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“Shameless” Book Promotion Tips from Brenna Lyons

by | July 26, 2009 | General | 5 comments

Book promotion is a daunting task for a beginner, but fortunately there are generous veterans of the process like Brenna Lyons who are willing to help guide us in the first shaky steps of our journey. Brenna is a prolific, best-selling author of sci-fi and erotic romance including the Renegade series, the Night Warriors series and the Kegin series. She lectures frequently on book promotion at conferences, and her discussions on the topic are without a doubt some of the most useful and well-organized materials I’ve consulted. I’m thrilled that Brenna has agreed to an interview in conjunction with this month’s Shameless Self-Promotion column on creative uses of the Internet for book promotion.

Shameless Self-Promotion: I know you especially enjoy promoting your books as a featured author in chat rooms. What are the benefits of this form of promotion?

Brenna Lyons: All marketing is selling you first and then the books. Readers want a piece of you, personally. Even more than talking to them on mailing lists (and a less stressful environment than talking to them face-to-face), chat rooms allow the readers to get a real-time idea of what it’s like to talk to you. No long, thought-out replies as you have in e-mail, for instance. It’s more intimate and more real.

SSP: How do you arrange to be featured in a chat room? Any places that are especially friendly to erotica writers?

There are a lot of places that are friendly, but I find it’s easier to join promotion groups like IWOFA (Infinite Worlds of Fantasy Authors) or your publisher in group chats to start. Once you’ve done some “buddy chats,” built up a name with the readers there, gotten comfortable with the situation, go back and ask those venues if they ever do single author chats. Another benefit to belonging to promo groups is that they will sometimes post opportunities for single promo.

Now, if you do a single, it’s easier to do it with several books under your belt. An hour is a long time to talk about one book. If all you’ve got is one, it might be better to do a buddy chat with a friend who is of a similar genre and temperament…or one of you is the nurturer in chat and the other needs coaxing. You never want to get into a position where you have one quiet chatter and one overbearing chatter that doesn’t coax the former out. It’s unsatisfying for the quiet chatter and for the readers in attendance.

SSP: Are there ways a beginner can prepare for a chat?

In addition to doing buddy chats to start? Sure.

Pick venues that are to your comfort level. Some chat rooms are moderated or have a strict stand-in-line-and-wait-your-turn policy about asking the author questions and/or have rules about what questions are too personal to ask. Others are no holds barred and fast-moving. I prefer the latter, but not every author does. Ask around and attend someone else’s chat in the prospective room to see how theirs runs.

Go in prepared. If you cannot type quickly, have a DOC or RTF file open with things like your blurbs in it. Most chat sites allow a small amount of copy and paste instead of typing, so break the blurbs down into a sentence or two per “copy line.” If you get flustered, have Post-It Notes around your desk with pertinent facts on them. Since so many people ask me for things like my current resume or how many releases I have in the next quarter, I tend to count it before chats and use a Post-It to keep the up-to-date numbers on hand.

Relax. Keep in mind that the readers aren’t there to jump on you. They are interested in you and/or your work. They are looking to buy new authors. They WANT to like you. So, try not to get too nervous.

Typos are expected. In fact, we jokingly call them “chatroomese,” and that’s spoken in all chats. No one expects your typing to be perfect in a chat room.

And don’t forget to promote your chat! On your site, Facebook, blog, MySpace, lists that allow a promo post for such things (but remember that it’s considered rude to promote a chat at review site A’s chat room at review site B’s list). You’ll find that there is a core readership that routinely makes all a certain chat room’s chats, but you may draw in new readers, and they like that.

SSP: Any advice on mistakes to avoid while discussing your work in a chat room?

I already said to familiarize yourself with the chat room etiquette of the room you’re in. Keep your responses to the room level. If it’s a staid room with taboo topics, don’t be too over the top. If it’s no-holds barred, you don’t have to go full bore, but you don’t have to worry about it either.

These people want to know you, but they are not your confidants. Think about a cocktail party with strangers. There are just some things you don’t want or need to tell them.

SSP: Can you tell us about one or two other favorite ways to promote your books?

One of the best (and most enjoyable) promos I do would be either free reads or writing stories for the byline (or for charity anthologies). It also tends to give me a good return on investment.

I also enjoy making banner ads (animated GIFs) and book videos. That’s my down time…an enjoyable sideline to writing.

SSP: Do you have any general words of advice for a newbie promoter?

Like anything else in book marketing, everything you do will appeal to a certain percentage of the readership. You can’t just do one thing. You want a wide variety of them, and then you want to net them together so you (for instance) use good reviews on your blog, in your signature line, your mailing list, etc.

Should chats be all you do? Of course not! That’s one facet of marketing. All told, there should be several subdivisions of online marketing…

ONLINE PRESENCE- author web site, MySpace, Facebook, Amazon Author Central, Red Room Authors, Manic Readers page, TRS page, Ning, author newsletter or newsletter list, etc.

BLOGS- Blogger, LiveJournal, Amazon, Ning, MySpace, etc.

MINI-BLOGS- Twitter, Google Wave, Facebook, etc.

GROUPS- Yahoo or Google groups, and don’t forget your tag line…not just reader loops but also author loops…don’t heavy sell it; talk about whatever they are talking about

FORUMS- depending on your genre

CHATS- I think we’ve covered that. Grinning…

INTERVIEWS- not just print ones online but also internet radio and so forth…don’t forget to use these other places…all promotion should be a web of overlapping and interlocking efforts

REVIEWS- it’s not enough to have them…use them with your other efforts

CROSS-LINKING- with other authors, publishers, on sites that keep lists of certain genres and book content

BANNER ADS- not just pay ones on review sites but also free ones on all of your online presence (blogs, pages, etc.) and cross-banner with other authors

PROMO/NETWORKING GROUPS- places like IWOFA, BroadUniverse, and Bookwormbags

CONTESTS- not just on your own site but also group contests with places like IWOFA

SPOTLIGHTS- often held for several hours or all day on Yahoo or Google groups…or for a week or month on review sites…which means having representative blurbs and excerpts, which rank high in the online return on investment scale

FREE READS- at least for short periods of time and/or short stories that tie to existing worlds you write in

WRITING SHORT STORIES/ARTICLES for magazines or charity anthologies (for the byline) and anthologies (for small payment and exposure of the byline)…small investment from you and big returns

And so forth. For the best return, authors should choose at least one or two of the possible promo types in as many of these SUBDIVISIONS as he/she is comfortable with and then make them work together in a promo web.

In addition, though online marketing has double the return (in general) that physical promo does, a little physical promo is always a good idea.

ADS- online and in magazines…get into group ads, when possible, but don’t overdo it, since research shows you need to repeat ads in the same venue upwards of 6-10 times to get the best return from it, and few people can afford that

PROMO CDS- especially if you can get into group ones with a low overhead

WEARING/CARRYING YOUR OWN PROMO GEAR- bumper stickers, t-shirts, carry the book, keychains…carry extras of small things with you…carry business cards with you

STREET TEAMS- wearing/carrying your promo gear and passing it out, wherever they are

CARD CULT- this is a fun one and very inexpensive

SIGNED BOOKPLATES- enough said…these are very popular with some readers

DODADS- pens, pins, etc. Pens are a good choice, because people are less likely to throw them away. Some people do collect signed paper promos, but they are more likely to be trashed than pens are; if people don’t keep them, they pass them along, and that’s good. Be sure to have a catchy tag line on them. Use them in group efforts like Bookwormbags. BUT…don’t just leave them places or stuff them in bills or whatever, willy nilly. Pens are about the only promo that does well when left in places where people use pens (signing checks, making out bank deposits, etc.) Most left-behind promo gets trashed.

ALL promo is cumulative. What you do, combined with what they do, combined with what other authors with the publisher do that brings people to the publisher site, benefits you…and vice versa. So, don’t be shy about passing along recommended reads of other books/authors with your publisher. Don’t be shy about passing along special events the publisher is doing, even if they don’t directly seem to benefit you. Don’t be shy about teaching the other authors how to market, if you know more than they do.

I could go on and on, but the full class I teach on this is 30 pages of notes.

SSP: Thank you so much, Brenna, for this wealth of helpful information! You can read more advice from Brenna at Broadsheet or attend one of her talks at your next writer’s conference.

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

In Memoriam

by | July 24, 2009 | General | 3 comments

By Lisabet Sarai

Approximately two years ago, the mega-publisher Random House acquired Virgin Books, including its celebrated erotica imprints Black Lace and Nexus. Roughly two weeks ago, Random House announced that they planned to shut down both lines. For many of us in the erotica reading and writing community, this is extremely sad though not completely unexpected news.

Speaking from a personal perspective, Black Lace is responsible for my ten year career as an erotica author. It’s not only the fact that Black Lace published my first novel, Raw Silk. I would never have written the book in the first place if I hadn’t picked up a copy of Portia da Costa’s Black Lace title Gemini Heat from the bookshelf of my hotel in Instanbul. Gemini Heat (which I’ve recently learned was Portia’s first novel) overwhelmed me with its sensuality, imagination, diversity and intelligence. To put it more crudely, it was possibly the hottest thing I’d ever read, far surpassing the Pauline Reage and A. N. Roquelaure titles that had been my touchstones up to that point.

My first reaction was “Wow!” My second was, “I’ll bet I could write something like that…”

Erotic fiction for women, by women. Back in 1993, when Black Lace launched, this was an original, even radical concept. Before the Best Women’s Erotica series, before Susie Bright’s Best American Erotica, there was Black Lace: carefully crafted, meticulously edited, classy stories about women and sex with three dimensional characters and non-trivial plots. Rich, delicious, graphic, transgressive—erotic fantasies that you could enjoy at both an intellectual and a physical level.

Some people, including members of the ERWA Writers list, have a long-standing gripe with Black Lace’s women-only policy, which they view as discriminatory. I do not plan to reignite that debate here. As a marketing ploy, however, the policy was effective, at least initially. Since 1993, Black Lace has published over 250 titles and sold more than three million books. Paper books, mind you.

Black Lace helped establish the mainstream market for erotica. Black Lace didn’t exactly make erotica respectable—that might be a contradiction, even counter-productive—but it provided a steady diet of erotic content that aroused without insulting the reader’s intelligence.

Markets evolve, however. It is a truism at this point that the publishing industry has changed dramatically in the last half decade, and is continuing to do so. The rise of e-publishing and Print-On-Demand pose challenges to traditional publishing concerns. Meanwhile, the erotica market has matured and diversified. Black Lace was a pioneer, but in recent years seems to have been involved in a game of me-too, jumping on the popular bandwagons of paranormal romance and softer core erotic chick lit. When I saw that that the 15th Anniversary reissue of Gemini Heat was being pushed as erotic romance, I just sighed. I had this sinking feeling that the end was near.

Still, I am personally saddened by what I see as Random House’s short-sighted decision. I realized while working on this post that in addition to bringing out my first novel, Black Lace also printed my first erotic short story, “Glass House”, which I wrote and submitted to the Storytime list a few weeks after joining ERWA in 1999. Actually, Black Lace rejected more of my work than it accepted (including my second and third novels) but I do not hold that against them. In fact, it might be considered as a mark of their discriminating tastes!

When I was waiting for Raw Silk to come out, I fantasized about going to London to participate in a book release party that Virgin Books would throw. I saw myself drinking champagne and hobnobbing with all the other erotica authors, imagining them as a glamorous, sexy lot. I wondered about what costume I should wear to fit in. Leather mini-skirt and high-heeled boots? The red cocktail dress with the plunging neckline? Maybe I’d actually meet Portia da Costa! I pictured her as tall, curvy, and dramatic, rather like one of her heroines.

If Portia’s reading this now (we’ve become good cyber-friends, though so far we haven’t met in the flesh), I know she’s laughing. How little I knew about the prosaic, penny-pinching world of publishing!

Now, in fact, there will be a party, though it’s a bit late. The Black Lace editor, Adam Neville, has announced a wake in early August, to mourn the passing of Black Lace and Nexus. The image at the top of this post was part of his invitation.

Alas, I can’t attend this gathering—I’m even further from London now than I was in 1999. I’ll raise my glass, though, to toast sixteen years of lust-filled, literate sex, and observe a moment of silence. Requiescat in Pace.

Visit Lisabet’s Fantasy Factory: http://www.lisabetsarai.com

Confessions of a Literary Streetwalker: Staying Fresh

by | July 6, 2009 | Confessions of a Literary Streetwalker |

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

This month’s Streetwalker comes from a suggestion by the wonderful Adrienne here at ERA. When I asked her for some possible topics to cover she gave me: “How about plot ideas, how to keep works fresh and unique and advice on where to look for plot/character inspiration?” If anyone else has any ideas for columns, by the way, please feel free to zap them to me and I’ll consider them.

Now I’ve sort of touched on keeping an eye out for story ideas before, but it bears exploring a bit more. Keeping your work fresh is more than a little important for any writer, especially for smut authors.

For me, stories are everywhere – and to be honest I don’t think I’m special. It’s all a matter of keeping your eyes open, but most importantly PLAYING with the world around you.

It should be obvious that in order to write about the world you need to know something about it, but what a lot of people don’t seem to realize is that sitting in a coffee shop, scribbling away in a notebook while you ponder the imponderables of human nature isn’t likely to yield anything usable. Getting your hands dirty, though, will.

By that I mean really exploring yourself as well as other people. Look at who you are, why you do what you do – both emotionally as well as sexually. The same goes for the people around you. Spend some time really thinking about them, their motivations, their pleasures, or what experiences they may have had.

Dig deep — ponder their reactions as well as your own. Sharpen your perceptions. Why do they say what they say? What do people admire? Why? What do they despise? Why? That last question should almost always be in your mind – directed outward as well as inward: why? This depth of understanding, or just powerful examination, is a great tool for developing both stories as well as characters.

Along with studying the world, pay attention to good work no matter where you find it. A lot of writing teachers tell students to get intimate with the classics – which I agree with, but also think it’s equally important to recognize great writing even when it’s on the back of a cereal box. Read a lot, see a lot of movies, watch a lot of TV – and pay attention when something good, or great, comes along. Don’t dismiss anything until you’ve tried it, at least for a little while. Examples? Romance novels, comic books, documentaries, sitcoms, cartoon shows, old radio shows, pulps, westerns, and so forth. There’s gold all around you, if you dig around enough

Not for the fun – playing. Look at that guy sitting over there, the one by the window: Heavy, messy hair, chewing with his mouth open – easy to peg him as lonely, creepy, or even seriously perverse. Easy is a shortcut, easy is dull, easy is lazy. Instead try seeing him as something completely different than your initial assessment. Maybe his mind is lovely and musical. Perhaps his touch is gentle and loving. Who knows, maybe he’s a sex magnet – with more boyfriends/girlfriends than he knows what to do with.

Say you’ve stumbled on a particularly good book, show, series, or whatever. Great, bravo, applause – now write something like it. Who cares that the show will never, ever look at your story, or that the medium is long dead (like radio drama). Do it anyway. Have fun – PLAY! Get into the habit of automatically either writing your own version or fixing what you see as a flaw in the original. If you’re reading a book, stop halfway through and finish it in your mind – and then when you do finally turn that last page was your version better? If not then what did the author do that you didn’t?

I love coming attractions, the trailers for movies. Watching them, I always make up my own movie based on what I’ve seen. Sometimes it’s better – at least I think so – sometimes not, then I look at what the director did better than I did when the flick finally comes out.

Playing and watching, studying, that’s the ticket. If you keep your mind sharp, notice details, and examine yourself and the world around you as well as challenging and playing with story ideas, then writing a story for a very specific Call for Submission or for some other strange project will be easy and your story will be original and fresh.

“Shameless” Internet Promotion Tips from Jeremy Edwards

by | June 30, 2009 | General | 1 comment

I continue my series of author interviews for my “Shameless Self-Promotion” column with a kitchen table chat in the charming company of Jeremy Edwards, one of the most prolific and talented erotica authors working today. Jeremy is a frequent contributor to print venues such as Scarlet Magazine, Forum UK, The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica, and anthologies by Cleis and Xcite, as well as numerous webzines like Clean Sheets, The Erotic Woman, and Oysters and Chocolate. His first novel, Rock My Socks Off, will be released by Xcite Books in January 2010.

As readers of my column well know, selling a novel requires a lot of self-promotion, but Jeremy already has an impressive track record of introducing his work and his “brand” of witty, smart erotic fiction to the world in creative, unexpected ways. One of Jeremy’s main tools for promotion is the Internet, the topic of this month’s column, and so he’s graciously agreed to share some of his experiences with his fellow authors. Jeremy’s example is proof positive that every writer can benefit from early self-promotion.

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

Jeremy Edwards: It’s sometimes hard to measure these things, of course; but one promotional opportunity I had that seemed to be particularly effective was an interview (with story excerpt) at a website whose flagship merchandise consists of sex toys. Though they also sell books–and that was the raison d’etre for their featuring an anthology I’m part of–I would speculate that their audience may include a lot of people who don’t spend as much time exploring and researching the world of erotic literature as some of us do, but who *are* interested in it when it’s presented to them. In other words, I’m thinking that doing promo in a context where you can be exposed to a number of people who haven’t already heard of you, but who are likely to dig what you do, may be especially rewarding.

My other answer, I guess, is just to do as much online promotion (the area I’m primarily familiar with, thus far) as is reasonably possible and reasonably relevant. Even in the close-knit world of
erotica-author blogland, it seems that everywhere one goes, one encounters fans and colleagues of one’s colleagues whom one hasn’t previously had the chance to perform for, despite the mere two degrees of separation. And these are just the vocal people–think of all the lurkers out there, too! Everyone with a blog or a podcast has his or her own loyal followers, so you’re pretty much guaranteed to reach at least a partially new audience wherever you go. And if you’re invited back after some time has elapsed, well why not go back? There are sure to be people who missed you the first time who catch you the next time.

Mind you, with all this talk of reaching a new audience, I’m not in any way discounting the “old audience”! On the contrary: how wonderful–and fun!–it always is when friends and colleagues show up to lend support. And, hey, even established friends and fans can sometimes use a reminder that a new book is available–and an online promotional appearance is the perfect reminder.

SSP: What have been the most enjoyable ways to promote your work?

I love all of it–basically, I’m the stage-struck type, whether it’s the relatively literal stage of a live reading or the more metaphorical platform of a radio interview or blog appearance. One of my favorite formats is the combination interview/reading/conversation with a radio host: it’s fun to go back and forth from the structured Q&A to the casual discussion to the rehearsed on-air story readings. It’s a nice blend of the prepared and the spontaneous, discourse and banter, anticipated topics and surprises.

SSP: What has been the most surprising thing about the experience of book promotion?
It’s been a delightful surprise to see how many scintillating, generous people there are out there
who are eager to use their time and bandwidth to feature erotica writers on their online turf. This has struck me even as a short-story author, i.e., someone without a book that’s “all mine” to promote (though stay tuned on that one!).

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

This answer doesn’t exactly correspond to the question you asked… but the support and enthusiasm of all the people who give us time in their spotlights is one of the things that motivates me to KEEP WRITING. Because, you know, there are people who care!

SSP: How about sharing your thoughts on a few specific strategies. How about blogging?

I think that regular blogging can be immeasurably helpful to a writer’s public presence. Whether it’s in-depth essays, day-to-day life-of-the-writer reports, bulletins and book covers, random musings, recommendations, links, interviews, contests, or anything else… just putting in an appearance once a week or more, in my opinion, really gives your readers a sense of your personality; keeps them from losing track of what you’re publishing; and makes them–quite rightly–look upon you as an online friend and not only as a “body of work.”

SSP: Mailing lists/author newsletters?
It’s so easy to maintain an e-mail mailing list–especially if you draw on content you’ve already assembled for your blog. My feeling is that if there are people out there who care enough about what I’m doing to ask me to mail them updates, and who prefer to have this info sent directly to them rather than (or in addition to) visiting my blog… then I’m sure as heck going to accommodate them!

SSP: Radio interviews?
If you’re not prohibitively shy, and if scheduling and time-zone issues aren’t an obstacle, then I strongly encourage you to take advantage of offers to appear on radio shows/podcasts. There’s nothing like hearing an author’s work read in her/his own voice, and a friendly audio interview adds a nice new dimension to a reader’s image of a favorite writer.

SSP: Any other strategies you’d like to suggest?

I think creativity is a big plus in online promotional strategies, especially where it directly involves the readers. I do love conventional interviews and guest-blog essays, both as a featured writer and an interested reader … but if your host is open to something “different,” consider turning your appearance into something more novel–a game, a quiz, a character-playing session, or whatever your inventive writer’s mind can concoct. These devices (or, okay, gimmicks) can even be combined with something more sedate like an interview, so you can really have it both ways.

SSP: Thank you so much, Jeremy, for sharing your inspiring ideas with us!

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

Shameless Self-Promotion: Sample Book Review Queries

by | June 23, 2009 | General |

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

Here’s the literary version:

Dear [Book Review Editor],

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

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

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

Sincerely,

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

Here’s a version I sent to erotica publications:

Dear [Editor],

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

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

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

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

With best wishes,

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

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

AMOROUS WOMAN
By Donna George Storey

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

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

Good luck with your reviews!

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

Literary Erotica: How to Write Well About Sex

by | May 12, 2009 | General |

with Maxim Jakubowski and Stella Duffy

20-22 November 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RWA officially accepts Rainbow Romance Writers

by | May 2, 2009 | General |

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

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

Our goals are:

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

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

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

http://www.rainbowromancewriters.com

Laura Baumbach
http://www.laurabaumbach.com

Confessions of a Literary Streetwalker: Fetishes

by | April 29, 2009 | Confessions of a Literary Streetwalker | 2 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And who could argue with that?

Shameless Self-Promotion: A Sample Sell Sheet

by | April 28, 2009 | General |

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

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

A Sample Sell Sheet:

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

AMOROUS WOMAN
By Donna George Storey

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

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

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

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

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

Bookstore ordering: Available through Ingram and the Independent Publishers Group

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

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

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

“Shameless” Promotion Tips from Kirsten Menger-Anderson

by | April 6, 2009 | General | 2 comments

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

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

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

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

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

What have been the least effective ways or biggest challenges?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I did it myself. It was fun.

Blogging

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

Mailing lists/author newsletters

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

Getting your book reviewed—the challenges and successes

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

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

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

Book fairs

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

Radio interviews

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

Approaching local bookstores directly

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

Writing articles related to your book for print or online media

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

Bookstore readings

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

Book parties

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

Book trailers

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

Promoting at writing workshops or through other businesses

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

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

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

Any other strategies you’d like to suggest?

I think you’ve covered it!

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

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

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