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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Feb 132014
 
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By Dr. Amy Marsh

As a writer and in my career as a sexologist, the situations I find most personally challenging are the “hurry up and wait” experiences. These are usually the times when I’ve found myself courted (often out of the blue), urged to produce something which will be published or presented in what appears to be a desirable forum, and then once I meet the deadline—nothing. Time and again I’ve experienced a flurry of communication designed to elicit my favorable responses—plus a solid piece of work—and then, somehow, there are no longer any reciprocal exchanges from the person or persons who so avidly sought my acquaintance and professional expertise. Even brief, patient emails a month or two later may go unanswered. Phone calls are not returned. The publication dates, or other matters which have an impact on me and my ability to strategize, bootstrap, and promote, are simply left dangling. And I am left to twist in the wind.

Have I been dumped after putting out? Am I just another notch on an interviewer’s belt or a social media website? Or has a cascade of life crises interrupted the process and the reporter, publisher, or agency representative really will get back to me as soon as the carnage clears?

Sure, “sh*t happens,” but why does it so often happen after I’ve turned in a piece of work?

It’s very hard to know what to do in this case. Do I “squeaky wheel” it, become annoying and persistent in a way that is frankly foreign to my socialization and inclination? Or do I assume a Zen-like exterior of uber-professionalism while patching up my slightly shredded self esteem in private? Or is it just that people have lost the art and etiquette of following up?

Writers need aftercare and check-ins, too! It’s not just for BDSM anymore!

Perhaps there should be a self-help book titled Writers who Write Too Much… and the People who Exploit Them. If there were such a book, I’d be most interested in learning how to keep my sense of plucky optimism while still waiting for all those blogs, books, and other promised projects to come to fruition. I’d like to learn how to professionally and constructively convey my desire to know publication dates and other key pieces of information, and to be informed about delays in a timely manner, so that I can—you know—twitter and blog and facebook about it. In other words, do my share of promoting the whatever-it-is, which usually also includes promoting and boosting the company, website, or whoever is hosting the whatever-it-is…

Did I mention that much of what I’m talking about are writing projects almost entirely done on spec? Sometimes with a promise of a modest bit of change coming along later (always welcome in my pre-divorce world)? Did I mention that it’s awfully hard to know just how to separate the truly wonderful opportunities, chances to collaborate with people who have struck my fancy as creative, marvelous individuals, from those who are simply out for as much free content as they can get? And instead of choosing me for my expertise, do some people see me as a reliable fallback because they think I’ve got nothing much else going on?

I have been operating on the assumption that acting professionally would elicit professionalism in return. Sometimes it does. A couple of writers interviewing me for books actually do send me a copies when they are published. On the other hand, that New York writer who wanted a free session in order to write about it has yet to communicate clearly about when his article is appearing in that hip, happening fashion site. And there are other matters left hanging out there, ones which baffle me in strange, painful sort of way.

To redeem this blog post as something other than my own personal lamentations and frustrations, here are a few cautionary words:

1) Don’t count on, or wait for, the publication of an interview to handily coincide with your self-promotional efforts. Occasionally an interview will come out just at the right time, and you can use it to promote your classes or create more buzz about your book—the operative word here is “occasionally”; even if the interviewing party has promised its publication by a certain date, don’t build your marketing or other schedules around that interview ahead of time. Create several different promotion strategies for your projects so that when the promised article fails to appear, you won’t be crushed or left without options.

2) Remember that everyone is far too involved in pushing their own agenda and advancing their careers to focus too keenly, or sometimes even care, about yours. Even people working in good faith will often have so much on their plate that memory lapses and communication gaps are an inevitable part of the process. Find a way to accept that gracefully, and again, create a few different strategies for dealing with situations on a case-by-case basis.

3) If you are able, try to find out as many details as possible before committing to create content, especially for people and organizations you don’t yet know and trust. Not every opportunity is a good opportunity; if someone wants a large chunk of your time for free, you may be better off investing that time elsewhere.

4) If you haven’t seen a response two weeks after emailing or phoning the person who courted you, you’ve probably been dumped or the project has been shelved. Pick yourself up and move on. Be civil if they actually do get back in touch at a later date. Any delays may not have been their fault. Maybe there really were extenuating circumstances.

5) Don’t become obsessive about checking the places where you think your interview or work may still be published. Just do it every now and then, and then forget about it (or try your best to forget about it).

There are probably harsh industry realities which exacerbate these problems for writers and other creators of content. And we—being on the outside—may never know what they are. All we can do is carry on, stay fresh and frosty, and above all, never become excited about something that looks like a big break. It’s probably no such thing, and you may be better off looking for the little breaks to be found with trusted professionals.

 

—Amy Marsh

 

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

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