Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Twit in Mia

Okay, so I'm still not writing - except this.  Blogging does not count because it is kind of like writing in a journal, I guess.  It's here for me to blather on about what I should be doing rather than actually doing it.  I have very little free time these days and I'm spending it trying to get more visibility as a writer.  I'm on Facebook every night commenting on other people's threads.  I could plop down some opinions of my own but I don't.  Mostly I'm there to laugh at stupid stuff and not rant.  I do post links to blog posts and links to purchase my books.

Twitter is my new thing.  There's this thing called where you can see who is following you and unfollowing you and you can follow back or unfollow.  Follow, follow. follow, follow.  This is incredibly difficult for a person who lives a leader's life.  I have such difficulty with cooperative learning and sharing and all of that helping each other, which is the way of the world.  But really, it takes friendship to get anywhere in life and so the lone wolf artist is outta luck.

So here's what has happened since I joined "the system".  I followed over a thousand people and I now have over 700 followers.  This has happened in the past week, really.  I only followed something like 20 people before.  I wanted to read what people had to say.  Comedians mostly, because they have the best handle on short and concise one-liners that make you lol.  Joan Rivers, of course.  Close to eighty years old and she has her mouth on the pulse of all that is pop culture and I can only say Bravo! to that bitch as I bow down to her mastery of the media.

I had to say so long to her and Craig Ferguson and the Jimmys Kimmel and Fallon.  To Conan and Letterman, so long, and hello to a bunch of writers and randoms that I don't know.  Time to re-tweet (known as RT- ha, ha, I had to learn that!) The secret is in the re-tweets.  You do it as much as you can.  Then you thank all of the people who RTed you and respond to direct tweets and finally you tweet yourself w/ links to whatever - your blog, this blog, your books, etc.

The other thing is the hashtag. (#) Whoever thought of it, really?  It looks like this #MiaNatasha.  Hashtag something and it ends up on a trending page.  You are all probably rolling your eyes at me right now with a big duh!  (Do you at least still do that or am I like completely out of the loop?)  So I add BDSM and erotica, and Excessica and I don't know what to a hashtag as I'm tweeting now, and that helps me define myself so that other people will re-tweet me.

If this sound new to you, then I'm glad to help.  The thing is that ultimately a person with more followers than you will RT you and you'll get a lot of exposure and visibility is the key to success.  I have noticed more traffic to my blog, whether they are actually reading it is another matter.  Some people don't need to do any of this.  They are popular to the masses.  I was checking out the reviews for the 50 Shades books- there are over half a million on Goodreads!  I have 35 ratings for Cinderella Club, 19 for Cinderella Thyme, 8 for Cinderella Ending.  Then 8 for A Ghost's Chance (all five stars!) 6 for Jude's Whore and Dr. Cockburn's Medicine and only 3 for Putting the Madge in Danna.  Sadly those three are me and my best friend, and this wonderful woman named Renee who is my cheerleader.  Whah-whan!

I put my books on a shitload of lists there and it's kind of sadly funny that on some of them the books have one vote (mine).  Loser, party of one.

I'm really not phased, of course.  When I do all I can to promote myself, and by the same token to exercise and take care of myself, then all I can has to be good enough and that makes me feel good.  I will continue to try to establish myself as a force to be reckoned with, a force of one but so what?  I was never a writer to begin with and yet, here I am and there are people who think I'm good at it, people who actually think my shit don't stink so to speak.

So after this I will go back and tweet a little bit more.  Tweet, RT and repeat to my heart's content.  I hope you will do the same and shout me out too because I want to help you.  Help me help you.  Help you help me.  I am @mia_erotica on Twitter but you can find me by searching Mia Natasha.

The Project Runway runway finale is next Thursday.  Michelle is literally the lone wolf, the one who feels like the underdog who decided to actually use the idea of wolves as her inspiration.  She was the only one with a clear vision and I will cry tears of joy if she wins the competition just as I do almost every season because the culmination of hard work is always emotional for me.  Good luck, Michelle.  You'll be my hero (heroine) if you win it all and I will have the incentive to keep at this crazy erotica endeavor - like the leader that I really am.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Revisiting the Censorship of Erotic Fiction

Hey, does anyone remember when Amazon started banning erotic fiction?

I do.

I remember, because it makes a difference to me, to my bottom line. This is my livelihood, my living. Every time one of these corporations decides to change the rules (again) without telling publishers (again) what is or isn't acceptable in their venue, they take food off my table. It hasn't stopped, by the way. Just because the news isn't covering it today, doesn't mean it's stopped.

Your freedom to read what you like is being eroded every day. Every time Apple rejects a book or app (they just did it again and made the news last week), every time a corporation decides, "We won't sell that here," it narrows your choices as a reader. Yes, corporations can sell what they like, they can make the rules on their playground.

But they should then have the cojones to tell publishers and authors what is or isn't okay with them. Instead, we have to guess, while Amazon and Apple and Barnes and Noble "reserve the right" to arbitrarily refuse one book, but not another.
I'll give you a recent personal example. This story of mine, Girls Only: Pool Party, has a picture of two women on the front. They're not naked (look closer) and there are no "important parts" showing. Yet Amazon stamped my book ADULT and excluded it from the All Department search.
However, this book has a very similar cover, but depicts a man and a woman, rather than two women, in the same position. I made the sensible argument that either my book should be unfiltered - or Leo should be ADULT filtered.

This was the response I received:
Regarding "Girls Only: Pool Party," we have evaluated your title in comparison to "Leo" and stand by our decision not to remove the adult flag. Mature content handling is confidential and we retain discretion over what we perceive as "adult" titles.
Really, Amazon?

I responded, letting them know that I was sure the GBLT community would like to know that they are censoring gay and lesbian fiction but allowing heterosexual fiction to remain in the all department search. In fact, I was sure that there were many reporters and journalists who would be interested in this fact as well, especially after Apple's publicity last week in banning an app for gay/lesbian content, and I happened to know several of them personally, because they interviewed me during the Paypal fiasco...

Amazon took the filter off my book.

But most authors don't have the same 'clout' that I do, or the means to back up an "I'm going to the press with this!" statement.

There is, however, power in numbers. It's one of the reasons I developed Excessica as a publishing co-op. There's always more power in numbers.

So with that in mind - if you have a book that's been filtered or banned, a book you've been told by some corporation that it isn't "acceptable" to them, please POST IT HERE.

BANNED EROTICA EBOOKS is a Facebook page dedicated to intellectual freedom, for authors and readers alike. Please share it with your friends, go "like" it on Facebook. Support those vendors who refuse to ban books, and tell those corporations who are limiting your choices that you don't appreciate it!

Just because you haven't heard about corporate censorship lately, doesn't mean it's gone away. In fact, the more silent we are about it, the more they will continue to do it--and get away with it.

Don't sit back and ignore it. It's not going away. Do something, even if it's just "liking" the Facebook page to send the message to corporations: "We want to the freedom to read what we like!"

Make sure they get that message - loud and clear.

Selena Kitt
Erotic Fiction You Won't Forget
LATEST RELEASE: Under Mr. Nolan's Bed Sequel: Confession

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Fifty Shades of Suck

I keep hearing about how bad Fifty Shades of Grey is, how horrible its syntax and grammar, how the atrocious mistakes in point of view, repetitive words and kindergarten-level writing detract significantly from the enjoyment of the story. I keep hearing it, but as of this writing, they're still sitting pretty over at Amazon. They're still front and center at our local Barnes and Noble. They're still selling, in spite of the flaws, in spite of the (mostly true, it seems) criticisms. 
So why should this series of books be all the rage, while there are other books malingering on the shelves that are so grammatically perfect editors everywhere have little orgasms when they read their clever turns of phrase? 

Because the unwashed masses that the elitists in "big publishing" once believed they had to protect from bad grammar, those poor slobs that publishers believed they had to choose for, are now choosing for themselves. They are voting with their dollars. The great big experiment that capitalism is supposed to be is being played out on Amazon, as books that would never have seen anything except the inside of an agent's trash bin are now flooding the Kindle market, and readers are choosing which books they are actually interested in reading. 

It's the biggest market research study in the history of publishing happening right there on the marketplace. 

And it turns out that big publishing was wrong. Readers don't want to read what publishers thought they wanted to read. In fact, publishers were pretty far off the mark, if the bestseller lists are any indication. Big publishing has been surprised to see phenoms like EL James and Amanda Hocking and Tammara Webber flying up the charts. Publishers are aghast at the "grievous errors" in some of these infamously self-or-alternatively published books.

It turns out that readers want entertainment. They want a good story, plain and simple. And they're even willing to put up with horrible syntax and grammar to get it. In fact, turns out those things are just a minor annoyance for readers. In the end, readers want a good story. Not the story publishers think they should read, not the ones agents believe they can sell. They don't want Snooki's autobiography, simply because she's famous for being on television. They want a good story.

Reboots or rewrites or the same old formula? It doesn't matter. If it's a good story, readers will find it and read it. They will tell their friends about it. "Oh my god, I just read the best book, you have to read it!" It isn't luck that creates a bestseller. Contrary to publishing and all the money they spend on their biggest names, marketing doesn't sell books. Readers do. That's why a backlist is the best thing a writer can have under his or her belt. Because if readers like you, they will read you, again and again and again. If they like your story, they're going to want more. 

The floodgates are open, authors. Everyone's all-in, and if you thought the competition was fierce when big publishing held the reins, you're in for a wake-up call when you send your little boat out afloat into the ocean that is Amazon. There are a LOT of boats out there. The good news is, if your boat floats--if your story is a good one--readers will find you. They will tell their friends. And you will sell books. 

You couldn't do that before. Big publishing controlled the ocean. They had it buttoned up tighter than the Hoover Dam. 

Now, as an author, you can sail freely. Of course, you're captain of your own ship now. In the world of self-publishing, there are no luxury cruises on Big Publishing's Princess line. (But think of it this way--what were the odds you were going to get into one of the VIP suites anyway? You probably would have been relegated downstairs in steerage, like on the Titanic... and if you take this metaphor to its logical conclusion, yes, the boat that was too big to sink? It sank. Big publishing has hit an iceberg and they're too arrogant to acknowledge it... but that boat is taking in water and is hitting its critical tipping point... )

So to all those people who are complaining about Fifty Shades and books like it, where reader enjoyment won out over the Grammar Nazis, you can relax. The world didn't end because of a misplaced comma or the annoying repetition of a phrase or word. And clearly if so many people are reading it, it must be doing something right! You might have thought Fifty Shades sucked, but you have to admit that, first and foremost, it was entertaining. It's human nature to slow down to see a train wreck. Perhaps many of Fifty Shades readers were simply curious about the hype, or wondered if it was "as bad as people said." Still, the blog posts and reviews I've seen about just how awful it was as a book, clearly thought that it was entertaining--even if it wasn't exactly in the way the author intended. 

Now, I'm not condoning sending your little boat out there with holes in it. You should polish your manuscript, have a good cover, do your best to make your book water tight before you send it sailing. Doing so certainly does nothing but help you in your journey as an author. However, as books like Fifty Shades have proven, you never know what's going to appeal to readers until you put it out there and let them decide. And even the dingiest, most beat-up little boat out there in the ocean can still sail, as long as it has entertainment value, however that appears to and for readers. 

Big publishing has been shocked in the past few years by what readers are buying, reading, and telling their friends about. Books that were once denied to the market are being published--and they're being read. So much for the judgment calls, so much for the gatekeepers. They have no power anymore. What sells, sells. It's that simple. 

So while Big publishing might have once snickered and tossed EL James' books aside as Fifty Shades of Suck, they're now scrambling to catch up, looking for more books like it, and seeing how they can cash in on what readers really want. 

Me, I'm cheering for all the little boats out there on the Amazon ocean. I doubt, considering their history, that big publishing is going to wake up and smell the iceberg. But the reality is that the market is speaking loud and clear, for anyone who wants to listen. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Readers are Writer's Gold

15776614_mEvery time I get a “fan” letter  saying, “You probably won’t answer this, you probably have people reading your mail for you…” etc, my mind boggles.
I read all my “fan” mail (even the ones on actual paper!) and answer most of it. (You would be correct in assuming the ones I don’t answer start out with, “Hey, you write good, let’s fuq!”)
I suppose I’m lucky to a) not have so many fans that it would be impossible for me to answer them all and b) to have fans who enjoy my work and want to write me and say so in the first place. It’s a nice middle-ground place to be.
I’ve heard a lot from writers in the past year who have entered the erotica market with laptops blazing, ready to pump out title after title until they reach the magic number that will allow them to make a living from writing “smut.” I’ve heard writers talking about “collecting” emails via mailing lists in exchange for a free book or promotion. I’ve watched contests and giveaways scroll my by Facebook feed, “freebie” books offered as an enticement, even “I’ll write my next book about YOU,” promos, all just to attract the attention of possible readers.
But once you have a reader, once you have that mailing list… now what do you do?
I think too many writers forget who readers are. Readers are, quite often, also writers. Readers are smart. Readers like words, lots of them, in a satisfying order. They like stories most of all. Readers prefer to rely on their own imagination – with the helpful prompt of the writer. This is especially true of the erotic reader, more than any other genre, because otherwise … well, we all know how much visual stimulation is out there on the Internet. I’ve had people ask me, “How in the world are you making a living at this when there’s so much FREE porn on the Internet?!”
Because readers are special. Readers are unique. Readers want a story, they want you, the writer, to engage their imagination. They want a relationship with you, through you, to the story you are telling, the characters who walk and talk on the pages. Readers want to connect, with your characters, AND with you, as a writer.
Of course, with erotica, there’s a fine line to be drawn between fantasy and reality. We all know that every erotica writer is a sexual powerhouse who does nothing but work out and do “it” … while they’re not writing, that is. Sure. And I’ve got some real estate in Florida for you…
But it helps, as a writer, to remember that every single email on your mailing list is a person. It’s not just a number, not just another email address, not just another sale. Every single person who gave you their email address in exchange for a free read is a “someone.” Readers are valuable, but not just as a means to an end. I think too many people in the genre this past year or so have entered with dollar signs in their eyes, and forget that readers are individual people, every single one, who sought YOU out, as a writer, because something about the way you tell a story appealed to them.
Do you know what a gift that is?
Don’t forget it. Don’t just accumulate names on your list and rest on your laurels.
Because the market is flooded right now, and I mean flooded, with erotica and erotic romance. The one thing you, as a writer, have in your favor are your fans. Treat them well, and they will return the favor. It is a symbiotic relationship, not a one way street. Don’t ignore email from readers, don’t think you’re above connecting with the people who appreciate your work.
When aspiring writers ask me, “What is the one thing I can do to be successful?? I used to say, “Keep writing.” Which is still great advice and my number one response. But now I would also add, “Cultivate relationships with your fans.” Interact with them, talk to them, respond to their kudos and criticisms, both. Most of all, respect them. Remember that they have a lot of choices available to them out there–too many to count–but they chose you.
Treat that as the gift it really is. There’s nothing wrong with offering a free read in exchange for a mailing list sign up. I do it too. It’s what happens afterward that matters. Now that you’re connected, what do you do? Don’t disappoint your readership, don’t belittle them or treat them like a number. They are much, much more than that. In the self-publishing wild west out there, your readers are your most important thing. They’re not just your bread and butter, they’re valuable, in and of themselves. Each one wants something from you, and each one deserves your very best. Treat fans like you, as a reader, would want to be treated by someone whose work you enjoy.
That, more than anything else, will keep you going, writing what you love to write, for the people who love to read it.

Selena Kitt
Erotic Fiction You Won’t Forget