In recent days, I’ve been seeing quite a few people on Facebook groups and Reddit pages discussing the viability of erotica as a source of substantial income. Since the craze ran during 2015-2016, everyone and their mother turned up to lay their stake into that particular oil well. For a while, things were going well. Demand was higher, and supply was much higher, and it had never been a better time to start as an erotica writer.
However, that time has now passed which leaves a heap of one-off writers now moving onto other things, and the rest of us having to deal with a, now, over-saturated market. The worst part is, there’s still people on Reddit and Facebook claiming that writing short, erotic stories, and publishing them, will make you an overnight success. On the surface, this may seem like a no-risk scheme to make a few bucks, but it still hurts the rest of us. Not to say you shouldn’t try to be a writer if you want to be. But are you committed to it?
I should explain. Everyone who has tried to publish something in the last few years knows exactly how hard it is to be a successful writer in this new self-publishing market created by Amazon. It’s never been more convenient to skip past the publishing house, and go straight to the sellers. The open market allows for happier authors, but with thousands of new books being published each year, authors are realizing no one even knows their book(s) exists. For all the people who thought they could make buckets of money just by hitting ‘Publish’ and sitting back as the money rolled in, they decide to cut their losses, and forget about the ‘get rich quick’ idea. What they don’t realize is how their actions affect those who legitimately love to write.
There are those of us out there who write, not just as a means of income, but because we truly love to write, and have a story within us that needs to come out. For these people, the prospect of less than a dozen sales is not going to deter us from writing another story. We’ve already made peace with the fact that we may not get rich, or even make enough to live comfortably or quit our day jobs. But we still do it anyway. We love it, it’s part of who we are. But we have to deal with a lot of competition.
Imagine being one of these writers who loves to write. You’ve just created an especially naughty little piece of erotica, checked it for errors, had a friend or two read it over, and paid $15 for a guy to create a sexy cover for it. You upload it to Kindle, or Smashwords, or Lulu, or whatever your preferred platform is. But your book’s rank is quickly falling, despite making a few sales from your promotions. You’re doing your best to share your work on author groups through Facebook, tweeting about it, paying for ad placement. But you still make very few sales, if any at all.
The reason for all this is market saturation. It’s not just you trying to make a splash in this business, it’s people who want to get rich quick as well. Even if you truly love to write, you still have to compete with the people who want to write micro-novels to make quick money, and bombard author groups with their incessant ‘HOT READ, 5 STARS’ ads. Even if these schemers end up giving up after a month or two, more will just replace them, and no matter how hard you try, it’s nearly impossible to stand out among them. It’s dis-heartening, demoralizing, and just plain not fair.
But it’s not just the schemers we have to compete with. A writer also has to compete with free story sites, 99 cent books, pirates, and sites like Wattpad. And if you read my articles regularly, you know I hate Wattpad. Why? Because the bar for quality stories is set so goddamn low, and readers are expected to give praise only. But that’s tangential to the point I’m making here. Being a writer is hard enough as it is, and marketing is about as difficult as the size of the market itself. So, if you plan on writing erotica as a means of making quick, extra money, here’s the truth: you’re going to be sorely disappointed.
Stephen King once wrote in his memoirs, “On Writing”, that if you don’t read, you don’t the tools, or the skills, to write. This is true for every writer and in every genre. And it tends to be true of those who write erotica for money. Many have never even read an erotic story, but still believe they can write something steamy enough to justify a $2.99 price tag.
Likewise, every writer is also a reader. Most writers who advertise their own work in author groups also take advantage of the selection of books being sold, buying them, and reading them. A writer supports other writers by buying their works, and leaving them reviews, just as they would ask of them in return. But by reading erotica written by others, an erotica writer learns more about their own craft, by discovering what is working, how dialogue is written, studying their prose, and polishing their own use of description. Years before I had taken up writing erotica myself, I spent a lot of time reading it. I’m not going to delude anyone into believing I’m an amazing erotica writer, but I can confidently say I know a thing or two.
But if you’re serious about making some extra money from your writing, there’s a few things I can impart to you. First of all, make sure you go through the extra steps to ensure your work is of quality content. Share it with a trusted friend, or two, and ask them to critique it for you. And when they do, accept the criticism. Use it to determine what changes could be made, and understand why it doesn’t work for them. If your friend finds some flaws in it, believe that your readers will too. Criticism is not the kind of thing to be taken with a grain of salt.
Secondly, don’t undervalue your own work to make some quick sales. Even if all you’re putting out is a short 5k word story, it’s not always in your best interest to price it at 99 cents. It might seem like setting the price at 99 cents would entice readers to buy your work right away, but it’s more likely to turn people off. When readers see 99 cents, they will immediately judge your story to be of very poor quality, and skip right past it. To put it another way: I love sushi, but if I see a plastic container of sushi at a gas station, sitting in the refrigerated section next to the plastic-wrapped sandwiches, with a price tag of $5? Yeah, I’m not going to touch it. Even with the “Fresh” sticker on it.
Finally, invest about as much time reading as you do writing. If all you do is come up with your own ideas, you may get burnt out pretty quickly. Reading stories written by others help keep the stream of ideas flowing. And if you like a story, then leave a review, leave a comment, buy their book. I guarantee you, if you’re active in your genre’s communities, and take an interest in other people’s work, they’ll do the same for you. That’s where your tribe starts.
Writing, publishing, and marketing. None of these things are easy to do, and you won’t find any success unless you show some real commitment to all three of them. If you enjoy erotica, have some great ideas for some stories, and don’t get burnt out after writing just a couple of them, then you have every right to write to your heart’s content. And I will support you, and read your stuff. But if you’re not serious about writing as a career, or as an enthusiast, and just want to make money by writing down your sexts, then you’ve chosen the wrong path.