What does it take to be an erotica author? Those who love to read a bit of erotica will likely be familiar with the next naked interviewee, and those seeking to carve a name for themselves within the literary side of the sex industry are in for a special insight. The second naked interview with an erotica writer- the compelling Diana Somerset of Somerset Eros Publishing – talks about what it takes to be a successful writer and publish in the world of erotic adult fiction.
What does it take to be an erotica author?
-How would you define yourself?
Technical Project Manager turned Erotic Publisher/Writer
-How did you first get started as a writer?
I used to write when I was young. We moved to West Germany when I was 11; it was 1981 and there was virtually no entertainment so I read and wrote a lot, plus played with Barbies and – believe it or not! – paper dolls. Then my writing progressed to creative writing classes, dark poetry in my goth/punk years in the eighties and finally, with my career. I’m a soon-to-be-ex-technical project manager and have been developing business communications and marketing for over two decades. Feeling the “burn-out” stage coming, I decided to channel my dirty little mind into something that was fun and enjoyable for me, and hopefully also my readers. And well, now the readers of Somerset Eros Publishing’s sexy short stories!
-How much personal research did you need to do to write your books?
Watch porn! But seriously, since I write erotica, so there’s not too much research, to be honest. Though, I wouldn’t let that fool any would-be writers of erotica. While there doesn’t have to be much research on the outside, there does need to be a lot of creativity, originality, courage, and imagination, which is all on the inside.
-Do you feel like it has been a tough journey to get started writing, or did it all fall into place quite easily?
Writing in one way or another has always been a part of me, so writing erotica is more of an extension of that I would say. But sitting down and actually writing – especially when you really, really don’t want to! – is tough sometimes.
I’m about to make the jump from spare/part-time to full-time so it will be easier in general. My day/vanilla job zaps my creative energy, so being away from that will free me up from a lot of mental exhaustion! With time having been limited, I was focused a lot more on publishing. The move to full-time will allow me to go back to writing alongside editing & publishing.
-What have been your main challenges starting out as an author?
Time. I truly do not have enough of it right now, but will with the move to full-time. But even with time, I find that this particular genre is difficult to promote. There are few channels available and it takes a lot of work. The promotional services out there are operated by some incredibly generous and open folks, it’s just the genre tends to have a stigma associated with it (“You don’t say …” says UnicornHunting!).
–Do you self-publish or do you have a traditional publishing house? What made you go this route?
I self-publish my own stories plus the stories of several other authors. This is the best route for this genre, I believe. Like porn clips, the entertainment needs to be short, to the point and mobile. For these reasons, plus marketing opportunities and the reach of Amazon, self-publishing is the way to go.
-How have you found it trying to promote adult material? What are the issues specific to this genre?
This genre is difficult to promote, especially here in the US where the attitudes towards anything other than boring, bland vanilla is getting less tolerant. I believe sex is always going to have a stigma over it, but I also believe it will always sell. It’s just a matter of finding the right marketing mix to find the readers. If this genre is difficult to promote, it’s not because there is a smaller audience. It just means we have to work a little harder, be a little more resourceful, and as with anything in life, be resilient.
-If someone wants to start writing erotica and become an erotic author, what tips would you give them?
I would start with short stories on subjects you are interested in. Make the stories good, edit and re-edit, create a good cover and publish at least 5-10 short stories in a few sub-genres to see what works for you and what moves the needle. 5-10 short stories likely won’t produce enough money to buy a box of condoms, but it will start to show you where to put your focus. Then the more you publish, the more you refine your genre, sub-genres, style, and your marketing mix.
And keep at it. Good advice in general.
–What is it you wish people knew about being an erotic writer?
It’s not as easy as it appears! We all know there are a lot of content farms out there that just churn out stories from overseas ghostwriters, but there are a lot of writers who put as much into these stories as any other writer of any kind of fiction does.
-What is the annoying thing you always get told/asked?
“No, we don’t accept erotica.” But I understand and don’t begrudge those folks. Erotic should be in a certain place, I just wish there were more of those places.
-How much do you separate your day to day and author identity?
Working a vanilla full-time job, it’s easy. 9-5 is day identity. Evenings and weekend is writer/publisher identity. When I go full-time, my day identity will become the marketing side of Somerset Eros Publishing, while the naughty side will continue with the writing, editing, and publishing.
-What can people (friends, family) do that you find most supportive?
I suppose not judge, though my friends and family don’t judge much. I’ve been quite open with my friends about all aspects of ‘me’, including the kinky, fetish-y, erotic side (though I don’t go into too, too many details with my mother!).
-What would you go back and tell yourself when starting out that you wish you’d known?
That though I am new getting into erotic writing and publishing, I have a lot to contribute. The erotic and general writing community is incredibly supportive, friendly, helpful and open to other’s thoughts and feedback – it’s not like that in other industries, so knowing that a new writer’s thoughts and ideas are valuable and welcomed would be great for any new writer to know. Kumbaya 🙂
-How do you find ebooks vs. paperback sell?
So far I’ve only been publishing ebooks. I know there is a huge market for paperbacks, but with the genre, ebooks work best. Also, the impact on the environment is so much less with an ebook, I don’t see myself venturing into paperback publishing.
-How different is being an erotic author to what you’d originally imagined?
I suppose I had some dreamy idea of writing most of the day in a distant location blooming with inspiration; there’s more to being a successful writer than just writing. You are also a marketer and promoter. There is the business side of writing, which needs attention too.
-What do you think are the components that go into making up good erotic writing?
For short stories, 2-4 characters with enough backstory to understand their place in the story, not too much plot development (think: porn), but well-thought out. People might want to ‘get off’ but they also like quality. Write well-thought-out sentences, and edit, edit, edit, which requires you to re-read, re-read, re-read. Creativity and imagination are the glue for it all. Use your imagination, and really push it! And have fun!
-What is the biggest mistake people make about you?
That I’m more vanilla than I really am. I look like the quintessential librarian at my day job. I know they have no idea what’s underneath!
-How do you think the world of erotic writing is changing?
Though most of us are not fans of 50 Shades, it did bring BDSM, kink, and eroticism close to the mainstream – albeit a warped interpretation of it. More specific to ebook writing, I do feel that the explosion of self-publishing has muddied the waters with sub-average publications. But I do believe those titles won’t have longevity.
-What are the financial challenges an erotic author faces?
Fortunately not nearly as much as I would think a paper/hardback novelist would have. However, as I mentioned earlier, there is a business side to erotica or any writing that needs attention. Keeping your marketing and time organized will help you see how much money you are spending. And as always, all the marketing and promotion won’t make up for a poorly-written story. Write good stuff and a lot of it – this is probably the best investment a writer can make.
-If you were teaching a workshop on erotic writing, what are the 5 main areas you’d cover?
1. Characters; 2. story outline; 3. tone and perspective; 4. chapter layout; 5. book editing including cover
-Do you think people reading erotica affects them in any fundamental way? And if so how?
Most definitely. Despite the stigma, sex is good and healthy for people (“You don’t say …” says UnicornHunting!); erotica is just an extension of that. It’s incredibly cathartic for me as a writer, and I write in a way that I hope connects with people to entertain, move, excite or perhaps even be cathartic for them as well.
–Of all you’ve written, what is your favourite story arc? Who is your favourite character?
I love real-life situations with same-sex partners. I love exploring what I think is quite natural in humans but has been stigmatized by the morally-conservative side of society. My favorite characters are always those who give into their bi-sexual feelings – those who are no longer afraid or nervous to give it a go!
-Have you ever faced any problems due to being an erotic writer?
Not yet, fortunately!
-What is your next project like?
I am going to start a series about a dominatrix and her clients. The dominatrix’s vanilla alter-ego will be the main character in a non-erotic trilogy I’m also developing. The story lines will dovetail in and out of each other, though all stories could stand on their own. Her name is Madame Beatrixx … keep an eye out for Her! She’ll make Her debut early summer on the Amazon Kindle Store!
-Any words of wisdom for someone looking to start reading erotica?
Sorry for all the not-so-great works out there, but keep sifting and digging – there are a lot of incredible writers out there with vivid (very vivid) imaginations!
-Any words of wisdom for someone looking to start writing their own erotica?
Write in genres that interest or excite you. Write well, edit and re-read … again and again. Don’t forget the business side. And have fun!
Follow the beautiful Diane here:
Somerset Eros Publishing Website