Monday, March 30, 2015

Self-promotion is like self-abuse, gotta be the right time and place

Traditionally published authors at an online writing community I belong to say self-published authors must be really brave to tackle book promotion on their own.  After a few months of research and experience, my jury is still out on whether or not it is worthwhile to spend a huge amount of time on it.
I started with several lists of potential websites and blogs obtained from online searches and how-to books.  The first task was to weed through them to determine which accepted erotica (MANY do not), which were free and which were paid, which promoted shorter works, and which actually still existed.  I made it through a list of 100 and have more to go, but here are a few good ones.

  • 7 Billion eBooks,, no  guaranteed placement for free ads
  •  Best eBook Deals,, free books must have 10 reviews averaging 4 stars
  • Booksends,, must be novel length and have 5 reviews
  • Book Deal Hunter,, promotes free books but allow for plenty ofadvance notice, must subscribe to their newsletter
  • Book Praiser,,  promotes free and temporarily discounted books
  • eBook Spice,, promotes free books for free, paid options available for other
  • Erotica Book Club,, promotes books over 100 pages only unless free
  • The Naughty List,, promotes on Facebook for free, other aid promotion options available, simple submission form
  • Reddit - create an account, there are multiple threads you an post to, eroticwriting is an example.
Special shout out to One of the few sites I've submitted to for their free service and received a confirmation email.  Nice!

There are a ton more where you can submit you free books, but honestly, how much promotion does free erotica need?  Don't most readers just type "free erotica" into the search bar?

It's hard to tell how effective any of these promotional postings are.  I belong to multiple Facebook groups that are now primarily post after post of writers promoting their books.  If there are any readers present, they are not commenting.   They are probably running for the hills like the relatives of an new Amway rep

Next post:  Misery loves company: supporting your fellow authors.

Advertise free book promotions, no guarantee

Monday, March 23, 2015

Best kept secrets of erotica readers

Before the advent of the Internet and eReaders, if you were reading erotica (formerly known as "dirty books), you were under the covers with a flashlight, hiding in the bathroom, or holding your book with another one in front of it.  In other words, you didn't want anyone to see what you were reading.  If there was a hot book out there, you heard about in whispers, jokes, or were warned to stay away from it for fear or endangering your immortal soul. 

The fine book Summer of '42 was published when I was a teenager.  Several of us were reading it at the same time, and I clearly recall one of us yelling out a page number and we'd all race to it, anticipating something salacious.  Understand, that book is not a work of erotica it's a very sweet coming of age story, but compared to what we'd been reading, it was steamy stuff.  If we'd come across The Story of O, our heads might have exploded.  Needless to say, we had a field day whenever we found hidden stashes of Playboy or Penthouse, but we didn't discuss what we'd read.  Nobody called their friends on the phone and said "hey, you should read that letter in this month's Penthouse!" 

Maybe it was growing up in the Bible Belt or maybe it was just the mindset at the time, but nobody liked to admit enjoying erotic material.  It was taboo and even your dad hid his magazines from your mother.  It's no surprise that when the Internet exploded, so did the availability of smutty stuff to read and look at.  You didn't need to look very hard to find it, you could hide it with the click of a key, and lots of it was free.  Along came the eReader, bringing with it even more privacy, accessibility, and selection.  Did it lead to greater word of mouth for erotica?  Not as far as I can tell.

To this day, not one person has said to me "hey, you should read that 50 Shades book."  A hell of a lot of people have read it, but nowhere near that many seem to be willing to own up to it.  At my former workplace, there was a quite diverse staff and most of them were avid readers.  Not once, even at a girls night out, did someone ever mention it until one of our summer interns piped up at the lunch table that she'd read it and liked it.  Maybe there's hope for the next generation to be less repressed.  My co-workers had absolutely no problem recommending other genres, and I learned about many good reads from them. 

So when it comes to word of mouth, it hasn't been my personal experience that it plays as big a part in erotica book sales as it does with other genres.  When I confessed to my Facebook friends what I was writing, I received requests via private messages asking how and where they could find my work.  Many bought books but only two felt comfortable posting reviews.  I received a message from another that she enjoyed my stories and wanted to read more but had to keep it on the DL because she's a church secretary.  Ok, I grew up in the Southern Baptist church so I know how it is.  I gave her my blessing and she's now a beta reader for me.

This isn't a big issue for erotica authors who have the power of traditional publishers behind them or have bestsellers in their catalog.  They have become established and a good amount of respectability comes with sales.  Those of us who are starting out and self-publishing will keep looking for ways to join their ranks as we continue to attempt to find more readers.

Next post:  Writers selling to writers or you can't promote that here

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Too much free milk?

I belong to multiple erotic romance/erotica author groups, and in almost all of them, the self-published writers are singing the same blues.  The lyrics go something like "how do I engage more readers?  How and where do I promote my work?  Where can I find demographic data?  Why isn't anyone buying my book and if they are, why aren't they posting reviews?"

Most of us have read the how-to books, the online articles and the forum boards all giving recommendations (and often unrealistic promises) on how we can be successful indie smut writers.  My goal with this blog is to explore those strategies and theories and report on my experiences with them.  I would love for other authors to chime in.  The more, the merrier or misery loves company - whatever your prevailing mood happens to be

Today I want to talk about the free book strategy.  I've read that a few years ago, this seemed to work, and there are many resources out there still listing it as viable.  You enroll your ebook in Kindle Select and offer it for free for a limited time.  The philosophy is that you will be introduced to new readers who would then be more likely to purchase your other works.  Multiple sources now state that Amazon's ranking methodology was different previously, and free books had a more significant impact on rankings. Currently, authors are reporting that the effectiveness of the free book is greatly diminished and are advising to consider utilizing it very thoughtfully.  It seems to still work somewhat in the case of serialized works.  Give away Book 1 in your series and hope that it compels the reader to buy Book 2. 

As I began working on a novel last year, I became increasingly anxious to learn more about the publishing phase.  I wanted to get a feel for the self-publishing process before finishing my longer work, and using a few short stories seemed like a good hands-on way to accomlish that.  I offered one for free for five consecutive days, and it was downloaded by 80 readers. Not a huge number but a start, right?  It translated into only a handful of sales for the other two stories.  This could be for a variety of reasons.  I may be a terrible writer and blind to my incompetence.  My freebie story was the poorest of the three (that I believe to be true).  My story lines fall outside the trends of what is currently popular in the genre.

I have one more theory.  Pull out your eReader right now and search for "free erotica."  I did this yesterday and today and both times received over 8K results  If you're an erotica reader, you never have to buy a book again at this rate, unless there's a title or author you specifically want.  It reminds me a bit of Napster, but in this case, we the authors are the ones giving it away while readers become more and more accustomed to not buying.Don't get me wrong; I'm a generous person and I love to give gifts including books but I feel this tactic is backfiring on us more often than it benefits us.

I do not anticipate using the freebie strategy again in the near future.  As I publish new works, I will most likely discount the short stories.  I'm not advocating that the option for freebies be abolished; it's a selling point for Amazon Prime after all, but I think authors should think long and hard about trying it as a strategy for increasing sales.  Why should readers buy the know the rest.

Next post  Erotica readers could teach the FBI a thing or two about stealth.