Mar 052015
 
Share

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

Share
Apr 282014
 
Share

By Jean Marie Stine

It cannot be emphasized enough. Your blog, your tweets, your photo-sharing, your Facebook page, and any and all of your other social media efforts aren’t just something to be reserved for your new book’s debut, or a contest, or an online or in-person appearance.

If you take that course, you will only be preaching to the converted—which is to say, you’ll only be reaching the people you have already reached.

Those readers are crucially important, but even they are not really your #1 target audience for social media. It’s time to re-conceive your presence on the world’s computer screens, phones and tablets from a whole new perspective: as a magnet designed to reach as widely and as frequently as possible beyond your normal circle of fans to bring in new potential readers for your books.

At the same time, you don’t want to take one more minute away from actually writing those books and stories than you have to.

It may not seem like it would be possible to maintain an active blog presence and still have all the time you need to do your core creative work.

But it can be!

Most social media mavens recommend that, at the very least, you put up some kind of blog entry every week, twice if possible. That may seem like a lot of work—and it would be, if you have to write all those blog entries yourself.

But you don’t!

Some writers (perhaps because they are writers) make the mistake of believing that blog posts invariably have to be lengthy, comprehensive, entirely original written pieces.

Instead, there is an easy way to let your own personal interests generate compelling blog entries for you—entries that will bring lots of visitor traffic, most of it new, to your blog. And it involves almost no writing on your own part. Using this technique, your entire contribution to each blog entry you create is a sentence or two to a paragraph at most.

There is no way an author can write a story without putting some of their own personal interests into it. That might be skiing, Europe, the town you live in, collecting stamps, the world of high fashion, the U.S. Civil War, rodeos, motorcycles, etc.—and chances are, if you are interested in something, other people are interested in it, too.

For instance, you might have visited Paris, or wanted to visit it, and thus your newest novel is set there.

Say you see a great picture of Paris on the internet, one that is beautiful, or touching, or shows some specific locale you used in your book. Insert or link to the picture on your blog. Write a sentence or paragraph about why you liked it—something like “I had to share this stunning picture of Paris at night from the top of the Eiffel Tower. I love both so much, I made Paris the scene of the second half of my book, For Love or Money.” Or, perhaps it is a photo of the Champs-Élysées. You could write: “I set the climactic chase scene from my romantic espionage novel, Secrets of the Heart, here.” You will be surprised, over the course of the next year, at how many new visitors have come to your site.

You might be an aficionado of the U.S. Civil War era. You might do research in old magazines and newspapers of the time, or read books reprinting material from them, and come upon an chapter or article that captures your interest. Perhaps an 1864 Harper’s Monthly contains a piece by a woman describing her feelings as she saw the Union Soldiers come running back in terrified, chaotic retreat from the battle of Bull Run. Since anything written in the U. S. before 1923 is out of copyright and in the Public Domain forever, you have every right to reprint that article for free (and there is a great deal of such material in text form free on the internet, at sites like Gutenberg.org and Archive.org). If printed materials are involved, consider purchasing a scanner. They can be very inexpensive, often below $100—and voila, you have a cheap and almost limitless source of blog entries. Again, all you have to write is a sentence or two, such as “I had to share this very moving eyewitness account of the Union rout at the first battle of the Civil War by a young Northern woman whose boyfriend was a soldier in that battle. I found it while researching my next novel, Troubled Allegiance.”

Or you may have written a romantic thriller set at a championship skiing event in the scenic Grandvalira region of Spain. On the web you can surely find photos or video of Grandvalira, as well as present or historic footage of ski meets there. Pick five that catch your eye, and turn them into a little series of posts—put a link to one each week with a few words about the region and your book. You now have five blog entries to draw people in, if they’re interested in the area and/or its skiing, and introduce them to your book—or to get people interested in your book if they’ve heard of you but not Grandvalira.

If your story was set at an oil camp in the 1920s, you can certainly find archival photos of the real thing all over the web.

You get the idea. Here are some more tips to letting your blog draw in new readers and keep existing ones happily following you—without spending valuable writing time and energy on it:

* Don’t overlook your own (digital or physical) filing cabinet! In it you may have all kinds of work you’ve already done but never introduced to a larger audience: articles, school papers, book reviews, interviews and so on. Depending on the subject, they are likely to be of interest to others, too. For example, I recently found an interview I conducted with science fiction great Frank Herbert for a Los Angles publication when the movie Dune came out. I suddenly realized it might be of interest to science fiction enthusiasts, and draw some to our science fiction blog. Not only did I publish it there, it was so lengthy I broke it into three entries. It brought in double the number of my most-read posts till then. I also found a paper I wrote for a university class on Mary Shelley and Frankenstein, arguing that she based much of the monster on herself and her own experiences. I plan to post it on the same blog soon; it should appeal to both aficionados of Shelley’s book and more widely to fans of horror fiction and films as well.

* Link to movie trailers. Somewhere on the web, you can find a trailer to almost any movie ever made. Find trailers for a favorite movie or one related to your latest book (or your writing in general), post a link to the trailer, and write a few words about it.

* You can do the same with full-length movies. There are quite a number of sites were you can watch recent or classic movies for free, like Crackle.com and Archive.org. Browse their stacks. Find a personal favorite or one related to your writings and post the link for it, inviting visitors to watch it too.

* If an article or chapter you want to reprint is lengthy, break it up into two or even three blog posts and serialize it.

* You can also include a scene from your book, its cover image (if one exists at that point), and several others books you have written on the same subject.

* Always attribute the source of any material you reprint:  ”From Harper’s Monthly June 1864, found at the Gutenberg Project.”

Using this easy approach, you can find material for hundreds of blog posts, and draw in new visitors, without going an inch out of your way. All you’re really doing is pursuing of your own interests and passions as you would anyway, and sharing these interests with readers.

Share
Apr 142014
 
Share

By M.Christian

It may come as a surprise, but far too often authors—people who are supposedly very comfortable with words!—have days when they just don’t want to write at all.

It’s a common mistake writers make when they begin to think about social media, marketing, and all that other fun stuff: this idea that words are the be-all and end-all for them. They force themselves far too often to script tweet after tweet, Facebook post after Facebook post…until they just can’t write another line of original content, even if only to say “Look at my book!” Worse, they come to feel that because they’ve burnt out on writing tweets and posts and marketing copy, they have failed. They think about all the potential readers they have lost; markets they haven’t tapped; piles of beguiling words they should have written—because are they not supposed to be endless fonts of text? (Spoiler: no.)

Fortunately for you if you’re one of these writers, there are some great options for social networking that don’t require you to write a word. They are wordless yet powerful, simple yet evocative, easy yet poignant.

In short, Facebook and Twitter are not the only games in town when it comes to keeping yourself and your writing in the public eye.

I’m talking about using pictures rather than words. Using Flicker, Instagram, Pinterest or Tumblr to make your point, catch your Twitter followers’ imaginations, engage them emotionally in a way that leaves a favorable impression of you in their minds. An image-sharing tool like these can help you reach out to others, and save you a thousand words of writing, every day.

There are quite a few image-sharing venues out there—and while your mileage and social media needs may vary, in my experience they’ve basically boiled down to just one. Allow me: Flickr is ridiculously clunky and doesn’t share well with others—just spend a few minutes trying to either find an image or a keyword, or pass along a photo. Pain. In. The…youknowwhatImean. Instagram is fine and dandy for taking snapshots of your dinner, your dog, your kids, your whatever…but when it comes to sharing what you snap, or using images from other sources, it’s not exactly user-friendly.

This basically leaves us with two choices, if you want to save those thousands of words: Pinterest and Tumblr. I’ve tried both and the choice was extremely easy to make—it comes down to one thing: sex.

Let’s face it, when you’re an author of erotica and erotic romance, you are dealing with—in one way or another—characters having sex. Like lots of erotica authors, I’ve learned to (sigh) deal with platforms like Facebook that will wish you into the cornfield for showing—or in some cases even talking about—something as threatening as a nipple. We deal with Facebook because we have to. But an open-minded image-sharing social media venue is a bit like Twitter: the more the merrier.

Pinterest doesn’t like sex…at all. I used to have a Pinterest account but then I began to get messages, here and there to start, but then tons: each one about a posted image of mine that was removed due to the dreaded Terms of Service. A few were obvious, but then the images they were yanking became and more innocent. Bye-bye Pinterest.

Tumblr isn’t perfect—far from it—but even after being purchased by the search engine deity Yahoo, I can count on the fingers of one hand the times it has caused me any kind of headache. Mostly they will reject anything that really pushes a button—think of the deadly erotica sins, but with pictures, and you know what I mean (hate speech, rape, bestiality, incest, underage, pee or poo, etc).

In a nutshell, Tumblr is easy, fun, and—best of all—a rather effective social media tool that also neatly and simply integrates into Twitter and Facebook…and, no, I do not own stock.

The way it works couldn’t be less complicated: you can create any number of Tumblrs—think folders—(even with an “age appropriate” warning if you want), and then design them with any one of a huge number of themes. From your master dashboard you can see—and tweak —all the separate Tumblrs you’ve created. The themes are a blast, and the interface takes very little skill to navigate.

As for what Tumblrs you should create…well, that’s up to you. Like food? Make a nice edibles Tumblr (and they have an app that lets you to take shots of your meals if that’s what you’re into). Like history? Create a vintage photo site. Love sex? Well, it’s pretty obvious about what you can do with that.

Where do you get your pictures? You can certainly take them yourself or upload them from your various devices, but where Tumblr becomes a real social media machine is in reposting. Once you create your account just look for other Tumblrs by interests or keywords and then hit that little follow button. Then, when you look at your dashboard, you’ll see a nice stream of pictures that you can like, share, or repost to your own various Tumblr incarnations. Plus, the more people you follow, the more people will follow you.

Just to give you an idea, I started—rather lazily—my dozen or so Tumblrs four or so years ago and now my main one, Rude Mechanicals, has close to 4,000 followers. You can imagine the reach you could have if you really put some work into it.

And if you want to see how far that reach extends, you can go back and look at your posts to see how many times they’ve been liked or reposted. It’s harder to tell when it’s a reposted picture but it can also be very heartwarming to see that, for instance, when you post about a good review or a new book announcement, dozens of people liked your news or, even better, shared it with their own vast audience.

What’s also fun about Tumblr is the auto-forward feature. It’s not perfect, as there are some periodic glitches, but all in all it works rather well. When you set up your separate Tumblrs you can then select an option where—if you choose—you can also send any image to Twitter or to Facebook.

That increases the number of people your image will potentially reach. It can even go to a Facebook page you’ve created. Neat!

One trick I use is to click the handy “like” button to create an inventory of images and then—once or twice a day—go back into my list of likes to repost them to my appropriate sites…with or without Twitter or Facebook reposting as I see fit. Tumblrs also feature RSS, which means you can subscribe to one of them through an aggregator like Feedly.

What’s also neat about Tumblr is its flexibility: you can post images (duh) but you can also embed video (from YouTube or wherever) and post text, quotations, links, chat streams, and audio.

Let your eyes do the walking and let the images they find do the talking. Image-sharing tools like Tumblr are a super easy way to fulfill your need for social media presence without having to write anything.

 

M.Christian has become an acknowledged master of erotica, 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.
He can be found in a number of places online, not least of which is mchristian.com.

Share
Mar 202014
 
Share

By Sherry Ziegelmeyer

Publicity does not start and end with a press release. It certainly doesn’t end with your social media feeds, either. The one thing that no one selling “social media marketing services” will tell you is that the press doesn’t go looking for Twitter feeds and Facebook pages to fill their publications with content. I can say a hell of a lot of bad things about “social media” as a marketing tool (and will in the future), but for now I’ll refrain and tell you about what does work to get press attention, namely media kits and review kits.

You send out a media kit or press kit to get the initial attention of media outlets and introduce writers to you—and whatever you may be selling. It’s a friendly way (and in the case of media kits, a proactive way) of saying Hey, I want you to get to know me and do a story on me, so your readers or viewers will get to know me too.

“Media kits” are a general term for a package put together by you to give to the media. It is a prepackaged set of materials distributed to members of the media for promotional use. Media kits should contain both printed and digitally formatted images, your biography, a fact sheet about your book or series of books, and a copy of recent press releases or some other type of document that tells the press about your most recent newsworthy accomplishments or activities.

There are two common types of media kits: the press kit and the review kit. There is a slight difference between the two, but they both have some things in common, so let’s look at each one individually. We’ll start with press kits this month and take a look at review kits in Part 2.

 

Press Kits

A press kit contains information about you and product. It should include a “sales slick” (a printed page with images of book covers, synopsis, distribution and price information) or a sales catalog of the various books you’re selling, and other items that help the media consider running a story, or arranging an interview, with you about your books.

Here’s a list of what items should be in your press kit and explanations of what they are:

A One-Page Biography Sheet

Think of this as a cover letter. You can include photos of yourself, and you should include a header or footer with your email address, phone number and mailing address. But overall, the Bio Sheet is intended to present the press printed information about you.

The bio and personal information sheet should include a full biography, touching on everything from your life story to why you originally started writing smut—and do include where your ideas for your book(s) come from. The more information you can offer about yourself, the better.

However—and this is an important caveat—don’t drivel on for three pages! Keep the content of this biography focused and in bite-size, easy to read and digest, “sound bite”-type statements. You really want to give your whole story in about four paragraphs—you’re not writing your memoirs. Don’t get sidetracked with the yellow crayon incident and how your best buddy pulled you back from the brink of destroying the world by re-telling it for you. (If you don’t get that reference, google it!—your pop-culture history knowledge is lacking. ;) )

Include a “Company Information” Sheet

This should be a separate sheet from your bio! Make sure that your Company Information Sheet includes all of your business emails, phone numbers, addresses and any other contact information the press could possibly need to get in touch with you and your publisher(s).

The Company Information Sheet is also where you can give the media your website URL, your social media feed information and information on anywhere else you “hang out” regularly online.

An “Art Disk”

A professionally packaged press kit always includes Art Disks, so the media has all the graphics they will need to complete the story or interview for publication. Art disks should have multiple, different, photos of you, your book jackets, your company logo and any other graphic elements you are using in your publicity campaign. If you are including any video or audio in that campaign, it should be included on the art disk as well.

Many people forget that all entertainment—especially adult entertainment–is a visual medium. Most websites and publications make heavy use of photos to attract and retain viewer attention.

Make sure the artwork you provide in press kits is capable of being reproduced in a print format. This means that images, logos and photos included in your art disk are all capable of being printed at a minimum size of 8.5 inches by 11 inches (the dimensions of a standard piece of printer paper) when set at an image resolution of 78 dots per inch (DPI) or higher (ideally 300 DPI). You will also want to include web resolution artwork in your art disks, so that an editor can immediately use the image on the publication’s web site. Web resolution is usually 78 DPI or less (generally 72), and should be sized at a minimum of 600 pixels by 800 pixels.

If you have Adobe Photoshop, do include the .psd files of all photos, logos and book covers with all of the original, unlocked layers you ended up using in the final image. This gives the publication the ability to resize and reformat them in any way they may need to run them in print.

Digital Copies of Everything

Always include a CD or DVD with digital files of every page you created for your press kit! You may be able to fit this on your Art Disk but if you can’t, include a separate disk that contains them. So many editors copy and paste for news stories, you want to give them something to work with quickly and easily.

***A Word about File Formats: Please make sure that all your files included in art disks and the digital copies of your other press kit pages are created and saved in standard file formats. And always try to include file formats that will work with both Mac and PC systems. So create your page copy in Word—and, especially, do your best to use a “compatible” version of Word, so if the person at XYZ magazine is still running Windows 98, they can open your file! Don’t assume that just because you’re sending the kit to a magazine, everyone at its office will have the newest software. Some writers won’t even be able to open a .docx file! Above all, never include a PDF of anything—it just frustrates your recipient.

The same goes for image files . . . While you should include images and logos that are created in Adobe Photoshop, don’t assume every reporter has Photoshop (or that their versions are up-to-date, if they do). You’ll also need to include JPG files of all the images associated with your press kit contents, so the writers can use the files no matter what software they have. And be careful about including PNG files, as lots of online publications have older software that can’t read them.

Supporting Evidence

If you feel you need to substantiate your place in the pantheon of erotic writers, you can also include photocopies of any publication’s reviews of your books, or other published news stories about you and your books.

However, it is best to err on the side of caution and include less of these types of enclosures than more of them. No editor wants to feel like they are out of the loop on a big news story other publications have already covered. There is also a natural feeling of competition between publications, which could make the editor receiving your press kit feel like you are comparing them unfavorably to a rival publication that already covered you. You want to avoid pissing off any editor you approach in all aspects of your publicity campaigns!

Making a Good Impression

Always package your press kits as if they are a gift to the person receiving them. First impressions are so important . . . you can’t afford to slack off on how the package you’re sending to an editor looks, smells and feels. While you may have a limited budget to work with, your press kit should be as beautifully packaged as you can possibly make it. This is the time to spend the $150 or so to have stiff, coated paper folders with your logo or other suitable images printed. Alternately, use one of the clear acrylic cover, sheet folder, binders that are available at all office supply stores. This makes a nice presentation for minimal cost.

Make sure you label your Art Disk not only with your name and book title(s), but also with exactly what is included in it. You should list things like “box covers”, “author photos”, “Bio in Word” and so on, so when they see the disk, they know what’s in it!

Put your Art Disk in a CD/DVD envelope. Whether it’s a “teabag” paper cover or a thin, plastic case. You may want to take a look at the local office supply store and purchase the plastic, stick-on, CD/DVD wallets to attach your Art Disk to the folder. Having everything attached together makes it more difficult for a harried reporter to lose a crucial piece of your press kit!

The outside of your package should look as good as the inside, so this is a great time to invest in specialty envelopes to enclose your materials. There are a wide variety of them available for minimal cost, everything from coated paper envelopes with full color images, suitable for sticking a mailing label directly on the front along with postage, to colored plastic envelopes that are opaque enough—and strong enough—to stand up to Postal Inspector standards. Be creative! A stunning packaging job arriving in the mail will get noticed among all the crappy flat-rate USPS envelopes.

And don’t forget—all press kit mailings must include your full name or company name, full address and a “regarding” line on the front of the envelope. Media members tend toward paranoid types, with good reason. Tell them on the envelope who you are, where this package came from, and write “[Author Name/Book Name] Press Kit with Art Disk Enclosed” on it. You’ll be much happier with the response your press kit gets if you don’t have Homeland Security knocking on your door because a reporter thought you sent Anthrax to their office and wants you investigated.

 

In the April WriteSex publicity column, we’ll focus on Review Kits, because while they are similar to press kits, there are some differences in the content you will need to include.

 

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.

Share
Jan 272014
 
Share

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.

Share
Jan 182014
 
Share

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.

Share
Jan 062014
 
Share
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?

 

Share
Nov 252013
 
Share

By Nobilis

As I mentioned last month, the theme I’ve decided to pursue on this blog series is ideas, where they come from, and what they’re worth. Ideas go through a process; they are inspired, they are worked, and then the results are either discarded or displayed. In all of this, my friends play a vital role.

I spend a lot of time on social media. Probably too much…maybe. Because chatting with my friends on Twitter and Google Plus is where I get most of my inspiration. My twitterfolk and google circles are full of fun, kinky people that love to flirt and tease and joke. Not a week goes by that a conversation doesn’t spark something in my imagination.

For example, this past week, a conversation got running on “friend-flashing,” that is, briefly exposing boobs or booty to friends rather than lovers; people talked a bit about good flashes they’d gotten, or given, and that sort of thing. And in the middle of that, the phrase flashed itself in my imagination: “Flash Club.”

And there’s the beginning. The seed. It immediately sprouted, giving me a setting, characters, and a situation ripe with fierce passions. I never would have thought of it just sitting at home staring at a blank computer screen. It was like a crystal dropping into a supersaturated solution; it catalyzed a reaction that made amazing things happen.

I was immediately full of energy. I was going to write this thing and write it big. At the first opportunity, I opened a new file and banged out a quick five hundred words. “Yes!” I thought to myself, “This is happening.”

And then ran into a wall.

What the hell happens next? Where am I going with this? The inspiration I had gotten was imperfect. It gave me a situation, but a situation isn’t a story. It’s the most important ingredient for a story, but those ingredients don’t really cook unless you apply some heat. There has to be some energy there, something that makes things happen, and I didn’t have that. It was tremendously frustrating.

This, for me, is what writer’s block looks like; it comes from not knowing where I’m going, not having a plan, not having an ending or even a middle in mind. I needed to find that before I could continue, and it was killing me.

So, I went back to my friends.

This time, though, it wasn’t the big hodgepodge of Twitter and Google Plus. I sent out a few IM’s to my fellow creatives, to see who had time for a little chat. A few frustrating hours later I was able to get on the phone with Lulu. If you had been listening to the conversation, you probably would have laughed; I said that I needed her for inspiration, but I was doing ninety-five percent of the talking. Sometimes, she could barely get a word in edgewise. I explained the idea, where I was with it, what I had written, and what was missing.

There were easy things I could have put into that missing slot. Someone who shouldn’t, falls in love. Someone who shouldn’t, discovers the secret. But those were too easy, too facile. They’d lead to a same-old-same-old story. What else was there? Most importantly, what could happen that was inside the situation? And in that conversation, I found it; the newcomer is the disruption. The newcomer plays their game better than anyone who’s already there.

And I was off.

That’s where things sit at the moment I’m writing this blogpost. The story remains far from fully formed, but I have found my way past that block, with Lulu’s help. I am quite certain that I have everything I need to produce a manuscript with beginning, middle, and end.

But just because I will have an ending doesn’t mean I’ll be done.

At that point, I’ll be recruiting a few more of my friends; beta readers that I trust to tell me just where my story sucks. And it will, because every newly-minted story sucks. But I’ll cover that in another essay; the important point here is that my friends figure strongly in that process as well.

And now for the News from Poughkeepsie, where I toss out an idea that may spark something for you:

Elves, as originally imagined by J.R.R. Tolkien, and imitated in epic fantasy ever since, are noble folk associated with magic and immortality. What happens if that immortality has a price? What happens if immortality is a mantle that prevents aging and disease, but also means the elf cannot procreate? And what if that mantle can be put aside, once, in order to regain fertility, but give up one’s life? What kind of society would that create, and what stories could be told about those people?

Share