Jan 112015
 
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By M.Christian (Guest Blogger)

Currently I’m involved in a very special publishing endeavor – sorry for the tease; I’ll come to it shortly – that has gotten me thinking quite a bit about writing, especially about what it could meant to be a successful writer.

An odd word, that: success.  In some cases it can be a very clear-cut.  Getting from point A to point B?  Success is just making the trip.  Balancing your checkbook?  Success is making it all add up (and, one hopes, remaining in the black).  But for writers … well, it can be rather, shall I say, slippery.

For example: finishing a book or a story.  That can be a form of success – though too often it feels like there’s always more that could have been done.  Selling a book or a story?  That can be successful – though many times there’s the nagging doubt that it could have gone for more money, higher status, etc.

Then there’s the big form of that word.  What does it mean to be a successful author?  Excuse me for evoking my inner Cranky Old Pro, but far too many authors seem to think that being a successful author is not just finishing books and stories, selling books or stories, winning awards, making money – but making sure everyone, everywhere, knows about it.

In other words, the world of professional writing – or creating anything, it seems like – has become about who you are and not what you do.

Okay, that’s a broad statement, but bear with me.  This new endeavor – which I still won’t talk too much about … yet – involves a lot of looking backwards.  I’ve never been a fan of nostalgia … my childhood wasn’t exactly a pleasant one … but it has been a real eye-opener when it comes to reevaluating what, for me at least, success actually means.

Let’s talk about science fiction for a moment – but, rest assured, the message is the pretty much the same not only for every genre but every form of artistic creation as well.  Right now being a science fiction writer is a big deal: one story, one sale, one award, and everyone’s awash in self-congratulatory promotion.

Yes, PR is more important than ever, what with the evolution of ebooks and self-publishing and all. Going from (yeah I know I might be exaggerating) 1,000 books published a month to 10,000 books a day means that getting your name out there is crucial … but there’s a big difference between trying not to vanish, trampled under the hordes of other writers, and losing sight of the what being a writer is all about.

Part of this project I alluded to in the first paragraph is stepping into a wayback machine to look at many early SF authors and their works.  Back in the 1940s and 50s, and up to the 60s or so, was when many of the SF legends began their writing lives.  If you haven’t, you should definitely pick up a few old SF digests or pulps or cruise a few select sites and check them out.

Sure, far too often their covers were beyond pulpy (half-naked women, Green Men from Mars, stalwart heroes firing blasters, Green Men from Mars holding half-naked women high in the air while stalwart heroes fired blasters at them, etc.), but look at who was slowly making their way up the mastheads of those tawdry pages: Arthur C. Clarke, Alfred Bester, Philip K. Dick, Edmond Hamilton, Isaac Asimov, Theodore Sturgeon, and (later) James Tiptree, Jr.
 (AKA Alice Bradley Sheldon), Octavia Butler, and so many others. 

Oh, sure, it’s worth a giggle or two seeing authors that we now consider to be legendary on these covers – but doing so is what changed the way I, personally, consider a measure of success … and, perhaps, will change the way you think about it, too.

Back into the wayback machine: no internet, damned few bookstores that would carry digests or paperbacks (they were mostly sold on newsstands), almost no reviews (except in other SF magazines), and pretty much zero, nada, zilch in the way of respect.

Being a science fiction writer back then was a low-paying, quasi-shameful, writer’s life.  You were lucky to get your name spelled right on the cover, let alone have that cover depict anything to do with the book you wrote.  Adding insult to injury, how much you got for your next book had everything to do with how much your last book sold: if it didn’t … well, then you took what you could get.

But these authors kept on writing.  They didn’t have even the possibility of attracting anything but scorn from big publishing houses, let alone movie deals.  They didn’t have a way of reaching out to fans – or even fellow authors – other than writing actual letters or attending what few early conventions existed back then.

So … no money, no fame, only a small cadre of fans, humiliated and the source of almost constant derision from authors in other genres … sure, we know them now, after 50+ years, but what kept them going then?

They were writers: they loved – beyond all else – to tell stories.  Sure, for many of them churning out stories and books was a way of making at least some money but, let’s be honest, there were better ways of doing that.

This is what I mean by success.  Now we look back at these authors as being successful because their names – even beyond science fiction fandom – are well known and even respected, and even a few of their properties are valued in the millions.  But it wasn’t always that way.

Yes, that was then and this is now, but they got from where they started to where they are now because they lived to write stories … and managed to keep at it long enough for the rest of the world to finally catch up and take interest in those stories.

No, it’s not a guarantee – those same pulp pages are full of authors who didn’t last long enough – but the point is still pretty much valid: these celebrated authors began their writing lives not because of winning awards, raking in the cash, or the adoration of legions of fans, but because they lived to write.

And that is what I’ve come to consider to be a personal definition of success: to live for the writing, to remain passionate and dedicated … while the rest, as they say, is gravy.

***

About M. Christian
Calling M.Christian versatile is a tremendous understatement. Extensively published in science fiction, fantasy, horror, thrillers, and even non-fiction, it is in erotica that M.Christian has become an acknowledged master, with more than 400 stories, 10 novels (including The Very Bloody Marys, Brushes and The Painted Doll). Nearly a dozen collections of his own work (Technorotica, In Control, Lambda nominee Dirty Words, The Bachelor Machine), more than two dozen anthologies (Best S/M Erotica series, My Love for All That is Bizarre: Sherlock Holmes Erotica, The Burning Pen, and with Maxim Jakubowksi The Mammoth Book of Tales from the Road).  His work is regularly selected for Best American Erotica, Best Gay Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, Best Bisexual Erotica, Best Fetish Erotica, and others. His extensive knowledge of erotica as writer, editor, anthologist and publisher resulted in the bestselling guide How To Write And Sell Erotica.

In addition, he is a prolific and respected anthologist, having edited twenty five anthologies to date. He is also responsible for several non-fiction books, notably How to Write and Sell Erotica.

M.Christian is also the Associate Publisher for Renaissance eBooks, where he strives to be the publisher he’d want to have as a writer, and to help bring quality books (erotica, noir, science fiction, and more) and authors out into the world.

He can be found in a number of places online, not least of which is mchristian.com.

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Oct 192014
 
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By Colin

I might be jumping the gun a little with this month’s column, but with the air turning frosty (here on the East Coast, anyway), and everyone’s thoughts turning to winter, getting a jump on taxes might not be the worst idea. And if your first thought on reading the above is, “Taxes? What do taxes have to do with writing?” you’ve just proved my point.

When I first started publishing, taxes were one of the things I was thoroughly clueless about. I mean, I understood that money I made in royalties and payments for stories was subject to taxation, but that was about as far as it went. Was I supposed to pay taxes for everything? What if I was working for some big New York publisher? Wouldn’t they handle at least part of it? What if my publisher didn’t send me a tax form?

Ah, youth. If only I could go back and give myself a good firm slap upside the head. But in lieu of that, let’s lay down a few ground rules, just in case you’ve ever wondered about this stuff. As a quick caveat, and with apologies to our colleagues in other countries, the info below applies strictly to US Citizens.

First of all, yes, the one thing I seemed to actually know as a newbie was that money you make on your writing is taxable. All of it, including the five bucks you got for that poem in your friend’s webzine. If there are publishers anywhere—either book publishers or those buying material exclusively for magazines and anthologies—who handle taxes for their writers, all I can say is, I’ve yet to meet them. One of the downsides of making even a little money writing (and it all too often really is just a little money) is that you can’t use the old 1040EZ anymore. You’ve now got income as a freelancer, which technically can’t be included under “Wages, Tips,” etc.

The really nice publishers will, sometime in January, send you a 1099 form, which breaks down how much money you made from them the previous year and is meant to be included with your taxes. Some publishers don’t send a 1099, for whatever reason. You can always ask them, but it’s a good idea in any case to keep a running tab on how much money you make during the year. That way you’ll prepared for that lovely spring day that comes to each of us, no matter how successful.

So how do you declare your taxable income as a freelancer? I’ll tell you what every writer I’ve ever met has told me: I ask my tax preparer. Having your taxes done by a professional is not strictly necessary, of course, but the more you’ve made during the year,  the more of a relief it is to thrust a handful of 1099s at a qualified professional, then go out for cheeseburgers. I highly recommend it, myself. If you’re set on doing your own taxes, you’d be well-advised to get as much information as you can beforehand. Advice from knowledgeable friends is always welcome, and if you’re the bashful type, this internet thing they’ve got is an absolute marvel at pulling together information; I swear, it’s like you just push a button and boom! There it is.

A final remark: some writers might be nervous about talking through earnings for publishers known to deal in erotica. But keep in mind, you are under no obligation to tell your preparer you write smut, only that you do “freelance writing.” Besides, the preparer is not likely to know or care if a particular name on your 1099s is smut-affiliated. They just want to get home and watch the ballgame; they’re not going to put you on the hotseat and demand to know exactly why your publisher is called “Loose Id,” or “Sizzler Editions.” Trust me on that.

***

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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Oct 032014
 
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by Nobilis

I don’t sprint when I write, not anymore. It used to be that I could get 1,600 words down in an hour if I really put on the power and concentrated on nothing but how many keystrokes I could apply to my story. Nowadays, an hour’s worth of work results in something more like 800 words. It’s not impairment that has caused this slow-down, it’s a recognition of how my creative mind works.

At some point I began to pay attention to how much time and effort I actually spent on a piece of writing—and it became clear that 1,600 words an hour was less effective than it sounded. Did most of those words end up in the final draft? No. I ended up cutting about a third of them, and completely rewriting another third. As it turned out, it was more efficient in the long run for me to slow down a bit and pay more attention to what I was writing. Better for me to write eight hundred words that are already in fairly good shape, and build on those, than to quickly churn out a story I will end up breaking down and rebuilding anyway.

I’m not saying that sprinting isn’t a good practice in general. I’m saying that it doesn’t work well for me. I’ve analyzed my writing process and made the conscious decision to think more carefully about what I’m writing on my first draft. Overall, I’ve tried a number of different ways to get from first draft to final, and found that slowing down works best for me.

There are all kinds of decisions a writer has to make when they set out to write a story. How deep will the outline be? How much planning will go into character and setting? What software will they use? How much time will they spend on it in one sitting? How long can they set it aside? What time of day, and day of the week will be “writing time”? When will beta readers see it?

It’s rare for a new writer to answer these questions with intention and forethought, and yet it’s a crucial first step. No one else can answer them, ultimately; only you can.

And those answers will probably change over time, as you learn more about your writing process. If you’re a new writer, you ought to be trying out many different things. You can’t really call yourself a “discovery writer” if you’ve never tried writing to an outline. You can’t call yourself a “binge writer” if you’ve never tried setting aside an hour a day, every day, for writing.

These experiments can’t be evaluated until they’ve been taken to some kind of conclusion. If you just measure your productivity at the first-draft stage, then sprinting always looks better—but if a sprinted novel takes a major rewrite every time and a more carefully composed manuscript doesn’t, then the gain from sprinting is lost in the editing process. On the other hand, you may find that you wrote your first draft too tightly, didn’t let your ideas flow as freely as they could have, and need to develop much more of the story in the next draft. If that’s the case, maybe a looser, faster style of preliminary writing will prove better for your next book.

Likewise, if a writer completes an outline and feels like the story is told and there’s nothing left to “discover,” (a description of the outlining process I’ve heard from many self-described discovery writers) but has never actually written to the outline, then the writer isn’t giving the technique a fair shot.

The only way for a new writer to determine what techniques work best for them is to try them out, and pay attention to the results, both in terms of quality and efficiency. It’s work, but it’s work that needs to be done sooner or later—preferably sooner, if you want to spend the majority of your writing career working with, rather than against, your own creative process.

***

Learn more about Nobilis and his work at his…

Website: www.nobiliserotica.com
Podcast: nobilis.libsyn.com
Twitter: @nobilis

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Sep 082014
 
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By Colin

So you’ve written a book—not a story that crapped out after four thousand words, but an actual novel. And you think this book might be the one. Whether you use beta readers or go with your own gut, all the signs are right; this thing might actually sell some copies. You’ve decided to go with a publisher rather than putting it out yourself (and the joys of “putting it out yourself” are something I might go into in a future column). Now the question becomes: which publisher?

Because—just in case you’ve had your head in the sand during your book’s gestation—there are an awful lot of them. Even if you’re going with one of the electronic publishers (which, if your book is erotica, you most probably will), you’ve got an amazing number of choices. This month, I want to throw out a few helpful precepts, garnered through way too many years of my own mistakes, on how to go about shopping for a publisher.

First of all, just in case you have had your head in the sand for the past year, and are interested in an overview of the contenders, you’ve got a number of options. Google is not the least of these. A simple search on the words erotica publisher novel guidelines will get you started. If you’d rather look at more specific information right away, check out the Erotica Readers and Writers Association, specifically the Authors Resources page, and, for that matter, the ones at this site (on the right-hand sidebar below Roundtable Posts. Updated Calls for Submissions coming soon! —ed.). Both contain lists of erotica markets, with links to the publisher’s sites.  If you’re willing to spend a little money ($5.00 a month, or a discounted rate of $4.17 for committing to a year up front), I’ve found membership at Duotrope to be both affordable and very useful, not just for erotica, but for pinpointing opportunities in a wide variety of other genres, from steampunk to Bizarro. They also collate response times reported by members, to give you a better idea if your manuscript will meet with a quick answer or a slow death.

Of course, the first thing you’ll be looking for are publishers who put out the kinds of books you’ve written and want to go on writing, but this will also be an opportunity for you to look into areas you might not have thought of before. You might also find markets for material you thought was terminally unsalable, so take the time to really look around.

Alright, now you’ve assembled a shortlist of possible publishers. It’s time to look over their websites and their wares. You can judge a book by its cover, and you can often judge a publisher by their books. Do the covers jump out at you, and make you wonder what kind of story they represent? Or are they muddy, indistinct messes that just make you go, “Meh?” Would you buy their books? Because if you pick them and actually make a sale, your book will be right there among all the others you’re looking at now.

How about the website? Is the ad copy well-written…or at least competently written? Misspellings, tangled syntax and clichéd phrases on a publisher’s site are a red flag; remember, these people will be representing your work. If you’ve landed in a site full of clip-art covers and bad writing, it’s time to move on. If you Google a publisher and nothing comes up but a Facebook page or a Smashwords profile, then what I just said goes double.

If they’ve posted a sample contract (some do, some don’t), read it carefully, making note of things like royalty rates, and how you would go about pulling your book from their catalogue if they (perish the thought) turn out to be a shady operation.

Speaking of shade, reputation is another big factor to consider. Google the publisher—sometimes adding words like “complaints” or “problems” to their name will bring up some very interesting results. If a publisher treats its writers badly, there will be blog entries—usually a lot of blog entries from a wide variety of writers—about it, as well as mentions on sites like Predators and Editors (another one for your web-browser’s Favorites list). You have to take some of this with a large grain of salt, because a single writer who feels she’s been stiffed on her royalties can 1) be awfully loud and 2) recruit a handful of friends to help boost their signal out of nothing more than personal loyalty, and it’s true to say that sometimes “problems” with a publisher are simply the result of misunderstandings.

Some writers make a point of ignoring new publishers (which seem to crop up every week) until they’ve been in business at least a few years. This is generally sound advice; several years in business means the publisher is not just successful, but also has a certain stick-to-it-iveness. But you have to be a little careful here as well; recently, several publishers who had been around for a while and built up solid track records in that time suddenly went belly-up, literally overnight. Obviously, if you’re good at reading warning signs, these are businesses to avoid. Many publishers are iffy about taking previously-published books when the publisher dies; there’s always self-publishing, but that should be an option, not something you’re forced into to get an older manuscript back into print (probably with a less-than-glorious cover).

So now you’ve narrowed your list down and you’re pretty sure you know which publisher you want to submit to.  What happens now?  Come back in a month and we’ll talk.

***

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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Aug 212014
 
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By Ardath Mayhar, reprinted from Writing Through a Stone Wall: Hard-Won Wisdom from Thirty Years as a Professional.

In its simplest definition, a plot is the shape taken by your story. It is the sequence of events that presents your characters, reveals their backgrounds, shows their problems, and leads the reader through all the complexities of the story to the solution of those problems.

It can be attacked chronologically, which is the simplest and best plan for a beginner. It can also come in non-sequential segments, welded together over the length of the tale to make a coherent whole, through the skillful use of such devices as the flashback.

If you are a real storyteller, you will usually find that your stories work themselves out in intricate detail, either beforehand as an outline or as you write. So don’t worry too much about plots … a good one is instantly recognizable.

If something that seemed promising turns out to be a dud, don’t sweat it. We all waste some effort, but all that effort amounts to practice that helps us to deal more effectively with our next project.

A plot can be built, just like a child’s house of blocks. You introduce your main character, find his immediate interest/problem/difficulty. In a short story there may be only one, but in a novel you will need several. You may even need several minor characters, each with a problem that affects, in some way, the overall story.

Once you understand the situation with which your protagonist must deal, then you can work out, step by step, exactly the way in which he will tackle it, the obstacles that will get in his way, the other people who interfere, and the final and climactic situation in which he either conquers or accepts his own circumstances.

There is a rather mechanical way in which to add suspense and conflict. Give that character a break and make it seem that he has surmounted his problems … and then pull the rug out from under him. Create a wavelike undulation between triumph and near-tragedy (modulated to suit the sort of tale you are telling).

The sequence of events can develop your character’s strengths and his intelligence. It can try his emotional stability. And the protagonist and his solution can arrive together at the end of the tale.

This is useful for a beginner, but do not feel that you have to stick with this format. Some of the best stories spin themselves out in your mind, forming their own shapes and rhythms.

There are incredible numbers of kinds of stories and as many ways in which they can be told. As Kipling said,

There are nine and sixty ways
of constructing tribal lays,
and every single one of them is right!

Remember that you are the only person who can write your story, and once you develop your ability to professional standards nobody can tell you that this is the wrong way to do it. Make the plot work for you, and make it fit your characters.

The newspaper every morning and the news every night can be full of plot ideas. Nobody need ever go without the raw material for a story, if they keep their eyes and ears open.

On the other hand, a theme is something frequently overlooked by the novice writer. It is integral to a mature work of fiction (or, indeed, nonfiction), as you can prove for yourself by reading some of the themeless works now sprouting on the newsstands.

Most themes can be stated in cliches. Cliches become such because they are so true and so succinct, and the underlying premise that forms the thread upon which your story is strung must partake of some bit of human truth.

Do you recall Dickens’ A Christmas Carol? It has several themes, one of which is “It is never too late to change.” Another is “Money alone cannot make you happy.”

Most stories and almost all books have more than one theme, if you look closely enough. In your own work, you may be able to look back, as you near the end of your labors, and see several interrelated themes wound through your story.

It is a strange thing that seldom if ever do you think out your theme at the beginning of your writing process. It develops, along with the plot and the characters, as you work.

Yet, if you are deeply involved in the story you are telling, and the lives of the people about whom you are writing, you will find that a theme twines itself into it, without your having to think about it consciously.

A story that is all theme would be very dull work. But a story without any at all is taffy candy for the mind.

Keep a watchful eye on your work and analyze it when you are done. Make sure you dig deeply into your subject, so as to tap the thematic stream that runs beneath all good stories. Make your plot complex enough to be interesting, yet not so complex as to become soap opera.

Flashback, mentioned earlier, is a most useful device in creating a nonsequential plot. It is, however, often done very badly, at too great length, or at a point at which it interrupts the flow of the story. A long flashback at the very beginning of a tale, for instance, can make the reader forget just what was happening to the protagonist at the spot at which he went into this revery.

The past must become the protagonist’s temporary present, in order for a flashback to work well. For instance:

Jonathan looked both ways, hesitated, and then set his right foot into the street. He had never quite recovered from that terrible day…

The truck swerved into the wrong lane, heading directly for him, as he tried to spring back to the safety of the curb. Tires squealed on wet pavement, and as he squirmed desperately backward, something immensely heavy and painful crossed over his foot and ankle. The blackness that rolled over him came as a welcome relief…

Jonathan looked down at the warped and twisted leg. He couldn’t go on reliving that instant of his life forever, he knew. With a sigh, he stepped awkwardly into the crosswalk and limped to the other curb.

This is flashback. Brief ones are best, usually, but there are whole stories that are actually very long flashbacks.

Some highly effective work has been written using a sort of mosaic of plot elements, demanding mental alertness on the part of the reader. Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5 is a good example of this technique.

This, however, is not something that you learn to do. It must come as an inevitable way in which to approach the story you have to tell.

Any or all of these techniques can work for you. Just have the nerve to play with them, practice with them, and make them a part of your repertoire.

***

Ardath Mayhar (1930-2012) died on February 1. Mayhar began writing science fiction in 1979, although she had been publishing poetry since 1949. During the course of her career, she published more than sixty novels in various genres, often using pseudonyms, including John Killdeer and Frank Cannon (for Westerns).

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, she and her husband, Joe Mayhar, owned The View From Orbit Bookstore in Nacogdoches, Texas; she sold the store after his death. Her novels, many of which mixed science fictional and fantasy elements, included the four-volume Tales of the Triple Moons series, the Kyrannon Shar-Nuhn series, and Battletech: The Sword and the Dagger. Her 1982 novel Golden Dream was based on H. Beam Piper’s “Fuzzy” series. In 2010 she published Slaughterhouse World.

Perhaps even more important than her own poetry and fiction, Mayhar served as a mentor to numerous other science fiction, fantasy, and horror authors. She provided editorial advice, taught workshops, and often worked as a book doctor. She was a fixture at Texas science fiction conventions for more than 30 years, although a decline in health limited her attendance in the last years of her life. A poem published in the anthology Masques earned her the Balrog Award in 1985. In 2008, she was named the SFWA Author Emeritus during the Nebula Award Weekend in Austin, Texas. —SFWA, February 13, 2012

In addition to her contributions to the field of science fiction and fantasy, Mayhar is the author of over sixty books and has won or been nominated for over two dozen awards including Margaret Haley Carpenter Prize, the Omar Award, the Mark Twain Award, the Spur award, and the William Allen White Award, for her historical novels, character studies and poetry. —WriteSex Ed.

 

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Aug 062014
 
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By Sherry Ziegelmeyer

Some authors don’t put much thought into who their target reader is—and it’s one of the most important questions in the publishing game! In some cases, authors slave away for years on a genre where the audience is so miniscule that so much time and effort spent writing a novel for that reader is simply bad business. But ultimately, no matter what genre or niche you prefer to focus on, every book will benefit from a good understanding of who will ultimately buy it. Researching your book’s audience(s) is definitely a step you can’t afford to skip.

As important as it is to research your book’s target audience before writing, it’s just as important to research your audience before embarking on a publicity campaign, so you don’t end up wasting time chasing consumers who will never buy your product.

Be Realistic About Your Audience

Too many authors start publicity campaigns with an unhelpful combination of vagueness and overconfidence, imagining a giant throng of people clamoring to buy their books. Most have some nebulous audience profile in mind that includes millions of potential consumers—with erotica writers, this profile is often built on the assumption that any and all erotica is perfect for “people who like sex.” Don’t we all like sex? I think most of us like sex.

Yet, how many male readers “like sex” with a cock in their bum? That’s a subset of the population of “people who like sex”. And while male/male anal sex does not only relate to gay male readers, trying to entice most heterosexual men into buying gay erotica is going to be a fruitless waste of time and money (time and money better spent targeting the many heterosexual women often found flocking to m/m erotica and erotic romance . . . but more on that later).

The same can be said of authors who specialize in high-end, literary erotica. The type of novels with a fair amount of fetish elements and/or elaborate storytelling involved in the sex scenes . . . that’s a very specific genre, appreciated by an equally specific audience. Even people who “like sex” may be turned off by long passages describing the room in the scene in excruciating detail.

Hit the Right Target the First Time

Whatever type of sex you portray in your books, you probably have a particular vocabulary with which you like to illustrate it—words that not only describe the physical action in a scene, but which also set a specific tone and mood. So take advantage of that insight when creating press releases, cover art, synopses and blurbs, as well as in your social media and any other forum you use to market your books.

How you word the copy of all your publicity, and your overall image branding, will help your target audience decide whether your books will suit their taste—and you can use this to your advantage in your press releases and other publicity activities. Pay enough attention to the connotative qualities of your verbal and visual language, and your target readers will not only know your book is for them, but will start getting excited about it long before they open it up or click “Look Inside!”

If you are writing “fuck books”, for example, your press releases should contain words that arouse the interest of a hardcore just-get-to-the-sex reader (suck, fuck, cunt, slut . . .). Remember that those words tend to attract entirely different consumers than those looking for, say, literary or romantic erotica—writers of the latter, on the other hand, should give potential readers an idea that their story contains “sensual explorations of Sapphic desire, embellished with the heated ecstasy of erotic foot worship.” Sure, there’s some language overlap within the books themselves—literary erotica might talk about cunts and sucking; fuck books will describe something as sensual, etc. As a writer, you want to keep your word choice open and interesting. But as a publicist, you want to remember the tone and mood you’re trying to convey at first glance, so stick to the terms that really get to the heart of your genre (or subgenre, or sub-sub . . .).

The description of the Sapphic desire/foot worship book appeals to a very targeted audience—one who is now aware that this book contains their favorite dynamics and kinks, but who is also aware that your writing style will tend to avoid blunt, fuck-book-esque terms like girl-on-girl sex and foot fetish and, instead, describe things as sensual/ecstatic/erotic. Using the right “keywords” helps you to relate to the person you most expect to pay money for your books. After all, if you have created your stories around your personal likes, you already have a connection to the ultimate buyer for what you are selling. Use that to your advantage, and seek your target consumer where you like to spend your time, using words that you like to see when looking for your own “smut”.

So How Do I Target My Audience?

You can begin to narrow your audience down by asking yourself the following questions:

Which gender(s) am I writing for?

Like it or not, almost all sex novels are marketed—and purchased—at the furthest ends of the gender spectrum: For Women. For Men. If you are presenting an idealized version of sex and romance with sentences like “he approached her jade step, pausing to gently fondle her glistening pearl”, your target audience is probably women. You may be able to sell that book to men, but your target audience is certainly women—and a very wistful, romantic kind of woman at that. Alternately, if you write books that feature rough treatment of sex partners who lack much characterization . . . “the whore gobbled my jizz like a good cum-dumpster should”, you should probably target male readers. While it’s true some women like rough sex and dirty talk, the male demographic for that type of sexual depiction is still much larger.

Whether you choose to play along with these expectations is up to you, but know the risks and do not expect that your groundbreaking, stereotype-smashing stories of gothic heroines who curse and carouse like sailors will support your writing full-time or enlighten the masses in one glorious fell swoop—if you play your cards right, however, you will find the small-but-enthusiastic segment of readers who love your work and hunger for as much of it as you can write.

It’s also worth considering who your viewpoint characters are. In a hetero story, does the male or female lead end up doing most of the speaking and thinking? In whose head do we spend the most time (though, if the answer is “no one’s”, it’s probably a marketed-to-men kind of story) and which characters are secondary and viewed from outside? Roughly speaking, books marketed to women have primarily female viewpoint characters and vice versa.

Is my writing of interest to a particular orientation, kink or lifestyle?

There are many, many ways to be sexual—and thus many, many erotic genres. From homo- and bisexuals, to swingers, to the myriad kinds of fetishists, to bikers, to bisexual swingers with a biker fetish . . . and that’s only the tip of the iceberg to consider. Think about the way your target audience spends their time, their typical philosophical or political outlooks, the words they would use in their daily life and any specific sexual activities they would practice. Think about how your stories fit within different groups and eliminate the groups that your writing tone, style and plot don’t fit well with. Once you have the exact reader profile your writing style fits best with, you’ve found your target reader.

You may have the potential to narrow down your reader to lesbians over 50 years of age, with a penchant for leather and Harleys. Good for you! That’s a very specific audience that you can appeal to in a very focused way.

What words “turn on” my target audience?

Fetishists look for words that describe what they are into: feet, shoes, stockings, smoking, masks . . . the list goes on, but it consists of very specific objects and characteristics. Men who like to read about women being dominated often look for words like humiliated, broken and whore. Gay leather men often look for words like military, rugged and stud. You get the idea. Figure out what words work to get the attention of your target buyer.

How does my target reader describe the way they have sex?

Unless your target audience is very similar to you, spend some time with the type of consumer that you are looking for, learn what words and terms they use for sexual acts. Also pay attention to how they describe themselves by sexual orientation or culture. It will give you a wealth of insider information that will not only make your books more plausible and exciting, but will help you create keywords that you can use to make your product more appealing to a particular consumer. It’s obvious to say “gay sex”, but is that the way a gay person actually describes their sex life to a “breeder”? You won’t be able to answer that unless you do your research.

Is my reader of a specific age?

Some storylines, plots and language will appeal to younger adults, some to a more mature audience. Memories of a World War II fly-boy getting laid in France may get some younger readers, but the majority will be well over 30 and most likely male, depending on what wording is used to describe the ins-and-outs of the story.

Do I have a sub-segment of consumers?

Every type of novel has a main audience, but sometimes there will be cross-over segments and you may want to do two different publicity campaigns, one for the target and one for others that will have an interest, but who but aren’t your main consumer audience. As we’ve stated, for example, gay male erotica sells with both gay men and straight women.  So consider using words that attract both audiences in press releases, book covers and book synopses. If you are selling a book titled Billy Kidd and the Long Gun of the Law, using words like rugged, dominant and fisting will more likely appeal to gay men. Using words like romantic, surrender and pursued will likely play better with females. If you do so skillfully, you can combine these terms in a way that appeal to both audiences.

Use Those Questions as a Springboard

Keep asking the above questions (and adding your own!) until you find the perfect reader for whatever genre of literature you are selling. The more details you can attribute to your target consumer, what they are looking for in a a “good read” and what will convince them your books will be better than what is already available, the better. Then you can work on making your publicity campaign much more attractive to that specific buyer.

So Why Am I Doing This Question Thing?

A targeted publicity campaign should be focused on making sure your publicity activities are taking place where the largest concentration of your target audience gathers. For your publicity to be successful in reaching your perfect reader, you have to identify their haunts and learn their habits! I’ll share some secrets on how to find those places—and how to work within them to your advantage—in my next Write-Sex publicity column. Stay tuned!

***

Do you have specific questions concerning how to generate publicity for your books? Please email questions and comments to Sherry; answers will appear as future WriteSex blog topics.

Sherry Ziegelmeyer is a professional publicist and public relations representative, who happens to specialize in adult entertainment (in all its various forms). She resides in Chatsworth, California, affectionately known as “ground zero of the adult entertainment industry.” When not working on writing press releases, arranging interviews and putting together review kits for her clients (among dozens of other career related activities), she reads a LOT, loves cooking, appreciates beefcake eye-candy, spending time with friends, family and with her assortment of furred and feathered “kids”.

Get to know Sherry at blackandbluemedia.com or www.facebook.com/sherry.ziegelmeyer.

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Jul 262014
 
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By Colin

Once upon a time, the market for erotic fiction was limited to one or two book publishers, occasional anthologies looking for new material, and the odd newsstand porn magazine. These days, a writer looking to publish has an incredible number of venues to choose from, both online and in hard copy formats. Back in the bad old days, no one had heard of an ebook; now, no one has heard of anything else. Not so long ago, a straightforward, contemporary BDSM novel was a rough sell. Nowadays, you can self-publish multi-volume space operas or sword-and-sorcery sagas in which power exchange is a central theme. Oh, and you can make all your characters anthropomorphic animals, if you want.

But some things never change, even in publishing. Hopeful writers—even in erotica, which is a notably hungry market—are still faced with dozens of new anthologies and zines that supposedly offer terrific exposure…but can’t afford to pay for stories. They’re just starting out, you see. As a matter of fact, they can’t actually afford even to send you a free copy of the issue or book that your story will appear in, should they finally accept it. But the exposure you’ll get by publishing with them is absolutely amazing. It’ll get you noticed by all those editors looking to fill slots in their Years’ Best Anthologies. Besides, a lot of their writers actually refuse payment, insisting on letting them print their work for free…and for exposure.

A friend of mine once responded to a call for materials from one such penniless venture with a hand firmly clasped on a not-to-be-mentioned portion of his anatomy and the growled words, “I got your exposure right here!

But all kidding aside, it’s a serious question, one that in my opinion doesn’t come up often enough: should a writer, at any level of experience, produce copy for free?

In most cases, the answer is no. Not because there’s a million dollars waiting for that story just around the corner (there probably isn’t) and not because these people are running scams (at least, not necessarily).  No, you shouldn’t give these people your stories for free for the same reason you don’t go home, cook a gourmet meal, and then serve it up on card-tables in the middle of your city’s business district. True, there might be some folks down there who could use a free gourmet meal, and might well be grateful for it. More likely, though, your prize-winning bouef bourignon will end up congealed and drawing flies, if not jostled by careless passersby and spilled onto the cold, cold ground.

As far as “exposure” goes, that is, to quote a certain old Kansas gentleman, a very overrated commodity. True, in the early days of the e-publishing boom, editors were cherrypicking writers off of Literotica and other free sites like nobody’s business. Today, not so much.

But…

There are cases in which publishing with a “for copies” venue might actually make sense. The big one is if the publisher in question has a reputation. I’m talking specifically about a reputation for putting out quality material, of course, but a reputation for controversy might actually work in your favor as well—always assuming it’s not the kind of controversy that gets your windows broken. I’m sure I don’t need to point out that researching a publisher’s reputation isn’t particularly difficult. Even if they’ve only put out one issue, or a very few books, there may be some reviews and other material about them that you can check out online.  Remember that Google is your friend in these cases.

If the publisher’s project regularly includes well-known writers on its Table of Contents, that’s another big plus. Such a publisher is going to draw readers much more readily than your average “We don’t have any money now, gang, but boy oh boy, just you wait…” outfit. Those readers will then have a chance to read your story as well as the work of the more famous guys.

But let’s say this really is a small-time operation, with plenty of dreams and moxie, but not much mileage yet. No famous writers in their stable, no juicy scandals, no hip street-cred. Is there any reason at all to write for them?

I can think of one: if they’re excited about an unconventional story that you really believe in and want to see published, but which hasn’t lit any fires with other editors. And if all indications are that they’ll publish it well and respectfully.

If, on the other hand, they’re not exciting any comments or (apparently) garnering any readers; if they look like they’re just sitting there, then it’s probably safe to give them a pass. And if all this advice sounds self-serving and a little cold-blooded, well, you’re not the one trying to get people to give you perfectly good copy for free, now are you?

 

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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Jun 052014
 
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By Nobilis

There are a lot of things authors have to write that aren’t stories—and because they’re not stories, we often we have a hard time with them. If we are seeking publication with a publishing house, we have to write summaries and query letters. If we’re self-published, or writing for a small publisher without much of a marketing department, we often have to write cover copy ourselves, as well as bios. For some of us, even coming up with a title can be a trial. And, uh…some of us also write blog posts.

This is kind of weird when you come right down to it. I mean, we’re writers, right? Writing ought to be easy across the board, right? But for many of us, it’s not. Writing fiction feels different than writing all these other things. Fiction is fun, fiction allows us to live in that special place inside our heads for a while, the place where miracles are an everyday occurrence. Writing marketing material, however, is firmly grounded in the realities of the commercial world and our attempts to carve ourselves a place in it. We’re not writing from the inside, we’re writing from the outside. We’re focusing first on how the reader—now cast in the role of potential customer—will interpret the words we put down, and how those interpretations are going to affect our careers. There are real consequences.

It’s intimidating.

But keep in mind, we learned to write fiction. We can learn to write this other stuff well, too. With experience comes skill, with skill comes confidence, and with confidence comes accomplishment. We just have to DO it, remembering the three laws of getting sh*t done as writers:

1. Write.

2. Finish what you write.

3. Submit what you finish.

It’s that simple.

What? I haven’t hit my wordcount yet? Okay, alright…

Step one is write. That means put words together. Don’t worry about using the right words, don’t worry about style or spelling or anything else. Just write purposefully in pursuit of your goal. Don’t worry about whether it’s good, just write. This even applies if you’re trying to figure out a title; write one title after another, even the stupid ones, until you’re all titled out.

Step two is finish. That means not only writing through to the end, but also revising, polishing, and editing, almost always with at least three other good pairs of eyes looking at your work. It’s not finished until you’ve polished it—unless you’re Roger Zelazny, and you’re not.

Step three is submit. Chances are, if you’re writing something like this, it’s because you need to, so this step is pretty straightforward.

Okay, how are we looking for wordcount? Good? Alright, then we’re done here. Go write.

—–

Learn more about Nobilis and his work at his…

Website: www.nobiliserotica.com
Podcast: nobilis.libsyn.com
Twitter: @nobilis

 

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May 292014
 
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By M. Christian

There’s a deep, dark secret that no writer wants to talk about. Oh, sure, in our braver moments we will talk about depression, anxiety, envy, frustration, spitefulness … the whole dark rainbow of negative emotions that come with being a professional author. And by professional author I don’t mean actually being paid for your work but, rather, being brave enough to send it out into the big, wide—and far too often cruel and uncaring—world.

This secret is lacking of mention in most books on writing—though it should have at least its own chapter, or maybe an entire volume, dedicated to it.

Okay, I won’t string you along any further. You’ve probably guessed it, anyway, by the one-word title of this article. We may not talk about it much, but luck is a powerful force in the life of a writer.

I wrote career in the last sentence before scratching it out and replacing it with life because, as I’ve said many times before, writers don’t have careers: this is not a profession—or even an unpaid pursuit—that you can plot and plan like many other occupations. You can’t, for example, say that this year you will write an award-winning story that will open the door to a major book contract, and then that book will be made into a flick starring Liam Neeson. You can dream about stuff like this all you want, but you can never, ever plan for it.

All because of luck.

Personal story time: I wrote—totally unsuccessfully—for ten years before I sold my first story (an erotic one … and so here I am). My wife at the time signed me up for a class taught by Lisa Palac, of the late-lamented FutureSex Magazine. At the end of the class, I brazenly handed her a story that I had written.  If I hadn’t taken that class, if I hadn’t handed her that story, if I hadn’t mentioned that Pat Califia and Carol Queen were pals of mine … I seriously doubt that she would have even glanced at it.

Personal story time (2): about this same time I was best friends with someone—who, sadly, I am no longer close to—who introduced me to all kinds of other writers and, more importantly, editors and publishers. Without his help, I don’t think I’d be where I am today.

I think you can see where I might be going with this.  If, if, if, if … looking back on my writing life I can see far too many branches that just happened to work out in my favor. Am I a good writer? I like to think that I am a capable writer—with a lot of learning still to do—but I’m not so arrogant as to think that my work is so absolutely brilliant that it would transcend the slush pile or get past the insecurities and nepotism of far too many editors and publishers.

In short, I am where I am today because of luck.

Dig around in any writer’s life—or the life of any creative person, for that matter—and you will see a lot of these branches that just happened to work out in their favor. Friends-of-friends, right-place-right-time … it’s pretty clear that ability is only one part of what can mean the difference between renown and obscurity.

This is just one reason why I despise arrogance in writers. Oh, I can certainly understand it: writing is damned hard—so it’s far too easy to protect a bruised and battered ego by lying to yourself, and the rest of the world, that your blistering talent got you where you are instead of admitting that it all would have been very different if the dice had landed ones instead of sixes.

But luck doesn’t just magically appear. You can’t summon it with “likes” on Facebook or by chugging bourbon.  A cosmic alignment didn’t get me from where I was to where I am now. Luck is about circumstance but it’s also about people. My wife, that one friend who helped opened doors … they were my horseshoes, my rabbit feet, my four-leaf clovers.

Not to sound too Machiavellian, but it’s very important to look at the people in your writing life and think—at least on some level—how have they helped me? …or are they a hindrance? Writing can be hard, almost miserable, but it can be a glorious way to live when you have people surrounding you who are kind, supportive, and encouraging.

Another reason I can’t stand arrogance is that it’s ultimately self-defeating. An old stage maxim says that you should be careful of who you step on while on the way up—because you’ll be meeting them on the way down. By pissing off all kinds of people you are also severing your connection to all kinds of opportunities—luck in the making. Some of these rolls might work out, some may not, but none of them have a chance if you don’t have anyone out there to hand you the dice.

Skill? Very important. Dedication? Extremely important. Flexibility? Absolutely. Luck? We might not want to talk about it but, yes, luck is a key factor … but luck can only find you through friends.

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May 082014
 
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By Elizabeth Coldwell

Whether you realise it or not, it’s all too easy for your writing to fall into a rut.

This might not be so much of a problem if your writing is more of a hobby or a distraction from the Evil Day Job than a career, if you submit to the odd anthology here and there, or if you’re slowly working on that first novel. However, if you’re aiming to make a living from your writing, the pressure to churn out book after book, to build up your backlist and never give readers a moment to wonder when your next novel is coming out, can lead to a certain feeling of déjà vu when you read through your work. Just as importantly, it can also make you forget that, above all, writing is something to be enjoyed. If you’re slogging through the pages, rest assured the readers will be, too.

Even if you don’t notice that you’re in a rut, your editor should. All authors have certain words they tend to overuse, usually without being aware of it, which in the aggregate can dumb down otherwise good work and give it a feeling of tiresome over-familiarity. And I’m not even talking about the dreaded ‘that’ and ‘was’ which so many editors are on a mission to eradicate from manuscripts. Use the same verb three times within a paragraph, or repeatedly refer to your heroine’s ‘wavy, dark hair’ long after this characteristic has been established, and a good editor will flag this up. Some line editors will even highlight these words, making it even more obvious how often they appear—a sure sign you need to start reaching for synonyms.

But even ruthless editing can still leave your readers feeling like you’re rehashing ideas from previous books, whether you’re aware of it or not. So what can you do to freshen up your writing? Here are a few suggestions:

1) Change your writing routine

This might not be possible if you’re one of those people who, due to work or family circumstances, can only allocate a certain part of the day to their craft—but if you’re able to write full time, then do something different for once. Don’t shut yourself away in whichever room you use as your office; get out of the house and write. OK, so the writer with their laptop in the coffee shop has become a cliché, but it can actually do you good to be surrounded by other people as you write. Maybe you’ll see or hear something that inspires a story idea, and it never hurts to be reminded of the many ways people interact in the real world. You might worry that you won’t be as productive as usual, but I can never stress often enough that meeting an arbitrary word count every day doesn’t necessarily make you a good writer.

2) Try another genre

A lot of writers are very reluctant to write in anything other than the genre for which they have become known. They are afraid that by doing so they will somehow alienate their readers, particularly if they write anything other than contemporary romance. Of course, this suggests that perhaps it’s the readers who need to more flexible, rather than the authors, but that’s a whole other topic… However, you don’t need to go so far as to start (or stop, depending on where you’re coming from) writing male/male stories for a change of pace. There are lots of genres you can explore—ménage, Rubenesque, cowboy—that are hugely popular and don’t require you to go too far out of your comfort zone. Or you could try something that will take more research than you’d usually put in, like historical fiction set in an era you’re unfamiliar with. Who knows, you might even learn something…

3) Shake up your cast of characters

If your hero is always the alpha male who has more money than he knows what to do with and women perpetually falling at his feet, try writing about a guy who has to work hard, both for a living and to get the girl of his dreams. (Lord knows it’ll spare us any more dreary Fifty Shades clones…) If you write exclusively from the submissive’s point of view, try putting yourself in the dominant’s shoes (or thigh-high boots) for once. Switching the focus helps keep your writing sharp and forces you to think about a character’s motivation in a different way, which is never a bad thing.

 

Elizabeth Coldwell is Editor-in-chief at Xcite Books, where the titles she has edited include the National Leather Award-winning anthology, Lipstick Lovers. As an author, she has 25 years’ experience in the field of erotica, having been published by Black Lace, Cleis Press, Sizzler Editions, Total-e-bound and Xcite Books among many others. She can be found blogging at The (Really) Naughty Corner – elizabethcoldwell.wordpress.com.

 

 

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