Writing this Novel part VII

by | May 24, 2013 | Writing This Novel | 10 comments

By Kathleen Bradean

I’ve been in the tiny universe of
erotica long enough that I understand the niches publishers inhabit, but you
might not. Perhaps you wrote your story with a publisher in mind. If you
didn’t, you’re going to have to do some research. Go to the publisher’s website
and check out their newest offerings. Read their submission guidelines. If
possible, read a couple of their books. Don’t waste their time and don’t waste yours
sending the wrong book to the wrong publisher.

Just as you wouldn’t submit a book
on puppy training to a publisher of cookbooks, you shouldn’t submit your erotic
romance novel to a publisher of (literary) erotica. If you don’t know the
difference between erotic romance and literary erotica, don’t feel bad. It’s
not a simple distinction and the line between the two is blurry at best. As a
generalization, erotic romance is written in the genre style of romance. It absolutely
requires a happy-ever-after or happily-for-now ending, and focuses on the relationship
between two (sometimes three) people. So yes, there’s graphic sex but it’s
about bonding the characters emotionally. 

Literary erotica is written in the
genre style of literary fiction, but it can have a happily-ever-after ending
and it may focus on a relationship. Rather than emotional bonding though, sex
scenes are (normally) used to define or change a character. 

Still don’t know
where your book falls in the spectrum? Erotic romance sells better than
literary erotica, so if you have a novel that dances on the foggy boundary (with requisite
happy ending), and sales matter to you, you might want to call it erotic romance and seek out those publishers.


Before you sign with any publisher,
send emails to several writers with books at that publisher. Ask them if their
publishing experience was good. Ask them if they get paid royalties regularly
and on time. Find someone who used to publish through them who doesn’t anymore
and ask why. Check Predators and Editors. If you’ve hung around writer’s lists
long enough, you’ve seen the horror stories of unpaid royalties, rights being
tied up in court, unprofessional and unscrupulous business practices, and a
host of other problems. Experienced writers place their books with several
different publishers to mitigate exposure to their publisher’s business
problems, but even a good shop can go to hell overnight, especially if it’s
small press and the owner is essentially the entire company. All it takes is a
car accident or sudden illness. I’m not saying be paranoid, but be aware of who
you’re entering into a contract with. It’s called due diligence. Do your
homework. Protect yourself.

Also check the terms of the
contract thoroughly and know what each paragraph means. There are websites that
will warn you about bad contract terms. Things I’ve turned down contracts for:
a clause that said I could never speak ill of the publisher or its employees.
First look rights (this sounds good but it isn’t for YOU). A contract that
meant they had my rights forever. A contract that demanded I prove my gender. Lousy
ebook royalties.  The right to use 100%
of my story for “advertising” with no additional compensation in any
publication or website the conglomerate owned. 
And yes, I tried to negotiate those terms because everyone says you can
negotiate. “Everyone” is either a writer with a lot of pull or a liar because for
the most part you’ll be told to sign it or go away. Only you can decide what’s
right for you and how desperate you are to be published.

Five or six years
ago, a large erotic romance e-publisher bought a novel from me. (Yes, I wrote a book that could pass as erotic romance. It happens.)  Three months after the contract was signed,
they sent an email that they tried to back date telling me that my novel was
rejected. Yeah, you can type a date from months ago in the body of an email,
but the time stamp of when it was received is all that counts, people. For some
reason telling me they changed their mind was out of the question, and so was
being polite or apologetic about it. I still have that SIGNED contract in my
files. Did I try to enforce it? No. I didn’t see the point. I didn’t want to do
business with a company that proved they had no morals. So just be aware that
even a signed contract means nothing unless you have
the means and desire to fight it in court if it is breached.


I had a publisher in mind when I
wrote Night Creatures (still playing with the title, I may make it Night
.)  so I didn’t have to research
them. I did, however, have to ask what they like to see in a submission and how
they wanted it formatted, because part of being a professional writer is taking
the business side seriously. If your writing doesn’t make your story stand out,
don’t for a second believe that comic sans font will. Giving the publisher what
they want, in the format they want it, and only what they want tells the
publisher that you’re a reasonable person who won’t give them trouble over
stupid things. (So if your manuscript is accepted, prove it by not being an ass
over stupid things. Seriously, writer folk, don’t be THAT writer.)  

After I knew what the publisher
wanted, I put together my submission package, which in this case was an email.
They didn’t ask for a synopsis (joy, rapture! I loathe writing a synopsis) so I
sent a simple cover letter (body of the email), formatted like a business email
(my full contact info, date, etc.), with all the usual cover letter info: title
of the work, genre, word count (complete) in the first paragraph. A brief
synopsis of the story (second paragraph). Wind up: thank you for your
consideration… in the third paragraph, and a signature block. The full
manuscript was an attachment.

Sent it off and waited. And waited…
After a couple months I sent a polite inquiry about where I was in the
submission process. Polite. Don’t even type with an attitude. It’s a discreet
cough, not a temper tantrum. And I got a very nice reply back that basically
said “We need a few more weeks.” Not a problem, so I waited.

And here’s where you may expect
that I say “And it’s coming out in October!” Well, no. The publisher wants me
to rewrite the first two chapters and resubmit. Did I collapse onto my fainting
couch? Did I send it off to a different publisher? No. Rejection isn’t
personal. It’s an opportunity to learn something. 

Being honest with
myself, I know that the first two chapters were the weakest part of my novel.
So I’m working on those chapters. I told the publisher that I would resubmit it
when I fixed my work, and I will. Now, if it’s turned down after that, I could
turn to another publisher, but because I understand the niche markets
publishers inhabit, I already know that there are few who would touch this edgy
piece. It’s dark and it’s bloody. I could self-publish. I think about those
options but it’s far too early in the process to give up on this publisher just

Kathleen Bradean

Kathleen Bradean’s stories can be found in The Best Women’s Erotica 2007, Haunted Hearths, Garden of the Perverse, The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica 6, and She’s On Top in print. Clean Sheets and The Erotica Readers and Writer’s Association websites have also featured her stories. Writing as Jay Lygon, her stories can be found in Inside Him, Blue Collar Taste Tests, Toy Box: Floggers, and the novels Chaos Magic, Love Runes, and Personal Demons. Read more about Kathleen Bradean at: KathleenBradean.Blogspot.com www.JayLygonWrites.com


  1. Lisabet Sarai

    Great post, Kathleen (as usual).

    Your horror story about your ER novel has me very curious. However, you clearly shouldn't say who you're talking about on a public forum (but you could email me privately…;^)

    In fact, I have succeeded in negotiating some of my contract terms over the years. Not that this necessarily means that the publisher will adhere to the contract. In one case, I convinced the publisher to remove digital rights from the contract, because I thought I might put it out in ebook form myself. Imagine my surprise a few years later when I discovered a Kindle edition (that I was not responsible for!)

    Anyway, congratulations on getting past the first hurdle with your new novel. I loved the short story it started with, and I am really looking forward to reading the whole thing.

  2. Jean Roberta

    Very interesting, Kathleen. Your experience with the publisher that offered you a contract, then rejected your novel 3 months later takes the prize, IMO. I suspect there is a lack of communication (or lack of consensus) within the company.
    I would love to collect all your "Writing This Novel" posts and show them to friends/associates/hangers-on who know nothing about the publishing biz but give me advice anyway. (For instance: I should "assert myself" by demanding a much higher royalty rate than 10% — because, of course, all writers negotiate that way. Or I should only agree to an audiobook deal after I find out for sure that I'm going to make money from it.)
    Those of us who read your work are glad you continue to soldier on!

  3. Jean Roberta

    Re the difference between lit. erotica and erotic romance as largely a difference of style, I agreed with you when I first read your comment on this. However, after I sent a story I regard as literary erotica to Best Lesbian Romance as a fluke (nothing to lose – it was rejected for a "Best Erotica" anthology last year), it was accepted for the shortlist! Go figure.

    • Kathleen Bradean

      Which only goes to show that my definition (of ER versus LE) may only work for me 🙂

  4. Kathleen Bradean

    Jean – I've put all the Writing This Novel entries on kathleenbradean.blogspot.com. When I get home from New Orleans I'll post this most recent one there.

    I think you're right about the reason for the rejection, although it clearly stated in my cover letter that it was femdom, and in the synopsis. The funny thing (in one of those bitter laugh ways) is that now I hear they're actively soliciting femdom er.

  5. Kathleen Bradean

    Lisabet – You're right – I won't out them because my horrible experience may be many other writers' good experience.

    • Kathleen Bradean

      Mesmer7 – as part of an exercise, I suggest you look at the websites and submission guidelines of every publisher listed on the ERWA site. Some you'll be able to take off your list immediately because you'll know off the bat that there isn't a fit. (for example, if you characters are heterosexual, Torquere isn't going to accept your MS. Or if you have a novel, don't send it to a place only looking for short stories for anthologies) Of the ones that are left, look at their titles. By that, I don't mean just look at the front covers. Read the descriptions of the books they publish. If you see the words BDSM and psychological, you know you have a fit.

      Getting published takes work. You need to learn how to do the research.

      That's the long answer.

      The short answer is look at Forbidden Fiction, an imprint of Fantastic Fiction. (and no, I won't hunt down the website for you)

  6. Donna

    It's always SO refreshing when an experienced writer shares the truth about publishing. There is definitely pressure for the "successfully published" author to keep up appearances about the happy relationships between writer and publisher, but we all benefit when we know what really goes on. Also it does seem many new authors think they have to be prima donnas to show they're on top of things, and lots of people who know nothing about publishing have all kinds of advice about what we should do in terms of getting our books made into Hollywood films or HBO series and so on. This post in particular should be required reading for every aspiring writer!

  7. Kathleen Bradean

    Donna – you're always so kind.

    Here's a truth of publishing I found out this weekend: Selling one to two thousand copies of a book in a small genre (erotica, LGBT, etc) is a pretty damn good run. Ten thousand is a best seller.

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