Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Query Letters - They Don't Have To Be Scary

Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica, erotic romance, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and three cats. Visit her web site, her Facebook page, and her Amazon Author Page.

I'm currently searching for an agent for my erotic romance novel Alex Craig Has A Threesome, and I have battled with the dreaded query letter. I thought I had done my research, but after attending the Boston writer's conference The Muse And The Marketplace, I discovered I had not written the damned thing correctly. I had written my introduction, named the book, gave the blurb, the word count, genre, and then my publishing history and a little information about my prior movie and TV work.

Turns out I left out an important item – why I am the best person to write this book. The Muse taught me the proper way to write a query letter, and thanks to the conference I did get my first request for a partial. Sadly, that resulted in another rejection, but at least she requested a partial.

I'm not giving up.

According to book developer and principle of The Scribe's Window Cherise Fisher, who gave the talk "The Perfect Pitch" at The Muse And The Marketplace, a pitch is "the transfer of enthusiasm from one person to the next. It's like a virus. You infect with your pitch." Books are meant to entertain, educate, and inspire/provoke. A pitch is the foundation for your proposal. It's your contact with an agent or editor. It's also about being as clear and concise as possible to the person you're pitching to.

Multi-published, Rita Award winning author Shelley Adina wrote in her article Writing A Pitch Perfect Query Letter that there are four parts to a successful query letter:

The intro
The story (i.e., the back-cover blurb
Your credentials
Call to action

My mistake was leaving out my backstory – why a have a passion for this particular story. I left out my call to action. I needed to personalize my pitch. The perfect book is the book only you can write. This includes your life experiences and your perspective, Reveal what is behind you for writing this book. Why are you so driven to do it? What's the story, and why is it yours to tell?

This article will discuss those four parts of a successful query letter so that when you write yours, it will be more likely to attract the attention of an agent if you are searching for one. Your goal, of course, is representation. Not everyone is on the look-out for an agent, but this article about writing queries should be helpful to anyone.

The Intro – This is where you introduce yourself to the agent and any ties you may have. If you've met the agent at a conference, listened to a lecture, or attended a workshop, this is the time to mention it.  Familiarize yourself with the agent. If the agent has a blog, read it. Read any articles or interviews the agent is involved in. If you're a fan of the books and authors the agent represents, tell them.

Make sure you write your query in your natural voice since you want to be approachable. Adina was right when she said, "Your voice is your brand, so your business letter should reflect it."

Also make sure you’ve spelled the agent's name and the agency's name correctly. You don't want to get off to a bad start with a misspelling.  Your intro should show you've done your homework, you're familiar with the agent, and your letter isn't boilerplate.

The Story – Condense your novel into a concise and attention-getting paragraph or two. No more than that. This takes some work. Focus on the characters, what drives them, any archetypes you're using, the conflict, and what gets the ball rolling for the characters in the first place. Do not skimp on your condensed story. This is the meat of your query letter. Your story has to grab the agent's attention immediately. Don't waste words and use words wisely.

Your Credentials – This is where you talk about why you are the best person to write your story. You also list any previously published works or awards you've received. If you've written a book that showcases the beauty of New England and the Atlantic Ocean and you've lived on the Massachusetts coast for twenty years, mention that. Is your heroine an art lover and you majored in Fine Arts? Is your hero a stage lighting technician and you've worked as a union gaffer for several years? All three of these examples are true for me regarding two of my unpublished novels, my thriller Secrets and Lies (which may have found a publisher) and my erotic romance work in progress Full Moon Fever.

Now, what if you're a mom teaching part-time at an elementary school, but your book is about a sleazy but sexy successful con artist in love with his mark? Let's assume you've done your homework for this book and you are a romance fan. Mention that you consume romance novels the way normal people eat meals, for instance. It's definitely worth a mention if you've done research on famous con artists and their techniques. Has your manuscript won any contests? That's a must-mention. Are you a member of RWA or Broad Universe? Definitely mention both.

A Call To Action – Your closing should be inviting and it should offer a call to action. Why do you think your novel is a good fit for this agent and publisher? What is the goal of your book? To entertain? To teach? What is the goal of your main characters? Close your query with ease.

If you want to see examples of successful query letters, check out Writer's Digest's Successful Queries page. Not only does the page include scads of very good queries, there are explanations from agents following each query as to why it was a good one. I've learned a great deal from reading those examples. Hopefully, this learning experience will someday (maybe soon) result in representation.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Notice for Unspeakably Erotic: Taboo Lesbian Kink

Please note the call for Unspeakably Erotic:Taboo Lesbian Kink has been cancelled by the publisher.


Sunday, May 24, 2015

25 or 6 to 4

by Kathleen Bradean

There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.
– Terry Pratchett

I always say, if you can't think of anything to write, go meta and talk about not being able to write. Okay, I never say that. But I am having a difficult time writing at the moment, and I'm in California, so here I am evoking writer's block as a topic.

According to legend, the lyricist for the 70s band Chicago was up all night trying to write a song. He looked across the room at the clock and saw that it was about 25 or 26 until 4 in the morning. I've heard that song maybe a hundred times but didn't realize it was about writer's block until recently. I still don't like the song much, but at least now it makes sense.

I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged.
– Erica Jong

I've been trying to write the next novel in my series. The first scene has defeated me. Maybe I expect too much from it for a first draft even though I know better. I asked other writers how they get past this sort of opening scene paralysis. Some said they skip writing the first scene or chapter until the rest of the novel is finished. This makes sense, because by then a writer should understand the bigger theme of their work, the tone, etc and how best to bring the reader to that. Others say they just write anything, knowing that they'll throw it out later. 

My own experience is that once a story has been written, one has to cross out the beginning and the end. It is there that we authors do most of our lying.
– Anton Chekhov

Another writer confided that many of her writer friends can not get past their first chapters. Ever. The pursuit of perfection kills their creativity. I'm not trying to be perfect. All I want is to know I've got it mostly right.

 The work never matches the dream of perfection the artist has to start with.
– William Faulkner

I'm a terribly inefficient writer. I've mentioned this before. I write to find the story and toss out the thousands of words it took to get there. I'm like Thelma from Scooby Doo, touching everything in search of my glasses. The difference is that she knows when she can see. I have sight, but have no confidence that I can create my vision. The first scene poses a question. The rest of the story answers that question. How can you even begin to ask when you've lost your voice?

From Kathy's Song by Simon and Garfunkel
....and a song I was writing is left undone/ I don't know why I spend my time/ writing songs I can't believe/ with words that tear and strain to rhyme 

How do you get past writer's block? Do you believe it's real?

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Does a Print Option Lend Credence?

by Lucy Felthouse

A while back, I posed the question on my Facebook page about whether, if I put one of my self-published titles into print via Createspace, people would want to buy it. I got various responses, most of which were favourable, so I did indeed go through the process of putting the title into print on demand.

But a comment one person made really made me think. I can't remember the exact wording they used, but it was something along the lines of, if an eBook is also available in print, it makes it appear more professional, less like a self-published title. Even if it is self-published. Apparently, it just gives the impression of more professionalism, probably something to do with that if the author has gone to the trouble of putting the book into paperback format, that they'll also have gone to the trouble of getting the book properly edited, formatted, etc. I can understand the thinking - we all know how many crappy quality books are out there, and not just self-published ones, either. We have to battle against opinions that eBooks are somehow inferior to print books, and also, that indie published stuff hasn't been professionally produced. It's infuriating, but there it is. All we can do is hope our books get into people's hands, and that those people will then leave positive reviews on Amazon. Or even negative ones, if they didn't like the story - you can win 'em all, after all - but at least if they make no comment on terrible formatting, spelling, grammar and so on, then at least other readers can rest assured that the book's been done right.

But simply selling a book in both eBook and print format - does that give it extra credence? Make you more confident you're buying a quality product? There's no right or wrong answer here, guys, I really want to know what you think. As I said, the original commenter really gave me pause for thought, as it wasn't something I'd considered before, so your opinion would be much appreciated. And please, share the post and encourage your friends to weigh in, too. It's a very interesting topic, so the more opinions, the better.

Happy Reading!
Lucy x


Author Bio:

Lucy Felthouse is a very busy woman! She writes erotica and erotic romance in a variety of subgenres and pairings, and has over 100 publications to her name, with many more in the pipeline. These include several editions of Best Bondage Erotica, Best Women's Erotica 2013 and Best Erotic Romance 2014. Another string to her bow is editing, and she has edited and co-edited a number of anthologies, and also edits for a small publishing house. She owns Erotica For All, is book editor for Cliterati, and is one eighth of The Brit Babes. Find out more at Join her on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to her newsletter at:

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Welcome, Darkness

By Lisabet Sarai

It’s early in May. I have just submitted the final manuscript for my latest Excessica book, entitled Fourth World. I’ve been planning this book, a collection of paranormal erotica, for quite a while, so I sent it off with no small sense of satisfaction.

Over the past two days I’ve been immersed in editing the seven tales that comprise this volume. As I read and re-read them, I was startled to realize that not one of them has an unambiguously happy ending. That’s very rare, for me. I generally consider myself an optimist, and I’d definitely label myself as sex-positive. So why am I suddenly publishing a whole book of stories where no character gets exactly what he or she wants? A book in which at least one character actually dies by the story’s conclusion, while others are irrevocably damaged—where the surviving protagonists live with grief, confusion, frustration or profound ennui?

You might surmise that I wrote these tales during a difficult time in my own life, that they mirror some negativity in my own soul. That’s not the case, though. The stories in Fourth World cover more than a decade of my career, a decade, as it happens, of great success and personal satisfaction.

Another theory might be that these stories represent a reaction to the relentless emphasis on happy endings in romance. There’s some truth to that notion. When I wrote “Renfield’s Lament”, about two years ago, I was feeling fed up with HEAs. I deliberately crafted the darkest tale I could imagine, just to see how far I could push the envelope while still arousing my readers (and myself). Some of the earlier stories in the book, though, come from the period before I began writing erotic romance at all, when I was blissfully innocent about the demands of market and genre.

Perhaps the ambiguity in these tales reflects my convictions about magic. Since I was a kid, I’ve loved fairy tales and fantasy, but even back then I understood that power always exacts its price. Miracles occur, but they require sacrifices. Wotan forfeits an eye in his quest for wisdom; Frodo Baggins loses a finger in fulfilling his quest. No one walks through the fires of the supernatural and emerges unscathed. Plus, one has to admit there is something seductive about the shadows, something hypnotic about evil, especially when it clothes itself in exquisite, responsive flesh.

Ultimately the why doesn’t matter. These stories are what they are. Of course, once I’d noticed the dark trend in the book, I started to worry. Should I throw in a couple of lighter tales, to balance the cruelty and violence (physical and emotional) in the ones I’d originally chosen? Would anyone actually buy this book without at least a few happy-for-nows?

I decided against that compromise. The seven stories in Fourth World make an organic whole. They represent some of the most intense erotica I’ve ever writtenscalding, twisted, nasty, no-holds-barred lust, triggered and augmented by magic. I personally find the endings satisfying, at least from a literary perspective. They have an inevitability that feels right.

There’s something freeing for me about publishing this book. Readers who want happy endings can pick up some of my erotic romance or romantic erotica, which is mostly what I write. Fourth World is aimed at those of you who are braver, or more curiouspeople who recognize that when you have blood-sucking demons, someone’s going to get hurt.

To them, I say: come explore the shadows with me. Welcome, darkness.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Sexy Snippets for May

It's the 19th of May. That means it's Sexy Snippets Day! Time to share the hottest mini-excerpts you can find from your published work. 

The ERWA blog is not primarily intended for author promotion. However, we've decided we should give our author/members an occasional opportunity to expose themselves (so to speak) to the reading public. Hence, we have declared the 19th of every month at the Erotica Readers and Writers Association blog Sexy Snippet Day.

On Sexy Snippet day, any author can post a tiny excerpt (200 words or less) in a comment on the day's post. Include the title from with the snippet was extracted, your name or pseudonym, and one buy link, if you'd like.

Please post excerpts only from published work (or work that is free for download), not works in progress. The goal, after all, is to titillate your readers and seduce them into buying your books!

Feel free to share this with erotic author friends. It's an open invitation!

Of course I expect you to follow the rules. If your excerpt is more than 200 words or includes more than one link, I'll remove your comment and prohibit you from participating in further Sexy Snippet days. I'll say no more!

After you've posted your snippet, feel free to share the post as a whole to Facebook, Twitter, or wherever else you think your readers hang out.

Have fun!

~ Lisabet