Self-publishing options for erotica authors

As an author, I am all-indie: I do my own cover art, editing, formatting, and self-publishing (in addition to the writing, of course!) Admittedly, I have not been brave enough to dip my toes into the dark, whirling seas of traditional publishing. Reaching out to agents and big publishing houses makes me feel, mostly, depressed. (As an aside, I did go the traditional route for an earlier, non-erotica book of mine… Got encouraging feedback from several agents after they read through it, but none of them wanted to take it on in that huge and heartless world of brand-name publishing. It was a story I believed needed to be told, so I self-published anyway!)

Being an erotica author has many perks, but visibility and mainstream publishing are not among them. That said, it has been fun to sleep around – in a manner of speaking – with the different attractive self-publishing services out there. Now I am far from promiscuous with my publishing; surely there are many other fine venues to distribute your work. However, I’m currently working with three. So here I thought I would offer you my insight into how my experience has been with each of them.

Amazon

Ah, the little hometown book business that has somehow morphed into a global megamarket of STUFF-SELLING! Now I like Amazon for a variety of totally silly reasons; not least of which is that they employ about half the population of my city. However, they also offer some serious benefits to authors.

  • Pros:
    • Super easy eBook publishing option with KDP. The cover creator tool can make your bland little photo look all arted up, like a professionally designed book cover. They help with formatting and proofreading to transform your manuscript into an honest-to-goodness Kindle eBook.
      • And all of that is free, of course.
    • Everybody uses Amazon. Like, everybody, all around the world. If you publish with Amazon you have instant access to their huge global market.
      • It’s easy to leave reviews, which encourages readers to respond to your work. Whether or not they bought it at Amazon, anybody can rate & review it.
        • Handy for when you give out advanced reading copies, people buy paperbacks, or shop through another online retailer, etc.
    • They keep it professional by tracking sales and keeping a record of all transactions.
      • You also get paid on a regular basis. Sure, it may be only a couple of cents (particularly with international sales, unless you happen to be a huge hit in, like, Japan or somewhere. You never know.) Still feels good to see those little deposits every month.
        • Oh, and you can get paid straight into your bank account. Very secure – it’s Amazon; they’re on it – and no middlemen to deal with. (Yes, I’m talking about you, Paypal).
    • Your author page is a built-in feature, that you can easily customize as you wish. Great way to get your work displayed in one attractive place; you can also add a link to your blog posts so readers can stay connected.
    • This is a big one: Amazon makes it easy to produce a beautiful print version of your book. Createspace offers structured guidance throughout the process, from formatting to cover creation, to proof review and sales. For those who love the feeling of a paper book in their hands, you can’t go wrong here. (And, besides ordering prints and shipping, Createspace is also free).
  • Cons:
    • Amazon is huge. Your book is one of millions. Unless you are super good at the keywords game – or you have a secret fan base – your book baby will pretty much be swimming in a crowded sea. Like those little infant jellyfish, where so many are produced it doesn’t matter how many get eaten by plankton so long as a couple hundred grow up to complete the cycle. Basically, chances of your book standing out among ALL the others are, frankly, small.
      • Keep in mind that your indie book will be in direct competition with all the traditionally published stuff out there. You know, New York Times bestsellers and the like. Competition is stiff and brutal. As usual, money does most of the talking…
    • Authors don’t have much control over pricing. $0.99 is the minimum; I do not believe you can set your book to perma-free on Amazon. (If any fellow authors out there know how, please enlighten me!) And that’ll only get you 35% royalty. To get 70% royalty your book must be $2.99 or more.
      • Huge preference is given to books that are published exclusively with KDP. Called KDP Select, this system offers subscribers the chance to read as much as they like during the month, for one block payment. The author gets a couple cents (CORRECTION: half a cent) for each page read. So, not a bad system overall. The catch is your book must be published exclusively with Amazon in order to benefit. Super-strict monogamy; the jealous-lover vibe doesn’t jive with my wild side.
      • You can only do free promotions for your book if you are a KDP member. And even then it is limited to a maximum of 5 days her KDP enrollment period (about 3 months).
    • And here’s the really bad news: Amazon censors smut. Yet, anything considered too exciting – say, a female nipple, ass cheeks, or even underboob; or catchwords like “breeding,” “cum,” and god-knows-what-else – will get your book placed solidly in the Adult Dungeon. This is basically a no-search zone. Your book will exist, but no one can really find it unless they have a direct link there (or happen upon your Amazon author page and browse your full body of work). Yeah, the adult dungeon is a bad place to be. Lots of perfectly good erotica ends up there. It’s sad.
      • I hate censorship. It’s against my American principles. Free ALL THE NIPPLES!

Smashwords

I have a fond place in my heart for Smashwords. They were the second place I began distributing my work, and I appreciate their independent, creative spirit. Also they are erotica-friendly. Lotsa good smut on Smashwords! (Still need to cover up the nipples, alas. But at least you can wear a thong…)

  • Pros:
    • Smashwords distributes to several well-known online retailers. At last check, that includes Barnes&Noble, iBooks, and a couple others. This gets your book distribution on a wider scale than simply through Smashwords alone. (Still most of my sales come from Smashwords, straight up.)
    • You, as the author, have pretty much all the control. By this I mean you can set your price – or not – however you like. Smashwords has pricing flexibility, and all get you more or less the same royalty percentage. And you – the author – get the lion’s share. This means:
      • You can offer promotions whenever you want (either by creating a coupon to share with folks, who then can buy your book for free or a discounted price).
      • You can set your book to free, or let the reader set the price – attractive options to get your work out there into readers’ hands.
      • Smashwords is helpful and clear when it comes to recording sales and keeping track of earnings.
    • Smashwords has its own program for converting your MS Word document into several marketable formats. Yes, you have to follow their formatting guidelines, but these are not too difficult. Mostly, the conversion quality is correct, though you have to keep an eye on it. It’s a real help to those who aren’t comfortable doing their own file formatting & conversion.
    • Much less censorship with Smashwords. You still need to keep some things under wraps – I was told that third party retailers, such as Barnes&Noble, won’t accept “nipples, bare buns, or floppy bits,” but almost everything else goes. Also much more flexibility in your wording options, grossly offensive profanity aside.
    • Smashwords is exclusively a publisher of indie books. So, your indie creation is safely among its peers, where it can stand out as the superb piece of writing (or piece of crap, depending) that it is. It’s comparing apples to apples, instead of apples to kumquats, if you will. At least you aren’t competing with the big boys.
  • Cons:
    • You have to provide your own completed cover, ready to upload. Sorry, no help from Smashwords there. BYOA – Bring Your Own Art.
    • Smashwords pays only once a quarter (about every 3 months). You only get payments transferred if they are over $10. Also, it is paid into a Paypal account, which is less convenient than direct transfer to your bank. This is fine, but can be annoying if you don’t use Paypal usually and keep forgetting your password.
    • Most of the people who shop at Smashwords also publish on Smashwords. Keeps your work circulating around fellow indie authors, but I don’t know how many everyday folks really go eBook shopping there. This kind of limits your market. Though, it can be a great way to connect with fellow indie authors.
      • This makes getting/leaving reviews difficult. People can only rate & review if they bought your book through Smashwords directly. Lame.
    • Although you can download several different versions, it does not communicate directly with a Kindle. So if you have one of those it will require the middleman intervention of another program (like Calibre – an excellent free resource) if you want to transfer files around.

All Romance eBooks (sad note: as of January 2017, ARe is no longer in business. I leave my review anyway, for the sake of reflection.)

Man, am I glad I stumbled across this one! A large online market exclusively for romance and erotica eBooks. In other words, exactly the place to go for any number of steamy reads. If you’re in the market for eBook love, this is the place to go!

  • Pros:
    • They sell only romance and erotica. So, your readership is pre-selected; people know what they’re shopping for at ARe! (And they expect to get it.)
    • Also a collection of all-indie authors, so your book is in good company.
    • You have tons of control over your book’s features. This includes:
      • What format it is offered in (up to 10 different formats available, but you choose the ones you want to provide)
      • Cover art (Nudity is allowed! AT LAST!)
      • Pricing (anything from $0.00 on up; also it is easy to change pricing at any time.)
        • I give away a LOT of my free work on ARe. It’s a great place to get visibility in that respect.
      • Fixed-duration discounts are also super-easy to set up. People love to snag freebies when they’re offered!
      • Excerpt from your book, to entice readers in.
        • It can be explicit. Yay!
        • You also can include multiple product tags. Readers can contribute tags, too, making a rich collection of links to your work.
    • Readers who purchase can have their romance eBook sent directly to their Kindle email. Convenient for Kindle readers – like me – who do not shop exclusively at Amazon. One less middleman to deal with!
  • Cons:
    • No formatting help here, folks. You must provide your own, ready-to-go eBook documents in whichever formats you want to distribute. (Once again, Calibre is a tool to use in order to make this happen; there are others, too, but I am very satisfied with Calibre!)
      • Same goes for cover art. You have to get it ready, and it must be submitted in a very specific size (200 x 300 pixels). Bit of a pain.
      • In fact, their whole file submission process is a bit of a pain. Lots of weird rules like no spaces or symbols in the file name; weird system of uploading; annoyance when stuff is inexplicably lost and you have to start over. It takes patience, cursing, and lots of wine to make it happen.
    • You only get paid once a quarter (every 3-ish months, as I said), and only through PayPal. Also they take $1 for every deposit. Minimal handling fee, whatever, but it’s still there!
      • Actually, I’m not sure what royalty I get from them… definitely have been paid, but what percentage? Dunno. It does, however, give a breakdown of sales for any given period, and describes how much goes to you, the author, for that amount of time. Kind of hard to get a big-picture overview of sales, though.
    • It is a relatively small market.
      • That said, I tend to make a lot more sales on ARe than either Smashwords or Amazon. This, I think, is because it’s already targeted to romance & erotica readers. So, it is definitely a good venue to distribute my work!

Well, folks, that’s my insight! I hope it may be helpful for some of you other hardworking indie authors out there. Don’t give up! Keep on writing, and remember why you’re doing it: for love, not money. 🙂

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13 thoughts on “Self-publishing options for erotica authors

  1. First, thanks for the excellent info. Second, one slight adjustment. Sadly, Amazon only pays out less than half a cent per page read, not two cents. It varies every month, too. I may try your last option cited. So far I’m exclusively on Amazon.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I know… half a cent! I must have a goodly number of fans, though, because my page count is in the thousands for last month, and my books are only around 30 pages. I don’t blame them for using KENP. A monthly payment and read all the books you want. That would be a good deal for everyone except the authors! I don’t blame them. I just wish I’d get the full amount if all the pages of the book was read. Oh well.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. You’ve provided a lot of detail with the various publishing platforms. Very helpful for the beginning indie writers out there. I’ve published on Amazon and Smashwords, but haven’t tried All Romance. I’ll have to check out their site. Thanks for the info!

    Liked by 1 person

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