Sunday, December 05, 2004

Writing Smut for Profit


It's Not just an Adventure
 It's a JOB
Whoever told you that writing fiction for adult industry publication - for money - is supposed to be Artistic, Fun, or Easy -- LIED.
Writing may look artistic, and creative writing certainly is artistic (that's why they call it Creative Writing,) but writing for a living - writing for publication with the intent to get paid on a regular basis - is NOT artistic - it's NOT always fun and it certainly is NOT easy.

Writing for publication in the adult industry is WORK. Sure, some of it is fun, but the bulk of it is mind-bending, eye-straining work. Don't get me wrong, creativity is part of the job of writing for a living... But if you think us professional writers turn on "the Creative Muse" at 8 AM and shut her back off again at 5:30 PM then you are missing the point entirely.

The Road to publication is paved with
glamorous Half-Truths.

Half-Truth: "If you write it - it will Sell."
Whole Truth: "If you write it, and we are already looking for it - we'll Buy it."
If you have written a spectacular BDSM story and the Publisher is looking for a Lesbian story, they will pass over your wonderful BDSM for a Lesbian one with only half the quality of your BDSM, because Lesbian is what they have an opening for - not BDSM.

And when they hang onto your stuff for months - or even years - at a time? Think of it this way: They're probably waiting for an opening that they have the perfect story for.

Half-Truth: "Once you're in with a good Adult Novel or Magazine publisher - you're in for life!"
Whole Truth: "Once you're in with a good publisher - you have to prove that you can Write On Demand."

While your name is still sitting on the `net (or the shelf,) you have until the next publishing cycle to punch out another story equally as good. (One month for your average magazine and one year for a novel.)

Only this time, the publisher is going to tell you what they want: "Gimme the same story, different characters, same plot arc but move some stuff around - oh and this time, don't have them do this, the readers don't like it, have them do that instead." (Sigh.)
Look at it this way: You don't have to guess what the publisher wants this time around.

Half-Truth: "Once I'm in with a good publisher - I can write whatever I want..."
Whole Truth: "If you want to stay with that good publisher you better write, what they want, when they want it, in the way they want it written."
You're going to tell the publisher that you will only write what YOU want to write? Do you really think any publishing house is going to hire a writer that won't do what they want them to do? Unless you are Susie Bright or Anne Rice: "Game-Over, man. Game-Over."

Time to go back to your desk, find a new pen name, punch out yet another novel - and go through the whole damn thing all over again to find another publisher. Only this time your new publishing house will call your old publishing house and ask what the problem was. Why aren't you with Them anymore?

Let me repeat myself: Do you really think a publishing house is going to hire a writer that won't write what they want them to write?
You want to make money? Then you knuckle under and Work your butt off to deliver what the adult publisher is asking for.

Writing for Publication is NOT about creativity.
- It's about Money.
Writing for a living is about sitting at a desk, in an office, every day and WRITING whether or not you `feel like it'. Does this make you less artistic? Does this mean that you are not being creative? Does this make you a hack writer?

Forget all that stuff - it makes you EMPLOYED.

What else would you call it? Authors telecommute their work - and progress - to their editors and get paid for it. The faster they write the faster they're paid. The better they conform to the publishing house's demands, the better they are paid. End story.

A publisher is in the business of selling Books or Magazines - not displaying Art or promoting Literature. They are looking for what THEY want, WHEN they want it in the WAY they want it. Period.

If you can sneak interesting, different and Creative writing in between their formulaic demands GREAT! They Love that! But in the mean time - the rest of your work had better conform to what they want.

What if the Muse strikes and you get a terrific idea? Great! Write it between assignments and make the publisher PAY through the Nose to get it.

Half-Truth: "I can make a fortune writing Sex stories..."Whole Truth: "You can make a fortune writing sex stories - if you sell it to a top publishing house, and it ends up on the New York Times Bestseller list - in one of the top 5 positions."
Erotic Romance is currently making a huge sweep in the eBook market. Authors for ePublishing Houses like New Concepts Publishing, Amber Quill, Loose Id, ExtasyBooks.com and Ellora's Cave are making rather tidy - and regular - royalties on their erotica novels, but not a fortune.

The Sex-story or Porn Letter on the other hand, is much faster and far easier to crank out at volume. It's also steadier work than erotica and it pays better per word count. ($25.00 to $150.00 per letter at 15,000 words max.)

What? Did you think adult magazine Letters were written by Amateurs? Hell no! Those are professional writers. Trust me, a magazine editor will accept and pay more for a letter written by a professional writer than anything written by an amateur. In addition: the more expensive the magazine, the more they'll (probably) pay their writers.

Note: The writing standards for Erotica Markets are higher than those asking for Sex Stories.
Translation: To write erotica, you have to use basic grammar, characterization and a PLOT.

You also have to SELL.

"What a wonderful rant! And here I was thinking that perhaps my being a mercenary writer was an anomaly! Fortunately, I have been doing everything you state here since I started, and people have become very annoyed with me because I keep succeeding when they fail… But even writing isn't everything. Your post didn't go far enough..."
Half-Truth: "Once your masterpiece is in print, people will buy it, love it, and demand more."
Whole Truth: "People will buy it if they KNOW about it, will love it if the reviewers tell them it's wonderful, and will demand more if they know more are possible."

You also have to SELL. Sell yourself, sell your book and sell your ability to do it all over again. The publisher doesn't want to work. They want to put the book on the shelf and have people slavering over it. But that doesn't just *happen* all by itself. Someone has to hype it, and it won't be the publisher.

The author must tell the readers. The author must solicit the reviewers, must produce press releases and attend book signings and make sure the readers know there will be new books. "But thanks for bolstering me up a bit. It's a lonely life in front of the computer, pushing and pushing to get noticed. Apparently, it's worth the trouble!"

~ Cathy Clamp ~
Published Author

Does this seem like Too Much Work?
The average 60k category-length book takes 6 to 8MONTHS to write.
  • ...And then you have to Edit the manuscript, which takes about a month just for typos - that's if you already know your grammar and have the basics of story structure.
  • ...And then you have to Shop it to the publishers, this alone can take YEARS, (Christine Feehan had a over half a dozen full novels WRITTEN before she was noticed by her publisher.)
  • ...And then you have to negotiate with the publishers, which can take months just in haggling over contract clauses.
  • ...And then you have to Edit the story AGAIN to what the Publisher thinks they can sell. This can mean ripping out whole hunks of plot and rewriting your characters to make them More Suitable for THEIR readingaudience. Add a few more months.
  • ...And then it may be a Year or More before it ever shows up on the shelf.
  • Don't even THINK about royalties unless you sell spectacularly well. And even if you Do sell well, royalties won't even show up until a full YEAR AFTER PUBLICATION.

Writing Is NOT a Get-Rich-Quick career
- by any means.
Writing is TIME CONSUMING hard freaking work. Make no mistake - Writing for Profit is a 24/7 JOB - not something you pump out on the weekends when you're bored.

If you are prepared for the realities of Publication, you CAN Profit, in the long run. But - Not everyone wants to devote their entire waking life to research and typing. The big question is: What Do YOU Really WANT?
~ What is more crucial to your Personal Writing Happiness? ~
Your Artistic Expression?
- Then you are a "Recreational writer"; someone who writes for the sheer pleasure of doing something creative. You are an Artist. Your future consists of publishing one 'great work', with the possibility of publishing another 'great work' a few years (or more) later on down the road - and never with the same publishing house.

Making Money?
- You are a "Mercenary writer" who will pump out what ever is asked for in a timely professional manner. You have all the traits of a professional Ghostwriter. Most ghostwriters make better money than most authors - because their books sell off the shelves every time. They're writing under someone else's already established and popular name.
What? Did you really think those big-time authors that wrote 3-6 books a year, wrote them All By Themselves??? HELL NO! They have a staff and / or ghostwriters to support them - and that staff gets paid - and paid well.

Fame?
- That makes you an "Aspiring Author". You certainly have your work cut out for you. This is what Anne Rice writing Adult fiction under the name: AN Roquelaure, and horror author Steven King have done. Dean Koontz used to write smut and gothic romance to pay his bills. They worked their butts off writing for their publishers pumping out work after work, after work - all by themselves with no support, until they made a name big enough to dictate their demands to their publishers. And since they don't have a support staff - they don't have to share their profits either.

~ How do I know all this? ~
I actually write for a living. I was Associate editor of an adult entertainment magazine. This is where I learned all about writing articles on demand. Somebody had to write all that filler text - and make it interesting. I was also a copywriter for an adult internet corporation -- if it was text, I wrote it, along with dozens of webmaster self-help articles that I then had to talk magazine editors into publishing.
I'm living on my ebook royalties. That's right - Paying my bills by writing Romantic SMUT full time. And I STILL write WHAT I'm told to write, WHEN I'm told to write it, about things that I'm told to write ABOUT, because I'm being paid to do just that.
I'm a Mercenary.

~ Advice to the Burgeoning Writer ~
Write every spare moment you haveand FINISH your story. Always have at least two people check your grammar and your sentence structure. Have at least two more people read your stuff and check it for:
  • Readability: Can you tell exactly what's happening to who? And How?
  • Story-Drag: Is it Boring? Did your reader skim over any of your paragraphs to "Get to the Good Stuff"?
  • Effectiveness: Does it get you hot?
BEFORE SUBMITTING ANYWHERE!!!
Read the Submission Guidelines carefully.Send the editors `exactly' what they are looking for. `Close' is not good enough.
If the publisher is looking for Erotic Romance then your story had better be sexually explicit, and involve a couple falling in love, AND have a whole adventure plot for that sexty romance to happen in. Neither a simple Romance with Sex nor a series of sex scenes stitched onto the next will interest aREAL Erotic Romance publisher.

Be willing to work with the editors on requested changes.
Many editors try to be gentle with their comments to new authors and have been known to understate what they mean. That does not make their comment random or invalid! If an editor goes to the trouble of noting something about your story, take it very seriously.

Remember - you are Writing to Sell and Publication Editors are looking for authors to fill their readers requests. They are there to make their publishing house look good by making YOU look good.

~ Who's looking for Smut? ~
Erotica
http://www.erotica-readers.com/ERA/G/G-Main.htm

Erotic Romancehttp://www.extasybooks.com
http://www.loose-id.com
http://www.changelingpress.com
http://www.amberquill.com/
Morgan Hawke
www.darkerotica.net
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"The only good plot is a delayed f*ck."

5 comments:

  1. Absolutely fascinating! I find through your definitions... I am a writer of Romantica moreso and I'm not quite sure where I fall in the writer aspect... I am not good with writing on demand as I am a poet first. Aspiring as I want to eventually write that "one novel" of my career or maybe more... I will have to take stock and get a clue I guess. (I've only been writing since March '04...) Thank you for being so honest and forthright!

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  2. Writing takes TIME to learn and OBSESSION to do well.

    If you’ve only just started, now is not the time to push but the time to Explore. It’s at the beginning that you cram your head with all kinds of stuff to write with and explore all different kinds of writing.

    Give yourself time to grow into your Art before you attempt to take on the Craft.

    Morgan Hawke
    www.darkerotica.net
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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  3. Thanks for this article, Morgan. I've read it before and the first time it scared me to death, but this was before I was published. Since then, I've learned everything you've said here and it can be a rude awakening for someone who isn't expecting it (or is and is afraid it -really is- that way!)

    However, I have discovered that I can finish a piece of work in a record amount of time and have it be good, I can write to a deadline and have an editor love it and I can gain fans who are waiting breathlessly for the next book or story I produce.

    Writing on demand has actually helped me widen my creative prospects, and because of that, I have written things I never thought I'd be any good at (contemporary romance, historical fantasy) and these stories have ended up being incredibly popular.

    At any rate, thanks for the excellent article and for being one of the few people to tell it like it really is.

    Tabbi

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  4. I have recently discovered this blog and LOVE it. Thanks for the practical advice.

    I have added you to my blogroll on www.jenbluekissederotica.blogspot.com

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  5. I just wanted to tell you that I come to your blog often to reread the posts that inspire me. I appreciate your no-nonsense approach and the way you "tell it like it is". By following your advice, I have finally been able to have my first ebook (erotic romance) published. Thank you, Morgan!!!

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