Monday, December 19, 2016

Advertising Experiment, Update Two

It's taken me a long time to come back with some things which may be useful, but I'm back now!

During the first update, I kind of went over the stats and what the abbreviations meant. I did end that first campaign, and started a second a little while later. It's gotten better results the second time around. I DID change the wording on the ad a little. Here's a screen shot:


As you can see here, the "Queen 2" (second campaign) has gotten less impressions, but more clicks per impressions, resulting in two sales. I did change the wording slightly, as I mentioned above, but it wasn't anything major, simply trying to get as much information in the ad while trying to make it interesting. If you think writing blurbs is hard, writing a compelling ad is MUCH harder.

Honestly, I think what the difference is is timing. I started the first one in May, the second one in November, before black Friday. People weren't shopping for books over the summer... but NOW that they're shopping for Christmas? Yeah. I'm letting it run to the end of January (at least), but I'm feeling hopeful about it. I may not get many more sales, but it's showing you that people NOW are more willing to buy than they were in the summer.

One other note, I saw on Facebook the other day that an erotica author wanted to advertise on Amazon. I've gotta tell you guys: they don't advertise erotica. Queen is sci-fi/dark fantasy. There's a lot of erotic components to it, but you can take those out and still have a story. As the series has progressed, there's less and less sex in it (though there always will be some, no matter what) because the story and characterization has taken priority. So, if you have a book that's NON erotica, it may be worthwhile. If it's like Queen and has a lot of sexy parts IN it, but is a story still without the sex, get it classified in whatever category (sci-fi, romance, mystery, thriller, whatever) it would be without the sex, and advertise that... then you can also use that as a "gateway" book to your other erotica.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The "Don't Like, Don't Read" Argument

Honestly, TV Tropes puts it better than I could ever, but here's my take on this.

When people use the "Well, if you don't like it, don't read it!" argument, a kitten dies somewhere. Only in a couple of cases is it ever valid. The vast majority of the time, the "don't like, don't read" argument is used when someone criticizes something a fan adores (or the author goes to defend, usually in fan fiction. I'd hope professional writers have more tact than to try to address criticism in any way other than merely to say "thank you for reading" and move on) because the person is expressing a differing, albeit oftentimes harsh, opinion.

Criticism is good. Being critical is good. Being able to graciously accept different opinions is good. I think people sometimes forget that in order to grow, we have to make mistakes, and everyone makes them. I also think people forget that art is subjective, and, while someone might not like what you create, getting different opinions on anything you create will help you to expand and grow. Even if a piece is technically perfect, people may dislike the content. None of that is bad.

However, this argument comes around from time to time. The first and often best way to refute it is, of course, "Well, how was I going to KNOW I wouldn't like it until I read it?" And, as TV Tropes points out, even if you only partially read something and then stop, it's still perfectly valid to give your opinion on it. Everyone's entitled to their opinion.

I just really hate that particular argument because it strives to not discuss why the person didn't like it, but just shut down the criticism altogether. It's as if that piece of art is so damn precious, the fans (or author) just can't stand to hear a single negative word. That doesn't help anyone, and it's oftentimes insulting.

This is, of course, all in relation to the latest controversy in some circles I run in, and this argument came up. In this particular case, there really wasn't any warnings about the content. If there were, and people still chose to read it, then that's one thing. Without the warnings of graphic content, that's quite another.

Sigh. One thing I'm learning about the indy publishing circles is that there's a new drama every few weeks.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Non-con in Erotica

This is a SRS BSNS blog post, and may trigger some people as it concerns rape and the non-consent kink. Read at your own peril


There's evidently a big controversy going on right now about an indy book which was published a couple days ago which involved a woman being stalked, kidnapped, raped, and then falling in love with her rapist. I went and looked at it myself, and found the preview and categorization offensive. (The writing wasn't that good--it wasn't bad, but it wasn't good as there were a couple typos in the preview.) The preview illustrated a man who was taken out of school at a young age to help on his dad's farm after his mother died, who grew up fairly isolated (but likes it), and who committed a double homicide when he found his wife cheating on him. Just blew them away, fed them to his hogs, then called the sheriff saying he'd killed a couple of rabid raccoons HYUCK HYUCK HYUCK. The "hyucks" are mine. I dunno My mind just added them in.

That's all I've read in this book, cause I didn't want to bother with more than the preview. I think it still says something that this dude committed a double homicide within the first few pages of prose and was casual about it. But Alana, you might say, you write about your protagonists committing murder ALL THE TIME! This is true. Hence, for me to criticize this is hypocritical, yes? Not necessarily. The books where I have violence in them are first categorized as sci-fi/dark fantasy... ie supervillains. The other series where violence is going to happen is going to be categorized when necessary as "erotic horror", because that would be Delilah, and she'll go through some horrific things. Caprice, the protagonist in Villainess, is NOT put up as someone to like or admire. She admits to manipulating people, using them, and all sorts of other nasty things. Delilah is more sympathetic, but she's just begun her fall.

I had actually just observed that my two main series are complete opposites of each other. One is about someone losing her soul, and the other is about someone finding it. *shrug*

So what's the difference? The difference comes in expectation. The first book I described above? It was put under "erotic romance". Kidnapping and rape is not what I expect when I look in "erotic romance". "Erotic horror"? Sure! That sounds like it could be erotic and horrific, bring it on! Dark fantasy? Sure! Straight up horror? Sure! There are places for desires which run on the darker side, absolutely. But if someone were to pick it up thinking it wasn't so bad because it was in the erotic romance section, they're going to be very surprised.

As much as some people don't like it, rape fantasies do have a place in erotica. Many people, men and women alike, have fantasies about non-con (non-consensual), being on both ends as the aggressor or the victim. Many retailers choose not to carry non-con books (as well as books containing incest or sex with animals or sex with children, rightfully so in my opinion as all of that is gross and wrong no matter what, totally not sorry for my opinion there). Because they choose not to carry them doesn't mean those books are being "censored", which some people get worked up into a tizzy about. As a retailer, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, iBooks, and whoever else get to choose what they want to sell. You can still sell it. It's not censored. But what some edgy erotica writers seem to forget is that retailers are under NO obligation to sell your books. None whatsoever. That's why you gotta play in the rules they set up if you want to sell books on that site.

All that being said, I don't have anything against noncon in erotica. It does have its place. However, it does need to be labeled correctly. If anything, it should be under "erotic horror", not "erotic romance". Rape is a horrific thing. There's no sugar coating it. And yes, many people get aroused by reading about it, but it doesn't make it less horrific. There are people who get aroused by blood, by violence, by corpses... there's literally a fetish for everything under the sun, and thus, there's a niche for everything under the sun. In my opinion, to label it anything but erotic horror is mislabeling it... and a black hat tactic. Frankly, the way the protagonist was portrayed in the first chapter of this "controversial" book sort of horrified me. I... I can't see him as a romantic protagonist. Maybe it's personal opinion? Yet the beginning didn't scream romance to me at all, and I think that's why I found it kind of offensive. I'm expecting romance. The writing read "serial killer". That sort of discordance in what you expect versus what is there is why I think a lot of people found it offensive.

EDIT: I wanted to add, and I'm going to bold this, I do NOT in ANY way condone or approve of people taking advantage of other people, ESPECIALLY when it comes to violating their bodies. The opinion above is ONLY about fiction. People who violate others are vile and horrible, whether it's via rape, assault, murder, torture, or abuse in any way, shape, or form. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

National Novel Writing Month Comes Again!

That time of the year has come again... National Novel Writing Month! I usually participate in this every year. Last year, I wrote The Prince of Cups during it. More accurately, I finished Prince during this month and started editing it. This year, The Knight of Disks, which is Villainess #4. It's going along pretty smoothly, even though I'm taking the weekends off from writing. I write more than enough during the week to keep up. I know I should write every day, but I have life things too, and people I want to spend time with.

I think this is a good challenge for people who always wanted to take that step and write a novel, but never had motivation to do it. It's a challenge to write 50,000 words in a month, 30 days, and it's definitely doable! Almost every year I've participated (and there's been many), I've won. Even if you don't make the entire 50K, you still end up writing and learning a lot!

Writers, of course, have to spend much of their time writing. The other half is marketing. Since it's coming into the Christmas season, I'm going to do a Cyber Monday sale again in a couple weeks. All of my books which are in KU will be 99 cents for that day only. I have yet to get Jotham to make a graphic for it, but I will. I've just been a touch lazy. I need to get automated Twitter tweets or whatever set up, but I just loathe being all... automated. I know that you need to throw your name out there a lot in order to get some notice, but I don't know... I'm really reluctant to do that. I did start up the Amazon advertisement again, as I did make a couple sales from it and I think it works to help get The Queen of Swords out there, and people noticing it. I'm looking into Facebook ads, but I've only so much time in the day. If I don't want to drive myself crazy, I can only do so much. Thankfully, I can do a fair bit of this stuff at my day job.

Bryce & I were working on a collaboration, and that's fallen a bit by the wayside. If I finish Knight before I finish the 30 days of Nano, I may work on that again, or on the next Rock Hardin book (for that will be the next one I write after Knight). I really loved the idea, and I think it could be something unique in the erotica offerings out there.

For now, I need to get back to writing! <3

Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Hard Talk

I recently missed an event on Facebook and I felt terrible about it. So, I told the author whose book release I missed that I would read and review it. I put everything else I was reading aside and concentrated on it... and I didn't enjoy the book. Why I didn't or what book it was doesn't matter, what matters is that afterwards came the Hard Talk.

Because I felt pretty strongly about my dislike and I just can't... I just can't be dishonest. I can't just write "It was great 5 stars" when I don't mean it. I know this is "just" my pen name, but I still want to be known for some integrity. If I say I like something, I like it. If I don't, I don't. However, as an author reviewing another author's book, it gets tricky. First, because we're in the same genre, Amazon could view the review as me trying to sink the other author's book, which that's not the intention. Second, you can get into a 'Well, you rated me a 2 I'm rating your shit a 1!', although most of the authors I've met have been really nice and I don't THINK they'd do that, they still might. Three, it's... well, it's kind of dickish to do that without talking to them first.

I approached the author and said "Hey, I finished Book X and I can review it if you want me to, but it won't be a good review". They asked if I could hold off, which of course I'm more than happy to do. I didn't really want to post a bad review. I don't like doing it. After that, they asked me what I didn't like, and so I went through most of my points (I forgot one, but oh well) and ended with the sincere "I think you've really got some talent, it was just X that I really didn't enjoy, but I am also not your target audience, so that may make a difference too." I ended it on a positive note, because I do think the author has the potential to be really good, and the writing wasn't terrible. They also used cunt, which that's a word I love even though most other women don't. Personal preference.

It's hard to be honest like that and go up to someone and say, "Hey, that thing you put all your time and effort into? I hated it." However... criticism has to mean something. Reviews have to mean something. I used to belong to a writing site many years ago. You would review stories people posted to get things to use to promote your own stories. It was all for free, but fun, and I learned a lot there. When I reviewed, I was always brutally honest. I mean scathingly, brutally honest. And you know what?

People requested I review their stuff.

On purpose.

Why? It was because I was brutally honest and they wanted to learn. I wanted to learn. That's why I was there. A "great story 5 stars" might be nice to see, but it's not constructive. Even in positive reviews, you can always point out "I really loved Bit X and Bit Y, but Bit Z was a little off to me." There's nothing wrong with that. Constructive criticism is how we learn. But it has to be constructive. Just saying something sucked or something was awesome is not helpful, and in fact, it can be downright hurtful.

So I want to tell people not to be afraid to be honest in their reviews. If you loved the book, but really didn't care for Character Y or Plot B or whatever, tell them. Tell them why you didn't like it. Not every story is going to be to everyone's tastes, and that's OK. Don't be mean. Don't be harsh. I always try to end on a positive note, too. It takes some of the hurt out because yeah, getting those low reviews does hurt. You try not to let it, but it does anyway. And it's encouraging.

As a side note, don't listen to those people who say "WELL, you didn't write a book, so you can't criticize!" That's total bullshit. Anyone can. I've said that before and I'll say it again. Anyone can criticize because everyone has an opinion. It's a matter, as an author, of seeing if you value that person's opinion and the deciding what you might learn from it.

Here's another quick story (bunch of them today!). I reviewed another author's book because I thought it sounded really exciting, but when I read it, I was so disappointed. I couldn't even finish it the book was pissing me off so much. I write a very long review about why, and put a lot of thought into making it constructive and well researched. Yes, I researched for a review. I take them seriously! When the author found out about it, they went off on Facebook about how it was horrible and they didn't know anything and blah blah blah. Now, I'd written the review under my real name (as I tend to do on Amazon) and they didn't know I was seeing the backlash. I never said anything to them about that, but I was shocked at the reaction and the behavior. It was vicious. What made matters worse was that the author had followers, a lot of them, who were mean, nasty, and said some really terrible things that I was stupid and didn't know what the fuck I was talking about and SHE didn't write a book so SHE can't criticize and stuff.

Again, I was pretty shocked at the reaction. And it wasn't like I said "It sucks, the end." It was thought out. The review itself was long, about 1500 words in length so I spent a significant time on the review... because it meant that much to me. Being able to see things from both sides made me really think about what I want to put out in the world as far as reviews go, and helped me to learn how to react to bad ones. Which is almost the same as how I react to good ones in that I say, "Thank you. Why did you feel that way?"

That, I think, is how authors should respond to reviews, good and bad. Why did you like something? Why did you hate it? Was it the writing? The style? Characters? Plot? Setting? So on and so forth. I know this first author I mentioned probably won't ever read this, but if they do, I want to say thank you for being a bigger person, standing up and saying, "Thank you. Why did you feel that way?" It not only shows they are willing to learn and adapt, but that they value what I thought. For readers, I think that's really important.

K, done rambling now.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

More Things to Run? Perish the... Oh, Alright

I don't post here often, as those of you who follow this blog know. I have a full time job times two... 'cause yeah, writing is sort of full time. I'm not getting paid full time hours (yet) for it, but I still spend a good portion of the week doing so. Maybe it's only 30 hours. It's not like I'm keeping track.

So you know that when I update my blog, it's usually cause I have a new release that I forgot to announce (again) and then another follow up post to chit-chat about what's on my mind and other news. In other news, I finally started a mailing list. I'm going to try to hit that up about once a month towards the end of one month/beginning of the next. In it, I'm going to list all the new releases that I've done (and I do strive for at least one a month), with the writing forecast, andomSother such news such as audio or print releases.

I made a banner for it. Jotham made one for me, but I didn't like it. >.> Don't tell him I said that though.




Sometimes, simple is better.

I encourage people who haven't signed up for it yet to do so. I'm terrible about keeping the blog up to date, and I really would like to concentrate on my thoughts on writing and this sort of weird journey. I may still post announcements here, but I am going to try to announce new items, new releases, and other such news for the mailing list and leave this for thoughts and prose and excerpts (although I may add in excerpts to the mailing list. I haven't quite decided yet how I'm formatting it). For those of you who have signed up, I'd expect a newsletter probably this week. Maybe the beginning of next.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Brief Haitus was Brief... and the Writing Forecast

Yes, I did take a hiatus. However, by the time I posted about the hiatus, I was almost done with it. Not that I knew it at the time!

Although I keep plugging away on this romance--which I keep trying to make more deep and meaningful rather than "just" a romance; goes to show you that even something that's supposed to be mostly light and fluffy can be deeper--I had the thought to write some short stories based in the Villainess world. I think I'll go through with that thought. Why? Well, I love short stories. If I push, I can get them out quickly and still keep producing longer books at the same time. Second, I think there's a lot that's left out of Caprice's point of view and it may be interesting to see some slice of life vignettes for the other characters in the series. Three, I got a great name for the series. And my illustrator gave me another one for another potential series.

I have to stop and wrap some stuff up though! I simply have to! To this end, I have a writing forecast for y'all which may or may not be completed in order.


  • The Razor's Edge -- It's actually already done, as those of you who read the Princess of Wands know. I think it's enough to stand on its own as a short slice-of-life story set in that world. 
  • The next Witches of Back End book. I have decided to cut this series at six books total, and no more. The next one is titled "Boned in the Dark". Have started working on it, and it won't take long to finish... so I would expect this one out in the first two weeks of September.
  • This romance which is taking me forever to finish. It might be a novella instead of a novel. It's sitting at around 20K right now, and it's for another pen, but it is taking time away from the Alana pen name, so I thought it was worth mentioning.
  • An as-of-yet untitled one for this side Villainess series which centers around the Nacht Sirene, Rebekah. She's got a fun voice and it'll go fast one I concentrate on it.
  • The Knight of Disks. I've already gotten many thousand words into this. I have other projects I want to finish first, though, so it's been sort of a back burner. 
  • Silver for Souls, Delilah Devilshot #4. This one has been bugging me to start it and I keep telling it, "I just finished a Delilah book, fuck off for a month or so." But it's not fucking off. Since I have the cover for it already, when it's done, it'll be published. I am trying not to start it, but the story keeps telling itself to me.
  • Although I have like ten covers for Rock Hardin's series, I'm not sure if I can write ten of his books. However, the next one, Operation: Hot Flow, has a plot and I'll be starting on that soon.
  • For Halloween, I'm going to be doing a compilation of several different "monster" stories into a Halloween collection. I had planned on doing that last year, but didn't get around to it. It'll be a compilation of different series to give readers a taste of the different worlds I've made. This is why I want to get The Razor's Edge out (and soon!) since it'll be a good addition if I should decide to add it. I won't do compilations like this often since I would much rather put out NEW stuff, but oftentimes bundle buyers and single story buyers are different and I would very much like to reach out to people with different series that AREN'T bundled yet and try to capture their attention. 
So that's a lot on my plate. If I do a bundle for the Unusual Suspects, I think it'll probably be in a bundle of five or something. Not sure yet. I can see a LOT of stories coming from that though. First person is generally easy for me to write in since it doesn't have to be grammatically perfect all the time. 

Another thing I was thinking was doing a hard(er) core mind control series for Smashwords exclusively. Wonder how that would go over?



Thursday, July 28, 2016

Crippling Self Doubt

There's a meme going around Facebook for writers which, paraphrased, says "Give someone a book and they are entertained for an hour. Teach someone to write and they are crippled with paralyzing self-doubt for the rest of their lives."

I don't subscribe to that. Writing comes easy to me. However, doubt also comes easy to me. Not for writing, but for other things. With doubt comes depression and that I do suffer from and have for a long, long time. This is not a post about depression and stuff, because I want to keep the Alana pen name happy and talking about writing and sexy things and stuff. But, you know, life happens and people do get sad or depressed (which are not the same thing) or busy or any number of things. How do you work, as a writer, through it?

If you can't write, there are still a number of things you can do instead which are still work, at least for self-published authors.


  • Edit: Editing's not fun, but if you can't write, sometimes you can still go through what you have written and make changes. Sometimes it might inspire you. Sometimes it might depress you more, but it's worth a shot.
  • Work on ideas: This one is much more fun. You can brainstorm and try to come up with new ideas. You can expand on ideas you have already. It doesn't have to be perfect. It doesn't have to make sense. Even in the midst of sadness and thinking, "UGH GOD I AM THE WORST WRITER EVER" you can still use that sadness to come up with sad things, or tragic characters, or the worst situation you can think of. Believe me, depressed people are really fucking creative when it comes to thinking how awful things are. Why not use that? You may discard all of the ideas later when you are feeling better, but you might find something in your ennui or sadness which you can use.
  • Work on covers. A lot of self-published people do their own covers. A lot of them are pretty standard: stock photo, name, title, done. Some are more elaborate. Even if you don't feel like writing, you can still do something creative which will help you later on. No, you may not have a story ready for it, but if you find a stock photo which is really cool and you make a cover for it, you have inspiration for when you are ready. Keep in mind I write erotica and I have another pen which writes romance, so covers are pretty simple overall. That may not work if you write for horror or science fiction, or if you hire someone to do your covers.
  • Bundle stories together. Again, I come from an erotica background here, and many erotica writers bundle their stories together. I advise against using the same stories over and over again, because your customers want new stuff, but if you have the blahs and don't want to write, then you can take some of your stories with a similar theme or niche and bundle them together using three or more of them. It takes a bit of work editing it for table of contents and links and suchlike, as well as a cover, but you can have a many page book ready to go in less than an hour and then sit back and think, "Well, I'm at least publishing a book for today." And you can charge higher prices for them too, of course. Erotica generally sells at 2.99$ for a price point. For a bundle of three stories, I charge 3.99$. For four to five, it's around 4.99$, and so on. It's another way to make money off of work you've already done.
  • If you haven't investigated audio books or print books, then do some research. I can't recommend making audio books enough. It's free money, basically. You've already done your work! Check out acx.com and createspace.com for audio and print books through Amazon. If you publish through Amazon already, you're a step ahead. I haven't investigated print books yet, but I do plan to. Audio books are very easy to make. If you are already into that, then put another of your books up for a producer to audition for, or look for narrators. It's work. It will make you money. Best of all, it's really light on the work you need to do at that moment. 
  • Go to social media. Social media isn't about advertising your books, though I'm sure many authors use it for that. It's to make a connection with like minded people, like other authors, and to connect with your fans. You can find things to post which inspire you to write or remind you of a character--say a music video or a song, perhaps pictures posted to Pinterest--or make observations on life. Go through your friends list and read what they are posting. Comment on it. Like people's posts (if you like them; I will never advocate lying to boost yourself. It comes back to bite you later). Interact. This has the added benefit of communication and contact with anonymity. I know when I'm sad it's sometimes easier to talk to a stranger than someone close to me, and it helps cheer me up. People are more inclined to buy books from an author they know than a stranger.
All of these things can be work, and many are needed to be done to write and sell self-published books. I know life and writing and stuff can be discouraging at times, but you shouldn't let it stop you. Being a self-published author is pretty rewarding, but it can be tough too, so you need to just keep going and treat it like a job... a job you love and like doing, but a job nevertheless. Like many jobs, there are many aspects of self-publishing which have to be addressed and even if you aren't in the mood to write, there's still a LOT you can do to help achieve your goals.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Advertising Experiment, Update One

I suspect I'll probably have two or three updates.

As some of you may remember, earlier I had mentioned I was trying out advertising on Amazon. The set up was a bit of a pain as they are pretty stringent about what they advertise. Not only that, but I BELIEVE they DO NOT advertise erotica. Now, the book I am advertising--The Queen of Swords--is not erotica, but rather fantasy/sci-fi/"superheroes", so I avoided that. The cover is gorgeous, so that was no problem... but summing up a book in 140 characters? Hard, very hard. Or was it 75? It might have been 75. How do you write something short and effective?

This is what I ended up with:


That's the "full length" ad. There's also a variant of shorter ones, designed to fit iPhones and other small devices (like, say, a Kindle). This is what those look like:

In some variation anyway. Some might be across the screen lengthwise, or have different proportions. Anyway, it was hard coming up with the summary. And because I have a tendency to use ellipses even when I shouldn't, I had to redo the title since it ended initially with an ellipses. They don't like that. However, they said something was wrong with the "cover", and I was like grrr wtf. When I changed it and cut the ellipses, then the ad was suddenly OK. Lesson learned, Amazon, you still don't give great direction even when I'm trying to give YOU money.

Once it was set up, then you can check out the stats via your advertising dashboard. It looks like this:


"Impressions" is the number of times the ad was generated. Clicks is how many times someone clicked on your ad. The CTR is the Click Through Rate, the ration of clicks to impressions. DPV is the number of times someone has clicked on a product of MINE after clicking an ad. Which as you can see, that's higher than the number of clicks. So, a couple of people have clicked other products of mine after clicking the ad, which is pretty cool. The amount spent is next (of $100, and yea, maybe only 20 people have clicked, but the ad has been generated almost 12K times... which means people have SEEN it, so it's out there). ACPC is Average Cost Per Click, and then the fun part... estimated orders and sales. As you see, at least one person has decided to buy The Queen of Swords after clicking on the ad and reading it. They took a chance. I hope they enjoyed it!

What this doesn't tell you is number of borrows. I can tell you from my KDP author dashboard that the ranking for Queen has stayed around 100K for the last few days, which means in addition to the sale there's been about a borrow a day, and there have been page reads. No new reviews, but that's ok. So, obviously, this is working at least a little bit. Whether it'll be worth it in the long run, I have no idea.

The sale actually came through when I had about 7-8K Impressions, so it seems to be roughly one sale per 10K impressions generated, but that's really impossible to tell right now.

I'm not sure how useful all of this will be. I'll be happy if I break even after doing this advertising thing. What I do know is that the ad will be up there for a while. My budget is a hundred dollars... and I've spent less than four so far. Just having the picture out there, my name out there, might be worth it... but we'll have to see down the road.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

You Gotta Spend Money to Make Money... Right?

Oh boy. In what might be a huge mistake, I have... (drum roll, please)... paid for advertising.

Nah, not on Facebook, although I'm investigating that as well. Since my books are almost exclusively offered on Amazon, I went with them first. The first unhappy surprise: minimum hundred dollars expenditure. Second unhappy surprise: I have to wait, potentially up to 72 hours, for them to review it.

The book I chose to advertise is The Queen of Swords... of course. If I have some success here, I may branch out and do a similar campaign for Delilah. Those are the two I consider my most popular (even though 1001 Erotic Nights is my best seller, by far). The first reason is... well, it's easy to pin down the interests. It's all based on comics and thus, I targeted people who would buy comics or super hero novels. The second reason is that there are three books out in the series. If people like Queen enough, they may check out Prince, and then Princess.

It was pretty easy to set up. My nerves will be wracked until it's actually a live campaign. I'll keep thinking, "OMG WHAT IF THEY DON'T LIKE IT?! WHAT IF I DID SOMETHING WRONG?!" which is silly, of course. The next thought is, "What if I don't sell a damn thing and I just threw a hundred bucks away?" That would be a lot more shaming. However, Queen has some of my best reviews, Rebecca Wolfe's audio is wonderful to listen to, and I think it's fun and dark and sexy to read. You ONLY get 150 characters to sum up the book, though! This is what I ended up with:

In Imperial City, villain-for-hire Caprice works hard... and she plays harder. This novella contains dark, sometimes brutal, sexy, mature content.

It hits all the main components. She's a villain (check) who is hired (check). She works hard (check... sort of a nod to her being a bad ass) and plays hard (check). It's dark (check), bloody (check in the 'brutal' comment), sexy (check) and for a mature audience (check). There's no main element of the book which I left out, I think. Oh, and it's a novella, NOT a novel (check). I do NOT want people to be surprised by the length. The next books are novels, yes, but this one isn't. I think Prince has more sex in it by virtue of its length, but per capita... Queen is packed with sex. I wasn't sure HOW much I wanted plot and how much I wanted sexy times yet, so I erred on the side of sexy times. IIRC, Princess has three and a half sex scenes in comparison... basically the same amount as Queen. But it's three times as long. Longer than that!

This is a new, nervous step for me. I am reluctant to bug bloggers and say "Hey, review my booooook!" but that'll be the next terrifying step. People have often told me that you have to spend money to make money, and I hope this pans out. If I get a lot of click throughs, that'll be good. If I get a lot of sales, that will be better. If I want to be taken seriously...I need to advertise. Which that's a whole other post--people not taking erotica writers seriously. I seriously challenge anyone on the street to write a hot sexy scene and get people to fap to it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

It's a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Hey, y'all! I'm happy to see I was on the ball and posted that Villainess 3 was live. I was afraid I had missed that since I tend to neglect the blog here, save for when I come back to "real life" work and decide to update.

Now, in reference to my title, what I'm going to talk about today is "making it" as a independent author. I won't give out solid numbers, but I figured if I want to quit my job and do this for a living, I'd need to make about $1500 a month three months in a row. Not only would that give me a sizable nest egg to fall back on, but it would show consistency month to month like that. That would be working a full time job in addition to writing, not just writing full time. Since I'm at work (*looks around*) obviously, I'm not making that.

I won't lie and say that it's not my dream to write for a living. It is! Of course it is! It's every writer's dream to be the next Stephen King, or heck, even Dean Koontz... or EL James. I think I first got into erotica because I thought, "Oh, hey, easy money." And while it is easy, and there's money, it's not exactly "easy money". There's work involved. There's stuff I'm not so good at doing involved... like making covers, and networking, and promotion. It's not just writing a story and sending it out into the universe, expecting it to be popular. Sometimes, yeah, you can get lucky, but those instances are pretty few and far between. It's work. It's hard work, but because I love telling stories, it makes it easy for me.

A couple people know this, but I started a romance pen name too. No, I shan't be giving it out here. At least, not yet. Romance isn't my thing. Like, writing about dirty, filthy sex is one thing, but writing romance? It's a lot harder. There are formulas you must follow there to be successful, and tropes you need to learn because readers expect it. It's a learning process. I won't say that process is fun cause it's not. It's work. But I still get to tell stories, even if they are romances. Who's to say there can't be derring do and all sorts of fun stuff in it?

A couple other people know I'm writing "legit" novels too, though they are not published yet. I put legit in quotes because the erotica I write is legit, but people scorn it. Hell, people scorn romance, yet romance is probably THE top seller anywhere. Neither are easy to write. This novel I have is sizable, and I'm thinking it's probably to complex and doesn't make sense and all sorts of other negative things... but it's the one I've put the most effort into. Even my Villainess and Delilah stuff, which I love dearly, haven't gotten even a tenth of the work this novel has. Does that mean it's better? No. It means I've just put more work into it... and that I've dragged my feet trying to publish it.

Through all this, I'm not a popular author. I have fans, which is still trippy to say, but not popular. In general, the stuff I write is at worst, average, and at best, mind blowing. (seriously, someone said that!) I can handle that. Even the femdom stuff, the Dominating Her Man series, I've been told was better than much of the other stuff out there. It wasn't super hard core... but it wasn't meant to be. It was meant for people, myself included, to dip their toes into different aspects of the BDSM culture. This one might be about pegging. This one might be about bondage. This one might be about humiliation. And so on. Even when I haven't put my heart into it, it's still alright. I can deal with that.

I think what's holding me back is pushing. I don't push. I'm not a pusher. I CAN be aggressive, but in general I'm laid back and kinda nervous about pushing my stuff onto people. It's promotion, and I have remind myself that it's OK to push because that's part of my job as an indie writer... to push and wave my hands and say "Look at this! You'll like it!". But it's all part of the learning curve. Before I could write, I had to learn how to write, how to put stories together, how to make sentences, how to punctuate, spell, and all that other stuff. Before I can promote, I have to learn HOW to do it and get the mindset for it. I shouldn't (and don't) expect success overnight because while I learned how to put sentences together all of my life, I've only been a few months at learning how to promote myself. Each step forward takes me a closer step to my goal. And say I only make ten bucks a month, or fifty, or a hundred, or five hundred... each dollar gained is closer to my goal. And it's more than I would have had had I just sat on my ass and not did anything.

I've been at this for a year now, and in that year I've published over 45 stories, a couple of which have been full length novels, and at least a dozen novellas. Think about that. Does your favorite author put out novels twice a year? Of course not. (Of course, I don't have to go through copy editing and editing and approving covers and waiting for publication either. Advantage of self-pubbing there.) On a work day--because I write during my work days--I can write five to ten thousand words. That's inbetween working at my "real life" job. I read somewhere an average writer only writes about two thousand. If I did this for a living, anything under ten thousand a day would be a failure for me.

Some authors work really fast. I know of one who puts out a story every day to every other day. He's amazing. I know other authors who can't write that fast, who have real life responsibilities they must attend first and are lucky if they write two hundred words. Yet we're all in the same race. We're all learning, albeit at different speeds, and growing. We're all moving along to our dreams and while some of us are at the end of the race, cheering the rest on (and it's true, the "made it" indie authors tend to be really supportive of the little guy; it's pretty amazing), others are still racing at our own pace. It's been said this is a marathon, not a sprint, and that is so true. We'll get tired and winded. We'll get revitalized by the crowd. We'll work at a steady pace with periods of rest and periods of frantic activity, but each movement puts us one step closer to our end. The people I'm racing with aren't my competition; they're my companions. We're all doing it together.

*waves a hand* Inspirational thought for the decade. :)

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Art is Subjective

Not the best title, but it works. Yes, this is again about Chuck Tingle's Hugo nomination (go, Chuck!) and about art and subjectivity in general.

One of the things you don't know about me (but soon will) is that Tommy Wiseau's The Room is one of my favorite movies. It's hilariously bad. It's been lampooned and reviewed so many times, and those reviews are hilarious, but the movie itself is a spectacular piece of terrible film... and I fucking adore it. It's a matter of taste. I admit to having some simple tastes at times, and what I like for art is often a big part of that simplicity. It comes down to this one thing:

I enjoy laughing.

That's it. That's why I like some really terrible stuff, which isn't put together the best, or has obvious errors, or other people would look at me like I'm crazy and be like "WTF". It makes me laugh and smile. It pulls from me a stronger reaction than even my FAVORITE movie of all time, and just about every other movie I've ever watched. I never laughed so hard in my life than when I got stoned and watched The Room. (*gasp* Yes, I smoke "the refer" recreationally, sue me) Even watching it sober makes me giggle like a giddy schoolgirl.

For this reason, I love Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Rifftrax. They make bad movies really damn funny. It's not really done out of a sense of meanness for the movies, but rather a certain kind of love for them. Only people who love movies that much spend that much time watching them, bad, good, mediocre... all kinds.

So it is with Chuck Tingle. The Tingleverse makes me smile. It makes me laugh. It makes me shake my head and go "WTF did I just read?!", and these are all good things. Of the writers I've read, so very few pull a real emotional reaction from me. And of those that do? Not many of them the level of sheer giddy joy and amusement Mr. Tingle brings me. It's all subjective. What works for me may not work for you.

He's this sort of comedic genius which comes along a couple times in a life, that strikes you just right, and makes you happy because you laugh when you read his stuff. His Twitter page is hysterical. And behind it all, behind all those silly books and unreal circumstances and outrageously crazy tweets, there's a few real messages there. He tells us in his way to love people, to accept them for who they are whether they are unicorns or raptors or not, and he points out in hysterical ways the hypocrisy of folks who butt in other people's business, and he comments on current events in a way which often flies right over the head of the people he's satirizing. He's clever and funny and good-hearted. Even if it's all fake, fake name, fake humor account, fake everything... who cares? The persona created is good, and wants to bring good things to people's lives, and for that, if nothing else, I admire the fuck out of him. Me? I'm too full of hate and spite to bring about messages of love and shit.

I know not everyone is going to agree with me, but that's fine. He's one of my favorite authors right now because I know I can pick up one of his short stories and come out the other end with a smile. I can't say that about any other author I read. Not a one.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

In Other News....

Just to counter the harshness of the last blog post, I do have some good news! I should finish the first draft of The Princess of Wands: Villainess #3 tonight or tomorrow. I'm that close! I have a couple new audio books coming out as well. And then I shall work on the next Janus Key Chronicles and probably pretty soon have the second bundle for them out too!

After all that, then I think I may work on two projects concurrently: the next Rock Hardin book, and the next Delilah book. Delilah's easier to write, but Rock needs some time in the sun now too. There is a definite plan, folks!

"Free" on Kindle Unlimited Isn't Fucking Free

I try not to go off (too much) on here. This is a positive place filled with smutty books and updates and some weird musings from me now and again! However, I keep seeing this all over the place... and it bugs the shit out of me.

I'm a voracious reader. I devoured Game of Thrones in five hours, just to give you an idea of the speed at which I read. Not a speed reader, but pretty fast. Because I read a lot, and also to do research for writing, I decided to enroll in Kindle Unlimited. Now, a lot of authors bitch about the low payout (and it is), and they feel like Amazon is strong-arming them. If you don't put your book into Kindle Unlimited, then it won't get the visibility other books IN KU will. However, you have to be exclusive to Amazon for the term of being in KU. Kind of sucks for an author.

However, it's fantastic for a reader. You can borrow up to ten books at a time, and I've found some fantastic books this way. Some not so good ones too. Some downright awful ones as well. But I would NEVER have tried those authors had they not been in Kindle Unlimited. In one case, reading an author's book made me a fan of hers. You basically get as many books as you can read for ten bucks a month. That's a great deal!

I pay for that service.

Let me repeat that: I PAY FOR THAT SERVICE.

Yeah, it's only ten bucks a month, and some months Amazon gets my ten bucks for free without me reading shit. Other months, I read the hell out of everything I can get my hands on. It comes and goes. The point here is that money goes out of MY pocket to Amazon's for the right to read the KU books as many times as I want. It's not free.

I can't tell you how many times I've seen authors advertise, "FREE ON KINDLE UNLIMITED!" and it annoys the fucking hell out of me every time. I advertised like that once, then took it down because I felt dirty and weird. Afterwards... never. I'll mention my books are mostly on KU, because they are (mostly), but I never put the word "free" in there. It's not free. I FUCKING PAY FOR THE SERVICE.

Sure, I get it. Authors want to get their books attention. I totally get it. I do! I would love my books to pick up in popularity! And while it's a small thing, saying it's free on KU, it still annoys me. It's false advertising. You heard me: false advertising. Some people might say, "But it IS free on KU! The reader doesn't pay for it." But they do. Hence, it is a lie, a falsehood. Perhaps it's a well-intentioned falsehood. Perhaps the author simply didn't think about it. And I know I'm definitely in the minority here. Heck, I might be the only one in the world that annoys. (But it's my blog, so I write about what I want. :P )Doesn't matter. It is still a false statement.

And I don't borrow those books.

I don't buy them either.

I skip the authors who advertise that way. It annoys me that much it drives me away. If they want to advertise it's on KU, that's great! Do it! We people who are KU subscribers know that hey, we can borrow it at NO FURTHER COST to ourselves, great! To those people who aren't KU subscribers, the word "free" has a very different connotation, and that's where I feel it's really disingenuous. They go in expecting the book to be a freebie if they don't read carefully enough, and lo and behold, it's not.

I can't make anyone stop doing that, but I wish they would. Ah well, le sigh.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Opinions Are Like....

Hidey ho, neighborinos! I know it's been a little while since I blogged, but here's an update. :D

I actually got my first 1 star reviews the other day. I was a little stunned by it, because it was on the audio book versions of The Queen of Swords and The Prince of Cups on audible.com. I won't say they are high literature, but whomever did it drove by and left one star on "Overall" and "Story" (but I am happy to say they gave the "Performance" part 4 stars which was good! Rebecca Wolfe did a fantastic job on them, and I think I would have been waaaaay more upset if they had voted down her performance!) without leaving an actual review. On Audible, you can do that, which is fine. I get some people may not want to leave reviews with their names attached.

However, it does mystify me as to why the one star reviews. Again, I won't say they are high literature, but they aren't just a three thousand stroke pamphlet (or 20 minute stroke audio track) either! They are free from spelling errors and most grammatical errors. The story isn't just 'And they fucked'. The only thing I can think of is the EPIC miscategorization Audible put The Queen of Swords in... they put it in Romance. It is NOT romance. Not one bit. Not even a little teensy tiny bit. I categorized it on Amazon as sci-fi, dark fantasy, and action. There are sexy parts in it, yes, but it says on the COVER that it is super-powered erotica.

However, that is on the cover, and not in the blurb. I DO mark it as having strong sexual content and violent content as well, so there's fair warning. I can see how someone looking for a romance would be disappointed. Hell, there's a review on the UK Audible site which says that! They still thought it was interesting, and marked it as three stars. That's fair.

The miscategorization? Not my fault. When Audible makes the blurb and categorizes it, they pull the information directly from Amazon. I have nothing to do with the input. All I do is look for producers, approve the audio, upload the cover... that's it. Everything else is automated, which may not be the best system, for examples such as these. I got a little paranoid about it, trying to suss out the reasons.

Then... I figured it out.

It doesn't matter.

Everyone has an opinion and you know what? Everyone's entitled to that opinion. No matter the cause of the one stars, that person did not like them, and that's ok. People who rave about my stuff and rate them four or five? They are also entitled to their opinion. Even middle ground Max in the middle with rankings... yup, they are entitled as well. Everyone has a unique take on things, and it doesn't mean things are bad. It means that person did not like it. That's all.

And I'm cool with that. As the old saying goes, opinions are like assholes; everyone's got one. Instead of taking this as a negative experience and angsting about the why's, I'm choosing to take it as a positive thing. Someone found these audio books and took the time to rate it, so I got a reaction. Isn't that what all creative people want? To create a reaction in people? A feeling?

In other news, up to 66K in The Princess of Wands. I'm hoping to get a lot more written in the next few days. I sense the end coming up, and it's making me anxious!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

What is an Artist?

This was just brought up on Facebook, as one of the authors there commented that another author just flounced and quit writing because it was too hard or something (I didn't see the original post). I guess a few authors have gone through that. And yeah, writing--or rather the in general "creating"--IS hard. It's not easy. It's brutal work at times, and you don't get recognized for it. And sometimes, people will criticize you for it.

So, why create? Why be an artist?

It's my belief artists aren't necessarily good, famous, rich, or even talented. Artists are artists because they create art. That's it. A three year old scribbling in crayons is an artist. A ninety year old writing their memoirs is an artist. Hell, the guy in Close Encounters of the Third Kind who sculpted Devil's Tower out of mashed potatoes is an artist. Artists create art. That's it. It's that simple. It doesn't have to be good art, or famous art. It doesn't mean they are starving or rich. All they do is create. Everyone in some way is an artist... but I think what people mean by artists is not "can they make a living doing it" (although that would be lovely), but rather, "Do they NEED to make the art?" Maybe that's just my definition. The people I would consider "professional" artists are those who NEED to create. Everyone creates, so everyone is a creator... but those who do it out of the need to create something new, to tell a story, to share a picture, to snap that perfect photograph, to design the perfect building, to make something new... I think that's the "professional" artist. In that case, it's because it's their profession, their drive, their need to create.

I write because I need to write. In my own definition then, I am a professional writer. It's my profession... not a hobby. It may be part time right now--I think I clock in between 20 and 30 hours writing a week, sometimes more, but almost never less--but it's still my profession and it's not 'cause I get paid for it.

*waves a hand* Idle thoughts. Am writing right now! But it's in the secret experiment. When I ... get to a certain point the SEKRIT EXPERIMENTS, I'll share it here (and ONLY here, since no one reads this anyway, heh), as well as my results. In the meantime, rest assured I am still working on The Princess of Wands. I'm up to 47.5K, which is just a stone's throw away from novel-hood. At this point, I'm guessing the length is going to be.... another six to eight chapters, which should be around another 30-50K words. It's still hard to guess "for sure", but that's a reasonable estimate.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Never THE End

For those of you who don't follow me on Facebook, I just got over the flu. I was sick for a whole week and needless to say, I didn't do anything at all in that week except lay on the couch or the bed and cough a lot while I tried to puzzle out what show I was watching. Even now, after I've "recovered", I'm tired and it's really hard to get back to my day time job.

I look at my writing and I just wince. I haven't done anything for over a week. I feel bad about that, but at the same time, I'm so tired it's hard to get motivated to write. I want to. I like writing. I like telling stories. At the same time, there's so much yet to do, so much yet to write, and I'm so tired that it's daunting... and because it's daunting, it's depressing.

I try to keep these posts pretty upbeat, though IRL I am a depressive. It's sometimes a hard fought victory to even get out of bed when I'm depressed. I know, logically, that I'm just tired and overworked from rushing my recovery and being sick, but emotionally it's just as draining. I'm only half done with the first draft of The Princess of Wands, and I look and see how much more I have to write... depressing. Yet I won't give up. I think that hits all writers from time to time... that they see how much more they have to do to get to the end of a particular book and they just throw up their hands and go, "IT'S IMPOSSIBLE!"

Obviously, it's not impossible, but it can feel that way. So, instead of dwelling on "OMG I HAVE ALL THIS TO DO", I'm going to choose to look at what I've done so far. I've written about 150K words in JUST this world alone! That's a lot! And it's a lot more than would-be writers have done who think about writing but have never started. I've not only started, but finished and published novels! And tons of short stories and novellas! If I can do all that, then I can certainly finish one more book! And when I finish that one, then I can do the next one... so on and so forth. The point is that even if we fall or falter, we can always pick ourselves back up. There is no such thing as THE end, only AN end. I'll have an end to this book, but it's not the end of my writing. It'll be the start of my next book. And the next, and the next, and so on.

I wish I wasn't so tired, but I will keep my goals small for right now and build back up. The Princess of Wands is delayed, but it is coming. And after that, Reamin' Demons. And after THAT, The Brujah and the Beast. And after THAT....

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Ramblings

I keep thinking "I should write something on the blog" but when I come up with a topic... I've already talked about it beforehand, and I don't really have anything new to add. I decided to just ramble a bit, so that y'all know I'm alive.

I'm currently working on The Princess of Wands, Villainess #3. I think it's going OK so far, but it won't be like the first two. Of course, neither are really like each other, other than they have the same protagonist. I also had a bolt of lightning hit me when it came to Villainess last night, and it's a good idea, but did I already write myself into a corner concerning that idea? In other words, have I written canon which counters it? Means I have to read my stuff here again and be sure about it. If I haven't though, it's a really good idea.

And it's one people won't see coming. That makes it the BEST idea ever. At least to me right now.

Have some thoughts on the next Rock Hardin too, and some thoughts on Reamin' Demons. Nothing major, but when I need to skip around I'm going to start on those.

What I need to do is lock down an idea for this short story I need to write. An independent publisher approached me to write some high fantasy erotica! The pay would be straight up front and I'm cool with that... I just have to have an idea. Audrey Lusk gave me a good one that I could use, and I'm working on another angle... but nothing has really grabbed me yet.


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Erotica and Silliness

I just spent the last half hour going over my personal hero's Amazon page, Chuck Tingle. For those who don't know who Chuck Tingle is, he's an erotica author who specializes in gay sex, and ultimately silly scenarios which are somehow heart warming and deep. I'm not quite sure how he managed that, but reading about space raptors invading butts is what convinced me to start writing erotica.

I started with the Janus Key Chronicles... which was MY attempt at silly erotica. Now that I'm writing the next installment of it--formerly "Jerked by Jesus" but now titles "Manhandled by the Messiah"--I turn my mind to silly erotica... is it worth it?

Well, duh!

Maybe not monetarily, unless you are like Mr. Tingle and create a whole persona. He sells his books... some fairly well and some not so well... and I'm sure he's making cash. He's even got merchandise now! The thing about being an erotica writer, or a short story writer, is that you can keep things up to date. Starbucks gets reamed for daring to have an inclusive holiday cup? Here's the book to go with it!

I don't know if I could keep up that... scratch that, I KNOW I can't keep up that level of silliness all the time. These are all satirical writings I fucking love satire. Some people might say that's awfully high brow of me, but it's true. They are satire, which happen to also be erotic. Maybe not quite all of them (as of this post, Mr. Tingle has 67 shorts out--I've read like 5), but a lot of them are.

I can't do that. I just can't. It's not my style. I do, however, love pulp adventure and the silly situations heroes can get themselves into, and how they get themselves out. So, I view the JKC as more of a pulp serial, which is silly, true, but it has adventure in it as well. I got reviews for the first thing on the Lover, Raptor, Gentlemen blog which was fantastic... as well as for Living Spaceship. One thing niggled me about the Spaceship review which was dead on... basically... I didn't go far enough. That's so true. I could have approached it differently and made it more pulpy and funny, but I didn't. I took it seriously. I started to do the same with the JKC... and I have to stop to remind myself that it's SUPPOSED to be silly. It's supposed to be unbelievable adventures, one after another, and it's supposed to be monsters who ravish my protagonists.

I wrote away from that. You see, my heart lies with dark things... as you can tell with Villainess and Delilah. But the JKC is my fun side, and I forgot that. It got a bit grim with Thunderstruck by Thor, and Dirk got cursed by Poseidon in Pooper Probed by Poseidon, but I'm writing this... sacrilegious one now about Jesus and I'm like, "Oh my god, people will hate me."

That's... not the point. The point is to take a premise which is outrageous and make it fun and funny. So, as I write I am trying to be sensitive to people's beliefs, but also to make it funny. After that, we cross over to Debbie in Reamin' Demons, more monster erotica... in a way. And then I promise, monsters over and over again! Fun, pulpy adventure will be back!

I could probably write these over and over, but I'm sensing an end. I know HOW it's going to end. I just don't know how long it will take to get there.

So, is there a place for funny erotica? Absolutely. Nothing is sexier than laughing.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Normalization (Serious Post)

I'm taking a break from sexy writing and not-so-sexy editing to talk about serious shit for a minute. Or ten. If you don't want to hear about serious business, then move on to the next blog. I also want to say that I'm not right on everything. There's NO WAY I can be right on everything, and thus, all I can share is my opinion, and that's what this is.

Tonight, I blocked someone for trans hate on Facebook. I made a quick post about it, because it skeeves me out, and I noted I had a lot of mutual friends with that friend. Thus if people are worried about it, they can private message me asking who, check it out for themselves, and make their own decision if they wanted to block or not. I did not out the person I blocked.

The post got a couple replies, and one was really long and like. "Well, when they change their outside then I'll embrace them" and I had to stop myself from blocking another person. It wasn't a hateful message--don't get me wrong, it really wasn't--but it was ignorant. I won't say I am the know it all of trans issues. I don't know shit. I have only what experiences I've read or trans people have told me to draw on, and how those persons wished to be treated. The vast majority have said if they identify as male or female, then they are and wish to be treated as such. Perfect. I don't really care. I know that sounds bad, but I don't. It's their body, their lives, I think I can change a pronoun use to make it a little easier for them. Big whoop, right?

The thing that got me thinking though is we're living in an era where homosexual people can marry! They're becoming accepted! Most people are for gay rights to be equal to straight people's right, and that's awesome! The next step in acceptance is trans rights. And that isn't to say that we all have equal rights. Women don't. As girls we're still told not to expose shoulders or knees to boys, lest they get all "distracted". People of race don't have equal rights, not when African Americans get pulled over like a billion times more than white people. Gay folks still don't have equal rights, when individual judges can say "No, I decide not to recognize your FEDERALLY GIVEN right to marry. Nope."

And that shit's not fucking cool man.

Where does change really come from? It comes from our culture. It comes from the bizarre becoming normal. Thirty years ago, a person with a tattoo was a fucking rebel and a bad person! Now it's all over the place, totally boring and commonplace. Long hair back in the 60's was a sign that you were a hippie and probably a drug user, and part of that "fringe" community... now it's normalized. No one cares. Yes, those things might be little things, but take it back to the 60's. If people of different colors married, they were in fucking mortal danger. Now, it's accepted. Not as much as it should be, but it's nothing most people would think twice about. It's being normalized.

As a white cisgender straight woman, I do feel uncomfortable writing about people of color or trans. I can understand gay a bit, because honestly, I think everyone's sexuality is fluid, and there's a bit of homo and hetero in all of us. Yet, I'm totally whitebread. HOW DARE I write about people of color! Stupid white person don't know nothing about struggle! That's... kinda what I'm afraid to get if I do, y'know? The problem here is that for erotica, the different is sexualized and fetishized. Even if I did write about what I mentioned I would be afraid I would be fetishizing it, which I don't want. The one story I wrote--My Big, Black Bodyguard Banged my Wife!--which featured a person of color prominently is fetishized a bit... but not all that much. If you read the story, there's actually a loving relationship between all three, and an understanding. It's probably why even in a "hot" category like cuckolding and interracial it totally bombed, lol. I just can't do it. I cannot write that.

The question remains, how can I (whitebread straight cis boring person) help to normalize other cultures, minorities, sexualities, and genders? I can incorporate them into my regular stories. For example, Michael? Nosferatu from Villainess? He's Puerto Rican. It's stated explicitly in the text that he's Hispanic. Many of my characters are gay or bisexual. When Dirk and Debbie go hopping through time and space, they are going to--and already have actually--be a person of color, since their bodies change. They don't remark upon it other than to note, "Hey, I'm African American", because for them, the characters, it's normalized. The Delilah Devilshot series will have many guest stars of minorities because the Wild West wasn't white. It just wasn't. The first of which will be Celia, a Mexican young woman who features prominently in the book... and will continue to appear in later books (as I had a really rad idea for her). Rock's had a very sexy run in with a Mistress of color (one of my favorite scenes actually) where it wasn't, again, made into a fetish. It was noted, made clear, and then moved right on... to the actual fetish parts of that scene, heh.

I'm not saying that I'm doing a great job, because there could be (and should be! And will be in the future) more. I also don't know if I will ever feel comfortable writing from a minority point of view as a lead character. I want to. I'm afraid I'll get it wrong, but I want to try because it shouldn't fucking matter. It still does, and that bothers me.

Last thing I want to say, about the blocking? Yeah, you know, I will defend to the death your right to say whatever you want... hate speech included. Doesn't mean I agree with it and doesn't mean I have to listen to it, and it doesn't mean I can't counter it. This, and my Facebook and Twitter and whatever online presence I have, is MY space. There is NO hate speech allowed period. I don't fucking care to debate it. It's not fucking cool. Body shaming isn't fucking cool. Saying that a trans person doesn't know what they want isn't cool, or saying they are not "really" a woman or a man. Putting people down for being different isn't fucking cool. Don't like it. Won't listen to it. This is a space meant for sexy times. It's meant for writing sexy times. It's meant to say, "I find curves fucking sexy!" or "Sucking cock is awesome!" or whatever. Sexy times. And writing. It's not ever been an issue yet, and I rather doubt it will be (lol yeah, like I'm famous or something, let me go laugh my stupid head off for a while then come back and finish writing this). But just as a note, that kind of shit just won't fucking be tolerated. I don't care if it costs me sales. I'm not writing for the damn money anyway.

And yeah, some things may end up being offensive. I won't say I'll be politically correct here all the time either. I'm writing about sex, for Christ's sake. I'm writing a story about a bisexual man getting a hand job from Jesus right now. That gonna offend some people? Yeah. Yeah it will. Still writing it. People are absolutely free to say how much they hate it. I'm cool with that.




Saturday, January 23, 2016

Basic Things Every Erotica Writer Should Have and Should Know

I was talking the other day with Bryce about how to make covers, and what tips and stuff would be good, and then I thought about it... if I really wanted to do something here to help beginners get off the ground, I should really start with the basics, rather than just covers... of which I admit I know very little about since I don't make my own.

What should an erotica writer possess in order to start writing?
  • Basic Understanding of the English Language: You'd be surprised how often I open up an erotica book and it's... bad. Like, really bad. I'm not knocking people who know two languages--I certainly don't!--but if English isn't your first language and you want to write erotica in English... you need a basic understanding of how it works, and how to write in it. You can publish stuff that's hard to read, but people won't come back for more.
  • Basic Understanding of How a Story Goes: Whaaaat? You talking crazy, Alana? Erotica is just sex, right? Well, the thrust (hehe) of an erotica tale is sex, yes. That's the climax. However, even in straight they meet and fuck erotica, there's a basic flow to the story. And honestly, a story about two people meeting and fucking is not all that interesting. To that end, I highly recommend coming up with an interesting scenario, and giving yourself a small outline. It doesn't have to be much, but it's got to follow certain beats. You need to first introduce the main character briefly, explain their problem (yes, erotica characters have problems too, even if it's just "I wore the batteries out on my vibrator!"), introduce the "complication" and other characters, give your readers a tease, and then move on to the climax. For example, taking "Dominating Her Senator" apart. I introduce the senator first, and show that he's stressed out. His secretary shows in his last appointment for the day. This appointment starts bitching him out for voting against things which would help his female constituents, and then starts punishing him for being a bad, bad senator. (Spoiler: it ends in sex!) It's a short story, and it takes place in one setting. However, all those beats are still there. The tease part is when she starts verbally dominating him since it's a femdom book. I would argue that short stories, including erotica, are harder to write than novels because you have to make that connection with your audience in a thousand or so words to get them to connect with the main character. That's a hard thing to do. Obviously, for longer works, you'll want to expand that, but knowing how your story should flow is essential. There are exceptions to this, as always, but for the most part, basic plotting is essential, and it does help you in the long run.
  • Know Your Kinks/Niches: This one requires some research. If you want to write romance? Go read the top romance books being sold right now. If you want to write adult baby diaper stories? Go read the top ones. Figure out what you want to write, and aim your story specifically for that. Now, now, I know it's a bit hypocritical for me to say this because I'm all over the place. However, I'm writing science fiction and fantasy which happens to be erotica. It's not a popular niche, but for this niche, the setting is just as or MORE important than the sex. For Maledom/femsub, it's important that you know how the lifestyle works, and what's sexy about that scenario. For cuckold, you need to understand why people may want to be cuckolded, know what a hotwife is and what a bull is, etc etc. Before you start writing, read the books that people like already in your niche. As a side note, you'll hear the words "kink" and "niche" a lot, and the two terms are basically interchangeable. A kink/niche is the type of erotica you write. I write scifi erotica, and femdom. Sprinkled with a little horror erotica and gay. (Like I said, I'm all over the place) Those would be my kinks or niches. If you take nothing else away from this article, just remember to READ THE POPULAR STUFF TO SEE WHAT WORKS.

Those are the very basic things you need to write erotica. I could also add "basic editing skills" but that goes under basic writing, heh.

Now that you know you can do this, how do you go about writing it? I have a post somewhere here which detailed my method for going through and actually writing. I'm a fan of outlines, but simple ones. I put in more details as I need them. I will move on instead to things you need to know about publishing on Amazon.

Amazon, without a doubt, is the biggest place to sell. You can sell on other platforms, but Amazon is by far the most profitable. Assuming you are writing this to make money and not just for personal amusement, there are some things you need to know about the Big A.

  • Certain Kinks/Niches are a No-No: Amazon likes their erotica plain Jane for the most part. There are certain kinks/niches which are just not publishable on Amazon. These include, but are not limited to: bestiality, incest, underage sex, rape or non-consent (NC stories). These will not only get your book blocked, but could potentially get you banned from Amazon.
  • Other Kinks/Niches are Borderline: There are varying reports from erotica writers, but in general, these niches/kinks are considered borderline: they COULD get your book blocked, but MIGHT not, depending on how you package it. These include: Monster erotica (IF it includes tentacles OR a shifter that is not completely in human form--other forms of monster erotica are safe if they are completely made up or extinct beings, ie dinosaurs), pseudo incest ("step" incest--but Amazon has been cracking down on these recently), dubious consent (as opposed to noncon, dubcon is often a mixed bag, they say they don't want it, but they really do and are enthusiastically participating at the end is dubcon... and usually ok. Having sex while on a mind altering drug (even if it's made up) is much iffier).
  • Titles and Blurbs Need to be Free from Obscenities... and Other Miscellaneous Words: This "rule" is harder to pin down. Obviously, any foul language in the blurb or title will get you blocked or at least adult filtered, so stay away from them. However, other words will also get you filtered or blocked. This is an INCOMPLETE list, as Amazon shifts it around a lot: cheerleader, virgin, babysitter, hypnosis, rape, force (enforced, forcibly, etc), noncon, abuse, girl, boy, preteen, teen/ager, tween, baby, infant, newborn, child/ren, mother, father, brother, sister, bro, sis, mom, momma, daddy, pa, grandfather, grandmother, uncle, aunt, niece, nephew, cousin, great-, -in-law and step-variants, incest, pseudoincest, family, mind control, PI, (gang)bang or any variant with the word -bang in it (not "gangbanger" though) like blowbang or ragebang, breeding, lactation, rimjob, rectum, deflower, pussy, cunt, creampie, cum, splooge, semen, menstrual, period blood, slave, prison bitch (other derogatory uses of bitch), molest, pedophile, pedo-anything, fuck, jizz, shit (when literal) and anything referring to actual feces or urine, bestiality, any real-world extant animal word like wolf, dog or bull. **Please note that many titles as of late (within the last month) have been blocked by using words like these too: hucow, pounded, sex, hard, penetration, lactation, breeding, milk, thrust, pumped, stretched, filled, rough.** 
  • Covers Need to Follow Amazon's Prudish Rules: Among other guidelines like the size of your cover and what format to save it in, Amazon has a few rules about what you can post for a cover. There can't be any nudity or IMPLIED nudity in there, so handbras are out. Butt cheek need to be covered. You can't have people tied up on the cover, or in handcuffs, especially women. I've heard that you can get away with it if it's a guy, but I would not chance it. However, instruments of bondage are quite alright, so long as they are not actually being used, ie, 50 Shades and the handcuffs. 
The thing that's frustrating about this is that since each book is reviewed by an individual reviewer, and there's no one set of standards, is that what gets one book blocked or filtered won't on another. These are general rules that have been proven time and time again to get people blocked, banned, or filtered, but other things may crop up that haven't been discussed. 

As a side note, I'm still amazed I got "Pooper Probed by Poseidon" and "Knob Gobblin' Hobgoblins" through the adult filter.

What is this adult filter I've been talking so much about? Well, if you publish a book that has "adult content visible to children" (ie, butt cheeks on the cover even if the model is wearing a thong, or perhaps a swear word in the title), then Amazon puts it on an adult filter. Why is this bad? It means that unless people click OFF the adult filter, your book will NOT come up on a search on Amazon. It means less visibility and potentially less sales. How do you know if your book is adult filtered? Good question! Go to www.salesrankexpress.com and plug in your author name or book. If a big fat red ADULT comes up next to a book that means it has been adult filtered. If you put in my name, for example, two of my books have been filtered: My Big Black Bodyguard Banged my Wife! (for "banged") and The Perils of Penetrating Pixies (for "Penetrating"). 

What is the difference between being "blocked" and "adult filtered"? If your book is "blocked" it's done. It will show up on your bookshelf on Amazon as blocked. I have never had one blocked, so I'm not 100% sure what it looks like, but from what I've been told, you can't miss it. The general advice is to abandon the book on Amazon and perhaps sell it on other platforms if you can.

That's all for now. Need to go back to editing. :)

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Reviewing as an Author

What's this? Another reviewing blog post? Well, it's important! And it's something I enjoy doing. Everyone likes to have their opinion heard! However, reviewing as an author is tricky. It is. There are some rules you need to obey from Amazon, but they don't tell you these rules.

First and foremost, if you are an author and you are reviewing something in the genre you write (and I've heard it anything at all, but especially the genre you write in), if you leave a bad review--one or two stars--Amazon may review your review and determine that you are trying to sink the other author by deliberating leaving bad reviews. Amazon's a bit picking about reviews... no family, no friends, and if they catch people who know the author leaving reviews, nebulous bad things will happen! Well, actually not so nebulous--the reviews will disappear. This has been documented in other writing blogs so I shan't go over it here. However, the one or two star thing you really should pay attention to. I try very hard not to give low reviews. I also try very hard not to give stellar reviews all the time, because it's disingenuous. I want to give my honest opinion. Happily, most books are at least three star worthy! It takes something bad to earn less than that.

Have I left bad reviews? Yes, of course. However, as a responsible reviewer especially for the Naughty Snitch Blog, if it's a bad review, I will contact the author first. I have before, and I will again. I will tell them why I found the book bad, and what I found good about it, then ask them if they want me to leave the review. It's a courtesy. When I DO leave a bad review that is not for the NBS site, depending on the author, the book, and honestly my mood at the time I will leave it on Goodreads AND Amazon, or just on Goodreads. No matter what, it's under my real name though.

Why my real name? First, there are more reviews than on the pen name. Second, Amazon knows it's me--the accounts are connected, it's not like I'm hiding from them so any worries about quality control or sneaking around should be assuaged.Third, I believe that strongly in what I'm saying. It's never just a 'Oh, it sucked' review. I list why I didn't like it, what I DID like about it, and suggestions if I think of any which may be applicable, especially with grammar, spelling, and formatting as all of those are easily fixable.

I mean what I say, and I'll stand behind it. However, why not always post on both GR and Amazon? As an author, I realize reviews can hurt books and sales. Keeping in mind that hidden rule of Amazon's from above, I also put MY publishing account in possible jeopardy. So, if it's on Amazon... yes, I feel that strongly about it. The second reason is just not to be a dick. Most authors pay attention to Goodreads too, and if a book already has over the magic number of 25 and are getting promotions from Amazon and showing up on also boughts and so on, they don't really need the review to help get noticed... but the constructive criticism in the review may still be read and appreciated. It may. Not usually, but it may.

When reviewing books, I look at it in three different ways. If I was reading the book as a reader, writer, and editor. As a reader... did I enjoy the story? Did it grip me? Did it provoke an emotional reaction? As a writer, did the plot make sense? Were the characters interesting? If I had to change it, would I? As an editor, how many errors are there? Are words spelled right? Is the formatting OK? How's the cover, is it eyecatching? Descriptive of the book? Will the blurb and cover sell books?

All of those go into what I think is a good book, and just because a book may have a bad cover doesn't mean the inside is crap. For instance, Sakura Von Sternberg's Erotic Adventures of Joan of Arc and Space Captain Cydd Yoshiba. I fucking loved that book. LOVED IT. But the cover (when I reviewed it) was terribad. The new cover is better, cleaner, with easier to read text and the author name standing out. Cover is appropriate for the book, but not necessarily erotica. But leaps better than the old one. Even though I hated the cover, I still gave the book five stars because it was that fucking good. I didn't just borrow it in the KU program... I bought it as well. LOVED it.

Which means y'all should go out and buy it right now.

Another one is Bohemia Beach. Lovely cover, good for romance, but the content was... a bit boring. Sexy filled, sure, but it lacked the fire, the... pizzazz. It was passable. The writing was good, there were hardly any errors, spelling was fine, the characters... bit boring. When they weren't boring... they got boring. I like sexy times as much as the next person (and I appreciate so much fellatio in the book!), but without a more interesting hook, I was bored. And I've read a ton of romances. I know some of them can be silly and they are all formulaic, but that formula works for a reason. Yet I didn't feel reading the book was a complete waste of time either, and I learned a lot about pottery!

I think it's more complicated to review things as an author, and not just because of Amazon's secret rule or to not be a dick. I tend to overcomplicate things, true, but it still takes a critical eye to look at a piece of creative work and critique it honestly. And it's hard to hear that criticism at times. BJ Thomas reviewed Knob Jobs and Broomsticks and gave it three stars. It smarted... but he had a valid point. He didn't like one of the characters in it, and thus his enjoyment of the book was brought down. A great review, and it wasn't bad! I just got all snooty thinking my stuff was totally awesome.

But it's not. Oh lord, it's not.

Don't get me wrong. Villainess I think I would probably rate it 4.5 to 5 stars, and maybe Delilah too. The Janus Key stuff, while all very amusing, would be 3-4 stars. Maybe a shining five here and there if it was particularly funny (like the first one was). Rock Hardin? Probably 3-5 stars. The Dominating ones... those ones... yeah, I was dialing it in, and for some of them it shows. Those would vary the most, being from 2 to maybe 4.5 stars. So you know, being able to take the skills you learn in reviewing other people's books and applying them to your own isn't a bad thing. I know we authors all want to think our shit is the best, and that everyone will love it, but even if it was the freaking Mona Lisa, there will still be critics, and there always will be.

One lesson to take from reading and reviewing a lot of books is how to look at your own and understand, "Hey, I love this, but other people may not."

I think I got off track at the end here, but all the points are valid.



Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Why Do I Write?

It's a simple question, isn't it? Why do I write? It both is and isn't that simple.

Of course, I would love to hit it big and become rich. Fame I can live without, but that would come with it, I think. I would love to just do this for a living, to just write, to just create things. I have an active enough mind I would never be able to get all of my stories out. Never ever. Just for instance, tonight I figured out a character for Delilah Devilshot who will make an appearance... but then I realized that he'll be a key player later on for the metaplot. His whole background just sort of popped into my head, and I think... I think people will like him. He'll be very likable.

Another idea popped into my head for The Princess of Wands, the next Villainess book about Alistair. Alistair had such an extreme reaction to Caprice mentioning Regulus that there had to be something else going on there. Bryce helped to clarify the thought for me, and suddenly... I knew his background, and it's damn interesting, adding another few dimensions to the character (in more ways than one!).

I would love to do this for a living, yet I don't think I'll ever get that successful to be able to quit my day job. It's pretty rare for an author to be able to do that, and rarer yet for an indie author to be able.

A dear friend said to me once that he thought I HAD to have a creative outlet, and I think that's true. It's not just writing. I draw too (though much less now) and paint miniatures, do modding for games, and hell, even programmed a game. Had an idea and I just had to do it. If I couldn't create something, I would want to die. It's an integral part of me, so when I say I HAVE to write, I mean it. It's an idea which won't leave me alone.

Then, here, I was looking at Mindy's review of The Prince of Cups (which is an incomplete review--it's only a temporary place holder) and smiling because of her enthusiasm for these characters I created (with help--Nosferatu was inspired by a friend's character in an MMO and Regulus by another, though both are heavily changed now, heavily heavily changed). It struck me that it made me happy knowing other people enjoyed what I wrote. It wasn't just the act of creation, which I enjoyed immensely, but also sharing it with people and having them discover something different, something which wouldn't exist if not for me. Yeah, of course, the praise is nice... but it's not the praise. It's ... I don't know how to describe it. It's giving people dreams, ideas. Something to talk about, to think about. Basically, giving them something to fangirl (or fanboy) over!

And I think that's why I want to write. Not just to create for myself, but to share it with people. I will never make the big bucks, and that's ok, so long as there are some people out there enjoying what I put out into the world.