The business of writing erotica is a rather strange animal these days. Perhaps it always has been, but considering I’ve only been a serious contender in this game for the past couple of years, that’s really the only experience I have to draw on. I spend a considerable amount of time pondering on where we are, how we got here, and…probably most importantly…what can we do about it. As is usually the case, the answer to the last question is as varied as the authors it affects. There really is no “one-size-fits-all” solution that will work for each individual author.
A question was posed recently on the Erotic Authors forum on Reddit:
“How profitable are using dedicated adult epublishers for non-Amazon safe kinks?”
A rather excellent question to pose, actually. However, me offering any sort of response personally on that particular forum is usually not a good idea. My viewpoints are not well received there. I’m sure a couple of people from there will follow me here and drag me in front of the tribunal to deliver the obligatory 30 lashes for daring to speak ANYTHING negative about Amazon or the authors who publish on it, but at least I can’t be justifiably accused of “starting a fight” there. (Not that it would actually stop anybody from doing so, of course.)
Truthfully, the short answer to the above posed question is, only moderately so. Let’s face it, the way this erotica writing thing is set up at the moment, I will NEVER expand beyond just the nice little extra “spending money” I receive monthly from my publisher. Admittedly, this is mostly by choice. As much as some people may want to accuse me of playing the “Victim of Amazon” card, it is certainly not what I’m doing, nor have I ever done that. I tell people time and time again, if Amazon works for you, then by all means go that route.
The frustrating thing for me usually is I see author after author after author complaining about how Amazon operates, how they keep getting screwed over by Amazon, how fearful they always are about getting dungeoned or dropped completely by Amazon every time they press the “Publish” button, yet time after time after time the only solutions that are ever given any serious consideration involves continuing to feed the hand that bites them. Because of Amazon’s recent changes to their Kindle Unlimited program, authors of erotica, especially short form erotica, now have to work at least three times as hard to maintain the same amount of money they were earning before these changes. I sympathize completely with those who are so dependent on Amazon when they say, “Well, what else can we do?” Unfortunately, the only answer I can give today is, “Nothing”. The main reason I am not a “victim of Amazon” is that I got in on this erotica writing endeavor shortly after Amazon and many of the other biggies did their erotica purge. I never grew dependent on Amazon’s royalties. Real, honest “victims of Amazon” however are out there. By the hundreds, if not the thousands.
The problem right now is, Amazon makes it too easy. They make it easy for authors to write crap, and they make it easy for readers to buy it. One click to publish, one click to purchase. Their fucking apps are everywhere. They come pre-installed on damn near every computer, every tablet, every smartphone. Do I blame Amazon for this? Fuck no. Shrewd business folk they are, they’ve expertly learned how to profit from convenience. If readers want to buy poorly written erotica, and writers want to produce it, why is that Amazon’s fault?
(And yes, some people will totally rip me a new one for using the words “poorly written erotica”, but honestly, you CANNOT convince me that dozens of ‘so-called’ authors can pump out 5k stories on a daily, or even weekly basis and honestly say that these are anywhere NEAR being considered “quality” work!)
One of the questions asked in the above post is, is there a market big enough to make it worth publishing outside of Amazon? The answer to that easily is, of course there is! If nothing else, Amazon itself has proven that to a fault. The “market” is definitely there. The question is, outside of Amazon, how does an author reach them?
Readers definitely want quality erotica. The problem is, readers don’t want to look that hard to find it. As difficult as it must surely be to try to find diamonds among the dung heaps on Amazon, readers are willing to do that because it’s… everyone say it with me now… “convenient“! One stop, click click click, oh, this one looks like it might be interesting, click to read (hell, they don’t even have to buy the damn thing these days with convenient subscription), read until they’re bored, click click click, wash, rinse, repeat, run out of shampoo. (Sorry.. Idea for a shower scene popped into my head.)
Authors who publish outside of Amazon (or who want to) need to make it easier for readers to find them. Readers don’t know. All they know is the convenience of Amazon. And this is what trips a lot of authors up when trying to do anything outside the virtual walls of Amazon. This necessitates authors becoming more adept at self-promotion. I’m fortunate enough to have a little bit of background experience in that area. Many authors do not. I understand. What I don’t understand is most authors are soooo willing to take the time and effort to try to learn not only formatting correctly, but also try to figure out all the ‘secret’ ways to work around Amazon’s restrictions, learn keyword usage, unlock SEO strategies, and basically “game the Amazon system”, but yet choose to remain so totally clueless on the best ways to self-promote and refuse to learn how because Amazon will simply do that shit for them if they go exclusive. Well, how’s that working for ya?
At the risk of sounding completely immodest, I am extremely proud of my stories. I never send ANYTHING out unless I am at least moderately satisfied with them, and they tell the story I wish to tell. They are of good quality, many people have bought and read them, and I have received much complimentary feedback from folks who have truly enjoyed them.
So why am I not “successful”? Well, in many ways I am. I write what I want, people have bought and enjoyed them, and I get satisfaction out of putting together a good story written in a quality manner. I can honestly look at my catalog and say, “Hey… I did a damn good job!”
Why am I not making more money? Well, mainly by choice. Not only do I refuse to cater to Amazon’s ridiculous and ever-changing guidelines and strategies, I refuse to spend so much effort trying to cater to people’s laziness. I do know how to write fairly decent promotional pieces and I can point people in the direction to go, but you know the story about horses and water. I will keep trying, though. I’m fully convinced my “audience” is out there. It’s just a matter of figuring out which walls to break down that separates us. Or patiently waiting for the time it takes for that to happen. In the meantime, I’m out nothing but my time, which I spend doing what I like doing anyway, whether I make money at it or not. It would be nice though to be able to spend more time doing it. :)
People ask me all the time why I don’t just publish what Amazon will accept. Well, then it really wouldn’t be my story now, would it? Sure, I could make money at it. Maybe even make a living at it. But then again I wouldn’t enjoy what I’m doing.
And where is the “success” in that?