BAM! 3 new releases out today!

Yes! The day has come! If you pre-orderd, you are now no doubt enjoying (at least, I hope you’re enjoying it!) one of my brand new, just-released, fresh-off-the-press erotica stories. Two fairy tales and one sort of sexual travelogue… yeah, I’m a bit all over the place these days. But I’m happy with the result.

Now, if you DIDN’T pre-order, you’re still good, because today’s the day they’re all three on sale at our favorite little small-town bookshop, Amazon.com. I think Senegal Beach and The Seal Wife are some of my best work yet…. and Little Big Man & The Rani makes me laugh. (And we all know laughing is sexy!) If you’re curious — and you know you are — check them out!

Senegal Beach — a young Peace Corps volunteer confronts her prejudices. Culture shock can be sexy!

The Seal Wife — a lonely Irish fisherman, a legendary creature; an erotic fairy tale tragedy.

Little Big Man & The Rani — doomed to death if she does not spin straw into gold, Shivangi is willing to bargain with everything she has…

Foam on the Sea

I’m on a fairy tale kick lately. It has long been my goal to reimagine some of my favorite old stories in new (and sexier) ways, and to that end I’ve got lots of ideas scribbled down. Two of those ideas actually evolved into complete stories — available for pre-order now, to be released on June 30th.

The first one I want to share is a blending of Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Little Mermaid’ (yes, the depressing version, where after her deal with the witch the poor mermaid’s every step feels like a thousand knives, the prince dumps her, and her dead body disintegrates into foam on the sea… Scandinavians aren’t known for their happy endings!) and the Celtic legend of selkies, or seal-people.

I really got sucked into this story. It was a fun challenge to imagine this kind of magical creature, all woman on the outside, but somehow animal within. Selkies had the reputation of being excellent wives and mothers, but they always long for the sea. If they find the hiding place of their stolen sealskin, the selkie will not hesitate to snatch it back and return to the waves from whence she came. It’s such a sad and beautiful legend… the perfect match for our Little Mermaid of sea-foam fame.

If you’re curious, pre-order today! I think you won’t regret it. 🙂

selkie cover DONE

Flirting with Amazon: diving back into KU

Like many indie authors, I have a love/hate relationship with Amazon. Besides the fact that it employs about half of my hometown — resulting in a Seattle housing boom and shocking real estate prices, I might add — Amazon makes almost every book in the world available to anyone. You have to admit, that’s really great. In addition, Amazon has made it possible for independent authors to publish their books at no cost, unlike most “vanity publishers” who continue to ask hundreds of dollars for the same service. Without it, readers in Great Britain or France or India (all of which have bought my books) would never even know my work existed. My first book was published through Amazon CreateSpace, and honestly, I never looked back.

So, yes, I’m grateful to Amazon. And I will continue to go there first when looking to publish my work. But the trick to Amazon is the exclusivity issue. To benefit from KU (Kindle Unlimited), and have access to author-driven promotions like book giveaways and price reductions, an author must agree to make their book available through Amazon alone.

flowers-working-cover
Flowers for the Ancients — now on KU!

For a while, I didn’t like this. It didn’t seem like a good deal; Amazon is so full of books and information, my work was easily lost among millions of others. Not many readers seemed to be using the KENP feature, which pays per page read by subscribers. So, I branched out. I used Smashwords and AllRomace eBooks – both of which I also appreciated for their more open-minded view of erotica. No adult dungeoning. That place is not as fun as it sounds.

However, again and again I’ve been forced to admit that, despite diversifying, most of my sales still come from Amazon. In which case, it seems silly not to take advantage of their KU program. So, basically, I’m back in. Not all of my work is KU; I picked the stories that sold mostly there, and kept the others up on Smashwords & ARe.

Amazons Equal ebook Cover
An Amazon’s Equal, back on KU!

Also, don’t forget that I offer two short stories for free on any platform, Amazon included! (How did I get Amazon to offer them for free? Price matching. Read this Smashwords blog post for instructions on how to do it.)

Grab One Night To Tango and Taking the Reins as freebies, then go on and check out all my KU books on Fionna Guillaume’s Amazon author page.

Now That’s Hot: new erotic romance release!

I don’t think I want to go into town today,” Maggie said as she and Bobby lingered over an al fresco breakfast.  “I don’t even think I want to get dressed today.”  She smiled lazily and reached her arms over her head in a stretch that pushed her bare breasts front and center.

Bobby rewarded her with his lopsided grin as his cock offered an enthusiastic salute.  “Okay by me.  Hell, we can go naked all weekend if you want.”

The truth was that since they’d gone below deck the previous night, neither of them had bothered with clothes.  They’d fucked hard in a heated, feral sort of way, come back on deck to drink more wine, then headed back to the master cabin to make love more slowly the second time.  The third time, they’d faced each other on their sides, joined intimately, each leaning back to watch as his cock speared in and out of her slick pussy.  Across the breakfast table, he watched a sated smile cross her face, and he knew she was reliving last night as well.

“Of course, the folks in town might have something to say if we show up tomorrow in the buff,” he mused.

“We’re definitely going in to town tomorrow?”

Bobby nodded.  “It’s your birthday, cher.  There are reservations to keep.”

“Oh,” she said, grinning like a little girl.  “Well, let’s have naked Friday, then.”

He raised his glass of orange juice.  “By proclamation of the birthday girl, it is hereby so ordered that today shall be known as Naked Friday!”  Maggie touched her glass to his and they both laughed.  “How about we sail to a reef a few miles out, and we spend the day snorkeling?”

“That sounds perfect,” she said.

The first place they stopped had a few boats nearby so Bobby sailed to another reef a bit further out, and they found the privacy they wanted.  They anchored just off the reef and lowered the transom to create a dive platform complete with a ladder into the water.  Maggie and Bobby snorkeled for hours, delighting in scores of tropical fish, large sea turtles, and even a few sharks.

As the sun sank lower in the western sky, Bobby clung to the ladder.  “Maybe we should make our way back toward Key West,” he said, placing his snorkel gear on the platform.

“I’m not quite ready yet,” Maggie answered.  She swam up to the platform and put her own gear there, then swished backwards, treading water a few feet away.  Her breasts floated near the top of the water and she gave him a wicked smile.

“Not quite ready?” he asked, arching an eyebrow.  “Did we forget something?

“I didn’t forget,” she said as she swam to him and gripped his shoulders.

Bobby continued to hold the ladder with one hand, wrapping his other arm around her waist and pulling her to him.  Her lips found his and latched on as her legs wrapped around his waist.  “I want you right here, bayou boy,” she murmured against his cheek.

“Then you should take me, cher,” he growled as he devoured her lips.  She reached between them to position his hard cock at her entrance and leaned back to look into his eyes.  Slowly she tightened her legs around his body pulling him firmly into her tight pussy, her gaze never leaving his.

“You are so sexy,” he murmured as he pumped in and out of her sex, feeling his climax building.  She tightened around him and moaned as her head dropped back.  “Come on cher, let it go,” he urged softly.  As she cried out, his own release came as well, and after, they clung to each other trying to regain their breath.

*

Pretty freaking hot, right? And that’s just one steamy excerpt from (fellow ASPA author) Pandora Spocks! She just released the third and final novel of her contemporary erotica series, Rannigan’s Redemption. Haven’t read any of them yet? Well, you’re in luck, because with the release of Ransoming Redemption, you can read them all one after another!

Now, Ms. Sprredemption photoocks writes the kind of erotica I love: smart, sexy, sophisticated romance. Smut for people who also like to think. Because, as we all know well, our brains are the most erogenous zone in our bodies. If that sounds good to you – and you know it does! – skip on over and pick up this delicious trio. I certainly plan to!

Want to know more? Take a look at Pandora Spocks website & blog.

Or her Amazon author page!

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. 🙂

Raising the Writing Bar

One thing about eBooks is they’re relatively cheap, enabling one to read a greater volume of books for one’s proverbial dollar. (Or rather, the proverbial $2.99) This I have rediscovered while enjoying the amazing selection on Smashwords – all sorts of fun genres, which I am setting myself to read and honestly review. (Being a naturally positive person, I haven’t yet left anything less than 3 stars, which I think is the bare minimum of respect for someone’s hard work.) However, reading work from a variety of authors, both self-published and traditionally published, has reminded me that writing is truly a craft. No matter how interesting your concept, how engaging the characters, or how dirty your erotic fantasy, you have to write well!

What this means to me is an author must, first and foremost, be a writer. There is no excuse for lazy writing. If it sounds like the story you wrote in high school, I guarantee you it is bad. If you find yourself reusing the same words or sentence structure, it is also bad. And please, please don’t end every sentence in a preposition. I could go on, but there’s really no need to. (Curious about how to write and edit well? Check out these fabulous guidelines from eXcessica! They also publish hot erotica. Worth a visit!) Basically I feel frustration as a reader when I find great ideas – and published stories – that are not good writing. It bums me out.

Here’s the deal: self-publishing is a rather arrogant business. In this world, you’d better be able to walk your talk. That includes knowing how to write well. Join writers’ groups. Read your work out loud. Take a creative writing class. There are plenty of possibilities. Just have full confidence that you are a writer, before you decide to be a published author.

Of course, the absolute best way to get better at writing is to read. And don’t read crap; read great writing. (Having chugged through more than my fair share of New York Times bestsellers, I can say that generally speaking, these are not the world’s best writing. With a few notable exceptions, of course. Mostly, leave those on the shelf.) Go in search of authors known for their craft. Study it; read as a writer – take note of perfect turns of phrase, masterful characterizations, story structure. Write these down somewhere, so you can be reminded. Compare your work to that of these masters, and be honest with yourself. The best writers are voracious readers, and they read excellent books. I love finding unknown authors, rediscovering treasured classics, and losing myself in a perfectly written page. Reading books like these makes me a better writer.

Long ago (like, when I was a teenager; THAT long ago) I went to a talk by one of my favorite YA authors, Tamora Pierce. She had lots of great advice for me. (Read more of it here, on my previous post about keeping your day job) My friend loved her first series, the Alanna books, the best, so she eagerly listened to Tamara’s response to someone’s question: “Which is your favorite book that you wrote?” Tamara quite ruthlessly said her favorite book is always the one most recently published, thus crushing my friend’s hopes. However, Tamara went on to explain that she always preferred her latest book because she is constantly working to improve her craft. Each new book represents years of hard work, grueling days of editing, striving to perfect, improve, and grow. This makes total sense to me now. My latest story must be my favorite – though I’ll always have a soft spot for certain older works – because the newest work represents my growth as a writer.

Working together, fellow self-published authors, we must raise the bar. No more lazy writing! Work the craft; hone it. Make each new story your best yet. Reread, go back, edit, make changes. We can – and we must – produce work we can be truly proud of. We owe it to our readers, and to ourselves as well.

An Enduring Love of Paper

I finally did it. This may shock many people, considering how behind the times it seems. Those who know me in “real life” understand that, actually, I can be irrationally old-fashioned. (Hey, it’s charming!) However, being an author and e-publisher, I really should have got with the program by now, if only in solidarity. Yet it took me years and years before I finally gave in to the inevitable.

Yesterday, at long last, I gave in. I bought a Kindle.

At this point you are thinking one of two things: a) It’s about time! What the hell was wrong with you, that it took you this long to get an essential piece of reading technology?! or b) So what?

I bought it for the same reason many people have, for convenience. It will be so lovely to just have my Kindle, stocked with all the stories I could want, long and short. I’ll just be able to curl up somewhere and read them in any order I like, or take them traveling with me, or at the bus stop. I’m especially glad to have it for short stories, because those are so inconvenient in printed form, and the computer, after a while, does hurt my eyes. No doubt, the Kindle will transform my reading life and make it both more diverse and more agreeable.

And yet.

Way back in the nineties, when Disney’s Beauty and the Beast came out, I was one of those girls who gasped with delight (along with Beauty) when the castle library was revealed. Shelves and shelves, all the way to the ceiling, stacked with books of every color, size, and type. How I longed to be there, surrounded by all those beautiful tomes! That was the moment, really, that Beauty began to fall in love with the Beast…as did all the rest of us wistful readers.

The public library has always been a place of wonder and magic. So have used bookstores. I love holding books in my hands, feeling the texture of the paper, enjoying the freedom of browsing. When I took books home, I amused myself by imagining all the other hands that might have held it, and dreaming of how other people may have felt when reading the very same book. That textural history, the fact that these treasures had come into my hands from someone else’s – who knows how many! – and that somewhere, I was sharing the experience of reading it with a stranger, was fascinating to me. I still love those places, and imagining the people who loved the books before me.

When I lived abroad, books were my consolation and my addiction. The house we shared had an enormous library (not quite as fancy as Beauty’s, but pretty damn nice), with books of all varieties. I read voraciously. I filled my arms with books, carried them heavily as I walked, and took them to my lonely apartment. There, I devoured them, turning pages in near-desperation as my mind swirled in imaginary worlds. I kept a stack of them on my dresser, promises and hopes to keep me going for another couple weeks, before returning to the library to restock. It was not easy to transport so much heavy paper back and forth, but for me it was worth it. Nothing felt so satisfying at the time as a backpack loaded with fresh books. I welcomed the ache and the weight of it on my shoulders; I felt I earned the joy of reading them, through my commitment to them. At the time, I needed this. And only books gave it to me.

I will never be so young and lonely again (if only because – thank goodness – I’m no longer 21), but I will always have memories of that time, and the books that were my companions. There is more to it than that, though.

My love of paper goes even beyond my own personal memories. In Paris, I ended up in a shop specializing in rare antique books. Because of a family connection with the owner, he sat me down and showed me some of his treasures. Into my hands he placed a small, leather-bound volume. A book of prayers. A woman’s signature was scrawled on the front page.
It had belonged to Mary Stuart, the Queen of Scots, who for a short time had also been dauphine of France. I held that book in my hands, reflecting that in 1500-something Mary herself had held it, had run her fingers over the pages. Overwhelmed by history, and the suddenly physical link I had with that doomed queen of long ago, I regarded that book as something close to magical.

Books aren’t magic, of course. But like all objects of personal importance, books retain some of the essence of their past lovers. (As do we all…) Paper can be touched and folded, smeared and creased, written on, stored, revived, and passed on. Paper has a long past, and a future. For a sensual person, there is no substitute. For a person who treasures connections with the past, and hopes to provide such for future readers, it is essential. Paper books have souls and histories unique to each. Paper books can fill library shelves, tumble down, lean against one another. They are a feast.

And so, although I am looking forward to receiving my Kindle and buying books for it, I will never give up my enduring love of paper. If I read a book and love it, I will always buy a printed copy, and tuck it into my ever-growing library like the masterpiece it is. Paper books are the physical manifestation of my passion. No matter how many e-books I read, or how much I type on my computer, I will never give them up. There is no true replacement for the joy, the feeling, the scent and weight and mystery, of holding a true book in your hands.