Ad Astra 2016, day 1: Do’s and don’ts of writing erotica


Disclaimer: My notes are not perfect and neither am I. If you see something that needs correction or clarification, please email me at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com and I’ll fix it post-hasty.

Panellists: Sèphera Girón, J.M. Frey, Matt Bin

JMF: How did you get into writing erotica?

MB: I just wanted to try it out because a friend said that I could make some money writing erotica while I got my other work into shape. I posted short stories on Amazon. I didn’t do any promotion, but I got some sales.

SG: I wanted to send a story to Penthouse letters about giving my boyfriend a blow job, but I didn’t go through with it at my boyfriend’s insistence. Laurie Perkins, an agent and publisher, was asked to bid on a Kama Sutra project. I did not get the contract for that. They wanted to make it into Kama Sutra flash cards, though. I was brought in to help pose the models because the publisher wouldn’t. They were afraid to make a mistake/be accused of harassment. I got a flat rate for that even though the book has been printed in two editions and the cards sell consistently.

JMF: I entered into erotica through fan fiction (1991-1995). I was always interested in the sexuality of characters. I was called by the editor of an anthology—we don’t have enough good porn. My story ended up headlining the anthology. I got another call—I have this gap in my anthology. I don’t have any  . . . alien porn. So I write the story to fill the gap. J.M. Frey can’t be writing erotica, though. I have a YA steam punk novel coming out. So I write erotica under Peggy Barnet. Now the rights for most of those stories have returned to me and I’m putting together an anthology. I’ve also written an erotica novel. Kindle is the place to sell erotica. Exclusive (through KDP Select) makes sense for erotica.

Q: How much should you reveal? How explicit should you get?

JMF: It depends on the character and the story. My alien erotica isn’t explicit. I have a medieval fantasy erotica and the euphemisms are appropriate to the genre. Even in erotica, you have to think about why you’re writing the scene. Are you furthering the plot or revealing character?

SG: I have an astrology-based series. Readers complain that there’s too little sex, and other readers complain that there’s too much. You can’t please everybody.

MB: I’m working in a different arena. I short pieces, two thirds of the story is set up and one third is hard core sex. Do you use penis/vagina or purple helmet/blooming flower? There are only so many ways you can refer to genitalia. Approach the sex from a sensual or emotional perspective. Get into the sensations. How are the characters feeling?

JMF: That’s how you write good erotica. You engage the reader. In The Order of the Phoenix, who didn’t weep when Sirius Black died?

Q: What’s selling the best?

SG: I’ll answer the question I thought you were asking. Before ebooks, it used to be really hard to be an erotica writer in Canada.

JMF: Harlequin has gay and lesbian lines. Fanfic feeds into erotica. People write to fill a void. I’m not interested in writing vanilla boning.

MB: It tends to be the edge fetishes that sell the best. Vampires used to be big. Then, using the word Billionaire in the title was big. Every once in a while Amazon wipes out what it thinks is too taboo.

JMF: It’s hard to make a kink that’s not yours attractive to the reader, though.

MB: Military-based homosexual erotica (army, navy, etc.) and sports homosexual erotica are really hot now.

JMF: If a reader is into something, they’ll buy all of it. You have to remember this with your marketing. My tagline for Peggy Barnet is: tickles your nethers without leaving your brain behind. I write think pieces that are smexy.

MB: Reader in the genre. See what’s out there.

JMF: Ask yourself why you want to write in the genre?

Q: What’s the limit for sex in non-erotica?

JMF: It’s whatever your publisher will tolerate.

SG: I got a Vivid Video contract. I was told to write anything I wanted. I wrote erotic horror. I asked the president of Vivid if anything was off the table and she said, anything but black guys. Savannah doesn’t touch black guys. I was like, there are rules?

JMF: With respect to Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. I loved the first three novels. Now, the sex feels self-indulgent. Yes, everybody loves Jamie. Go as far as you want to. If you’re comfortable with your drunk uncle reading it to your grandmother at a family gathering, go for it. My parents have a brag shelf and all my erotica is on it.

Q: Do you get sex writer’s block?

SG: Yes. Sometimes it gets boring.

JMF: I go to the deepest, darkest parts of the internet.

MB: Burnout is a real thing. The motivation of the character is what engages the reader. The trouble is forcing it.

And that was time.

Hope everyone has a fabulous weekend.

See you Tipsday!

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