Every 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.
Erotic Fiction You Won’t Forget