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.
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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