I get asked this question fairly often: why do you write erotica?
To understand the full nature of the question, it’s important to know my brief backstory. I started out as a romance novelist, specifically that of multicultural erotic romance, and I did pretty well as a writer. Especially early on, when E-publishing and POD (print on demand) were beginning to take off.
Eventually, Amazon entered the picture, and began to dominate the landscape, and things started to change. Royalties plunged significantly, and many of the early e-publishers closed their doors. If you were like me, where this was your part-time job, that you did as more of a hobby, then you stopped writing and went back to your day job. And that’s what I did. But I missed writing, and using that creative part of my brain. However, I also had (still have) a full-time job that has been rewarding in many ways, and I don’t entirely hate. So I wasn’t looking to go from my day job to full-time author. At least not at that time. Today, I have different thoughts I will share later. The main thing is that I still wanted to write, but I had to be practical about what I was doing.
I couldn’t just pursue writing as a pure hobby, because it does involve an investment of material and personal resources (i.e. time and money). At the same time, the investment required to achieve the level of success that I previously attained, was not really feasible if I wasn’t prepared to treat my writing like a business and like a full-time author. That left me in a difficult position, until I decided to try something different.
I was already writing erotic romances, and I wanted to write more hardcore stories, but didn’t want to alienate my current fan base. So I decided to create a new pen name and release a few erotica short stories. The results were mixed. I won’t lie, you’re not going to make a ton of money writing erotica, at least not in the beginning. To understand why, let me break this down.
A full-time successful indie romance writer can generally make mid-five figures and oftentimes more, releasing one novel a month. Given how Amazon calculates royalties, the quick turnaround, coupled with the cumulative volume of books over time, and that the books are at least 200 pages, well that means a romance author can make a pretty healthy living.
Erotica writers, on the other hand, would need to produce two to three short stories pretty much every week, to create a collective page count of 200 pages. Also, unlike with romance writers, where they are able to cultivate a fan base by creating a series and building upon that series, erotic short stories, generally don’t lend themselves to series, because they don’t create an emotional connection with readers through character development. Erotic stories are also niche books, so there is a ceiling to how many books you can release in a particular niche before your books become old, so to speak, and the niche is over-saturated with your content. In other words, there are only so many ways you can write and rewrite the ‘taboo stepdaddy story’ before your readers get tired of you reinventing the same wheel, where you change the characters’ names but everything else is pretty much the same.
So that begs the question, Why Erotica? Why even waste your time breaking into a writing market that is going to require you to write at least ten stories a month, and maybe achieve the level of success that is comparable to authors writing in other genres? Because there are some strategies that writers can use to make writing erotica short stories a solid, long-term business plan.
1. Always Think Niche
Erotica is all about niches. Stepbrother and Stepsister. Stepdaddy and Stepdaughter. The MILF. Billionaire Alphas. Curvy Heroines. Monsters, Vampires, Werewolves etc. The list goes on. If you can think of it, then there is a niche. Some are more popular than others, and that’s fine. Some niches will be more profitable if you’re able to get your book noticed in those popular niches. However, if you’re not, then you’re better off finding a niche market that is less popular, but where your book can stand out. That’s why writing erotica requires you to write several stories across multiple niches at one time. Because some titles will take off, and some will just sit there and bomb, but if you have multiple irons in the fire, then your monthly sales will remain steady.
2. Build A Series
Ok, I know I just told you that erotica shorts don’t lend themselves to series building, and they usually don’t, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have to. Probably because I AM a romantic at heart, I am also a romance writer at the core of who I am. So even when I write an erotica short story, I still develop the characters, as much as possible in the limited space that I have. Now, you have to be careful here. Erotica readers are voracious readers and they are SERIOUS about their content. To be blunt, they want S-E-X in their stories. If they wanted to read a romance then they would have bought a romance. So they want the sex, and they want to hurry up and get to it! But I’ve also found that they appreciate the character development and build up, if you deliver on the sex (so make it hot!), AND if you tease them along the way, with strong, erotic references to past sexual encounters or upcoming sexual encounters. One way to do this effectively, is to have the hero and heroine describe how f’in hot they think the other one is, how badly they want to F that person, and alllll the ways they plan to do it if they ever get the chance. Be creative in the tease, just as long as you deliver. The main thing here is that if you introduce characters from upcoming stories, while also checking in with characters from previous stories, the reader will want to continue reading your series. They’ll want to see how this person’s story turns out next, and they’ll enjoy hearing about what’s happening with some of their past characters. Building a series can work for any erotica niche, even dark erotica, it just requires a little additional work to plan out your series and characters and recalling key details from past characters. But it doesn’t have to be hard. Using character and world building software is essential, and will help keep you organized.
3. Write Often, But Not To Failure
Let me be clear, those successful romance writers I mentioned who make a full-time living? They write often. The majority write pretty much every day. The only difference is at the end of the month, they’re publishing one book, while you’ve published ten ‘books’.
There are certainly advantages to publishing one book per month, which I will discuss in later posts. There are also disadvantages. Again, that’s another post for another day. I just don’t want you to think that you’re writing more or less than other authors. For the most part, you’re writing the same amount in words and pages, but you’re also writing very different content that requires a very different skill set. If you can commit to writing one to three short stories per week, that are between 5,000 and 10,000 words then erotica may be for you. If your strength is character development and you sometimes struggle with plot development, then again, erotica may be your jam. Erotica DOES contain a plot. Every story does–or at least it should. However, the plot follows the basic three act structure and does not contain subplots because the story is too short. So in that sense, erotica is very straight forward.
However, one thing that all writers at some point face, especially indie writers, and particularly erotica writers, is that if you are pumping out at least two stories a week, over the course of say, 52 weeks, and this is not your full time job, well then, you’re going to burn out at some point.
You want to maintain a regular writing schedule, because you don’t want to take much time away from the process, and risk developing writer’s block. At the same time, you can write one story a week, and still achieve positive results. That’s because erotica stories also do very well when they are bundled. That means that after you’ve written say, four or five stories, you can bundle them into a single book, and also release that. Even better, if you include a story that can only be purchased in the bundle version. I don’t personally like to do this, because I don’t want my readers to feel forced yo buy the bundle for one story. But I’ve seen other authors do this very successfully. Also, you can maximize the impact of your releases by having a well-developed marketing and promotion strategy and at various points, instead of actually writing, you market and promote. Isn’t it better to maximize sales rather than write two new books that week?
Building a successful erotica writing business, like building any other business, takes time and energy. It is certainly a marathon, and not a sprint. As I share more insider tips that I’ve used, along with other erotica authors, I hope you realize there are numerous opportunities for erotica writers to achieve success and turn their passion (pun definitely intended!) into a profitable full-time writing career.