I recently spoke with erotic and dark fiction author Elizabeth Black about how she sees the impact of erotica on e-books, and vice versa. We also spoke about how she practices her dark art.
TeleRead: Porn and erotica are often credited with turbocharging the development of other areas of the Internet. Do you see any signs of that in writing erotic e-literature? What do you think of that principle?
Elizabeth Black: In my opinion, e-literature has boosted the sale of all genres, including erotic and sweet romance.
Romances have long outsold other genres. These books have promoted the sale of sex toys, many of which are sold by stores online.
I believe writing erotic e-literature has also helped inject life into short story sales. I’ve seen an increase in calls for submissions to anthologies ranging from erotic to horror.
The new genre [known as] “New Adult” may in part be seen as having emerged [partly] due to the popularity of erotic fiction. USA Today describes New Adult as exploring the “terrifying and wonderful chasm between adolescence and adulthood”.
These books are full of youth, college antics, sex, and drama. Heavy on the drama. Plenty of erotic books fall into this category. For instance, my Night Owl Reviews Top Pick novel “Don’t Call Me Baby” is New Adult. It’s set on a college campus and my main character, Catherine Stone, enjoys exploring her sexuality and hopes to discover her place in the world.
This is a very fast-paced book that many in college will be able to identify with, including sex with professors, bad boys, jealous women, the moral turpitude clause, summer jobs, juggling love and career, and more sex. Heh.
TeleRead: Are there any special conventions, approaches, and other considerations for a writer when working in erotic e-fiction? Do these differ at all from writing in the same genre for traditional publishing?
Elizabeth Black: If by “traditional publishing” you mean erotica and romances published by the Big Six as opposed to smaller, indie publishers and self-publishing, yes, there are differences.
Smaller indie publishers take more risks. For one thing, the financial cost in publishing e-books is much lower than traditionally published print books because there is little to no overhead. You don’t need warehouse space to store books. You don’t need to print out a truckload of books beforehand and take a hit in the purse when some of them don’t sell. E-book publishers don’t have to compete for precious space on shelves in stores. They (and this includes self-published authors) sell directly to readers via book distribution sites like Amazon and the publisher’s websites.
The main issue is that the books must be well-written. Sadly, there is a lot of poorly-written smut out there, much of it self-published, unedited, and haphazardly slapped together. All self-published writers would do themselves a favor by working with beta readers and editors. Find a good cover artist, and put together a beautiful cover for your books. Remember that your cover is the first thing readers see. If you seem to skimp on your cover, it looks like you don’t care enough about your book for anyone to even consider buying it.
Romance as a genre is strict in general regarding what is allowed and what is not. There are approaches that are required, such in the “Happily Ever After” ending in erotic romance. At the very least, there has to be a “Happy For Now” ending. The usual taboos apply as well in most cases—no incest, no under-aged sex, no bestiality, no rape depicted in a positive manner (for titillation), no scat or golden showers. Some erotic authors do cover these topics, in particular incest and under-aged sex. The “rules” in erotic fiction (especially romance) may be more strenuous than those in other genres.
TeleRead: How have e-books affected—if at all—erotic writing? Has this made the genre more readily available? Has it brought more authors to it?
Elizabeth Black: E-books have definitely had an effect on erotic writing. They have made it more accessible to readers. E-book readers like the Kindle give readers more privacy. You don’t have to worry about people on the train gaping at the scantily-clad women and buff, oiled men on book covers as they would if you read a paperback. You can also store hundreds of books on e-book readers, which take up much less space than print books do in bookcases.
I also believe e-books have made it possible to introduce authors to readers they may never have discovered otherwise, since big publishers are reluctant to take on the risk of a newcomer with little to no platform. E-books are less expensive than print books so readers stock up on them. They feed their e-book readers by the dozens when it comes to e-books. E-books are like potato chips—you can’t stop at just one.