Someone posted a comment on my blog the other day asking how I go about submitting erotica for publication. I decided to answer the question in a post, since other readers might be interested and find the information useful.
When you’re writing within a clearly defined genre like erotica, as opposed to writing anything and everything and trying to break into mainstream markets, you have one definite advantage: this world is as small as a fish bowl, so once you jump into the water, you bump into the same fish over and over. Some of those fish are editors. Some are publishers. Every fish knows every other fish in the bowl, and can tell you who’s publishing what. Just be careful you don’t get eaten by a bigger fish! (I leave it to the reader to imagine what might constitute being eaten in this particular situation.)
When I first started writing pornography, there were no collections of stories about sex in the kitchen or sex on airplanes or ethnic sex or sex in the street. There was Hustler, Penthouse and their half-dozen monthlies, and publications with names like Jugs, called girlie magazines. It wasn’t much of a market, so when I wrote my first story, it was a no-brainer: I sent it to Penthouse. Within a few short years, though, the genre of women’s erotica was born. I saw a flyer in Good Vibrations calling for stories for Susie Bright’s first issue of Herotica, a pioneer in the movement. Anyone who reads or knows the slightest bit about women’s erotica knows that Susie Bright was and is at the center of this world, and once I became a part of that world I never really had to hustle again. That is, to get my sex writing published—this was not, unfortunately, true of my attempts to break into the mainstream women’s magazine market.
But that was 20 years ago. In the interim I’ve published dozens of erotic anthologies and hundreds of stories in other people’s collections. For a number of reasons, though, I’ve pretty much stopped—occasionally I rewrite an old story, or finish one that’s been languishing in my files to fit a themed anthology I might want to be in, but otherwise, my erotica career, such as it was, is over.
Back when I was teaching sex writing, Bill Brent and I put together a fairly exhaustive resource list to hand out to students, but by now it’s completely outdated. Because I’m not swimming around in the fish bowl anymore, I’m not up on the hottest and/or most lucrative places to publish. Much of the energy seems to have moved, like everything else, onto the Internet, with electronic books being a possibly decent money-maker for authors. These publishers are easy to find; just Google electronic erotica. You know how it works–you’ll soon be overwhelmed with links and links to links.
But the place that a wanna-be sex writer should go first is the Erotic Readers and Writers Association. Here you’ll find a whole community. Not only does the site post calls for submissions and ongoing publishers, it also sponsors forums and feedback exchanges, posts articles with writing and publishing tips, and even puts up some short work by members. Click every relevant link on the site. When you find a market or a call for submissions that appeals to you, or that covers a theme you like, go ahead and submit something. That’s really all there is to it.
Back in the day, pre-Internet, a writer did research by going to a library or bookstore to investigate who was publishing what. This is still a good method: to research erotica, go to Good Vibrations and look through their fiction department.
Eventually you’ll recognize the names of editors who put together collections, some who pump out one themed anthology after another. Just off the top of my head, Rachel Kramer Bussell and Alison Tyler each do several a year. Visit their websites, and get on their email lists.
It’s been easier for me to publish my sex fiction than any of my other writing. That may be, however, because the genre was in its infancy when I began, and editors were hungry for quality work. Also, writing sex comes naturally to me: the first time I tried it I discovered a part of me I hadn’t known existed. Actually, that’s not quite true: I knew I was an active fantasizer; what I didn’t know was that it was as easy for me to write my fantasies down as it was to keep them in my head.
Which leads me to a crucial and obvious point: you have to actually write a sex story before you can submit one for publication. If you haven’t yet tried to write erotica, but want to, you can always take a class; some are listed on the ERWA site.
From time to time I’ve been asked to look at people’s stories and provide feedback. I’m perfectly happy to do so as a professional; in other words, for a fee. Anyone interested in my editorial services can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.