As you may know I do not belong to the Insecure Writer Support Group, but sometimes I feel like writing a post along that theme. This month as you may get from the title involves my turning to the dark side, ie erotica and that question Rod Stewart posed in the 70s: Do you think I'm sexy?
For a while I'd noted on Amazon's page for Chance of a Lifetime there were all these gender swap erotica titles under the "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought" line. Finally I started looking at those and saw they were pretty much all short stories (almost all less than 10,000 words) yet they were charging $2.99 or more and had higher sales ranking than pretty much everything I was hawking that was much longer and 1/3 (or less) of the price. WTF?!
So I did some "Market research" by buying and/or renting from Prime a few of these titles. Most were not as badly-written as I would have thought. Most. I mean there weren't as many typos and stuff, though some had wonky formatting issues. And then it's one of those lightbulb going off over my head moments where I think, "Why the fuck aren't I doing that?!"
And the thing is I was pretty much already doing that with Chance of a Lifetime and Girl Power, but I stupidly wasn't putting them in the erotica section. Plus I was giving them real titles when I should have been far more blunt in my titles. Plus I was writing actual novels, not a short story or two. And I was giving them away free! (Though not the sequels.) What a total idiot!
So starting at the end of June I began working on a series of gender swap erotica stories. And this time I was determined to do it the right way, ie the way other people were doing it. I split them into 2 short-ish stories per book and gave them blunt titles so there would be no confusion. And of course I put them under a pseudonym.
The first one went online about July 2 and it hit Amazon bestseller lists in the US and the UK the first day. Though really it only sold like 8 copies between the two countries, but that's all you need to be an "international bestseller" these days. That was the best opening day I've had for any book I've released, ever, that wasn't free. So that was pretty awesome. After that first day sales plummeted, though they picked up a little with the second title, and so on. And really since I'm charging $2.99 and using the 70% royalty for every 1 I sell of those I'd have to sell about 6 of my regular books. Think about that. I already made back the money I sunk into stock photos for the covers, so what I make now is pure profit. And part of the reason I put out a combined Chances Are/Girl Power omnibus and called it "Gender Swap Six Pack" is to see if that would draw some interest (and money) from erotica buyers. It has sold a few copies, thanks in part to that new Kindle Unlimited thingy. And at $4.99 I make more off of it than selling the books for 99 cents by themselves.
But anyway, the real issue is as I posited on Twitter one day: The problem with erotica is you have to worry about impressing a bunch of perverts. I mean seriously, I think to myself, is there enough sex in this? Is it explicit enough? Is it too explicit? Is it just laughably bad and going to win one of those contests for terrible erotic prose?
That's where that old advice helps: read in your genre. Which is why I bought some of those books and a few others. But even so, it's still hard for me to tell because it's not something I've really done before. I mean I've written sex scenes, but they were always for other genres where sex wasn't the priority. The point of erotica is to get someone off, isn't it? Which is kind of icky to think about.
The way I finally thought of it yesterday is that too often I'm writing romances instead of erotica. The difference is the latter isn't really supposed to be about love so much as lust. Sometimes I have to try to think, "Throw some damned sex in here, consarnit!" I need a surly editor to point out where I should have people fucking more.
The other issue is that I'm still me and thus I like to have a coherent story. I mean a few of these books I've read there's some flimsy excuse for a gender and/or body swap and then it's just sex, sex, sex and/or thinking about sex. One was pretty much just an excuse to have page after page of blowjobs and I commented on Goodreads, "Why didn't you just write a book about a woman giving a man blowjobs instead of framing it as a gender swap story?" Because really there seemed no point to it, which is where my problem comes in because I still think I need to have characters with motivations that make some amount of sense in the real world. I mean really, married guys out there, if you swapped into your wife's body the first thought in your head isn't going to be, "Gee, I really want to suck my male dick!" I'm assuming that's pretty far down on the list, behind WTF?! What the hell is going on?! Why do I have boobs?! Where the hell is my penis?! Panic!!!! AmIright? You married guys don't have to answer that if you don't want to.
I like to try to see the silver lining in all this and experiment with different variations and just try to have as much fun with it as possible. Instead of the cliche (or so I gather) "Wife/secretary/other gets pissed and turns jerk husband/boss/other into a girl" scenario I try different things. Like a serial killer of prostitutes gets abducted by sirens (like the Greek mythology kind) and made into one of them. Because like I say in the story, they were pretty much in the same game as far as ruining lives goes, only they were just on different teams. Or taking a cue from Nigel Mitchell's Adventures of Couch Potato stories and my Girl Power books I wrote one where a slacker finds a magic ring that turns him into a superhero--a female superhero. Or in one a male secret agent goes undercover as a Russian gangster's girlfriend.
And me being me, I like to throw in references to other books I've written. One uses a character from the Scarlet Knight series. One has an appearance by Stacey Chance and a location from the Scarlet Knight books. And so on. Why not? It amuses me to put those Easter eggs in there. Plus that story about the secret agent I've put in a lot of American Dad references. Might as well have fun with it.
I'll also admit to borrowing core concepts from some of the books I've read and then rewriting them as how I would do them. Which may be better or may be worse. I'll let the people decide. Except any people who do write reviews will probably be the type of moron who reviews some of my other books and complains about swearing or arcane rules of writing or that it's not like a completely different type of book.
Anyway, I will not feel ashamed about this because to put it simply, I'm doing it for the money. Yup, I'm a whore. So there, lose any respect for me you ever had if you want. But hey, my employment situation has become pretty tenuous (ie nonexistent) so I need the dough. I mean, obviously I'm a guy who likes to eat.
I'm not providing individual links, but go to Planet 99 Publishing and find them under the Erotica section. Or on the main page, though it takes a while to scroll through and find them there. As you'll note I've written 6 in the last month and 1/2 of the 7th. I'll probably work on the 8th this weekend. I kind of do these seat-of-the-pants style. I have a notebook where I've written down a sentence or two idea for each story of each book and then I just kind of start writing and see what happens, for better or worse. It only takes a couple of days usually for one, especially on a Saturday. Anyway, after the 8th one then I'm going to do an Omnibus to try to wring some more money out of the unsuspecting masses. And then what? Sequels! And then put all the sequels into another omnibus! Until I run out of ideas, which may be never. Or I just get sick of it and have to do something else for a while.