A reader asked me in comments the other day how one went about breaking into the erotic romance market. Well, actually, she was asking about the erotic market in general, but the question was a bit of a shocker anyway because:
a) she’d never read an erotic book in her life
b) she’d never completed a manuscript, of either erotic or non-erotic nature. She had never picked up a pen or keyboard to tell at story at all.
Everyone must start from somewhere, and while I wish her the very best of luck in her endeavours, one usually starts writing because they’ve read dozens, if not hundreds of books in a certain genre and admire them so much, they want to emulate them. Or they live with stories in their head day and night and are forced to get those stories down on paper.
Or any of a number of combinations of these things, along with — these days — the influence of movies and TV series and their characters and the actors who play them.
I didn’t completely answer the lady the other day. I just put her on the path. But I thought I would give a more complete answer here in case there are others out there wondering about this very basic question. For me, it’s a “d’uh!” question, and perhaps that’s why I’ve never bothered answering it before. It’s so obvious to me, I think it should be obvious to everyone.
1. Read. Read Everything
Pick yourself out five or six different and favourite publishers you think you might like to be published with. (Here’s a few of the ePublishers – and all the New York publishers have their own imprins, too. There’s new publishers each day. This is not an exhaustive list.) Include in that mix a couple of New York publishers and a couple of on-line publishers. Some big, some small. Get as eclectic a mix as you can once you have your favourites sorted out, so that you’re sampling right across the erotic romance industry.
Now, read as many of those publisher’s titles each week/month as you can, even if you’re skimming-and-tossing when you hit the duds (but figure out why you toss them!)
Keep notes of what and who you’re reading, too. Analyse the books. What works, what doesn’t and why. If you can figure out who the best-sellers are (sometimes it’s hard to tell with the on-line publishers, who don’t advertise their best sellers), try to figure out what makes them better sellers. Is it their promotion? Their writing? Take notes.
This is market research. Keep your receipts for the taxman at the end of the year because if you sell this year, you’ll be able to claim the money back.
2. Start your own blog site
This will be the beginnings of your promotion and author platform, so do it right — buy your name domain and self-host your own blog. Editors and agents will be looking for this sort of PR savvy so now is the time to learn it.
This post isn’t the place to got into a full lesson on PR and promotion, but check all my articles on the subject on the Articles page.
Your blog is a place where you can talk about all the books you’ve been reading and the stuff you’ve been learning about the industry. Never, ever be negative! It’ll come back to haunt you, three times over.
3. Pick a target erotic romance publisher
From amongst the market research reading you’ve been doing, choose your preferred markets. Pick three, and rank them in priority order. Numero Uno becomes your target market. Find out their submission requirements.
If necessary, choose the sub-genre you’re going to write in.
4. Write, write, write, write, and write some more.
To summarize the point heading: Write your ass off.
In your spare time, your first priority should be to write. Everything else is secondary, even though this point comes fourth in the list. (There’s not much point in writing if you’re not a reader first, and you need to get the blog set up and ticking over, so you can get on with writing. And there’s not much point in writing, if you don’t know who you’re writing for and what they want prefer you to write – or not write.)
5. Finish your manuscript
Sounds simple. Is anything but a walk in the park. I did a keynote speech at a book launch several years ago now and the statistics I gave then are probably still valid:
One out of every three literate adults on this planet, at some time in their lives, has thought about writing a book. … One in three. The world’s current population of literate adults is 26 billion. That means that 8.6 billion people have thought about writing a book. 85% of that 8.6 billion have actually started a book. Started. Want to take a guess how many of those 7.3 billion people actually finished their book?
0.05% Not half a percent. But one half of one half of a percent.
And fiction books are a small percentage of that percentage.
If you actually manage to finish your book you’ll be in rarified company. To finish a book requires an enormous amount of grit and dedication.
6. Edit your book, then submit it.
Once you’ve finished your book (congratulations, by the way), make sure it gets seen by someone who knows what they’re doing. Find a critique group, if you don’t think it’s ready to go directly to editors or agents – but make sure this intermediate step isn’t just a fancy form of cold feet.
Polish your script then submit it to your editor or agent of choice, following their prescribe submission methods.
Again, if you actually manage to reach the point of submission, congratulations. It takes courage to send your first manuscript off, even if you have workshopped it with experienced authors. Now…do you get to sit around and wait for an answer? Hell no!
7. Write the next manuscript.
Absolutely do not sit and wait for an answer. It’ll kill you. You get on with the next novel, and keep cranking stories out. If the first novel is rejected, you immediately send it out to the editor or agent in the number two spot on your list, and get on with the novel you’re currently writing, and put the old novel out of your mind again.
When you finish the second novel, you polish it and send it out to editor/agent #1 and get on with book #3, head down, oblivious to the two books already circulating. Don’t give them a thought, or you’ll start boiling over with worry and despair about being a failure and how you’re never going to break in, and that you’re never going to be published.
And that’s how it goes until somebody out there actually says “we’ll buy it.”
When that happens, you can come to a grinding halt for three days, get falling down drunk, and start calling yourself an author. You did it. You’re published.
8. Get writing again
But then the real work starts. All over again. Now you’re going to have to keep cranking the books out again. And again. And again.
Welcome to the life of a published author!