Saturday, October 08, 2011

Erotica

ADDED NOTE: I'd forgot about this, but an interview with me just went up over at Penny Ehrenkranz's blog. I hope you can check it out.
And now, back to my original blog post for today.

I’ve blogged before about a strange goal I’ve had in my writing life to try and publish something in every genre. In pursuit of that goal, many years ago now, I had an erotica story published under a pseudonym. I used the pseudonym because my mom was still alive at the time, and she would not have approved. When I was a teenager my mom didn’t even like me reading anything with sex in it. She once picked up a book I’d borrowed from my older sister that had sex scenes in it. That was not a pleasant day when I got home from school, and I know it was worse for my sister, who I’m sure got a sound chewing out.

Even worse, when I was in high school my mom found one of my notebooks in which I’d written down a scene that had sex in it. I still vaguely remember that scene, and it was incredibly tame even by the standards of the time. Nevertheless, it was sex and she was not happy. I didn’t get yelled at too much; I got the “disappointment,” and that was far worse.

I did later publish stories with sex in them while mom was alive. I just didn’t tell her about them. But I didn’t publish anything in which sex was pretty much the sole purpose of the tale. Except that one pseudonymous story. This brings me to today’s post.

I’m thinking of republishing that old erotic story as a .99 cent kindle ebook. I haven’t decided on a title yet, and I have no idea at present about a cover. I’m trying to decide whether to use my own name or another pseudonym. I do intend to acknowledge it if I publish it, but it might still be best to use a pseudonym. The thing is, although the books published under Charles Allen Gramlich have been in different genres, they have all had a strong sense of adventure at the core of them (except for some of the stuff in Midnight in Rosary, I guess.) This story would not have that so it seems reasonable to establish a different name for it. I had once thought about writing a romance novel and using the name “Pamela Charles” on it. I have a feeling that erotica sells better with a female author’s name on it, but I don’t know for sure. Maybe someone here knows. So here are my questions to my fellow bloggers.

1. Is there any likelihood that publishing an erotica story would hurt the sales of my other titles? I guess here I’m wondering if there is still any stigma attached to publishing erotica. I have to admit, and it’s probably my Catholic upbringing, it still sometimes seems a little questionable to me.

2. What do you think about a pseudonym? Should I use a female one, and, if so, what about Pamela Charles?

3. For anyone that has published or read a .99 cent ebook, what kind of word count do you typically look for in such a work? Especially for erotica?

4. As for covers, how and where do people get covers for erotica?

As always, thanks for reading.
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39 comments:

X. Dell said...

(1) I dunno sales from a hole in the wall. As a consumer, an erotica book wouldn't make me think differently from any other book you wrote. In other words, I would be indifferent. But who knows what someone else might think?

Besides, who says erotica isn't adventurous? Surely, it's fantasy.

(2) Since you're mulling the question, I would suggest that you go ahead and use a feminine pen name. After all, ever since Mike McGrady (et al) published Naked Came the Stranger (1969) as Penelope Ash, it's been a kinda tradition, right?

Better yet, you can get someone you know to take the "About the Author" photo, if it's ever included in a hardback book of erotic short stories

(3) The only e-book titles I've ever read were previously published in hard and softcover--anywhere between 60-100K words. A story? If it's a really good one, maybe 3,000.

(4) I'm not sure I can help you there.

AvDB said...

I can't answer most of these questions, but I'm sure as hell intrigued by your potential erotica debut. I'd love to add that to my Gramlich collection.

I don't read erotica (except for a couple of Kate's stories), but I think if I did I would probably gravitate more towards feminine author names.

Rachel V. Olivier said...

I have heard of other guys who publish under a female pseudonym because they get better sales that way. My mom and your mom would get along. I have a couple of erotica tales "out there" but it's been a while and both are out of print (well one is probably out of print, the other the website no longer exists). They're under my own name, but I've thought about putting them under a different name if I ever republished them. Similar reasons to you. If people are used to a certain tale when they pick up a Charles Gramlich book, they might not be happy if it's different than what they expect, even if it does say erotica or adult fantasy in bold letters on the front. So, maybe it's a good idea.

David J. West said...

Everything I've read and talked about with a number of pro's is to get a new name when you switch genre's.

I sincerely doubt any of your core readers and fans (who already know cuz we read the blog) would care, but in branching out into a non-action adventure tale I do think Pamela Charles might be better.

Just my two bits.

Deka Black said...

Well... i think the pen name is a good idea. Just for being prudent. Plus, the use of one allows you to take writing risks without harm your oter works, i think.

Angie said...

1. Yes. There are people who are prejudiced against erotica and will avoid an author who's known to write it. Also, there's pushback from some writers toward writers from perceived inferior genres. Romance writers who cross over into SF get crap from some SF writers, for example. Erotica is one of those genres everyone else likes to feel superior to. Not "everyone" as in every writer in the world, but "everyone" as in at least some writers from pretty much every other genre. You know how lit writers often look down on genre writers? Genre writers often look down on erotica writers; it's like having someone to sneer at makes them feel better about themselves.

My view is that people who have these prejudices are idiots and I don't care what idiots think, but one does need a thick skin.

2. Since I assume you'll be writing het erotica :) a female pseud would do fine. If you're going for erotic romance, or if your target market for your erotica is primarily female, then you'll do a lot better with a female pseud than with a male. A male name on a romance cover still triggers prejudice in a significant chunk of the readership. If you're writing something targetted at men -- if you'll be submitting to men's magazines, frex., and/or if your language is going to be more on the raunchy side, you'd probably be better off with a male pseud.

If you decide to go with a female pseud, "Pamela Charles" should work just fine.

3. $.99 covers pretty much everything. There's a lot of debate on pricing in the indie chunk of the business right now, and you can find a lot of writers who swear that every book no matter how long should be ninety-nine cents. There are plenty of novels available at that price.

On the other hand, there are people who see a book priced at $.99 and think it must be garbage, so you'll lose some of your audience by low-balling a novel. Also, if people are willing to pay more but you charge less, you're leaving money on the table.

Also-also, a lot of people will grab a book for $.99 as an impulse buy, but not actually read it, or at least will let it sit unread for a very long time. It's great to make that one sale, but you're better off in the long run if you have readers who'll buy your next book and tell their friends about you. If you're only thinking of this being a one-shot, that's not an issue, but if you might write more erotica, it's something to think about.

Ninety-nine cents can be a good novel price as a loss leader to get you some attention, particularly if it's the first book of a series. If you're self-pubbing, though, note that you can dink with the prices if you want. I've read posts by a number of writers who've had good luck with pricing their novels at $2.99 to $4.99, but lowered the price to $.99 for a month as promo, then raised it again.

[Continued on Next Rock...]

Angie said...

[...Continued from Previous Rock]

4. Note that erotica covers don't usually have naughty bits on them. :) So you get the covers the same place you get any other cover -- you hire a cover artist if that's how you want to go, or you go to the stock photo sites and find appropriate photo(s) and build your own. There are stock photos of hot people, of hot people half naked, and of hot people all naked but with only certain things showing, like bare backs, men's chests and everyone's butts. Note that hot people with all their clothes on can still be hot, depending on the pose and such; you don't have to have graphic sex on your cover to signal to everyone that there's graphic sex in the book. :)

If you're doing it yourself (or even if you're not, come to think of it) it'd be a good idea to look through existing erotica covers in your genre/subgenre, to familiarize yourself with the photos used. There's some snickering among the readers when they can spot the same model in the same pose (and hence the same stock photo) used over and over and over; there's a whole web site for pointing and giggling at such things on the m/m side. OTOH it's all publicity, so that might not be a completely bad thing, but you probably don't want your cover to be so close to someone else's that there'd be confusion. Something to think about, though.

How separate you keep your pseuds is up to you. For myself, when I start publishing mainstream SF and fantasy, I plan to use a different name, but I'm not going to make the link between that and my romance/erotica name a state secret. The main point there is going to be to help my readers keep the genres separate, so they can only buy Genre X if that's all they're into, but so the info is available for them to get all my other books too if they want.

The exception is that if I ever publish a children's or YA book (and I have an idea or two that'd work for that) I'll definitely use a different name AND it'll be a strict secret; there's more prejudice against an erotica writer writing a YA/kids' book than any other combination I can think of. It's like people think the smut-cooties are going to infect their kids regardless of what is or isn't in the actual kids' book. [eyeroll] If you think there's any chance at all that you might have a plot bunny some day for a YA or kids' book, I'd suggest keeping your erotica pseud tightly sequestered from your others. Or plan to tightly sequester your kids' book pseud, either way.

Angie

G said...

I agree with the rest of the commenters about having a pen name to use for publishing erotica.

I started querying my project to small-to-medium sized publishers, and almost to a T, they ask for a pen name.

If the erotica is hetero, then a female pen name would be the way to go. If it ain't, then male pen name would do (I've read somewhere that a sizable chunk of non-hetero erotica are written by females who use male pen names).

Most, if not all cover art for erotica shows just enough skin/body parts to keep it from wandering into R/X rated territory, so no matter what you choose for a cover you should be okay.

Liz said...

Pull a Stephen King; "Charles Gramlich writing as..." the pseudonym.

Tom Doolan said...

I was going to post my opinion, but they have already all been covered by others. :)

I concur that Pamela Charles is a good name. If I publish my own erotica, I think I might go for an androgynous name. I dunno.

Anyways, I say go for it. And keep us informed how it all works out. I'm personally very interested. :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Pamela Charles sounds good. No idea on the rest though.

Kate Sterling said...

Well, here's my three cents:

1 cent: Yes, female names sell erotica better than male.

2 cents: Go for it! :)

3 cents: If you don't have someone else do your cover or don't do it yourself, I know someone who'd likely to do it for free just 'cause she'd want to help you along on your new venture. :)

Okay - this will be more than three cents... about your question will erotica hurt your other sales... maybe. That's another reason for a different name. In fact, I'm wanting to take my Kate Sterling name in a different direction, and will start writing the erotica under another name.

And .99 size wise - I've seen everything from 5000 words up to 50,000. It's a tough call. I do wish people would settle on a scale for size & price. We'd all benefit, IMHO.

Kate Sterling said...

PS: I love the idea of publishing something in every genre. I'd like to do that myself.

Aimless Writer said...

I probably wouldn't by an erotica written by a man thinking I'd get some Penthouse story instead of a decent erotica story. Yes there is a big difference-women need the story and emotion. A lot of the Penthouse stuff is just the mechanics of sex in a whoohoo I-got-laid scenario. Is this thinking wrong? Probably but the thought is still in my head.
Pamela Charles is definitely a good name.
When I see 99 cent books I figure I spend more than that on coffee so what the heck, I'll read. Especially if I know the author. I think your website should say something as "also writing as Pamela Charles". That way those that follow you as an author will know where to find your other genres.

Charles Gramlich said...

X. Dell, the work that I have has strong elements of fantasy in it, of the other type of fantasy than just sex that is. But no sword fights or laser duels. Feminine name does sound right. I considered a young lady of my acquaintance for the author photo back when I was thinking of the romance novel. I’m probably gonna add another piece to it to make it longer.

AvDB, I’ve enjoyed Kate’s stuff too. Up until this last couple of months I’d read very little erotica. I picked up some free stuff at Kindle to read when I started thinking about putting out that ebook.


Rachel V. Olivier, erotica is a whole different set of challenges to write so I’m intrigued by that aspect of it. That’s two votes for a female pseudonym. It’s ahead in the polls.

David J. West, yeah, that’s definitely what I’m thinking as well. It will be pretty far removed from the typical Gramlich tale.


Deka Black, I think so, although I still have to allow folks to know the connection if I’m gonna support it and try to encourage its sale. But that’s a delicate aspect I haven’t thought that much about.


Angie, I know you’re right about the genre writers who look down on other genres. It’s just so incredibly silly really. But it does happen. The piece is het and is not overly raunchy, though it’s quite explicit. Since it’s mostly a romantic subplot I think the male pseudonym would be less desirable. If I were writing crime erotica then maybe. I’m considering doing the 99 cent promo thing for Killing Trail and probably will around Christmas time. The erotica is definitely a longish short story so I wouldn’t charge more than 99. I wouldn’t charge less than 2.99 for a novel, and probably it would be 3.99. I don’t see myself at present writing more erotica, but I’ve learned never to say never. Lana was telling me about the stock photo sites last night. I didn’t think of that. I didn’t want the cover to be graphic but I did want something overtly sexual on it to make sure folks would know the genre. But I think I’d prefer them with clothes, perhaps in a provocative pose. I was on Amazon looking at the covers and found one series of books by one publisher that all had the same cover, with different titles and authors on it. I didn’t much like that. The rest range over a lot of ground. Your point about the “state secret” is what I was thinking too. I don’t see any likelihood that just throwing the erotica ebook up without giving it any kind of support would be helpful, so I would make the point that it’s me. I didn’t think of the YA thing, though. That’s interesting. I do in fact have a YA idea in mind, actually partly done, called “Farhaven.” Good food for thought, there.


G, that’s about the cover I was thinking of, yes, titillating but not overly graphic. It would be hetero erotica.




Liz, I could do that. Lol. It would even be kinda fun.


Tom Doolan, thanks, Tom. I was looking at the names of authors on amazon too for erotica. A lot of Jades and amethysts. I didn’t want to go that route.


Alex J. Cavanaugh, at least with Pamela Charles I’d have part of my name in there!


Kate Sterling, thanks. I was actually trying to find your email address. I was gonna ask you a question about the whole process, since I’ve read and enjoyed your stuff in that area. I thought I had an email from you but I couldn’t find it. If you should read this, would you mind dropping me a line at Kainja at hotmail dot com! I’d especially like to talk to you about the cover thing.

Aimless Writer, that’s a good idea about “also writing as.” I’ve seen other writers do that. It may just be a total one shot, though, and the stuff I have is not Penthouse letter kind of stuff, but more a romantic fantasy type tale. That’s partly why I wanted to use a female name, though.

Kate Sterling said...

Email sent, Charles. Check your spam filter for katesterlingwriting at yahoo in case it gets lost. :)

Angie said...

A lot of publishers (including mine) use a line cover, like the one you saw with only the title and author's name different, for very short e-books. Indie authors can afford to put individual covers on short stories, especially if they're doing the work themself. A small press has another layer of expenses, though, and having to pay an artist would push the cost of the book up past what most readers are willing to pay.

As it is, my publisher charges $1.99 for shorts, and it'll be interesting to see how long that's viable, now that so many indies are going for $.99. Many of the small e-original publishers won't sell stand-alone short stories at all because the margin is so tight, even with line covers.

As a writer, I'd much prefer to have a custom cover for each book. As a reader, I'd rather be able to buy individual shorts by favorite authors without having them cost significantly more.

If you decide to do your own covers, the Mythbreaker Forum on Proboards has a topic called Cover Critiques. It's a good place to browse to see what other indie writers are saying about different covers, even if you don't have anything to post for comment yourself yet.

Angie

Ty Johnston said...

My suggestions? Go with the pseudonym. Use a female name. 99 cents is okay for a shorter piece, which is what it sounds like you've got planned, at least initially.

None of those things will hurt, and I believe your thinking (and the opinions of most others as expressed here) are right on track.

Travis Cody said...

I don't have much advice to offer to these questions.

I did ask Pam for a woman's perspective as a reader. She said that her mind forms a perception of what she's likely to read when she sees that the author of an erotic or romance novel is male. She said her expectation is for a coarser style of language and a less emotional feel to the story when the author is male. She said she might avoid a male-authored book in the genre, unless it has been recommended to her.

So for that reason, I'd suggest going with Pamela Charles for your story.

Charles Gramlich said...

Kate, thanks so much. I will send you something soon.

Angie, thanks for the link. As I start thinking about the cover I will have to check that out and see what is what.

Ty, it's just nice to get some confirmation that my thoughts aren't way out of line.

Travis Cody, thanks for checking with Pam. I appreciate that. It's about what I figured but it's nice to get the confirmation.

Jess said...

So many questions from you!

The first thing that popped into my mind when reading your post was advice from my own mother who always told me, "when in doubt, don't." I passed that advice down to my own daughter--right or wrong. There's that little gut feeling inside us that we can trust.

I don't read erotica but I'm a member RWA and SavvyAuthors and I know that erotica is really hot right now. Supposedly, it gets tremendous sales.

I do think you should use a pseudonym. In my mind, women write erotica and men write porn. Sorry--It's not fair I know. :/

As for the .99 novel: I've bought full size books for .99 and I've bought novellas for that price. Today, anything goes. There's no right or wrong way.

Covers: I spent $125.00 on a cover for my novel I hope to get on Kindle. The designer I wanted only charged $50 but she was backlogged and couldn't take me on. I can give you some names of designers if you want to pay that much but honestly, you and Lana could design a beautiful sexy cover yourselves. Just remember the two most important things: author name and title. :) I assume there will be many more Pamela Charles books.

Many legitimate publishers have a line of erotica. Check this out:
http://www.jasminejade.com/default.aspx?skinid=11

Also: http://www.musapublishing.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=2&products_id=20

Take a look at their covers for erotica. You can slam us in the face or you can be subtle and sexy. :)

laughingwolf said...

i'd ask those Qs of our erotica guide, stacia kane...

nothing wrong with using pen names, so long as checks in that name are made out to your company, or you have a separate account with that name and your bank is aware of it...

btw, there is a LOT of $$$ in writing erotica, esp if it's also in the 'romance' vein... a tough nut to crack, but very lucrative once you do... i read somewhere some romance readers consume two or three per day, sometimes more, and every book is bought first...

Angie said...

LW -- you do business with your publisher under your legal name, and that's how the checks are made out. You can form an LLC or something if you want, and request the checks in that name, but I don't know anyone who does that. Maybe that's more common with the bigger names, whose checks have a lot more zeroes than mine? :)

Angie

Charles Gramlich said...

Jess, I'd hope for something subtle in the cover. The story is not overly graphic so that would be better. As for putting it out there, I tend to think that what I read I should feel comfortable in writing. I've read some erotica, of course. And it's certainly an intersting challenge, but I'm still not sure

Laughingwolf, well that would be nice. I'd like to make a bit of money from my writing.

Angie, yeah, I'd just put it up on kindle under the same setup I have for Killing TRail and that will directly linked to my bank.

jodi said...

Charles-oh our Catholic upbringing! Somehow a woman author seems realistic, but I can usually tell if it was written by a male anyways. It won't hurt your Charles Gramlich brand, if you do choose to use your name--it will just show your versatality. Go for it any way you choose!

Oscar said...

Since I don't know much about it, I can't philosophize on the subjects. I'd just go with what your inner voice tells you.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Lawrence Block uses Jill Emerson for his more "romantic" tales. Why not
Charlene Gram or something those lines?

sage said...

Can give you muc advice here... Are women erotica writers more marketable, I never knew that (or thought much about it). I think a pseudonym goes without saying... (or it would in my situation!)

Charles Gramlich said...

Jodi, I'm a walking guilt trip at times, I tell you. Lana tells me I'm way too much that way.

Oscar, I have disobeyed my inner voice a few times. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. :)

Patti, that's an idea. I like having my name in there somewhere.

Sage, then the question becomes how much do you keep the pseudonym a secret and so on. Too much thinking. My brain doesn't like it.

the walking man said...

First sorry for not being around for awhile...life and all that.

A lot of writers started out writing erotic stories and almost to a T they used a pseudonym. Personally I am not fascinated by the Pamela Charles name. If you choose to go that route I would use a common but not to common first name, Meredith for example, and the last name just open a phone book if you still have one and fins something with a slight alliterative quality to it. Just to make the name "catchy"

As for a word count if it's slam bam thank you then about 100 words would do it, but if there is an interesting back story then novella size would be good.

The cover...dude you have one of the most talented photographers in America for a wife, if she cant find a nature scene with or without posed people in that translates well the story line then you are going to pay more for the cover then you will ever make off the book.

My covers were all done by friends who had never done a cover before. You might want to talk it over email with the woman who did the third cover, she is an artist despite the culture she lives in and may just come up with an interesting out of the box thought.

Either way no matter what just go for it you're not going to ruin your credibility as an author of many genres because you wrote a bit of erotic literature.

laughingwolf said...

that works like a charm, angie :)

Charles Gramlich said...

Mark, thanks. I talked to Lana about the cover and I'm not sure she feels comfortable with it. Mainly because she just doesn't know what this kind of thing entails. She did the cover for Killing Trail, and will do it for my next collection sa well.

Laughingwolf, indeed!

eric1313 said...

No idea what you should do, but be creative! Nice post.

In keeping with the charles theme...

How about Pam Carolina?

Andromeda Charlemagne? Wait, don't steal that one, that one's mine... lol

BernardL said...

I think a pen-name would be best. Our friends who have written erotica nearly all had pen-names while doing erotica. It has nothing to do with being ashamed of doing erotica. It merely separates very different types of writing. Some readers who have bought the 'Talera' series might be upset downloading an Amazon sample of your erotica story. As to word count, LANCELOT was around 94,000 words. Whether to do a female or male pen-name is an interesting question. I like the female one you came up with but if you plan to acknowledge the writing, how then will that play out?

cs harris said...

I vote for the pseudonym. It becomes a way for readers to know what they're getting right away without making much effort.

Charles Gramlich said...

eric1313, I'll let you keep the Andromeda. Maybe something with "martel" at the end.

BernardL, so many decisions about it all. I'm still struggling with a lot of things.

Candy, Yes, I think I would definitely use the pen name. Most everyone seems to agree.

c

eric1313 said...

Carolina Martel?

eric1313 said...

it would be like Indiana Jones' female counterpart lol

Steve Malley said...

Haha, you've been busy on here-- can't believe I missed all these posts!

Also, in true Full Throttle fashion, this week I slapped a .99 estory up on Amazon without thinking about a single one of your own very good questions.

I'll let you know how it goes...