Life isn’t easy. Anyone will tell you that. Every job, every social role has its ups and downs, its problems and unique rewards. Ask anyone to recount theirs and they’re more than happy to chat your ear off about all the things going wrong, and maybe a little bit about what’s awesome. Here’s a little insight into what it’s like to try and become a new author, and how it’s more difficult when you choose erotica.
Please keep in mind, I’m fully aware that I’m new and I don’t have many stories. I’m not bitching because I haven’t been a literal overnight success. What I’ve written below is something I’ve only just started to taste. But when you get into the industry, you start reading a lot about it, talking to other authors and getting a feel for things. This is not just a reflection of my career and struggles, but everyone’s. And there are plenty of people far worse off than I am.
First, What’s Awesome
The Work Is Awesome
I love writing. I’m verbose. I have things to say. I want to get it out there. I want to share. I want to give other people the same great experiences I’ve had: learning through books, being inspired through books, living better and becoming a better person through books. I enjoy doing it now, and if I could get to the point where I was doing it full time, I’d be thrilled. I have to say, when I got my first sale, I did a little happy dance. At the end of the month when I see how many stories I’ve sold, whether it’s a hundred or one, I still do a little dance.
The People Are Awesome
When you get into any group of people who openly admit to liking sexuality, it’s incredible. They tend to be more open, confident and honest than others. Whether it’s swingers or erotic authors, porn stars or readers of erotica. These people are just so much more open and natural and friendly. I love it! I love them! Being part of that group, and the acceptance to be found there, is pretty amazing.
Promotion, getting my name out, word of mouth – this is the most important part of success. Quality actually comes second. Because I can write the best stories in the world, but if no-one ever hears about them, I can’t sell them.
Case-in-point, how many people are ever going to read this article? Why? Because there are a million authors out there and it’s hard to become noticed. Fame and popularity are something that have to be slowly built up. They’ll snowball, maybe reach a tipping point and sky-rocket – if you’re lucky. But for most new authors, you’re operating in a deep, disheartening and poverty-stricken hole of obscurity.
Getting Known Is Super Hard
How do I tell people about my stories? How do I get known, get into the marketplace so people have a chance to find me?
Advertising? Where? Facebook? People hardly share anything on FB unless it’s personal. They don’t often share Pages they like unless a post is crazy funny or cool. And Facebook changed the way it does business, clamping down on viral activity, forcing people to pay to advertise. Then they actually restrict ads from going viral but having them show up on fewer and fewer feeds when they decide what stories do or do not make it onto your feed. So you keep having to buy more ad space. With all the fake likes on FB and people ignoring ads, it’s pretty much useless. And running ads costs money that new authors don’t have because they’re not selling anything yet.
SEO? Everyone does that now, so it levelled the playing field. Everyone uses keywords and such, so we’re back to square one, you can’t cheat your way up the search rankings. The system is probably fair that way.
Give stuff away free and build a fan base? This seems to have become the most popular route, perhaps the only route for most indie authors. Can it work? Yes. What’s the downside? Read the Free! Free! Everything is Free! Oops section below.
Reviews Are Gold – But Almost NO-ONE Reviews Erotica
People get into whatever is popular. Humans make decisions based on other people’s decisions. If everyone is doing something, we copy because we assume it’s working, and/or it reaffirms our membership with the group to follow suit.
When people write reviews, new readers come along and make those reviews a big part of their buying decision. They don’t need to read them. They just look at how many overall stars a book is rated, and look at the number of reviews made. If it’s substantial, they buy. “If everyone else is buying it, it must be good. I’ll buy it too.” Follow the herd. Monkey see, monkey do. That’s how something explodes in popularity and financial success – everyone talks about it.
But this is super difficult for us erotic authors. People are really – REALLY – shy about anything sexual. Sex is (ridiculously) a taboo in society. And the anti-sexual people, the haters, they’re so fucking loud and angry and hateful. They publicly dump all over anything sexual. They lash out at anyone who likes it. So, while people are devouring erotic ebooks by the digital boatload, to our great sadness and disappointment, few of those happy but shy readers are leaving reviews. It’s not that the stories don’t deserve it, it’s that many people don’t want a friend or colleague, or even strangers, to come along and see their name and face on a comment made on a sexually themed item. They don’t want to be negatively judged by it.
And if they won’t do that on an erotic romance, what are the odds of a review happening on an incest or dinosaur sex themed story? None. Yet these themes are flying off the digital shelves. People want them, they just don’t want to admit it in public. And we authors can’t grow because of it.
Where does that leave us, the erotic authors? We need to sell books to earn enough money to write. No money = no stories. But that eventually screws readers over too. Reviews push sales. No reviews = no sales = no more stories. If you want these kinds of stories, you have to do what it takes to support them, keeping them in the marketplace, helping authors develop the finances to keep producing them.
Fans of erotic work, please – review. Please don’t be scared. If writing your opinion is too much, at least leave a rating. It means so much to us authors.
No Feedback Means Writing In A Black Hole Of Ignorance
I have no idea what works and what doesn’t in my work. Why? I don’t get feedback from readers, except for a few friends who like my work. So I don’t know where to improve. I don’t know what subjects to write about. I don’t know what fans want. I don’t know what to put in a sequel, or if I should even write one.
I very much want to continue making stories I like, but what if my style could be better (it surely can). What if I’m making a mistake? What if fans love a certain character and, not knowing this, I kill them off? Oops, now everyone is upset. Gee, if only you’d told me.
How to fix this? Send feedback! Private notes are fine on my blog of Facebook, but it’s also great if you publicly post comments, or better yet, leave a review somewhere. If you forgot how important reviews are, read the above section again.
Go To A Publisher?
Be professionally published. That will solve all the problems, right? Come on, Tina, they’ll edit and sell your book for you. You just sit back and relax.
No. That’s not how publishing works.
Getting in the door is really tough. Publishing is a tiny industry dominated by a few giant companies. Competition to get your book noticed, let alone accepted, is cutthroat and miniscule. You need the best material to submit, you need great agents and connections, and you need to get lucky.
Getting published as erotica is next to impossible because virtually no-one will publish the subject matter, and fewer stores will carry it.
Even if you did get into a store, do you know how the book industry works? Retailers buy a bunch of copies. They let them sit on the shelves and do nothing about it. Think: you see an endless stream of movie and music and tv ads, but how many book ads do you see? Basically none? They’re not actively trying to sell them. Why? They don’t have to. At the end of a set period, they literally tear the covers off, recycle the ruined books and get money back from the publishing company for ever cover returned. THERE’S NO INCENTIVE TO SELL. It either sells itself, or it goes in the garbage.
I can’t think of any other industry that works this way. Or any other producer of a product that would accept this. The entire reason a retailer exists is to push products on the market. Sales. That’s why they get a 40% commission, right off the top. But if they’re not doing that – authors are getting screwed.
And the worst part? Even if you get published, there are plenty of stories about authors not making any money. Certainly not what their time is worth. The only ones getting big bucks are the superstars like JK Rowling and Stephen King. Everyone else gets a very tiny cut, after retailers, publishers, editors, cover artists, agents and others all take theirs. Unbelievably, the authors are the ones responsible for most of the costs getting the book ready for sale. Not the publishing company. What they get a big cut for, I don’t know. Greed? Because they set the system up, control it with an iron fist and can do whatever they want? Probably.
So, as an author, you invest vast amounts of time and money into learning to write, writing your books, marketing them to agents and publishers, paying for everything, and then hoping the book is a lucky smash hit. If not, you’re in the hole, taking a huge financial and time loss for all you’ve invested. That sucks.
The Anti-Sexuality Backlashes
Erotica authors are at the mercy of repression, oppression, ignorance and the political agendas of selfish people who can’t stand to have anyone enjoy the fundamental sexual part of our human nature. We’ve got major companies like Amazon and PayPal restricting authors. Kobo trying to take away the entire indie publishing section of their business. The USA Department of Justice illegally and unethically trying to restrict legal businesses they don’t like. Groups protesting anything sexual.
There’s a very loud and active part of the population that seems to be trying to deny that sex exists, that we enjoy it, and maybe that we need it to continue as a species. Writing means having to struggle against businesses that are actively trying to make it more difficult for readers who want erotic content to find it, yet they’re totally happy to profit from us. How two-faced is that? If someone created an Amazon for erotica, every author would dump Amazon in a heartbeat and never come back, because Amazon doesn’t respect and value these people enough to fight for their equal rights. They’re trying to profit while pretending they don’t. Sweeping us into a virtual back room like those old curtained off adult sections of 80’s video rental stores. That’s not a partnership, that’s Amazon USING us, authors and readers alike, for their selfish financial gain. That’s not right.
Free! Free! Everything Is Free! Oops.
When ebooks first came out, they had price tags equivalent to paper books, maybe a little cheaper because there was no physical item being made so costs were lower. Then prices started falling. And falling. And now everyone and their dog is marketing their books for free. Undoubtably, this is great for readers. You can cruise stores and the internet and find enough free material that you never need to pay for a thing. Congratulations.
Meanwhile, authors are bitching and fighting about how they’re not earning enough money. They have to struggle and promote like crazy to sell thousands of copies of a story and only make pennies out of it.
Price $0 = Revenue $0; Price 0.99 = Revenue $0.34 on Amazon. To earn a so-so wage of $3000 per month, you’d have to sell over 9000 books. More, because this is before expenses like cover art, editing and marketing. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to sell that many books? Do you know how many authors cheer if they sell one or two a month? I’m not kidding. They won’t admit it because admitting their stuff isn’t popular will kill revenues (see the Reviews Are Gold section above). But that’s the reality readers don’t know about. Being an indie author is not a get-rich-quick scheme.
When you compare how much time is going into producing and marketing all these stories and authors, and the money indie authors earn, it’s not worth it. That’s why most still have other jobs. The movement to free or $0.99 books has destroyed revenue streams.
All-You-Can-Read services like Oyster and Scribd should be no-brainers. They should be making a killing, and would if book prices were higher and free material hadn’t flooded the internet. Why aren’t they? Because everyone’s just reading free stuff. Or buying huge anthologies for a dollar.
Indie authors sought to outcompete the big name publishers by lowering prices and selling more copies. That worked for a short while, and a few people got rich, then the movement bottomed-out and profits have been destroyed. Big name publishers still sell their books for higher prices, people still buy them, and they’re laughing. They’re not as threatened by indie authors and publishers as people want to think. Because they know we indie types have shot ourselves in the foot. Aside from a few who grow into big, self-made names, most of us can’t survive on the money we make.
In A Perfect World
How would I change things if I could wave a magic wand?
1. Find a way to properly let the best stories get to the top and get the attention they deserve. Based on quality, not popularity.
2. People overcome their learned cultural bias and stop protesting erotic art or lifestyles in any form. We should have the freedom to live as we choose without being threatened by others. We all share this world.
3. Readers start leaving reviews and ratings.
4. Publishers, retailers, everyone involved with working with erotic content starts standing up and fighting for it, or fucks off. I don’t want to work with people who just want to make an easy profit off me while actively holding back my success.
5. I make enough money from writing to devote myself to it full time so that I can really improve and produce better stories.
One Last Thing
If you’ve gotten this far – thanks for reading. 🙂