Yearly Archives: 2009

The inclination is obvious; especially considering how much pressure writers can be put under to ‘get themselves out there.’ But even though the title of this column is “Literary Streetwalker,” I want to take a few hundred words to talk about when, in my opinion, it’s not a good idea of sell your creative backside.

One of the coldest, fastest rules of being an erotica author is that it’s a sexist genre: women have a slightly easier time of it than do guys — unless you’re penning gay stuff, of course. Straight men still remain the primary buyers of smut, and they usually don’t like to ‘enjoy’ (i.e. become aroused) by something a man wrote. Homophobic? Certainly. But them’s the breaks until our society grows up. Women also don’t seem to trust anything written by a man, being suspicious that a man can’t write about sex. Wrong? Absolutely. But again that’s simply the way the world works — for the moment, at least.

In this world of female empowerment, some women authors have made the mistake — and again, this is my opinion — of selling themselves rather than their work. The temptation, like I said, is clear: turning yourself into a desirable product makes it easy to sell just about anything you do, whether it’s a book or your own underwear. Becoming a sex personality means that you carry your catalog with you; you don’t have to trouble yourself with showing people what makes you a writer worthy of reading.

There are other benefits as well, celebrity having a special allure. There’s nothing like the adrenaline rush of people saying you’re sexy or clapping when you walk on stage. Writing, as I’ve said many times before, is a spectacularly harsh mistress. What with the low pay, generally poor treatment, and little artistic recognition, it’s no wonder that so many women are seduced by the quick and easy fame – or at least recognition – of becoming a product or personality, rather than a writer.

Now I should qualify what I mean by “selling.” I’m all for writers marketing themselves and their work. Half the game, at least, of being a writer is managing to tell enough people that you’re good without appearing arrogant (not an easy task). But it’s what you say about yourself and what you toss out there that is the line between publicity and literary prostitution – aside from having panties that bring in a nice price on eBay. Telling the world that you’re a great writer is one thing, telling people that you’re writing about the time you did the football team is quite another.

There are two good reasons for not crossing that line between publicity and soliciting. The first is more professional: if you create yourself as a sexual superstar you’re severely limiting what you can do as a writer. Receiving attention for your sex life might get you attention, but very often when you walk away from that spotlight you find yourself in the dark: your audience is used to you as a sex object, not as a writer — and won’t respond when you’re not writing about being a pro-dom, sex activist, or porn star. Flexibility, after all, is key to being a writer because it gives you a plethora of genres and venues in which to expand and play. Your smut didn’t sell? Try horror. Horror didn’t work? Try romance — and so forth. Unless, that is, you turn yourself into nothing but a sex object — then that’s all you can be.

The other reason to avoid selling yourself is one, simple, biological factor: wrinkles. A twenty-something sexpot is alluring and provocative. A fifty year old one is just creepy – or, as Joe Gillis says in Sunset Blvd: “There’s nothing tragic about being fifty. Not unless you’re trying to be twenty-five.” One thing I love about being a writer is that writers have a long, long time to perfect our craft. Dancers get a few years, pro athletes get even less — but writers can work until they drool on their keyboards … unless they transform themselves into an object with a very short sexual lifespan.

Again, my opinion — if you want to turn yourself into a sexual superstar don’t let me stop you. It’s your right as a free person. But in all honesty I’d recommend that you try and resist the temptation to market yourself and not your work. Besides being a potential dead end career-wise (what happens when sagging and liver spots begin?), there’s one other difficulty in writing about your own sex life and putting it out there for hundreds, maybe thousands and — who knows? — millions of people to read: fans.

Not to put down the handsome and well groomed reading world, way too many of my female writer friends tell me that having die-hard fans of their sexual personas, rather than their stories, is more a curse than a blessing — and really, really creepy. I’d say unwelcome advances are another reason to write stories about all kinds of things, and not about how wonderful it was jerk off the entire swim team.

This month, in my last installment of Shameless Self-Promotion, I discuss the pleasures and challenges of appearing on radio shows to promote your novel. I’m including two of my sample queries here for your reference. The first is geared to a more high-brow host.

Dear Ms. X,

Ms. Y suggested I get in touch with you about a possible interview on “Book Talk” about my new novel, Amorous Woman, and other US-Japan intercultural issues related to the book.

Amorous Woman was published by Orion in the UK as part of their Neon line of literary erotica and was released in the US in May 2008. The novel was inspired by Ihara Saikaku’s 17th century Japanese erotic classic, The Life of an Amorous Woman. Intrigued by Saikaku’s picaresque, but emotionally complex tale, I decided to translate it into the modern story of an American woman’s experiences in Japan during its economic “bubble.” I’m a Princeton graduate with a Ph.D. in Japanese literature, and I’ve lived in Japan for several years. Amorous Woman is my first novel, although I’ve also published nearly a hundred literary and erotic stories and essays and my work received special mention in Pushcart Prize Stories 2004.

I’ve appeared on five radio shows including Ellen Shehadeh’s “View Point” on KWMR in Point Reyes Station, Denny Smithson’s “Cover to Cover” on KPFA in Berkeley and also read another literary essay for KQED’s “Writer’s Block” in San Francisco. In interviews I’ve discussed US-Japan cultural stereotypes such as the myths of the submissive geisha and the samurai salaryman, the historical and literary background of the novel, my definitions of erotica versus porn, the paradoxical prejudice against erotica in a consumer environment saturated with sexual messages, and how an academic and self-acknowledged feminist came to “talk back to porn” with a woman-centered exploration of eroticism as a complex element of human experience.

I’ve attached a brief synopsis and sample reviews of the novel below. I’d be happy to provide you with a copy of the book, print interviews including one in the East Bay Monthly, and links to other radio interviews at your request.

Thank you very much for your consideration of my proposal. I look forward to hearing from you.

Of course, ideally each query should reflect the intended market and not all interviewers are so serious. For a show that focuses on entertainment, I emphasized the more humorous possibilities as you see in the excerpts below:

Amorous Woman (Orion Publishing in the UK/US release through Trafalgar Books on May 28, 2008) is my first novel. It’s about a woman’s love affair with Japan and her adventures with as many men and women as she could pack into her futon along the way. Based on a Japanese erotic classic known for its wit, the story is rather like “Sex and the City” meets Memoirs of a Geisha with some David Sedaris thrown in for good measure.

I have a Ph.D. in Japanese literature from Stanford and have taught Japanese at U.C. Berkeley and Stanford. I have over eighty publication credits, including stories and essays in Gettysburg Review, Wine Spectator, Best American Erotica 2006, Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica and Best Women’s Erotica. I’ve been featured in magazines in the UK, translated into Italian and received special mention in Pushcart Prize Stories 2004. As part of my promotional efforts, I’ve appeared on Ellen Shehadeh’s View Point on KWMR in Point Reyes Station and have held several in-person readings and discussions. Because of my academic background, I am comfortable with public speaking and Q&A sessions. I enjoy bringing a humorous slant to my topic as well as talking about Japan, a country that still fascinates me twenty-five years after I first visited.

During the interview, I would be able to:

Discuss US-Japan cultural stereotypes such as the myths of the submissive geisha and the samurai salaryman—do the Japanese have better sex than we do in those love hotel dungeon rooms? And what about those vending machines that sell women’s “used” panties?

Talk about how a Stanford Ph.D. came to write a dirty novel and thus endanger the reputations of academics everywhere

Relate which aspects of my heroine’s adventures really happened to me—yes, I did have a boyfriend with one sensitive nipple and a group encounter on a spring night in Kyoto, although not exactly the way it happened in the book

Explain my take on the difference between erotica and porn—erotica’s what I like and porn’s what you like, but I’ve got some other provocative answers, too

Describe how erotica can change our lives by encouraging the exploration of how sex feels, a radical act in a society that focuses on how sex looks

Discuss the obstacles I’ve faced promoting the books and the pleasures in connecting with readers

If you’ve ever sat in a college class wondering if your professor had a secret life, I’m here to say the answer is definitely yes!

I’ve attached a brief synopsis and sample reviews of the novel below. I’d be happy to provide you with a copy of the book and print interviews at your request.

Thank you very much for your consideration of my proposal. I look forward to hearing from you.

For both queries, I also attached the information from my sell sheet including a one-paragraph pitch and a few brief excerpts from my favorite reviews. Good luck with your queries and have fun on the show!

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

“The shock of September 11 is subsiding. Each day adds distance. Distance diminishes fear. Cautiously our lives are returning to normal. But “normal” will never be the same again. We have seen the enemy and the enemy is among us …. the publishers, producers, peddlers and purveyors of pornography.”

It didn’t take me long to find that quote, just a few minutes of searching. It came from an LDS Web site, Meridian Magazine, but I could have picked fifty others. Maybe it’s because of the election, or because of a few horror stories that have recently come my way, but I think it’s time to have a chat about what it can mean to … well, do what we do.

We write pornography. Say it with me: por-nog-ra-phy. Not ‘erotica’ — a word too many writers use to distance themselves, or even elevate themselves, from the down and dirty stuff on most adult bookstore shelves — but smut, filth … and so forth.

I’ve mentioned before how it’s dangerous to draw a line in the sand, putting fellow writers on the side of ‘smut’ and others in ‘erotica.’ The Supreme Court couldn’t decide where to scrawl that mark — what chance do we have?

What good are our petty semantics when too many people would love to see us out of business, thrown in jail, or much, much worse? They don’t see a bit of difference between what I write and what you write. We can sit and argue all we like over who’s innocent and who’s guilty until our last meals arrive, but we’ll still hang together.

I think it’s time to face some serious facts about what we do. ‘Swinging from a rope’ hyperbole aside, we face some serious risks for putting pen to paper or file to disk. I know far too many people who have been fired, stalked, threatened, had their writing used against them in divorces and child custody cases, and much worse.

People hate us. Not everyone, certainly, but even in oases like San Francisco people who write about sex can suffer tremendous difficulties. Even the most — supposedly — tolerant companies have a hard time with an employee who writes smut. A liberal court will still look down on a defendant who’s published stories in Naughty Nurses. The religious fanatic will most certainly throw the first, second, third stone — or as many as it takes — at a filth peddler.

This is what we have to accept. Sure, things are better than they have been before and, if we’re lucky, they will slowly progress despite the fundamentalism of the current government, but we all have to open our eyes to the ugly truths that can accompany a decision to write pornography.

What can we do? Well, aside from joining the ACLU ( there isn’t a lot to we can directly do to protect ourselves if the law, or Bible-wielding fanatics, break down our doors, but there are a few relatively simple techniques we can employ to be safe. Take these as you will, and keep in mind that I’m not an expert in the law, but most importantly, try to accept that what you are doing is dangerous.

Assess your risks. If you have kids, if you have a sensitive job, if you own a house, if you have touchy parents, if you live in a conservative city or state, you should be extra careful about your identity and what you are writing. Even if you think you have nothing to lose, you do — your freedom. Many cities and states have very loose pornography laws, and all it would take is a cop, a sheriff, or a district attorney to decide you needed to be behind bars to put you there.

Hide. Yes, I think we should all be proud of what we do, what we create, but use some common sense about how easily you can be identified or found. If you have anything to lose, use a pseudonym, a post office box, never post your picture, and so forth. Women, especially, should be extra careful. I know far too many female writers who have been stalked or Internet-attacked because of what they do.

Keep your yap shut. Don’t tell your bank, your boss, your accountant, your plumber, or anyone at all, what you do — unless you know them very well. When someone asks, I say I’m a writer. If I know them better, I say I write all kinds of things — including smut. If I know them very, very, very well then maybe I’ll show them my newest book. People, it shouldn’t have to be said, are very weird. Just because you like someone doesn’t mean you should divulge that you just sold a story to Truckstop Transsexuals.

Remember that line we drew between ‘pornography’ and ‘erotica’? Well, here’s another. You might be straight, you might be bi, but in the eyes of those who despise pornography you are just as damned and perverted as a filthy sodomite. It makes me furious to meet a homophobic pornographer. Every strike against gay rights is another blow to your civil liberties and is a step closer to you being censored, out of a job, out of your house, or in jail. You can argue this all you want, but I’ve yet to see a hysterical homophobe who isn’t anti-smut. For you to be anti-gay isn’t just an idiotic prejudice, it’s giving the forces of puritanical righteousness even more ammunition for their war — on all of us.

I could go on, but I think I’ve given you enough to chew on. I believe that writing about sex is something that no one should be ashamed of, but I also think that we all need to recognize and accept that there are many out there who do not share those feelings. Write what you want, say what you believe, but do it with your eyes open. Understand the risks, accept the risks and be smart about what you do — so you can keep working and growing as a writer for many years to come.

This month in my Shameless Self-Promotion column I discuss a cutting edge and visually-stimulating way to get your book before new viewers (and potential buyers)–the book trailer. There are plenty of professionals willing to help you make a trailer, but if you’re a do-it-yourself type, it can be lots of fun to make your own. So check out then trailer for my novel, Amorous Woman, then read all about how my husband and I did it. I mean made the trailer, of course!

I hope you enjoy your erotic trip to Japan…,

This month’s Shameless Self-Promotion discusses the cross-media thrill of creating a book trailer. I have the pleasure to interview professional book trailer producer Kim McDougall, who has graciously agreed to share her experiences promoting her work in general and creating book trailers in particular. Kim is a professional photographer, award-winning and prolific author and the founder of the new book trailer promotion site, Blazing Trailers. She writes fiction that “ignores boundaries, mixes genres and confounds classification”—which is definitely my kind of fiction! Her many credits include the fantasy titles The Golden Hour, “Luminari,” and the Twisted Tales series. She writes for children and young adults as Kim Chatel with titles including The Stone Beach, Rainbow Sheep, and A Talent for Quiet.

Shameless Self-Promotion: What have you found to be the most effective ways to promote your books? The most enjoyable?

Kim McDougall: The most enjoyable for me is definitely visiting schools and libraries to read my book to kids. Sometimes we do a craft too. This brings me full circle, back to the beginning of the creative process. It’s a reminder (after all the hard work, waiting and promoting) of why I write for kids in the first place. I have also made decent sales this way. I usually get about a 10% return from these visits. So if I see 300 kids, I might sell 30 books.

SSP: The least effective ways or biggest challenges?

I’m not convinced that chat groups and forums are a great way to promote. I know some authors have been successful with these, but I just feel like I preaching to the choir. And while it’s pleasant to chat with other writers, I haven’t seen any indication that this translates in many sales, especially considering the time involved.

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

I was surprised that local chain bookstores were so difficult to deal with. Barnes and Noble won’t have me in to do a book signing because my book is POD. Yet another author in with my publisher is having great success with her POD books at her local B&N in California. The biased against POD is a local thing and I don’t understand it. There is nothing for the bookstore to lose.

SSP: Any tips about designing a website?

I’ve received one comment from a viewer on my site www.kimmcdougall. It was positive. She was impressed with my site because it was clean, simple and easy to navigate. She complained that so many writers try to jam everything and the kitchen sink into their sites. I have to agree. When I go to a site that has so much clutter I can’t find anything, I’m immediately turned off.

SSP: Do you have any thoughts on blogging?
Because I’m such an inconsistent blogger, I’ve found that keeping a blog myself is a waste of time. These things need to build steady steam to be effective. For myself, I have found two effective ways of making blogs work for me.

First, I guest blog at other people’s blogs. This gives me exposure to varying audiences, without having to keep a blog myself.

Second, I use Google alerts to find blogs talking about subjects similar to my book. For instance, I get Google alerts about needle-felting, and when I find someone blogging about it, I go in and invite them to my site to see the movie about me making a felt sheep. This is a soft sell. I may mention my book, Rainbow Sheep, if it’s appropriate, but if I get them to visit my site, they’ll find the book themselves. This is a tricky way of promoting though. You don’t want to spam a blog with a simple ad for your book. Rather, this is a way to strike up a conversation with others who may have the same interests as you and hope that something will come of it.

SSP: Can you share your experiences with book fairs or in-person events?

Because of the craft element in Rainbow Sheep, I have been able to sell my book quite successfully at local craft fairs. In fact, I do better at these than at bookstores. Some craft fairs will allow author signings. It’s a good thing to look into locally. I also make many great contacts in the community this way.

SSP: How about swag–such as postcards, bookmarks, pens, flyers, T-shirts, magnets, etc. Which has been the most useful?

I don’t believe giving away books is a good way to sell books. If you have a series, this might work, by holding a contest to win the first book. However, in general, when I hold contests, I give away other things. For December, I had a giveaway for my short story, “Luminari,” from Eternal Press. I made necklaces of little glass vials filled with gold glitter to represent the “Luminari” in the story. I gave these away free to the first 25 buyers of the story in December. I also used them for contests on chat forums.

The cost of the supplies and the mailing was more than my royalties on the story, but I consider it a loss-leader. It brought people to my site and enabled me to start a mailing list.

SSP: You specialize in creating book trailers for other authors (and yourself), do you have any specific tips for beginning book trailer artists–maximum or minimum length, use of effects, things to avoid, best places to buy images or music?

When all is said and done, a trailer is a commercial and I think many authors making their own forget that. The three things you want your viewer to take away from the trailer are: your book title, your name and a vague memory of your cover. You want to engage the viewer with the imagery and music, but those three factors need to pop, too.

Here’s is a description of many author trailers I view that I feel don’t work as a promo: 4-5 minutes of static photos, with long lines of description, ending with the book cover. If I had already read the book, the passing images might hold relevance to me, but as a possible buyer, they make little impact. And while these slide shows may be beautiful to watch, they aren’t a good selling tool because they don’t leave the viewer thinking, “Wow, I’d like to read that book!”

I try to combine video with photos and bring movement to the still images. Also, I prefer to use fewer images, but choose those with more impact. Music is also really important. Dramatic music can make a huge difference to the feeling of a trailer. Finally, I try to limit my trailers to two minutes. It’s so easy for a viewer to click away from a video that is too long or doesn’t interest them.

SSP: Which trailer(s) would you consider good examples of your work?

Here’s an example of a trailer that uses still imagery but is not static. “River Bones” by Mary Deal. It uses only a few images, but they are all dramatic as is the music. This would be a fairly inexpensive trailer to make.

“The Locket,” by Suzanne Lieurance is another example of static images, coming alive. This one uses sound effects to good measure.

One of my favorite trailers using video clips, is one of my earliest for my YA novel “The Stone Beach.” This would be a more expensive trailer to make, but it is quite dramatic. You’ll notice, there is very little text on this one.

Another alternative is to take one video clip and split it into pieces so to spread it over an entire trailer. This in an inexpensive way to bring movement to a trailer. An example of this is my trailer for “Barbegazi.”

SSP: How do you get book trailers noticed?

The reason I established Blazing Trailers, was because there were few places to showcase trailers properly. It is important to post your trailer all over the net. There are many sites other than YouTube and a simple Google search will call up a dozens of them. Let these sites bring traffic to your site.

But when it comes to inviting people to see your trailer, you’re best to offer a link to your site or a place like Blazing Trailers where the viewer has an immediate opportunity to buy your book. If you’re on a chat and you say “look at my trailer on YouTube.” The viewer may go look at it, but then what? It’s a dead end. But if you post your trailer on your site with a buy link, they have to opportunity to find out more information about the book and possibly buy it.

That’s why at Blazing Trailers, each book page has the trailer and then a blurb, excerpt, review and buying information.

Here are a couple of sites that get good viewer clicks that some authors might not know about. (for shorter book trailers)

SSP: Thank you so much, Kim, for sharing your experiences and especially for the insights into making book trailers! For more very helpful information on creating your own book trailer and using it to market your book, check out this interview with Kim at Book Talk Corner.

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

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

Here’s a quote that’s very near and dear to my heart:

From the age of six I had a mania for drawing the shapes of things. When I was fifty I had published a universe of designs, but all I have done before the age of seventy is not worth bothering with. At seventy five I’ll have learned something of the pattern of nature, of animals, of plants, of trees, birds, fish and insects. When I am eighty you will see real progress. At ninety I shall have cut my way deeply into the mystery of life itself. At a hundred I shall be a marvelous artist. At a hundred and ten everything I create; a dot, a line, will jump to life as never before. To all of you who are going to live as long as I do, I promise to keep my word. I am writing this in my old age. I used to call myself Hokosai, but today I sign my self ‘The Old Man Mad About Drawing.’

That was from Katsushika Hokusai, a Japanese painter of the Ukiyo-e school (1760-1849). Don’t worry about not knowing him, because you do. He created the famous Great Wave Off Kanagawa, published in his “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji” — a print of which you’ve probably
seen a thousand times.

Hokusai says it all: the work is what’s really important, that he will always continue to grow and progress as an artist, and that who he is will always remain less than what he creates.

Writing is like art. We struggle to put our thoughts and intimate fantasies down just-so, then we send them out into an often harsh and uncaring world, hoping that someone out there will pat us on the head, give us a few coins, and tell us we did a good job.

What with this emotionally chaotic environment a little success can push just about anyone into feeling overly superior. Being kicked and punched by the trials and tribulations of the writing life making just about anyone desperate to feel good about themselves — even if it means
losing perspective, looking down on other writers. Arrogance becomes an emotional survival tool, a way of convincing themselves they deserve to be patted on the noggin a few more times than anyone else, paid more coins, and told they are beyond brilliant, extremely special.

It’s very easy to spot someone afflicted with this. Since their superiority constantly needs to be buttressed, they measure and wage the accomplishments and merits of other writers putting to decide if they are better (and so should be humbled) or worse (and so should be the source of worship or admiration). In writers, this can come off as someone who thinks they deserve better … everything than anyone else: pay, attention, consideration, etc. In editors, this appears as rudeness, terseness, or an unwillingness to treat contributors as anything but a resource to be exploited.

Now my house has more than a few windows, and I have more than enough stones, so I say all this with a bowed head: I am not exactly without this sin. But I do think that trying to treat those around you as equals should be the goal of every human on this planet, let alone folks with literary aspirations. Sometimes we might fail, but even trying as best we can — or at least owning the emotion when it gets to be too much — is better than embracing an illusion of superiority.

What this has to do with erotica writing has a lot to do with marketing. As in my last column (“Pedaling Your Ass”) where I vented a bit on the practice of selling yourself rather than your work, arrogance can be a serious roadblock for a writer. It is an illusion — and a pervasive
one — that good work will always win out. This is true to a certain extent, but there are a lot of factors that can step in the way of reading a great story and actually buying it. Part of that is the relationship that exists between writers and publishers or editors. A writer who honestly believes they are God’s gift to mankind might be able to convince a few people, but after a point their stories will be more received with a wince than a smile: no matter how good a writer they are their demands are just not worth it.

For editors and publishers, arrogance shows when more and more authors simply don’t want to deal with them. After a point they might find themselves with a shallower and shallower pool of talent from which to pick their stories — and as more authors get burned by their attitude and the word spreads they might also find themselves being spoken ill of to more influential folks, like publishers.

Not to take away from the spiritual goodness of being kind to others, acting superior is also simply a bad career move. This is a very tiny community, with a lot of people moving around. Playing God might be fun for a few years but all it takes is stepping on a few too many toes — especially toes that belong on the feet of someone who might suddenly be able to help you in a big way some day – making arrogance a foolish role to play.

I am not a Christian (despite my pseudonym) but they have a great way of saying it, one that should be tacked in front of everyone’s forehead: “Do onto others as you would have then do unto you.” It might not be as elegant and passionate as my Hokusai quote, but it’s still a maxim we should all strive to live by — professionally as well as personally.

Kisses are electrifying, passionate, and powerful … and difficult to express in words. ERWA authors, a group of audacious writers, took on the challenge. The remarkable results are featured in our free ebook, A Slip of the Lip: The Erotica Readers & Writers Association Collection of Kisses, edited by Remittance Girl.

To wet your appetite for A Slip of the Lip, here is the Introduction to our collection of kisses:

Introduction from
Slip of the Lip: The Erotica Readers & Writers Association Collection of Kisses
Edited by Remittance Girl

Kisses have been described in literature throughout history, but rarely have they been given the attention they deserve. A kiss is often the first, truly intimate contact lovers have. In fact, it is often the event that allows the people involved to think of themselves as lovers.

Other animals may meet, mate and bond but only humans kiss. And, although there are many cultures that view other forms of contact as more intimate, western literature, photography and film have spread the romantic and erotic concept of the kiss around the world.

In erotic fiction, the kiss is too often described in passing on the way to more overtly sexual acts. This collection of kisses grew out of a challenge thrown down in the Writers’ section of the Erotica Readers & Writers mail list: write the best, most innovative and original description of a kiss.

Each of the pieces is less than 1000 words long. They are not meant to be complete stories, only the capturing of those breathtaking, heart pumping, andrenalin inducing moments when lips meet and – whatever lies you might tell yourself – there’s no going back.

The old theme song from the 1942 movie Casablanca tells us that ‘a kiss is just a kiss,’ but we beg to differ.

—Remittance Girl, editor

Please feel free to download the entire collection in .pdf form at:
Slip of the Lip: The Erotica Readers & Writers Association Collection of Kisses

This month’s Shameless Self-Promotion discusses in the flesh book promotion events such as book parties, readings and signings. Stella Price, the promotional genius at Phaze Books, has agreed to talk with us about some of her favorite methods of meeting new readers, with signings at the top of the list. Stella is the author of numerous romance/dark urban fantasy novels, including 2009 Fantasm winners Deep Water and Frost & Flame, along with her sister Audra Price. It’s a real pleasure to welcome Stella and hear her extremely useful tips for dealing with bookstores, arranging signings and enchanting readers.

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

Stella Price: Word of mouth helps a lot. Along with special promotional items that are specifically for your books.

SSP: The most enjoyable?

I love signings! I love meeting people.

SSP: The least effective ways or biggest challenges?

Loop chats are the worst in my opinion. Unless your with a certain publisher, or a favorite, you don’t get much out of it.

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

The amount of people we have met from giving stuff out, who LOVE the ideas and don’t read romance, but end up buying your work because of the gimmick.

SSP: Did it change your view of your writing and the writing process?

Nope. Everything is still the same, just a lot more promotions to get the work out there.

SSP: 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?

Get out there and make yourself and what you write known. Get to as many conventions and events as possible to get your name out there. Relying on online promo alone is unwise, because so many online readers have already chosen their favorites and don’t want to try anyone new.

SSP: If you’ve used a publicist or other professional consultant to promote your work what have been the benefits? The downside?

No I haven’t because I don’t believe in paying someone to do something I can do myself with money I don’t have.

SSP: How helpful do you find the following promotional tools:

Setting up a website—did you do it yourself or hire a professional?

Websites are the way to go. a place to have your work for all to find it is paramount.


I like it, And I do it at several places, usually group blogs.

Mailing lists/author newsletters:

Recently these have been doing extremely well for us. The newsletter lists have been beloved because there’s a concentrated set of “fans” in one place. Getting sales for new books is easiest this way instead of dispersing Emails around the net. The mailing lists we have are snail mail lists. Every month we send out goodies, even if it’s just a signed bookflat of a new book to the snail mail list. As of now we have over 300 people on those lists, and it has worked out great. It’s also an awesome way to send out signing information.

Blog tours:

I don’t use them, though I have done guest spots on blogs.

Getting your book reviewed—the challenges and successes:

I love reviews. They help a lot with selling the work to others with quotes, though the sites the reviews don’t really matter. It’s what you take away from them that works best.


Something we do all the time, though we rarely get people entering.

Book fairs:

LOVE them. Any kind of event is fantastic to meet new and old readers!

Radio interviews:

They are fun, and amusing, but I haven’t gotten much out of it by way of sales.

Approaching local bookstores directly:

Tricky, but luckily I have perfected this. It’s extremely time consuming, almost a full time job. You need to be diligent, and keep on the stores. I suggest making a PDF of the information they will need. Signing dates you’re looking for, genre, what you will offer, ISBN’s, book names, etc. The easiest way to get a signing is to call them and touch base with their Community Relations Manager, (B&N) or the Inventory Manager/Floor manager at Borders. Ask for an email address after you pitch the signing to them, tell them you will send them the PDF so they can check it all out and decide. Then if you don’t hear in a week or so, call back. You have to keep on them. Also, as an author, you need to know your signing rights. Both B&N and Borders have brochures that tell you what they expect and what you can expect from them.

Bookstore readings:

I don’t do readings.

Book parties:

We do a lot of these. We have a group that does then and we tend to sell pretty well.

Book trailers:

Fun and get people interested, but I don’t think they have gotten us sales.

Interviews in local or national media:

Pretty interesting and have helped with local sales.

Promoting at writing workshops or through other businesses:

VERY good

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

People love promo. Stickers, pins and pens work best for us at the normal every day signing, but for conferences and such I bring out the big guys: soaps, metal bookmarks, bath salts, candles, matches, etc.

Any other strategies you’d like to suggest?

Signing tours! These take place in bookstores. Actually we do them in groups. It helps to have other people there to talk to and to help with the personalization of the event. We do them mainly in chain bookstores, like Borders, BN, Books a Million, Hastings, Etc. Also, at indie book shops, though they are a bit tougher to work around because they have to have a large readership in the genre you write in.

Thank you so much, Stella, for sharing your insights and suggestions!

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

This month’s Shameless Self-Promotion examines creative uses of the Internet for book promotion. Speaking of examinations, I’m very pleased to welcome Sue Thurman, a writer who promotes her work as a freelance journalist with the Arizona Examiner. Sue has graciously agreed to share her experiences writing for and other suggestions for book promotion. Sue is the author of the children’s book Maybe We Are Flamingos and contributor to Inside Scoop: Articles about Acting and Writing by Hollywood Insiders, winner of the EPPIE award in non-fiction anthologies and an honorable mention in Foreward Magazine’s Book of the Year Awards.

Shameless Self-Promotion: What have you found to be the most effective ways to promote your books?

Sue Thurman: Prior to joining the Examiner family, I don’t think I’d found the most effective way. When an author signs with a small publisher that doesn’t offer any marketing, it’s difficult to find the best avenue. Good reviews are great, however it doesn’t always transfer into sales if you don’t already have an established audience. With my YA novel currently in progress, I’m building my audience first. A good book trailer is a very effective tool and mine was done by Kim Chatel of Blazing Trailers.

SSP: The most enjoyable?

Personal appearances to autograph books, or just meet people.

SSP: The least effective ways or biggest challenges?

Trying to get into the major chains when with a small publisher.

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

I’ve learned from other authors that virtual book tours aren’t very effective.

SSP: Tell us more about your experience with the
The Examiner that I write for is looking for writers all over the country. The requirement is 3-4 articles per week on a dedicated web page in their network. They provide the template, there is no cost and you do make a tiny bit of money based on how many hits you get per month.

They are doing a special referral program and if anyone is interested, send an email to: safari at safarisue dot com, and I will give you the information to sign up.

You can view my page at

If you don’t see a category you like, you can suggest one and there are a wide variety of people and interests. It’s fun and since I started in January, now people are asking me to cover stories. Some of the writers have gotten national attention and appeared on several network shows. The exposure is incredible and the network is getting millions of hits per month.

SSP: How did you get started writing for the Examiner?

Depending on what I write about and I do a variety of things, the research varies. The articles don’t have to be long, so time can be pretty short. However the research takes longer, but again that depends on the subject.

We include links in articles too. I do an editorial calendar for each month so I know what local things are happening. Right now I’m seeing which articles my audience likes. So far, the top ones have been UFOs, ghosts, on the movie sets with local productions, and everything related to Twilight.

SSP: How much time do you spend and how many articles per week?

Sometimes an hour to write and post a story. Other times longer.

SSP: Do you think it’s gotten your name out there? Any sense it is leading to sales or other useful benefits?

Yes. Since joining Examiner, now people are contacting me for stories and reviews. Therefore when my next book comes out, I’ll promote it on my Examiner page, which is part of a large network that’s growing everyday.

SSP: You mentioned that you are writing a YA novel–how do you see the Examiner experience helping that?

I’m working on a YA book that will target the same audience as the Twilight series. This time I’m building the audience before the book is even submitted to an agent.

Thank you so much, Sue, for sharing your experiences with us.

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

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

I’m astounded sometimes by writers who will only write one thing and one thing only: straight erotica, mysteries, science fiction, horror – you name it: their flute has only one note. They might play that one note very, very well but often they neglect the rest of the scale. Not to go on about myself, but my own moderate accomplishments as a writer are the direct result of my accepting a challenge or two. I never thought I could write erotica – until I did. I never thought I could write gay erotica, until I did – and so forth. Who knows what you might be great at? You won’t know until you try.

A writer is nothing but pure potential, but only if that potential is utilized. If you only like writing straight erotica, try gay or lesbian. The same goes if you’re queer – try writing something, anything, that you’d never in a million years think of doing. Maybe the story will suck, and that certainly does happen, but maybe it’ll be a wonderful story or teach you something about your craft.

Challenge yourself. If you don’t like a certain genre, like Romance, then write what your version of a romance story would be like. You don’t like Westerns? Well, write one anyway – the Western you’d like to read. Of course like a lot of these imagination games you don’t have to sit down and actually write a Western novel. Instead just take some time to visualize it: the characters, setting, some plot points, a scene or two. How would you open it? Maybe a tumbleweed blowing down a dusty street, perhaps a brass and black iron locomotive plowing through High Sierra snow? Or what about the classic Man With No Name staring down a posse of rabid outlaws? Who knows, you might be the best Western – or mystery, science fiction, gay, lesbian, straight etc. – writer there ever was, or maybe you’ll just learn something about people, about writing. Either way, you’re flexing, increasing the range of your work.

This flexibility isn’t just good in abstract. Cruise around Erotica Reader’s and Writer’s here and look at the books being published, the calls for submissions, and so forth. If you only like to write stories that one are particular style, flavor, or orientation, you’ll notice you have a very, very limited number of places that would look at your work. But if you can write anything, then everywhere is a potential market. Write one thing and that’s exactly how many places will want to look at what you do. Write everything and you could sell anywhere.

In other words: try! If you don’t try, you won’t know if you’re any good. Some writers only do what they know and like because they don’t want to face rejection, or feel they’d have to restart their ‘careers’ if they change the one thing they do well. I don’t believe any of that. If you can’t handle rejection then writing is not the life for you. Getting punched in the genitals by a rejection slip is part of the business, something we all have to deal with. As far as a writer’s ‘career’ goes, no one knows what shape that’ll take, what’ll happen in the future. Planning a job path in writing is like trying to roll snake eyes twelve times in a row – the intent might be there but the results are completely chaotic. In the same way a simple little story can turn out to be the best thing you’re ever written, an unexpected experiment can end up being a total artistic change.

Playing with new themes, genres, and styles is fun. Experiment on the page, in your mind, and who knows what’ll pop up? Next time you go to the movies, try and imagine what the trailer to your movie would be like, or write (in your mind or even on the page) a sequel to this summer’s blockbuster. Go to the bookstore and pick up something at random, read the back cover, and then spend a fun couple of hours imagining how you’d write it. What style would you use? What kind of characters? What settings? Even sit down and write some of it: a page, or even just a paragraph or two. It might suck, but that’s the risk you always take trying something new – but it also could open a door to something wonderful.

Yep, I’m a tad nervous about offering my services as a writer of customized erotica, but I’m also incredibly excited about it. Who knows what’ll happen, what kind of story ideas might come my way, and stories I may write? After all, I’ll never know unless I try, unless I flex my wings.

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