Make Money on Erotic Fiction
Read. And Then Read Some More.
The best way to learn how to write is to read. So before you open that word processor and get to typing, when was the last time you read popular erotic fiction?
Go scour for free stuff or buy a few books or discounted bundles or "boxed" sets. Read about what turns you on and what doesn't turn you on, having a wide net to cast will make you more versatile in the market place.
You're reading for education, so take notes- mental or physical. Imagery, diction, flow, the use of similes and metaphors. Notice what works for you, as a reader, and strive to do that as an author.
Don't read the content at Literotica or other free online content by unknown writers. You want to emulate the writers who are actually making money on this, and there is a huge difference between writing for fun and writing to make money. If you want to be successful, follow in the footsteps of the successful, and the first step is to expose yourself to their work.
Have You Ever Written Erotica, or Any Kind of Sexy Story or Scene?
Format of the Erotica Genre
All genre fiction has a basic, tried and true format. It changes depending on the subject, for instance: all romance must have a happily-ever-after or a happy-for-now ending, and the protagonists in fantasy novels must always prevail at the end. Formats exist because readers of genre fiction like the escape, but the promise of a happy ending acts as a safety net. It's about the journey.
Erotica, though, is different from other genre fiction. The focus is on the kink, and in terms of storyline, the only real requirement is that all of the characters who are involved in the sexytime and kink must climax.
Our formula for success instead is based on a balance of four key elements: establishment, build up, sex, and ending.
Establishment is vital for the grounding information of the book: where are we, when are we, who are we and what is happening?
Build up is basically, the foreplay. This is where the sexual tension begins- one character expresses interest, flirts heavily, makes his or her intentions known and how the other character responds.
A good sex scene is relative, as everyone has different preferences, but the most profitable books use harsh, vulgar and explicit language to describe what is happening. Don't be afraid to curse or say taboo or even sexually offensive words- in the heat of the moment, taboo is frequently hot.
The ending is just that- how the book ends. Do both characters lay there in sweaty bliss before deciding to light up a bowl and order pizza? Does the secretary get hastily dismissed and then find out the boss who just bent her over his desk fired everyone and outsourced to a cheaper country's labor? After the characters got under the covers, how do they view each other? Did fuck buddies just get romantic? Inquiring minds want to know!
These four elements can be balanced in a variety of ways. Some books will combine two of them together to create a 3-section system of: build up, sex, ending or establishment, sex, ending or even just establishment, build up, sex, where the ending is only a couple of paragraphs or several sentences.
The reason for breaking these 4 elements down into 3 sections is because when you're starting, it is easier to follow some set pattern or formula. The minimum word count expectation for short, popular erotica is 3000 words. With a 3-section system you can practice by doing 1000 words in each section, and combine 2 of the elements together (500 words each) where it best fits for the particular story.
The market for short erotica falters around 7-8 thousand words. The sweet spot (your aim) is going to be between 3000-5000 words. This format can be easily adjusted to your writing style and whatever length your readers want. Sometimes books don't want to be that short and the more you write, the longer they will naturally become and you can decide if you want to take the plunge into erotic romance.
Main Marketing Points
I might crush your hopes a little bit here, but writing erotica for money is about 10% writing skills and 90% marketing skills. But this is, over all, good. Erotica sells itself for the most part, so as long as you have these 4 key ingredients for each book, you will see an income on your books:
A Good Cover
What good cover communicates visually what the book is about- within reason. Generally, and with good reason, retail sites won't let authors sell books with naked pictures on the cover. But you have a lot of room to play with fonts and images that can indicate to a reader what to expect in the book. Here are a variety of covers to give you some visuals about what to expect in a good erotica cover.
A Descriptive Title
Retailers and distributors go back and forth about titles because of censorship but for the most part, in short fiction erotica, the more blunt the title, the better the sales. A staple title template would read like so:
[VERB] by [the/a/my] [NOUN].
Spanked by my Stepbrother
Ravished by the Werewolf
Also, until your author or pen name becomes widely recognized, it is best to keep your name small and your title large. In conjunction with the image on the cover, interested readers can click on the book and get the information that will be your third marketing key.
A Descriptive Blurb
A blurb is the book description. Or, once you click to view a book, the place where you read the basic synopsis of what's going on in the book to determine if you want to buy it. The more you write, the better you will naturally become at these, but for now I will just point out a basic structure for an enticing blurb to get you started:
[Character] is just a normal [occupation/adjective], until one day something [changes/intro plot point.] Can [s/he] fix it, or will [antagonist] prevail, causing [threat/character] to [happen/verb]?
Very, very simple, and effective as a basic template, you can adjust and detail and flesh out to fit your specific story. For example:
For the past five years of her life, Andrea walked alone from her waitressing job at Blue Shrimp's to her car in the dead of night to go home. But one night, something unexpected happens. There's a yellow flashing light following her in the sky as she drives home. It vanishes once she gets home, but as she gets ready for bed, she can't shake the feeling someone, or something is in her house... Is it all in her head? Or is she being pursued by a higher form of Intelligence, eager to learn more about the human body?
It used to be that erotica authors could put more vivid descriptions in the blurbs of ebooks, but due to censorship they must go in the front of your book, after the title and on the copyright. This is the portion of the description where you list the sex acts that take place in the book, preferably in an enticing way.
Do your toes curl at the thought of young women seeking comfort with their step daddies? Or exploring sexuality with siblings? A good daddy's girl who saves herself just for the man who will never stop loving her? A wild and crazy sister who begs her brother to take her anal virginity?Each blissful adventure in this bundle is stuffed full of naughty family secrets that will keep your heart racing to the finish line!
This is the only part that goes on the inside of the book. Why that belongs on the inside of the book and not in the actual description field is a whole different can of worms.
After you've written a book, you want to give readers a way to read more of your stuff if they liked it. So after the text of the story, have excerpts for two or three more books. The excerpts can be either of similar content or a book that is selling well, to drive it up through the ranks and get more exposure.
Then you can put an "about the author" bit, where you talk about yourself or your pen name and include links to your catalogue, author pages, blogs, social networking places or your business, public email address.
Focus on the Fetish or Kink.
Unlike romance, the focus of writing profitable and fun erotica is the sex, and whatever kink or fetish your characters have, or whatever strange event is about to befall them. Whether the female protagonist is the willing slave of a billionaire, or fleeing from a minotaur waiting to ravish her, your book needs to have a kink or fetish to provide a focus and appeal to an audience.
If you don't know where to start, check out the best selling and top 100 erotica lists on Amazon. Kinks that sell or are "in" ebb and flow, and if you write what is popular you increase the chances of hitting a best seller.
But if you're just getting your feet wet with writing erotica, write a variety of things. A new pen name is almost invisible in the market anyway, but that gives you a lot of breathing room to find your voice, make mistakes, get your hands dirty and experiment. So try your hand at gender-swapping, hardcore BDSM, gay werewolves, tentacle monster abductions, shape shifters, shrinking or even vore.
Write a variety until you notice a particular book is taking off in sales. Whatever kink was in that book, write another similar to it. As long as it sells, write more of it until you're sick of it or it stops becoming profitable, or sales regulate.
Basic Kink Guide
Good tie-in kinks
Alpha male, helpless or weaker female protagonist, forceful sex, being hunted down and captured.
breeding, arranged marriage, gangbangs
Incest/ Pseudo Incest
"Forbidden" nature of the interaction, corrupting innocence
first time, breeding, anal
Experimentation, new sensations
first time, incest
incest, first time, breeding
Pricing & Bundling
What this whole hub is about: how much are you gonna make on each book?
Just like making money on hub pages, it is impossible to tell or estimate how much you'll make. But the steps and information I have provided have been formulas for success for the majority of erotica authors who dominate the top of the charts today.
Until you have your 30 titles under your belt, do not price anything below $2.99. Once you price below that, you lose your 75% royalties and get lowered to 35%, and since you are already virtually invisible it will be impossible for you to make up the difference that you could have made if your books were priced at 2.99.
2.99 is standard for short erotica, people who read it expect to pay that much for a short.
Once you have 30 books under your belt, that's the safest time to start experimenting with "loss leaders" and discounts, and those will become vital to your continued success, so that you can keep roping in new readers and give yourself greater exposure with books priced for free, .99 or 1.99. But when you do this, pick good selling books, not bad books or books that you believe were poor performances. Those are less likely to convince readers your books are worth the investment.
If you have a series or 3 or more books with the same kinks you can bundle them together, with discounted prices:
3 books for $6.99
4 books for $8.99
5 books for $9.99
You can do more than that of course, but your royalty percentage will drop back to 35% if you price above 9.99. But it is common for authors with large catalogues to offer giant (10+ books) bundles for free or very cheap.
You want to avoid putting the same book in more than one bundle. And be sure to list in the description what books are in the bundle so readers can know if they already have that book.
Take Breaks and Remember to Keep Reading
Taking breaks is extremely important because it will keep you from burning out, and I don't just mean doing nothing on the weekends, I mean every couple of months go take a whole week off, take vacations. If all you're doing is grinding out books all day, every day you lose the fun of the job.
Another way you can offset the grind is by writing random, quirky, fun books or satires. Humorous erotica does not sell well, but it is a good method for you to be productive and remember that doing this is also about fun.
You can use your breaks to read and refresh yourself about the changes of the market by reading new material. Constantly reading is also important for your writing, as I've stated before, it's easy to fall into the same word patterns in books, reading will prevent that.