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.