How To Break Into the Erotic Romance Market — 2013 Update

I get asked how to go about getting published in the erotic market almost weekly – usually via private email.

I have faithfully answered all those emails over the last few years, despite there already being a lengthy article on the site that answers the question exactly and in detail. (“How To Break Into The Erotic Romance Market In 8 Not-So-Easy Steps”).

The article IS nearly ten years old, and only deals with erotic romance, whereas all the queries I receive are about the erotica market.  When I answer these emails, I go out of my way to explain a) the difference between erotica and erotic romance, and that b) I know the erotic romance market quite well and the erotica market not in the slightest.

In the last two years even my knowledge of the erotic romance market as it pertains to legacy publishers has grown tenuous because I no longer bother to stay informed about legacy publishers’ needs and current trends.  As a 100% purely indie published author, I have no need to do more than stay abreast of what is performing well on the best seller lists, which is a different sort of market intelligence altogether.

As you can see, indie publishing has changed an author’s options, so I thought it was time to update the how-to article accordingly.


1. Read. Read Everything

There are three different types of erotic romance you should be absorbing as part of your market research:

  1. New York Legacy Published
  2. On-line Legacy Published
  3. Indie Published

Read the best sellers in these three categories – or simply make sure you read every book that hits the top ten erotic romance best sellers on Amazon, the NYT Best Seller list, plus your favourite retailer (if they have a sub-genre best seller list).

Take notes about why the book works or doesn’t work for you as a reader and deconstruct it for writer techniques you can use for yourself.

Just this single step alone will vastly improve the quality of your own work, plus keep you acquainted with current trends and reader fads.

2. Pick Your Target Retail Platform and your preferred sub-genre.

You chose erotic romance for a reason (I hope) beyond wanting to earn big bucks.  What was that reason?  Usually, it’s a favourite author.  How and where is that author published?  New York, on-line or indie?

Your answer to that question may give you a direction for your own publishing efforts.

From amongst those titles that you are researching and reading (in Step 1), you will find there are authors, titles and series that appeal to you.  See if there is a trend or pattern amongst them – is there a single publisher whose novels are the sort that appeal to you the most?  Quite likely, whatever you write will resemble the books you like to read, so your completed novels could be a good fit with that publisher.

Do you keep gravitating toward the genre-crossing, don’t-fit-into-a-box indie authors?  Perhaps indie publishing is for you.  Don’t let fear of going it alone stop you from heading toward self-publishing.  If you write novels that don’t fit handily onto genre shelves, you will find it overwhelmingly difficult to land a publishing contract with a legacy publisher.

Narrow down your choice to one primary target publisher and a “fall back” publisher for rejected manuscripts (yes, you’ll get rejects).  You may want to rank four or five publishers this way, but don’t fall into the error of thinking that your one manuscript can be sent to all five without adapting it for each, because five publishers rarely have the same submission requirements and are never looking for the same type of novels at the same time.

At this point in time you may also want to decide what sub-genre you’re going to write – at least for your first few books.

3. Construct your author platform

While you’re reading and researching, and possibly even before you start writing, you can start building your author platform: Interlinked blog, newsletter and social network accounts, and a PR and networking processes that builds you a following.

It doesn’t matter if you end up publishing with a legacy publisher or on your own – either way, you will want a following of readers interested in your first and subsequent book releases.

As I wrote in the original version of this article, there isn’t the room or time in this post to give even the beginnings of an outline on how to build an author platform, but there are dozens, if not hundreds, of sites, blogs and books out there that describe how to go about it in infinite detail.

Here’s two suggestions to get you started:

Nail It! The Secret to Building an Effective Fiction Writer’s Platform (Level 1: Laying the Foundation)

Growing Your Audience: Workbook for Published, Unpublished, and Under-published Writers

You might also want to check out all my PR and promotion articles on the Articles page.

4. Write, write, write, write, and write some more.

Once you have your sub-genre and target retail platform settled, you will then know the type of book you need to write, including length, heat, and various plot requirements.

Start writing, if you haven’t already, and don’t stop for anything.  You should aim to write a little bit of fresh manuscript every day, even if part of your writing time is taken up with blog posts, editing older books and the general business that a burgeoning writing career generates.

5. Finish your manuscript

In the previous article I threw down the gauntlet by pointing out scary statistics and basically urging you to just do it.

These days the excuses for not finishing a book are running out.  There’s too many tools and resources to get you to the finish line.  There’s NaNoWriMo, tablets and apps galore, plus neat applications like FocusWriterWriteMonkeyOmmWriterQ10 and WriteRoom.

Then there’s books like Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, Karen Wiesner’s First Draft in 30 Days,  and Rachel Aaron’s excellent 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love…and many, many more like these.

6. Ship Your Product

“Shipping” your product is a term I picked up from Seth Godin, and it’s one I’ve come to use a lot since I started indie publishing.

Legacy authors “submit” their novels to an editor, after extensive reviewing and editing, possibly after freezing the manuscript in a bottom drawer, letter beta readers and critique partners review the manuscript, then editing again, developing a synopsis, cover letter and printing off (or not).

Indie authors go about publishing their books in a myriad of unique and technical ways, depending upon which publishing platform they’re using, and in what formats they’re releasing the book.  There will be contractors to hire for covers and editing, and possibly more.  The book has to be formatted for electronic editions and assembled according to retailers’ specifications, packaged along with support materails and more.

For both types of author, once they have personally edited and tweaked their manuscript, there is a production phase that ends with shipping the book – one sends their manuscript to an editor, the other completes a publication process that results in a published book.

Hence, “shipping” the title.  For first time authors, this commitment step can be a terrifying one.  But an author must write and then they must ship in order to reach their readers.

And then an author must:

7. Write the next manuscript.

Legacy authors cannot afford to sit around waiting for the rejection letter (most often) or congratulatory email or phone call.  It’s going to take weeks, if not months, for anything to happen.  That’s at least a book, if not two, and for some really prolific writers, maybe three or more books’ worth of time filled with chewing your fingernails.  What a waste!

One of the major keys to success for indie authors is the magical backlist.  The sooner you build up your catalogue of published titles, the better.  Start writing another book.  Now.  If readers like the first one, they’re going to send you email demanding to know when the second book in the series will be out, anyway.  What are you going to tell them?  I hope it’s a truthful “soon!”


And those are basic steps to breaking into the erotic romance market, now reduced to seven from the original eight.

Good luck.

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