Jan 302014
 
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By Colin

Most writers are not terribly greedy people.  I know a number of publishers who will choke on their cornflakes and give loud horse-laughs upon reading that statement, but experience tells me it’s true.  Most writers would gladly (and in some cases, do) embrace something close to abject poverty in order to live solely by their words.  For quite a number, the pinnacle of worldly success would not be jetting down to winter in Jamaica like Ian Fleming, but being able to afford a quaint little house on the outskirts of some funky boho neighborhood where you can still find used bookstores and repertoire theaters.

But even the least worldly of writers still find their thoughts turning occasionally toward the Almighty Dollar.  Some have families or debts or other expenses that make large sales “more than usually desirable.”  Others—well, it’s not much fun admitting to friends and family that your best-selling title still hasn’t earned back the hundred dollar advance the publisher gave you two years ago.

But the sad truth is—and it doesn’t get any more palatable the more you hear it—earning that dollar is hard as heck.  Financial success seems to always be fluttering ahead of you, just out of reach. This is doubly true in the e-publishing world, which is where you’ll find a large percentage of erotica writers.  Many fiction ebooks reach only double-digit sales before the publisher decides he’d rather spend his trust fund on something else after all.  Yes, there are compensations—much higher royalty rates, a vastly greater freedom to put out material that never would have made it into print twenty years ago—but consistently low sales and what at least appears to be reader apathy can be frustrating.  Especially when other writers seem to be making the big bucks with the greatest of ease.  And remember, sales don’t just mean dirty old money; if you’re not selling, you’re not being read.

There’s no quick fix to the situation.  There are, of course, plenty of ways to publicize your books, and those topics are (often necessarily) fixtures on how-to-write websites: social media, blogging, doing readings at local bookstores, hanging out on forums like Absolute Write, giving away freebies and holding contests.  Can these measures help sales?  Absolutely.  Just keep in mind that, helpful as they are, they are not guaranteed to push you into a higher tax bracket—no more so than wishful thinking.

In writing, as in most endeavors, slow and steady wins the race.  The most dependable way to increase sales is still to have a large backlist.  A reader who likes one book with your byline is very likely to keep coming back for more.  And a writer with large numbers of titles to his or her name is going to attract attention from casual browsers on Amazon and other booksellers.

But it’ll take time to build that backlist, and in the interim you might continue to experience sparse sales.  You’ll probably be tempted to set aside quality in favor of speedy production.  Don’t do it.  Producing to a slower, consistent rhythm will do better for you in the long run than grinding out books like sausage, and will also keep you in touch with the very real pleasures of writing fiction—the thing that brought you to this crazy profession to begin with, remember?

Whether or not you eventually end up in that charming little row-house is impossible to say, but you can at least know that you’re taking solid steps in that direction.

 

Colin is a fetish writer and the single most prolific professional author of tickling erotica working today, with dozens of books to his credit. www.gigglegasm.com and www.ticklingforum.com.

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Jan 272014
 
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By P.M. White

Writers aren’t social, are they? Aren’t writers at their keyboards, head lowered, with their fingers moving furiously for hours on end? Don’t they hear dialogue in their minds and not out loud?

That’s how it used to be, if we’re to believe historians.

Writers these days, however, have to be both social and prolific if they want to make enough from their stories to stave off a day job. And most writers have day jobs, often two jobs, to support their writing habit. But whether or not one needs a day job, it’s still it’s a full time job just being social—by which I mean the current primary definition of this term: marketing yourself and your writing with social media. Like it or not, most believe it’s a vital part of the literary world these days. In erotica, authors are online chatting it up on a regular basis. If they want to sell more than five books, they have to be.

But often, all the socializing in the world won’t help. So what are the tips and tricks to getting noticed? How do authors market both their work and themselves?

Author Hunter S. Jones recommends loads of reading and loads of research:

As an artist you should have the capacity to read trends. Find out what works for your genre and what feels good for your work. That seems to be the most important thing, really.

Social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, offers both advantages and shortfalls, she added.

You can gain scores via some sites, gain followers on all sites, but maybe the important thing to remember is not to lose sight of your own publishing goals. What do you want and how can you obtain it?

Author Kay Jaybee recommends setting aside time each and every day to promote your work. The easiest and most obvious marketing tools, she said, are Facebook and Twitter:

By setting up an author page on Facebook, as well as a Twitter account, you can quickly post buy links, cover reveals, and writing news to help build up an audience of readers. If you haven’t the time to dive into these social media networks more than once a day, you can use Hootsuite to schedule as many posts as you like in advance—that way your work has an online presence on and off all day.

Keeping and updating a blog or a website is equally important, she added. Jaybee herself gets more than a thousand visitors a week on her blog.

Another recommendation I’d make is to go on a blog tour whenever you have a new, full length, novel or novella to market. Ask blog-owners who specialize in your genre to feature your work for a day. You can pay for professional agencies to set up such tours for you, or you could offer to swap blogs with other writers, featuring their work in return for them featuring yours. Blog tours are a great way of introducing your work to a wider number of potential new readers.

Author Giulia Napoli suggests staying active in one to two social media sites at a time when pushing your erotic writing:

You can lose hours per day—hours better spent writing—by getting sucked into long discussions or writing dozens of notes that aren’t directly applicable to marketing your books. For example, a friend of mine who writes sci-fi started to get involved in a discussion of whether or not sci-fi authors should use faster-than-light travel in their stories. He was strongly opinionated on that topic, but there was no return on the time he spent debating it.

Napoli herself can often be found on Goodreads, her preferred choice, due to the author communities found there.

Become known in the communities of readers and authors within your genre. All social sites have ‘interest groups’ of some sort. For writers, Goodreads may be the best site for this—for example, if you write fem-fem erotica, there is a Goodreads group for that. Participate in a handful of groups directly about, or related to, your genre—within reason. Toss out your ideas, but avoid arguments. Above all, be courteous, and observe the group rules!

Street teams, fans who advertise your writing on social media, also work for some authors, said Jones—but what works for some doesn’t always work for others—

What works for me is a pair of black Louboutins, black dress, pearls, small Chanel bag, Chanel lipstick and Bardot hair. And a pair of red leather gloves. This may not work for others. If you write, you live it and surely you love it. Whatever your vocation, you are selling something to someone else. Why not your book or books? If you do not believe in yourself, how can you expect someone else to? Why deny the world your greatness? Get out there and let them know about your work.

Jaybee cited the importance of an author page on Amazon as well, as a majority of book sales in both the United Kingdom and in the USA begin with the online giant. Sprinkle that with a helping of Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and Pinterest, sometimes LinkedIn—whatever will reach your readers. But no matter which social media strategies and venues you choose, you remain quiet and off-radar at your peril:

LinkedIn works for some people, but not for others, as it is very business based. It is no good writing a book and expecting people to magically have heard of it. If you don’t shout about your work it will be lost in the swamp of the hundreds of thousands of other publications out there. Each and every time you put a book or even a blog post out—tell everyone! Tweet it, Facebook post it—spread the word! Otherwise, you are simply wasting your time. I know I’m repeating myself, but I can’t stress that enough.

In a world where publishers do less and less marketing, promotion has become as much a part of an author’s job as the creation of plot twists and placing of commas. I resent the time I spend marketing my work. It takes up a good two hours of my day—time I could spend writing—but sadly, it is essential. I did an experiment last year to see if my daily round of tweeting, posting and blogging made any difference, and did nothing marketing-wise for a month. My sales disappeared! Needless to say, I am back to marketing my work every day!

Offline, getting a mention in a magazine or newspaper, reading your work at an event, or doing a radio interview is also something Jaybee strongly recommends.

Reviews are another important piece to the marketing puzzle, Napoli said:

Get reviews of your work. Get them on review sites, Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, Smashwords, etc. Follow everyone’s rules in submitting or offering your work for review, but get reviews from pros and regular readers of your book. Assuming most of your reviews are good, an occasional two-star review is better than no review at all. There is no such thing as bad publicity.

That said, Napoli cautioned,

An author should never, ever resort to arguing with critics.

This can destroy your reputation faster than anything. If your book gets read, as you want it to, there will be some people who’ll feel they’ve wasted their money on you and want you to ‘pay’ in return. The way they make you pay is by giving you a poor rating. Suck it up. Ignore it and go on, no matter how unfair it is. You cannot win that battle.

Book giveaways, Napoli added, are another way to generate buzz:

I’m not a big fan of giving books away over a long period, unless you’re trying to channel readers into your sequel. I think targeted giveaways, e.g., in Goodreads contests, are the way to go. When you’re getting started, contact readers who show an interest in your book(s). For example, for my erotic novel, Oh Claire!, I sent a friend request with a short note to every reader who put it on their ‘to read’ list. In addition, if a reader writes a particularly well-done review, contact that person, and tell her/him what you liked about the review. But never argue.

Despite all the tricks of marketing and promotion, Napoli said writers shouldn’t lose track of two important points: finding the right publisher and having a polished finished product.

Find a publisher if you can, even if it’s one that only publishes online. For a [rather small] percentage of the online fees, they will help with editing, publishing, distribution, and marketing. Note that online publishing fees range from 65 to 70 percent, if the book is priced between U.S. $2.99 and $9.99. Online-only publishers forward most of that to the author.

Editing is a very big deal. In my opinion, it can make all the difference in acceptance of your book. It takes time, but results in a high-quality product. I write erotica, and I know that erotica publications (short stories, novelettes, novels) are among the most poorly edited. When you find an author whose books are quality (e.g., Lindsey Brooks), you tend to read more of their works. Typically, more enjoyable stories go with better editing, because everybody involved is trying to do their best—quality, not quantity, is the key.

When it comes to editing, Napoli recommends working with other authors and reading one another’s work. But again, a word of caution:

Remember though, a good writer is not necessarily a good editor—at least not without practice.

 

About Hunter S. Jones
Hunter S. Jones is the author of September EndsFortune Calling and other works. When not writing novels and stories, she contributes to expatspost.com. Over the years she’s published articles on music, fashion, art, travel and history. Jones, a lover of all the finer things in life, says, ”The art form I create when writing is much more interesting than anything you will ever know or learn about me. However, since you ask, I have lived in Tennessee and Georgia my entire life, except for one ‘lost summer’ spent in Los Angeles. I was always a complex kid. My first published stories were for a local underground rock publication in Nashville.”
For more information, visit Hunter S. Jones online at HunterSJones.com , Exile on Peachtree Street and Facebook.

About Kay Jaybee
Kay Jaybee is the author of numerous novels, including the Perfect Submissive Trilogies, Making Him WaitThe Voyeur, as well as the novellas Not Her Type: Erotic Adventures with a Delivery ManDigging DeepA Sticky Situation, and The Circus. She has also written the short story collections The Collector, The Best of Kay Jaybee, Tied to the Kitchen SinkEquipmentYes Ma’amQuick Kink One and Quick Kink Two. Kay has had over eighty short stories published by Cleis Press, Black Lace, Mammoth, Xcite, Penguin, Seal and Sweetmeats Press (Immoral Views).
Visit Jaybee online at kayjaybee.me.uk, or on her Facebook page.

About Giulia Napoli
Thirty-something Giulia Napoli grew up in East Lansing, Michigan where her father was a professor at Michigan State University. She earned a Bachelors and a Masters degree in Journalism from a prestigious Great Lakes area university. While an undergraduate, Giulia studied abroad for three years—a year each in London, Florence, and Brussels. Her interest in the many forms of erotica started and grew during her time in Europe. Giulia writes romantic erotica with themes of submission, hair fetishes, body modification and some surprising, unexpected, erotic twists thrown in. Her settings are often exotic and, especially in her new novel, Oh Claire!, global in scope, reflecting her own well-traveled experiences.
For more information on Napoli, visit her Goodreads page, or send her an email at msgiulianapoli@live.com.

About the columnist
Writer P.M. White has toiled on a number of sexy stories over the years, including his newest novella Volksie: A Tale of Sex, Americana and Cars from 1001 Nights Press. His previous publications include the Horror Manor trilogy from Sizzler Editions: Eyeball Man, Desire Under the Eaves, and You are a Woman. White’s short stories have appeared in Sex in San Francisco, The Love That Never Dies, Bound for Love, Pirate Booty and many others.
For more information, visit him on Tumblr at pmwhite.tumblr.com, at his Amazon author page, on Twitter @authorpmwhite and on Facebook.

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Jan 242014
 
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By Elizabeth Coldwell

Many writers will say that the hardest part of writing an erotic story is the ending. Because the aim of the genre is to arouse the reader as well as entertain them, the climax you should be building to is …er, the climax. When the sex ends, so—in the majority of cases—does the story. However, as a writer you may have the urge to round off the action in some more organic way. One of the most common ways to do this, if the characters have just had their first sexual encounter with each other, is to suggest that their climax was only the beginning, and that there’ll be more sex to come, either that night or at some point in the future.

However, another type of rounding off beloved by writers in all genres of fiction is the twist ending. Think of horror stories where a character thought dead literally returns from the grave at the end of the tale, or the many detective novels penned by Agatha Christie and her ilk where the murderer is revealed to be the very last person you expected. Twist endings to short stories have always been popular, but they had a real resurgence in the 1980s and 1990s. First, many of Roald Dahl’s most macabre stories were televised in the series Tales of the Unexpected, then a number of new women’s weekly magazines appeared, particularly Best and Bella in the UK, all of which featured a one-page story with a sting in its tail. The twists in these magazine tales grew ever more bizarre, many of the stories having a narrator who appeared to be a human until the ending revealed they were actually a household pet or even some inanimate piece of furniture.

Naturally, this trend found its way into erotic fiction—in my time as editor of Erotic Stories, I published a short story in which the BDSM action appeared to be described by the slave of a dominant mistress, chained and compelled to watch as a punishment was dished out to someone else. Only at the very end did this slave turn out to be the domina’s pet dog. As a one-off, that idea worked very well, but if every story in that issue of the magazine had had a twist, its impact would certainly have been lessened.

Some twists can ensure the story remains in the memory long after it otherwise might, but they can also risk jolting the reader out of the erotic, sensual mood you’ve worked hard to create. The wrong kind of twist can even leave them feeling slightly cheated. Whole novels have been written building up to a “shock” twist ending where, for example, the narrator turns out to be a different gender than the one the reader had assumed—and while there’s a high level of skill required to pull this gimmick off, that’s ultimately what it can seem like to the reader: a gimmick.

So do you always need a clever or surprising ending to a story? That depends. Some plots almost demand it, particularly if you’re mixing erotica with horror or suspense, but if you’re writing in the true confessions/readers’ letters style, then by definition you’re looking to get from point A to point B in the most straightforward way you can. And if you want to keep your work fresh and original, here are some surprise endings you might want to use vary sparingly:

It was All a Dream
Yes, this old chestnut still pops up in submissions piles everywhere, often with the coda that some element of the dream has found its way into the real world, like a feather that was used on the heroine, and which is lying on her pillow when she wakes. Leave this one to your school essays.

It was All a Setup
You know the score here. A master gives his submissive a spanking for flagrant misbehavior, or a woman walks in to find her boyfriend in bed with their best friend and is shocked at first, then so aroused she has to stay and watch the couple in action. The twist, of course, is that in both cases the situation has been engineered so that the naughty sub and the curious voyeuse get exactly what they wanted all along.

The Stranger was Familiar
A man is on his way to a job interview, when he’s distracted by a sexy woman flashing her panties on public transport and they find time for a quickie. A married woman in a hotel bar takes a risk and chats up the sexy man on the next barstool, ending up in his room for a passionate romp. Guess what? When the protagonist in the first scenario finally makes it to the interview, the woman conducting it is the panty-flasher, and the supposed adulteress in the second is just acting out a fantasy and the man she’s coming on to is her husband.

He was…a Vampire!
This one really needs no more explanation, but if you’re submitting to one of the many anthologies of vampire short stories that are published every year, come up with a more substantial storyline for your readers to sink their teeth into…

 

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Jan 222014
 
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By billierosie

I want to have a discussion about a highly controversial topic: bestiality. But no one’s talking. People are avoiding me. Why is that? Why is everyone so damn touchy? Well, perhaps because bestiality is illegal—and, in many parts of the world including the U.S., so is even portraying bestiality for erotic purposes. And perhaps because it involves issues of consent and cruelty. But even so, does that mean we shouldn’t discuss it? No, but it’s also one of our oldest taboos.

There’s a video, somewhere on Youtube. A woman openly admits to having sex regularly with her miniature stallion. If you search for “Zoophilia” on Youtube it’s probably still there. That this video is still discussed and passed around—perhaps furtively, but still widely—speaks to a widespread cultural interest in those stories—the bestiality tales that we have told since long, long ago.

So why can’t we speak about bestiality? We’re all grownups. Do we feel uncomfortable even talking about it in a fictional sense, worried about being tainted with the scent of debauchery? That depravity will hang over us, like a witch’s curse? That we’ll be considered animal-abusers because we mentioned the idea? We’ve even given it a new name: zoophilia. Maybe it sanitises it, makes it acceptable. But we’re still talking about the same thing: sex with animals.

Yes, it’s taboo, and actual sex acts with actual animals are never strictly consensual by our definition; as a core reason not to engage in bestiality in real life, that’s a pretty good one. But that doesn’t entirely explain the taboo that attempts to render sinister, silence—and, in some cases, even forbid by law—any mention of bestiality in word, concept, fiction, fantasy, art, even myth. As a subject, it’s part of our cultural, literary history. Right up to the present day, erotica writers are telling us ‘changeling’ and ‘shapeshifter’ stories—stories that get as close as you can to bestiality without describing it in a literal way.

Amazon and other major ebook sellers have warned publishers and authors of such stories that depicting humans having sex with shape-changers while they are in anything resembling animal form is forbidden; that all sex between these characters must take place while the shape-changer is in human form. Is that going too far, when it is clearly understood that both characters are equally intelligent, can communicate with each other and have given consent—even if one has altered its appearance?

Is bestiality a fetish? Probably. Is it a perversion? Is it a fantasy? I think most people, in the broad light of day, would find the act of having sex with an animal weird, if not repulsive. But…there are still those dark, whispered tales. Stories…

So, why are we telling ourselves these stories? Is it a craving for the forbidden? Is the taboo buried deep in our unconscious minds, resurfacing in our stories, fantasies and dreams? The Greek myths tell us far more pointed bestiality stories, usually not bothering to anthropomorphize the animals involved (even if gods sometimes inhabit their bodies). Those stories are as old as time itself. Those old writers weren’t so timid. Are those guys just telling dirty stories? Or is it something deeper?

In Greek mythology, Zeus, the King of the gods, fell in love with the mortal girl, Leda. He came to her in the form of a swan, and raped her.

You would think that as King of the gods, Zeus could have organised things differently. He could have just made Leda fall in love with him. But the ancient tellers of this story must have thought it completely crucial, absolutely necessary, for a human/animal sex scene to take place.

Another Greek myth tells the story of Pasiphae, the wife of King Minos of Crete. King Minos had a beautiful bull, which he was supposed to sacrifice to Poseidon. Instead, the King sacrificed an inferior bull. As punishment, Poseidon made Pasiphae fall in love with the bull. Queen Pasiphae devised a plan so that she could copulate with the bull. She asked the architect, Daedalus, to build her a wooden cow. The cow was hollow, for her to hide in. The bull was brought to her and they mated. From their union, the Minotaur—half man, half bull—was conceived.

The myths are beautiful, yet horrible and leave us shuddering; we know that we are being told something forbidden. But the stories will not die; they have been told, over and over again, down through the generations. The words have been spoken.

Stories are so important to us. We’ve told, and been told, stories since our beginnings, way back. We’ll continue to tell them. We’ve come a long way as a species, but we’ll always need more stories.

I’ve come across a few well-told bestiality stories, but publishers generally steer clear of the fetish. In addition to the criminal charges they would face in some countries, such tales are often too dark for them.

Sure, there’s some (probably lots of) bestiality-related porn in all the sticky corners of the internet. I don’t want to spend any time with it. It’s crude; there’s no finesse, characterization, or actual story there—and, to me, these elements are the point of bothering with this highly-charged taboo in the first place. And it’s worth bothering with, just as it’s been worth bothering with since we started to tell stories at all, even when we have to work around (or work to change) the legal mandates that gag writers and publishers, and put their livelihoods and freedom at risk when we transgress taboo.

The real stories, as we write them, don’t even have to include animals, neither do they even have to include sex per se. There’s a great erotic story by Julia Moore, “Bad Doggy”, which includes neither. With a bit of imagination and some of those dark hints, the most careful publisher needn’t be offended, nor put their company and themselves on the line.

 

billierosie has been writing erotica for about three years. She has been published by Oysters and Chocolate, in The Wedding Dress. Logical Lust accepted her story “Retribution” for Best S&M 3. She has also been published by Sizzler, in Pirate Booty and in their Sherlock Holmes anthology, My Love of all that is Bizarre, as well as Hunger: A Feast of Sensual Tales of Sex and Gastronomy and Sex in London: Tales of Pleasure and Perversity in the English Capital. She also has a collection of short, erotic stories, Fetish Worship, as well as novellas Memoirs of a Sex Slave and Enslaving Eli, both published by Sizzler Editions in 2012 and available for purchase at Amazon.
billierosie can be found at Twitter, @jojojojude and at her blog.

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Jan 182014
 
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By Jean Marie Stine

“My ebook sales are declining!” and “Why are my sales declining?” are litanies being heard increasingly from established authors who have been writing for at least three years or longer, and from publishers who have been in the business for the same period. And yet, we are told more ebooks are being sold than ever before. How can that be?

In fact, total ebook sales have risen over the past few years, but not even double—whereas the number of published books available for sale has gone up twenty-three hundred percent during the same time period.

Here are the figures: When Amazon opened the Kindle store, they announced that they had 100,000 ebooks for sale.  Today the site shows their number of available ebooks at 2.5 million. There are now categories in the Kindle store that have more ebooks in them than were on the entire store site when it first opened.

2.3 million titles (and this is just ebooks, not counting print) is at least 5 times the total number of books for sale in the U. S. before the advent of the Kindle.

It is an unprecedented, watershed event in publishing history.

It means the individual ebook today, your book, is vying for attention (and the reader’s dollar) among 2.3 million others. Whether you have written one book or thirty—30 out of 2.3 million is daunting odds.

Of course, the number of titles your ebook is competing with is appreciably smaller than this.

People generally write, sell and buy ebooks according to their favorite genres and categories. Since these categories are smaller, you have a much smaller number of ebooks clamoring for attention along with yours. If you write romance, for instance, your book is only in a pool with slightly less than a quarter of a million other romance ebooks available for sale at Kindle. In addition to which many readers, naturally, have a particular subcategory of romance they prefer, such as paranormal or bondage or m/m, etc., where the number of competing books is smaller still, and the odds improve even more. Your paranormal romance will be offered for sale among only 30,700 others at Amazon Kindle.

The situation for those writing erotica is much the same. Amazon reports slightly over 131,000 books for sale in erotica.  But if you specialize in bondage, you only have to make your book stand out in a field of 19,000. And, if you write about male dominants, you are only competing with 9,000. That is still a lot whether you have written one book or thirty, and individual readers can only afford to buy so many books per month or year—and even the most dedicated readers of bondage fiction with the most time on their hands will probably not buy not 19 thousand.

So, practically speaking, what does that all mean? How many sales can you expect on average when purchases are spread thinly over so many titles?

At a recent industry conference I was on a panel with a woman whose husband worked for Amazon’s Kindle division and she said the average ebook sells 4 copies per week. As there are a number of writers selling thousands per week, that means overall there are hundreds of thousands of books that do not sell even one copy per week.

Finance writer Mike Cooper analyzed reports from Amazon and other sources and concluded that the average ebook at Amazon earned $297 last year. Again, that means there have to have been hundreds of thousands that earned nothing or virtually nothing. Cooper concluded that the average author would have to write and publish “48 books per year just to make minimum wage.”

“But what about Facebook and Twitter,” some authors say. “I have a hundred fans who have friended me and ten times that on Twitter who follow me.”

Sadly, those FB and Twitter fans also follow other writers, and have only a certain amount of disposable income for purchasing books. According to the same woman I was on the panel with, for all the efforts writers put into them, FB and Twitter followers account for at most only 28 copies out of the average ebook’s sales.

And here is a final set of figures, the number of free books for Kindle available at amazon: 54,000! Let’s break that down a bit. There are over 2,000 free romance novels, written by newer writers and even quite famous ones, all trying to gain new readers for their work. Almost 200 free lesbian novels. And if you write bdsm erotica, readers will find over 100 free titles.

And who doesn’t like free? No wonder the average Kindle title sells only four copies per week.

Of course, these are daunting figures for those seeking to earn some or all of their income from writing, and for smaller publishers trying to find sales for their authors. But they do pinpoint why everyone’s sales are declining. Since the first step in solving a problem is to find the cause, being aware of the romance and erotica markets for ebooks is a major step forward.

What can you do about all this? In a market this gargantuan, how can you draw greater attention to your ebook, make it stand out above the others, let alone generate big sales?

The fundamental principle of marketing is first, study your customers. In this case, study your potential readers. You may think you know your readers because you have dozens, if not hundreds, of Facebook followers and because you meet readers at events—but, while helpful, these folks do not necessarily represent the typical book buyer.

Findings on such matters as the influence of Facebook, author blogs, Goodreads, cover, price, reviews, video trailers, famous author endorsements, twitter, publisher name and more on readers’ decision to purchase a books are, to say the least, illuminating. If you haven’t read our summary of the widest reader survey ever undertaken on contemporary book buying habits—and what does and doesn’t influence readers to buy an author’s book—click here now to read it.

The second step in marketing something is to educate yourself on the best ways to promote and sell your product. Working “smarter, not harder” is not just an oft-repeated cliche of the business world; it’s a fundamental, applicable principle, especially when it comes to online marketing. Of course use your blog, your site, your Twitter and Facebook. But use them more wisely and realistically, recognizing their limitations. and learn how to automate functions—that step may save you time otherwise unnecessarily wasted. Generally speaking, do yourself and your books a huge favor and search this blog for tips from established writers and marketing professionals—in addition to the articles linked above, there are many more on these subjects!

And remember, sometimes success strikes with the first book, and sometimes with the 50th. But if you give up on writing, it can never strike at all.

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Jan 142014
 
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By Dr. Amy Marsh

If your writing feels stuck or you’re out of ideas, reactivate your curiosity and your creative juices by conducting a brief sex survey.

These can give you so much more than numbers—but only if you make sure every question includes an “other” section for open-ended comments. By inviting qualitative data, you’re sure to garner insights, feelings, and surprising facts about sexual practices and lifestyles. Choose a topic that’s unfamiliar or enticingly new to you, and you’ll be surprised by how much you can learn from a quick, ten-question survey. You might also be surprised by how much fun it is to collect data that no one else has ever seen!

I’ve used Survey Monkey to research everything from the sex lives of people with Aspergers Syndrome to objectum sexuals (people who form intimate relationships with objects). I’ve also studied people’s concerns about semen taste, beliefs about female orgasm, and most recently, the practices and attitudes of erotic hypnotists and their subjects. Some of these surveys have provided me with material for non-fiction sex columns, blogs, and journal articles.

This type of informal research can be a key part of my work as a sexologist—but it also has the potential to be an enormous creative boost to writers. There have been many times when just one sentence in the “other” box has revealed a key conflict or aspect of a sexual relationship, behavior or orientation; any one of these provocative comments could provide a story or character idea.

Let me show you what I mean. Here are a few examples of open-ended comments taken from my survey of objectum sexuals, later published in the Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality:

“My least successful relationship was one with a soundboard at a church. I was kicked out of the church for being OS because they claimed that I ‘had the soundboard in my heart, and not Jesus.’”

“We are very intimate in the bedroom, we spend a lot of time in bed together, but my pants usually stay on. Our intimacy is very above-the-waist, i.e. kissing, hugging, licking, etc.”

“I’m fascinated by steam locomotives since my earliest memories in different ways. So I can say, this is my oldest love…. I was fascinated by the machinists they are working together with the engines like a perfect team. Railroad is a world full of dreams and fantasy, I have identity with. It is a very complex and perfect world of different emotions.”

Objectum sexuality may not be your thing, but the above comments could certainly suggest many different kinds of erotic scenarios and stories!

When I conducted my semen taste survey, I was surprised to get responses from not just one, but three! people who identified as zoophiles. There certainly could have been a story or two there, however possibly not one that would be published or sold unproblematically on, say, Amazon!

Instead, consider the story trajectory suggested by this comment: “Good taste at beginning of relationship; bad taste now.”
Or just imagine using an evocative, specific detail like a “Dr. Natasha Terry sex shake recipe” sipped by two or more lovers. (I’m sure a good internet search will reveal the ingredients.)

It’s entirely possible, of course, to make up things like this—but what a bonus to find them just handed to you by an anonymous survey respondent!

A free account on Survey Monkey, with a ten-question format, can provide you with more than enough information to get your creative wheels spinning again. Survey Monkey has many question formats, so it is possible to ask several questions within a question, and to include the comment boxes.

On your first page, describe the survey and be honest about why you are conducting the it (e.g. “writer’s curiosity”). Be sure to add “you must be 18 or over” and warn respondents about sexually explicit questions or content. Make sure you also have a question that indicates consent (or not). Be sure to keep your survey completely anonymous and confidential, and let would-be respondents know this. Do not collect names or information that could be used for personal identification.

I recommend taking advantage of Survey Monkey’s design tutorials. You might also want to create a few practice surveys that you can take yourself, just to see how they work. If you feel comfortable about this, ask friends to take the practice surveys too, and get their feedback before beginning actual data collection. Tell them to create bogus responses—not real ones—because what you’re looking for here are design glitches. Later, delete the practice surveys and bogus responses. If friends want to take the real survey, ask them to NOT tell you about it. You want to preserve their confidentiality, too.

Once you’re ready to launch your survey, think about how long you want to keep it open for responses. You’ll also want to consider how to let people know about your survey (social media and internet networks are generally great for this).

Finally, once you collect your data and close your survey to data collection, read all of the individual surveys as well as the summary of responses. See what emerges for you by way of story ideas and character or setting details. If you like numbers, using filters and “compare” features can give you cross tabulations that might also suggest something of interest. Even demographics can be revealing and surprising when combined with other data.

I’ve only used Survey Monkey, but you might want to look at a few other online survey companies to get a feel for what is right for you with regard to price (pick “free” plans) and ease of use. If you chose a plan with a price, make sure you can cancel it after a month or after your data collection and analysis ends.

Have fun!

 

—Amy Marsh

 

Amy Marsh, EdD, DHS, CH, CI, is a clinical sexologist and AASECT certified sex counselor, certified hypnotist and hypnosis instructor, and an associate professor of human sexuality at the world’s most radical sex school. She is a former Carnal Nation columnist. Learn more at dramymarshsexologist.com or follow @AmyMarshSexDr on Twitter.

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Jan 112014
 
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By Jan Graham

There’s an old saying my grandmother used to use: a change is as good as a holiday. I’m not so sure about the truth in that statement at the moment because I’m on a holiday vacation and trying to write. It’s not really working for me.

I’m not sure what it is; perhaps the change of location, not being at my desk where I’ve trained myself to sit for hours each day and work or maybe it’s just to quiet here, surrounded by the sounds of nature rather than inner-city horn honking and hustle and bustle. The thing is, I’ve always told myself it would be easier to write if I didn’t have the city’s background noise distracting me, which seems to be a fallacy as well.

My choice of destination seemed perfect. I’m staying in a lovely home in the picturesque Blue Mountains of Australia. It’s quiet and serene, and the only noise throughout the day is the chattering of native birds. I had viewed my time away as more of a writing retreat than the traditional sight-seeing getaway a person imagines a vacation to be—and after five days away, that’s not proving to be the case.

I keep telling myself that taking time out to relax and do nothing is a good thing. I mean, we can’t write continually, at some point we need a break or we burn out. I’ve noticed, though, that I feel guilty not writing. This thought has been weighing heavily on my mind and I’ve started to ask myself why? Anyone in a regular job gets holiday leave, and I know from experience that when I had what’s often referred to as the evil-day-job, I didn’t experience any angst while taking time off. I never worried about the work piling up on my desk or whether I should go back to the office because I had work to do. So why should it be any different now that I write full-time?

It amazed me how many authors in writers’ forums and facebook groups commented, over the Christmas/New Year break, that it was difficult to make time to write amid family celebrations, travel, even vacations from evil-day-jobs which had seemed so promising with their string of relatively uninterrupted days. The challenge of writing during what might otherwise be considered “break time” appears to be a widespread phenomenon in the world of authors.

So it’s time to share the lesson I appear to be learning while tucked away in my mountain retreat:

I need to be nice to myself. I need time out to just chill and do the things I enjoy, like sitting in a comfy chair and reading or lying on the couch listening to music or watching movies. I’ve been taking long walks, experiencing my new environment, going out and meeting new people as well as catching up with friends I haven’t seen for ages. I don’t do those things at home. I try to tell myself I do but, in fact, taking time out for me is a rare occurrence. I sit and write, I occasionally go and visit with friends, but my main objective is to stay at home and work. I refuse initiations to social activities with the excuse that I’m working. Thinking about it now, I work seven days a week, with little time to experience everything else life has to offer. Even if I’m not writing, I’m thinking about it. I’m plotting, I’m promoting my work or I’m blogging. Most of what I do at home involves my work.

I really have turned into a boring creature ☺

The search for balance is an ongoing theme in my blog posts—balance between work, social media and publicity, focused writing and exploratory writing. That’s all well and good, but I need to add “kindness to myself” into the mix. I’m confident that if I do, in the end, it will only make me a better writer. Here’s why:

Inspiration for my writing often comes from meeting new people. I don’t write books about the people I meet or know, but interacting with others helps me with character development and many other areas of my story telling. Socializing offers a perspective that’s different from my own—and when you have multiple characters in books, you need multiple perspectives. I write contemporary erotic romance, so staying in touch with what’s happening in the world, what people think about current issues and what’s trending in society all add to the authenticity of my work. By locking myself away, I’m doing a disservice to myself and to my readers.

Having said that, time alone to do the quiet, solitary things I enjoy also gives me a writing advantage. If I’ve taken time out to be alone for a while, I’m more relaxed when I go back to the keyboard to work. If I spend that time reading, for example, I get to see the construction of a story from another author’s perspective. We all have a different voice when we write, and there’s an advantage to reading work written in a voice other than your own—again, it’s a new perspective.

The other thing I’ve noticed since I’ve been away is that taking time out gives me a physical advantage. At home, even with a carefully selected ergonomic desk, chair, keyboard, you name it…I often collapse into bed at night with parts of my body aching, I’m always readjusting my position as the day progresses, trying to ease an ache in my neck or arm. Over the last five days, I haven’t been plagued with sore shoulder and neck muscles, or aching wrists from constantly tapping away at the keyboard. At home my eyes often feel dry and sore—but here, they aren’t; I’ve given them a break from staring at a screen all day. Dare I say it…my body feels relaxed.

I don’t believe in New Year resolutions but I do believe in setting goals to improve your life, no matter what time of year it is. So my goal for 2014 is a simple one: aim to achieve balance in all things—not just a balanced work life, but a balanced life.

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Jan 062014
 
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Making Social Media Work for You, Part II

By M. Christian

On my wall is the maxim Don’t Work Harder; Work Smarter.

Which is what social media is all about. Let’s face it: you are a writer—and that means you should, above all else, be writing. Stories, essays, novels… you name it—are what put cash in the bank. Social media is extremely important, if not essential, to getting people to buy your books, stories, etc., but it’s useless if you spend so much time promoting yourself and your work that social media cuts into your writing time …and you end up with less stuff to sell.

Luckily, there are some very powerful approaches to social media that allow you to manage it all quickly and easily, freeing up vital time you can use for writing. One of my favorites is the idea of interlinking and automating your social media so that your posts, Facebook musings and tweets flow between each other without you having to deal with each one individually—thus maximizing your time/effort/energy for writing … equaling, hopefully, more money.

It’s easy-peasy to set up Facebook to help with this, using a FB app called RSS Graffiti. What this does is take any site with an RSS feed …what? You don’t know what RSS is? You’re right, I should back up: RSS is basically a feature of most social media sites, which allows you to “subscribe” to their content. Once you do so, you only need to check one spot (say, a blog) for news and updates which originate from a variety of sites. Likewise, you, the writer, can enable others to subscribe to your posts and read them on their favorite corners of the internet without having to periodically check your site for updates—thus ensuring that many more of your posts will be read. RSS Graffiti takes advantage of this mechanism; once you set it up, what you post at your blog feeds to your FB page automatically, so your FB readers can see your posts from there.

Here is how to install and use RSS Graffiti on Facebook:

1. Just click here (apps.facebook.com/rssgraffiti) to go to the RSS Graffiti app.

2. Follow instructions to install it into your Facebook account.

3. Once you have it put in, click on “New Publishing Plan” and type in, for example, Blog, to give it a name.

4. Paste in the URL of your blog.

5. RSS Graffiti will now feed new blog posts automatically to your Facebook page.

6. Repeat for any of your other blogs or websites. (If your blog or site doesn’t have a working RSS feed for some reason, you can usually go into its settings for your site or blog and turn it on. Most blogs try to make this as simple as possible.) I also recommend using the “full post” feature of RSS Graffiti. It offers other options, but part of why you should be using it is so you can get the most bang for your buck in your blog automation.

Now, when you post anything to your blog (or personal website) it will automatically appear on your FB page without you clicking anything or having to go and paste it in manually yourself. What could be sweeter?

 

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Jan 032014
 
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By Marissa St. James

 

If you’ve chosen writing as a possible career, be prepared to be constantly challenged. Some challenges will be frustrating, and try your patience, but if this is what you really want to do, then the majority of the challenges you’ll face can only help you improve your craft. There’s a great deal to be learned about this medium of communication; in fact, you should never stop learning. The best thing you can do is read as much as you can. Mysteries, romance, science fiction…the genre doesn’t really matter. The goal is to read for pleasure—and while you’re at it, you’ll be learning a great deal about writing. You’d be surprised by the things you can pick up when you least expect to.

It’s also a good idea to invest in books on writing. Most books deal with the elements of building a story: character profiles, dialogue, point of view, setting, plotting, etc. Fewer of them address the technical side of writing—grammar, spelling, and punctuation—besides the usual reminders to check for typos. I do touch briefly on a couple of elements many writers have a hard time with in my book, Doing it Write: Putting the Final Polish on Your Manuscript.

This column deals with these technical aspects of writing. While it’s meant to be a guide for a final polishing, it can also be used to avoid mistakes while you’re writing—you don’t have to wait until your story is finished. My philosophy as an editor has always been to help a writer make their work the best it can be. I’ll be the first to admit I can be a very picky editor, but in the long run it’s paid off for others. I hope this information will help you as well.

 

Every story is made up of sentences, each one leading into the next. Sentences convey thoughts, and to be understood, every thought should be well constructed. Sentences convey action, emotion, detail and direct/indirect thought. They can be narrative or dialogue. We can express ourselves through our characters, breathing life into them.

Sometimes we’re in a hurry to write down our thoughts before they vanish into oblivion. This is when we forget about structure—and that’s okay, because once you lose that great sentence in your head, it’s gone forever. Your first draft is meant to get down all your ideas in some sort of logical order. The second draft is for making improvements, corrections and additions. A final draft is for polishing and refining. We’re going to deal with the second and final drafts, assuming your work will be done in three versions.

If you make a habit of writing proper grammar to start, it’ll cut down on the time you need to find and correct errors and typos. Such a habit is hard to establish since we tend to write the way we speak—but once enforced, you’ll find writing comes much easier to you.

One word of caution here… When you go over your manuscript, be careful not to over-edit. Too many writers end up editing their work to death. The final product may end up nothing like what you originally started out with.

To begin with basics, sentences usually come in three forms: simple, compound and complex.

 

SIMPLE: contains a subject, verb and predicate.

John stared at his wife.

It doesn’t get much simpler than that. Short sentences are best used to emphasize a point.

John stared malevolently at his wife. Mary ran.

Out of context, we don’t know what’s going on or how scared Mary is, but we don’t need a lot of words to explain her fear. The previous sentence says it all.

Keep the very short sentences to a minimum. Too many will make your work sound like choppy grade-school reading, and it eventually becomes annoying. You don’t want your book to become some reader’s ‘wall banger.’ Your best bet is to vary the length throughout your work.

 

COMPOUND: has more than one subject and predicate.

On the other hand, try not to make your sentences too long. Overly long sentences tend to contain too much detail, and by the time the reader gets to the end of it, they’re probably staring at the sentence and thinking, “Huh?” They’ve undoubtedly missed the point you were trying to make.

John flipped through the colorful pages in the magazine, then he tossed it on the table with the others.

There are two complete sentences in the above example. It can be broken up and a little more detail added, or left as is. If you’re going to leave it as is, then you’ll want to omit the pronoun ‘he’ since it isn’t necessary, except to add to the word count. (That’s another topic to tackle with a subsequent post.)

John flipped through the colorful pages in the magazine. He tossed it on the table with the others when none of the articles caught his interest.

Now we have a pretty good idea that John is bored. If you have a long descriptive sentence, try breaking it up into two or three smaller sentences. The description will be more palatable, and the reader will get more out of it.

The worst descriptions I’ve seen written are when a character steps into a room. The writer often thinks they have to describe every stick of furniture, every color, every texture. If the room is important to the story, then a complete description may be necessary for the reader to get a feel for it. The description can also be broken up to fit the scenes as needed. Here’s an example of too much detail in long sentences:

John stepped into the small office. The thick dark brown rug was a color match to the wall paneling which covered all the walls from floor to ceiling. The old oak desk was huge and took up the space in front of one of the walls. Behind it, was a comfortable looking high-backed leather chair that sat close to the desk in front of the hidden window. Covering the single window, dark velvet curtains seemed out of place. The only light came from a small lamp sitting on a cabinet in the corner of the room.

Here’s one way it could be handled to make it more interesting.

John entered the small office. The color of the thick rug seemed to creep up the walls to the ceiling. He felt as if he’d stepped into a box. It was hard to tell where the rug ended and the paneling began. The huge oak desk looked old, compared to the new leather chair behind it. John moved closer to the desk and looked up at the window. He resisted the urge to tear down the dark velvet curtains and let in some light. A small lamp gave off a soft glow in one corner, but cast more shadows than it lit the room. A feeling of claustrophobia overcame him. He stepped back, ready to bolt, but froze when he sensed the presence behind him.

The character’s reaction to the furnishings, and the room itself, add more interest to the scene. Sentence length and type is varied.

Another point you want to minimize is the use of prepositional phrases. ‘In the house,’ ‘out the door,’ ‘after the fact,’ ‘beyond the horizon,’ When too many are written within one sentence, it can set up a sing-song pattern that quickly becomes annoying. There are better ways to express what’s going on than in a series of prepositional phrases.

All the paths in the garden were lined with colorful flowers.

The garden paths were lined with colorful flowers.

Both sentences say the same thing, but the second one is more concise and far less annoying.

 

COMPLEX: uses clauses to add detail. The biggest mistake writers make, beginners in particular, is starting almost every sentence with a clause.

Dismayed by Mary’s frequent absences, John began making phone calls to locate her. Playing innocent, Mary’s best friend pretended not to know where Mary was. Taking matters into his own hands, John decided to hire a private detective.

The flow of the scene is quickly broken up by too often using clauses to start off sentences.

John was fed up with Mary’s frequent absences, and began making calls to locate her. When he called her best friend, the woman answered his questions without telling him anything. John slammed down the phone in a fury. There was only one way left to handle the situation—he had to hire a private detective.

Once in a great while, it is necessary to start a sentence with a clause to keep the flow going. When you get the hang of using clauses properly, you’ll develop a sense of their place within a story.

I should make mention here about sentence fragments. Like short sentences, they should be used very sparingly. A fragment is missing the verb, and is more like a long clause with no life of its own and a purely contextual purpose.

These three types of sentences are the basis of all writing, whether it’s fiction, non-fiction, office reports, or even letters. Learning these differences is half the battle.

This deal was worth a great sum of money to John’s company. He had ten minutes to get to his client’s office. When he finally arrived, the secretary glanced up at him. Too late.

 

From Marissa St. James’ Doing it Write: Putting the Final Polish on Your Manuscript, Copyright © 2006 PageTurner Editions, available at Amazon.com for Kindle, Barnes & Noble for Nook and iTunes for Mac-based devices. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Guest columnist Marissa St James writes sweet romance. Her books include Lady in Black and Other Tales of Paranormal Romance, The Legend and the Laird, Liberty’s Belle, and many others. Find them all and keep up with Marissa’s writings and doings at www.msjbookshelf.blogspot.com and www.marissastjames.blogspot.com.

 

 

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