Jan 292010

By Jean Marie Stine: Publisher of Renaissance E-books and Sizzler Editions

In January 2010 Amazon.com announced that, for the first time ever, ebooks had outsold print books during the previous December.

It was an epochal announcement. It was not only a first for Amazon, it was a first ever for the entire publishing industry. The long-heralded era of the ebook had finally arrived.

Although print books continued to outsell electronic books over all, the tide was clearly turning. Meanwhile, sales of ebooks were booming at Sony’s own ebook store, as were sales at B&N’s new ebook store.

These sales were fueled largely by the availability of a new generation of ebook reading devices that could wirelessly download books from ebook stores, and several of which, notably Sony’s newest iteration and the new Nook from Barnes & Nobel, were multiplatform, capable of reading ebooks in a variety of formats.

Amazon claimed to have sold 200,000 units of the Kindle well before the holiday shopping season, while Sony reports having sold over 300,000 of their ebook reading device, and B&N recently said that the Nook was the single bestselling item at their site over the holiday shopping season. Between these three companies, then, about one million or more ebook reading devices will have been sold to readers by the end of 2010.

Meanwhile all kinds of apps for buying and reading ebooks on “smartphones” – as well as laptops, ipods, various palm held devices, and the newly emerging tablet-sized computers – are turning almost any portable device that will read or transmit any kind of digital data into an ebook reading device.

That means there are many times more ebook reading devices and people reading them than ever before, and ebooks have a growing market that should continue expanding for years to come.

Again, that market is still tiny compared to print books. 3000 to 5000 copies is a big initial sale for an $8.99 ebook (unless by Dan Brown or some other giant of the print bestseller lists) while the initial sale of, say, an $8.99 paperback is more like 60,000 to 100,000 copies.

As I know from talking to writers at various conferences, writers of popular ebooks in popular categories, especially if prolific and capable of writing a new book every month or two, can earn $30-40,000 per year. Some even more.

What are the most popular, bestselling ebook categories? In no particular order: Business/Self-improvement, science fiction/fantasy, romance, and erotica. Everything else is distant second.

Of these, erotica is unique in a very important way. You can go into a bookstore and buy business/self-improvement, romance, and science fiction. But you can’t go into 90% of all bookstores and buy erotica.

Why is another whole magilla we don’t have time to go into deeply. In part, it has to do with the vulnerability of chain stores (which are 90% of the market) to pressure from conservatives and religious groups. Which means chains aren’t going to carry erotica in the south, certain Western states, and any moderate-sized towns in any state with a conservative slant. That severely limits the bookstores chains can carry erotica in to all but the biggest and most cosmopolitan cities and some decidedly liberal college towns. Considering the logistical nightmare of having a category of books that can only be shipped to a few stores, and worries about such a book accidentally being shipped to a store in, say, Alexandria, Louisiana, it’s easier for chain booksellers to just say “no”.

Deduct from the independent bookstores those that are religious (a very sizable chunk) and those that cater to specialized markets like fishing, handicrafts, etc., and you can see that all that would be left would be one or two bookstores in each of the biggest cities – and a few college towns.

Some erotica collections and anthologies do get published in print form and reach those one or two bookstores in each big cities and those few college towns But they are mostly from smaller, independent presses and, sadly, the current economic depression has impacted the small print publishers of erotica heavily, with many going out of business and others cutting back on new releases and even cancelling contracts they had signed for future books.

Clearly if print was the only market for erotica, it wouldn’t be worth discussing the subject at all.

Over on the internet, however, among ebook publishers, sales and the market for erotica are booming.

There are a lot of reasons the market for erotic ebooks is hot right now.

First and foremost is, as noted above, you can’t get them anywhere else.

Equally important is the anonymity of ebooks. They can be purchased over the internet and downloaded immediately to the privacy of your own computer or electronic reading device. No standing in line at a brick and mortar bookstore where a book’s title might be a dead give away of your secret kink to the person behind the counter or a friend you found unexpectedly standing alongside you in the checkout line.

Also erotic ebooks are priced competitively with regular supermarket paperbacks (most erotic ebooks selling for $6-7.99).

There is another reason erotica sells so well in ebook form. People who read, say, an erotic novel, read more than one a month. Females and males, we all know, read erotica to get off. Once they have read an erotic book a couple of times it loses its potency and they need a brand new book to help get them off.
That means there is a near endless demand for new erotic ebooks.

So, for anyone interested in writing erotica, as a career or part-time, the present is a very exciting and rewarding time to enter the field.
It is safe to say that, due entirely to the internet and the rise of ebook publishing, more people are making more money writing erotica than at any previous time in history. And even with all the authors already writing in the field, there is still a greater need for good new writers than ever.

Jean Marie Stine

Jan 212010


I’m astounded sometimes by writers who will only write one thing and one thing only: straight erotica, mysteries, science fiction, horror – you name it: their flute has only one note. They might play that one note very, very well but often they neglect the rest of the scale. Not to go on about myself, but my own moderate accomplishments as a writer are the direct result of my accepting a challenge or two. I never thought I could write erotica – until I did. I never thought I could write gay erotica, until I did. Who knows what you might be great at? You won’t know until you try.

A writer is nothing but pure potential, but only if that potential is utilized. If you only like writing straight erotica, try gay or lesbian. The same goes if you’re queer: try writing something, anything, that you’d never in a million years think of doing. Maybe the story will suck, and that certainly does happen, but maybe it’ll be a wonderful story or teach you something about your craft.

Challenge yourself. If you don’t like a certain genre, like Romance, then write what your version of a romance story would be like. You don’t like Westerns? Well, write one anyway: the Western you’d like to read. Of course like a lot of these imagination games you don’t have to sit down and actually write a Western novel. Instead just take some time to visualize it: the characters, setting, some plot points, a scene or two. How would you open it? Maybe a tumbleweed blowing down a dusty street, perhaps a brass and black iron locomotive plowing through High Sierra snow? Or what about the classic Man With No Name staring down a posse of rabid outlaws? Who knows, you might be the best Western – or mystery, science fiction, gay, lesbian, straight etc. – writer there ever was, or maybe you’ll just learn something about people, about writing. Either way, you’re flexing, increasing the range of your work.

This flexibility isn’t just good in abstract: look at the books being published, the Calls For Submissions, and so forth. If you only like to write stories that one are particular style, flavor, or orientation, you’ll notice you have a very, very limited number of places that would look at your work. But if you can write anything, then everywhere is a potential market. Write one thing and that’s exactly how many places will want to look at what you do. Write everything and you could sell anywhere.

In other words: try! If you don’t try, you won’t know if you’re any good. Some writers only do what they know and like because they don’t want to face rejection, or feel they’d have to restart their careers if they change the one thing they do well. I don’t believe any of that. If you can’t handle rejection then writing is not the life for you. Getting punched in the genitals by a rejection slip is part of the business, something we all have to deal with. As far as a writer’s career goes, no one knows what shape that’ll take, what’ll happen in the future. Planning a job path in writing is like trying to roll snake eyes twelve times in a row: the intent might be there but the results are completely chaotic. In the same way a simple little story can turn out to be the best thing you’re ever written, an unexpected experiment can end up being a total artistic change.

Playing with new themes, genres, and styles is fun. Experiment on the page, in your mind, and who knows what’ll pop up? Go to a bookstore and pick up something at random, read the back cover, and then spend a fun couple of hours imagining how you’d write it. What style would you use? What kind of characters? What settings? Even sit down and write some of it: a page, or even just a paragraph or two. It might suck, but that’s the risk you always take trying something new – but it also could open a door to something wonderful.

M. Christian


Jan 142010

In many ways, I’m the odd (wo)man out here at WriteSex. After all, I don’t write erotica or even romance. I write the Jane True series: mainstream, mass market urban fantasy for Orbit Books, a publisher famous for its Sci Fi/Fantasy rather than its sizzle. Here’s what I write:

So why am I here?

One reason is that, while I don’t write romance, I do write sex. Urban fantasy is a fantastic genre in that it’s like a pick and mix: authors of urban fantasy get to cobble together whatever elements of fiction they like, as long as somewhere, somehow, they have some mixture of the “real” world and some element of the supernatural, paranormal, or magical.

When I started putting together my world, my version of UF, I knew that one of the elements I was definitely going to utlilize was sex. Not romance, per se, but I knew I was definitely going to have sex. The reason being, quite frankly, that I think sex is important. And not merely because I’m a lascivious little wench; it’s also because of my philosophies regarding sex.

Before you roll your eyes, let me assure you that, when I say “philosophies,” I mean philosophies. For one of the other reasons I was asked to participate in WriteSex is that I am a Ph.D. in English literature, whose academic background includes the conjunction of sex and power in contemporary British and American fiction.

As any literary theorist can tell you, sex has never been just about pleasure: not in life, and certainly not in fiction. Humans have sex for so many varied, complicated reasons, most of which we can never understand, nor even know exist.

That said, as thinkers such as Freud, Lawrence, and Nietzsche understood, we reveal so much about ourselves in the ways that we conduct ourselves, sexually; how we communicate about sex; and how we think about sex.

So when I sat down to write my first book, it was important for me to write about my protagonist’s sexuality because my whole book is rooted in her character. Of course plot is important, but Tempest Rising is as much character study as anything else. I couldn’t bring Jane to life without including her unique view of sex and sexuality.

And yet, as I’ve said, this book was published to be shelved, as it says on the spine, in either Fantasy or Horror, not in Romance. So, when it came to writing about sex, I had to make a lot of interesting choices, and defend those choices to myself and others, along the way.

These issues, and why I make the choices I make when writing sex for mainstream publication, are what I’m going to be talking about in my future blog posts for WriteSex. I’ll talk about such topics as how much is too much (learned that one the hard way); why none is too little for me, personally; building, or reducing, character through depicting sexuality; and there will definitely be something on the Dreaded Euphemism: or, “When a Lotus Blossom Should Remain Just a Lotus Blossom.”

Sound good? Let me know if there are other issues you’d like me to address and don’t be shy. I am here for you. ;-)

Nicole Peeler


Jan 072010

My name is Sascha Illyvich and with the help of M Christian, Oceania, Jean Marie Stine, Dr. Nicole Peeler and Thomas Roche, we’re going to explore the daunting aspects of erotica in all its forms. This blog will discuss every aspect of writing sexy fiction from what makes a story erotic even if there is little to no sex involved. Writers will come away with writing tips that will benefit their careers. We’ll cover author marketing, what defines a story as erotic, things new writers need to consider and the business angle of writing erotica.

I’ve been writing for almost ten years, starting out with erotica before I made the transition to erotic romance. I’ve written everything from the 100 flasher to the 100,000 word novel and am with two very successful publishers. I have a few stories with other publishers; teach courses on BDSM to romance writers as well as my famous Writing from the Male POV course which has been a success with local RWA chapters. I write full time and host the UnNamed Romance Show on Radio Dentata Mondays at 1 PM PST.

Every week we’ll focus on a different aspect of writing erotica. Our other authors will do own introductions. Some of them have a rather unique way of letting you know who they are! I’ll be covering writing style in general for starters.

Beginning with technique, I’m going to break down what makes a story erotic and how we craft those scenes that leave us squirming in our chairs. Let’s start with the story idea.

We have basic components to every story.

Characters – Who the story is about
Plot – which happens TO the characters
Setting – Where this all takes place
Conflict – Part of the plot that makes the story interesting. This is really the driving force behind the plot.

In ANY given setting we can add erotic elements. Let’s define what makes an element erotic.

Word Web defines erotica as Creative activity (writing or pictures or films etc.) of no literary or artistic value other than to stimulate sexual desire.

This definition is a little harsh. Let’s pair it down a bit.

Erotic: the act of being stimulated sexually through the senses of taste, touch, sight, smell and audio.

With this broader definition, we can now begin to understand that our brain is our largest sex organ truly as what arouses me will differ from what arouses you, but our bodies respond to the stimulation the mind finds erotic.

In a scene, we have setting. With characters, we have actions. With plot, that’s a little more complex.

With the scene, we can utilize descriptions by just giving enough detail to create a picture in the mind of the reader while giving them license to view it their way. Since our stories in any genre don’t rely precisely on location in most cases, then we want to limit our scene descriptions. The mind focuses on what’s right in front of it anyway.

Meaning, the mind focuses on the characters and their interactions. Tell me, do you pay attention to the breeze in summertime OR do you pay attention to the cologne/perfume wafting towards you from the attractive person that caught your eye?

The day may play back in your memory later on when you’re telling your friends but the real question is going to be about the person, not the scene.

Next time we talk, we’ll go into the characterization part. There is a lot to be said about characterization so that will take up a few parts. I leave you waiting for next week’s installment with our next fabulous author!