Category Porn

Erotica Sustainability

There are plenty of midlist authors out there who have faded into oblivion. Not many authors can look forward to a career life-span of someone like Stephen King or James Patterson, or even Anne Rice. Some say epublishing is going to change all of that. Now books won’t ever go “out of print.” They’re all going to be on the virtual shelves forever, competing for the attention of the reader.

In an epublishing world, this seems to be true. Many midlist authors are finding a new audience for work that was previously out of print, making money off books that were unavailable for years. Most genres, especially those with big reader-return and high book-read counts like romance, mystery/thriller and horror, will sustain this kind of boom.

But what about erotica?

The good news is that erotica readers (and erotic romance readers) are as voracious as the readers in the genres I’ve already mentioned. The bad news is, as any of us who write in the genre can tell you, we are often the subject of round-about corporate censorship, something most other writers don’t usually have to deal with. I’ve been writing in the erotica genre since 2006, and I can tell you that things have changed exponentially since then, and I imagine they are going to continue to change as the ebook market shifts.

When I first started writing erotica, there was a lot of erotic romance in the market—where the story or book followed one relationship to a happy conclusion, with lots of sex sprinkled in along the way. But there wasn’t that much true “erotica,” where the emphasis was on sexual exploration that didn’t necessarily focus on one couple and didn’t always end happily. The largest romance ebook publisher at the time, Ellora’s Cave, had just started their “exotica” line, focused solely on erotica, and they were the first.

Fast forward to 2011 and the Amazon erotica bestseller lists have changed considerably. No longer dominated by the erotic romance market, it now looks like a shelf in the back room of your local video store, with titles like Virgin Cumsluts in Space Suits Get It On With Daddy. What happened? Nothing except the sale of more Kindles. Kindle readers discovered erotica and their demand for more created a huge supply of it from self-published authors. Nothing wrong with a little free-market capitalism!

Readers are buying and consuming these stories like popcorn, faster than writers can keep up, and authors are making a living writing erotica. It’s a win-win situation! There’s just one wrench in the works—Amazon doesn’t like erotica. How do I know this? First of all, they make it very difficult to find. The “erotica” category is hidden within “fiction” and there are absolutely no sub-genres, so readers can’t hone their search. Secondly, Amazon bans certain “taboo topics” it doesn’t like. Things like incest and bestiality. Sometimes topics like rape for titillation. They remove titles at their discretion, without warning or recourse. And lastly, Amazon “filters” adult titles based on their covers. If the cover is too risqué, Amazon will mark it “ADULT” and that title will no longer be searchable in their main store.

So how can an erotica writer make a sustainable career in a world where the subject matter they write about is often the subject of controversy and corporate censorship?

All erotica writers walk a fine line when it comes to this genre. We need to make it sexy and appealing, without stepping over the line into “porn.” Unfortunately, too many writers recently have ignored that line altogether, moving into more extreme territory when it comes to titles, covers and blurbs. I understand that it isn’t easy, as a newcomer in the genre, to get yourself noticed when there are so many new voices calling out in the wilderness of erotica. A lot of writers have heard that you can make a ton of money “writing sex.” And many of them think it’s a gravy train and have jumped on board with both feet.

But it seems to me that the more mercenary folks tend to push the boundaries. They want to get noticed as fast as possible, to make as much as possible. They want a shortcut. They want the big bucks, the gold-rush. I think these newcomers truly believe that without the risqué title and description, no one will buy the book. The belief is that titling books with porn-keywords garners more sales. Maybe that’s really true, maybe it isn’t. But, unfortunately, it’s pretty much guaranteed that they also garner a lot more negative attention.

The kind of attention Amazon and other distributors don’t like.

The question is—is that a risk you’re willing to take? If you’re in it for the short-term, maybe it is. But if you’re looking to build a long-term sustainable career in erotica, I’d advise against it.

We’ve already had one distributor axe Indies altogether after these kinds of extreme titles flooded their bookstore. We’ve had another draw up restrictive guidelines about what they will or will not accept. The larger venues like Amazon and Barnes and Noble haven’t taken these steps. Yet. But how long do you think they’re going to let it go on without doing something about it? Indefinitely? Based on their past behavior of corporate censorship, I just don’t think so.

Let’s assume for the moment that it’s true—titles with porn-keywords do garner more sales. But at what cost? In the short-term, you have money in the bank. In the long-term, what have you gained? A fan base? I’m afraid not. If you are not putting out quality, professional product, you aren’t creating a fan base. Your readers are drive-bys. Drive-thru fast-food eaters. They may get addicted to burgers, but if they can’t find you easily in the top 100, any old burger will do.

My readers seek me out. My readers are loyal. They don’t want just any old meal—they want a Selena Kitt feast. And I sold 500,000 books in 2011 without one porn keyword (that I can think of…) in my titles. If you consider me an “exception,” then I can tell you that Excessica made over a million dollars last year, and we have the word “fuck” in just one of our titles. I would argue that you can garner sales without titling with porn-keywords. And you don’t have to go all sunsets and vanilla. We’ve got “excess” in our name, for pete’s sake. We’re known for pushing the boundaries. But for the sake of all our authors, we walk the line, because all of us want to have a sustainable career in this genre.

So what else does this strategy of putting porn-keywords in your titles and description get an erotica author? Negative attention in the media perhaps? A lambasting on some snarky podcast show or review site? The loss of distributors and vendors? Not such a pretty picture. So a writer makes a few more sales than they would have—all impulse buys. Most of them won’t actively seek that author out again. And what was the risk in the meantime?

And please don’t think I’m talking about censoring content in erotica. What I’m talking about are covers and descriptions and titles. Inside the book, pretty much anything goes (as long as it’s—please and thank you—proofread and spellchecked!) in terms of creating a quality and professional product. For me (and I think for most readers) titles run toward the extreme when they start adding porn-keywords like cumslut and cornhole and gangbang. The same rule applies to book descriptions and blurbs. Erotica authors are already self-policing their covers, because we all know Amazon will mark your book “ADULT” if you cross the nudity line.

Of course, there’s a fine line there too. “Hotwife” in a title might not catch attention. Or “Cuckold.” But they’re borderline. And I think we’re all adults. We write erotica. We know what might be deemed offensive. The trick is walking the line. Having porn-keywords in their titles and descriptions seems to be what books have in common when they become the target of the kind of corporate censorship we’ve seen at Amazon, Smashwords, ARE and Bookstrand.

The truth is, only you know if what you are selling is a quality, professional product, since self-publishing has no gatekeepers. Except, of course, the market. But that market is tricky. Everyone keeps saying, “People want this, and it sells, and I’m just writing to the market.” That may be true, but you have to factor in the distributors. Even if the market will bear the current influx of extreme titles, the vendors aren’t going to let the market be truly “free” in the case of erotica.
If there was a longer, say, five-year stretch of evidence that Cumsluts Doing Daddy in Outer Space With Werewolves Parts I-XII were great long-term investments for you, as a writer, I’d say so. That isn’t the case. I’m encouraging erotica authors to look at their current investments and decide whether or not they’re going to pay the dividends you want. If not, you might want to consider changing your investment strategy.

The problems at ARE and Bookstrand were directly related to the influx of extreme titles, blurbs and covers that flooded the virtual shelves. Most of them were written by authors thinking with short-term views and goals, many of whom were trying to compete with one another for spots on the Amazon erotica Top 100, so they attempted to one-up each other with more and more ludicrous and extreme titles. It was a gamble, and in the case of two distributors, it didn’t pay off. It’s still paying off well at Amazon and BN and Smashwords. For how long? Maybe forever. Maybe not. I’m betting on “not.”

I could be wrong, but there’s no way to tell the future, either way. If you want to think in a mercenary way about your work, then it makes sense to hedge your bets.. If you’re going to post extreme titles or covers or blurbs, I suggest making sure you’ve got a backup in case that content gets slammed. And having been around for six years, I’ve been through enough censoring cycles to know it’s going to happen, it’s just a matter of who and when. And the main identifying factor will be your titles, covers, and descriptions, because no one has time to read that much erotica!

So it stands to reason that the more extreme your titles, blurbs and covers, the bigger target you paint on your forehead. Is that really part of your long-term business plan? Unfortunately, the “free-market” doesn’t necessarily apply in this genre. The distributors will only allow things to go so far before yanking the chain. They’ve proven this over and over. So even if the readers want it, a long-term career in erotica doesn’t involve writing short stories with porn-keywords in the title and description. Only you, as a self-published erotica writer, can decide if the long-term risk is worth it for short-term gain.

I’m going to be brutally honest with you. Writing twelve 3,000-word short stories a week about vampire werewolf daddy cumslut gangbangs and charging $2.99 for them isn’t going to make you rich, or famous, or give you any sustainability in this genre.

Even if you have 100+ stories in your catalog, as the market becomes more saturated with writers who want to jump on the bandwagon and as ebooks tip the scale toward a majority of readers, even the drive-by readers are going to disappear. The glow of the “new Kindle” will fade, and the idea that you can read “naughty fiction” on it and no one will know will become passé.

Eventually practically everyone will have an ereader and the people who always read erotica will still be reading it—and those readers will turn their tastes toward known quantities. The erotica writers who delivered quality, professional product, again and again, will be the ones still standing.

Ultimately, it’s up to you. You decide, you make the choice. Are your goals short-term or long-term?

What kind of erotica writer are you?

And what kind of erotica writer do you want to be?

Selena Kitt

Erotic Fiction You Won’t Forget

www.selenakitt.com

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Naughty Reading Firsts

So I was listening to Alex Anders’ interview with Mark Coker on the Sounds Erotic Podcast, and something Mark Coker said about one of his early reading experiences got me to thinking. Apparently, at some point in his young life, he came across a Judy Blume novel with some “sex parts” which proved to be quite exciting. He didn’t mention the title, but if I were to guess, I would venture to say it was probably Forever. We passed around a copy of that one in school, with the “sex parts” underlined. In that book, the guy’s penis was named Ralph – which still amuses me on so many levels. Ralph? Really? If you’re going to name your penis, wouldn’t a guy pick something like “Thor” or “Hammer” or even the more noble “Lance?”But I digress…

Mark Coker got me to thinking about my own early sexual reading influences. Yes, I read Judy Blume’s Forever. I also read her racy follow-up (not a sequel, but an adult novel – with sex!) entitled “Wifey.” I had to steal that one from the library because I was “too young” to check it out. But I did finally, guiltily, return it. Six months later, dropped it in the drop box outside. It was a little worse for the wear…

I read Flowers in the Attic over and over again. Fascinating stuff. Forbidden love between brother and sister. Gee, I wonder why I now write about incest? I read lots and lots of Stephen King, and yep, there was sex in there too.

I devoured teen books. Some with sex, some without. The one I remember quite clearly was made into a made-for-TV-movie with Rex Smith (Sooner or Later). An older boy (17) musician falls in love with a younger girl (13!!). In the sequel (Waiting Games) they have sex. And then she thinks she might be pregnant. (She’s 14 by now…) Something like that just would never get published in today’s world. But I read all about it, and it wasn’t even an adult book. It was in the “teen” section.

Of course, that was just my mainstream exposure to sex in fiction. That doesn’t take into consideration my exposure to “pornography.” My father had quite an extensive collection under his bed. And my mother’s version of porn was under her bed too–stacks of romance novels with half-naked men in loincloths and women with heaving bosoms on the cover. I read lots of those. With phrases like, “He slid his tumescent manhood into her quivering sheath…” But there were some graphic parts, regardless. Kathleen Woodiwiss’s Flower and the Flame starts out with what is, basically, a rape. What we would call “dubious consent” in erotic fiction nowadays…

My father’s collection, though, was far more interesting. A few stick out in my memory.

There was the Easter Hustler edition with the woman on the cover in a bed of jellybeans, and my first thought was, “Wow, that’s a lot of jellybeans!” and my second was, “Does she get to eat them all?” (A free ebook to anyone who can find that image on the Internet for me – that would be too cool!) And that particular magazine ruined The Wizard of Oz for me forever with their Dorothy fucks the Tinman, Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion spread. Every time I see that movie now, I can’t help but remember the Scarecrow with full make-up, his hard cock surrounded with straw, aiming for Dorothy’s promise land. There’s no place like home, eh, Scarecrow? (A free ebook for anyone who can find that particular photo shoot too!)

But my father had stuff that was far more graphic than that, though. Lots of Japanese bondage. I puzzled over those. That looked more painful than pleasurable to me. There was something called “water sports” that confused me. Surely, they couldn’t be talking about water polo? Ummm no. This kind of water sport involved lots of red rubber enema bags and trips to the toilet. Peeing was sexy? Really?

The pictures were interesting – but I liked the stories. I devoured Penthouse Letters. I read all the text next to the pictorials in the magazines. Words like “cock” and “pussy” and “blowjob” were all new and exciting. I had quite an extensive sexual vocabulary by the time I graduated high school, I must say!

My father also had a bunch of novels, a few of which have stuck with me. I remember one about a young girl hitchhiking who gets picked up by a couple who take her home and have anal sex with her. She also later has sex with their friend. And their kids. And the kids have sex with each other. And they’re very young kids too. Talk about an eye-opening read! And I then realized why my father always warned me to never, never hitchhike! (And if you can find the title of this book – I can’t remember it – I’ll send you a free ebook! In it, I remember she masturbates with a long tapered candle… if that helps…)

Of course, I never should have seen or read any of those things at such a tender young age. But I did. I imagine we’ve all read or seen things we shouldn’t have that shaped or molded or influenced us, as people, as writers, as sexual beings.

So what are your early naughty reading firsts? What do you remember?

Selena Kitt

Erotic Fiction You Won’t Forget

www.selenakitt.com

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Corporate Bullies

The blogosphere exploded last month when Paypal started threatening account holders who published “extreme” erotic fiction – things like incest, pseudoincest, rape for titillation and bestiality. Our little publishing company, Excessica, was contacted directly by Paypal. Mark Coker from Smashwords was too. He fought the good fight, got lots of bloggers and tweeters on board, we all made a great big stink, and lo and behold… The good guys won! Might doesn’t always equal right! Paypal reversed their decision!

Or… did they?

I received an email recently from Stuart, who runs A1 Adult Ebooks. They’ve always been willing to carry content that’s a little more extreme than most, so Stuart is very familiar with credit card processors and their particulars when it comes to sex. He heard the news about Paypal and Mastercard and Visa, and he rejoiced. Finally! He was going to be able to sell all those books the CC processing companies previously refused to pay for!

Except when Stuart contacted Paypal, the representative told him that, no, there had been no recent change in their policy in regards to adult erotic fiction. Incest, according to them, was still banned. He then contacted his credit card processors, and both of them agreed – that “icky” stuff was still not allowed. Just for chucks and giggles, I contacted Paypal as well, and received the same response from the CS rep – still banned. Then I called the guy I’d talked to before – the one who could get a CC processing account for practically anyone – and he, too, was aware of no changes in policy. Still banned.

Now, this could be the case of the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. They’re all large companies, so it may take a little time for the word to filter down to the customer service department. That’s giving them all the benefit of the doubt. Maybe Stuart and I are asking too much too soon. I hope so.

But what concerns me is that the credit card processors told me “NO!” before all of this went down with Paypal. And they’re still telling me “NO!” afterward. And it’s not just me–because Stuart is getting the same answers. And while Visa and Mastercard came forward and said they’ve never had policies or limits against selling erotic fiction of any sort… I was still getting processors telling me no, for very specific reasons (i.e. rape and incest).

So if the right hand didn’t know what the left hand was doing then… why would that change now? And what good is a policy change, if the actual policy doesn’t ever go into effect?

I feel a little like we’ve been unsegregated… on paper. But I still have to sit at the back of the bus.

I truly hope that’s not what’s happening. But what’s going on at Amazon right now gives me pause and makes me wonder. Can it all just be a coincidence? Yes, I sound like a crazy conspiracy theorist sometimes. But just because you’re paranoid…

Oh, what’s been happening at Amazon?

Well, for the past few months, Amazon has been filtering more and more erotica titles out of their main search page. This ADULT filter makes books unsearchable from the main/All Department Search page.Which makes some sort of sense – a kid looking for “What to Expect Babysitters Handbook” doesn’t want to see my “Babysitting the Baumgartners,” right? And their parents definitely don’t want them seeing it. Heck, I don’t want them seeing it!

And they both come up in the main search. The handbook is first, my book is second. So it makes sense to filter adult titles from the main page, okay, I get that.

The problem is that this “filter” is being applied without any rhyme or reason. It’s totally arbitrary. For example, my Babysitting the Baumgartners isn’t filtered. The one with the nearly-naked bum on the cover and “babysitting” in the title. But my Modern Wicked Fairy Tales Vol 2 is filtered. That cover doesn’t even have people on it! And strangely, Modern Wicked Fairy Tales Vol 1 and Modern Wicked Fairy Tales The Complete Collection remain (as of this writing) unfiltered.

If you want to know if your book is being filtered, click HERE and put in your title. If you see a red ADULT next to your book – it’s being filtered. If you see NOT ADULT next to your title, that means it was previously filtered and has been, for some reason, unfiltered.

What does Amazon say about it? As with the incest banning, Amazon will only refer to their so-vague-as-to-be-useless terms of service instead of being clear and transparent. So far, they won’t tell us why certain content is filtered, or what criteria have to be met to keep it from being filtered. Previously, it’s been nudity on covers – understandable. But my Modern Wicked Fairy Tale series has no people on the cover, so that’s clearly not all the criteria they’re using. But who know what it is? Because they’re not talking.

I know Amazon doesn’t want to be targeted as “censors,” and go through what Paypal just did. They’d like to save face, I’m sure. So they’re doing all of this secretly and sporadically and arbitrarily. And then denying it. Otherwise it would be clear, and we could call them on it. We certainly can’t have that!

So what’s the big deal about being “filtered” out of the main search?

Being filtered is a sales-killer. Because not only are you removed from the main page search and relegated only to Kindle Books search – your filtered book will now stop appearing with any UNfiltered books, in terms of recommended reads or also-boughts. Your filtered book also won’t appear on any “hot new release” lists either. Your filtered book is now wrapped in plain brown paper and sold at the back of the store.

Which is where porn belongs, you say! Well fine. But then why aren’t ALL of them back there? I won’t name names here and put out titles – don’t want to target anyone unnecessarily when Amazon is clearly going on a sniper hunt – but there are plenty of adult titles that have gone “unfiltered” that should be wrapped in brown paper and sold at the back of the store, if that’s what they’re going to do.

I’ve never had a problem with Amazon selling what they want to sell, how they want to sell it. I’ve always had a problem with their lack of CONSISTENCY and TRANSPARENCY. Even now, years after they’ve banned incest books from their site, erotic incest is still available on Amazon. They’re still publishing it. Some of it has remained. For years. Amazon just targeted the most visible and obvious titles.

Amazon knows its biggest strength — and weapon — is its search engine, algorithms and rankings/ratings system. They’re using it now, hammering erotica writers right out of the top lists. And they’re trying to do it without anyone (who matters) catching wind of what’s happening.

Is this a form of censorship? Oh boy, here we go again. You know what, I don’t care what you call it. It’s unfair, any way you look at it. If you’re going to have a policy, apply it–clearly, consistently, and fairly. It’s very simple.

You you hear that Amazon?

Do you hear that Paypal?

Do you hear that Visa and Mastercard?

Stop being so afraid of sex that you can’t even talk about it. You’re perfectly willing to profit from it, but you don’t want to make policies about it? Ridiculous. And stupid. It’s bad business. There isn’t anyone in this equation, from reader to writer to customer (in or out of the erotica genre) that doesn’t want you to be clear about your policies!

Instead, Paypal pretends to have a policy change – but really doesn’t. Visa and Mastercard claim they’ve sold this stuff all along, no problem – but they lied. Amazon claims they can “filter” whatever they want, whatever they want, willy nilly, without any consistency or fairness.

If these corporations want to be treated like citizens, then they should stand up and be a man about it, instead of slinking around behind the scenes, only making a statement when they’re forced to, and then going back on their word. They’re wussies. And they’re bullies.

And I really hope they prove me wrong.
Selena Kitt

Erotic Fiction You Won’t Forget

www.selenakitt.com

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Rule 34

Rule 34. In case, like me, you were unaware of this Internet Rule.

The Smurfs? Yep.

Thomas the Tank Engine? Train porn? Really?

Oh yes. There are so very many more. My eyes! My eyes!

But surely, not everything has porn? Not Kimba the White Lion? Not Alf? Not Strawberry Shortcake!? Not Snap, Crackle and Pop!

It’s just…oh it’s all kinds of wrong!

I can’t even go brush my teeth and go to bed to scrub the images from my brain!



Selena Kitt

Erotic Fiction You Won’t Forget

www.selenakitt.com

LATEST RELEASE: A Modern Wicked Fairy Tale: Goldilocks

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