In my article, “How to Write a Novel While You’re Holding Down A Day Job“, I mentioned that amongst the search terms I find in my blog stats is a huge number of queries centered upon the question “Can/how do you make money writing erotica/erotic romance, and how much?”
I promised to answer that general query one day soon. That’s today.
I’ll take this in stages.
1. Erotic Romance is Not Erotica
This is an old war cry of mine, but I still find myself repeating it steadily and often. For the sake of keeping this post as short as I can, I will simply say for now that I can only comment upon erotic romance, as that’s what I occasionally write. The potential revenues to be found in writing erotica is another breed of animal altogether. If you’re unsure what the difference is between erotic romance and erotica, see this article.
2. Can You Make Money from Writing Erotic Romance?
The answer, I’m afraid, is: “It depends.”
Yes, there are some incredibly lucky writers who bang out a book with some sex in them, land a publisher, or publish it themselves, and the world moving in its mysterious ways decrees that book is going to hit huge, sell millions and set the author up for life.
If you’re thinking Fifty Shades of Grey, you’re thinking as I am. This book (now series) is a phenomenon because it left so many of us scratching our heads and wondering why? It boils down to simple luck. The stars were aligned, the book reached the right number of readers to hit the point of viral generation and it took off. Note that none of this success hinged on the quality of the book — that’s another discussion entirely.
You can’t predict these successes, these outliers, and you shouldn’t anticipate this success for yourself. The average author isn’t nearly so lucky.
In addition: Do you really want to write erotic romance? It’s not for the faint-at-heart, or the writer who thinks they can just dash off a book for the cash. There are some genuine drawbacks to writing erotic romance (see “The Perils Of Writing Erotic Romance” for more on this), and if you don’t genuinely love the genre, they can be daunting enough to make it not worth your while. Ensure you’re in this for more than just the money, or you’ll burn out after a book or two.
If you want to publish with legacy publishers, your odds of success are smaller than if you indie publish simply because there are so many more factors out of your control — including selling the book in the first place.
Indie authors don’t have to juggle the “publish me!” odds, but they do have a different set of challenges. Most indie authors don’t make much money until they have at least ten books published, and sometime more.
I don’t have time or room in this post to go into the pros and cons of indie vs legacy publishing, but if you’re curious to learn the in-depth details, you might want to check out my indie monthly column on Night Owl Reviews, or plug a query into Google on the pros and cons of legacy and/or indie publishing. Brace yourself for the deluge.
In summary; You can make money from erotic romance writing, but it is no different from writing any other genre. It takes time to establish yourself and start seeing a revenue. Don’t believe the hype that erotic romance writing is easy, and money flows into your coffers once you’ve published in the genre. This is a publishing myth, a hoary one, that refuses to die — it lives off the outlier stories: the massive success some authors have experienced.
The norm, as I have tried to explain, is mundane.
3. What Sort of Money Can You Make?
I don’t have access to data on the earnings of erotic romance writers . I can only give you my own experience, intermingled with anecdotal reporting from authors who have been slightly more frank with me than the norm.
I made next to nothing, despite having regular rave, five star reviews and promoting heavily and always. I lost my job while still writing for legacy publishers, and tried to make a go of full time writing and failed miserably.
The rule of thumb in legacy is to expect never to quit your day job, unless of course, you’re one of the 1% that make it into best sellerdom, and no one knows how to either predict or produce that phenomenon. There is no real mid-list in legacy anymore. You either starve, or you’re rolling in cash.
Indie publishing is a lot kinder, money-wise, to authors. There are far more authors making a quite comfortable living from their indie sales than in legacy. You do have to approach the business with the right attitude, write quality books that align with erotic romance readers’ expectations, and publish them professionally. Rinse and repeat a dozen times or more and you’ll start to see revenue streaming in.
There is still a luck factor involved even in indie publishing, but as far more of your career is completely under your control, you can make a difference to your bottom line if you play it smart.
4. How Do You Make It?
Good question. Long answer. I’m going to refer you to an article of mine: “How To Break Into The Erotic Romance Market In 8 Not-So-Easy Steps“, plus it’s follow up post: “How To Break Into The Erotic Romance Market – 2013 Update“. These two will guide you in the basic (big) steps needed to break in.