A Country Girl Novel

Marketing and Selling a Self-Published Erotic Novel
July 11, 2011, 9:15 pm
Filed under: erotic novels, publishing | Tags: ,

Part 2

Niche market

Many avenues are closed to the erotic writer. Thus, the sex writer must tap the sex market. Although sex on the internet is a billion dollar business, the market for erotic writing is limited. Seen as a bad child, or not marketable in the mainstream print book world. And on the internet, writing can’t compete with video, resulting in a specialized audience who love to read. So we are back to the readers and the bookstore and not the mainstream seller. This wasn’t a problem in the Victorian era, or when Grove, Blue Moon, and Olympia Press were viable, but when they disappeared, so did the publishing potential for the erotic writer. 

Praise the internet!

Although this is a very bad time for new authors with publishers, who are completely inaccessible, and agents looking at the bottom line–dollars–the internet has suddenly levelled the playing field. Even the publishers are concerned and are joining the new technology. 

What lies ahead is a very innovative potential for marketing your book. You can compete when you are working with the curious, browsing masses if you are creative, intelligent, and have a compelling message. The internet has revolutionized the media and how we receive information. 

Viral marketing

Since erotica is niche marketing, how do I access my market? Online. Call it target viral marketing. This is an effective, no-cost way of creating your media list. Viral marketing (word of mouth) on the internet is a marketing phenomenon that facilitates and encourages people to pass along a marketing message. Viral marketing depends on an active and engaged audience and is enhanced by social networks, blogs, and You Tube videos. Email your friends and colleagues, and they will email their social networks if they are supporters. The outcome is immediate. Affiliate programs, free articles, and news releases are also examples of viral marketing. A news release or article can be picked up in the 100s of 1000s and reach a vast audience. 

Publishers Lunch

Publishers Lunch is an excellent resource for the publishing industry. Subscribe to their free daily newsletter. I had never heard of Publishers Lunch until an agent at a writers’ conference mentioned it as a daily essential read. Since then, they have been my continuing source of up-to-date information. From an ad in Publishers Lunch, I learned about Steve Harrison and his free teleseminars. Although Steve was pitching programs that I could never afford, I reasoned that he had to give some information to encourage subscribers. And I was right. I learned valuable strategies that were repeated in different programs. It’s up to you to do your homework, to listen to everyone, and ask questions because no one will tell you how to do it. You have to discover the way yourself. And it is a process of discovery. You will pursue a lot of dead ends. For me, it was the e-book. I was convinced that was the way to go. So I took out many library books, bought others, read them all, made copious notes, and then decided that this wasn’t for me. No money with e-book publishers, since the retail price is too low. If you’re going to do an e-book, do it yourself from your website. 

Reviews are vital.

Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and Midwest Book Review are a few. The Midwest Book Review gives priority consideration to small publishers and self-published books. ForeWord magazine reviews books from independent publishers, PODs, and e-Books. Only about 5% are selected. 

Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Book Reviews don’t review print-on-demand books or previously published books; however, Kirkus Discoveries will review your book for $400, and yes, they do review erotica. For free reviews, I searched the internet. Four erotica websites responded to my request for a review. 

Book reviews are good value. Use your reviews as promotion on your website and at bookstores. Create links from a good review to your own website. Even if the review is neutral or negative, you can usually find some positive quotes to use for your publicity. 

Cost options

  • Advertising (print and online)
  • Teleseminars, joint ventures
  • Writers’ conferences and workshops (rent space, flyers, and advertising)
  • Book fairs and the regional tradeshows–BookExpoAmerica (BEA), Combined BookExpo (CBE)
  • Sex tradeshows (for example, the Taboo show in Vancouver, BC)
  • Swingers’ conventions
  • Your book as a collectible signed by the author on eBay and Amazon  

For the fifth consecutive year, BookExpo America (BEA) is joining with New York based Combined BookExpo (CBE) to create the New Title Showcase. The cost per title is $265, considerably less than any POD publisher offers. Travel expenses are part of the book and trade fair cost. In the case of the book fairs, you can save travel costs by sending your book. If you live in New York City, attend the annual Independent and Small Press Book Fair in Manhattan—admission is free.  

Print advertising

Great cost for the New York Times Book Review and the New York Review of Books, and the consensus is that it takes at least three print ads to make a sale. This is not for the self-published author marketing one book. Take advantage of any free ads such as those offered by some writers’ groups for their members. If you do choose to advertise, your advertising may be more effective after reviews or an author tour. 

Online advertising is the same story. However, I chose two online ads and one print ad for my erotic novel—a 250 clicks Google ad with Xlibris (US$201), an online ad (AU$100) for one year at Adult Resources US that included a free review, and a print ad (CD$64) in The Writers’ Union of Canada newsletter distributed by subscription to individuals and libraries. 

The Google ad was wildly successful. Although I paid for 250 clicks, the clicks were overflowing, and Xlibris was not able to stop them in time. According to my Marketing Services Representative, “The keywords are highly relevant and the topic was very hot.” Instead of 250 clicks, my ad clicked 391 before it was stopped! However, whether clicks translated to sales, I have no way of knowing. 

The e-book would be my last resource, only if all else fails. Xlibris used to offer an e-book option, but no longer (they do now), since e-books didn’t sell, particularly fiction. Non-fiction sells more in all media. 

Publication date as a marketing tool is big with e-book authors who are selling their book as a marketing tool for their workshops, newsletters, and coaching. Their e-book and many free bonuses are what lure the web browser to buy the big price tickets of conventions, workshops, and coaching. This model works for non-fiction, but not fiction, and certainly not for the erotic novel. After all, I’m not going to give away free dildos or a discount on my non-existent workshop “Discovering the G-spot.” 

I returned to my previous success, the print book, and became convinced that if I could get my book on the bookstore shelves, the browsing reader would buy, as they had done before, over 64,000 times. But I would use the internet for marketing, not print media, which is too expensive for its questionable return.

Marketing and Selling a Self-Published Erotic Novel was originally published in the March 2009 edition of the Erotica Readers & Writers Association.

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