May 262012
 
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Here’s a special invitation to erotica writers & artists looking for a bit of free exposure.

Frequently Felt is my playful little blog — “A lobcock of erotic trivialities, oddities, and miscellanea transcribed with jaundiced talent for naught but a boxing Jesuit indulgence by a disreputable posse mobilitatis” – where I’ve been posting this, that, and everything betwixt and between having to do with sex and erotica.  For friends I’m opening Frequently Felt to very short stories and artwork on a first-come-first-posted basis.  Here are the specifics:

  • Literary pieces no longer than 1000 words.
  • No underage characters, excessive violence, incest, homophobia, or bestiality
  • Please include some form of contact information at the end (email, Web site, etc.) to be published with your piece
  • I reserve the right to refuse to publish anything – it’s my blog, after all

Submit your work to mchristianzobop@gmail.com.  I do my best to post things every other day or so but things sometimes happen to disrupt that schedule…

I’m also interested in interviews, reviews, editorial pieces, artwork, blog posts and other fun things.  If you want to help out with that, just write me and we’ll chat about it.

M. Christian

www.mchristian.com

www.meinekleinefabrik.blogspot.com

www.frequentlyfelt.blogspot.com

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May 242012
 
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In mid-2008 the four biggest distributors of our ebooks, the four who sold the most copies every month for us, each accounted for about 20% of our overall sales, while a misc. of smaller sites made up the remaining 20%. These four sites were:

* Distributor A (long established with one of the best and most reader friendly ebook sites),

* Our own website

* Kindle (then less than a year old)

* Distributor Z (who had until Kindle the best, if priciest, ereader)

 

Today things are dramatically different. One distributor now dominates the ebook business, and its rise has drained sales from most competitors, who experienced a sharp decline in sales. Here is the approximate percentage of our ebook sales which each of our current distributors accounts for:

*Kindle = grew to 70%

* B&N = grew to 18% (did not exist mid-2008)

* Distributor A= declined to 3%

* Our own website = declined to 4%

* Distributor Z = declined to 3%

* (Misc. small sites = declined to 2%)

 

What is the reason for this amazing redistribution of sales to a single ebook distributor? Not the Kindle itself. The original, and still basic black and white, Kindle was neither the best nor the cheapest of the ereaders.

What made the Kindle so special was one major sales innovation: 24/7 instant wireless delivery of your ebook to your Kindle, almost anywhere in the world you were. Amazon had it, and had deep enough pockets to afford to have purchased dedicated space on ATT three-sixty-five.

To download your ebooks from other sites after ordering them, you had to connect a USB cord to both your pc and your ebookreder, and then click on various icons, and then copy and paste the books from one folder to another, and then click “safely remove hardware,” and then uncouple the pc and reader, and finally turn on the reader and locate your new books, and only then were you, at last,ready to begin reading. Compare that to clicking the Buy button at Amazon and Bam! there’s the book in your reader. (B&N gave you instant wireless delivery, but only if you drove to the store and downloaded your ebooks there!!)

That’s how, from the moment it was out of the starting gate, Kindle left its competitors in the dust.

Over the next three and a half years they became THE market for ebooks. They were the 600 pound gorilla in the cage. They dictated terms and authors and publishers took it, because without them there weren’t enough sales to keep anyone afloat.

But last year Barnes & Noble, and the once laughable Kobo, acquired deep pockets and initiated their own 2/7 instant wireless ebook delivery systems, just in time for the holiday selling season. Meanwhile, Sony which had had deep enough pockets to afford to lease cell time three-sixty-five like Kindle, had been caught flatfooted by the idea of wireless delivery. They had to take the time to develop and test their own wireless ebookreader, losing more than two years in the process, which they also launched at the holiday season.

So for the first time the Kindle has rivals who also offer wireless delivery straight to your ereader, and could cut into Amazon’s ebook sales. A lot of people, including readers, have indicated their displeasure with Amazon over the years. They could lead an exodus.

On the other hand, it might be too late for Amazon’s rivals to catch much in the way of future ebook and ebookreader sales. After all, Amazon has already sold so many Kindles of so many types at such low prices that everyone interested in reading ebooks may already be said to own one. Why switch? Better yet, as far as Amazon is concerned, is the fact that they started as a bookstore, are still the web’s largest and most complete bookstore, and offer the convenience of one-stop purchasing for both paperbound and ebooks. That’s something Sony and Kobo will never be able to do. Only B&N seems to truly have a chance in this arena, and Amazon still has the lead, as they carry far more ebooks than B&N.

However, none of this factors in in the rest of the English speaking world and Europe, where Amazon is not as big as it is here and the ball is still in play. For instance, Kobo has already partnered with the W. H. Smith, the U.K.’s largest book chain, to provide content for and run Smith’s ebookstore, while Smith sells the Kobo in its stores as its branded ereader. Meanwhile, Sony is opening ebookstores with various partners throughout Europe.

I guess we will know the results when we have the next three quarter’s sales reports in hand.

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May 102012
 
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In regards to the last of erotica’s sins, a well-known publisher of sexually explicit materials put it elegantly and succinctly: “Just don’t fuck anyone to death.” As with the rest of the potentially problematic themes I’ve discussed here, the bottom line is context and execution: you can almost anything if you do it well—and if not well, then don’t bother doing it at all.

Violence can be a very seductive element to add to any genre, let alone erotica, mainly because it’s just about everywhere around us. Face it, we live in a severely screwed up culture: cut someone’s head off and you get an R rating, but give someone head and it’s an X. It’s kind of natural that many people want to use some degree of violence in their erotica, more than likely because they’ve seen more people killed than loved on-screen. But violence, especially over-the-top kind of stuff (i.e. run of the mill for Hollywood), usually doesn’t fly in erotic writing. Part of that is because erotica editors and publishers know that even putting a little violence in an erotic story or anthology concept can open them up to criticism from all kinds of camps: the left, the right, and even folks who’d normally be fence-sitters—and give a distributor a reason not to carry the book.
One of the biggest risks that can happen with including violence in an erotic story is when the violence affects the sex. That sounds weird; especially since I’ve often said that including other factors are essential to a well-written erotic story. The problem is that when violence enters a story and has a direct impact on the sex acts or sexuality of the character, or characters, the story can easily come off as either manipulative or pro-violence. Balancing the repercussions of a violent act on a character is tricky, especially as the primary focus of the story. However, when violence is not central to the sexuality of the characters but can affect them in other ways it becomes less easy to finger point—such as in noir, horror, etc—where the violence is background, mood, plot, or similar without a direct and obvious impact on how the character views sex. That’s not to say it isn’t something to shoot for, but it remains one of the harder tricks to pull off.

Then there’s the issue of severity and gratuitousness. As in depicting the actual sex in sex writing, a little goes a long way: relishing in every little detail of any act can easily push sex, violence, or anything else into the realm of comedy, or at least bad taste. A story that reads like nothing but an excuse to wallow in blood—or other body fluids—can many times be a big turn-off to an editor or publisher. In other words, you don’t want to beat a reader senseless.

But the biggest problem with violence is when it has a direct sexual contact. In other words, rape. Personally, this is a big button-pusher, mainly because I’ve only read one or two stories that handled it … I can’t really say well because there’s nothing good about that reprehensible act, but there have been a few stories I’ve read that treat it with respect, depth, and complexity. The keyword in that is few: for every well-executed story dealing with sexual assault there are dozens and dozens that make me furious, at the very least. I still remember the pro-rape story I had the misfortune to read several years ago. To this day, I keep it in the back of my mind as an example of how awful a story can be.

Sometimes violence can slip into a story as a component of S/M play. You know: a person assaulted by a masked intruder who is really (ta-da!) the person’s partner indulging in a bit of harsh role-play. Aside from being old hat and thoroughly predicable, stories like this can also fall into the “all pain is good pain for a masochist” cliché, unless, as with all things, it’s handled with care and/or flair.

Summing up, there is nothing you cannot write about: even this erotic “sin” or the others I’ve mentioned. However, some subjects are simply problematic in regards to sales potential: themes and activities that are loaded with emotional booby traps have to be carefully handled if the story is going to be seen as anything other than a provocative device. The affective use of these subjects has always been dependant on the writer’s ability to treat them with respect. If you have any doubts about what that might be, just imagine being on the receiving end: extrapolate your feelings as if one of your own personal traumas or sexual issues was used as a cheap story device or plot point in a story. Empathy is always a very important facility for a writer to develop—especially when dealing with sensitive or provocative issues.

In short, if you don’t like being beaten up, then don’t do it to someone else, or if you do, then try and understand how much it hurts and why. Taking a few body blows for your characters might make you a bit black and blue emotionally, but the added dimension and sensitivity it gives can change an erotic sin, something normally just exploitive, to … well, if not a virtue, then at least a story with a respectful sinner as its author.

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May 032012
 
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One of the things I’m hearing from authors is the waiting time between submission and the actual time for publication.  E-pubs are taking far longer than they used to and some authors, especially the newer ones or the ones with more of a following are having a hard time dealing with it.  Even in erotica, release dates can be up to six months long, as can acceptances of stories submitted.

The reason?  Let’s look at some numbers.

For a company like Sizzler Editions with 200+ authors, let’s assume 30% of those authors are regulars who contribute frequently, sub to us on a regular basis of once every few months.  Each book goes through the same process by a SMALL editing/approval team, starting with the initial submissions editor and finally leading up to the publisher for final approval.  Based on that figure, that’s 60 authors who write regularly, submitting stories ranging from 30k to 100k.  If I as an editor of the Intoxication line have a portion of those stories sent to me, say half, that’s roughly 30 stories over the course of a few months.  Not a large number BUT, editors aren’t just editors, they’re people.  They have to evaluate the stories, see if they can be worked with and molded, then forward the stories up the chain o command.  This can take a few minutes, a few hours or a day or more depending on backlog.

The editing itself on ONE book may range from simple mistakes to the  more complex.  I as an editor don’t edit for plot, unless the plot is majorly screwy and it’s going to prevent a good review.  At another publisher I write for, they have three editors, a line editor, a copy editor and a final line editor to catch as many mistakes as possible.  Right now, I do all that for my Sizzler Authors.

Imagine now piling up several books on one editor and then the continuous flow of creativity writers have, combined with the rest of the process.

Book gets edited, then there are the final edits and last minute changes/fixes, then there’s cover art design, formatting and finally turning the MS in to the publisher.

Even the larger e-publishers are still small in manpower, and at the end of the (usually long) work day, there is still much to do.  As e-publishing has grown, so have the demands on the people at the companies to churn out quality fiction.  Erotica is no different.

That by the way ignores the emails to authors, emails to publishers and oh yeah, did I mention I’m a writer first?

The BEST way to capture an editor’s attention in erotica is simply to write a damn good, clean, tight story.  The more stories that come across my desk requiring less work make it easier for all of us to do our job and release quality e-books to the voracious reading public.  Study the guidelines by each publisher and make sure you understand the sorts of stories they’re looking for before submitting.  If you don’t understand something, feel free to email us.  Yeah, it slows things down but we’d rather deal with an issue up front than have to slow down everything in the middle of the cycle.

Sizzler Intoxication Guidelines can be found here

In the end, we’ll both be happy, albeit the patience game sucks.  As relations develop with your editor, things can be moved around depending on a number of factors such as sales, enthusiasm for marketing the book, and of course, time spent editing.

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