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)


  1. I have been writing erotica since 1984. While I did a lot of writing in high school, it wasn't until I stumbled upon erotica (one of the varieties that Paypal was complaining about) that I realized that there were people who had to be getting paid to be writers--basically, the stories were just too well-written to be written by amateurs. Therefore, I have always been interested in using erotica to help develop my skill as a writer, even if I am doing it under a different penname.

  2. I would add to your comments that upon reading some erotica it is plainly obvious that the writers are people who have never strayed outside the lines of a vanilla, monogamous sex life. I have believed since I started writing in this genre, that to produce a story that is truly believable and engaging there has to be some element of first hand experience.

    I too started writing erotica as a means of improving my writing skills and sharing my experiences. I have enjoyed the journey and I hope that I will be here doing the same thing and producing work that my readers enjoy for many years to come.