Cogito Ergo Unsum

I’ve gotten a small wee teeny-tiny glimpse into an entire genre of fiction I never even knew existed: romantic erotic fiction (different than this). There are many writers doing this. Some of them are even making money selling eBooks. There seems to be an entire blogdom devoted to this genre, with blogs that cover the genre as well as blogs from individual writers.

It’s not the kind of thing I’d read. I have no interest, for example, in fantasy books (despite the fact I think Patricia McKillip is one of the best writers of it and I love her writing, but I can’t stop the fantasy elements from annoying me) and I rarely read SF now, either.

So all of my comments are from the point of view of the outsider.

Writer Ann Somerville left a Comment at this blog. I went to her blog and came across two posts: this one and this one.

The subject being one I addressed — again — in fury last night: Writers: Just Effing SAY It!

This being the Internet, I quickly went from link to link. Yeesh.

I came across a post by a publisher musing about the behavior of writers (and an infamous “morality clause” that’s been inserted into contracts by one British dying dinosaur of print publisher).

I also came across a really bizarre post that seems to hold publishers responsible in a sleazy guilt-by-association way for the behavior of its writers. (But it also makes an on-target point about how ePublishers must have websites that inspire transactional confidence in potential buyers.)

And there were many other links that referenced past battles that have erupted in this writing culture.

But there was one post that lit the bulb over my dim head and put it all in perspective: The Erotic Romance & Epublisher Comparison blog (EREC) takes a look at publishers’ sales figures.

Here is the problem:

The “average” in question is an arithmetic mean. So the average EC book is selling 796 books a year. I thought that was fairly clear but I live and learn. Whether that is enough for any given author is up to them once the info is made available.

And here’s an explanation of the figures for ebooks out for a year or more from another reader:

EREC has received information on sales for 24 seperate EC titles.

Averaging out those sales for the 24 books (total number of all 24 titles sold divided by 24) equals, on average, an EC book sells 1206 copies in its first year.

That’s not a market. It’s a club!

I’m not disparaging it. I think it’s great that writers have paying readers for their work. It underlines the point I made here and which I repeated here.

I call it a club because the number of readers is so small that everyone is bound to know everyone else. It’s like a stifling small town in the midwest that intelligent young people grow up in, finally take a real look at, and then flee.

I think its writers must flee.

For those toiling in that field, take a look at this: Sony eBook Store: A $2.38 eBook!.

I bring up that point because sales on the Sony eBook Store are one way to go beyond the boundaries of a small town/club. Looking at its bestseller list illustrates that the audience isn’t genre-heavy, but brick and mortar general bookstore-like. (Let me pre-empt one future Comment: Yes, I see the ePublisher. Yes, I see it’s a member of The Club. Still: it’s the Sony eBook Store.)

Flee. Get creative about marketing yourself and your work to places other than the expected. I first heard about William Gibson’s Neuromancer — shortly after its publication — not from SF addicts, but from people who consulted in the technology field. And these people were not SF addicts (and, for a litmus test, regarded Star Trek as just another TV show; blasphemy, I know!).

There has to come a point in every life where an assessment is made of present surroundings and a decision has to be made: Do I continue to wallow here or do I get the hell out and take my chances?

Take your chances!

All of you must live near radio stations or TV stations or newspapers. Have any of you sent out press releases to them? Positioned yourself as any sort of authority on topics they might cover (cheating spouses — hey, I know about that! fantasy lovers — ditto! Sex on the Internet — have I got tales to share!)? You must find a microphone outside of the The Club. It’s the only way to attract readers and the only way to tell the moralistic groupies to go Fuck Off.

Let me tell you: This is work. Hard work. But every writer has to reach a point between books, when writing isn’t being done. Or even burnout. Or the frightening writer’s block. There is time to do This Hard Work.

It’s a decision every writer who wants a career is going to have to make.

For all those writers out there feeling the press of a bluenose’s thumb, make the decision to get out from under.

Your life is your life. Don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.

— Charles Bukowski

(Note: Writer Zoe Winters might disagree with some of the above.)

(Further note: Erotic fiction writer Mitzi Szereto went before a bigger microphone. Scroll down for MP3 of radio interview.)

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