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DO IT YOURSELF
by Nikky Kaye

Erotic romcom: starting over

CHARACTERS WELCOME
by Taisha Demay

Charity erotica anthology

SENSUAL SABOTAGE
by Willa Edwards

Contemporary, Menage, BDSM

SINGLE-SYLLABLE STEVE
by Sam Thorne

Light-hearted erotic romance

THE GUESCHTUNKINA RAY GUN
by Spencer Dryden

Humorous erotic romance

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Shameless Self-Promotion: Sample Book Review Queries

by | 8:56 pm | General | 0 comments

This month my column on shameless self-promotion deals with strategies for getting your book reviewed. Here are two samples of cover letters I’ve used to query reviewers both by email and snail mail. The first is aimed at more mainstream/literary review sites, the second at an erotica site.

Here’s the literary version:

Dear [Book Review Editor],

I would like to inquire if you’d be interested in reviewing my novel, Amorous Woman (Neon/Orion 2008) for the [insert name here] website.

Amorous Woman is the story of an American woman’s love affair with Japan and the insights she gains into the culture in her roles as English teacher, wife, and bar hostess. Inspired by Ihara Saikaku’s 17th century Japanese classic, The Life of an Amorous Woman, the novel incorporates my doctoral research in Japanese literature at Stanford University to give a nuanced view of Japanese culture and sexual mores. Although classified as “erotica,” Amorous Woman is a thoughtful and thought-provoking treatment of inter-cultural relations that transcends the genre.

I’m appending (or enclosing) a sell sheet, bio and sample reviews below. Please let me know if you are interested in reviewing the book. I can send a hard copy of the book for review or a pdf as you prefer.

Sincerely,

Donna George Storey
[electronic signature with link to my website and book trailer]

Here’s a version I sent to erotica publications:

Dear [Editor],

I’m writing to inquire if you’d be interested in reviewing my erotic novel, Amorous Woman, which was published by Neon/Orion in the UK in late 2007 and released in the US in 2008.

Amorous Woman is the story of an American woman’s love affair with Japan and her steamy encounters with the sexy men and women she meets along the way. Lusty, wise-cracking Lydia—the modern Amorous Woman–experiences every flavor of erotic pleasure Japan has to offer from illicit encounters in hot spring baths to fantasy orgies straight from manga porn. Inspired by Ihara Saikaku’s classic 17th-century erotic novel of the pleasure quarters, Amorous Woman takes you on a journey to a Japan few tourists ever see.

I’ve included a brief bio and some excerpts from reviews for the UK release below.

Please let me know if you’d like me to send you an advance review copy of the novel in hard copy or pdf, as you prefer.

With best wishes,

Donna George Storey
[electronic signature with link to my website and book trailer]

For snail mail, I include my sell sheet and synopsis-and-bio page. For email, I include this information as well as the appropriate blurb and bio from the sell sheet (literary or erotic depending on the site).

AMOROUS WOMAN
By Donna George Storey

Neon/Orion Publishing
Price: $7.95
Category: Literary Erotica
Pages: 352
Book Type: Paper
Size: 4 1/2 x 7
ISBN: 1905619170
ISBN13: 9781905619177
U.S. Release Date: May 28, 2008

If you’re like most authors, only a portion of the review sites will request a review copy. Of those, not all will actually follow through on the review. It’s all part of the business. And always be sure to write a thank you note to any thoughtful reviewer. Not only will your mother be proud of your good manners, but you may have another book to send around soon.

Good luck with your reviews!

Find out more about Donna George Storey and her adventures in shameless self-promotion at her blog.

Literary Erotica: How to Write Well About Sex

by | 6:52 pm | General | 0 comments

with Maxim Jakubowski and Stella Duffy

20-22 November 2009

at Faber and Faber
Bloomsbury House
74-77 Great Russell Street
London WC1B 3DA

Course cost: £450 / €505 (inclusive of VAT)

Literary erotica has become a thriving genre, what with the success in recent years of the Catherine Millet’s memoirs, Italian author Melissa P., Charlotte Roche’s Wetlands, the writings of Michel Houellebecq, Adam Thirlwell, and many others. It has, of course, a worthy heritage going back to Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin, The Story of O etc …

More importantly, integrating writing about such a common activity as sex has become a dilemma for all writers: how explicit should one be? Where do you draw the line between eroticism and pornography, exploitation and observation? Why is there such a veil of privacy and self-censorship around an activity that is so integral to everyday life?

The Faber Academy course on erotic writing will try to answer some of these questions, study the history of the genre, and examine the dos and don’ts of writing about sex.

Set over three days at the home of Faber and Faber in the heart of literary Bloomsbury, the course will be conducted by writer and editor Maxim Jakubowski, whose Mammoth Book of Erotica series is now in its 14th year and whose own books have proven controversial. He will teach alongside acclaimed author Stella Duffy.

Details at:
www.faber.co.uk/article/2009/5/faber-academy-erotica-course

RWA officially accepts Rainbow Romance Writers

by | 9:42 pm | General | 0 comments

I’m very proud to announce that RWA has officially accepted the Rainbow Romance Writers Chapter for authors of GLBT romance into the National organization. Here is the official announcement from chapter president Jade Buchanan:

Rainbow Romance Writers is the newest Special Interest Chapter within the Romance Writers of America. A lot of hard work has gone into setting us up as a chapter, but we are very proud to announce that writers specializing in LGBT romance now have a specific place to network with other career-focused writers and concentrate on our unique needs within the romance genre.

Our goals are:

* to promote excellence in gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender romances
* to help members become published in LGBT romances
* to be an advocate within the industry for our genre
* to be a resource to our members and others on writing and the publishing industry

We currently have 50 wonderful members who represent all different aspects of the LGBT romance genre.

Interested writers can contact us at membership@rainbowromancewriters.com
if they would like to become members of Rainbow Romance Writers. They can also email me directly at jade.buchanan@yahoo.com

http://www.rainbowromancewriters.com

Laura Baumbach
http://www.laurabaumbach.com

Confessions of a Literary Streetwalker: Fetishes

by | 11:06 pm | Confessions of a Literary Streetwalker | 2 comments

(as part of my new gig writing for the ERWA’s blog here’s one of my classic Confessions columns. Enjoy!)

Of all the things to write, I feel one of the all-time toughest has got to be fetish erotica. Gay or lesbian – or straight if you’re gay or lesbian or bisexual – is a piece of cake. I mean take a quick look at it: the elements of arousal are obvious, just insert body part of preference and go with it. For gay erotica it’s male body, for lesbians it’s female. For straight it’s the opposite. You don’t have to create the ideal man or woman, in fact it’s better to describe someone (the lust object) who is a bit more … real. Perfection is dull, and can be bad story telling, but a body with its share of wrinkles, blemishes, or sags can ad dimension and depth.

Same with the motivation, the inner world of your character. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: the trick to writing beyond your own gender or orientation is in projecting your own mental landscape into the mind of your character. You may not know how gay sex, lesbian sex, or straight sex feels (pick the opposite of your own gender) but you do know what love, affection, hope, disappointment, or even just human skin feels like. Remember that, bring it to you character and your story, and you’ll be able to draw a reader in.

But fetishes … fetishes are tougher. Just to be momentarily pedantic, Webster’s says that fetishes are: “an object or body part whose real or fantasied presence is psychologically necessary for sexual gratification.” That’s pretty accurate – or good enough for us here – but the bottom line is that fetishes are a sexual obsession that may or may not directly relate to sex. Some pretty common ones are certain hair colors, body types, smells, tastes, clothing, and so forth.

We all have them to some degree. Just to open the field to discussion, I like breasts. But even knowing I have them doesn’t mean I can’t really explain why I like big ones. It’s really weird. I mean, I can write about all kinds of things but when I try and figure out what exactly the allure of large hooters is for me I draw a blank. The same and even more so used to happen when I tried and write about other people’s fetishes.

But I have managed to learn a couple of tricks about it, in the course of my writing as well as boobie dwelling (hey, there are worse ways to spend an afternoon). I’ve come up with two ways of approaching a fetish, at least from a literary standpoint. The first to remember that fetishes are like sex under a microscope, that part of their power is in focusing on one particular behavior or body part. Let’s use legs as an example. For the die-hard leg fetishist their sexuality (all or just a small part) is wrapped around the perfect set of limbs. For a leg man, or woman, the appeal is in that slow, careful depiction of those legs. The sex that happens after that introduction may be hot, but you can’t get away with just saying he or she had “a great set of gams.” Details! There has to be details – but not just any mind you. For people into a certain body type or style the words themselves are important. I remember writing a leg fetish story and having it come back from the editor with a list of keywords to insert into the story, the terms his readers would respond to, demanded in their stories. Here’s where research comes in: a long, slow description is one thing but to make your fetish story work you have to get your own list of button-pushing terminology.

The second approach is to understand that very often fetishes are removed from the normal sexual response cycle. For many people, the prep for a fetish is as important, if not as important, as the act itself. For latex fans – just to use an extreme example – the talcum powder and shaving before even crawling into their rubber can be just as exciting as the black stretchy stuff itself. For a fetish story, leaping into the sex isn’t as important as the prep to get to it – even if you do. Another example that springs to mind is a friend of mine who was an infantilist – and before you leap to your own Webster’s that means someone who likes to dress up as someone much younger. For him, the enjoyment was only partially in the costume and roll-playing. A larger part of his dress-up and tea parties was in masturbating afterward: in other words the fetish act wasn’t sex, it was building a more realistic fetish fantasy for self-pleasure afterwards. Not that all of your literary experiments need to be that elaborate but it does show that for a serious fetishist the span what could be considered ‘sex’ can be pretty wide.

The why to try your hand at fetish erotica I leave to you – except to say what I’ve said before: that writing only what you know can lead to boredom for you and your readers. Try new things, experiment, take risks. In the case of fetishes, it can only add to your own sensitivity and imagination – both in terms of writing and story-telling but maybe even in the bedroom.

And who could argue with that?

Shameless Self-Promotion: A Sample Sell Sheet

by | 7:55 pm | General | 0 comments

In the May edition of my Shameless Self-Promotion column, “Publicists, Press Kits and Other P-words,” I talk about one of the most important parts of an author’s press kit: your sell sheet for your book. In fact, even if you don’t put together a press kit, the sell sheet is an important tool in any marketing efforts. Print out a stack of hard copies to hand out to bookstores and send with review copies. You will also need to send the same information (including a jpg of your cover) by email to anyone interested in your book–reviewers, bloggers, bookstores, and interviewers.

I wanted to post an example of my sell sheet to give you some ideas for your own. I can’t duplicate the exact layout here, but I’ve listed all the basic information for your reference. By the way, it’s definitely worth it to print your sell sheet in color to show your book cover to its best advantage.

A Sample Sell Sheet:

In the upper left hand corner I placed a 2 1/2 x 1 1/2-inch color reproduction of my book cover. To the right, in parallel, I list the following information:

AMOROUS WOMAN
By Donna George Storey

Neon/Orion Publishing
Price: $7.95
Category: Literary Erotica
Pages: 352
Book Type: Paper
Size: 4 1/2 x 7
ISBN: 1905619170
ISBN13: 9781905619177
Release Date: June 2008

Below that, centered on the page, I include the following teaser:

Take an exotic, erotic journey to a Japan few tourists ever see….

Amorous Woman is the story of an American woman’s love affair with Japan and her sensual encounters with the sexy men and women she meets along the way. First-time novelist Donna George Storey, a widely published erotica writer who holds a Ph.D. in Japanese literature, challenges the boundaries of culture and genre in this modern remake of Ihara Saikaku’s classic 17th century novel of the pleasure quarters. Lusty, wise-cracking Lydia—the modern Amorous Woman–experiences every flavor of erotic pleasure Japan has to offer from illicit encounters in hot spring baths to fantasy orgies straight from manga porn. Described by critics as “rich with sensual detail, humor, and emotional complexity,” “hard to put down,” and “literary erotica at its best,” the novel will change your image of Japan—and erotica—forever.

Below this I provide contact information for the author (myself) and the publisher (or rather the assistant editor who actually deals with me and my book’s business rather than the official editor). I include a phone number, website, and email address for each. Below this I list the following:

Bookstore ordering: Available through Ingram and the Independent Publishers Group

Independent Publishers Group
814 North Franklin St.
Chicago, IL 60610
Phone: 312-337-0747
FAX: 312-337-5985
Orders Only: 800-888-4741
Orders: orders@ipgbook.com

That’s all there is to a sell sheet–one page with all the most important information about your book. It’s a slim, but essential tool in your kit. Happy promoting!

Find out more about Donna George Storey and her adventures in shameless self-promotion at her blog.

“Shameless” Promotion Tips from Kirsten Menger-Anderson

by | 6:55 pm | General | 2 comments

As part of my column on book promotion for first-time authors on the ERWA Authors Resources page, “Shameless Self Promotion,” I’ll be posting some interviews here with writers who’ve graciously agreed to share their experience over coffee and cookies. So pull up a chair at the ERWA blog kitchen table and come chat with me and debut novelist Kirsten Menger-Anderson today.

Kirsten recently published a thought-provoking and elegant novel-in-stories entitled Doctor Olaf van Schuler’s Brain (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill), which follows the lives of twelve generations of New York City physicians who are trying to better the human condition, each in his or her own misguided way. While it’s not erotica, it kept me in its thrall with its intriguing journey through the fads of medical science over the centuries, all told in lovely prose any writer would envy. The book has received glowing reviews from the Washington Post, the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and was nominated for a Northern California Book Award. I tend to regard mainstream critics with a critical eye myself, but in this case, I’m in hearty agreement with their praise. Literary fiction should always be so fresh, relevant, and provocative.

Of particular interest to shameless self-promoters is the fact that Kirsten’s publisher treated her with respect and made a significant effort to publicize the book. So, believe it or not, it can be done! However, in spite of this support and excellent reviews in national publications, the author herself has still had to do a lot of work to promote the book. Here’s what Kirsten had to say about her experience:

Shameless Self-Promotion: What have you found to be the most enjoyable and/or effective ways to promote your novel (or story collection or anthologies)?

Kirsten Menger-Anderson: I like maintaining my Olaf web site, and (perhaps oddly) find this most enjoyable. I used to do a lot of web production, so it’s kind of fun to fiddle with HTML. And I can do it on my own time, when I have time, without any logistical issues. Plus, it’s really nice to have links to all the book reviews, news, etc in one place if I ever need to reference them.
Most effective? I’m not sure. I think that’s one of the things I find frustrating about promotion. It’s really hard to know how the hours I spend writing essays, blogs, etc translate into “effect” (raising awareness and/or sales). I choose to believe that everything helps.

What have been the least effective ways or biggest challenges?

Least effective? Also not sure. The biggest challenge is usually making time for x,y,z promotional activity and not feeling sad about all the other things I’d rather be doing (like working on my novel or hanging out with my family and friends). That said, I know it’s important, and I appreciate every opportunity I have to talk about my book.

What has been the most surprising thing about the experience of book promotion?

How consuming it can be. Even something simple like a brief essay takes time because I want to make sure it will reflect well on the book. I don’t want people to read my essay, etc. and walk away thinking that it isn’t well written or well thought out.

What advice would you give to a person just starting out as a published author who would like to promote their novel/stories? Is there anything you would definitely do differently if you had the chance to do it over?

I’d recommend getting a web site up (or blog–something online so people can find you if they do a search and you can position your work as you choose). Even before the book is out.

Nothing I’d definitely do differently. Not that I can think of at the moment.

What have been the benefits of using a publicist to promote your work ? The downside?

I did not hire an independent publicist. But, the publicity team at Algonquin did a lot of great work getting the book out to print and online publications that either reviewed the book or asked me to contribute a piece. They also organized a number of events and appearances. No downside.

Can you tell us about the effectiveness of any or all of the following promotional tools:
Setting up a website—did you do it yourself or hire a professional?

I did it myself. It was fun.

Blogging

I set up a blog that gets very little traffic. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it going forward.

Mailing lists/author newsletters

I set up a mailing list as well as a list on Facebook. I think Facebook is a pretty good way to get word out to a lot of people via status updates, fan pages, or groups.

Getting your book reviewed—the challenges and successes

The Algonquin publicity team did this work, so I don’t have much to say except that they did a great job sending the book out and following up.

Contests (as in submitting your work for a literary prize)

I submitted individual stories to a number of contests. Never won, but I was short listed a few times. I think that helps the book. People can see that the stories have been acknowledged and (hopefully) conclude that they might be good.

Book fairs

I went to a couple independent book seller fairs where I signed copies of my book or spoke. Talking directly to book sellers was a great opportunity to raise awareness about the book. Plus, it’s nice to meet and talk to people who love books. My publisher organized the appearances–I’m not sure what was involved with that process.

Radio interviews

Did a couple of these. I love the idea of radio–how many people might be listening.

Approaching local bookstores directly

I had mixed luck approaching bookstores directly and asking them to stock my book. However, every bookstore that had my book was willing to let me sign the copies.

Writing articles related to your book for print or online media

I didn’t write any print articles, but I did a number of guest blog posts. I have a stat counter on my web site, so I can see traffic referrals (usually very few, even from the high traffic web sites). But that doesn’t mean that people didn’t read and have an opinion about my post.

Bookstore readings

Did a few of these, all in California. Never a large audience, and sometimes just a couple people. But I think readings are nice, whatever the turn out, because your book is usually mentioned in the bookstore newsletter or website or the local newspaper and that raises awareness.

Book parties

I decided to throw a book party at my home. That was a lot of fun and a great way of celebrating the release.

Book trailers

Didn’t do an official one. I did make a small video of my phrenology head spinning around on the record player because I was a member of red room, and (if I remember right) I couldn’t post my book before it was published, but I could post a little video about it. So yes, just the head spinning with me saying that the book would be out in October. Silly, I know. Broke the record player, too.

Promoting at writing workshops or through other businesses

No. not really. Only in that I had an email sig on all my outgoing mail (business and personal). I work as a freelance technical writer.

Swag–such as postcards, bookmarks, pens, flyers, T shirts, magnets, etc. Which has been the most useful?

Business cards. That’s all I made, but they have been useful.

Any other strategies you’d like to suggest?

I think you’ve covered it!

Thanks so much for sharing your experience, Kirsten. It always helps to know what’s worked for other authors.

Find out more about Donna George Storey and her adventures in shameless self-promotion at her blog.

Drafting an Effective Cover Letter

by | 2:56 pm | General | 0 comments

(From the archives here’s one of my classic Confessions columns. Enjoy!)

While it isn’t the most important thing to do before sending off a story (that’s reserved for writing the story itself), drafting an effective cover letter is probably right below it.

So here is a quick sample of what to do and NOT when putting together a cover letter to go with your story. That being said, remember that I’m just one of many (many) editors out there, each with their own quirks and buttons to push. Like writing the story itself, practice and sensitivity is will teach you a lot, but this will give you a start.

So … Don’t Do What Bad Johnny Don’t Does:

Dear M. (1),

Here is my story (2) for your collection (3), it’s about a guy and a girl who fall in love on the Titanic (4). I haven’t written anything like this before (5), but your book looked easy enough to get into (6). My friends say I’m pretty creative (7). Please fill out and send back the enclosed postcard (8). If I have not heard from you in two months (9) I will consider this story rejected and send it somewhere else (10). I am also sending this story to other people. If they want it, I’ll write to let you know (11).

I noticed that your guidelines say First North American Serial rights. What’s that (12)? If I don’t have all rights then I do not want you to use my story (13).

I work at the DMV (14) and have three cats named Mumbles, Blotchy and Kismet (15).

Mistress Divine (16)
Gertrude@christiansciencemonitor.com (17)

(1) Don’t be cute. If you don’t know the editor’s name, or first name, or if the name is real or a pseudonym, just say “Hello” or “Editor” or somesuch.

(2) Answer the basic questions up front: how long is the story, is it original or a reprint, what’s the title?

(3) What book are you submitting to? Editors often have more than one open at any time and it can get very confusing. Also, try and know what the hell you’re talking about: a ‘collection’ is a book of short stories by one author, an ‘anthology’ is a book of short stories by multiple authors. Demonstrate that you know what you’re submitting to.

(4) You don’t need to spell out the plot, but this raises another issue: don’t submit inappropriate stories. If this submission was to a gay or lesbian book, it would result in an instant rejection and a ticked-off editor.

(5) The story might be great, but this already has you pegged as a twit. If you haven’t been published before don’t say anything, but if you have then DEFINITELY say so, making sure to note what kind of markets you’ve been in (anthology, novel, website and so forth). Don’t assume the editor has heard of where you’ve been or who you are, either. Too often I get stories from people who list a litany of previous publications that I’ve never heard of. Not that I need to, but when they make them sound like I should it just makes them sound arrogant. Which is not a good thing.

(6) Gee, thanks so much. Loser.

(7) Friends, lovers, Significant Others and so forth — who cares?

(8) Not happening. I have a stack of manuscripts next to me for a project I’m doing. The deadline for submissions is in two months. I will probably not start reading them until at least then, so your postcard is just going to sit there. Also, remember that editors want as smooth a transition from their brain to your story as possible; anything they have to respond to, fill out, or baby-sit is just going to annoy them.

(9) Get real — sometimes editors take six months to a year to respond. This is not to say they are lazy or cruel; they’re just busy or dealing with a lot of other things. Six months is the usual cut-off time, meaning that after six months you can either consider your story rejected or you can write a polite little note asking how the project is going. By the way, writing rude or demanding notes is going to get you nothing but rejected or a bad reputation — and who wants that?

(10) When I get something like this I still read the story but to be honest it would take something of genius level quality for me to look beyond this arrogance. Besides, what this approach says more than anything is that even if the story is great, you are going to be too much of a pain to work with. Better to find a ‘just as good’ story from someone else than put up with this kind of an attitude.

(11) This is called simultaneous submission: sending a story to two places at once, thinking that it will cut down on the frustration of having to wait for one place to reject it before sending it along to another editor. Don’t do it — unless the Call for Submissions says it’s okay, of course. Even then, though, it’s not a good idea because technically you’d have to send it to two places that think it’s okay, which is damned rare. The problem is that if one place wants your work, then you have to go to the other places you sent it to tell them so — which very often results in one very pissed editor. Don’t do it. We all hate having to wait for one place to reject our work, but that’s just part of the game. Live with it.

(12) Many editors are more than willing to answer simple questions about their projects, but just as many others will never respond — especially to questions that can easily be answered by reading a basic writing book (or reading columns like this one). Know as much as you can and then, only then, write to ask questions.

(13) This story is automatically rejected. Tough luck. Things like payment, rights, and so forth are very rarely in the editor’s control. Besides, this is a clear signal that, once again, the author is simply going to be way too much trouble to deal with. Better to send out that rejection form letter and move onto the next story.

(14) Who cares?

(15) Really, who cares?

(16) Another sign of a loser. It’s perfectly okay to use a pseudonym but something as wacky as this is just going to mark you as a novice. Also, cover letters are a place for you, as a person, to write to the editor, another person. Put your pseudonym on your story, don’t sign your cover letter with it.

(17) Email address — this is great, but it’s also very obviously a work address, which makes a lot of editors very nervous. First of all, people leave jobs all the time so way too often, these addresses have very short lives. Second, work email servers are rarely secure — at least from the eyes of prying bosses. Do you really want your supervisor to see your rejection from a Big Tits In Bondage book? I don’t think so.

Do What Johnny Does Does

Hi, Chris (1),

It was with great excitement (2) that I read your call for submissions for your new anthology, Love Beast (3). I’ve long been a fan not only of werewolf erotica (4) but also your books and stories as well (5)

I’ve been published in about twelve websites, including Sex Chat, Litsmut, and Erotically Yours, and in two anthologies, Best of Chocolate Erotica (Filthy Books) and Clickty-Clack, Erotic Train Stories (Red Ball Books) (6).

Enclosed is my 2,300 word original story, “When Hairy Met Sally” (7). I hope you have as much fun reading it as I had writing it (which is a lot) (8). Please feel free to write me at smutpeddler@yahoo.com if you have any questions (9).

In the meantime best of luck with your projects and keep up the great work .(10)

Molly Riggs (11)

(1) Nice; she knows my real first name is Chris. A bit of research on an editor or potential market never hurt anyone.

(2) It’s perfectly okay to be enthusiastic. No one likes to get a story from someone who thinks your project is dull.

(3) She knows the book and the title.

(4) She knows the genre and likes it. You’d be surprised the number of people who either pass out backhanded compliments or joke about anthologies or projects thinking it’s endearing or shows a ‘with it’ attitude. Believe me, it’s neither — just annoying.

(5) Editing can be a lonely business, what with having to reject people all the time. Getting a nice little compliment can mean a lot. It won’t change a bad story into an acceptable one, but making an editor smile is always a good thing.

(6) The bio is brief, to the point, and explains the markets. You don’t need to list everything you’ve ever sold to, just the key points.

(7) Everything about the story is there: the title, the words, if it’s original or a reprint (and, of course if it’s a reprint you should also say when and where it first appeared, even if it’s a website).

(8) Again, a little smile is a good thing. I know this is awfully trite but when the sentiment is heartfelt and the writer’s sense of enjoyment is true, it does mean something to an editor. I want people to enjoy writing for one of my books, even if I don’t take the story.

(9) Good email address (obviously not work) and an invitation to chat if needed. Good points there.

(10) Okay, maybe it’s a bit thick here but this person is also clearly very nice, professional, eager and more than likely will either be easy to work with or, if need be, reject without drama.

(11) Real name — I’d much rather work with a person than an identity. I also know that “Molly” is not playing games with who she is, and what she is, just to try and make a sale.

There’s more, as said, but this at least will keep you from stepping on too many toes — even before your story gets read. If there’s a lesson in this, it’s to remember that an editor is, deep down, a person trying to do the best job they can, just like you. Treat them as such and they’ll return the favor.

“Shameless” Website Tips from Lisabet Sarai

by | 4:07 pm | General | 0 comments

It’s hard to believe another month has gone by and we’re ready to discuss more tips on shameless self-promotion for writers! In my column this month I focus on one of the most important ways to reach potential readers of your book in our Internet age: your website or blog-site (which is like a website but not as expensive).

As I was researching this month’s column, I got to chatting with Lisabet Sarai, who will be well-known to fans of ERWA as the provocatively-clad Erotic Lure tour guide. Lisabet’s smart and very sexy short fiction can be found in numerous anthologies and she’s a prolific master of the erotic novel as well. Her classic debut novel Raw Silk, which takes place in sultry Thailand, was an inspiration for my own first novel set in the far east. Her latest release is the erotic thriller, Exposure.

Lisabet has recently redesigned her website to accommodate her ever-growing list of publications, and she agreed to share some of her insights into the process with the Shameless Self-Promotion Badge Squad.

SSP: I know you recently redesigned your site. Did you have particular goals for the new site?

LS: I implemented my original site back in 2000, after the first publication of my first novel (it’s now on its third publisher!), using a WSIWYG tool called NetObjects Fusion. Over time, it grew to over 80 pages of static HTML. Generally, I got positive feedback about the site content, but I decided that I needed a new site for a variety of reasons.

1. The tool I was using had bugs that were causing me increasing frustration. It also produced only frames-based designs, which had started to look very old-fashioned. Furthermore, for every page I created, it generated a new header graphic. Both the frames and the superfluous graphics multiplied the number of files I had to manage and increased the amount of disk space my site consumed.

2. The site had grown so large that it was unfocused. I wanted to start from scratch, reorganizing to provide easier navigation and a clearer structure. I’ve moved into the epublishing and the romance worlds in the last few years, and I felt that my site was not especially effective as a vehicle for marketing. I wanted to make it easy and fast for visitors to find and buy my books.

Aside from simplicity and focus, my main goal for the site was fast and simple update. Things change so fast now, compared to eight years ago! I have new publishing credits every month or two. I run contests. I add free stories. I publish my newsletter as a page on my site. I needed to be able to create new pages or modify existing pages really quickly.

Finally, I wanted to give my readers a bit of a sense of who I am. This was the main goal of my original site (not, at the time, promotion. I had the crazy idea that the publisher would do the promotion LOL!), and I carried much of the personal content (with updates) over to the new site.

I know basic HTML – not fancy formatting or graphic design, but the core ideas and markup elements. So I decided to ask a professional web designer to create the graphics and layout for two templates – for the front page and inner pages. Then I took over, adding the body content, which was all pretty simple.

This has worked incredibly well. I can add a new page in minutes. All I do is copy a close existing page, and update the content. I have separate pages for books that have been published versus those that are coming soon, with parallel formats. On release day, all I need to do is select and cut the section from the “coming soon” page and paste it into my current pubs page, then upload the pages to my web host.

What features do you appreciate in another author’s website?

The features that I appreciate in another author’s site are the same ones I have sought in my own:

–Simple, clean design and layout. I hate animated gifs, flashy graphics, embedded videos, music… I’m a writer! I feel that an author’s site should focus on words. (I will be the first to admit, I am quite old-fashioned. I use MySpace, but most MySpace profile pages make me nauseous!)

–Easy navigation

–Ease of reading. Please spare me the purple text of the black background, the huge or the tiny fonts, the thousands of text colors!

–Browser independence

–Good content, of course. An author’s website should allow you to get a sense of his or her style and preferred subject matter.

Have the contests you’ve sponsored on your site been helpful for promotion?

I’m really not sure. My main goal with my contests is to get more people into my notification network – on my Yahoo list and/or my mailing list. I also try to reply personally to contest entrants in order to establish a personal connection. Another writer commented on a publisher’s list that you have to build your readership one person at a time. That’s my intent with contests. I don’t really expect them to translate directly into sales.

I will say that my new site makes the mechanics of contests much easier – because of the ease of update.

Any advice you have for newbies in designing a website for promotional purposes?

Oh, lots!

–Keep it simple – graphically and in terms of navigation

–Make it easy for your visitors to find information about your books, to read excerpts and buy the books

–Consult a professional about the graphic design unless you happen to have skills in that area

–Test on multiple browsers and with multiple screen resolutions

–Remember that not everyone has a fast Internet connection, even now. Big or numerous graphics take time to download.

–Use a variant of your pen name as your domain, if at all possible.

–Weigh carefully the costs and benefits of having someone else responsible for your updates. If you depend on someone else, you will not have the same flexibility and freedom.

Thanks so much for sharing this helpful information, Lisabet!

Find out more about Donna George Storey and her adventures in shameless self-promotion at her blog.

Ideas for Erotic Fiction – by Ashley Lister

by | 12:00 pm | General | 1 comment

Writers are often asked “where do you get your ideas from?” It’s a valid question. My usual response (I steal plots) is probably not a valid answer. However, “where do you get your ideas from?” is not a question that’s often levelled at erotic fiction writers. I think the reason for this is that most people know where we get our ideas from. We erotic fiction writers get our ideas from having sex.

Admittedly, this is the other reason why I invariably take a fat pencil into the bedroom. I did try using a pen in the bedroom but it would often lead to making a terrible mess on the sheets. And sometimes the pen would dribble ink. There were occasions when I tried to take a laptop into the bedroom for the purpose of making notes for story ideas. However, I can’t do that any longer since my floppy has become obsolete.

Of course there are disadvantages to using this method for collecting and remembering ideas. The main problem is that it means having to have sex with the lights on. I don’t like this kinky variation on traditional missionary-position-in-the-dark-lie-back-and-think-of-England sex. If the good Lord had meant us to see what we were doing in the bedroom he wouldn’t have made sex happen at night.

And I’m not alone in thinking that sex with the lights on is unnatural.

My wife (rightly) objects to sex with the lights on unless she’s wearing the blindfold or (as an alternative) I’m wearing the gas mask to improve my appearance. I’ve repeatedly told her that the gas mask doesn’t improve my appearance – it hides my face. However, she insists that this is a considerable improvement.

So, we get our ideas whilst we’re having sex.

I don’t just mean erotic fiction writers get their ideas whilst having sex. My wife had an idea to plaster the bedroom ceiling the other week. That thought came to her whilst she wasn’t wearing the blindfold. By the time we’d finished that particular session she’d come up with ideas for new curtains, improved wardrobe space and an improvement on the room’s Feng Shui that would harmonise our entire lives. It had clearly been quite a productive three minutes.

She’s also had ideas for modifying my gas mask so that it doesn’t make a Darth-Vader-esque wheezing sound every time I happen on the prospect of an exciting story development. That idea wasn’t particularly great because the modification meant my brain stopped receiving oxygen for half an hour, although it’s not like it caused any permanent brain lettuce.

I find it’s quite stimulating to think about character development, plot lines and Freytag’s pyramid during intercourse. It certainly beats trying to remember the more mundane things relating to sex, such as where I put the salad tongs and whose turn is to use the stapler.

Only last week, during our monthly episode of congress (please excuse the dirty language there but we’re all adults reading this, aren’t we?) I had a brilliant idea for a novel. I say it was last week, it could have been the month before because we’re like rabbits and we do it every fourth Saturday night whether I want to or not! But, during coitus (there’s some more of that dirty language) I had a brilliant idea for a novel that I knew would be a bestseller and the source of international literary acclaim.

Unfortunately, the idea for the novel was The Story of O, so I might have to learn French before I can write it down. Nevertheless, I shall struggle on to try and get other, equally brilliant ideas for my readers.

It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

An introduction from Ashley Lister

by | 4:27 pm | General | 0 comments

You’re going to have be patient here. I hate introducing myself. Or, to be more accurate: I’m not very good at introducing myself and I hate doing things at which I’m not very good. This means I don’t do much. I sit and I write and I drink copious amounts of coffee. I’m good at all three of those. Especially the sitting. And the coffee drinking. As to the writing…

So, I was introducing myself, wasn’t I? My name’s Ashley. Ashley Lister. Hello. How are you? Good. It’s a pleasure to meet you. You’re looking very hot. Not “hot” in a sweaty kind of way. I mean “hot” in a sexy way. Great. I’m glad we’ve cleared up that misunderstanding.

Adrienne at ERWA has asked me if I’d like to occasionally contribute to the ERWA blog. I write a column (or two) for ERWA. I review books. I interview authors. And I’m also a published author with a handful of erotic fiction titles to my credit and some short stories. I won’t state the exact number for two reasons: one, it will sound like I’m bragging; and two, I’ve never bothered keeping count so the figure I write down is bound to be inaccurate.

What will I be blogging about? Wow! Don’t you ask a lot of questions? OK. Since you asked, I’ll be blogging about the trails and tribbles of being an erotic fiction author. (I’m aware I should have written trials and tribulations but I’m too big a STTNG fan to depend on such clichés).

What sort of trails and tribbles are involved in being an erotic fiction author? Well, keep reading and you’ll find out. I’ve got to warn you now – it’s not easy. Most days are a challenge. It’s hard work being a raunchy writer who’s scintillatingly sexy, ludicrously literate and arousingly articulate, but I’m a lot like haemorrhoids in that I thrive under pressure. I’m a lot like haemorrhoids in other ways too – a natural born pain in the chair.

Great, this is going well, isn’t it? Can you see why I hate introducing myself? This is my first attempt at blogging here and already I’ve mentioned haemorrhoids and they’re not something you should bring out in polite company. Not even if they’re pickled and in a sanitized jar with the words A MEMENTO FROM THE HOSPITAL written on the side.

Anyway, haemorrhoids aside, I know you’ve already got some skilled and sexy bloggers on here, serving up pithy quips, saucy suggestions and other wonderful words of wisdom, so perhaps you should look on me as punctuation between the good stuff. A little like the human equivalent of a colon or a period – both of which I’ve been called before today.

Looking forward to blogging for you…

Ashley Lister

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