Blind Dating: Finding the Perfect Markets for Your Erotica


SPP seeks sub for one-time publication, slight pay and possible long-term relationship. Likes solid characterization, good conflict and steamy sex. Dislikes vampires, HEA endings and “ly” words. Please be pedophile- and bestiality-free.

Writers spend a lot of time looking at “want ads” like the one above, trying to figure out exactly what they mean. In this case, it translates to: Small print publisher wants well-written erotic stories. But that’s only the most general sense of what the guidelines are asking for. If you look carefully at the guidelines (and at the publication itself), you’ll learn a lot about exactly what kind of story will create a perfect match. Here, we can see that good writing and hot sex are in, while happy-ever-after endings and under-age sex are out.

Why does this matter? Because, getting published often has less to do with the quality of your work and more to do with matching your work to the proper market. (I’m not advocating poor writing here, of course. Just saying that you can double your chances with good writing and good marketing skills). I know a number of incredibly gifted writers who can’t get their work accepted, namely because there either isn’t a market yet for their style or subject matter or because they haven’t found the right market yet. On the flip side, I’ve read a lot of work that makes me think, “how did that get published?” The answer is likely that the author knew how to pinpoint their work to the right market.

Finding Market Listings

There are a lot of places to find markets for your erotic writing. Best of all, many of them are free and incredibly comprehensive. In addition to websites, there are a number of lists that will send markets to you via e-mail. Careful though: it’s easy to get bogged down searching for markets and not getting any actual writing done, so I recommend finding a few that really work and sticking to them. Here are the ones that I use most often:

Erotica Readers & Writers is strictly for erotica, is updated regularly and includes solid information and links. Covers a wide range of publication types, including websites, anthologies, magazines and more.

Duotrope is a searchable database that is mostly geared toward online and print magazines. Lists erotica-only pubs as well as those that welcome erotic content.

Ralan is primarily a market for sci-fi, fantasy and horror, but has a nice section on “adult” anthologies.

Poets & Writers leans more toward the literary world, but often includes calls for magazines and anthologies that welcome erotic work.

Market Match-Making

So,now that you know where to find markets, how do you know which ones to send your work to? It’s a three-step process:

Know Thy Story. Pretend you’re going to write a want-ad for your story—what are the things you should know about it? First off, the basics: length, sexual-orientation, interests (themes) and anything else that might be good to know.

You should also have a clear understanding of the style of the story, whether it’s literary erotica or porn, and what the overall feel is (does everyone die at the end or is it a funny little romp through the sexual tulips?). Creating a mental want-ad will keep you on the up-and-up, so that you don’t convince yourself that your piece is a slim and fit short story asking for a naughty spanking when it’s really a chubby novella looking for a little manlove.

Know Thy Market. You’ve probably heard this a million and one times, but that’s because it’s true. Read the guidelines. At least twice. And then read examples of stories from the market that you’re aiming for. Not just one story, but many, many. The reason for this is because two markets can have nearly identical guidelines, but if you read the stories, you’ll notice subtle differences in tone and style. Maybe one only publishes HEA endings, while the other one never does.

And, by the way, if a market says it wants only stories that include spankings, then that’s what it means. Don’t send them a poem about blow jobs and hope they’ll fall in love at first sight and want it anyway. Most markets spend a lot of time putting their listings together, so listen to what they’re asking for.

Know Thy Perfect Match. Getting answers to the first two should tell you whether your story and the market go together. This sounds obvious, right? But it’s easy to fool ourselves into thinking that when the guidelines say, “We prefer urban hetero-style erotica,” they really mean, “Yee-haw, send us that Brokeback-style male-male cowboy piece.”

Go through a checklist and make sure as many things as possible match up:

  • Word count
  • Sexual orientation of the piece
  • Style/slant/focus
  • Specific interest or theme
  • Sexual orientation and/or gender of the author (some markets specify this)
  • Anything and everything else that you can possible think of

Keeping Track: Your Little Black Book

Once you find markets that you want to submit to—now or in the future—it’s important to keep track of them. Again, there are a number of ways to do this. Choosing which system is right goes back to that know thyself thing. I have a friend who puts everything on note cards, the very idea of which gives me the heebie-jeebies. Another friends prints out every market she finds and keeps them all in a perfect filing system. Ack.

I’m too lazy, I have no memory, and I need something that I can search. Not to mention that I don’t always work at home and I am so not carrying a huge folder system of markets everywhere I go.

I opt for a free web-based organizer, one that I can access from any computer with a sign-in (The one I use is Toodledo, but there are lots of other options, including Outlook Express, Google Calendar and Zoho Creator). As soon as I find a potential market, I cut and paste the guidelines, the urls and any deadlines. Then, once I finish a story, I can search and see if I have a market. Latex? Yep. Latex lesbians? Oh, wow, look, there’s two. Now I can narrow down even farther. Oh, look, this really wants latex lesbians in relationships. That fits my story perfectly. I’ll send it there first, and it gets rejected, I’ll send it off to the other one.

Blind-submitting sucks almost as much as blind dating. But just a bit of research into your writing and your options, and you’ll be cozying up to your perfect market in no time. And they might even offer to pick up the tab.

Ready to send that submission off and make a great first impression? Come back next month for my column, “Just Submit Already: The basics of sending your story off.”

More Friends Who Will Help You Hook Up With that Perfect Match:

Shanna Germain
October 2007

“Sexy on the Page” © 2007 Shanna Germain. All rights reserved.

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