Crowdfunding and Self-Publishing – Yes, Amy is Talking Ethics Again

. . . but no sex this time. And apart from in this sentence, I won’t be mentioning Iceland!

A YA author called Stacey Jay set up a Kickstarter to fund a new book. She said that she wanted to raise production costs and living costs to enable her to write full-time. People got angry. She has disabled comments on her blog, finished the Kickstarter and is apparently taking some downtime. If I was her, you would find me sitting next to a crate of Prosecco, shaking and trying to pierce the corks with straws to get that shit into me faster.

So is it OK to ask people to meet your living costs while you produce art?

I think sure. You’re only asking. You’re not compelling anyone to give money. If they’d rather not, they can just. . . not.

I am lucky to be able to afford the production of the novel I’m releasing, and I am in a position to spend my free time working on it. In Ireland, our Arts Council issues grants to artists to enable them to work full-time at their art for limited periods (at least they did – I haven’t checked for up-to-date info on this because I’ll bet you my last penny that they wouldn’t fund a sequel to my sex worker erotica. Which I can’t blame them for, because I wrote the thing to be as good as it could be, but the project was never envisioned as high art).

It is not nice to think, though, that if I wasn’t in that fortunate position and if I sought out a service like Kickstarter, that I could face that kind of backlash simply for asking for a thing people could choose to give me, or not.

Nice girls don’t ask, seemingly. Well, fuck that.

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How To Write Blurbs, Cover Copy or Teaser Text – Whatever You Call It

In Ireland and the UK, we call them ‘blurbs’ – the text, usually a couple of paragraphs, on the back of a book designed to make you want to buy it. On my ebook release, you’ll find it in my listings. When I do a paperback release, it’ll be on the back cover.

I’m a novelist and I write professionally (sometimes). How hard can a couple of paragraphs be?

Excuse me while I tear some of my hair out. I wasn’t using it anyway.

I’m polishing mine today ahead of sharing it here on the blog tomorrow. I’m nervous about sharing my cover copy/blurb/teaser- it’s the first baby step in the process of sharing my book, which is a terrifying journey. Tomorrow will be my first time revealing what the book is actually about. I’m also hoping some kind souls might offer some feedback on how to improve it, ahead of slapping it on my book prior to release.

In the meantime, here’s the method I used for writing it:

 

1. Check out other blurbs in the same genre.

I quickly discovered that erotica blurbs come in three varieties:

– Dark, adjective and adjective, he was the only man that could satisfy her. Torn, adjective and adjective, she is powerless/must surrender/must not surrender/other disturbingly war-like phrase.

I wasn’t nuts about these, because I like some character traits to cling on to, and this told me a lot about how people were feeling but not a whole lot about why I should like them or give a crap. This works for a lot of readers, but it’s not really my thing.

– Really, really long blurbs. Like, five paragraphs.

I found one of these on the listing of an excellent self-published erotic novel that I had read and enjoyed. Even though I’d read the book (and count it among my favourites), I couldn’t get through the blurb because it was so. Freaking. Long (as opposed to so long freaking, which I could handle). There was a little bit too much character to cling on to – by the end of the listing I figured I could skip the book.

– Regular blurbs with some sex in them.

I liked these ones best.

As I’m new the genre and the conventions of the genre, I decided to go model my blurb on the ‘Regular blurbs with some sex in them’ (because they appealed to me most, and they are the books I was most likely to buy, and I imagine my future readers – please God I have some – will probably have some tastes in common with me). However, I also incorporated some elements of the ‘Dark, adjective and adjective’ blurbs – a lot of erotic bestsellers have these, and while I’m not setting out to ape bestsellers in the hope of becoming one, I figure bestsellers are probably bestsellers because they are delivering what their readers want. And although I found the adjectivey blurbs a little light on character, I didn’t find a single one that wasn’t at least slightly evocative.

 

2. Figure out what the conflict is

What’s the problem? Why is there a book? Why can’t the main character just have what they want? That needs to be in the blurb.

Harry Potter has to defeat his parents’ killer. Frodo has to destroy the One Ring and some folk would rather he didn’t. In romance novels, something is causing the course of true love not to run smoothly and in erotica, there may be something that keeps the lovers apart, or something that forces them to confront uncomfortable realities when they’re together – that’s the heart of your blurb.

Your conflict will give you some clues about your character too. Why can’t Harry just say ‘Sod this, lads, I’ve no parents. Yizzer on your own. I’m off for a Butterbeer’? Because that isn’t Harry. Why can’t the heroine of any romance novel ever say ‘Meh, plenty more where he came from!’? Because that’s not who she is (and if it is, you don’t have a book. . .).

Now you have your raw materials – an idea what a blurb looks like, the conflict that needs to be included and a sense of the character traits that need to come through. So we’re ready to start putting the whole lot together.

 

3. Establish the status quo, the thing your protagonist wants and the thing that turns it all upside-down – not necessarily in that order.

Where is your protagonist when we start? What do they want? (Very often, the answer to this is either ‘a quiet life’ or ‘to stay in the mildly unhappy rut they’ve carved for themselves’ – but make it sound more interesting than that if you can!). For my main character, as you’ll see tomorrow, the thing she wants the most is ‘not to screw up anything else.’

But we wouldn’t have a novel if our protagonist got what they wanted too soon. . . so something happens to turn things upside down.

 

4. Establish the consequences of the turning upside-down.

Isn’t it happily ever after for Harry when he arrives at wizard school? Why is it so bad that this tall, dark and dangerous guy has rocked up to change our heroine’s world? What is so catastrophic about two people having a shag? Tell us without spoiling the ending.

 

5. Reinforce the conflict 

Amy Temple is a mild-mannered bookish sort who is happiest with a bottle of Prosecco, a dog and a pile of Hannibal DVDs while she dreams of south Dublin home ownership (status quo). Until Self-Publishing rocks up on her doorstep and sweeps her off her feet, convincing her to take risks she never dreamed of (upside down).

But Self-Publishing isn’t all Konrath-level sales and seven-figure print-only deals. As Amy is drawn deeper into the world of Self-Publishing, she discovers that formatting, publicising her work and incisive edits are an unavoidable consequence of her new, exciting passion (conflict). Can Amy pursue her new love without losing herself in her KDP sales reports? Is Self-Publishing all that zie is cracked up to be? (reinforce the conflict).

Tomorrow you can take a look at how this worked for me in practice. I’m off to find a dog and some Prosecco first, though.

Cover Reveal for Lights Out – Monday 15th December!

My debut novel, Lights Out, is due for release soon – but I can’t wait to show off its fabulous cover. I just can’t.

It is the time of year for magic. And my cover designers, Design for Writers, have certainly worked magic on my cover (even if it isn’t the wholesome, family-friendly magic that one usually associates with this time of year – although I’ve seen the evidence that they are great at that, too). The cover made me believe in the book before there was even an entire back, when I was just tinkering around with what I had written so far and genuinely didn’t believe I would ever have the guts to self-publish.

Check back this time next week to see how the finished product will look!

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The Top 5 Challenges Facing A Newbie Erotica Writer

We need a new word for newbie erotica writers, I think. Newbie erotica writer sounds boring. Newrotica writer? Suggestions on a tweet to @AmyTempleWriter, please.

What are the biggest stumbling blocks for those of us new to this path?

1. The Mindset.

It is highly tempting to decide that erotica can be written only by candlelight with soft music playing and gentle breezes wafting the curtains atmospherically (fat chance in Ireland in November – if I leave the window open a crack my future will probably a lot more Wuthering Heights than Fifty Shades, what with the dying of horrible diseases and being rained on). It is genuinely difficult to get into the mindset of writing erotic fiction when you’re used to writing factual stuff on demand, or even mainstream fiction.

Also, all it takes is one text from my mother to put the kibosh on sexy writing for, oh, hours. Mum Temple likes to text. I taught her. It is my second-biggest regret in life.

 Protect your mindset, but don’t get caught up in the glamour of it all. That way lies madness, and empty Word documents.

 

2. The Fear.

I live in constant terror that one of the people I socialise with will discover what I’m writing. Not because I’m ashamed or because I have especially judgmental friends, but because I am Irish, and we like to slag our friends off. A lot (for evidence click here – be warned, contains the bad C word). It is how we show love. They could get years of mileage out of a single scene.

 

3. The Marketing.

I’m writing under a pen name, so I can’t utilise the (minimal) goodwill I have built up over the years under my real name. That time I rescued an entire puppy and someone Retweeted my 140-character tale of heroism? Not ever going to equal a book sale. Damnit. Lucky for the puppy I would have saved it had I known that (since you don’t know who I am, you’ll just have to take my word for it that Real Life Amy saves puppies).

How else am I going to sell this book? I’ll just have to hope the sodding thing is good.

4. The Imposter Syndrome.

I have this all the time anyway, so it may not be a problem for you guys – or it may be an even bigger problem, because I’m so used to living with the feeling that I am miraculously fooling everyone and they wrongly believe I am a functional adult. When I compared Tiffany Reisz’s bio with mine, it was with Imposter Syndrome that I was wrestling (if you thought the sight of me wrestling was unexpectedly unsexy, fear not, the book I’m working on has no wrestling scenes). Erotica writers should be devastatingly sexy, surely. I am not. I strive for devastating on a good day, but only in the fields of cookng and witty comebacks.

5. The Publicity.

I know, I know. Chance would be a fine bloody thing. I remember when E. L. James’s husband, writer Niall Leonard, was ‘unmasked’ and left wide open to comparisons with Christian Grey. He had this to say about it: “Perhaps being married to me helped her to fantasize about someone more interesting.”

He also said this: “I’m the least romantic fecker that ever lived – ask my wife Erika, aka EL James. Our first Christmas together I bought her a tin opener, and my earliest experience of kinky sex was her trying to shove it up my arse.”

I want to have a pint with this man so badly. He’s, like, top of my Semi-Famous People I Want To Have A Pint With List. And I don’t even drink pints.

What’s been driving you nuts when trying to write about sexytimes?

Is It Too Late To Self-Publish Erotica?

Fifty Shades of Grey, the Big Daddy of modern erotica, was published in 2011.

Yes, 2011, when I was still in my fucking twenties (as opposed to my twenties fucking). That’s three birthday cakes ago. Over 1,000 sleeps. 75% of a president, although if the president involved is a sexy Chicago lawyer, I’ll take 75% rather than 0% (yes, I have a thing for Barack Obama. Far from my most disturbing crush, let me tell you).

And here I am, Amy-Come-Lately, all set to launch my first erotic novel after Starbucks brought in their 2014 red cups. Where was I for the last three years? Asleep at the Kindle Store? Drunk on cheap prosecco? Tied up in Christian Grey’s dungeon, biting my lip and being ineffectual?

Nope. I was writing in other genres, getting married (that can be a lot of work, especially if you’re obsessive) and becoming more firmly entrenched in my belief that I was unable to write erotica because I was born without the gene.

(I hope writing erotica isn’t a gene, because if it is, it means I inherited from one of my parents. Ew. And my mother can’t spell).

Now that my age starts with a 3, and I want to make more money, why am I trying to milk an aged cash-cow? What possessed me to try to cash in on a three-year-old trend?

Well, that’s just it. I’m not cashing in.

I’m finally getting the courage to write what something I have always wanted to write.

I have never felt there was much point in trying to cash in on a trend. Have you ever tried to write something you don’t give a crap about – or, in fact, do anything you don’t give a crap about? Every piece of diet advice I’ve read (and believe me, that is a large sampling) has said that finding healthy food you enjoy is key. I hate exercise, and I am constantly told to keep looking until I find something I enjoy, or I won’t stick at it. Which, if we take my track record into account, is likely.

Whenever I have tried to write something I don’t give a shit about, it shows. I can feel it with every word I squeeze out against its will. It is like trying to cut a raw sweet potato with a sharpened toothpick. Difficult and fruitless.

I give a shit about this story. I want to write about Sally, about Kayla, about their lives.

At this late stage, I won’t be riding the wave of E.L. James’s referred success. The high tide that allegedly lifts all boats has probably receded. But I’m writing something I love, and if people want to read it, I think they’ll find it. Provided I learn to market it properly, of course, but that’s a problem for another day.

 

Why blog about my journey as a self-published erotica writer?

I used to believe that blogging sold books. During the Great Oh My God You Must Have A Blog Rush of 2007, I watched half the world get book deals ‘on the back of their blog’. I don’t believe that anymore, since I have bought less than ten books on the strength of blog posts myself (and I read a lot, so for me that is a mere drop in the ocean). I’m not here to shift copies of my upcoming first novel, Lights Out, but if you fancy buying one on the strength of my ramblings here, please go right ahead and make me happy 🙂

The erotica writer who most inspired me is Tiffany Reisz. She writes smart, sexy books with rounded characters, high stakes and a deep mythology. She is agented and traditionally published, so while she’s on entirely different path to me, I find her inspiring as an artist.

Still, I’m going to use Tiffany Reisz as an example, since her name comes to mind and she has a particularly good author bio. Here it is:

 Tiffany Reisz lives in Lexington, Kentucky with her boyfriend and two cats (one that may or may not be the Anti-Christ). She graduated with a B.A. in English from Centre College in Danville, Kentucky and is making both her parents and her professors proud by writing erotica under her real name.

Tiffany has six piercings, one tattoo, and has been arrested twice. When not under arrest, Tiffany enjoys Latin Dance, Latin Men, and Latin Verbs. She dropped out of a conservative southern seminary in order to pursue her dream of becoming a smut peddler. Johnny Depp’s aunt was her fourth grade teacher. There is little to nothing interesting about her (emphasis mine – she has been arrested twice, has a tattoo and has six piercings. Remember that for a minute).

 

Let’s see what mine might look like:

 

Amy Temple lives in Dublin, Ireland with her husband and no pets, because their apartment building doesn’t allow them (ergo she is quite confident that no one in her home is the Anti-Christ). She graduated with a B.A. in English from UCD and is making both her parents and her professors embarrassed by refusing to write erotica under her real name.

Amy has two piercings (boringly, one per ear), no tattoos, and has been arrested never. When not under arrest (which represents 100% of her time), Amy enjoys Italian sparkling wine, one Irish man, and no verbs except eat, drink and write. She is too much a goody-two-shoes to drop out of anything. Johnny Depp’s aunt never taught her black nothin’. There is little to nothing interesting about her, but she means it when she says that.

 

I started blogging because I thought it might be fun for people to see what a girl with two piercings, no tattoos and a clean arrest record made of this whole erotica lark. Well, fun or funny. Either is good.

 

Why Did I Become an Erotica Writer?

In my last post I shared how I got to this point in my life. Today I’m going to talk about the why – what possessed a shy, sensible married lady in her early 30s to try her hand at launching a secret erotica career?

Two reasons. Money and fun.

  • I love to write. I’ve written professionally (on and off) for several years; I’ve written for the sheer love of it all my life.
  • I also live in one of the most expensive cities in Europe. I have a day job that I enjoy, but salaries in my city haven’t kept pace with a recent surge in house prices (hell, readers from everywhere, does this sound familiar?). The idea of pursuing a second income has started to look very appealing.
  • I began to think about what skills I could leverage into an income – and enjoy in the process, since this is strictly a free-time endeavour.

What else but writing is fun, lucrative and can be done without getting dressed?

Well, a couple of things, but you’d need to ask Kayla and Sally, my two main characters, about that. . .