Category Archives: Sex For Money

Goodreads is Anti-Indie-Author — Sex For Money, Post #22

Sex For Money is a semi-regular blog series about my experiences in writing, publishing, and marketing gay erotica and M/M erotic romance. All of this information is from my own experience, so your experience may differ. To read more Sex For Money posts, click here.


It was announced this week that Goodreads will now charge authors or publishers who want to run a giveaway on the Goodreads platform.

I’ve long been an advocate of Goodreads giveaways, as I’ve seen that they can boost book purchases for a reasonably small investment. How it would work is you’d set up a giveaway on the Goodreads site, let it run for a few weeks or a month, and then you send out the copy of your print book to the winner. In a successful giveaway, a number of people who entered to win would have also added your book to their “to read” list on Goodreads. This strategy rarely led to an immediate bump in sales, but rather led to a healthy level of ongoing sales, as those who marked your book as “to read” would eventually go out and buy it.

Giveaways on Goodreads were a good way to spread the word about your book for a relatively small cost — just the cost of the book and postage.

Now, though, Goodreads is charging for authors or publishers who want to run a giveaway on their website. For a mere *cough* $119 USD, you can have the priviledge of giving away copies of your book to people on Goodreads. If you’ve got money to burn, you can pay *cough* $599 USD to also have the priviledge of “exclusive placement” on the Goodreads giveaway page.

Who the fuck has that kind of money laying around? Other than the big five publishers, of course.

There are some beneficial changes coming when this new pricing scheme is implemented. Now, the person who enters to win won’t be given the option of adding the book to their “to read” list — Goodreads will automatically go ahead and do it for them. (As a reader, I know that if I enter to win a book, it doesn’t imply I’m captivated enough to go out and buy it, so I’m not a fan of this automatic feature.) As well, if someone has your book on their “to read” list already, they will be notified if there is a giveaway for your book. That’s good, I guess, but the purpose of running a giveaway is to get more people to add it to their “to read” list, not necessarily to give it away to people who have already bought or are about to buy your book.

So, what’s going on here?

According to Goodreads, the new features (which are mediocre at best) are being implemented in the new giveaway system in response to requests from authors and publishers. They’re not clear exactly what authors and publishers have been requesting, but I highly doubt they were asking to pay through the nose for a feature that used to be free.

What I suspect is that the “Big 5” publishers are angry (yet again) that their books are being swamped by the glut of indie published books. Book selling can be a low-profit business, so these Big 5 publishers need every advantage they can get over the small publishers and indie authors — and what better advantage than to squeeze them out of the Goodreads giveaway system? Somehow, the Big 5 successfully made this pitch to Goodreads.

Really, though, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Goodreads is also looking for a way to capitalize on their platform. Goodreads makes money on advertisers on their site and they may even make money on referral links if you click the “buy” buttons on book pages. In the modern world of internet businesses, they’re not squeezing every dime out of their users like they’re “supposed” to. So, why not take one of their biggest and most popular features — the giveaways — and charge a fuckton of money for it?

I also suspect that they dislike the glut of erotica in their giveaways and are hoping to squeeze some of us out. I know that I’ll never post a giveaway again as long as they’re charging for it — and neither will my publishing company. If anything, this has the stench of an attack against erotica (read more about the booksellers’ war against erotica in my earlier post).

So — prohibitive cost aside — let’s look at what this wonderful new giveaway system on Goodreads brings to authors, publishers, and readers.

The help section reveals a couple more nasty details about the new giveaway system:

  • Giveaways can only be made available for US residents. For publishers and authors outside of North America, postage to send to the US can be prohibitive. In the past, I’m sure most of these individuals or companies made their giveaways available to their own country and nearby countries — so this clause only raises the price for foreign publishers and authors. As a Canadian, I object to not being able to make giveaways available in my own country. Also, now all non-US Goodreads users are banned from entering giveaways until this policy changes.
  • You can do giveaways for ebooks (yay!), but they must be ebooks that are available on Amazon. This is telling. While Amazon has owned Goodreads for a few years, they had promised to let it run independently as it always had. Apparently, that’s not good enough anymore and Amazon is bringing Goodreads under the Amazon umbrella. (In fact, you pay for your Goodreads giveaway with your Amazon account.) You can certainly expect more changes further down the line that make this beneficial to Amazon-exclusive authors and difficult/costly for widely-published authors.

Goodreads’s/Amazon’s claim for the price is that it reflects the marketing value that is provided by running a giveaway. In my opinion as an author, that is pure and simple bullshit.

While I have long advocated Goodreads giveaways as an effective marketing tool, that ends as of yesterday. There is no value in listing a giveaway on Goodreads.

The effectiveness of giveaways on Goodreads have dwindled over the years. I still remember my first one that I listed four or five years ago — I had hundreds of people enter to win and hundreds of people add my book to their “to read” list. For my last few giveaways, I had hundreds of people enter to win, but only dozens add it to their “to read” list. Readers on Goodreads are in it for the free books — which is totally fine, I’m not lambasting that — but if your aim is to sell books, the effectiveness of a giveaway on Goodreads has dwindled.

As well, as part of a giveaway, winners are requested by Goodreads to post a review. In my experience, this happens less and less frequently. Years ago, if I sent out three books, I got three reviews from winners. Nowadays, if I send out three books, I might get one review from a winner. (Part of Goodreads’s new system is that they will remind winners to post a review — I doubt that’ll change the follow-through rate.)

I also suspect that Goodreads/Amazon is slowly pushing authors who want to do giveaways over to Amazon itself. I have not investigated giveaways on Amazon (so some of my assumptions here may be wrong), though I know giveaways on Amazon are a thing now, it’s something you can do. If the prices are cheaper than on Goodreads, or if they’re even free, then that is part of the grand design — they’re planning to integrate Goodreads and Amazon into (eventually) one thing, and they’re starting by shunting all the indies over. I wouldn’t put this past Amazon — the writing is on the wall for Createspace with the introduction of KDP Print. I’m holding off on transitioning to KDP Print until they offer the same level of service that Createspace does or until they force me over. The writing has been on the wall for Goodreads for quite some time now.

So, back to giveaways. what’s next? What is an author or publisher to do?

You could run giveaways using Rafflecopter, but unless you’ve got a wide network already, you’ll end up with few entrants. The benefit of the old Goodreads system (before it began to lose effectiveness) was that new readers could discover you, which won’t happen with a Rafflecopter giveaway marketed to people who already are fans of your work.

You could use Instafreebie to give away a free book to whoever clicks a link. This could be effective for series starters (provided you have the sequels out already), but from what I’ve seen, I think the Instafreebie thing came and went already — they were a craze for a while and now fewer authors and readers are using it.

What we need is an indie-friendly giveaway site. Not like Instafreebie where you give away hundreds or thousands of free copies of ebooks, but a site like the old Goodreads giveaway system. And to make it extra-effective for marketing, after someone enters a giveaway, the system should have a pop-up asking the entrant to sign up for the author’s newsletter. That would be effective promotion — the #1 avenue for marketing is your author newsletter, and if the giveaway system would integrate with MailChimp and auto-add people (with consent) to your mailing list, then that would be awesome.

(If you’re a computer programmer and like that idea, I claim no copyright on it — steal my idea and make it happen!)

For now, though, goodbye, Goodreads. I wish I could say it was nice knowing you.

Edited to add: Also, the fact that the post on Goodreads announcing this change has been closed to comments shows that Goodreads knows they’re doing the wrong thing — but they don’t want to hear about it.

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Changes at MailChimp — Sex For Money, Post #21

Sex For Money is a semi-regular blog series about my experiences in writing, publishing, and marketing gay erotica and M/M erotic romance. All of this information is from my own experience, so your experience may differ. It’s hoped that sharing this information might be helpful to new and aspiring erotica and erotic romance authors, as I see a lot of questions and a lot of misinformation out there. To read more Sex For Money posts, click here.


MailChimp announced recently that the new default for sign-up forms for MailChimp newsletters will switch from double opt-in to single opt-in, unless you live in the EU.

There’s a lot of information in that sentence, so let’s unpack it a bit before we get to the problem.

If you have a MailChimp newsletter, you have a sign-up form somewhere, some way for people to subscribe to your mailing list. With a single opt-in form, a subscriber just needs to enter their email address in your form, click subscribe, and they’re on your mailing list. With double opt-in, after a subscriber does those steps, they receive an email in their inbox asking them to confirm that they want to subscribe to your newsletter. (If they don’t click the link in the email, they will not subscribe to your list.)

The default used to be double opt-in. MailChimp has now made the default single opt-in (unless you’re in the EU).

Sounds great, right? It’ll be easier for people to subscribe to your mailing list and your list might grow faster!

That’s where we encounter some HUGE problems.

First of all, this isn’t necessarily a from-the-kindness-of-their-hearts move from MailChimp. They want you to have more people on your list because when you hit a certain number, you have to pay to use MailChimp — and I think those fees go up the larger your list is.

Well, they’re a business, so of course they’re looking for ways to increase revenues.

The real problem is with anti-spam legislation.

The reason single opt-in isn’t the default for EU based newsletters is because single opt-in is illegal in some places, such as Germany. And if anyone on your subscriber list is in Canada, you can be in BIG trouble.

In Canada, we have very tough anti-spam legislation that applies to anyone that sends or receives spam in Canada. You could be based in Australia or Peru, but if you have a Canadian on your mailing list, the legislation applies to you. In Canada, to comply with anti-spam legislation, you must have double opt-in, among other things.

Canada’s anti-spam legislation sounds intimidating, but there are a few basic criteria to keep you in compliance. You cannot add subscribers without their consent. (There are some loopholes in this, but this is a general guideline.) You must have an unsubscribe link in your newsletter. And you must have your physical mailing address in the email. If you use MailChimp, all of these are basics in how MailChimp operates and it’ll keep you in compliance.

So what’s the big deal with single opt-in? Someone could add other users without their consent — and since there isn’t the back-up of double opt-in (where the owner of the email account must actually verify they want to be a subscriber), you could have people on your list that never signed up for it. If they complain to the Canadian government, you could run into some difficulties.

Are you going to get fined by the Canadian government if someone adds a subscriber to your list without their consent? Not likely. But you can save yourself a lot of headaches and hassle by changing the default on your MailChimp back to double opt-in.

If you think about it, who do you want on your email newsletter subscriber list? Absolutely everyone that entered their email address — including people who did it on a whim or maybe even didn’t know what they were signing up for? Or just those who are truly interested in the books you write and want to be notified of what you’re up to? Sure, those higher subscriber numbers might be exciting, but if most of your subscribers aren’t really your target audience, you’re just wasting your effort. A smaller subscriber list, but one full of real fans, is exactly what you want. Double opt-in helps that process along.

To change it back to double opt-in:

  • After you log in to MailChimp, click on “Lists” at the top
  • Then click on your subscriber list (and if you have multiple lists, you’ll have to do this for each list)
  • Then click on “Settings”
  • On the drop-down menu, click on “List name and defaults”
  • Right under “Form Settings” you’ll find a toggle for double opt-in — click it so it turns on
  • Scroll to the bottom and click “Save”

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Sex For Money — Second Edition

The publishing industry — particularly the self-publishing industry — moves at lightning speed sometimes. It’s weird, really, because some aspects of the industry move so incredibly slow that it can be easy to sit back and relax… and miss all of the rapid changes going on behind the slow stuff.

About a year and a bit ago, I published Sex For Money, a no-nonsense guide to writing, publishing, and selling your erotica and erotic romance (of the MM variety, though the info applies to all pairings, really).

What’s happened since that time?

  • All Romance eBooks has gone out of business
  • I’ve learned more about the industry than I ever thought possible
  • The KU system changed
  • I started up my own publishing company

I figured it was time to update the book.

SEX-FOR-MONEY-600So, I’m proud to announce the second edition is available in ebook and print format! Click here to find out where to get your copy!

But wait! Did you buy the first edition?

Do you want the second edition for FREE?

If you bought the first edition (which has a rainbow-clad bum on the cover), in ebook or print, and would like the second edition for free, all you have to do is send me an email with a photo. Take a screen cap or a photo of the first page of the “Indie Platforms” page. It’s about halfway through the book — you’ll find it in the table of contents in the ebook or on page 93 of the print book. (Why do I want this picture? So I know that you actually purchased the previous edition. I know most of you will be honest about this, but there are always those few that try to take advantage of offers like this.)

Email me at cameron@indieerotica.com with the screen cap or photo and let me know if you want the ePub or Mobi file and I’ll send it on over to ya.

This offer never expires, so if you have the old edition and you’re stumbling across this post years later, the offer is still valid. Email me that photo at the email address above, and I’ll set you up with the most current edition (which may be even newer than this one).

This may be an annual thing… or every couple years…

I released the second edition about a month ago and since that time, there have been more changes:

  • Barnes & Noble went through a pornpocalypse and deleted almost all self-published erotica (though most of it returned to the site).
  • Because of the pornpocalypse, Smashwords has introduced a new erotica classification system so that you can tag your erotica if it has certain types of content in it (dubcon, incest / pseudoincest, age play, etc.), to better manage where your erotica goes and ensure that it doesn’t go to sites that don’t want certain types of content. Some have called this the first step to censorship, others (such as myself) call this a much-needed tool for controlling our content.
  • Barnes & Noble is currently looking at selling their ebook division, which could mean changes in how authors work with it.
  • There are numerous start-up sites looking to take the place of All Romance eBooks, but none of really risen to prominence yet — but that could change at any time.
  • In a couple months time, I’ll be getting into podcasting and will be able to offer my experience of the format as a book marketing tool.
  • A future edition may be more inclusive, featuring information for MF and menage authors.

But you know how I said that while certain parts of the industry move at lightning pace and other parts move oh-so-slow? The core message is the same and will always be the same — write a damn good book, take pride in your product, and always be professional. The core message is applicable no matter how the industry changes.

If I write a third edition (or fourth or fifth or so on), it will always be free for those who purchased a previous edition. This project was never about making money — this project is about helping authors cut through all the misinformation on the internet and get honest, ego-free advice.

Do I know everything? Certainly not. But I’ve been in this for five years now. I’ve published nearly 100 erotic ebooks across my pen names and with my publishing company, I’m now up to about 40 publications. You can say I’ve been around the block a few times.

My goal is to help you make the career you want to make — do you want to become a full time writer? Do you want to do this as a money-making side hobby? Do you want to just occasionally dabble? Whichever path you want, my goal is to help you reach it.

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A Ceasefire in the War Against Erotica

A few weeks back, I wrote about the war against erotica — about how big ebook retailers go through periods where they purge whole catalogues of erotica from their websites, throwing the erotic author community into turmoil. I argued that we as a community of erotic authors are partly responsible for our own demise — largely through the actions of a subset of us who engage in shady practices and/or make unwise choices. For my full argument, please read my previous post.

Yesterday, Smashwords announced what is essentially a ceasefire in the war on erotica.

Smashwords has introduced a new classification system for erotic works. Authors and publishers now have to explicitly state if their book contains age place, bestiality, dubious consent (dubcon), incest or pseudo-incest, nonconsensual sexual slavery, and rape for titillation.

I know for some authors, this will immediately feel like they are being discriminated against because these rules don’t apply to any other genre. However, I argue that these special classifications help you as an author/publisher, not hinder you.

If you occasionally write one of the above categories — say, age play — and you care about your account and your standing with Smashwords, then prior to the introduction of this new system, publishing an age play story could be a nerve-wracking experience. You know that not all stores take age play. (According to a chart provided by Smashwords, iBooks does not take age play.) Although you have done nothing wrong, what happens after uploading to Smashwords is largely out of your hands — Smashwords pushes your ebook to all of their third party retailers, including ones that don’t accept your story.

Let’s say that your age play story somehow got into iBooks. The system isn’t perfect, so these things happen. Some time later, iBooks catches on that they have age play in their store, so they go on a hunt for it and delete all of those titles — and if you catch the wrong person on the wrong day, that staffer might decide that you are trying to push the boundaries and purposely publish stuff against their guidelines… and they could ban your pen name entirely.

Under one of my other pen names, I occasionally publish stories that fall under one of these special classifications. Believe me, this has been my worry every time I upload a questionable title. If iBooks has a problem with what I write and makes a big enough stink about it, they could ban all of my stuff from their site — and iBooks is a big selling vendor for me.

But with this classification system, I can explicitly say which of the topics (if any) are contained in my story. If I publish something with age play in it and specifically mark it as such, then it will not go to iBooks, Scribd, Gardners, Overdrive, Odilo, or Bibliotheca. This reduces the chance of me being on the receiving end of backlash if my story ends up in the wrong place.

The retailer benefits, too. They can ensure that what they are carrying is specifically what they feel is acceptable. This reduces the risk of erotica purges (sometimes called a “pornpocalypse”), because they are receiving none of what they do not want.

This does, of course, depend on authors and publishers being truthful about what’s in their book. And that is a problem for some. Some authors and publishers deliberately miscategorize their books to get around filters and content bans. However, it sounds like Smashwords is taking a much more involved role in this — miscategorization can lead to your account being banned.

The act of deliberate miscategorization helps no one — not the author and not the reader. All it does is put a book up in a totally inappropriate place, which then leads to backlash against the industry, which harms all erotic authors, including the majority who follow the rules.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to go ahead and read the blog post from Smashwords that details all of the changes and some of the negotiating they’ve done to lead up to this.

There are a few important points that I’ve gleaned from their post:

Smashwords fights for the rights of erotic authors.

Smashwords could have easily rolled over and acquiesced to the demands of their third party retailers and just remove the ability for erotic authors to have their books published on B&N, Kobo, etc. Instead, Smashwords worked with them to create this classification system that satisfies the retailers and Smashwords. Indeed, erotica is being allowed back onto a retailer’s website that had previous banned it (Gardners) — because Smashwords worked with them and rebuilt that trust.

I often see endless debate among authors as to which is better — Smashwords or Draft2Digital. When I last looked into Draft2Digital a few years ago, they didn’t even accept erotica. Their argument was that there are too many headaches in navigating what third party retailers do and don’t want. I just took a look at their site again and I don’t see any mention of erotica not being allowed, so perhaps they’ve changed their mind. However, I never see or hear of D2D going the extra mile for author rights like the way Smashwords does.

This will impact your sales strategy if you write one of these taboo topics.

Let’s say you write incest, which was available on B&N until very recently. There are readers who used to get all their incest erotica needs met on B&N — now that incest is being removed from their catalogue, readers are going to have a hard time finding what they want. This means that the reader will either settle for non-incest erotica or search for a new retailer that sells what they really want. If they choose to stay on B&N and settle for some non-incest erotica, this will impact your sales as you are missing out on opportunities.

Your job as an author is to find a way to point all your readers to a retailer that allows erotica. My suggestion is to point all your readers to Smashwords as they have the most open guidelines, their guidelines are unlikely to change, and they offer a higher royalty than sales through one of their third party retailers.

So how do you get your readers over to Smashwords? Plaster the message all over your social media channels that all of your books are available at Smashwords. Avoid making derogatory statements about other retailers being prudes. Instead, tease and entice your readers — your stories are “too hot for Barnes & Noble” and are available “exclusively at Smashwords”. That’s likely to have an effect.

You could also write a very dirty erotica that fits in the guidelines of what the other retailers allow — so, make it mainstream but it just feels very sinful (for example, my book, Seduced By My Best Friend’s Dad is a fairly vanilla mainstream erotica story, but it feels dirtier than it is because the “best friend’s dad” is like pseudo-pseudo-incest, without actually violating anyone’s guidelines — and make it clear in your back matter that the rest of your stories are “even dirtier” and the reader should go to your website to find out where to get “exactly what you’re looking for”.

While the war against erotica is not over, we’ve reached a truce.

Unfortunately, the war against erotica will never be over. Reading the comments below the post on Smashwords finds at least one person so far who is outraged that Smashwords would even consider allowing erotica. There are others who feel that this classification system is a step closer to further troubles, that an outright ban by some retailers is going to be the next step.

Is this system perfect? Absolutely not. Does it at least bring some temporary stability? Yes, I believe so.

As an independent author, I need to balance my sense of art with my goals as an independent business-person. I want to tell the stories I want to tell — but I also need to make consistent income. I depend on my monthly royalties to help pay the bills.

When Barnes & Noble temporarily deleted half of their erotica catalogue, I somehow flew under the radar and my books were not touched. However, it was very concerning — Barnes & Noble is a big percentage of my sales. If I were to be kicked out of there, I would lose out on sales and my monthly income would be lower.

If a further ban would be enacted and the big retailers only allowed erotica with certain themes, I would be disappointed, but I would also take it as a challenge. How can I, as an author, write the hottest story imaginable within the small sandbox a retailer is giving me? It’s not the ideal, of course. However, as an independent author who depends on royalty income, accepting that challenge is how one survives.

Additionally, if a further ban would happen and all taboo themes would be removed, then that could be the opportunity for smaller retailers like Excitica to shine. If there’s a market for it, someone will make money off of it.

Nowadays, an independent author has to be nimble to keep up with changes in the industry. Sometimes it means taking a hit, but other times it means taking advantage of an opportunity.

For now, though, I’m pleased with the stability Smashwords has brought to my “workplace”.

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The War Against Erotica

Last week, Barnes & Noble deleted approximately half of the erotica from their site and banned the accounts of dozens of erotica authors. Authors who were affected were sent form emails that simply stated the author had violated B&N’s policies — and authors who followed up to ask for further information or to make a case that they had not violated the policy were simply sent the same form email again. By the end of the week, it seemed that B&N had reversed whatever decision they’d made and reinstated most (or perhaps all) author accounts and their books.

Currently, Amazon is going through KDP accounts. If you have a KDP account, you might’ve noticed that your books are all out of order when you log in — that’s because when Amazon “investigates” a book, it jumps to the top of your list as it’s the most recently modified file. So far, it seems that few (if any) erotica books or accounts are being banned. Amazon has not said a word about what they’re doing — so authors are unsure if it’s another crackdown on erotica or if it’s perhaps something more innocent (like adjusting file information for the new Kindle Unlimited page numbering and payment system).

Erotica authors are, understandably, quite nervous right now.

This isn’t the first time a vendor has cracked down on erotica — these “pornpocalypses” happen on an almost annual basis. Huge catalogues of books are blocked or thrown in the “adult dungeon” on Amazon, authors lose their accounts, and that brings about the end of their self-publishing careers.

It’s a frustrating experience because vendors such as Amazon (who blasts erotica catalogues on an almost annual basis), Kobo (who did an erotica purge last year), and Barnes & Noble (which caused mass panic among erotica authors last week), make a ton of money on self-published erotica. They don’t like to admit it, though. In fact, when someone makes a stink about all the erotica on these book sites, the sites respond with a message like “Yikes! We had no idea this was going on! We’re going to delete everything!” Once the inevitable media attention dies down, these sites let their erotica catalogues grow again — until someone new raises a stink.

There are any number of reasons for this — but there is one reason that stands out above all others: We bring this on ourselves.

Not all of us bring this upon ourselves, but certain individuals within the self-publishing community make poor choices that lead to this unnecessary scrutiny and subsequent disaster.

I’m not normally the type to name names and call people out on their bad behaviour, nor am I one to usually make an example of bad books. (Nor am I one to freely swear in blog posts.) Today is different. Today, instead of talking about what we should be doing, I’m going to show you some examples of what people are doing that are wrong — because, apparently, we aren’t getting the message through to some people.

Chances are that if you’ve read this far, you’re one of the authors that treats self-publishing as a profession and you don’t do these things, so I may be preaching to the choir here. Nevertheless, let’s get started…

Self-Publishing is a Profession

Self-publishing may be a hobby to some, but it’s a profession for others. Even if it’s a hobby to you, you want your books to appear as professional and top-notch as possible. If you’re throwing garbage on Amazon and Smashwords, then what’s the point of self-publishing?

You can cut corners on editing and cover design, especially if this is more of a hobby for you, but unless you’re a very experienced author, you cannot write a draft and throw it up for sale. You need an editor. I have multiple pen names and I’ve been published over 80 times. I need an editor. I’ve published about a million words, but that doesn’t mean I can publish without a proper edit.

If you can’t afford an editor, then get a well-read friend to give you honest and critical feedback. If they say it’s perfect, find someone else, as they are either not experienced enough or objective enough. No one is a perfect writer. Also, a proofread is not an edit.

If you don’t want to get an editor or an objective friend because you are doing this as a hobby, then join a writers group and don’t self-publish. Don’t fuck things up for the rest of us.

At the core of all this is an ignorance of the very basic rules of story telling, such as:

Point of view. Pick a point of view. Stick with it. Don’t head-hop. If you don’t know what these mean, Google them.

Grammar, punctuation, and spelling. If you’re having trouble with sentence structure and your editor isn’t doing a good enough job, run your story through the Hemingway App or Grammarly to at least catch some of the problems. If you use the Hemingway App, it tells you what grade level your writing is at — you want to aim for about grade 5 for easy readability. (Using these sites are not a replacement for honest and critical feedback from an editor.)

Don’t refer to the cover image. I went perusing Smashwords’s recent publications and I found two books that refer to the cover image. The first was by a young writer (who I will not call out, as they are beginning this wonderful journey of writing and publishing and will make mistakes along the way) who had published two books — one was a novella and the other was a “book” that just had the cover image so that you could look at it.

But then…

Annette

This one, though, when Annette is introduced, the narration literally says “That’s Annette on the cover of this story!”

That floored me. An author directly and overtly referring to the cover image? That is a huge no-no for fiction writing. It could work for non-fiction, but only in special circumstances.

The quality of writing in self-published works ranges from better-than-traditional-authors to absolutely atrocious. I have stopped reading self-published works because half of them are by authors who don’t know story structure, POV, grammar, punctuation, or any of the dozens of things that an author must know. This is also why I’ve stopped reviewing books. I get offers from authors I know can write extremely well, but I also get offers from authors who are nowhere near ready for publication — and I don’t have the time to sort through this.

I do want to take a moment to acknowledge that there is a lot of very excellent self-published fiction out there. I have just grown tired of sorting the wheat from the chaff.

The biggest problem I’ve found with self-published fiction is that too often there simply isn’t a story, or at least not enough of one. Two people meeting and falling happily in love? That’s not a story. You need tension and conflict — maybe they meet but can’t stand each other (which is how a lot of romances work), maybe one has to win the affections of the other, perhaps the romance is a secondary storyline to an adventure plot.

Unless it’s a short story, you can have the problem solved on the first attempt. The heroes need to fail and come up with a new strategy to win the day.

A perfect romance is not a story. An effortless and conflict-free hookup is not a story.

If you don’t have a story, don’t publish a fucking book.

Invest in a Cover

You can usually identify a self-published title at a glance — because of the atrocious cover.

I’ve seen:

  • hand-drawn covers. Don’t ever do this.
  • covers that are not “book sized”. All covers should be at or close to a 2:3 ratio, such as 1600×2400 pixels; do not do a square cover or a different ratio UNLESS it’s an audiobook or a kids book. Even then, if the kids book is an ebook, you want a cover that fits on an ereader… which is at or close to a 2:3 ratio.
  • covers made with paper, scissors, and tape, then scanned and uploaded.
  • covers made in Paint or Word.
  • obviously copyrighted photos used illegally.

Ideally, you would invest in hiring a cover artist or cover design company.

However, this may be out of your budget range. You can easily purchase a stock photo and use Photoshop (or a free equivalent like Gimp or a user-friendly online program like Canva) to put something together. You can even find free stock photo sites that offer royalty-free images that you can use for any purpose.

If you are purchasing stock photography, make sure that the site you are purchasing from allows you to use it for erotic ebooks (read the terms and conditions).

And for the love of God, pick a photo that is at least remotely sexy.

Here we have a cottage that may be a location in the book — but if I’m looking for jerk-off material, I won’t even give this a second glance:

Nancy

And I don’t know what the fuck this is:

kingdom

And I highly doubt President Trump makes an appearance in this book:

conversation

Also, that author is opening themselves up to a lawsuit from the lawsuit-loving president.

And, please, don’t use garish, neon font.

Also, make it readable.

Product Descriptions

Write a product description that entices the reader and draws them in. Blurbs are written in first tense, are not weighed down with unnecessary detail, and are engaging.

None of the blurbs on the books I’ve shared here are good. Most of them are godawful.

For examples, look at traditionally published books and take notes on what they’re doing.

Categories

This is the reason we’re in this mess!

Categorize your stories properly.

Let’s look at this one:

lolitta

This is incest erotica being categorized as coming of age fiction. What the fuck?

Should you choose two categories? Yes. But for fuck’s sake, make them relevant. Incest erotica is NOT coming of age fiction. I’d barely call it “romance >> erotic”, but I’m willing to let that slide as I haven’t read the book and that’s at least an appropriate category. If this author wanted an appropriate secondary category, I would have gone with “fiction >> erotica >> men’s erotica”.

Let’s look again at the others we’ve already called out:

conversation

^ That’s somehow both business fiction and action romance? If the author meant it’s a romance set in the workplace, the proper place to make that distinction is in the tags, not the business category.

And then there was this:

kingdom

^ I think this might’ve been miscategorized. The blurb seems to indicate political science, not general romance.

And we also saw this:

Nancy

^ “Women’s fiction”? Really? Granted, I haven’t read the story, but… generally books about prostitutes are not women’s fiction. That genre tends to be about women finding themselves, recovering from loss, finding strength in family, etc. While it’s not impossible for this to be women’s fiction, I doubt that’s the best category.

And, finally, we started off with this:

Annette

^ I read the whole thing. It’s not contemporary romance. It’s not any kind of romance. It’s not even a fucking story. It’s a scene (that evidently refers to the cover image). If I had to choose a category, wow… I’d go with… uh… general fiction or perhaps literature (though that’s a stretch).

The Problem With Miscategorization

Shitty writing, crappy covers, and atrocious blurbs are bad enough for the self-publishing industry, as it gives us the reputation that we rightly deserve, but above absolutely everything, it is miscategorization that is killing the erotica self-publishing industry.

In self-publishing resources, we are told to think creatively with categories. If you write a western romance, you could categorize it as general romance and historical romance — but if you instead categorize it as general romance and western, then you get the readers who read westerns and are open to a romance book. It’s sound advice.

That is — it’s sound advice for romance, but you have to be careful with erotica.

You don’t fucking categorize incest as coming of age fiction.

Let me explain what happens:

  • A mother and child go on Amazon or Smashwords to look for a good ebook
  • They type in some innocent keywords or click on some ideal categories (coming of age fiction, perhaps)
  • They scroll through the list together until they find “Sex With Daddy For An Easy A”
  • The mother sends the child out of the room and, mouth agape with horror, clicks around a bit more and finds more incest or extreme erotica mixed in among kid-friendly titles
  • The mother contacts Amazon and complains
  • Amazon is slow to respond, so the mother goes to the local media
  • The media raises a stink
  • Amazon releases a press statement that say “Yikes! We didn’t know this was happening! We’re deleting everything now!”
  • All of us who play by the rules have any of the following happen:
    • Our titles get banned / removed
    • Our titles get put behind the “adult filter” (also known as “dungeoning”) and our sales plummet because we’re not as discoverable anymore
    • Our accounts may be cancelled, ending our self-publishing career, as Amazon bans your tax ID number permanently

Sound extreme?

I can almost guarantee that’s what happened at Barnes & Noble last week, minus the part about the media. It happened a year or two ago when a mother and daughter were looking for animal books and found erotica on Amazon. It happened last year on Kobo.

Those of us who play by the rules have to sit back and try not to stress out as our erotica colleagues are getting hit by the “ban hammer” and try not to freak out over the same thing possibly happening to us. Those who are in it for the quick buck — likely those that break all the rules — give up and move on. The industry recovers, we get back on our feet, and then a newbie who’s heard that erotica is an easy way to make big money comes in and breaks all the rules — throwing us into the same cycle.

If you’re thinking of writing erotica, here’s how you make money on it:

Write. Edit. Revise. Proofread. Get a cover. Publish. Repeat.

That’s it.

The money in erotica (other than risky and temporary trends and highs that lead to you eventually getting banned) is in building a catalogue. I have over 80 erotic titles under various pen names and I make a decent income from writing.

More importantly, it’s consistent income.

Sure, a rule breaker might make a ton of money before they go and wreck everything for the rest of us, but those of us who are in it for the long haul make more money over time.

I’m not perfect.

I never claim to be. I’ve made mistakes and I continue to do so.

I also don’t like calling people out on their shit. Everyone starts somewhere and if any of these authors are new to self-publishing, the last thing they need is a public lashing.

But I’ve had it.

I am probably one of the most patient and understanding people you will meet, but I’ve had it with those who constantly break the rules in search of a quick buck and just end up making the rest of our lives a living hell.

I continue to support indie authors

I know how hard it is to make money as an indie author. Truth be told, most of us do it because we love telling stories, not because we’re chasing money.

My offer for book promotion help is always open and is always indie-friendly. This rant doesn’t change that fact.

Indie publishing is a lot of fun — it’s challenging, but it’s fun. If you’re a total newbie to self-publishing or if you’re perhaps guilty of making some of these mistakes (or perhaps you’re one of the authors I made an example of) — don’t let this hinder you from doing this, if this is really what you want to do.

Learn from your mistakes, learn from the mistakes of others, and strive to do better.

Like I said, I’m not perfect. I’ve made many mistakes with self-publishing, but I learned from them. I’ve also learned from looking at what other authors do — both good and bad.

Anyone with interest, patience, and perseverance can do this.

Let’s write some good books. 🙂

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Upcoming Publication Schedule

Well… it’s been a while since I’ve released a book. The President And The Rentboy came out in early February. That was five months ago… that’s a long time in the world of erotic fiction. While in genres like sci-fi or fantasy, an author can release a book a year and be considered productive, erotic authors are often held to a more frequent release schedule.

While I generally don’t like to give into the pressures of this sort of thinking … this is what I’ve got planned for the next year (if a specific date isn’t mentioned, the release will happen toward the end of the month)…

  • July 2017: Forbidden Desires: The Complete Series by Cameron D. James and Sandra Claire, in both ebook and paperback. This collects Seduced By My Best Friend’s DadErotic Love and Carnal Sins: Confessions of a Priest, and The President And The Rentboy. I just saw the concept art from my cover artist and holy crap is it amazing. I can’t wait to get this book out!
  • August 2017: Sex For Money: How to Write, Publish and Sell Gay Erotica and M/M Erotic Romance — 2nd Edition. While it’s only been about a year since the original Sex For Money came out, the world of self-publishing has changed dramatically. This updated version will have much of the same content, but will expand on areas that have grown and remove areas that have disappeared (like All Romance eBooks). The revision has been written and it’s with my proofreader right now. If you bought the first edition and would like to see the second edition, I’ll share here on my blog on in my newsletter how you can get your copy for free. (Basically, you’ll have to show me that you purchased the first edition and I can email you the second edition — but those details will be sorted later.)
  • September 2017: Currently Untitled (Academic Discipline #1) by Cameron D. James and Dominic LeBlanc. This is a new school-centered series by myself and Master Dominic. Apparently, Amazon doesn’t allow Dominic to use “Master” as part of his name, so his pen name for “respectable fiction” (as he puts it) is Dominic LeBlanc. We’ve written the first draft of this book already — it’s a BDSM-themed love affair between a college student and his professor.
  • October 2017: Schoolboy Secrets (Academic Discipline #2) by Cameron D. James and Dominic LeBlanc. Like the Forbidden Desires series that I co-wrote with Sandra Claire, this Academic Discipline series is non-connected … each book is entirely standalone. Book 2 features a love triangle between an 18-year-old student at an all-boys private school, his PE teacher, and the principal, and will feature BDSM elements. We’re presently partway through the first draft.
  • November 2017: Currently Untitled (Academic Discipline #3) by Cameron D. James and Dominic LeBlanc. We don’t actually have a plot outline for this one yet … but we will soon!
  • December 2017: Academic Discipline: The Complete Series by Cameron D. James and Dominic LeBlanc. This will be a bundle of the three novellas in ebook and print format.
  • January 16, 2018: Autumn Fire. This was my very first novel, which had been published by Champagne Books. It’s currently unavailable because I’ve had the rights returned to me. I’m rewriting it (fixing a few things that bothered me and smoothing out some of the writing now that I’m a lot more experienced as a writer) and will be publishing it through my company, Deep Desires Press.
  • Winter/Spring 2018: New York Heat. This is a project I am very excited about. It’s a continuation of my two bestselling series, Men In The Hot Room and Go-Go Boys of Club 21. It will be a full-size novel in ebook and print. In a nutshell, Simon and Brad from the Hot Room stories move to New York to open a yoga studio next to Club 21, and the novel will follow all of the men as they confront the changes in their lives. It will be written so that if you have not read the previous books, you will get along just fine.
  • Spring/Summer 2018: Ryan’s Stars (might be renamed as Ryan’s Boys). This is also a sequel to Go-Go Boys of Club 21, but follows Ryan, Francis, and Damien in Los Angeles and the hedonistic world they live in. It will also be a full-size novel in ebook and print. It will be written so that if you have not read the previous books, you will get along just fine.
  • May 8, 2018: Silent Hearts. This was my second novel, also published by Champagne Books. It’s also currently unavailable for the same reason as Autumn Fire and I will soon be working on rewriting it. It will be published through Deep Desires Press.

These dates are flexible. The only ones that are absolutely firm are Autumn Fire and Silent Hearts as they are scheduled to be released through Deep Desires Press. Everything else depends on me being able to stay productive — but with a full-time day job and running Deep Desires Press, finding time to write can be difficult. I think, though, that I can do this.

Send coffee.

And cute boys.

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Understanding the Smashwords Survey — Sex For Money, Post #20

Sex For Money is a semi-regular blog series about my experiences in writing, publishing, and marketing gay erotica and M/M erotic romance. All of this information is from my own experience, so your experience may differ. It’s hoped that sharing this information might be helpful to new and aspiring erotica and erotic romance authors, as I see a lot of questions and a lot of misinformation out there. To read more Sex For Money posts, click here.


Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve written a Sex For Money post! The last one was in December 2016 — so it’s about time I got back into them!

I’ve been fairly dormant lately, at least online, because I’ve been working on getting my new publishing company kicked off and into high gear. Now that it’s underway and the bumps have been smoothed and the team is working together well, I’m finally able to start getting back into writing and blogging and publishing (my own stuff).

And I figure a necessary part of getting back into my role as a smut writer is to get back into these self-help posts. And the timing is pretty much perfect.

Late last week, Smashwords released their annual survey, which compiles massive amounts of data collected by Smashwords in relation to book sales. While, for most authors, Amazon is the powerhouse of sales and Smashwords is a distant second, this data is still useful. (On that note, though, I should point out that for many authors, myself included, Smashwords is a prime source of royalties. I make about 1.5-2 times more on Smashwords than on Amazon.)

The first reason this data is useful is that it shows you trends regarding what’s selling through Smashwords and their third party vendors. If you’re wondering what sells on Smashwords, you’ll find our answer here. The second reason this data is useful is that even if you’re a devoted Amazon fan, Amazon gives its publishers almost no data.

If you haven’t already, I’d strongly suggest taking a look at Smashwords’s annual survey and flipping through the slides. You might take something different from the data than I did.

Some of the data is likely useless. For example, they found that the bestselling books had longer titles. Does this mean you should come up with longer titles for your books? The problem is we don’t know if the better sales was because of the longer titles… or if it was more or less coincidental. If JK Rowling released a book through Smashwords, it would be a phenomenal bestseller, regardless of the length of title. We don’t know if the books were selling because of their titles or because of the author.

However, it could be that the longer titles were better for keyword searches. While I generally don’t like “keyword stuffing” — which is where you have something like Title of Book (gay erotica with lots of gangbangs and forbidden hook up discrete encounters tentacle sex BDSM) — a slightly longer title that catches search traffic is a good idea. One of my bestselling titles is Seduced By My Best Friend’s Dad. It’s also one of my longest titles. What drives sales? I doubt it’s the length of the title that is making sales. But I bet that because I have a more descriptive title, I’m catching search traffic, clicks, and sales. If I had gone with something artsy like Hotter Than The Campfire or simply Camping Trip, I wouldn’t get that search traffic — and even if I did get that search traffic, the titles are not sexy or appealing.

Smashwords found that bundles and box sets sell well. That’s something most authors in the industry have found. As soon as you have a number of related titles or a completed series, it’s to your benefit to create a box set or bundle and price it at a low price. It’s believed by many that those who buy individual ebooks are a different market than those who search out bundles and sales and deals — so by offering a cheap bundle, you’re not necessarily undercutting your sales, rather, you’re reaching a new market you weren’t reaching before.

Their findings on prices were interesting. $3.99 might be the new norm. I firmly believe (right now anyway) that short stories should still be $2.99. If you’re in a non-erotic genre and you’re reading this post, you might want to price a short story a little lower — it’s really in the erotic genres only that readers will spend $2.99 on a short story.

If you have something longer, then maybe $3.99 is the way to go. I generally price my novellas at $3.99.

On that note, the Romance Writers Association found a few years back that $6 was considered by readers to be an appropriate price for a romance novel ebook. So, I tend to price between $2.99 and $5.99, depending on the length. ($5.99 is a good price for a bundle.)

However, again, we don’t know if the surge of $3.99 books is because that price is somehow appealing… or if there were a number of appealing books that happened to be priced at $3.99.

The lack of clarity in the data can be frustrating sometimes, but it’s not like the staff at Smashwords necessarily know what’s causing these trends. They’re just crunching the numbers and presenting it to us. Even so, it’s far more helpful than what we get from Amazon.

Part of being an author in the erotic genres is simply going out there and trying your ideas and seeing if they work. Erotic authors and romance authors have been at the forefront of the ebook revolution and have led the industry into that new realm. If you do something that doesn’t quite work, that’s fine — dust yourself off and try something new. And if you find something that works well, then ride that wave until it runs out.

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