Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Friday, October 30, 2015

Call for Submissions

Sugar and Spice Collection
Totally Bound Publishing
Deadline: January 31, 2016

Sweet and delicate or hot and raunchy? The choice is yours. Totally Bound Publishing would like you to either call to your inner sweet romantic or your hotter seductress. This six-book collection will be a naughty mixture of the two. The Sugar—three sweet romances. The Spice—three hotter burns, which will fit into our Melting or Taboo category.

15,000 to 20,000 words please. The submission deadline for this is January 31st 2016 for a July 2016 release. Please send a synopsis in the first instance to submissions@totallybound.com

Paranormal Lust


With Halloween upon us, it’s a perfect time of year for me to wax paranormal. Some of you might know that I’m
writing a free dark paranormal serial on my blog right now. In The Flesh comes out every Friday and has demons, angels, vampires, succubi -- a real mash-up of fun, scary, sexies. But as the story unfolds each week, what continues to astound me is that, though I know the villain is to be avoided at all costs, like my heroine, I STILL want to shag him! 

Our attraction to the villain is one of the wonderful contradiction that makes a great paranormal story. And the delicious and frightening opposite side of the paranormal coin is that as a reader, and a writer, I want to be almost as afraid of the hero as I am of the villain. I want to shag them both! Oh the angst! I honestly can’t think that anyone could really fall for a vampire or a werewolf or a demon or a powerful witch, or any other paranormal hero/heroine without being, at the same time, terrified. In fact just the right combination of fear and attraction is, in my opinion, one of the most powerful aphrodisiacs EVER! I think it’s absolutely essential in a sexy paranormal story. A part of what makes good paranormal work for me is knowing that the hero or heroine could easily turn and destroy the very thing he or she loves and longs to possess. More often than not, the hero is really an antihero, striving to be greater than his nature, and the more difficult the struggle, the more endearing I find him to be.

In fact, there are times when the only separation between the hero and the villain is how willing they are to do battle with their own flaws. Of course the battle with flaws is nothing but the age-old human struggle magnified and highlighted for the sake of the story. Few of us literally rip people’s throats out when we’re having a bad day, and most of us would be horrified if the love of our life did that before morning coffee. That niggle of fear, that edge of uncertainty is what raises the stakes, what raises the level of tension and excitement in a good
paranormal story. The lover is not safe, and yet that danger makes the sex all the hotter and the angst all the angstier.  In my opinion, it’s the lack of safety that makes paranormal erotic romance so stimulating in those larger than life ways that are more difficult to achieve in ordinary romance, though are definitely brought into play in BDSM stories. In fact, I’d suggest that BDSM, at least on some level, is, in part, the desire to make our sexuality alittle more dangerous, a little more edgy, in the absence of demon lovers and vampires. The whole sexy, super-heated, blow-your-mind purpose of good paranormal erotica is to make totally dangerous sex and plunging-off-a-cliff romance a vicarious possibility for the reader. 

I remember seeing Frank Langella’s Dracula back in the day and thinking, as I panted my way through the horribly delicious scene in which Dracula seduces Lucy, that even with the terrible truth of what the end result of his sexy attentiveness to her will be, who could possibly have refused, even if they hadn’t been under his thrall? He was a gentleman, he was charming and mysterious, he was hypnotic, he was gorgeous, he was terrifying. And I wanted him! 

In paranormal erotica, one good fuck may be all you ever get, but it will damn well be worth it! Give us a demon, whose power is lust, whose sensuality is deadly, a vampire who is terrified he may just rip his lover’s throat out in his passion, a succubus who can bring her lover to exquisite ecstasy but at the risk of stealing his life force. Oh yes! Bring it on! While the beautiful, unsuspecting couple in a horror film have wild, ecstatic sex just before their hearts are ripped still beating from their chest, by the villain, in paranormal erotica and romance, that edge of ecstasy, that infatuation that may well be deadly is drawn out to a thin, dangerous edge and, as readers, we get to ride the edge, wondering if there will be pleasure or death or both.  I get goose bumps just thinking about that moment when le petit mort could very easily end in the real thing!

I love the paranormal contrast of light and darkness and the way the two are blended. After all there’s only
awareness of one in the presence of the other. I think the balance of fear and lust and the highlighting of flaws through otherness, done well, is the making of a good paranormal romance. Conflict is the main ingredient of any good story, and when a story is paranormal, there is, by the nature of the beast, or the witchJ more room for more conflict. And that’s a big part of the fun. Wanting what we know is very bad for us while at the same time not trusting what might be good for us keeps us on that delicious edge that, in every good story, pulls us forward, makes us fantasize and lust and speculate. And seeing the characters in a paranormal novel get exactly that, exactly the thing that both attracts them and terrifies them is what makes paranormal so outrageously hot. 

Happy Halloween, Blessed Samhain and All Hallows!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Stanley Hotel - My First Writer's Retreat

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



I'm breathing the crisp, thin air of Estes Park, Colorado right now. I'm attending the Stanley Hotel Writer's Retreat, my very first writer's retreat. This one is for horror, but since it's my first retreat I thought I'd report on it. I bought the short story package, and my two stories will be critiqued after the retreat.

The Stanley Hotel is the hotel Stephen King stayed in that inspired him to write The Shining. He stayed in room 217, which is supposedly haunted. We're in room 319, which is not haunted. I tried to book room 401, which is also haunted, but someone beat me to it. The Concert Hall and the fourth floor are haunted as well. I went to the fourth floor and took pictures, but no ghosts. Yet. Here is a shot of the haunted fourth floor hallway. I fully expected to see two very creepy little girls hanging out at the end of the hall. Redrum!


We drove from the northeast coast of Massachusetts (any more east and you're in the ocean) to Estes Park, Colorado. It took us four days to get to Denver, where we stayed overnight and took advantage of pot tourism in the state. We bought edibles since we don't want to smoke - Cookies and Cream Cake Bites and sublingual Energizing Tablets, both infused with marijuana. Recreational marijuana is no longer seeds and twigs in a plastic sandwich baggie. I had no idea it was so fancy! The tablets were okay but those cake bites are amazing. Pure chocolate decadence and a very mellow high. I discovered something very important – I cannot write when baked. LOL I drool when baked, and that's about it. We're enjoying the mellow in our hotel room when things are slow, which isn't often. We also have Jacuzzi jets in the bathtub, and I'm taking full advantage tonight after all the events for the day die down.

We saw elk taking their good old time crossing the road on the way to the hotel. I understand the elk own the roads out here, so who am I to complain? LOL


The Opening Scaremonies (after all, this is a horror writer's retreat) consisted of our Guests Of Honor horror writers and editors you've likely never heard of since you read and write erotic fiction and romance. In case you have heard of them, they are Trent Zelazny, Jack Ketchum, Josh Malerman, Chris Morey, and Daniel Knauf. One of next year's Guests of Honor is Chuck Palahniuk. He wrote Fight Club. If we can swing it, we're going. Our host is Dark Regions Press editor RJ Cavender, and he did a bang-up job putting this behemoth together. This year's guests gave a very informative talk about the craft of writing, editing, playwriting, Hollywood, and their works in general. In two hours I'm going to a talk by a lake about dialogue and scene construction. It'll be given by Daniel Knauf. I do excel at writing dialogue, but I'm always on the lookout to learn something new. UPDATE: I attended the highly informative lecture by Daniel Knauf, who is one of the writers of the hit TV series The Blacklist. I learned why I've been having difficulty working on two short horror stories lately. I don't know my characters. I've done historical research, developed the location, and envisioned most of the plot. I've neglected my characters. I won't be able to work on the story until I know them better. Next step - write character profiles for each character.

I highly recommend you attend as many planned events as possible even if they cut into your writing time. You will learn a great deal, and you'll be in a position to mingle with other writers. You might even meet someone you've admired for years. One of the purposes of a writer's retreat is to inspire you to write. This one is doing its job. Not only have I made some fine contacts, Jack Ketchum is interested in being my guest on my radio show The Women Show in early 2016. He's one of the top horror writers out there. The Girl Next Door was sufficiently upsetting. Based on a true crime, too.

I've been asked by darker fiction publisher Rampant Loon Press to write a new short story based on a small Massachusetts island town I've created for one novel and several short stories. Rampant Loon published one of those stories – The Oily – and it has accepted a second one – Unrequited. Both are horror. I've decided to go one better. I'm going to write two new stories. One set in a wooded location in modern times, and another one set in the same location in approximately 1830, not long after the Salem witch trials. Salem plays an important part in my story since it's not very far away from my island.  I've already done all my research including hiking in the five acre area of woods near my home which provided much inspiration as well as a nasty twist to my right leg that is still healing. This wooded area is an abandoned colonial settlement, and you can still see the ruins. My two horror stories will be very desolate and creepy. I even read some Stephen King for inspiration, speaking of the Stanley Hotel. I'm using my time here at the retreat to inspire me to finish at least the modern day story. I need to concentrate on character development before I can begin to write the story, though. I learned that today during a lecture outdoors at a restaurant on a lake where we saw a bald eagle flying around. The eagle even dived into the lake to catch a fish. Knauf talked about getting to know your characters very intimately with important things like what are their dreams? What are they afraid of? Once I write down those notes I can begin writing the stories. There's no deadline so I'm not in a rush.

There's nothing like writing undisturbed by children, pets, television, Facebook, Twitter, strange foreign men on Facebook asking me if I'm married, email, the phone ringing, people banging at my door, the upstairs neighbors screeching at each other, and the latest appliance to stop working in my apartment. I'm free to be creative here, and I write when I want. I've also decided, with the help of discussing the matter with one of the guests, that I need to begin my agent search again. My family saga/thriller novel Secrets and Lies won't be published in 2016 after all since the publisher is going out of business. I was told about a week ago, and I have my rights back. Lucky for me, the book was never published so I don't have to worry about trying to sell a reprint. It was recommended to me to begin the agent hunt in earnest and don't aim for the smaller presses since they can be so unreliable.
Aim high. Good advice.

It's a long way from home, but the beautiful Stanley Hotel was well worth the drive. The views of the Rockies are gorgeous. Although I'm a beach girl at heart, I could see living here because of the views. I'd have to get used to the altitude – just walking up and down the stairs gets me winded – but otherwise this is a beautiful location to write. If you have a chance to go to a writer's retreat, I highly recommend one.



Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Call for Submissions

Animal Magnetism:
Stories about men drawn together over their love of animals
Publisher: JMS Books LLC
Deadline: July 31, 2016
Payment: Standard contract terms (50% net royalties from all channels in all formats)

Animals can be a great judge of character, and sometimes they know before we do if someone is perfect for us. We want stories about man's best friend playing matchmaker -- not just dogs, but cats, horses, goats, birds, any kind of animal that might help break the ice between two lonely hearts looking for love. Or maybe they weren't looking, but Fluffy or Fido knows better. A rider's horse throws a shoe every time a sexy farrier is visiting the stable. A cat gets stuck in a tree, and his owner falls for the hunky fireman who shows up to rescue him. How are these men drawn together because of their love of animals?

Romantic relationship must be MM, MMM, or MMF

Submission guidelines at:
http://www.erotica-readers.com/ERA/AR/Animal_Magnetism.htm
##

Backup Buddies:
Stories about partners finding romance in the line of duty
Publisher: JMS Books LLC
Deadline: July 31, 2016
Payment: Standard contract terms (50% net royalties from all channels in all formats)

When your life's on the line, who has your back? For policemen, FBI agents, detectives, and firemen, etc., there is no one they trust more than their buddy, their partner, the one person on whom they depend. What happens when that partnership deepens into something more? Show us -- take it beyond the mean streets and flashing lights, into the bedroom or the darkened alleyway. What happens in the long hours of a stakeout? Or late at night in a shared hotel room while on assignment? These men might project a strong, tough guy image to the world, but how tender can be with each other?

Romantic relationship must be MM, MMM, or MMF

Submission guidelines at:
http://www.erotica-readers.com/ERA/AR/Backup_Buddies.htm
##

Daddy Dearest
Stories about gay fathers looking for Mr. Right
Publisher: JMS Books LLC
Deadline: July 31, 2016
Payment: Standard contract terms (50% net royalties from all channels in all formats)

There's no denying it -- daddies are hot! We aren't talking bears here; we're looking for stories about dads with young kids who need a husband to make them complete. Or maybe he doesn't think Mr. Right wants someone who comes with a diaper bag and sippy cups in tow. Maybe the man of his dreams turns out to be his new male nanny? However your father figure finds true love, we want to read about it! Show us how Daddy Dearest introduces his new boyfriend to his children. Will they be able somehow to form a family?

Romantic relationship must be MM, MMM, or MMF

Submission guidelines at:
http://www.erotica-readers.com/ERA/AR/Daddy_Dearest.htm

The Censor's Dilemma

by Jean Roberta

Selena Kitt’s clear expose of the “Pornocalypse” of hard-to-find erotic titles on the Amazon site reminds me of my uncomfortably educational stint on the local Film Classification Board in the early 1990s. Yes, folks, I belonged to a government-run board with the power to ban films.

I was a single mother, and desperate for any job that paid, a situation which could make almost anyone vulnerable to demonic temptation. A sister-feminist of my acquaintance told me about the position on the classification board that she had just vacated; she claimed that all the porn films she had been forced to watch had given her nightmares. I sympathized, and tried to ask as discreetly as possible what, exactly, had kept her awake at night: serial killers in masks chasing terrified women with chainsaws? The torture of political prisoners? My acquaintance was both vague and indignant: it was porn, and therefore an expression of contempt for women. Wouldn’t that be enough to give any woman nightmares?

I recklessly applied for the position on the board, and was accepted. I was told that I would need to watch films in a basement screening room with a few other board members for only a few days per month, and I would be paid a “per diem” to cover my “expenses.” This was not to be referred to as a salary, so I agreed not to call it that.

I watched numerous short porn films that had been seized from places with names like “Joe’s Gas and Confectionary.” The worst aspect of the films, IMO, was the relative lack of originality or esthetic value in them. There was usually a soundtrack of elevator music, and a well-worn plot about a horny housewife and a pizza delivery boy, or a naughty co-ed and her manly professor. The actors usually recited their lines as though reading them off cue cards. There was no torture, and no overt use of force.

Several of the films I watched were (somewhat) witty parodies of mainstream films (e.g. Edward Penishands). They combined sex with humour, not the degradation of the innocent.

I soon learned that while all mainstream Hollywood movies had to be viewed and rated by us, the classification board, before they could be shown in movie theatres in the Canadian province I live in, the rating of porn videos was complaint-driven. This meant that if no one complained, Joe’s Gas could stock unrated porn films for sale or rental, and life went on. If someone complained to the police (in small towns here, this consists of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police), they would hand over the entire stock of porn films from Joe’s Gas to us, the film police, to rate or to declare illegal.

The Film Classification Board was not equipped to rate every single porn film that entered a fairly large (geographically speaking) Canadian province from elsewhere. (As far as I knew, none of it was locally-produced.) There was just too much of it for six board members to view, discuss, and classify. This meant that any irate mother who caught her teenage son watching a film he had secretly rented from Joe’s Gas had enormous power to force Joe to hand over his entire stock, without compensation, to the Authorities (the police or us) and with no guarantee that it would all be given back to him. At the time I joined the board, it was in the process of reviewing a stash of over 900 films that had been seized from one retail outlet.

In a nutshell, anyone who claimed that the Film Classification Board was standing guard over the morals of the entire province was delusional. No one who actually sat on the board could believe that we could classify every piece of film available. Our role was to give an appearance of protecting “community values,” whatever those were, and to actually protect the politicians above us in the government from having to answer sticky questions from the public about what they were doing to stem the tide of “porn,” or why they were trying to limit what local consumers could read or watch.

Discussions with fellow board-members were informative. None of them was an anti-sex fanatic, as far as I could see, but all of them seemed to think we could make decisions that no sensible person could disagree with. The problem is that most people consider themselves to be sensible, neither prudish nor pathological, yet even in a relatively small population, there is large diversity of opinions about the depiction of sex.

Amazon, as a huge purveyor of books and related products, is highly visible to zillions of netsurfers. Although Amazon is a private company, not a branch of government like a film classification board, its administration probably feels the pressure to please a large, middle-of-the-road buying public that really does not exist. Given the quantity of items sold by Amazon, I suspect they have no coherent policy on what should be kept on a back shelf behind a curtain and what should be advertised from the rooftops.

In 1755, after an author and thinker named Samuel Johnson had produced the first “modern” English dictionary, a lady reader complained to him about the “improper” words in it. To his credit, Sam did not offer to pull them out of the next edition, but then, he wasn’t trying to earn a living from the sale of that book alone. Had he been more dependent on public opinion in general, Sam probably would have waffled, apologized, tried to blame an irresponsible typesetter, or promised that the offending words would be removed forthwith.

The problem with censors is not that they all have a fascist agenda to control the whole world, but that they try to please everyone in order to avoid negative publicity. If a certain book is available, someone will be offended. If it is suddenly made unavailable, someone else will be offended.

In effect, most censors are politicians who try to appeal to the largest number of voters by speaking in soothing generalities. Like politicians, censoring organizations need to be watched.
---------------------------

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Politics of Desire

by Kathleen Bradean

I recently re-watched the movie Pal Joey, starring Frank Sinatra, Kim Novak, and Rita Hayworth in a love triangle. Kim loves Frank; Frank loves Kim; Frank loves Rita's money; Rita loves Frank's cock. Of course, they aren't as obvious about that last one as the rest of it. They even cleaned up the lyrics of Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered so audiences wouldn't be scandalized by her remarks about his pants fitting his hot body so well. But the story makes it clear that once Frank fucks Rita, she's willing to do anything for him.

The story goes like this: Frank comes to San Francisco and looks up an old acquaintance who  isn't terribly thrilled to see him, because Frank is a jerk. After presuming his way into a job performing at the nightclub where this guy as the band leader, Frank starts hitting on the guy's female friend, Kim, in this odd way where he treats her like shit. Girls dig that, don't you know. He even takes a room in her boarding house so he can scam his way into her pants. The performers are hired to do a gig at Rita's house as she's raising funds for a children's hospital. Frank recognizes her as a former stripper who married well, so, following his 'chicks love to be treated like crap" routine, he announces to all her wealthy friends that she was a stripper and now she'll perform the number that made her famous. She's furious, but sings and dances, only she limits her stripping to tossing away a glove. Later, she humiliates him in retaliation, then he fucks her so well that she decides to help him open his dream night club - as long as he fires Kim. Instead of firing Kim, he tells her she's going to do the strip number. Kim decides she'll do what he asks because he obviously loves her and needs her to do it, but at the last second, Frank stops her. Rita gets pissed off and tells him the club won't open. It ends with Frank and Kim walking away.  Really a shitty story. Why was Rita the villain? Frank was using her. He treated both her and Kim horribly. Rita was fine until he barged into her life and she was poorer in many ways for having met him. But she was the villain, because she was a woman who wanted, and enjoyed, sex.

That got me thinking about the politics of desire.

For the recent Disney movie Tangled, the writers created a whole new story rather than going with the original German folk tale. In this day and age, it was dismaying to see that they chose - once again - to make the villain an older woman who so fears aging that she's willing to go to any length to retain her youth. (But I love Terry Gilliam's vision of the price of that quest in his brilliant movie Brazil)  Why do writers reach for that plot device so often? Sure, it's rife in fairy tales, and Countess Elizabeth Bathory provided a real-life example (if that wasn't a political put-up job. I mean, the person writing the stories about her was in the employ of the King, who owed her so much money that he had reason to smear her then have her walled up in a tower as sort of a personal debt-forgiveness plan) but why use it nowadays? An equally powerful story - and one even kids would understand - was if the witch had kidnapped Rapunzel initially for ransom but had come to fear being left alone again so much that she decided to keep the princess as her daughter. Or maybe that's too real-life scary for kids. How about she sold Rapunzel's hair as a magical elixir and didn't want to lose her source of income? That worked in Pinocchio.  There are a million different ways to handle it, none of which requires trotting out that old story that older women are the natural enemies of younger women, or that they're pathetic, evil, and devious.

Why would a woman want to look younger? And why would she seek to destroy younger women? In stories it's usually because of lovers - although that makes no sense in Tangled because the two women live alone in an isolated tower, but whatever. Older women are portrayed as predatory hunters of men, but ones who can't compete with the natural purity of younger woman. Their desire is shown as a warped thing. Is that because women who act on their desires have agency? Is this the real crime here?

Desire is the driving force in erotica. Most non-readers don't get this, but erotica generally celebrates women for expressing and acting on their desires. It's such a healthy mindset, and a real boon to our readers who get such negative messages from the rest of the world about their sexuality. Thankfully, our genre also seems more age-positive than many other genres. If there's an older woman and an ingenue in an erotic story, they're much more likely to run off together than make fools of themselves over a guy.

Erotica - it's more subversive than you thought, and not just because it graphically portrays sex. No wonder Amazon and their ilk keeps trying to hide it from everyone! It's a political move as much as a religious one. No one in charge wants a bunch of confident women feeling as if they can take on the world and win. Because they will. So carry on, you radical writers. We'll find our readers, and our readers will find us. Desire is one of the most powerful drives in the universe. Let's embolden our readers to follow theirs.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Attack of the Deadlines...


by Lucy Felthouse

I'm afraid that I have been defeated by deadlines, and therefore ran out of time to compile a post this month. However, I did come up with a good alternative. I'd like, instead, to use this as a discussion post.

Do you have any questions for me? Ask in the comments and I'll check back when I can and reply. If they're big questions, I can address them in future posts.

Alternatively, do you have any topics you'd like me to cover in future?

Hopefully things will be back to normal next month!

Happy Reading,
Lucy

*****

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 http://www.lucyfelthouse.co.uk. Join her on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to her newsletter at: http://eepurl.com/gMQb9

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Call for Submissions

MM BDSM Anthology
Pride Publishing
http://www.totallyentwinedgroup.com/

Enter into a world where control, boundaries and punishment have never been so exciting. Where the only get out is provided by the all-important safeword. Demanding Doms and seductive subs are the order of the day here. These characters will stop at nothing to find and push their personal limits to teeter on that pivotal edge. MM pairing in the BDSM genre please, with the word count being between 10,000 to 15,000 and a burning or melting heat rating. The submission deadline for this is 30th November 2015 for a May 2016 release. Please send a synopsis in the first instance to submissions@totallyentwinedgroup.com with the header Pride Anthology Submission.

Call for Submissions

MF and MFM Cowboy/Western Anthology
Totally Bound Publishing
https://www.totallybound.com/

Do you have some hot cowboys willing to do anything for the lady in their life? Totally Bound Publishing are looking for stories featuring rugged cowboys who have a yearning to put the giddy-up into one lucky lady’s life. Or perhaps two cowboys are up for sharing the challenge? Saloons and sex, romance and ranches, these stories will be scorching from the word go. MF or MFM pairing in the Cowboy genre please, with the word count being between 10,000 to 15,000 and a burning or melting heat rating. The submission deadline for this is 30th November 2015 for a May 2016 release. Please send a synopsis in the first instance to submissions@totallybound.com

Pornocalypse 2015 - Part Two (The Barnes and Noble Version)

psaPSA: Barnes and Noble has made keywords and publisher names unsearchable on their site.


I hate to be the bearer of bad news twice in a week, but here we go again. This time it's the folks over at Barnes and Noble. I've had reports (that I've now verified) that erotic keywords are being severely restricted. A search for "menage" comes up with a total of 3,661 titles. BDSM returns 6,988 titles, and incest comes back with just over 1,000 titles. Subkinks (like father-daughter or mother-son incest) are coming up at 20 to 40 total. Now, I haven't checked the erotica keyword search results on Barnes and Noble in over a year, I admit, but back then, menage returned somewhere around 175,000 results, BDSM 110,000, incest about 80,000. For menage to suddenly come back with less than 4,000 books - it's pretty clear that something's happened.

Another interesting search restriction that's been verified is that searching for a publisher on Barnes and Noble returns no results (unless the publisher's name is in an anthology or listed somewhere other than the "publisher" field - our Excessica anthologies come up, for example, but none of our books do, and yes, they used to!) From Excessica to MacMillan - no results. For small publishers, this is a disaster. Many small pubs have spent years building a brand, and have readers who search those publishers for new books on the larger distributors. This eliminates that as an option (unless you do a search from Google - the results clearly come up there - which serves to prove further that this is a Barnes and Noble restriction.)

The conclusion we can draw here is that publishers and keywords are now restricted from the general search on Barnes and Noble.

My guess is this - Barnes and Noble is using a nuclear "quick fix" option. (Like when they dropped ranks on books by 1000 a few years ago - or anchored other books to keep them out of the Top 100...) They wanted to make keywords unsearchable going into the holiday season and in doing so they had to turn off publishers as a search term. I think keywords and publisher search were linked in their system somehow. So when they shut off one, they shut off the other--like throwing off a breaker to turn off one light in the house.

grinchxmas
Barnes and Noble has been known to panic like this in the past.

And now, we'll see - but I think they'll move on to individual books that have keyword-stuffed titles still coming up in searches. Because those are the books still showing when you search for things like "menage" and "BDSM." Most of them have long keyword-stuffed titles that Barnes and Noble's search engine is still finding.  Suppressing publisher and keyword searches decimated the titles available that come up in a search - and made less work for them. Now instead of 200K titles they have to comb through, they have to go through only a fraction of that.

If you're an erotica author thinking, "Ohhh! I'll just keyword-stuff my titles then!" let me say one thing - I wouldn't if I were you.

Earlier this year, Barnes and Noble threatened to close Excessica's account if we didn't get rid of keywords in parenthesis after our titles. We had to go through and remove them all and clean things up or face being banned from publishing on Barnes and Noble. I didn't blog about it at the time because we seemed to be targeted as a publisher - I didn't hear anything through the erotica grapevine about it happening across the board. I'm sure a few others were targeted as well, but it didn't seem to be widespread.

This, however, is a sweeping change I think all erotica authors need to know about. I know, in the wake of KU 2.0, many erotica authors went wide with their books and were starting to gain some traction on Barnes and Noble. I have a feeling this is going to ruin Christmas for quite a few.

Thanks, Barnes and Noble. Amazon didn't give us any warning or use any lube, but just because you got sloppy seconds doesn't make it hurt any less.

eggnog

Pass the eggnog, erotica authors. We're gonna need it. Because while the storefronts will be safe "for the children!" this holiday season, none of the grownups will be able to find your books. Again.

 
Selena Kitt
www.selenakitt.com
Erotic Fiction You Won't Forget
LATEST RELEASE: A Modern Wicked Fairy Tale: Peter and the Wolf

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Taking Your Book on Tour




By Lisabet Sarai

In the (good?) old days, before ebooks and social media, publishers would organize book tours for their authors. The author would travel to various cities for readings and signings. She’d give interviews and appear on local TV and radio. The goals of this expensive (and exhausting) activity were to sell books, of course, and to generally make potential readers aware of the writer’s existence and her body of work, in addition to her new release. (Please excuse my exclusive use of the female pronoun. It’s just a convenience. I don’t intend to ignore all the male authors out there.)

These days, for all but the most famous authors, the physical book tour has been mostly replaced by a “virtual tour”, also known as a blog tour. What’s a blog tour? It’s a marketing activity that involves making arrangements with multiple blog owners—often though not always other authors in your genre—to feature a post about your book. Usually, like a real world tour, a blog tour will take place during a set period of time. One or two weeks is typical. Each day during that period, your book will appear in different places in the cybersphere. The schedule, arranged beforehand, will be included with each post (along with links to the tour stops), so that readers can surf to earlier appearances if they want.

Many tours (at least in the erotic romance genre, the one most familiar to me) offer prizes or other goodies to entice readers to follow the tour blogs. Most commonly these days, the grand prize will be a bookstore gift certificate, in amounts ranging from $15 to $50. I’ve seen tours that really go over the top to offer a Kindle or Nook. Free books and swag (pens, notebooks, coffee mugs, and so on with the author’s logo or cover) are also prevalent. Tours are usually set up so that readers can enter the giveaway at each stop. Thus, the more posts they read (or at least, the more sites they visit), the higher the chances that they’ll win. In my blog tours, I sometimes give away a small gift at each stop, in addition to the grand prize.

What sort of material appears in the tour posts? This varies quite a bit depending on the author, the book and who’s arranging the tour. At a minimum, the post will include the book cover, book blurb, buy links, author bio, and author website and social media links. Often an excerpt will be added. Some blog tours (the ones I enjoy most) have additional material written by the author prefacing the book information. This can be anything from an essay on the background of the book to an interview with either the author or one of the book’s characters. If there are prizes on offer, the post will also explain how readers can enter the giveaway.

There are two popular methods for handling blog tour contests. One simply asks readers to leave a comment on the blog. While this is easy for readers, it has the problem that it may be difficult to locate winners if they don’t include an email address in their comment. You have to repeat this instruction multiple times in your post. The other method uses third-party services like Rafflecopter. While this is convenient, I personally don’t like it because it exposes readers to potential privacy risks. (Don’t try to convince me that Rafflecopter isn’t using all the emails and FB logins it accumulates, from the thousands of contests it manages.)

Some authors require visitors to sign up for their mailing lists, “like” their pages on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter in order to enter the drawing. In my experience, this results in fewer entries. Readers are busy, and to some extent lazy. You’ve got to make things really simple for them.

Of course, just getting your content on someone else’s blog isn’t enough to pull in readers. It’s critical that you promote the tour using other methods: via your mailing list, Facebook, Twitter, your own blog, Yahoo groups, whatever you can do. I don’t mean just one announcement, either. You need to remind people, at least every few days, that the tour is going on and that they could win wonderful prizes and read great excerpts. Your promotional material should include active links, so that recipients can simply click to view a post.

Finally, if at all possible, the author should drop by each stop, thank the host, and respond to commentsif not individually, then at least with a summary comment that refers to some of the more cogent separate comments.

Sound like a lot of work? It is. However, it’s probably less exhausting than a physical tour. At least you don’t have to worry about hotel bed bugs and jet lag! However, it’s probably worth doing only for relatively major releases. To me, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to invest this sort of energy and time to promote a $0.99 short story.

Suppose you want to do a blog tour. Where do you start? There are two main options: organize it yourself, or hire a service. I’ve used both alternatives. Either way, you’re looking at significant work. (Your publisher may organize a tour, as well. That’s always nice, though in my limited experience, the services have done a better job.) 

The advantage of organizing everything on your own is that you have total control. You can pick blog hosts who you know are reliable, who have attractive blogs, and whose blogs are compatible with the theme and genre of the book you’re promoting. Of course, you save money too (see below).

There are two disadvantages to organizing your own tour. First, it’s more work, because in addition to writing the posts, you have to “wrangle” the hosts: get them on the schedule, send them the post material, follow up to make sure they’ve got it, make sure you’ve got their links right, etc. It takes a lot of organization.

The second disadvantage is that your tour may have a more limited reach. You’ll probably be contacting bloggers you already know. Chances are their readerships overlap with yours. You want your tour to reach as many new people as possible, but that impact might be reduced if you have your friends act as hosts.

On the other hand, using a service can be pricey. The services I’ve worked with charge anywhere from $50 up depending on the type and length of the tour. Generally, the longer the tour and the more stops, the higher the price. In addition, although you might think it would be a lot less work, using a service doesn’t reduce the effort much, at least if you’re writing individual posts for each stop, as I prefer to do. (If you want readers to stop at multiple sites, I believe that you really should give them new content at each site.)

The biggest advantage of a service (potentially at least) is greater exposure. Established promotion companies have a large pool of blog hosts, often in many different genres. Chances are that you’re not personally familiar with many of these blogs. Usually that’s good (though I’ve had my posts appear at blogs that made me really cringe due to their poor graphic design or their cheesy advertisements). Readers who may have never heard of you will learn about your book and perhaps be tempted to buy it.

Once you’ve created the blog content and sent it to your service, they handle the host wrangling. The one I’ve used most does a really good job of follow-up with blog hosts. You still need to visit each stop, though, and promote your tour. However, the service should be doing this in parallel, so ultimately more people should get the word. Some services will create tour-specific graphics for you (buttons or banners) as an added benefit. Most include Facebook and Twitter promo as part of their package.

I should mention that some services offer “review-only” tours. This means that the hosts agree to read and post a review of your book on their blogs. I’ve never done thisit tends to be more expensive, plus I know from experience that the quality of many reviews tends to be poorbut this is one possible way to get your book read.

Remember when you’re considering a blog tour, you should factor in the cost of the prizes (if any) and your time, as well as the fees for any promotional services. I’d say that on average, a tour organized by a service will cost at least $100.

So, is it worth it? Do blog tours sell books? Alas, we’d like to know the answer to that question for every marketing activity, but it’s damnably difficult to get reliable information.

Personally, I use blog tours as a way to expand my email list. (I will personally invite people who comment whose names I don’t recognize to join; you should never add people without permission.) Also, it gets my work in front of new readers. I usually give away a free book at each stop (a short story formatted in PDF, with a cover), not just as an inducement, but also to increase the number of people who have actually read something by me. My hope is that they’ll like my writing, and want more.

At this point you may shrug and say to yourself, “What’s the point? You can’t tell if the tour is actually increasing sales. It’s a huge amount of work. It’s expensive. Why bother?”

Well, you can say the same thing about every kind of marketing. The hard truth, though, is that if you don’t market your books, nobody will read them. This has nothing to do with quality. It’s a matter of visibility. You have to make your audience aware that you, and your books, exist. That doesn’t guarantee sales by any means, but it’s a necessary precondition for sales.

You don’t have to market. You’re free to choose. However, you can’t complain about obscurity if you never try to shine the light of publicity on your writing.

As for me, I enjoy doing blog tours, despite the work. I know that I’m skilled at writing engaging posts, so this activity draws on my talents. I like meeting new authors (hosts) and new readers. I find the sort of interaction that occurs during a blog tour far more meaningful that “Likes” on Facebook or snippets shared on Twitter.

I’ve probably done at least ten tours over the years. I’m nowhere near a best seller. Perhaps you shouldn’t listen to my advice at all. However, if you have questions about the process, I’m more than happy to share my experience.


Monday, October 19, 2015

Sexy Snippets for October




Yeah, I know it's Monday, but look on the bright side. It's also Sexy Snippet Day!

This is your chance 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.

Enjoy!

~ Lisabet

Sunday, October 18, 2015

A Sex Book That May Actually Change Your Life (And It’s Not Fifty Shades of Grey)

by Donna George Storey

I’m fascinated by sex.

I think about it a lot and enjoy it in the flesh as much as is possible given the constraints of real life. I write about it for fun and sometimes profit. And I read about it whenever a book on the topic catches my eye, although I will admit I’m more selective in that area now because experience has shown that a lot of these volumes, whether in the guise of scientific analyses or guides to great orgasms, are the same old sexual tease that ultimately leaves a reader unsatisfied.

Fortunately this month I’d like to talk about a book I do recommend, Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life by Emily Nagoski, Ph.D. The book is not perfect, and I’ve noted a few reservations below. However, rather unusually, it did give me a fresh perspective on several key areas of my favorite topic. In other words, I’m glad I read it. This is by no means always the case.

Come As You Are has much to recommend it, but I’d like to focus on one topic that stands out as my personal take-away: the dual control model of sexual desire.

Nagoski makes an excellent point that “most of what our culture teaches us about women’s sexuality is Men’s Sexuality Lite—basically the same but not quite as good.” (p. 66) Thus, because Viagra provides men with a use-me-all-night woody which has revived the sex lives of millions of older men in particular, there should of course be a pill that will do the same for women (although I shudder to think of how a “horny pill for women” would be abused by frat boys among others). Nagoski argues that this pill is unlikely to be developed because sexual desire is not just about plumping up the genitals. Rather it operates under the aforementioned dual-control model. Humans have a sexual accelerator, or a Sexual Excitation System, that processes information and tells the genitals to “turn on.” But we also have a sexual brake, or Sexual Inhibition System, that notices all the potential threats in the environment (STI transmission, grandmother in the next room, doubts about potential partner) and sends signals to “turn off.” Each of us has a unique level of sensitivity in both our SES and SIS, and thus it is not surprising that due to cultural training as well as hormonal response, more men balance out with a stronger accelerator and more women have stronger brakes.

For me, the articulation of the dual model is less a new discovery than a confirmation of my own realization some decades ago that I need a transition period between real life and being ready for a hot time in bed. And now I understand that this period is when I ease up on my brake. Since I began writing erotica, I’ve found it much easier to make that transition because I have a go-to place in my head where I feel comfortable being erotic. In any case, being aware of this dynamic is important, and I believe it might help many couples who experience what the media characterizes as a desire gap, usually portrayed as the dynamic between an amorous, initiating man and a woman who is too tired from doing the double shift to be interested in anything but sleep.

Now I know this is a complex issue. Cases of women desiring sex more than their partners are doubtless under-reported, and there may be many reasons a partner of either gender might be less interested in sex--a relationship that is troubled out of bed as well, for example. But when we consider the dual control model, other ways to frame the situation are suddenly possible. First of all, turning off the brake is not as simple as whining, “Just relax!” which is a pathetically common prescription for any kind of sexual inhibition. Our brakes deserve attention and respect and Nagoski believes that desire issues are more likely to be solved by focusing on the SIS.

The accelerator-brake model also points out that the initiating partner has already stepped on the accelerator and turned off the brake, while the propositioned partner is starting at “ordinary life” settings. Thus it might be a tad unfair to label the latter as inferior in desire. Indeed in another sex book I read for historical reasons, What Really Happens in Bed: A Demystification of Sex by Steven Carter and Julia Sokol (1989) the authors found from their interviews that “men were no more thrilled by having women start tearing their pants off when they were trying to watch the evening news.”

Taking time to sympathetically ease up on that brake and create a comfortable context for sexual pleasure is well worth it. (Remember, “Just relax!” is not a sympathetic way to do this). Again this is where erotica—whether reading it alone or together or remembering favorite experiences or fantasies—can be helpful. Full confession: I mentioned Fifty Shades of Grey in my title because whenever I do, I get five times more reads than for other blog posts. But it is relevant because many husbands of the female readers of the book mentioned their wives were much more interested in sex with images of Christian and Ana in their heads. I’m sure all of us at ERWA hope our own books can be the portal to sexual bliss as well, but it is worth considering how erotica might work to ease us from the real world to Sex World.

The dual control model is but one of the thought-provoking points in Come As You Are including: the emotional context of sex, a sex-positive life in a sex-negative world, and the fact that lubrication and erections are not signs of desire but rather reflex reactions. However, I do have a couple of critiques of Nagoski’s book. Every time an intriguing issue is presented, it is briefly discussed, but then we are told we will hear more about this in chapter three and learn practical steps to deal with it in chapter ten (as an example). This happens over and over again. It might have been less frustrating to the reader to organize the book so that we can fully consider one issue in detail in one chapter. Or at the very least, give us the page numbers of the later discussion so we can create our own coherent consideration.

My other critique derives from a cultural convention that is certainly no fault of the author. Basically our society allows us to take on one of three personas when we talk about sex in published form.

First, we can be serious experts, either scientists who use jargon, statistics and studies or historians who’ve dispassionately combed through documents kept in the Private Case Erotica Collection in the British Library.

Or we can take on the surrogate lover persona, which is the role adopted by most eroticists and porn star experts, in that we speak of sex with the hope of, or at least no fear about, sexually arousing the reader.

Emily Nagoski consciously chooses the third option, which I’ll call “The Dr. Ruth” persona. That is, she has an accessible, accepting attitude toward sexuality expressed in a tone of relentlessly cheerful humor. Dr. Nagoski is the Director of Wellness Education at Smith College and thus it is her job to make young adults feel comfortable discussing their intimate sexual fears and concerns. In order to achieve this standing, however, the speaker must not be what our society considers “sexy.” Indeed her author’s photo shows a plump, bespectacled young woman whose smile promises caring friendship rather than seduction. Again this is less a criticism of Nagoski or Dr. Ruth and their upbeat, nonthreatening energy than an observation that in our society, sex is dangerous when it’s sexy and of course the intellect and sensuality must always be divided in a public presentation to keep us all safe. So, in spite of the “progress” that this book represents in its content, its formal conventions show that we still have a long way to go before our culture fully accepts that sexuality and sensuality exist in all of us.

That said, however, Come As You Are is a book on sexuality that is well worth reading, one of the few that does, for once, fulfill the promises on its cover.

Donna George Storey is the author of Amorous Woman and a collection of short stories, Mammoth Presents the Best of Donna George Storey. Learn more about her work at www.DonnaGeorgeStorey.com or http://www.facebook.com/DGSauthor

Thursday, October 15, 2015

What To Take In

The second time I thought about giving up writing, I was 16 years old. I had been thinking of myself as a writer for half my life, ever since the third grade, when I was in my first writing workshop. I carried that sense of self long after I left the writer’s workshop program in my elementary school. Until I took a summer writing workshop.

My fiction writing style at 16 was spare, short vignettes that packed a punch and were mostly dialogue. It may not surprise you that they were mostly about sex. Openly, clearly, about teenage girls having sex outside of romantic relationships. Often casual sex, with strangers, or in the context of connections that were purely sexual. They were not erotica, and they didn’t describe sex in detail, they just referred to casual sex as if it were a regular part of teenage life, and depicted the ways that sexual dynamics worked.

Of course, they made adults uncomfortable. In particular, they made my fiction writing teacher in that summer workshop uncomfortable. I can still see his face, when we met about the first story I turned in. It was about 3 pages double spaced, almost completely dialogue, depicting the negotiation of a sex date over the phone between a teenage girl and an older teenage boy. Any description was focused on illuminating the ambivalence of the girl during the negotiation.

My teacher very earnestly asked me to expand the story. He said that when reading it, he didn’t understand the choices that the characters were making, and wanted the story to show more of what was going on inside their heads. It sounds like a reasonable critique, doesn’t it? A request for deeper characterization, more illumination of the internal, those are all good things, right?

I spent the next 6 weeks rewriting that story for him, adding more and more and more. It never was enough. (How could it be?) By the end of that summer writing program, I had a draft of the story that was twenty pages long, and felt like I was a horrible writer. Those twenty pages, that he said were in the right direction but still hadn’t gotten there, didn’t feel like my writing. In my own judgment (what I had left of it after trying to internalize his for weeks), I couldn’t see how they were better than my original draft. The additions felt like they’d ruined the story, over-explained everything to death.

I was lucky enough to have relationships with writers, and later that summer, gathered my courage to show both versions of this story to a brilliant short story writer who was a good friend of my mother’s. She saw what was going on, almost immediately. She helped me to see that there is a power in not explaining things. It does something important. It can be a hugely valuable component to your story.

She helped me to understand that my teacher had been wrong. There was nothing deeply wrong with my original story (though of course it could use a bit of polishing and tightening, as most do). In fact, she thought it was actually pretty damn good, and the spareness of it was one of the beautiful things about it. What had been wrong, this whole time, was that the story made him uncomfortable.

The problem he had with my story wasn’t about the need for more characterization, or for deepening the reader’s insight into the context of this moment of negotiation. The problem was with the content of the story. In the late 80s perhaps in particular, it was scary to contemplate a teenage girl writing stories about teenagers having purely sexual relationships and casual sex with strangers, where love wasn’t in the picture. The content of the story freaked him out. But when he offered editing feedback, it came in this seemingly reasonable request: to explain.

Recently, I’ve had a lot more editing feedback than usual, from a range of sources. I’ve taken a couple writing workshops this year, gotten beta reader feedback on a short story collection and a novel in progress, and gone through an editing process for a collection that came out this month. There have been a number of moments when I’ve recalled this early experience. Because to receive editing feedback is to consider: What do I take in? What do I use?

One of my red flags in editing feedback is a request for more information, for explanation. While that summer writing workshop was my first experience with this sort of feedback, it was not the last. And I’ve found that often that request says more about the reader and their discomfort with the text, than it does about the actual text in question.

Let me give you some context. My queer kink erotica and erotic romance stories often center trans and genderqueer characters. They often center trauma survivors claiming their desire. My work is deeply influenced by my long history as a fat activist and frequently centers fat characters. My more recent work has been focused on centering disabled and sick characters. Moreover, my work is written specifically for queer kinky readers who are trans, genderqueer, fat, disabled, sick, and/or survivors.

These are insider stories, focused on bringing folks that are often marginalized, to the center of the story, as character, as framework, and as intended audience. Insider stories don’t often explain themselves, not about the basic everyday parts of life. Because they are written for folks who know those sorts of things already.

Reading insider stories can be deeply uncomfortable, if you are not on the inside. You don’t understand some of what is going on. The language being used by both characters and author may be unfamiliar or seem to have meanings that you don’t know. Folks like you may be perceived or discussed in ways that feel judgmental or incorrect. It may be difficult to picture the people or what they are doing, to see the places in your mind, or hear the voices. You don’t understand why the characters are making the choices they are making, their choices or thoughts or feelings don’t seem to make sense.

All of this difficulty parsing the story may be really disconcerting, especially if you are used to reading stories that center folks like you. It’s hard work, to read the stories, and you might assume that reading fiction shouldn’t feel like work, so therefore the writer must be doing something wrong. Accepting that you (and your knowledge, cultural context and framework) are not at the intended center of a story can be a pretty intense experience, especially if it is unfamiliar. The discomfort that it brings can often lead to a deep desire for more information, more explanation, more language that explains this to you, and centers your reading experience so that you understand.

In short, sometimes when we read insider stories, we want to change them so that we are the intended audience, because it’s too uncomfortable not to be.

Nisi Shawl is well known for her brilliant work on writing the Other, writing about folks that are different from you or different from the dominant paradigm. (That’s how she defines the Other, in the book she co-wrote, Writing the Other.) When we read insider stories, and we are not on the inside, but are used to being on the inside, we are often reading the Other. In Shawl’s essay on reviewing the Other, she says: 
“Reading the Other is rewarding work. Yet it is work. A lack of engagement, a push into unknown territories that encounters no resistance, is most likely a clue not that something is missing, but that something is being missed.”  (emphasis added)

That’s why it’s important to consider what you are taking in, in terms of feedback like this. Because the feedback may be more a sign that a reader has missed something important in your work, than a sign that something is missing from your story.

When I receive feedback requesting more details, more explanation, these are some of the questions I consider:
  • Where is this request coming from? Is this person part of my intended audience?
  • Are the areas in which they are asking for more explanation or details ones where a character is different from them, or related to the character’s experiences of marginalization or oppression?
  • Do they seem to be asking me to explain everyday common experiences in great detail?
  • Does it seem like the feedback is trying to shift the audience of the story?
Let me give you a specific example. One of my stories has a group BDSM scene where a superfat femme trans guy bottom is tied to a sling that is rated for his size and a bunch of disabled fat tops of varying genders and sizes on mobility scooters are circling him, poking him with their canes. One of the pieces of editing feedback I received about the story was that a particular reader could not picture this moment in the scene, and wanted more description, more explanation. The reader wanted me to help them see the action more clearly, because they could not picture how the people would look as they were moving.

On its face, that feedback might be quite useful. The scene might not be drawn as clearly as it needed to be, the characters might not be described as clearly as they needed to be. Certainly group scenes are a challenge, and it’s completely possible that things get lost.

But. Here’s the thing. I have been part of queer fat activist community for over two decades. When you hang out with and date disabled fat folks, you often see mobility scooters, likely more than one in a group. Imagining how a group of fat folks move on scooters is not a challenge for me, because I’ve seen it, many times. This story is an insider story, for fat activist queers, particularly for disabled fat activist queers. It intentionally does not make a big deal about how people move on scooters, because it’s a regular part of life for the intended audience.

It makes sense that it might be hard to picture, if you didn’t have that experience. And this reader did not, wasn’t coming from an insider experience in their read of the story. I would think differently if they had been, because they would be part of the intended audience. Instead, after careful consideration, I concluded that this particular reader was treating these characters as Other, and likely attempting to re-center the audience of the story to folks like them.

One way to spot this is within the questions themselves. Outsider questions often hone in on aspects of difference and make them more Other, so that they require explanation. They sound like: 
  • “Can you explain what that looks like?” 
  • “I don’t get why anyone would do that. You need to show us why she made that choice, because it doesn’t make sense,” 
  • “How does x work exactly? The story doesn’t make it clear.” 

Or sometimes they will speak from an expert place about an experience that they don’t know personally, telling you how Other a detail of the story is, or how it is factually wrong, like 
  • “I mean, I’m familiar with x, but I don’t think your readers will be, so you might want to explain that a little more,” 
  • “I can’t imagine that x group would ever do y. My friends who belong to x group are always careful not to do that.”

Now, I don’t want you to think I’m saying that all feedback asking for more detail or for clarification should be dismissed. That kind of feedback can be incredibly useful. I just urge you to consider where the feedback is coming from, and not to automatically take it in. Especially when you are writing insider stories.

Insider requests for more details about that moment in my story could sound something like: 
  • “I tried to picture me and my friends circling him on our scooters, and I was confused as to why there wasn’t a logjam, or how they cleared enough space in the dungeon that folks didn’t cross their path. Could you maybe give that more context, or maybe add a fumbling moment to make it more realistic?” 
  • “I wanted to get more of a visual sense from the bottom’s perspective of what they looked like as they passed. I know there were a lot of them, and he was mesmerized by the sound of the scooters, but I imagine he might also be entranced by a look in someone’s eye, or the way someone’s hair moved. I think those moments of desire from the bottom are super important when you are writing disabled tops. Could you add a few more details like that?”

These questions are quite different, and very much worth considering. 


Part of the litmus test for including more details could be: What would those details add to the story, and for whom? What would leaving out those details add to the story, and for whom? And, then to follow up those answers by considering: What do I care about here? What is my project? Who am I writing this for?