Back in the ‘good old days’ of smut – when pornographers had to haul their steaming piles of sexually explicit materials up four and five flights of stairs – a certain writer with a gleam of sexy potential in his mesmerizing green eyes … okay, I mean me … wrote a column for the fantastic Adrienne at Erotica Readers & Writers called “Confessions Of A Literary Streetwalker.”
Now one of the things I did was part of being a Streetwalker that really took off was a little series I did called “The Four Deadly Sins:” a playful examination of the things that smut writers could do but that could – to put it mildly – make their work a tough sell. The very same “sins” I’ve been posting here on WriteSex.
Fast forward a … decade?! Sigh. Anyway, I had to put aside my Streetwalker days for other things but that little verboten list has always been by my side, especially since I’m now an Associate Publisher for the wonderful Renaissance Books (which includes Sizzler Editions, our erotica line). By the way [COMMERCIAL WARNING] my old columns are now in a dead-tree and ebook collection called How To Write And Sell Erotica [COMMERCIAL ENDS]
The reason why those “sins” stay with me is because one of my Associate Publisher things is to consider books for publication – and still, today, erotica writers don’t seem to understand that while, sure, you can pretty much write whatever you want there are still some things that will more-than-likely keep your work from seeing the light of day. Just for the record, the four are underage (self-explanatory), beastiality (same), incest (ditto) and excessive violence (torture porn or nonconsensual sex). But I’m here to talk about a new one that’s popped up … or ‘pooped out’ to blow the joke.
But before I (ewwww) get into the details, lemmie explain how things work – both back in the ‘good old days’ as well as the digitally enlightened world of 2012. Just as back then, publishers may be the people you will be dealing with to get your erotic masterpiece out in the world but they are ruled by distributors. Now a lot of that has changed from then to now – most of the classic ‘distributors’ have vanished (thank god) – but the spirit stays the same: while a lot of publishers may be able to sell their books on their own sites the big money comes from having their titles on sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and so forth.
So, most of the time, when a publisher says they can’t take your work because of the content what they mean is that they could but if they do they risk the (ahem) ‘displeasure’ of these new-distributors. Now one or two getting kicked out is annoying but a lot of publishers are scared – and rightfully so – that if they have too many titles killed because of content their entire company could conceivably be blackballed … and that’s really bad news.
So, even though we authors and publishers may not like it, the sins are there for a fairly good reason. But, like any rule, there are usually ways around some of them. One that immediately comes to mind is the “consensual nonconsensual” trick where the submissive might resist at first but then realizes their true nature. Other sins, though, are tougher to skirt. Incest and underage are good examples, though with age-play and roleplay you can kinda, sorta, use them without a problem. Beastiality is a queer duck (to use a bad joke) but the rule is usually that if it’s a fantasy animal or creature you can use it but if it’s a regular-critter you can’t.
Which gets me to the new sin. As you probably could tell, this has to do with … now we might get a bit technical here … poo-poo or pee-pee. The only reason I bring this up is that I’ve been more than a few manuscripts and short story submissions to anthologies that have a touch of a incontinence problem. Not one to disparage anyone’s sexuality, but there are very few publishers out there that will risk taking anything that sexualizes such stuff. I’ve personally had to request writers take it out of their submissions. Again, not because I – or ‘we’ when I’m working as a Publisher – have a problem with it but just because the places where the book will be sold do.
By the way, if you think that entering the world of self-publishing is a way to skirt all these sins think again: a lot of places look a lot more carefully at books that are not submitted by publishers – as many authors have sadly discovered.
As I’ve said before, an author can do whatever they want – that, after all, is the beauty of being a writer: the sky is not even close to the limit of the human imagination. But, that being said, you also have to realize that even today, with the ebook revolution, if you want to get your work beyond your own website, you have to understand how things work.
It’s not pretty but – like poo-poo – it’s a part of every writer’s life.