomaniacs, many people believe we want to have sex with them, and some have even sought me out to tell me so. Writing under a pseudonym doesn't insulate me completely, but it provides another layer of protection from that sort of thing.  

6. We only write erotica for the money/attention/titillation ________ (fill-in-the-blank).

This may actually be true, for some erotica writers. But for those of us who have done it a long time, who have a bit of longevity in the genre, I don't think we set out to make a million dollars, or gain fame and fortune. Like authors in any other genre, we had a story to tell, and we told it. It just happened to involve human sexuality instead of vampires or CIA Agents. (Okay, I admit, sometimes those things mix... sometimes in the same story!)  

7. We only write erotica to pay the bills so we can write our more "meaningful" books on the side.

 I don't. I think I put a great deal of "meaningful" into my erotic work, and I hope that most erotica writers do the same. I think the good ones really do. Do I have another pen name for mainstream work? Yes. Do I consider it better or superior to the writing I do as Selena Kitt? No, I really don't.  

8. We condone doing everything we write.

This is a big one. I don't condone incest, underage sex, unsafe sex, rape, nonconsent, public sex, threesomes, group sex, eating uncooked beef or fish, driving at unsafe speeds, or any of the other things I may write about. This is the stuff of fiction. It's a fantasy. So if my characters don't put on condoms, please don't send me hate mail about how I must want everyone to get herpes. If my characters are exploring sex with a sibling, and you think that's sick, remind yourself that these two people are not only not really related--they're not real! I'm not saying you should go have sex with your brother. I'm just saying that reading about a sister and brother having taboo sex can be a hot fantasy. It can also open the door to an exploration of their feelings and the issues that come up if something like that did happen. As a writer, I admit, I like edgier topics. Not everyone does. But just because Stephen King likes to write about evil clowns doesn't mean he would condone the Shrine Circus having a "kid killing" act in their show. Let's keep it real. Or, in this case, not real, but fiction!  

9. We're ruining marriages and relationship with our "mommy-porn."

I heard a great quote from Dr. Phil the other day. He was talking about the EL James Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon and someone basically asked him this question--was this mommy-porn ruining marriages? His response? If reading a book ruined your marriage, it was already over. In my experience, most of my readers write to thank me for revitalizing their sex lives. Husbands write about their wives' new reading habits. Wives usually say, "My husband doesn't know what hit him after I read one of your books!" As far as I'm concerned, I'm having a more positive effect than a negative one.  

10. We don’t care if young children see our books, we just want the money.

This is really not true. I have called for, time and again, clear and consistent boundaries from the companies who carry my books. I'm fine with an "erotica" section that is adults only. I have kids, too, and I don't want them seeing or reading things they shouldn't before they're ready. As a parent, I know that I'm ultimately responsible for that, and I can guarantee you that my children won't ever stumble across a "Selena Kitt" book by accident. But I can't police every parent's child, only my own. For now I have to rely on parents to keep their children safe, and maybe that's the way it should be. But it doesn't mean I'm not horrified at the thought of an underage person reading my work, because I am. I don't want it to happen, and I wish parents were more responsible about keeping tabs on their kids, and that businesses were more receptive to giving parents controls that allow them to do so.

Selena Kitt
Erotic Fiction You Won't Forget

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Erotica Gravy Train

My brother-in-law says he wants to write an erotic book.

What he really means is: I want to get rich. 

Everyone is talking about erotica lately. The words "mommy-porn" are on everyone's lips, from Dr. Phil to Dr. Oz to the ladies of The View. E.L. James' "Shades" series has pushed erotica and erotic romance into the mainstream spotlight. Suddenly my "smut writing" isn't such a shameful secret the family doesn't want to talk about--oh no, not anymore--now it's a lucrative career choice!

Everyone wants to ride that erotica gravy train, bay-bee!

My brother-in-law took a look at my current success in the genre and decided that he, too, could write about inserting tab A into slot B and make a million dollars.

And he's not the only one.

I get a lot of letters asking me what amounts to: "How do I get rich writing erotica?"

It's a hard question to answer, because I didn't set out to make a million dollars writing about sex. I didn't even set out to make a million dollars as a writer. All I wanted to do was find a larger audience for my year's worth of work at Literotica.

Maybe I'm a cynic, but I have a kind of "if you build it, they will come" philosophy when it comes to this business. There is no magic wand, no secret formula for success. You have to be passionate about and love what you do, whatever it is, whether that's being a writer or being a chef or working in advertising. No one ever gets rich inserting Tab A into Slot B--or writing about it, for that matter.

If it were that simple, we'd all be doing it, right?

Writing about sex may sound simple, but it isn't. Writing itself probably looks easy-peasy from the outside. You sit at a laptop and peck away on the keyboard until you have enough words on the screen. Taa daa, you're a writer! Ask the thousands of people who fail to finish Nanowrimo every year how easy it is to write a novel, to commit to writing every single day, or even just five days a week.

I happen to love writing. I also love sex. And I have a very vivid imagination. That has served to give me a modicum of success in the erotica and erotic romance genre. I'm no E.L. James, but I'm making a very good living writing about similar topics (although I tend to push things to far edgier places!) and the market for it seems to be widening.

So if you are a writer who is looking to get on the erotica gravy-train and want to know if you can make a living doing it, my answer would be a hesitant and conditional "yes"--if you're looking for short-term gain and not long-term stability.

Right now, erotica sells, and it sells well. There are many well-known authors out there who have opted to write erotica under a pen name who are doing quite well pumping out several 2-3K shorts a week, selling them for $2.99, and in a very minimal amount of time, making enough money to quit their day jobs.

But the question is, what is erotica's future? We have to remember that self-publishing is in its infancy, and while erotica and erotic romance has absolutely and unquestionably driven the sales of Kindles and Nooks everywhere, there is no telling how stable this genre is going to be in the future. We only have to look at how often this genre has been attacked, from Amazon pulling books from their shelves, Apple removing the genre from their bestseller lists, to Paypal refusing to pay for it, to see that job-stability is an issue for erotica writers.

My feeling is that this "gold-rush" - both in self-publishing and in erotica writing - is going to end, at least as we know it. Like those who never finished Nanowrimo, there will be writers who wanted to jump on the erotica gravy train who put out a few stories, made a few sales, and gave it up because they didn't make a million in their first few months. Or, like my brother-in-law, they'll talk a lot about wanting to write it so they can get rich too...but they never will.

And yes, there will be writers who make money at it, who take advantage of the "gold-rush" and pay off their student loans, their credit card debt, maybe even their mortgages. And good for them!

But in the end, the glut of work being rushed onto Amazon's virtual shelves on a daily basis will end up settling to the bottom. Big publishing has known for a long time that the bell-curve doesn't apply to books--which is why they invest all their money into those books at the top they think will sell best. They know that most books, whether they're self-or-traditionally published, only get minimally read.

The shine is going to wear off the Kindles and the Nooks. Readers are already getting more discerning about what they're willing to download. I've seen threads on forums where readers have asked, "How do I avoid downloading ANY self-published work ever again?" because they've been burned by the unedited, poorly written stuff that people are putting out there.

The fact is that this erotica "gold-rush" thing is going to end. This genre isn't a magic bullet. And trust me when I say I'm not looking to discourage the competition. As a publisher at eXcessica, I've done more to help writers succeed in this genre, I think, than most. What I'm trying to discourage is the "get-rich-quick" mentality that breeds poorly written and edited stories and books--and the heartache and disillusionment that comes with it, when authors realize they're not making the money they wanted to.

The reality is that writing isn't easy, whether you're writing erotic or thrillers or children's books. Writers work hard (and erotica writers may even work harder... every pun intended!) and, as in any profession, the best ones make it look easy. I always know someone is following their calling when, watching them do what they love to do and are clearly very good at, I find myself wanting to do it too. So it's always a compliment to me when someone says, "Wow, you make that look easy, I want to do what you do!" But I also feel a little like Simon Cowell on American Idol - I want to keep it real. I want to encourage those who are good at it, while redirecting others toward a path that may be more suited to their talents. So the whole, "How can I get rich doing what you do?" question also rankles me because it doesn't put the focus on the writing, where it should be, but rather on the money. 

When it comes down to it, erotica is like any other genre. Writing about sex might seem titillating, but in the end, those books and stories that stand the test of time will be those written by authors who loved what they were writing about, and who conveyed that to their readers.The writing that will abide will have been written by authors who didn't worry about bottom-lines and time-investment ratios, but rather let the story lead and the characters tell their tale.

As for whether my writing will be among those?

Only time will tell!

Selena Kitt  
Erotic Fiction You Won't Forget

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Five in a Prize

Now that I've broken my own curse and gained momentum on Cinderella Ending, I want to offer the opportuntiy for five people to win copies of both Cinderella Club and Cinderella Thyme. Just comment on my blog post - I will need your email address. That's it. Last time I offered a free PDF copy of a book, only two people responded so they both won. While I want to give the books away, I am doubting my blog will have that much activity. Maybe you can prove me wrong?

I am never happier than when I'm revisiting the characters in these novels. Today I thought - I don't really care what others think of the stories because this trilogy is my masterpiece and no one can disuade me from believing that. They are my Shallow Hal.

Cinderella Club has been moving up a list on - top books of Dark Erotica. It is 21st out of 79 with forty-four votes. Okay, one of them is mine. So, yeah. And yay! Because of course this would be less vain if people actually read and loved my work.

I'm up a few more thousand words and have mapped out the chapters on my trilogy final. It will be done on time. Now I just need to stay focused and all that. Who's with me?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Ch-Ch-Ch Changes!


I met another writer today. It's funny how many people reveal that they are would-be authors, once I tell them that I write for a living!

This particular writer is a financial planner by day (which was the service we were seeking from her) but a young-adult fiction writer by night. When she heard my tale of publishing success and I talked to her more about self-publishing as opposed to the query-go-round of legacy publishing, she began to really understand the advantages. And of course, the idea that she might be able to publish her already-finished first book in her trilogy RIGHT NOW was thrilling. I sent her over to the Newbie's Guide (which I always do with aspiring writers who are thinking about self-publishing - why try to reinvent the wheel?) and we moved on from talking ebooks to discussing finances. Apparently, my husband and I have official labels in the finance world. We're called "young accumulators." I was thrilled we got to be "young." My husband was much happier with the "accumulator" part of the equation!
After we left her office, I got to thinking about my initial experiences with ebooks and ebook publishing and ereaders. When my first ebook was published in 2006, I wasn't thinking of epublishing. I didn't consider ebooks "real books." And small ebook publishers were barely a step up from vanity presses, as far as I was concerned. I just saw that a small epublisher was having a contest for entries. Winners would recieve $100 and a publishing contract. Three runners-up would receive a publishing contract, but no cash. Me, I was looking to win the cash. I didn't. But I did win a contract. 
I was reluctant. But finally, I decided - why not? What could it hurt? These were the days before online ebook self-publishing was really viable. There was no Kindle Publishing Direct. There was no Barnes and Noble PubIt. So I signed a contract with the now-defunct StarDust Press to publish my story, Christmas Stalking. They gave me 35% profit and kept 75%. And that was pretty good, considering a legacy publishing deal would only give you about 17%, and they wouldn't publish anything as short as 17,000 words anyway, except in an anthology. 
 I learned a lot at that little publisher. I dealt with editors (she was great, and I was insufferable) and cover artists (not so great - vector drawing covers, ugh!) I learned about marketing on blogs and in chat rooms and on Yahoo groups. I learned that there was already a large network of romance and erotic romance readers who had been reading on ereaders for years. Really, years! They liked to read their fiction anonymously and electronically. Especially the erotic romance, because no one could see the covers or ask what they were reading! It was like a whole little underground network that I'd never known existed. 
Maybe I'd misjudged this ebook thing? Maybe ereaders really were going to be the wave of the future?
Little did I know! It's funny to me to look back now at my judgments and attitudes. I accepted the publishing contract, but I didn't tell anyone. I mean, I wasn't really published. Ebooks weren't real books! Then Kindle came along, and even though my books were now all over the place, including on Amazon through their Mobi site (back then, Amazon only offered publishers 35% profit, not the 70% they give to authors now, believe it or not) I still didn't consider ebooks as real books. 
 It cracks me up that Fictionwise (before Amazon opened their self-publishing department) actually cancelled our account and deleted all of Excessica's books because they'd found out that, as an author co-op, we had done all our own editing and cover art! *gasp* They were simply horrified by this fact. Horrified enough to actually just delete us! I had to go to bat and convince them that we were a business, an LLC, just like they were, and that I didn't publish "just anything" and that we did have editors and cover artists on staff (never mind that they happened to be co-op volunteers... shhhh!) They finally reinstated our account. 
 I can laugh about that now. But back then, it was a big deal. Fictionwise was the largest ebook retailer at the time, and here they were saying "NO!" to self-publishing. Of course, that was before Amazon got into the game and blew them out of the water. 
It was all so new, so strange, such uncharted territory. The rules in ebook publishing seemed to change every few months. I just continued to plug along, writing and (self) publishing under the umbrella of our little co-op at Excessica. But I still didn't own an ereader. That's right. I was making $10,000 a month via ebooks, but I'd never actually read one! 
Then my husband decided we had to have a Kindle. I was reluctant. I liked paper books. I liked my hardcover collectibles. Here I was, an ebook author making my primary living as an ebook author--and I was still hesitant to actually own an ereader! How crazy is that? 
But once I got my hands on my Kindle, I never looked back. I've now officially been assimilated. I write ebooks, and use print-on-demand services to provide them as paperbacks. I consider ebooks as "real" books now. I even primarily read ebooks as opposed to dead-tree books. In fact, I haven't purchased a paper book in over a year, unless it was something out-of-print I couldn't get on my Kindle. (And I get really, really cranky when that happens!) 
And as my own attitudes changed, I watched the culture shift. Writers like JA Konrath, who had once denounced epublishing, were jumping on that wagon with both feet and huge backlists, speeding toward a six-or-seven figure income. 
I started seeing people reading Kindles in coffee shops and at the gym. When I got my first ereader, I got asked about it all the time when I was reading in public. "Is that one of those new Kindle things?" People were interested, curious. Now, people glance at my ereader and then go on with their business. It's commonplace. They know what it is. They probably own one or know someone who does. 
And all of this has happened in a very short span of time. When I published my first ebook five years ago, they were less than 1% of the market. (Although the market did exist!) Now, the ebook market is about 25% of total book sales. Granted, the idea of self-publishing and ebooks hasn't fully entered the collective consciousness... not quite yet. As my conversation with my financial-planner/would-be author can attest. 
But it's coming. Ch-ch-changes! Back in 2006, I couldn't have predicted where the epublishing market would be today. I never thought I would e-publish. I didn't really believe that ebooks would become popular. And there was no way I was going to switch to an ereader over paperbacks! Yet here I am, making a (very, very comfortable) living writing ebooks. Self-publishing them. And I read almost exclusively on an ereader myself. 
 The prejudice against self-publishing is going to fade. Trust me - my own prejudices were quite strong, and they have all but disappeared. The world of publishing is going to look very different five, ten years from now. I feel as if I got into the game at a strange time, like being caught between the years of Betamax and VHS. Or MySpace and FaceBook. There are bigger things coming, I think. Bigger, even, than Amazon. I don't know what they'll be. But hang on - it's going to be one hell of a ride, folks! 

 Selena Kitt  
Erotic Fiction You Won't Forget