As mentioned before, I've recently started up an erotica and erotic romance publishing company. As such, a lot of my reading of late has been the slush pile.
(However, for those keeping track of how geeky I am, I recently finished Star Trek: Prey: Book Two: The Jackal's Trick and I'm currently reading Star Trek: Prey: Book Three: The Hall of Heroes. I'm also working on Abaddon's Gate, book three of The Expanse.)
Reading through the slush has been interesting. We've received a wide variety of stories -- everything from MF to FF and MM, as well as BDSM, FemDom, comedic horror, historical, fantasy, and more. Taking the lead from our acquisitions editor, I've started to develop a sense of how to tell if a story is good, even if the writing needs some work.
It can be tempting to accept everything that's sent our way, to see the good in everything -- after all, I hate to be someone that says "no" to something and I like to give everyone a chance. But this is a business and we need to make some tough choices.
Sometimes it's an obvious "yes," like when the writing is phenomenal, the synopsis is gripping, and the sex scenes ooze with eroticism. Other times, it's a little tougher. The writing may be a little rough around the edges and the execution may need a little work, but at its core, the story is strong and the voice is unique. (That was my toughest lesson, seeing the hidden gems.) And still other times, it can be difficult -- I might love a story idea and the attitude of the author, but the writing just doesn't do it for me. There have been a few times where I've been excited to read an authors pages, only to soon be let down. Very rarely is something a flat-out "no" right from reading the query letter.
Now that this business is in full swing, I'm reading more than ever, but barely managing time to write. I read the query letters everyone sends and I read at least the first few paragraphs of every submission. But after a book has been through the editors, I read everything before we publish it. Right now, we're doing mostly short stories and novellas, but we will be including some novels and longer fiction in the near future. That's a lot of time spent reading that I used to spend writing.
While I could complain that with less time to write, I'm doing less of what I wish I could do more of, I've found reading submissions and publishing books to be very educational. I'm a person who never stops learning and so to see how other authors are approaching their craft and studying how other authors portray their sex scenes, I suspect that I'll be a stronger writer in the near future.
Only a few years ago, I read over 70 books in one year. This year, excluding the books I'll read as part of the publishing process, I'll likely reach only a dozen or so. I suspect I'll also be reading fewer erotic books by choice, since most of my "work" reading will be erotic, meaning for the next several "What I'm Reading" posts, you can expect lots of Star Trek, with perhaps the occasional thriller.
(If you're interested, I recently wrote a post on my blog about writing sexy descriptions -- based on my learnings from reading the slush pile.)
Cameron D. James is a writer of gay erotica and M/M erotic romance; his latest release is Erotic Love & Carnal Sins: Confessions of a Priest (co-written with Sandra Claire). He is also the publisher and co-founder of Deep Desires Press, a publisher of erotica and high-heat-level erotic romance. He lives in Canada, is always crushing on Starbucks baristas, and has two rescue cats. To learn more about Cameron, visit http://www.camerondjames.com.