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Confessions of a Literary Streetwalker

In case you might be wondering what I’ve been up to lately, check out this link to the articles I’ve been doing for the great Future Of Sex site. Other things brewing, but writing about the sexuality of tomorrow has been a blast!

Self Or Not?

Before I begin, a bit of disclosure: While the following has been written in an attempt to be professionally and personally non-biased I am an Associate Publisher for Renaissance E Books.

Now, with that out of the way…

So, should you stay with the traditional model of working with a publisher or go the self-publishing route?

I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been thinking – a lot — about this. The arguments for stepping out on your own are certainly alluring, to put it mildly: being able to keep every dime you make – instead of being paid a royalty – and having total and complete control of your work being the big two.

But after putting on my thinking cap – ponder, ponder, ponder — I’ve come to a few conclusions that are going to keep me and my work with publishers for quite some time.

As always, take what I’m going to say there with a hefty dose of sodium chloride: what works for me … well, works for me and maybe not you.

Being on both sides of the publishing fence – as a writer, editor, and now publisher (even as a Associate Publisher) — has given me a pretty unique view of the world of not just writing books, working to get them out into the world, but also a pretty good glimpse at the clockwork mechanisms than run the whole shebang.

For example, there’s been a long tradition of writers if not actively hating then loudly grumbling about their publishers. You name it and writers will bitch about it: the covers, the publicity (or lack of), royalties … ad infinitum. Okay, I have to admit more than a few grouches have been mine but with (and I really hate to say this) age has come a change in my perspective. No, I don’t think publishers should be given carte blanch to do with as they please and, absolutely, I think that writers should always have the freedom to speak up if things are not to their liking, but that also doesn’t mean that publisher’s are hand-wringing villains cackling at taking advantage of poor, unfortunate authors.

It took finding a good publisher to change my mind … that and seeing the business from the other side. While there are a lot of things that separate a good publisher from a poor one the most important one is that a good – and maybe even great – publisher understands the business.

Case in point: authors love to bitch about their covers – but a publisher that takes the time to look at what is selling, what isn’t selling, what distributors will and won’t accept, and creates a cover accordingly is actually doing the author a service. Yes, the cover may not be an accurate scene from the book, but it – if it works — should tease and tantalize enough to get people to buy it. By the way, since this is supposed to be about publisher versus self-publishing keep in mind that you would not know what sells and what doesn’t – by the way, the amazon best sellers list is not a good indication – and so will be operating pretty much in the dark.

Authors often work from ego – and there is nothing wrong with that – but far too often what they want, and what will actually sell, are polar opposites. They want to see their work like books they admire … but they also may be completely ignorant of the fact that while those books look nice they simply don’t leap off the shelves.

Being in the trenches of publishing, looking at the numbers myself, is very sobering. Just take social networking. For people in self-publishing it’s the end-all, be-all — you can’t succeed, they say, without it. But while exposure is important, many of your FaceBook friends will not buy your book. The people who will buy your book are looking for erotica they will enjoy – and if your cover, your marketing, your whatever, doesn’t speak their language then they simply won’t cough up the bucks. It’s a sobering though that many bestselling erotica books are written by authors who don’t play the social networking game … at all.

Yes, when you self publish you have complete and total control – but that also means you have no access to a publisher’s experience: you will have to do everything from scratch, from learning how to get your book on amazon, iTunes, etc. to dealing with cover art specs and ebook formatting. Sure, when you self-publish you keep every dime – but you could very well spend it and more in time doing what a publisher does.

And marketing … I totally agree that publishers should do more of it, but publishers have never been good at that, even before the ebook revolution. But even a little publicity from a publisher can work wonders: many authors are discovered not via advertising or marketing but because their book was put out by a publisher whose catalog had a best seller in it.

If you self-publish then you are a single voice yelling as loud as you can – and these days there are a lot of single voices yelling as loud as they can – and against this din a lot of readers, and reviewers, are turning a bit deaf. It may be hard to hear but being with a publisher still carries a lot of weight when it comes to getting noticed.

Sure, if you’re a huge author then going the self-publishing route may make a lot of sense, but think of it this way: huge or not, with a publisher your mailing list, fans, and miscellaneous contacts will not be the only way people will hear about you and your book – and the cost of getting more would probably be the same as the bucks a publisher would take.

In the end, though, the decision is yours. If I could leave you with anything, though, is that while there are many publishers out there worthy of scorn there actually are many that not only know what they are doing – though experience and observation – and who can do a lot for you. Often their advice may be hard to take, but if you trust them they can be a great help – and perhaps the difference between writing a book that doesn’t sell … and one that does.

Erotic writing isn’t any different than any other form of writing: you still need a plot, characterization, description, a sense of place, suspension of disbelief, and so forth. Thinking otherwise will only put training wheels on your writing, which – believe me – readers and editors can easily pick up on. If you sit down and try to write a damned good story, that happens to be about sex or sexuality, the result will generally be much finer artistically than an attempt that’s just tossed off. The instant you approach a story as just anything, you’ll demean yourself and the reader. The bottom line is that there really isn’t much of a difference between a great erotic story and any other genre’s great story.

One difference between erotica and other genres is that erotica doesn’t blink: in just about every other genre, when sex steps on stage the POV swings to fireplaces, trains entering tunnels, and the like. In other words, it blinks away from the sexual scene. In erotica you don’t blink, you don’t avoid sexuality; you integrate it into the story. But the story you’re telling isn’t just the sex scene(s), it’s why the sex IS the story. Something with a bad plot, poor characterization, lousy setting, or lazy writing and a good sex scene is always much worse than a damned good story full of interesting characters, a great sense of place, sparkling writing and a lousy sex scene. The sex scene(s) can be fixed, but if the rest – the meat of the story itself – doesn’t work, you’re only polishing the saddle on a dead horse.

Aside the lack of blinking, the other difference erotica and other genres is repetition: a lot of people preach that it’s poor writing to use the same descriptive word too many times in the same section of writing. In other words:

The sun blasted across the desert, scorching scrub and weed into burnt yellow, turning soft skin to lizard flesh, and metal to rust. Outside LAST CHANCE FOR GAS, the radiation of the explosion had turned once gleaming signs for COCA-COLA and DIESEL into rust-pimpled ghosts of their former selves.

Parked outside LAST CHANCE, there was a rusted pickup collapsed onto four flat tires, the windshield a sparkling spider web under the hard white light of the sun’s explosion.

That wasn’t terrific, but the point is – aside from the poor metaphor of the sun as an explosion – the word rust springs up a bit too much. It’s not that bad a description, but having the same word pop up repeatedly comes off as lazy, unimaginative, or simply dull. To keep this from happening, many writing teachers and guides recommend varying the descriptive vocabulary. Now you don’t need to change rust to corrosion or decay or encrustation once you’ve used it once in a story, but if you need to use the same kind of description in the same paragraph or section, you might want to slip in some other, perhaps equally evocative, words as well.

But let’s go onto that exception for erotica. In smut, we have a certain list of words that are required for a well-written erotic scene: the vocabulary of genitalia and sex. If you follow the Don’t Ever Repeat rule in a sex scene, the results are often more hysterical than stimulating.

Bob’s cock was so hard it was tenting his jeans. He desperately wanted to touch it, but didn’t want to rush. Still, as he sat there, the world boiled down to him, what he was watching, and his penis. Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore. Carefully, slowly, he lowered his zipper and carefully pulled his dick out. Unlike a lot of his friends, Bob was happy with his member. It was long, but not too long, and had a nice, fat head. Unlike the rods his friends rarely described, his pole didn’t bend – but was nice and straight.

It’s another bit of less-than-brilliance, but, hopefully, you’ll get the idea: if you follow the non-repeat commandment, you’ll quickly run out of words to describe what the hell’s going on in your story. With women’s anatomy it gets even worse: I’ve read a lot of amateur stories that go from cunt to pussy to quim to hole to sex … somehow turning a down-and-dirty contemporary piece to a story that should be called Lady Rebecca and the Highwayman.
It’s more than perfectly okay to repeat certain words in a story – especially an erotic one – if other words just won’t work, or will give the wrong impression (is there anything less sexy than using hole or shaft?). My advice is to stick to two or three words that fit the time and style of the story, then rotate them: cock to dick, pussy to cunt, etc. Some words can also be used if you feel the story is getting a bit too thin on descriptions – penis, crotch, groin, etc. – but only if kept to a very dull roar.

One of the best ways to avoid this problem is to describe parts of the character’s anatomy rather than using a simple, general word. For example, lips, clit, glans, balls, shaft, mons, etc. Not only does this give you more flexibility, but it can also be wonderfully evocative, creating a complex image rather than a fuzzy impression of the party going on in your characters’ pants.

The bottom line is what while there is a core similarity between a good erotic story and any other genre, there are a few important stylistic differences – and, as the old saying goes: viva la difference!

Let’s open with a joke: a guy pleads with god over and over: “Please, Lord, let me win the lottery.” Finally, god answers: “Meet me halfway – buy a ticket!”

Back when publishers only put out – gasp – actually printed-on-paper books I was known as a writer who would give anything I did that extra mile: readings, interviews, PR events, press releases … you name it I’d do it. To be honest, I’ve always had a small advantage in that my (unfinished) degree was in advertising and I’ve less-than-secretly really enjoyed creating all kinds of PR stuff. I’ve always felt that a good ad, or marketing plan, can be just as fun and creative as actually writing the book itself.

Sure, some of my PR stuff has gotten me (ahem) in some trouble … though I still contest that the “other” M.Christian who staged that rather infamous plagiarism claim over the novel Me2 was at fault and not me, the one-and-only; or that my claim to amputate a finger as a stunt for Finger’s Breadth was totally taken out of context…

Anyway, the fact is I’ve always looked at publishers as people to work with when it comes to trying to get the word out about my books. Sure, some publishers have been more responsive and accepting than others and, yes, I still have bruises from working with a few that could care less about me and my books, but in the end most of them have been extremely happy to see my excitement about having one of their editions hit the shelves.

Duh, things have changed a lot since then – but in many ways things haven’t changed at all. Books are still books, even if they are now digital files and not dead trees, and bookstores are now Amazon, iBooks, and Kobo instead of brick-and-mortar establishments … and publishers still want to work with authors who want to work with them.

Not going into the whole publisher versus self-publishing thing (in a word: don’t) one thing that has totally changed is the importance of marketing, social media, and public relations. Simply put, it’s gone from being somewhat necessary to absolutely essential.

But this post isn’t about twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, blogs and the rest of that stuff. Instead I want to talk about how you work with a publisher: what they do, what you do, and how to make it all work for the best.

A very common myth is that publishers are hand wringing, mustache-twirling villains who pay for their volcano lairs and diamond-collar wearing Persian cats with the sweat of writers. Okay, a few do, but the good ones started as writers and have simply worked their way up to being in a position to try and help other writers – and, sure, make some bucks along the way.

Another common myth is that publishers don’t care about their writers. Okay, let’s be honest: a writer who sells a lot of books is definitely going to get the lion’s share of attention, but a good publisher knows that any book in their catalogue can be the one to go from one sale a month to ten a day.

There’s a very important factor: publishers deal with a lot of writers – some of whom have written dozens of books while others have two or three … or only one. With that many titles you can’t really expect a publisher to be able to give you 100% attention 100% of the time. Yes, they want you to succeed – it’s in their vested interest after all – but they have to try and make as many books as they can also succeed.

That does not let them off the hook with what they should be doing. A good publisher, most importantly, knows the business of publishing. Often this means they have to do things that authors don’t like: saving money on covers, asking for changes to books or titles, requiring authors to think about social media and audience, asking for copyedited or clean manuscripts … and so forth. They do this not because they have sharks with lasers on their heads on order but because they have lots of experience with what won’t sell, what might sell, what is worth a lot of time and what isn’t.

Believe it or not, publishers are also people: they work very hard – too hard in some cases – to be the publisher they, as writers, would want to work with. As such they want not just to make a book a runaway bestseller but also with a writer who is excited and happy about their work.

Personal disclosure time: yes, I am a writer but I have the honor of now being an Associate Publisher for Renaissance E Books. To put it mildly, it has been an eye-opening experience to start out looking out at publishers as a writer to looking out at writers as a publisher.

During all this I try to remember my own excitement of when my books came out, and all the plans and strategies and so forth I had the pleasure of putting together. It was stressful and depressing, more often than not, but then there were the wonderful moments when I felt the publisher was also thrilled about me and my work. As a publisher, I’ve tried to return to the favor to other writers.

Did you feel a “but” coming? Well, you should because sitting on the other side of the fence I’ve noticed that a few – not a lot, thankfully, but still far too many – writers want to win the lottery but won’t buy a flipping ticket.

Okay, I promise I won’t turn this into a “get off my lawn” rant but I do have a few words for advice for dealing with publishers – and how to step from Just Another Writer to A Cherished Author.

For one thing, always remember you are just one of many writers a publisher has to deal with. Yes, you have rights and a publisher should always respect and care about you and your work but being demanding or a prima donna will get you nothing.

A good publisher will work very hard on marketing, promotions, exposure, new ways of doing anything, etc. – but, and this is extremely important, you need to as well. In short, buy a ticket!

Don’t have a Web site? Make one! Don’t have a Facebook page? Create one! Don’t have a Twitter feed? Sign up! Don’t have a Goodreads, RedRoom, etc., presence? Get moving!

The same goes for following your publisher’s social media links and such. Sign up and friend and favor them so when your book comes out let your publisher know that you are excited and happy about it. Tell them of your marketing plans, send them your press releases, talk to them about the ways you are working to reach your audience … don’t just sit back and wait for them to do all the work.

Social media is timeless: your book might sell tomorrow or next year, which means that your marketing and such should also never stop. It breaks my heart when authors decide that their book is a failure when they don’t immediately see a fat royalty check – when the fact is the book is a failure because it is they who have given up on it. Publishers feel the same way: none of them want to hear that they screwed up by not making a book a bestseller when the author walked away from the title after a few months.

I could go on, and I will in more columns, but let’s wind down by restating the point of this installment: working with a publisher is a partnership. They have duties and responsibilities but you, the author, have to step up and show enthusiasm and social media excitement — that you, too, want to make your book into a magical, hotter-than-hot, golden ticket

Every author wants their books to sell … right? Listen long enough, and you’ll get a bookstore (remember those?) full of theories about what can push a title up the lists from few to many to bestseller and maybe even beyond: reviews, podcasts, blog tours, t-shirts, coffee mugs, Facebook, Twitter, contests, eBay, interviews, tattoos, action figures … you name it.

I’ll go into some of those ideas – the good, the bad, and the just plain nuts – soon enough but in the meantime, I want to talk about what I consider the most important thing every writer needs to do when it comes time to put their book out into the world.

Well, actually, what they should do before its time to put their book out into the world – in fact, after they’ve just finished writing it.

The problem, you see, is that far too often authors – and even some publishers – think in terms of a single book, and having one book be the end-all, be-all bestseller of all time, the book that launches a fantastic career. The hard truth, though, is that while that does happen, it’s so rare that it might as well as not happen. Let me rephrase that: the odds are decidedly against your first book (or any other writer’s) leaping off the shelves. Nor is it likely to put lots of cash in your pocket.

So what’s the reality? When you look at the careers of successful (for now I’m going to ignore the fact that ‘success’ is a very, very subjective term) writers, you’ll find that they worked their way up those book lists one book at a time. But don’t think in terms of this book made a little money, the next one made a little bit more and then – finally – KA-CHING! Nope. Mostly what happens is that one book might do well, the next not so much, the one after that a bit better, the following one badly, then – if they’re lucky – a bestseller … very much up and down, up and down.

And what ensues when that one bestseller does happen? Not only does that one book will sell well, but all those people who enjoyed it will also, very often, hunt down that author’s other books as well. Suddenly books that didn’t sell two copies at publication now leap off the shelves as readers hungrily consume their newly discovered favorite.

But this only happens with authors who have books in their inventory. See where this is going? If you only have one book, you’re spending a lot of time pushing your way up the lists. If it does manage to sell, and sell well, then your readers have only that book to read. If you have a stock of several books, however, your readers will be able to get into your entire stock of works … going from casual readers to loyal fans. If that’s not enough of a motivation, then keep in mind that sometimes success can come from totally unexpected directions. Remember I mentioned that sometimes a book just doesn’t sell, or doesn’t sell well? Sometimes books don’t sell well at first: very often a book will magically spring to life and go from a forgotten favorite to a phenomenon.

And so it’s very important – if not essential – to think about writing as a long-term thing: a very long-term thing. It’s not just one (early) bestseller, but a life of book after book that will give you multiple chances at creating a career.

Besides, if you tailor your publicity to one book, then you’ll have to restart the whole thing from scratch with the next one. If you instead think of exposure and publicity with regard to your entire body of work, then you can just add more books to the line, building momentum with each one. Publicity is damned hard – so why make it harder by having to do it over and over again?

The answer is that the first thing every writer should do when they finish one book, even before that book comes out, is to begin writing another one. Sure it’s tough, trying to simultaneously write a book and create publicity for your entire life as a writer, but considering how much time it can sometimes take to establish your ‘name,’ can you really afford to wait for sales that may not come? Why not take steps now and write a whole bunch of books? Then just one has to be The One. Besides, writing is something that gets better with practice, right? Not only will your next book be a good seller but, more importantly, it might be your best one – and if not that one, then the next, the next, the next ….

If this scenario scares you, and there’s every reason it should, then remember that professional writing isn’t done easily or quickly. But it is special, magical, and – most of all – takes a rare kind of bravery.

Never forget that.

The End Of Erotica

I want erotica to vanish, to disappear as a literary genre, to utterly and completely GO AWAY.

Am I biting the hand that’s fed me? Sour grapes? Making noise for the sake of noise? It’s none of the above, so hear me out.

Erotica exists because a need wasn’t being met. Readers looked around at movies, books, television, and every other medium and noticed that something was missing. Rob and Laura Petrie had twin beds, and Ricky Ricardo and Lucy pulled off a trick not seen since Mary got knocked up by a ghost: a virgin (as far as we know) birth. If a book managed to actually talk about what happened behind closed doors and under the sheets, it was immediately banned, burned, or branded INDECENT.

So then came erotica: a peek behind those doors and under those covers. Sex was out in the open and, more importantly, it was profitable. Sex sold, and very well – and with anything that sells well, the people doing the selling began to make more and more and more of it.

That, in itself, isn’t a bad thing. After all, if sex didn’t sell we wouldn’t have MTV, Fox, beer ads, Britney Spears, Ron Jeremy, the entire literary erotica genre, or even the Erotica Readers and Writers Association and my column. But all this and more is popular, and remains popular, because it doesn’t exist anywhere else.

Pick up a book, switch on the tube, plop down half your paycheck for a movie ticket and sure there might be hints, suggestions, or allusions, but that’ll be it.

Meanwhile, out here in the wild woolies of smut writing, we continue to write books and stories that address what no one else seems to be talking about: sex. The problem is that for the longest time, we were part of an opposite but equal problem, which was talking about nothing but sex.

Luckily, this has been changing. It used to be that just simply writing s-e-x was enough, but as the public started to get more, they also began asking for more. Editors, publishers and (more importantly) readers have responded by demanding erotica with depth, meaning, wit, style, and sophistication – and writers have been doing exactly that, pushing the boundaries of what sex writing can be.

The result? Erotica writers have created a genre worthy of respect and serious, non-genre attention. This is a great time to be working in this field, because for the first time writing about sex is not a guarantee of condemnation or exile to a professional Elba. Erotica writers are breaking out and otherwise mainstream publishers are beginning to pay serious attention to the marketability of sex. Because of what’s developed in the genre, they can sell it without blushing.

This is a good thing for another, more important reason. It’s crystal ball time: as erotica becomes more and more refined and mature, more elegant and accepted, it may very well begin to be accepted as a valid and respected form of literature. But what I really hope will happen is what’s happened with many other genres: assimilation. It used to be that anything to do with time travel, aliens, or space travel was exiled to science fiction. Then came a renaissance in that genre, and a subsequent use of the old elements in new ways – Kurt Vonnegut comes immediately to mind. The same thing has happened with mysteries, horror, romance, comic books (excuse me, ‘graphic novels’), television, and so forth.

As the sexually explicit techniques and methods developed in erotica permeate other genres, the need for erotica as its own separate, unique place in bookstores will fade, and then vanish. Erotica will become what it always should have been: a part of life, legitimate and respected – not something to be ashamed of, hidden away, or even just separate.

How will that serve us in the erotica-writing world? Wonderfully, I think. Erotica is fun, and I definitely believe that, but it’s only one genre. As we become better and better writers, trying new things, new techniques, and dipping our toes in new pools, other venues will open up, other – better – playgrounds to frolic in.

Sure it might be scary, once erotica merges with the rest of the world and fades away as a genre in its own right. But think of how much better that world will be, a place where sex is something to be talked about, celebrated, and understood without fear or shame.

Our genre may disappear, and could utterly and completely go away – but we will have accomplished something remarkable:

We changed the world.

In case you might be wondering what I’ve been up to lately, check out this link to the articles I’ve been doing for the great Future Of Sex site. Other things brewing, but writing about the sexuality of tomorrow has been a blast!

PENIS, COCK, DICK, MEMBER, ROD, ETC. 

Erotic writing isn’t any different than any other form of writing: you still need a plot, characterization, description, a sense of place, suspension of disbelief, and so forth.  Thinking otherwise will only put training wheels on your writing, which – believe me – readers and editors can easily pick up on.  If you sit down and try to write a damned good story, that happens to be about sex or sexuality, the result will generally be much finer artistically than an attempt that’s just tossed off.  The instant you approach a story as just anything, you’ll demean yourself and the reader. The bottom line is that there really isn’t much of a difference between a great erotic story and any other genre’s great story.

One difference between erotica and other genres is that erotica doesn’t blink: in just about every other genre, when sex steps on stage the POV swings to fireplaces, trains entering tunnels, and the like.  In other words, it blinks away from the sexual scene.  In erotica you don’t blink, you don’t avoid sexuality; you integrate it into the story.  But the story you’re telling isn’t just the sex scene(s), it’s why the sex IS the story.  Something with a bad plot, poor characterization, lousy setting, or lazy writing and a good sex scene is always much worse than a damned good story full of interesting characters, a great sense of place, sparkling writing and a lousy sex scene.  The sex scene(s) can be fixed, but if the rest – the meat of the story itself – doesn’t work, you’re only polishing the saddle on a dead horse.

Aside the lack of blinking, the other difference erotica and other genres is repetition: a lot of people preach that it’s poor writing to use the same descriptive word too many times in the same section of writing.  In other words:

The sun blasted across the desert, scorching scrub and weed into burnt yellow, turning soft skin to lizard flesh, and metal to rust.  Outside LAST CHANCE FOR GAS, the radiation of the explosion had turned once gleaming signs for COCA-COLA and DIESEL into rust-pimpled ghosts of their former selves.

Parked outside LAST CHANCE, there was a rusted pickup collapsed onto four flat tires, the windshield a sparkling spider web under the hard white light of the sun’s explosion.

That wasn’t terrific, but the point is – aside from the poor metaphor of the sun as an explosion – the word rust springs up a bit too much.  It’s not that bad a description, but having the same word pop up repeatedly comes off as lazy, unimaginative, or simply dull.  To keep this from happening, many writing teachers and guides recommend varying the descriptive vocabulary.  Now you don’t need to change rust to corrosion or decay or encrustation once you’ve used it once in a story, but if you need to use the same kind of description in the same paragraph or section, you might want to slip in some other, perhaps equally evocative, words as well. 

But let’s go onto that exception for erotica.  In smut, we have a certain list of words that are required for a well-written erotic scene: the vocabulary of genitalia and sex.  If you follow the Don’t Ever Repeat rule in a sex scene, the results are often more hysterical than stimulating.

Bob’s cock was so hard it was tenting his jeans.  He desperately wanted to touch it, but didn’t want to rush.  Still, as he sat there, the world boiled down to him, what he was watching, and his penis.  Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore.  Carefully, slowly, he lowered his zipper and carefully pulled his dick out.  Unlike a lot of his friends, Bob was happy with his member.  It was long, but not too long, and had a nice, fat head.  Unlike the rods his friends rarely described, his pole didn’t bend – but was nice and straight.

It’s another bit of less-than-brilliance, but, hopefully, you’ll get the idea: if you follow the non-repeat commandment, you’ll quickly run out of words to describe what the hell’s going on in your story.  With women’s anatomy it gets even worse: I’ve read a lot of amateur stories that go from cunt to pussy to quim to hole to sex … somehow turning a down-and-dirty contemporary piece to a story that should be called Lady Rebecca and the Highwayman

It’s more than perfectly okay to repeat certain words in a story – especially an erotic one – if other words just won’t work, or will give the wrong impression (is there anything less sexy than using hole or shaft?).  My advice is to stick to two or three words that fit the time and style of the story, then rotate them: cock to dick, pussy to cunt, etc.  Some words can also be used if you feel the story is getting a bit too thin on descriptions  – penis, crotch, groin, etc. – but only if kept to a very dull roar. 

One of the best ways to avoid this problem is to describe parts of the character’s anatomy rather than using a simple, general word.  For example, lips, clit, glans, balls, shaft, mons, etc.  Not only does this give you more flexibility, but it can also be wonderfully evocative, creating a complex image rather than a fuzzy impression of the party going on in your characters’ pants.

 

The bottom line is what while there is a core similarity between a good erotic story and any other genre, there are a few important stylistic differences – and, as the old saying goes: viva la difference!

In case you might be wondering what I’ve been up to lately, check out this link to the articles I’ve been doing for the great Future Of Sex site. Other things brewing, but writing about the sexuality of tomorrow has been a blast!


Thinking Beyond Sex

Say you’ve written an erotica book. What’s more, it’s a quality
erotica book, which is to say that it isn’t just about positions,
sensations, steamy looks, and lingerie. It has an engaging setting,
multidimensional characters, and a plot. It’s well written and seeks to
do more than turn the reader on. Hurray, and congratulations! I’ve
said it before, but it certainly bears repeating: this is an incredible feat.
There are very few people in this world that could have done what
you’ve done. Take a moment to luxuriate in your success.

Done luxuriating? Good. Now you’ve sent your book out and
congratulations (part two), you’ve managed to find a publisher for
your novel—this is no mean feat, especially these days. So now
you’ve written a book, you’ve sold a book, and soon it’s going to be for
sale.

Now is the time you must do something very important, and it may
surprise you, given the genre in which your book is written.

Don’t. Think. About. Sex.

I know, I know—a bit weird, right? After all, you’ve written an
erotica book. So it seems more than natural that you’d want to reach
out to sexy, kinky, smutty, erotica venues—and well, you should. But
after you do that, you should really try and reach out to places a bit
more … tangential.

Let me explain: erotica is a fine and dandy genre (I’m not
disparaging it), but it’s also a bit limiting. In erotica, your book is one
of dozens, and every last one of them is clamoring to be the center of
attention. Sure, yours is different—for whatever reason—but in the
erotica world, your book is common first, and special second.

Let’s say, for example, that your book is about a soldier during
World War II. So why aren’t you thinking about your book being a
World War II book? Sure, you know you wrote it as erotica, and
that’s certainly essential to the book’s allure, but its more than that,
see? Try reaching out to soldier sites and World War II sites (and
authors, forums, and such). Sure, there’s a damn good chance your
emails and announcements will be ignored, but if someone does respond then your book will really stand out: a World War II book—
but an EROTICA one. Wow! Unique! Different!

In fact, I’ll bet if you really looked at your book, you could find
several places to branch off. Is it a love story? Then it could be
romance. Is there a mystery involved? Then it could be—well, you
get the idea.

Here’s an important detail. You should absolutely tweak your
announcements in a way to reach these different audiences. Instead of
“erotic” and “explicit,” try “sensual” and “stirring”—play up your
book’s connection to their world: a sensual tale of a love and
intimacy set in the latter days of World War II … that kind of thing.

Yeah, I know that sounds like another bit of Madison Avenue
trickery, but keep in mind that for many people, the whole idea of a
book with any kind of sexual content is a brain turn-off. You have to
get them to see your book more broadly—as a bona fide story, rather
than merely a sexual tale. The only way to do that sometimes is to
squeak it in under their radar. No, I’m not saying you should lie, but
what I am saying is this: why get the door shut in your face before
you’ve even had a chance to say one word about your cherished
novel?

Thinking of yourself as an erotica writer and your work as nothing
but erotica will limit you as well as your publicity opportunities.
Look beyond that simple label, and so will readers. You know your
book is more than Dick In Jane; you know there’s something special
about it—so why not use that uniqueness to open a whole new world
for both you and your works? Not only will this outlook give you a
possible new audience, but you’d be shocked by the number of
connections that also could emerge from stepping into other genres
and interests. Someone who never would have dreamed of reading
so-called smut suddenly has their eyes opened—by you, with your
wonderful book.

So try and use the imagination you’ve developed in your writing to
expand more than just your storytelling: try expanding on other
possible places for exposure—and other possible places for you to
grow and develop as a writer. 

In case you might be wondering what I’ve been up to lately, check out this link to the articles I’ve been doing for the great Future Of Sex site. Other things brewing, but writing about the sexuality of tomorrow has been a blast!

Why Not?

Every writer gets frustrated, especially when they’ve been rejected for stories that seem to be just what the editor was looking for: smart, stylish, deep, interesting, heartfelt, and all the rest. It was a sure winner, right?

But first, a quick word about rejection slips. Do they really express how the editor feels about your work? No, they don’t. Now, that doesn’t mean that some editors aren’t being sincere when they send out their rejections—especially if they include a personal message with their generic rejection—but it’s just about impossible for one editor to write to everyone who didn’t make the cut. What’s their answer? Enter the form rejection letter. They can be polite (“Sorry, your story didn’t meet the needs of our publication”), cold (“Your submission was not satisfactory”), sympathetic (“I know how tough this is”) or even rude (“Don’t you EVER send me this drivel again”) but they mean the same thing: better luck next time.

But there is a bright side. Think of it this way: at least that editor spent the time to send those notes out. There are still some cowardly editors out there who never reject; you just hear that your friends were accepted or the book comes out and you’re not in it. At least getting a note—any note—means that you can now send the story somewhere else.

Now then, onto the Great Secret of Being Accepted. Are you ready? You sure? Okay, okay, put the baseball bat down. The Great Secret of Being Accepted is ….

There isn’t one. If there were, don’t you think I’d be selling it? If there were, then why the hell do I still get rejected? The fact is that even though you think, hope, and work really hard to give editors exactly what they want, the decision is still very subjective.

In my own case, I’ve been rejected because:

+ The story is too long by a few hundred words

+ The editor didn’t get aroused reading my story

+ There is already a story selected that’s set in New York City
+ The editor doesn’t like the use of certain words in a story

+ The publisher may object to it

+ Some of the sex is “objectionable.”

Now I’ve never used any of these reasons—either subconsciously or consciously—in rejecting a story, but that’s just me. Every editor is unique, as are the criteria for taking, or not taking, a story. At first, that seems like a situation that should, nay must, be corrected somehow, but that’s just the way the world works. The editor is the boss, and he or she is trying to put together the best book they can, using what stories they got, according to their own call for submissions. If there was a concrete method for selecting stories, we’d have books by machine, and anthologies created by a precise formula. Luckily for the reader, we don’t, but this lack of a more scientific—or at least quantifiable—method for picking stories can be very frustrating for the writer.

If it helps, rejection never gets any easier to give or to get. As an editor, I hate to give them out, but I have to because I feel writers deserve to know whether they made the cut. I’m also in a position of having to put together the best anthology, as I see it. As a writer, I still get rejection notices and will get even more in the future. It’s simply part of the writing life; good, bad, or indifferent. The only remedy I can offer is to keep writing because—as I’ve said before— the only way a writer fails is not when they get rejected but when they stop writing.

And by keeping at it—trying to write each story better than the last one, and never giving up—you’ll stay on the road to becoming perhaps not a great writer, but at least a better one: published, rejected, or not.

In case you might be wondering what I’ve been up to lately, check out this link to the articles I’ve been doing for the great Future Of Sex site. Other things brewing, but writing about the sexuality of tomorrow has been a blast!

Emotional Survival Kit

Please read this if you just had something rejected:

It’s part of being a writer. Everyone gets rejected. Repeat after me: EVERYONE GETS REJECTED. This does not mean you are a bad writer or a bad person. Stories get rejected for all kinds of reasons, from “just not the right style” to a just plain grouchy (or really dumb) editor. Take a few deep breaths, do a little research, and send the story right out again or put it in a drawer, forget about it, remember it again, take it out, read it, and realize it really is DAMNED good. Then send it out again.

Never forget that writing is subjective. My idea of a good story is not yours, yours is not his, and his is not mine. Just because an editor doesn’t like your story doesn’t mean that everyone will, or must, dislike it as well. Popularity and money don’t equal quality, and struggle and disappointment don’t mean bad work. Keep trying. Keep trying. Keep trying.

Think about the rewards, about what you’re doing when you write. I love films, but I hate it when people think they are the ultimate artistic expression. Look at a movie – any movie – and you see one name above all the others: the director, usually. But did he write the script, set the stage, design the costumes, act, compose the music, or anything really except point the camera and tell everyone where to stand? A writer is all of that. A director stands on the shoulders of hundreds of people, but a writer is alone. Steinbeck, Hemmingway, Austin, Shakespeare, Homer, Joyce, Faulkner, Woolf, Mishima, Chekhov – all of them, every writer, created works of wonder and beauty all by themselves. That is marvelous. Special. That one person can create a work that can last for decades, centuries, or even millennia. We pick up a book, and through the power of the author’s words, we go somewhere we have never been, become someone new, and experience things we never imagined. More than anything else in this world, that is true, real magic.

When you write a story, you have created something that no one – NO ONE – in the entire history of history has done. Your story is yours and yours alone; it is unique and you, for doing it, are just as unique.

Take a walk. Look at the people you pass on the street. Think about writing, and sending out your work: what you are doing is rare, special, and DAMNED brave. You are doing something that very few people on this entire planet are capable of, either artistically or emotionally. You may not have succeeded this time, but if you keep trying, keep writing, keep sending out stories, keep growing as a person as well as a writer, then you will succeed. The only way to fail as a writer is to stop writing.

But above all else, keep writing. That’s what you are, after all: a writer.

****

Please read if you just had something accepted:

Big deal. It’s a start. It’s just a start. It’s one sale, just one. This doesn’t make you a better person, or a better writer than anyone else out there trying to get his or her work into print. You lucked out. The editor happened to like your style and what you wrote about. Hell, maybe it was just that you happened to have set your story in their old hometown.

Don’t open the champagne; don’t think about royalty checks and huge mansions. Don’t brag to your friends, and don’t start writing your Pulitzer acceptance speech. Smile, yes; grin, absolutely, but remember this is just one step down a very long road.

Yes, someone has bought your work. You’re a professional. But no one will write you, telling you they saw your work and loved it; no one will chase you down the street for your autograph; no one will call you up begging for a book or movie contract.

After the book comes out, the magazine is on the stands, or the Web site is up, you will be right back where you started: writing and sending out stories, just another voice trying to be heard.

If you write only to sell, to carve out your name, you are not in control of your writing life. Your ego and your pride are now in the hands of someone else. Editors and publishers can now destroy you, just as easily as they can falsely inflate you.

It’s nice to sell, to see your name in print, but don’t write just for that reason. Write for the one person in the whole world who matters: yourself. If you like what you do, and enjoy the process: the way the words flow, the story forms, the characters develop, and the subtleties emerge, then no one can rule what you create, or have you jump through emotional hoops. If a story sells, that’s nice, but when you write something that you know is great – something that you read and tells you that you’re becoming a better and better writer – that’s the best reward there is.

But above all else, keep writing. That’s what you are, after all: a writer.

Value

Money, bucks, dough, dollars, legal tender, the green stuff: I’ve got some news for ya, folks. Being a writer, you are just not going to be seeing a lot of it.

I know that’s tough to hear, but that’s the reality. The number of folks who make even just a living wage at writing is too damned small. Hell, I can’t do it. In fact, no one I know can do it, and I know quite a lot of writers. The few that come close are usually pretty high on the profile scale: novels, screenplays, those kinds of really big things—and then a lot of those big things.

Not that writing for a living is impossible, but I find way too many folks start out writing thinking that being Stephen King and million dollar advances are right around the corner. The spiel I usually give about writing and money is that it’s possible to make money, fun money, but it just isn’t enough to live on.

It’s true in erotica as in other genres—even though, yes, sex sells. But what shocks beginning erotica writers even more than the lack of funds coming their way is this: to writers, especially erotica writers, money isn’t all that important.

Now, wait a minute; I don’t mean that writers shouldn’t get paid, or that payment shouldn’t be fair. What I mean is that money, for a beginning writer, shouldn’t be a major motivation for either writing or deciding where to submit a story for consideration.

For instance, just like everywhere else in life, money does not equal quality. Lack of it, not being paid a lot, does not mean a publication is not worthy of your work. Similarly, a high-paying market doesn’t mean a quality book, magazine, or site.

When building a body of work, while money is nice—very nice— it’s most often not what other writers, publishers, and editors will notice when they look at your cover letters. Saying that you have stories in Big Boobs Monthly, Leathermania V, or Transsexual Hookers in Trouble might mean lots of green backs, but it doesn’t spell high quality. Though if you say your work has appeared on a quality and respected site, it might not mean dinner out and a show but it does mean: wow! Respected sites and magazines may not pay, but their editors know a good story when they read one, so to have passed their scrutiny can be worth more than a nice big check.

Sure, I think everyone should get paid—especially if the editor or publisher is taking a lot of money home and not sharing with the contributors involved—but sometimes money is not the only way a writer can be paid. Not to sing the same song too many times, but making connections can often lead to much bigger deals, markets, and opportunities down the road, and only looking at an editor or publisher by what they pay may mean missing much more valuable opportunities later on.

But that doesn’t mean that a writer should throw their work away. Very often I come across writers who desperately want to see their work in print—or on a site—and so will post or send off their work to the first opportunity without first trying it somewhere nicer. Nicer, of course, doesn’t mean big bucks but rather better status or acting as a way to find better gigs. I really recommend writers start out high: try for a book, or a print magazine, or a really superb site before settling for something with not a lot of visibility just to get your story in print, so to speak. It might mean facing rejection (in fact it usually does) but it’s better to try for something big then settle for something small, in life as well as in writing.

If I could sum this up in a simple statement, I guess I’d say that it’s important to remember that your work always has value, even though value doesn’t always equal money.

Hot Chilli Erotica

Hot Chilli Erotica

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