Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Where to publish your hot stuff?

In this post I'm going to run through the three epublishing sites I've published on, outlining my experience for would-be writers who wish to share their erotica. 

Elsewhere in the blogosphere, people muse on the question: Smashwords or Amazon Kindle?  Here I'll also consider Literotica.

The answer is - Why be shy? Publish on all of them! Or rather, the answer is the same as when you muse about choosing between different possible lovers. It depends what you want to do with them. 

Amazon Kindle is a highly commercial and professional website aimed at selling books.  There is a kind of thrill about seeing your work up there alongside well established and even classic literature and of course you will be readily available for reading on the Kindle, the fastest growing outlet for the no-longer-printed word.
academics,books,communications,definitions,dictionaries,pages,education,schools,text,wordsSmashwords is also a commercial website on which, if you follow their instructions, your work will look pretty classy. (Smashwords gives the impression that it publishes directly to Kindle but in fact it doesn't.)

Literotica is not at all commercial, all of the stories on here are free. The site is clunky and on first viewing you may wonder why people bother to put stories up here when they can do something that looks so much cooler and classier on Smashwords or Amazon Kindle. However there are interesting benefits to publishing on Literotica. (And I don't mean the opportunity to click on their sponsors' webcams.)

You may want to look too at the site called Lush, which is glossier than Literotica although it also carries heavier advertising in video format.  Lots of people rate Lush, I just find it difficult to read (even erotica) while a large dong is going up and down into a pussy just outside my eyeline on the screen.  
I started my epublishing career on Smashwords. I heard vague rumours about publishing on the net so I googled free epublishing and Smashwords is what I found. It was a really good experience, although it was hard work and there were many anxst-ridden moments while I tried to sort out my formatting and figure out whether my lovely graphics would make it through the 'meatgrinder'. I worked my way carefully through their instructions as to how to get your work ready for their site; this is a must if you want to do your lovingly crafted sexy stuff justice. (Smashwords will also offer to put you in touch with experts in the process who charge a reasonable fee.)

When I saw my first book up there, with its own cover designed inexpertly by me, I was so thrilled. I got quite a few page views, some downloads and someone actually bought a copy of the book very soon (although this was a bit of a fluke! nobody bought another copy). It was the best feeling that people had the opportunity to check out my work, after all those years of it sitting in a box with me wondering if it might give other people enjoyment and entertainment. 

I'm still not sure if the sales never got going because the novels are not that good or because I'm not yet au fait with the marketing malarkey and not getting out and about in the right ways but that's another matter.

Smashwords is really helpful to first time authors because it gives you easy to read data on how many people are checking out your page advertising your book, how many are downloading it and how many are buying it. The page with your book on has a ribbon on the side with information about what people look at who look at your book and what they also buy if they buy your book. (It's quite interesting what that one person who bought my first book is shopping around for!) Putting these things together, you can get a good picture as to whether you are pitching your book correctly. (I rapidly realised that by putting the words 'domestic slave' into the short description of my strongly feminist short story I had made a signal to a group of people who weren't actually going to enjoy my story at all.)

It takes a little while to get your head around all the different categories and sub-categories Smashwords has. On reflection it would have been time well-spent looking through these and identifying which two would be best suited to my book (they let you put your book in two categories). Books are organised newest first (although you can also choose to view lists of books according to most downloaded, best rated, price, etc) and so it's important to get the categories right so that you can quickly appear to potential readers as a hot new item they will want to check out. I might have done this if I had realised that I could cruise through a lot of literature in the categories for free (although I was so excited about putting my work out there for real people to read that probably not).

Smashwords is the most flexible and quickest site for authors. They offer plenty of options for you to tinker with, allowing you to choose how much free sample you can give your readers to tempt them in and both a shorter and longer description of your book. If you make changes to the pricing, description or sampling, these are rapidly assimilated and although it takes a few days for you to get onto their premium catalogue and distributed through other outlets (Kobi, Barnes & Noble), your book usually appears in minutes on the main Smashwords website where you can immediately start opening it up, admiring your flawless prose and saying to yourself: "Oh damn, I knew I should've stripped that formatting better."

Smashwords also publishes a lot of other kinds of books so you can put all your writing in one place here. You will have to switch the Adult filter off in order to see the erotica and they will ask if you have got adult content and sometimes they reject your description if it's got naughty words in it although this can often slip past them. 

I think I made the right choice in going to Amazon Kindle after cutting my teeth on Smashwords. By the time I started preparing my book to publish it on Kindle, I had done two or three on Smashwords and so the Amazon instructions on how to publish were reasonably easy to follow although the way in which they do it if you have graphics is quite different. I had also had a chance to test out my material and I made the decision to edit down my first novel very hard and republish it on Smashwords while simultaneously putting the new version up on Amazon for the first time.

Amazon Kindle doesn't give you any information on how many people cruised your page, only how many people bought your work of genius. Their categories are quite hard to fit into for erotica writers and difficult to figure out how to get into more than one. They present their work most popular first, since their driving ambition is to sell more stuff regardless of its quality, although you can toggle around to get your book near the top, well page 4 or 5 at least - but are new readers going to do this? Amazon is really geared up to make money for Amazon, while Smashwords does have an ethos in which it is attempting to equitably present interesting new work.

Finally I got into publishing a piece on Literotica. At first I wasn't sure why anyone would do this. The site looks really clunky and under-designed and you can't earn any money with your stuff on it - well, except in competitions they run. It's been set up by people who earnestly wish to meet a need for good writing about sex rather than become billionaires and who accept some sponsorship to do so from various sexy sites. There is a rudimentary ethical framework: no sex with minors or beasts, however the site is strongly committed to freedom of speech standards so there is quite a lot of 'interesting' stuff on it.

I published on Literotica because I had a finely honed erotic short story which didn't sell at all on Smashwords. I had just written it in a rush of blood - to the head, darlings! Please! - after starting to publish my vanilla romances and finding a wealth of hot stuff on Smashwords. Inspired to do something a bit more explicit, I wrote As Pleases My General. At first I thought: Sex Sells, so I was a bit taken aback to find it doesn't necessarily. Was it because mine was a strongly feminist piece of writing, does sex only sell when it's framed in dodgy patriarchal values and when badly written in a particular style? I changed a few things about my story, including the title, and decided to put it up free on Smashwords and I got a sudden rush of downloads which cheered me up (current count about 220) but nobody would review the story and I didn't know if they were actually reading it or just taking a quick peek and going, Oh yuck! not a strong woman character who enjoys sex and isn't ashamed to admit it!

I read Lucy V Morgan's blogpost recommending Literotica saying she had got huge numbers of downloads and good feedback and although I thought, 'Yeah, but you're probably really good,' I thought I'd give it a go. At first I tried to sign up with one of the volunteer editors to get some feedback on my story but she never got in touch with me and I couldn't be bothered to wait around for another one so I just put the story up there.

It takes days for your story to be processed by Literotica, which is a bit frustrating, but the process of uploading is pretty simple. You have to strip out virtually all formatting. They will do italics for you if you ask nicely but I thought, 'why trouble them, poor things, they are obviously working pretty hard as it is,' and just used speech marks or in one place capital letters instead.

Literotica don't give you the opportunity to put a lovely cover up for your work and you've got one short line in which to describe it. This seems a bit mean at first but the end result is, if you're no good at marketing it doesn't matter. The work is presented in three simple groups: New, Random (they whirl them about so old ones get a chance to be viewed again) and Hall of Fame. It's easy to see what is hitting the spot as readers' votes on stories are put up next to the story link in a simple star system. Basically because LIterotica is not interested in making money out of the stories it promotes, it has got a system genuinely aimed at showing readers which are the best and hottest stories. Writers new and old are competing on a level playing field and the better written and sexier stories will stand out easily from lack of hype. Nobody's selling so there isn't space provided for hype!
appliances,household,ironing,boards,electric irons,men,tools,clothes,peopleIn literally hours of appearing on the site, my story had collected over 1400 views. Even better, 9 people had voted on it and it was scoring 4.67 (this makes it officially Hot! sorry, I had to boast about that). There were no comments but I felt reassured. This meant that readers were saying a cross between "Really liked it - good read!" and "Loved it - one of the best!". Actually, unless your story is a 3 star: "Liked it - keep writing" or below, when you might want to know what you need to do to improve your work, that's all you want. By the next day someone had hearted the story and someone-else left a comment so flattering that I purred and felt like bursting into tears all at once. The main message I got was that my writing is enjoyable so I needn't hang up my pen and go back to the ironing. (Actually the ironing is one of my fella's household tasks but that's a topic for my other blog.)

By the second day, nearly 2000 people had viewed my story and 20 had voted on it. That means 1% of readers are willing to just hit a star to rate the work without even going to the trouble of saying anything about it - as someone who has read and rated Literotica stories while engaged in my arduous business of reviewing material for this site (sigh, someone has to do it), I can tell you that it couldn't be easier yet so few are willing to do it. No wonder then that out of 220 people who downloaded my story on Smashwords, nobody has yet been willing to give me any feedback.

Well, what site should you load your stuff onto?

If you are insistent that people must pay for your work, then Smashwords and Kindle will be your options. I should do Smashwords first, they are quick at turning your material around and it's easier to put things right if they go wrong on Smashwords.

If you are looking to share your lovely story, don't much care if you get paid for it, or if you are looking to establish yourself and get a name going or you are a new writer who would like to get a sense of whether your material can interest others, then you definitely want to look at loading stuff onto Literotica. Do Smashwords, and by all means Amazon Kindle, too, why not. (It's difficult to put up your work for free on Amazon unless you agree to belong to them body and soul and only do it for a short period as a promotion - as I said earlier, they are aimed at making money for Amazon..  I do put my freebies up there at the lowest price I can, simply so that people can read them on Kindle if they want to.)  
Literotica is where you get the best sense of whether your writing is any good, and the best ego boosts. Writing is a lonely business and it's great to be able to log in occasionally and see, Oh, OK, another 50 people are reading my words and 3 more just rated me.  

Think about setting up online places where your readers can find and contact you about your range of work.  I review a lot, because I'm used to doing literary criticism, and I often wish writers had a separate blog, webpage or email address I could  go to and leave feedback which needn't so publicly say to an author:  you need to do some work on this.  People come to this blog from Literotica, which I'm mainly pleased about because I want the blog traffic to get going.  I think they also then go on to my Smashwords profile and look at the writing I've done you have to pay for which is a nice bonus.  

1 comment:

  1. Since writing this post I've also started reading and participating in the Authors' Hangout - one of the fora on Literotica. It's fun to be in touch with other erotica writers and informative.