Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Big Bucks!

by Daddy X

Looking forward to a big check from my publisher next quarter! Booya! Just had a big sale of the Halloween-themed “Witching Hour” by House Of Erotica! 

Yep, Annabeth- you’ll see a big jump too, for your fine piece “If I Ask”, the story right before mine: “Overscratch” in that same anthology.

So here’s how it goes— Last week, I went out and bought twenty copies, then took ‘em around to the various sex shops in the SF Bay Area. Obviously, I couldn’t hit all the stores, and I didn’t go for the sleaziest of the bunch (Heheh. maybe one or two, just … y’know, for research purposes?) but I think I may have given enough away to maybe stir a little interest during a Halloween season. Isn’t that how promotion is done?

Could be that makes me the biggest buyer yet.

Of course, the “law of diminishing returns” impacts a project like this, seeing they cost me 10 bucks apiece, and I’m giving them away, spending gas money too, but it’s the way I know to promote myself. Coming from the business-card/personal charm school of advertising, at 70 years old it doesn’t go as far as it used to. Umm … as I’m finding out.

Take marketing, for instance. I know that today, an author has the greatest potential for exposure in history. However, a corked bottle with a note inside, thrown into the ocean, gets a lot of exposure too. Just not that likely you’ll hit people who you’d want to find the bottle and see inside: BUY MY BOOK.

So what’s an old hippie burnout to do? As others here have said, we seem to write for ourselves—other writers of the genre. Many of my finished works can be found in the ERWA archives, a readership consisting mostly of writers. Luckily, that’s enough for now. I’ve made a mark in a genial but competitive endeavor. A medium-sized fish in a small pond. A pond full of erotica writers. Agreed, these readers/writers/critiquers vary vastly in experience and skill, (and we tend to be sensitive folks, not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings) but we all know what we like. Sometimes we hit the nail on the head. Sometimes we miss the mark for one and please another. Sometimes we simply miss the mark.

Critiques of my stories can vary, but in general, I think my readership does like the work. But where to take it from there? Success, for most, is measured in money. Having people go into their pockets and hand you cash. That’s where I get lost. I’m past the “growth industry” stage of my life, comfortable in retirement, and not expecting much monetary recompense for my efforts. That’s not so bad. It’s like a ticket to freedom.

When I sit down to write, I generally don’t know where I’m going. I don’t know if what I’m beginning would fill a particular editor/publisher’s niche or not. If lucky, I may have the first sentence and a vague idea for a character. Or for a sex act. It’s enough to be absorbed in a story that’s expanding—often, it feels—without my input. I just push the keys. My characters blaze the way.

Much of my stuff may not be easy to categorize. A typical story begins appearing within a fairly staid, easy to comprehend, even lazy, conversational approach. I build slowly to a gonzo pitch, finally encompassing quite bizarre situations that would be difficult to pull off without the fallow start. I like events to occur that I hadn’t planned, that my characters hadn’t planned, pumping out words as the characters pump each other. The characters go over the top, delving within themselves, losing their minds and bodies and sense of discretion for love. In turn, my fingertips attach themselves to my basest brain-cords, bypassing the conscious mind.

Difficult to go off half-cocked with the weight of a submission call for something specific, and a happy ever after, which editors tend to want. I can’t always guarantee which way that wind’s blowing.

It’s enough that an erotica writer has about the most restrictions on their writing as those of any genre. We have to bow to convention regarding age, content, consent, relations or ad nauseum if we call it erotica, but not if it’s a mainstream novel. A Phillip Roth or Nicholson Baker can get away with what we can’t. So it isn’t that readers don’t want the stronger stuff; it’s just that it’s not supposed to stimulate, exactly what the best erotica blatantly (read heroically) attempts to accomplish. No mean task.

We get into personal squeals and squicks. No doubt there’s as much complex variation of what details turn people on or off sexually as there are people. Remember those scenes and lines by your favorite stroke authors?  The ones that can dependably hooray places between your thighs every time? Your best friend may never respond to N.T. Morley.

Of course, sub-genres within erotica allow for some general classification, but when it gets down to individual readers, who knows? The combinations and requirements are limitless, even to a mood or time of day. This is where the treasure of erotica can be excavated, if we can keep it alive and spontaneous. Trick is to come up with something new. In my opinion, it’s counterintuitive to come up with new ideas when writing to spec. Maybe that’s where I fall down as a writer. The real pros can work within convention and still shine.

Or is it all just a crap shoot lottery, popularity no more predictable than the shape of a snowflake.

In other words, I don’t have much experience in marketing myself as a writer, but I’m trying.

Writing to a new topic every two weeks at Oh Get A Grip has sharpened my confidence, improving my ability to write to spec without feeling nervous or negative about it.


11 comments:

  1. The whole "writing to spec" idea is why I enter short story contests. I go from feeling like, "I'll never come up with anything, this prompt is so dumb," etc. To writing something that occasionally wins! Woot!

    But mostly my stories present themselves to me in stages, with the sexy parts what I spend the most amount of time mulling over...purely for research purposes, of course! ;-D

    I already feel like I've become an invisible woman, since women over 50 don't get ogled and leered at as much as younger women. The only time I felt less visible was when I was pregnant. So the idea of dropping out of the rat race, while signaling advancing age, is becoming more attractive to me as I get tired of working multiple jobs. I'm looking forward to a time when, hopefully, I won't have to care that my books aren't making me much in royalties. My original hope of substituting my novel-writing as a way to give up my second job was a naive dream, that died soon after the first royalties check that was under $5.

    Thanks for adding your perspective to things. Makes me feel like life after retirement isn't that scary after all.

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    1. Yes, Fiona- My first few checks were more valuable framed as proof I'd had something pubbed. :>).

      Like here, kid- go out and buy yourself a soda.

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  2. Having a life of your choice after retirement is the way to go. Or, um, the way to be. There are still scary parts, but if you can look at yourself and see a"there" there, you're ahead of the game.

    Daddy X, I admire your commitment to marketing. When it comes to buying up books, I've never gone farther than to watch for deals on new books on the Amazon marketplace sellers' list, or once or twice ordered a book from Amazon to nudge up its rating. Not any use at all, I'm sure.

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    1. Been hustling all my life. It's all I know. I've always tried to turn my hobbies into businesses, but this one will only be worth it as food for the soul. Quite valuable in itself.

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  3. Daddy, I love the image of you going around the Bay area with Witching Hour in hand. I hope it helps! Whatever happens, I bet you charmed the hell out of people! :)

    As far as writing to spec, I think of it like writing poetic forms. There is inspiration in the constraint. Also, my concerns as a writer always shine through no matter what I'm trying to do--sort of like what Giselle described last week re Seven Kisses.

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  4. "There is inspiration in the constraint."

    Brilliant, Annabeth

    I thought along those lines while writing this blog, but didn't want to go into that particular tangent at this time. Hmmm... thought for awhile I'd gotten it by. :>) But you're right. There is no game when there are no rules.

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  5. Just to add to this ongoing saga with these books I'm distributing-

    Was in Napa (yes, of wine fame) today on another matter, but stopped into "Pleasures Unlimited" and the owner took four copies he's willing to put in the store. Now all I gotta do is drive back thirty miles and pick up the cash! (if they sell at cost) Hoh boy! We're on our way now, you betcha!!!

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  6. Now that's dedication to marketing, Daddy. I am hugely impressed. But then, we have to choose the sort of marketing that fits our individual lives and our talents. For you that's clearly hustling. I could never do that.

    With regard to writing to spec, I actually like to take a CFS and see how far I can twist it without shattering it completely. I often take a theme as a challenge. How far can I pervert this and still get accepted.

    Doesn't always work, of course. My story about the Hindu goddess Parvati as succubus didn't make it, for example!

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    1. My bartender and antique dealer experience sharpened my extemporaneous skills, but I was never afraid of engaging the public. Dealing with stuff on the spur of the moment has worked better than most of my plans, which always morph into something unforeseen.

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  7. I'm impressed with your marketing strategy too, Daddy X. Years ago, when "Desires" came out (stories by ERWA authors), I took it to a local indie bookstore to try to interest the owner. Egad. Wrong store, wrong book, wrong approach. I didn't try that again.
    Lisabet, I'm sure there is a market for your Parvati story. It might not have fit a particular CFS, but would probably fit a different one, or a single-author collection.

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    1. Yes, Jean-

      I limited the approach to sex shops to avoid such rejection. Christ, I get enough of that shit from publishers :>) One local bookstore "The Loveable Rogue" took several copies, but I know him and he's seen my writing. Funny... that still didn't scare him off. :>)

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