A Country Girl Novel

Marketing and Selling a Self-Published Erotic Novel
August 29, 2011, 4:17 am
Filed under: erotic novels, publishing | Tags: ,

Part 3


Call the booksellers and ask to speak to the manager. Make a short dynamic pitch. Give the bookstore manager a compelling reason to order your book. Timely, newsworthy, unique perspective, anything that says your book is different. This is where your telephone pitch must be smooth, short, to the point, and conversational to keep the manager listening. 

Mention that you have a returnability policy through one of the distributors such as Ingram or Baker and Taylor. This is an essential cost, and one ad-on from your POD publisher that you must have, since without the option to return unsold copies, bookstores will not stock your self-published book. Orders will be placed only by customer request, or you can place your book in bookstores on consignment. This is a no-money proposition, since the 60/40 split (author/bookseller) results in $2 less than what I paid for my book, including shipping. It works as a teaser–if your book sells, then the bookseller will order additional copies. Build the demand and the bookstores will order. 

The returnability policy is the only essential add-on in my opinion–all the rest you can do for less money and greater flexibility. And if you are a good writer, your marketing materials will be better written. If the manager shows an interest, ask for his or her email so that you can send your press release and any good reviews. 

Make friends with your local book store manager. Your success depends on the relationships you build with people who can facilitate bringing your book to the market. In my experience, phone calls to managers of independent and chain booksellers have been overwhelmingly positive. In a short time, I received over 60 orders and as many “we’ll look into it.” All the managers were friendly, even those not ordering. 

Bookstores have been my most direct and satisfactory marketing tool. I talk to real people who say yes, or no that they will order my book for their store. Bookstores are better than book fairs and conventions or any other single sale. Your book on the shelf when sold will be reordered. Help the stores (independents and chains) to sell your book. Arrange book signings locally. 

What about subsidiary rights such as book clubs, audio, and foreign rights?

Foreign trade sales beware–not going there after reading how one can end up having no control of your book in a foreign country. No way to track sales, and in fact once you send them your files, you may never hear from them again. Never sign a contract for foreign sales without a literary agent or lawyer to review the contract. 

Responses vary. I had no response from book clubs, including those specializing in erotica. I had an immediate response from Brilliant Audio. However, they do not publish erotica on audio, and even if they did, the cost was prohibitive. 

Write your own promotional materials.

Press release, sell sheet, press kit, synopsis for website, pitch to bookstore managers, articles, presentation to writers’ groups, sample interview questions for radio and TV. Be prepared. 

Although necessary, press releases aren’t the best way to advertise since the media is looking for a great story, hook, or sound bite. You need to know how to work with the media—how to promote ideas. Why would they be interested in you and your book? 

Another way is to be newsworthy, which means to be unique. I had such an opportunity. I wanted to display my erotic novel at the trade fair of one of the largest writers’ conventions in North America. When I inquired if my erotic novel would be acceptable (never thinking that it wouldn’t), I was informed by the trade fair organizer who had no objection to my book that the school board, who sponsored the convention, does not sell erotica, and my book would have closed the fair. What a scandal! I would have become instantly notorious, resulting in enormous public attention, controversy, and sales!  

All this research, in person and on the internet, builds your email list. These are the people that you will be sending your press release to. Your press release should give the book cover, book summary, author bio, publisher, ISBN, price, publication date, and your contact (website). For your friends, i.e., those receptive to erotica, just give your website where they’ll find all that information anyway. 

What about lists? POD publishers encourage the author to purchase lists, but according to David Cole, author of The Complete Guide to Book Marketing, they are best avoided since the response rate is too small to make money. Search the web and build your list.  From my search, I discovered the Erotica Readers & Writers Association, Babeland, Romantic.com, selfgrowth.com, and dozens of other sites from magazines to blogs, newsletters, luxury fashion boutiques, and sex stores. Look into affiliates, although you would need a lot of traffic to make any money. 

You don’t need an expensive marketing package such as offered by the self-publishers. Any comparison study will show that you can reach the same audience at a fraction of the cost. You can have your novel represented at the tradeshows, place print ads, and send out press releases without breaking the bank. 

Always remind yourself of your goal. Obviously, to sell your novel! This means all possible effort. Back to networking rule number one–show up! Show up to launches, writers’ conferences, tradeshows, and bookstores. Show up on the net by writing articles at top article directories, such as articles.com, ezine, selfgrowth, and any erotica/romance friendly websites. 

You are in charge!

Like it or not, it’s all up to you. Be prepared to work tirelessly, and never give up. Consider marketing as an ongoing information process. It is not a one shot. Your book is always in print and you are always marketing. Always ask yourself how do I connect with my reader? And be prepared to have a lot of good ideas that go nowhere. As David Cole says in The Complete Guide to Book Marketing, “you need to think through a strategy that maximizes exposure to your target audience.” 

Do whatever works for you, and when you find what works, keep doing it. Fact is that with all your marketing efforts, you might sell a few hundred or maybe a few thousand books. If you market your book at writers’ conventions, book signings or workshops, you can expect a steady, small return. You never know where this marketing will take you, but have fun with it, learn new things, and you might just be surprised and get lucky. 


Have my efforts been worthwhile? Absolutely! Without these efforts, there would be no sales of my self-published book. To date, I’ve sold 90 copies over four months as a result of my marketing efforts (phone calls to bookstores, Google ad, website, press release, and articles). My calls to bookstores were during a two-month period. Since I have hundreds of bookstores (chains and independents) in the US and Canada to call–my monthly long distance rate is $17 for unlimited time any time–I anticipate more sales and reorders. 

I will be signing books inVancouver, Seattle, Boston, New York City, and Orleans MA on Cape Cod. Also, I will be attending the Seattle Erotic Art Festival (my novel will be in their bookstore) and visiting the Museum of Sex bookstore in New York City. 


 We all dream that our books will sell and be read. Maybe we’ll be lucky because luck does play a part in success. But let us remember why we are writers and to continue in the pursuit of our craft no matter what the outcome. And that means giving the time and care to seeing that our book finds readers. Marketing is a necessary part of the creative process unless one sees writing as self-indulgence and not as communication. Marketing gives voice to the written word. Never cease promoting your book. In my marketing, I’ve pursued many dead ends, or better said, non-responses, but I’ve also had many “hits.” One example is how after many refusals and persistent negotiating on my part, my book was finally entered into the data base of a large bookstore chain. This meant that local bookstores could order my book for a book signing instead of on consignment at a loss to me.  

What is a winning strategy? Have a well-researched marketing plan and stick to it. Be serious about it, but be prepared for blocks, dead ends, and frustration. Believe in your book and yourself; think creatively, and never give up!  


Kremer, John. 1001 Ways to Market Your Books. Fairfield, IA: Open Horizons, 2006.

Cole, David. The Complete Guide to Book Marketing. New York, NY: Allworth Press, 2003. [Cole’s book has a comprehensive list of resources after the text]

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

About the Author: Jeanne Ainslie (BSc Hons, MSc) is a published author and experienced editor. Her first novel Angela, published by Dell in 1975, sold over 61,000 copies. A Country Girl, published by Blue Moon in 2005 is the sequel to Angela and sold out its 3000 printing in less than six months. To bring A Country Girl back into print, she published with Xlibris in August 2008 (ISBN: 978-1-4363-3179-1). Available at www.acountrygirl.com, Xlibris, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Indigo/Chapters, and independent bookstores.



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