Aug 232013

Recently ebook industry insider Marie Force conducted a survey of 3000 readers asking carefully targeted questions about their practices and preferences. Widely reported in the media, it is the most extensive such survey so far in the age of digital publishing and it offers much food for thought.

Some of the findings were shocking, some amusing, some counter-intuitive, some disturbing. No one who writes or wants to write erotic romance or erotica should fail to read the findings.

 For those who may have missed it, WriteSex has summarized the findings. To make their significance more apparent, we have arranged the answers by percentages.

eBooks Versus Print

77 percent preferred ebooks

Where Readers Buy Books

80 percent buy their books from Amazon

23 percent Barnes & Noble

13 percent iBookstore


58 percent of have not visited a brick and mortar bookstore in the last year

75 percent visit less than once a month

Romance Biggest Genre

81 percent of those surveyed listed romance as their favorite genre

5 percent chose mystery

Importance of Publisher

64 percent say it doesn’t matter who publishes a book

33 percent say it sometimes influences them

4 percent say the publisher’s name influences their decision to buy

Self-Published Books

68 percent are reluctant to buy a self-published book from an author who is unknown to them.

Where Readers Learn about Books

18 percent, Facebook

17 percent retail sites Amazon, B&N, etc.

13 percent Goodreads

10 percent author websites

Where Readers Learn About Favorite Author Books

63 percent author websites

62 percent Facebook

36 percent author newsletters

27 percent Goodreads

19 percent Twitter

18 percent retail sites

What Reviews Sources Influence Readers

50 percent choose books based on reviews posted to retail sites

16 percent based their decisions on Goodreads reviews

13 percent were influenced by blog reviews

10 percent were influenced by publication reviews (RT Book Reviews, Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, etc.)

Publications that Influence the Decision to Purchase a Book

76 percent said none

13 percent said RT Book Reviews

Influence of Starred Ratings

43 percent will not buy a book with a low rating – unless they hear something good about it

38 percent will try a book if they like the cover and sample, despite a low rating

11 percent responded that starred reviews do not influence them

9 percent choose based on stared reviews and will only purchase books with high ratings

Free Books

85 percent were more likely to buy another book from the author if they liked a free book

35 percent have been discovered new authors via free books more than 20 times.

21 percent have found new authors through free books more than 10 times.

What Readers Like in a Story

75 percent of readers chose all these qualities:

outstanding characters, setting, storytelling and

Typographical Errors

33-three percent said typos don’t bother them

27 percent said they’d give an author a second chance if there were lots of typos in the first

24 percent said typos ruin their reading experience

8 percent said they would never buy another book from an author whose book was full of mistakes

Bestseller Effect

72% said the presence of banners like NY Times bestseller do not influence them

60 percent of those surveyed never look at a bestseller lists

28 percent said such banners do influence them

Influential Newsletters

84 percent subscribe to the newsletters of their favorite authors,

5 percent subscribe to the blogs of their favorite authors.

50 percent subscribe to BookBub to find out about free and reduced-price books

31 percent subscribe to Kindle Fire Department.

Social Media

60 percent of those surveyed do not follow their favorite authors on Twitter whereas

87 percent of those surveyed do follow their favorite authors on Facebook.

85 percent of those surveyed do not follow their favorite authors on Pinterest, and

86 percent do not look for authors on any other social media platform besides those already listed

Pricing and Length

52 percent said if they want a book badly they don’t care what it costs.

22 percent said they will not pay more than $4.99 for a book.

68 percent are looking for novellas (20-25,000 words) in the $0.99 to $1.99 range

21 percent said they would pay up to $2.99 for a novella

26 percent said they would pay $4.99 for a full-length novel

19 percent said they would pay $5.99 for a novel

13 percent said $7.99

12 percent said $6.99.

Bonus Material (interviews, short stories)

34 percent won’t pay extra for a book with bonus material

26 percent will pay extra for “bonus” material, such as a short story

Favorite Author Endorsement

60 percent say author blurbs or endorsements do not influence what they buy

40 percent say an endorsement by a favorite author does influence what they buy

Audio Books

70 percent replied that they do not buy audio books

15 percent had bought audio books via Audible

11 percent at Amazon

7 percent iTunes

Of those Who Buy Audio Books…

18 percent bought between one and 10 audio books per year

4 percent bought more than 20 audio books in the last year.

Book Trailers

54 percent of those surveyed have never watched a video trailer for a book

8 percent have bought a book because of a trailer

Book Covers

53 percent are influenced by a well-designed, attractive book cover

32 percent are not influenced by covers

Mar 242011

When I started this gig at Write Sex, the idea was to have me write about “taboo” topics in erotica or erotic romance. You know: sex with the dead, screaming banshees, and hotty-hot vampires. As the column has progressed, I seem to usually end up writing about the mechanics of creating fiction, because as I’ve written more and more fiction over the months I’ve been doing this, I find the mechanics become all-important. Therefore, my writings here often contain pretty straightforward writing-technique observations, though they maybe laced throughout with inexplicable glimpses of my own unique mental mise-en-scene (Goth chicks! Humanities grad students! High-end hotels!).

It must have dawned on the editor and proprietor Sascha by now that I have no real intention of telling you — or perhaps I just have no capability to tell you — how to write an exquisite vampire blood-orgy romance sex scene. Sascha has, just the same, kindly refrained from docking my pay. That’s because Sascha understands what all successful writers must sooner or later understand. Your muse is not a bitch. But neither is she easy. She will gut you like a pig if you don’t listen to her. But if you meep politely now and then and blurt lots of “Yes, Ma’am” and “May I freshen your drink, Your Majesty,” there’s a small chance you’ll walk out of this business — instead, I mean, of crawling.

That’s why built into my Write Sex column was a certain breadth of scope — and without it, I’d be sunk. I wouldn’t have written this column, or the last column, or the one before that.

Because living a writing life is all about disaster preparedness. And so, after all these months, I return to the taboo — perhaps the greatest taboo of all: when shit goes wrong. Disaster preparedness is something you’ll need if you’re going to have a writing career, just as if you’re going to run a country or a city or a nuclear plant in a tsunami zone, you should probably have a spare garden hose to cool down your spent fuel rods, and you might want to consider putting your diesel tanks underground.

In writing, as in life, disasters happen. The most common writing disaster is sitting down to write and finding nothing in your brain. Almost as common is getting shit down on virtual paper — called “the computer” by these newfangled tech types — and finding it’s an absolute mess. A third kind of writing disaster is sending something out to your very best friend, your first reader, your agent, your editor or your boyfriend or girlfriend or wife or husband — and getting an “Um…huh. Okay…” in response. Or an “it sucks.” Or the most disastrous feedback of all: “I read the first page and it really seemed good, but I haven’t had time to get back to it. Maybe next week? I’ve been so busy cleaning out my fridge and LIKE-ing photos of puppies on Facebook…”

Christ! How it hurts to hear that shit! To be dismissed! Forgotten! That feeling will ream you if you let it. It will damage your spirit beyond redemption; it’ll leave your soul a smoking ruin. It’ll melt you down and send molten uranium tunneling to China. It’ll flood your Gulf with oil.

But it hurts still more to hear nothing.

By which I mean not just to hear nothing from editors, agents, first-readers, and the like. Sure, that hurts. But for me, it hurts most on the days when I hear nothing from myself. It happens all the time. It’s when my brain just goes dead, and words don’t come, and I not only don’t give a fuck if the hero and heroine ever get together — I don’t care if they lived in the first place. On days like that, my characters could drown in a levee failure or be wiped off the map by a tsunami or lose their fishing business in an oil spill, and I’d leave the computer empty and spent with nothing to show for six hours of agony, and I’d prop my feet up and watch Serenity for the umpteen-thousandth time — and tell myself, “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.”

Please don’t think for a moment that I mean to make light of the fucked up crap that happens to people — whether through no fault of their own, or at least, to my mind, through no fault of the poor people, and no fault of the rich people except being so unwilling to pay taxes that cutting the budget for earthquake and volcano monitoring in somebody else’s state seems like a really good idea. In using this metaphor, I mean to minimize nobody’s suffering — real suffering, not this indulgent crap that we writers do. I don’t wish to imply that my writer’s block even begins to compare to slurping down radioactive iodine with your cornflakes, let alone taking 40 Sieverts of radiation on the chin.

On the contrary; on many of my days, writing an escapist zombie melodrama seems like a reeking load of bullshit considering how bad things are going in the world. Not having any ideas for my next warmed-over stroke fest is hardly the equivalent of having multiple cities flattened by earthquakes. I’m not suggesting that it is. Every day I’m grateful that I’ve the luxury of sitting my ass in a hard wooden chair and daydreaming about fairytales and moonbeams and whips and chains and werewolves. Every day I’m bloody grateful that a meteor hasn’t hit me — yet. Or an earthquake, a levee failure, a Mack truck, a catastrophic core meltdown…whatever. Even being able to blog about this shit is a gift from chance, or whoever. Just speaking for myself, I find that even on my worst days, my being alive to suffer so horribly is actually, God help me, appreciated.

But what I am suggesting is that when you find that creative empty, or end up with a mess of a not-quite-a-novel on your hard drive, or get yet another “It’s not for us” or “couldn’t the heroine be a juggler instead of a unicycle-acrobat?” from a publisher, it’s preparation that will save you. On those days, however bad it feels, even if it feels like the apocalypse — and oh, for fuck’s sake, some days I know it does — feeling bad about it doesn’t cool an emotional meltdown or get food or medicine to your characters who need it.

When emotional disaster strikes, you can say you never thought it could happen to you — despite mountains of evidence to the contrary. In no way, shape or form am I one of those pricks who’ll say in that case you have “only yourself to blame.” Creative emptiness feels like a tragedy, so it is a tragedy. Getting self-righteous about someone else’s pain is as reprehensible as mixing up “looting” and “finding supplies.”

But the first principle of disaster preparedness is admitting “it can happen to me.” If you’re riding high on creative success, or just pumped from drinking too much coffee, you can rest assured you’ll hit the skids at some point. If you’re the creative and spiritual equivalent of “high on life” at the moment keep in mind that life may have a special nightmare in store for you.  And if you’re one of those snooty hyped-up San Francisco weirdos nobody invites to their parties who has three first aid certificates (dog, cat, and human) and knows exactly what the liquefaction will be at the base of the Bay Bridge pylons, when disaster strikes you’ll know what to do.

You’ll be the one giving CPR to werewolves hit by runaway MacGuffins.

And that’s your chance to make a difference.

Feb 182010

Last time I had the blog, we talked about eroticizing setting with description. Now we’re going to focus on what readers look for in any form of erotic novel: Character. I’ve learned everything there was to know about character from my mentor, Morgan Hawke. Remember when we’re talking character here, we’re talking solely about what sells, not necessarily what works for your niche readers. That is for you to figure out. For this blog, we’re going to share what works to create those characters that arouse not only our hearts and minds, but our genitalia.

The first thing we obviously tackle for character is description. What do we envision when we start putting pen to paper? What if that vision is hard to come across in our minds? The easiest way to create characters is to steal someone else’s! Use what’s popular in movies and TV. While that seems like cheating (it is) we still have to figure out a few key things.

1. Are we creating PLOT driven stories
2. Are we creating CHARACTER driven stories

Let’s focus on Character for obvious reasons. When I suggested modeling your character after Movie/TV characters, I did this on purpose. For example, with Hugh Jackman in mind, we now have what he looks like and even some background. Does his character fit our story? He probably does, a little.

But the characters must go through trials and tribulations in order to grow and reach that desired ending.

To add erotic elements to the character, we need a mate for them. In all fiction we’re talking about creating tension between the two characters. This is done through their actions. If you’re out on a date, what actions do you use to attract the attention of someone who has caught your eye? What does that tension feel like?

When we put those feelings and actions down on paper, we’re using them in action tags to describe them to come across as we intend for them to.

In this scene from “Whiskey Spread” we have Morganna, an older woman is attracted to one of her long time customers.

She stepped back into the bar area but took a quick step back out of sight. Nicholas was sitting at a seat by the window and there was a brunette with him.
Her heart sank.
Her reaction to seeing him with some other woman.

The brunette leaned forward on her elbows, waving her hand through the thick cloud of smoke coming from Nicholas’s cigar.
His hair hung down the length of his back and caught the light off the fixture above so that reflected a deep blue so dark it looked black. His charcoal gray shirt fit snuggly over broad shoulders and was tucked into navy colored slacks. Her describing him.
Morganna licked her lips, felt her nerves ready in anticipation of goddess only knew what. Morganna’s response, a typical action that might elicit an erotic response as the reader has been SHOWN something.

Then she took a glance at the brunette sitting across from him nursing a…cola?
Was she his girlfriend?
Sizing her up, Morganna stepped out from behind the spot she was in.

Lastly, we’re left with what Morganna’s intended action is.

The highlighted parts are up to us to throw in. This gives us not only a better scene, but deeper characterization without having to spell everything out. Morganna’s actions of licking her lips, something many men find arousing. Following it up with an appropriate action drives the story. What will Morganna do? Will she let her body control her lust? Or will her lust control her body?

There is an order of actions things occur in also but we’ll cover that in another article. Until then, enjoy WriteSEX and stay tuned for the lovely and talented Dr. Nicole Peeler