Mar 052015
 
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by Suz deMello

Anyone else notice a distinctly hostile environment toward sex and sexuality on the net?

I’m not talking about the porn sites. I’m talking about mainstream sites and providers censoring content.

I recently received the below from Google:

Dear Blogger User,

We’re writing to tell you about an upcoming change to the Blogger Content
Policy that may affect your account.

In the coming weeks, we’ll no longer allow blogs that contain sexually
explicit or graphic nude images or video. We’ll still allow nudity
presented in artistic, educational, documentary, or scientific contexts, or
where there are other substantial benefits to the public from not taking
action on the content.

And I’ve ranted before about Amazon’s policies in this blog and elsewhere.

Between them, Google and Amazon control quite a large proportion of what we see, hear, read and buy.

It’s often been noted that Americans are repressed sexually. This repression seems to create an unhealthy aversion to the naked human body. A person, regardless of gender, can sunbathe topless on most European beaches. Not so in the USA, where many view a woman’s breast as pornographically rather than naturally beautiful.

I can appreciate that Amazon and Google do not want to become porn purveyors. However, there’s a slippery slope on the way from literature to pornography, and erotica clings to that slope. Erotica writers are digging in our spiked heels and holding on for dear life with our cuffed hands.

Jaid Black, the founder of Ellora’s Cave, one of the biggest online purveyors of erotic and erotic romance novels, said she spends her time thinking about “new ways to create income for Ellora’s…that don’t involve Amazon.” According to an interview in New York magazine (2/23/15), EC’s Amazon-generated income plummeted in 2013 by more than $2 million and has never recovered.

It’s hard to pinpoint a culprit, though. Advances in technology have thrown self-publishing to the forefront. Many of the newbies are so desperate to be read that they’re giving away their work for free or for rock-bottom prices. Anthologies or boxed sets of romance and erotica are most commonly priced at 99 cents, a price point that makes it virtually impossible for a professional writer to earn a decent living.

Of course parents should be empowered to determine what their children are exposed to on the internet, but “protecting” the rest of us is condescending and outright offensive. Parents have tools they can use to block content they may deem harmful to their children, such as NetNanny or CYBERsitter.

What can be done to combat the forces of repression? Organizations such as the OpenNet Initiative exist solely to inform the public about web-based censorship and surveillance efforts. The ACLU, Reporters Without Borders, The Censorware Project and peacefire.org have similar missions. Checkout out and supporting these organizations is one venue.

Another is registering our concerns, not as writers, but as consumers. According to article after article, Amazon is all about the customer, not the content creator. “Former executives all have stories about Bezos’ obsessive focus on the customer.” (Jeff Bezos is the famously obsessive founder and CEO of Amazon). Bezos explains that his company’s success is due to his focus on the customer, not the competitor.

Thus, approaching Amazon with concerns as consumers will be more effective. Querying Amazon for the reason we can’t find our favorite authors’ books may be a more productive approach.

As for Google, their corporate approach is, “Focus on the user and all else will follow”.

We’re all users. Some of us want to use Google to find erotica.

Focus on our status as consumers rather than creators of content and all else will follow.

Those of us writing have generally spent years honing our craft. Depressing, isn’t it, to be so little respected?

***

About the Author:

Best-selling, award-winning author Suz deMello, a.k.a Sue Swift, has written nineteen books in several genres, including nonfiction, memoir, erotica, comedy, historical, paranormal, mystery and suspense, plus a number of short stories and non-fiction articles on writing. A freelance editor, she’s held the positions of managing editor and senior editor, working for such firms Totally Bound, Liquid Silver Books and Ai Press. She also takes private clients.

Her books have been favorably reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and Booklist, won a contest or two, attained the finals of the RITA and hit several bestseller lists.

A former trial attorney, her passion is world travel. She’s left the US over a dozen times, including lengthy stints working overseas. She’s now writing a vampire tale and planning her next trip.

–Find her books at http://www.suzdemello.com

–For editing services, email her at suzdemello@gmail.com

–Befriend her on Facebook, and visit her group page.

–She tweets @Suzdemello

–and posts to Pinterest

–and Goodreads.

–Her current blog is TheVelvetLair.com

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Aug 302014
 
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By Nobilis

They say that an author shouldn’t pay attention to the market. They say that if an author writes to get on board with some popular trend, rather than following inspiration, the result will be lackluster fiction that arrives too late to catch the wave, and the author will more likely than not end up frustrated.

For what it’s worth, this is true. Most market trends are too short-lived to exploit this way, given how long it takes to write a good novel, edit it, and get it out into the market. (Of course, they said steampunk was a passing fad, and look where we are now—this rule is certainly not universal)

But there’s another kind of market trend that authors are very well served to follow.

My friend Starla Huchton has written two novel series (serieses?). The first was a science fiction romance called the Endure Series, set in an underwater research colony, where the hero and heroine, in addition to negotiating the difficulties of a new romantic relationship, must thwart a terrible global conspiracy. I loved it. The second is the Evolution Series, a superhero adventure romance that I’ve only just started reading but also promises to be quite enjoyable.

The thing is…Starla never finished the Endure Series. What’s worse, the third book ended on a cliffhanger. She promises she’ll get to it, but it’s not on her immediate project list. I confess to feeling no small amount of frustration with this, but I keep it to myself* because Starla Huchton is not my bitch. I don’t have any right to demand she finish the series or even resolve the cliffhanger.

Ever.

That’s speaking as a reader and a fan. Now I’m going to switch around and put on my author hat. I have also written speculative romance stories. There’s the far-future genderfuckery romance series, The Orgone Chronicles. There’s the Roma Fervens series, steampunk romances set in ancient Rome. And my near-future stories are all set in the same universe, which I call Tales of Love and Engineering. I’m currently not working on any of them. Instead, I’m experimenting with a science fiction serial, Monster Whisperer, which I’m producing as premium content on my podcast and releasing in both ebook and audio on Scribl.

And the reason for this is simple: Money. The other series just never sold big. They sold some, for which I am grateful to everyone who bought them, but they never hit that mysterious ignition point that gets a title climbing the charts. So I’m trying something new, to see what happens with it.

That’s why Starla’s decision to focus on the Evolution series at the expense of the Endure series makes sense. If the Amazon rankings mean anything at all, the Evolution series is selling far better than Endure ever did. It doesn’t necessarily mean that Evolution is better than Endure, but it does mean that it fits better with what people want.

I’m not talking about naked greed here. If I wanted to make the most money with the least effort, I wouldn’t be a writer, that’s for certain. No, I’m talking about using money as a measure of reader interest. When someone is willing to lay down five or ten dollars for a story, that means they want it more than they want something else they’d spend that five or ten dollars on.

I love all my stories. I could work on any of the series that I mentioned previously. But people don’t seem to want those stories as much, so they’re on the back burner. I could happily work on any of them. But the lack of interest on readers part spills over into a lack of interest on my part. I’ll keep trying new things, both in terms of subject matter and publishing venues, learning and growing and exploring, and along the way maybe something will catch the public’s interest in a big enough way that I’ll say: “Oh, you want to throw money at me to write more of this? Why, thank you! I do believe I shall.”

*Generally. I recognize the irony in posting it publicly here, and hope Starla will forgive me.

***

Learn more about Nobilis and his work at his…

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

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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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