You would have to have been living under a pretty sizable rock for the recent boom in ebooks and the monumental rise of Kindle to have passed you by.
According to statistics, Amazon tripled the number of eBooks sold from its Kindle store between 2010 and 2011. Ebooks have been outselling print for well over 9 months now at a rate of approximately 180 digital copies to every 100 print, and a blanket search of the .com Kindle store pulls up 1,028,630 available titles (and counting).
Why write erotic eBooks?
Now, run a search for 'erotica' in the .com Kindle store and you will bring up around 40,648 results: just under 4% of the entire store catalogue - and that's without accounting for titles with alternative and/or multiple tags.
To put that in perspective, the 'Computing and Internet' category only holds around 2.5% of listed titles, whilst Science Fiction (a traditionally popular niche) has only 2.1%.
And that's just Kindle...
According to Nathan Maharaj, merchandising director for Kobo (another ePublishing success story), erotic fiction is regularly making it into the bestseller lists - with at least one work of erotica in the Kobo top 100 at any given time.
Tina Haveman - who owns the digital erotic publishing company eXtasy Books - has noted that sales of erotic fiction doubled during 2011, and is expecting them to triple over the course of 2012. In an interview with CBC she stated that:
"Customers are starting to discover them and finding that they can read certain books that they do not want other people to see and in privacy..."
Think about that the next time you are presented with a row of avid Kindle readers on your daily commute!
So what are the main factors behind this sudden surge in interest?
It's easier than ever for writers to publish - and to publish anonymously - and easier for readers (the majority of whom are women) to access this kind of material - without having to risk receiving a funny look from your local bookseller (or your mother as she casually browses your bookshelves).
So, the facts look promising... a huge market, more than willing to buy (if not quite as willing to admit it).
Key things to know: Niches within niches
As you might expect there is not just one 'standard' type of erotic fiction. This is a genre that includes more niches and sub - niches than you could dream of (and a good few that you probably couldn't!) And, as is the case with all writing, you need to know who you are writing for - and in a number of instances this will impact on where you can publish too.
So, having trawled a number of writers' message boards and publishers' submission guidelines it seems there are two main sub-genres you need to know about - for the content précis of each I have to offer thanks to an established (anonymous) erotica writer - you can find her full comments on the subject here:
Below I have included the basic points I feel are most relevant (and appropriate) to our investigation:
1) Erotic Romance must include a cohesive plot line throughout the story in the following formula: The couple meet - start falling in love - obstacles keep them apart - ending with a Happily Ever After (HEA) OR Happily For Now (HFN)_
* Rarely more than two partners
*The sex MUST be important to the plot and the development of the relationship
*Geared towards a female readership
*Can vary from "plain vanilla" [that is; regular m/f sex] to something more risqué [i.e. fetish].
*Generally 'wilder' than erotic romance: ménage/ fetish/ BDSM etc.
*May contain multiple partners: Note, for women's erotica this is usually one woman with multiple men. For male erotica it would be the reverse.
*A real plot
*No HEA or HFN required
Opinion seems divided on this one, but, from my research I'd say you'd be best looking at shorts (4,000-7,000 words) and novellettes (15,000-35,000 words). Of course, you could do 'short shorts' or go for an entire novel, but generally speaking books between 4,000 and 20,000 words tend to suit the main aims of this genre nicely.
Shorts have been proven to sell particularly well - but obviously at a cheaper rate (around $1.99 is about average) - BUT, they do have the advantage of being quicker to write, and when sold in bundles, of say, three short stories, sell for around the $3.99 mark. This method is a great way of boosting your sales (we all know how effective - and tempting - multi-buy discounts can be!)
But for the purpose of this blueprint I'm going to concentrate on shorts as they seem to present the easiest way of establishing a readership and of generating profits. Below are some tips sourced from the pros to get you started:
Again this will vary and - naturally - as an unknown author you will need to charge less to begin with than your more established counterparts. But, at a conservative estimate, I would suggest between $0.99 and $1.99 for shorts between 4,000 and 7,000 words to begin with. Although, it may be prudent - particularly in the early stages to offer at least one of your titles for free in order to draw interest (and hopefully hook some loyal readers).
As mentioned before, for bundles you are going to want to make sure there is a is an obvious saving to your buyers - so, for example, for a bundle of 4 stories each normally priced at $1.99 you might charge $3.99.
If you are looking at writing much longer pieces, one erotica writer I encountered suggested the following price bands:
15,000 - 35,000 words: $3.99
35,000 - 50,000 words: $4.99
50,000 - 70,000 words: $5.99
The cover you choose for your ebook is crucial to its success (regardless of the genre for which you are writing). Just look at the Amazon Kindle Store and you will see why.
You have nothing but the thumbnail of your cover image and a small amount of info with which to 'sell' your book to anyone who is simply browsing. (And, unless you happen to be a well-known author, the chances are all of your sales are going to come from 'browsers').
So your image needs to be, if nothing else, eye-catching!
Next it needs to be relevant to your sub-genre and tailored to your target audience. Here are a few guidelines regarding our two main sub-genres, erotic romance and plain erotica:
Either, a half-naked man and woman (or two men if the story is m/m) in a sexy embrace, not too revealing and the woman should not look like a porn star. The average woman wants to relate to the heroine and is unlikely to do so if said heroine looks like she's just stepped out of a scene with Ron Jeremy.
Or, a shirtless man. Opinion amongst published writers is that you should NEVER have just a half-naked woman on the cover - this does not say 'erotic romance', rather it shouts 'male porn.'
An erotica cover aimed at women should have the torso of a naked man (or men - if the story is ménage), or a naked man and woman kissing.
One aimed at men should include a sexy scantily clad woman (or, again, if it is ménage, women).
IMPORTANT: Do not have private parts and/or nipples visible on your covers - this is liable to get your book removed.
NEVER use a picture of anyone who could be considered underage.
Make sure the pictures you use are licenced for this purpose - some stock art pictures come with restrictions on usage so ALWAYS check.
This is an extremely important aspect when it comes to publishing erotic literature - after all, for many writers it is not their main source of income, and often it is something they wouldn't really like their family, friends or children to get wind of.
So, how do you maintain anonymity when publishing and promoting on the web - the most public medium there is?
1. Create a pen name and be sure not to connect it in any way with your real name or any personal information.
2. Be sure to create dedicated accounts for use only in connection with your pen name, including a separate email, login names for any web boards you may be a member of, social media sites etc.
3. Never use your real picture or allow yourself to filmed in conjunction with erotica or your books - a number of people have done this including the now infamous 'Judy Mays.'
Kindle is by no means the only self-publishing platform out there and in order to reach the largest market and drive the most sales you should consider publishing to several.
The main platforms you are likely to come across (aside from Kindle) are Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and Apple but you don't necessarily have to upload to all of them - if you target just two (which I'll look at in a second) you will be more than covered in terms of eReader compatibility and cross-platform store coverage.
Note: Each platform will require that you adhere to different formatting rules.
Amazon's Kindle Store (Kindle Direct Publishing), the largest and best known self-publishing platform:
Once you have uploaded your book to KDP you will be allocated a free ISBN and it will take 2-3 days for your book to appear in the Kindle store.
**Note: Amazon has recently introduced its Kindle Select service which offers promotional tools and the option to earn a share of the money from Amazon's lending programme which allows readers to borrow books for an annual fee. Kindle Select also allows you to offer your book for free on certain 'promotional days' - which is potentially fantastic for marketing and gaining reviews.
(Again, I can highly recommend Richard Bullivant's newly updated Kindle Profit Programme as it includes the latest strategies for expliting these new services to help sell more books.)
However. If you opt in to Kindle Select you cannot make your book digitally available elsewhere (e.g. B&N, Apple etc.). Also, under the current rules, once you opt in to Kindle Select you cannot opt out.
Smashwords: Upload your book as with Amazon but remember to edit the copyright page to show 'Smashwords edition.' As before Smashwords will provide you with a free ISBN, they will also make your ebook available to all the main ebook publishers, including Barnes and Noble, Kobo and Apple so you won't need to create accounts for each platform:
There are a number of ways in which you can promote your erotica eBook, below I will detail some of the more popular methods as used by existing authors (these tips are not just confined to erotica and will work well with any eBook).
Twitter: A great way to network with other authors and stay in contact with your readers, notable hashtags to use include #amwriting, #writing, #amediting, #erotica, etc. Take a look at this site for a selection of generic hashtags in frequent use by writers on Twitter:
Top tip: #SampleSunday is an excellent tool used by the author community on Twitter: the premise being that an author will share a free sample of their work on their blog to give potential new readers a taster.
Note: With Twitter constant self-promotion is a no-no!
Blogging: A great way to host selections of your work and get noticed, also great for selling your work without any pesky fees - but remember, you need to do more than simply advertise yourself and your work, you need to be informative and interesting.
Blog tours: This basically involves arranging a guest post or a review of your book and is often centred around a new release. They generally involve quite a lot of forward planning and organisation but can be one of the best ways to introduce your writing to a new audience.
You can organise blog tours yourself by contacting other authors within the erotica genre, or, there are companies that will help you set them up, for example http://blogtour.org/ (which is free to use) and matches your books with blogs in the same genre.
Reviews: This method generally requires that you offer free books for readers to review. However, review sites tend to be over-subscribed and the chance of your book getting lost amongst all the other submissions is very high. Also, you cannot control what the review will be like! Still, it is an option you may wish to consider.
Message boards: Many message boards incorporate a section which allows you to insert your book titles and sometimes a blurb. Some will also have a promotional area - for example, Kindle Boards has 'The Book Bazaar' which allows you to share announcements, promotions and interact with other authors.
Other message boards to consider are Amazon Forums and Absolute Write, although a simple Google search will throw up many more! Narrow down your search to find forums and threads that are more relevant to your erotica niche and connect with similar authors as well as potential readers - the more relationships you build the more promotional opportunities you will have.
The following calculations on the actual initial sales made by a new erotica author who sold 6 copies of a single eBook in the first 24 hours priced at $0.99.
That's $2162.16 over the course of a year: minus the fee charged by whichever platform you are using - this is variable. Based on a 35% royalty rate (the lowest offered by Amazon) you would still take home over $750 - from a single 4,000 word story selling in a single online store.
If you sold that ebook on three platforms - say Barnes and Noble and Apple - at the same rate, you would make $2,250 (or £1,415.47)
Sell 12 ebooks for the same $0.99 at the same rate across 3 platforms and you would make $27,000 USD or £17,062.
And these are conservative figures - get it right and you could really cash in - the following author sold 10,000 erotica eBooks in just 6 months netting a five figure profit.
I have to say, whilst I was slightly sceptical when beginning my research for this opp I have been rather pleasantly surprised - if you can write, and writing erotic fiction sounds like something you'd be interested in (or even enjoy!) I think this really could prove to be a fantastic opportunity.
Oh, and if you do decide to give it a go I'd love to hear your findings!
(Please note: the links referenced in this article may lead to sites that contain material of an adult nature)
by Nick Laight
Business Opportunities Expert
Nick Laight is the editor of What Really Makes Money and helps ordinary people find simple, workable home business opportunities. You can sign up for his free weekly eletter here:
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