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34 number 46142711_sHello, friends. I can hardly believe it. Surface: Sonata’s Moon – Book One is my thirty-fourth published book. It’s stunning to realize that I’ve been at this part-time since 1993, and full-time since 2010, and have come so far. Most of my published books and short stories have come during this full-time period. All have been romances of one sort or another, but they range the romance gamut from spanking romance, to straight romance, to BDSM romance. And they include all kinds of genres from contemporary, to historical, to sci-fi. It seems to me, that if you’re a romance lover, you can find something I’ve written and find it satisfying.

A moment to talk about quality. I want you to know that I strive, above all, to produce quality books. You won’t find lots of typos, word abuse, poor grammar, or spelling problems with my books. It is a troubling matter that there are so many writers out there who slap a cover on an unedited book and call it “done.” While I appreciate the notion that anyone now has access to methods to publish their books, I’m not 100% certain it’s a good thing. But who would we designate as the gatekeeper? Therein lies the rub. If a writer doesn’t go through a publisher, there is no gatekeeper and it’s up to that author to take the steps to make sure their book is a quality product. Those steps are expensive and many self-published writers can’t afford it.

And then we get into the realm of pricing. I am not comfortable with the proliferation of self-published books offered free or for 99 cents. Why? Because I think it gives readers the mistaken but natural impression that books take nothing to produce. That’s definitely not true. It takes many hours, a lot of creativity, and hard work to produce a good book, and yes, money. I don’t believe in gouging readers for ebooks over $4.99, but when you consider all the costs of creating a good book, and factor in the national minimum wage, $4.99 is a darn good price. My books average $3.99.

That being said, many readers don’t care about the quality of the books they’re reading. They want reading material for as cheap as they can get it, and only later do they consider the source. I can understand that. I don’t like to spend more than I have to for the books I read. Occasionally, you get a gem for a short-term sale price, and although it’s rare, it’s mighty nice. We must share our special finds (no matter their price) with our friends. Word of mouth spreads a good book faster than a megaphone at the circus.

Sonata's-Moon-300x450Surface: Sonata’s Moon – Book One is, as I said, my thirty-fourth book. The thirty-fifth, Sanctuary: Sonata’s Moon – Book Two will be published in early 2016 (it’s already written). Who knows what 2016 will bring, but I promise you, it will be sexy, romantic, and something you’ll want to read twice. If you’d like to read an extended excerpt of Surface, you will find it on my website, here.

Thank you for following along with me as I walk down this path. I can’t imagine having done anything else with the last five years. It is my job to entertain you, and I take it seriously. I hope you can tell from my books.

Come back tomorrow for The Book Gourmet, wherein I’ll feature some great books and some tidbits about what’s up with me. Ta-ta for now!

erotica key 25214141_sWhen discussing markets of any kind, consumers have to be involved. That is true whether it is the stock market, the grocery store, or book sales. Even free eBooks are part of a market of “buyers” and “sellers” because of the large variety of eBooks available these days. Just because you put it out there for free doesn’t mean anyone is going to download and read it. Especially the read it part. There are people–massive numbers of them–who download free books and never read them. Why not? Because who could possibly read every free book on the market? And yet when the price goes to zero, they get in line to get one. So a free book might make an author feel good, getting so many downloads, but it doesn’t regularly lead to sales of the writer’s back list, which is, ultimately the point of the exercise. It also leads to a marketplace bloated with free books. Writers have to have more confidence in their product and charge something. We don’t make this stuff out of thin air, it takes a big effort, and for good quality, it takes a team of writer, editor, cover artist, proofreader, and publishing professionals. All of us don’t come for free. I saw a cartoon on the internet the other day, and the gist of it was that other professionals charge for their best work, why not artists? If your doctor said, “Oh sure, I’ll give you a free face lift it you’ll buy that tummy tuck,” what would you think of the quality of his product? Would you have less or more respect for him?

Being a professional writer comes with the stipulation that you are selling something to a consumer, either for money directly (like retail sales) or for business consideration (like a secretary preparing a document for a boss who pays her), or as a loss-leader (as with a free book that’s supposed to convince the reader to pay for the next book in the series, which has very mixed results). Rarely are writers who only give away books (without expectation of monetization) considered professionals in the field. Free books are gifts, they are not sales. Therefore, we can say that a “professional writer” is one who produces written materials for money. Maybe we can call others “philanthropists.”

Having established that, it’s easy to identify the primary challenge facing today’s professional erotica writer: being paid! There is a huge market in non-professional erotica. Consequently, there is a natural difficulty in getting consumers to pay good money for their reading material. Quality is the difference. Readers recognize a quality product versus one that is unpolished. At some point, they’ll get frustrated by misspellings, grammatical errors and formatting glitches and want to read something produced by someone with something to lose—sales.

Publishers aren’t in business out of the love of their hearts. They’re not doling out contracts and professional services like editing and formatting because it gives them a thrill. They’re providing products to consumers and they expect money in return for those products. For obvious reasons, a publisher wants to start with a book that needs the least amount of expensive overhauling. So a writer has to produce a quality product. Consistently producing a quality product is likely to get the writer contracts with publishers and those lead to advances and royalties. The writer is paid!

What makes a quality product that leads to contracts with publishers? Hard work. This is as true of erotica as with any other genre. The characters have to be realistic and compelling, the setting has to be evocative, and the plot has to grab the reader and lead her along. The tale has to be grammatical, with good spelling, and a professional look. You could say this is true for any type of salable fiction. Erotica, however, has a twisty part: it includes a very intimate subject, sex, in greater proportion than other genres.

sex blocks 25327730_sThe writer has to take a good story, characters and setting, and add in the thing that changes an adventure novel into erotica. Here’s where imagination plays a part. It’s all well-and-good to read the Kama Sutra and describe what you see in the pictures, but there has to be a goal for the sexy parts. If a writer is writing sex for sex’s sake, in my opinion she’s writing porn. Porn has its place, of course, but the bulk of us want to write erotic romance, or erotic adventure, or an erotic thriller, etc. Avoiding that unwanted porn label, a writer has to use sex as a tool in her plot, a way to create intimacy between the characters or move them from Point A to Point B. If a writer has a good imagination and some skill at the craft, it all comes together.

When I started in 1992 with my first erotica sale, there were only a handful of legitimate erotica publishers, and none of them offered eBooks. That form factor was only a Star Trek dream. Although there are many more erotica publishers now than ever before, convincing a publisher to take the product isn’t any easier. For the writer to be paid—therefore meeting the number one challenge for a pro—she has to present a professional package that makes the publisher (or agent) say, “I can sell this!”

For me, being paid is the greatest challenge, especially since I do this full time. But it has been my experience that, like any other job, if you do it well, with persistence and patience, you will achieve your goal.