How to Never Fail (And Other Things Writing Smut Taught Me)

Creating the goal is just the first step...
Creating the goal is just the first step…

So you’ve set a goal up for yourself. You’ve come out with a well thought out plan that should help you achieve your desired outcome. The way it looks all you have to do is put action into your plan and you’ll be on your way to achieving your goal. Yet you still fail to reach your goal. Time to pack up and call it quits then…

WRONG. Failing can be one of your finest teachers in your life.

There seems to be a stigma with failures in America. Hell even our banks are “too big to fail.” We love winners here and no one remembers who came in second place. But this is a flawed way of thinking.

Failure doesn’t have to be a permanent state.

Life is always flowing and the same goes for success. Nothing is permanent and with the right mindset failure never has to be permanent.

Recently I took on a project to try my hand at earning money online. It wasn’t even the typical thing you hear about when making money online. Towards the end of April I came across a blog that caught my eye, 30 Days to X. Rob, the owner of the website, spends his time learning new ways to make money online and then discusses them. I cannot recommend enough that you check out his site you will most likely learn something.

The article that caught my attention was titled The Six Figure Erotica Author by Jade K. Scott. It was a book review on said title. The article lifted back the curtains and showed the underbelly of Amazon that lives in sin, filth, and pleasures of the flesh. I’m talking about making money off of writing smut or erotica of course. Amazon doesn’t want you to know this but smut/erotica has propped their kindle up since the beginning.

It makes sense if you think about it, you’ve always seen the romance aisles in grocery stores with ridiculous titles and long hair male models with their chisel chests staring back at you from the book covers. Well, the kindle gave moms and women…perhaps men too, the chance to read such books with the privacy of a kindle caused a boom in this market. Making money off smut is easy.

The erotica romance niche is the same concept when broken down as porn is. Porn, tended to be geared towards males is visually stimulating while erotica romance tended to be geared towards women is emotionally stimulating. If you’ve ever looked into game theory or such you’ll see them discuss how woman are aroused emotionally so it’s the same concept. It all boils down this oversimplified statement of, “men masturbate to porn videos while woman masturbate to erotica stories.”

Much like the porn industry, erotica works on dopamine. Every time you masturbate your brain sends out dopamine. If your habit is constant your brain starts to cut off dopamine receptors. Even if your brain is releasing the same levels of Dopamine in response to your masturbating you don’t feel it as much, you’ve become numb. This is why men must masturbate to different videos, they need something new for their brain to release the dopamine. This is why the demand for smut is so high. The audience constantly needs to be reading a new story to be chasing that dopamine high.

On top of that, in this ever growing world of distractions and ADD the demand for short quick reads in smut and erotica is high. These are the people who have to buy or borrow a new book everyday perhaps multiple ones.

But why write smut? Don’t you feel strange or skeevy writing essentially jerk off material?

I don’t think much on that. There is a demand and I can meet that demand as a writer. While researching other sites alot of guys I would see would comment that they would never want their alias to be found out or an HR department finding their books when looking for a new job. These thoughts never crossed my mind because I don’t want to ever have to deal with an HR Department. That’s why I tried writing smut. I am not embarrassed in my pursuit of freedom by anything I do, and if I was I simply wouldn’t do it.

I jumped on this opportunity because I’m a writer. Here was a chance to make some money with my actual writing. It all led to sex but the thrilling part was creating a new story every day and leading these characters to the eventual climax. If anything this was a challenge of learning how to produce and produce at a high rate. The point of writing erotica for an income is volume and I took it as a challenge to build a large volume of work in a short time.

During the month of May and June I produced over 120,000 words. The average adult fiction novel is 90,000 words. A novels worth of smut material in just two months and this was done even with working 70 hour work weeks during the month of June. (Cold showers after a ten to twelve hour shift were my greatest ally.)

I’ve had a few niche websites I’ve been working on in the background but the end game of earning my financial freedom is to be able to write. So seeing an opportunity to bite my teeth in the self publishing world while making some dinero seemed like a sensible thing to do.

During my time writing smut I learned how to:

 

Self publish on Amazon

Research keywords

Write catching blurbs

Find a niche and hammer the words home

 

Making money writing smut
Not even one of my top sellers but it still tickles me so I figured I’d share.

Self Publishing on Amazon is easier than you can ever imagine. I already had an Amazon account so I signed up for their Kindle Direct Publishing Program. Amazon’s direct publishing program makes it very easy to put a book out there. My process building an ebook was nothing. I’d take my story saved in a word document 97-03 fie and upload it to their site which they would then convert to their ebook format. As for a cover I went to fiverr and paid a total of $5.50 for a cover. I lucked out and found someone who was brilliant, helpful and prompt. We understood each other’s methods and I’d simply message her my title and maybe a vague idea but usually I gave her an open room to create. She was also writing erotica and she was always watching the field and seeing what sold well. For only five bucks I wasn’t just getting a cover but also someone who researched the trends and was more than friendly enough to share her findings with me.

After uploading the content and cover the next step was finding the keywords. You were allowed seven keyword phrases for your book. The method I used at first was the method described in the six figure erotica Author ebook. There you fiddled around using Amazon’s search bar trying to find keywords that were popular yet also had low competition. I did fairly well using this program finding some great keywords. Looking for other theories I found one in Publishing Erotica: Breaking Your Sales Cap by Amy Cooper. (Not an affiliate link) Now Amy advocated that he didn’t really believe you could only use seven keywords. He believed that the commas separating the phrases did nothing. His suggestion was to fill up your keyword section with as many words possible retaining to your story.

 

Where the seven keywords would look something like this

CEO erotic romance, dirty steps, stepbrother charming, stepbrother homecoming, stepbrother with benefits, ceo romance, sexy stepbrother

Whereas using up as much space may look something like this

straight male female paranormal alien extra extraterrestrial et fiction young creature breeding abduction abducted pregnancy pregnant child bearing fertilized impregnation experiment suspense loving happy anal double penetration penetrated fucked hard orgasm adult space ship bedroom medical clinic short story quick read

 

I tried this theory towards the end of my two months but didn’t see a huge jump in my borrows which stayed basically the same. Actual selling though started to pick up after switching my keyword theory but I don’t think they’re is enough data to prove it was from the keywords. In fact my sales were pretty constant through June until towards the end as my body started to shut down from being overworked and I wasn’t able to publish for a week. It was during this lull that I started to research more on what I could do to raise my sales. This is where I found the new keyword theory.

After entering the keywords though I would write a blurb. In the beginning I would try and give some summary of the story while trying to hook the reader but I found it wasn’t good enough. Another thing was that by the time I got to the publishing part each night I would have already worked ten to twelve hours and then had written from anywhere from two to four hours. By the time I got to publishing my brain would be shot.

So I found a solution. I found that taking a passage out of the story where the tensions were high would allow the reader to get a glimpse at my writing style and also be left wondering what happened next. This only involved minimal rewriting to fit for a blurb which was a huge help on making the last step of my day as smooth as possible.

making money off writing smut
It was strange but somehow stepbrother stories were selling like hot cakes

Next was finding my niche. You can write anything you want as long as there is an audience. My first mistake in writing smut was writing what I wanted to write. I wanted to write some crazy out there sci fi erotica. It was going to be smart and sexy and the plot as I began writing it opened up as the story grew more complicated. Yet there was no audience there. So after two weeks I went back and looked at what titles were selling well. I had written one stepbrother book and yet it seemed to be gathering the most attention. So I wrote another one and then saw that the demand for pseudo incest stories were high. I found my niche and started to hammer them home.

Talking to friends they all laughed but it was easy to figure out what made the stepbrother books sell. As we’ve discussed, it’s all about arousing your reader emotionally. The key to stepbrother books were that it was a forbidden thing. One of the characters will have to put up a fight knowing that society frowns upon what they are doing. This creates all the time to let the emotions simmer and the tension grow. People love to read a “they shouldn’t be doing this” type of story, the stakes are high and writing about this you can take your reader on a roller coaster of emotions.

Upon finding the niche the next step was building an audience through an email list and perhaps a web page. This was supposed to be my July project. Building an email list and website was the next step to earning a four figure monthly income off smut. This was my first step to acquiring financial freedom. Some people were making up to ten grand publishing smut and I figured if I kept it up I could make enough to quit my job and to work on the next step in my plan. But shit happens…

  1. When creating a goal be prepared for the unexpected.

I’ve been reading on self publishing for the last few months and a certain topic had come up again and again in my readings. I had been warned on dealing with Amazon from erotica writers to indie authors and they all basically said something along the same line as I’ll paraphrase here, “Amazon doesn’t give a fuck about you.”

The quicker you learn the world doesn’t give one iota of a fuck for you the better you’ll be.

So of course this news wasn’t shocking to me. You could put any multi billion corporation’s name in Amazon’s spot and the statement would still be true. You are just another cog in a machine that is called Amazon and they have their own plans on the future of publishing that they’re not going to reveal. But when they make drastic changes that may not make sense to others you can believe that they know exactly what they’re doing.

Yet Amazon can be convenient, I order a lot of my books from there (used, so cheap) but having seen an actual Amazon warehouse I’m hesitant of them. They are the new American sweat shops and one should feel some weariness when working with them.

About halfway into my second month of writing smut I was hitting my stride, getting a few unsolicited reviews and seeing my borrows and sales slowly rising up. Then Amazon sent an email. They were changing their borrowing royalty rate.

The borrowing royalty rate from Amazon was the key to smut writer’s income. When you self publish you can enroll your book in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited Program. For about ten dollars a month Amazon customers can borrow as many books as they’d like (ten at a time) within the Unlimited Program. The way Amazon would pay out is through their unlimited fund where depending on how much money was made that month they would decide on the royalty rate per borrow (usually somewhere along $1.40)and thus splitting the money among all participating members.

Now of course when people have the option to so many books they can borrow for free many books go unread. In the beginning Kindle offered you their royalty rate whenever someone read ten percent of your book. Since most erotica and smut is anywhere between 3,000 to 5,000 words it didn’t take much for readers to read ten percent of your book. This is where erotica writers made their killing much to the dismay of other writers. Sales were only background noise during this whole project although I still managed a decent amount of sales for my first time.

making money writing smut
Some ok sales but since Kindle has made the switch I can’t show the history of my borrows

Well Amazon seeing the fault in their payment plan decided to convert their borrows to be paid on how many pages someone has read from your book. Of course Amazon is not revealing how much would be paid for each page yet till July royalty checks are sent. The rumor of course is half a cent per page which if true would cut most erotica writers income by nearly sixty to eighty percent.

They also revealed that they were going to implement the new plan starting July 1st. How much does Amazon not give a fuck? They gave everyone two weeks’ notice for something so drastic. Using a half cent per page in my calculation I saw that in the first week of July I may have had twenty books borrowed which on the old scale would have been around twenty eight dollars but since most of the books are around 20 pages even if every page of those twenty books were read I’d only make two dollars now.

  1. When something is too good to be true it’s because it is…but it doesn’t make it not true.

How many times have you heard some sort of scheme and thought yourself, that can’t work, it’s too good to be true? The way Amazon was paying out for their Unlimited Program seemed to be too good to be true for smut writers but at that moment it was true but nothing gold stays forever. It was basically a bubble that was prone to pop at anytime and I just happened to step into the game too late. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it was a get rich quick scheme because there was still a decent amount of work that had to be put in, it was just paying far more for writers of short stories.

I was able to jump into smut writing and not be burned because I knew this wasn’t the only thing I was going to depend on for money. This was just one step in a much larger plan. When the plan came collapsing down I wasn’t panicking or thinking I was doomed. Having not put all my eggs in one basket I was able to just step away and be glad for everything I had learned.

  1. Failures aren’t failure if you’re willing to learn from them.

Upon hearing the news from Amazon I finished up the books I had still planned on writing and had bought covers for. I might as well finish what I started I thought. Part of me wanted to dwell wondering what if they had just waited for three more months before implementing the new change. I could’ve gotten out of my day job with just enough cash to set up the next project. There was no point in dwelling on it though, I couldn’t change it.

Yet I wasn’t upset about my little stint in erotica. It made for a great conversational piece, I was able to dip my toes into self publishing, learn what to expect when I start to publish my own work, and I was able to make a little side cash. All and all those two months of work paid out probably around four to five hundred dollars. After that for the next few months I’ll probably collect a ten to fifteen dollar check form Amazon till eventually my work becomes buried amongst the trash of other forgotten smut books in the wasteland of the internet.

making money off writing smut
I had a whole wardrobe of clothes I didn’t need and a box of DVDs that are no good when you don’t own a TV #GoodByeStuff

I was satisfied in my so called failure of an attempt to be an erotica writer. Still I was burned out after the month of June, my skin had been breaking out from the stress of working too much and my body was begging for rest. I knew what my next project was going to be but I just wasn’t aching to jump on it. For the past two weeks I wrote a little most days and then spent the rest reading and catching up on things like the state of my apartment and finally getting around to throwing out things I had no use for (sorry Tara for never getting to tweet it out but I did end up throwing away more than thirty items and you were the push I needed to start that process.)

It was finally an article from Alex that lit a light bulb for my next project. I had been researching a niche website but there was still a few more months of research left before getting things up and running, in a way it was a daunting task. Reading his article sparked me to research a little more and all of a sudden realize I had a niche I was so familiar with I didn’t need any research to start it. It had been looking me in the eye the whole time but allowing myself to relax and not freak out about the future allowed me to have my a-ha! Moment. And sometime in the future we’ll discuss how that moment turned out for me financially.

For now tell me about a time you found a silver lining in a failure of yours.

 

Comments

  1. says

    Thanks for the shoutout, AD. Good for you getting rid of all that junk! Decluttering does fantastic things for our living spaces, as well as our minds…

    You’ve mentioned “failures aren’t failure if you’re willing to learn from them.” I agree. And if you’re willing to share your experience and allow others to learn from them as well, that’s even a bigger deal. So thank you for sharing, it was an interesting read.

    Cheers,

    Tara
    http://therationalrebel.com

    • AD says

      Glad you found it interesting. No problem on the shout out I haven’t got to comment on your blog lately but I have been reading all your posts. You seem to be really picking up traction. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Anon says

    Hey, if you’re still interested in making money w/ KDP, you should become a member of Dirty Discourse. It’s a private erotica & romance forum I’m a member of and it’s been incredibly helpful.

    While the change in payment structure will decimate the earnings of short erotica writers, it will benefit romance writers immensely. And writing 25k+ romance novellas and novels isn’t that hard. Romance is the easiest to write (unlike thrillers, sci-fi, mysteries etc).

    If you have a KU subscription, you should go to the Kindle Bestsellers >> New Adult & College Romance page (or the Paranormal Romance bestsellers page) and read a few 0f those books. Most of them are incredibly average and very formulaic.

    I’ve done niche sites in the past and to be honest it’s too much work. Writing romance is far easier. The Kindle gold rush isn’t over, it only shifted from short erotica to romance.

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