Ryan is a self-published erotic romance writer here to share his knowledge with other aspiring writers.
E-book publishing is a flourishing market, with more and more people joining in the fun every day. You can go to any number of websites and find work from writers who you could never hope to find at your local bookstore. Erotic literature and romance novels have emerged as one of the most profitable self-publishing markets because it is fun to do, and the market is huge.
I myself entered the world of online erotic self-publishing nearly a year ago, publishing erotic short stories under a pen name (Ciara Ryan, and now my real name as well) after years of rejection by the so-called "mainstream publishers." Aside from being a lot of fun, it's a great way to potentially make some extra scratch when times are tough.
I'll give you the basics here, and in no time, you'll be on your way to writing the type of smut that sells really well. If you’re a shy person, maybe this isn't for you, but if you're willing to put your fantasies down on paper for others to indulge in, self-publishing may prove to be a very lucrative endeavor.
I offer up this article as a simple outline—always be sure to read and understand the legal requirements and guidelines when publishing your work, whether it's copyrighted, using pictures, or anything else. Know what you can and cannot do!
Step 1: Research
Before you start writing down naughty tales, you need to know what's going to sell and what's not going to sell. You can have a super-sexy story that really revs your engine but nobody else is interested in. Visit different sites (I'll give you a few soon), and check out what's popular.
There are a number of genres when it comes to this type of writing, and some seem to outsell others by a wide margin, so it's up to you to decide which genre to pursue. Pay close attention to the categories that define the work you research because this is the way retailers will market your books, and it's how buyers will search for them.
The best indication of how a product is doing is to read the customer comments and to go to the author's website, look them up on Facebook, or one of the other thousand sites where people can promote themselves. If they're bragging about huge sales numbers, it's a good indication that the genre they write is popular.
\A few of the writers I researched when I was considering jumping into the industry were Sable Hunter (my personal favorite and the one I most highly recommend if you want to learn how to write erotic romance that will sell), Kelly Haven, and Georgia Fox. Just be careful—recently, certain sub-genres have come under heavy fire and are effectively being removed from some retailers.
Once you've decided what you want to write, write.
Step 2: Create Accounts
Now that you've got something you want to sell, you'll need to create online accounts to distribute your work. Amazon.com is the biggest player in the industry, but they certainly aren't the only game in town. I recommend starting with Amazon and moving to other channels, like Smashwords, once you're comfortable. You'll need a valid email address to set up accounts, so make sure you have one.
Be sure you fill in the account bios and add a picture for each retailer so prospective buyers can get to know you. Remember, people aren't just buying your work, they're also buying your image. So, create an interesting persona, and give yourself a cool pen name. You’re trying to build a brand and with it, a loyal customer base that will grab your next book as soon as it hits the shelf.
If you decide to write for more than one genre and have more than one pen name, you'll have to set up separate accounts for each.
Step 3: Format Your Work
With your accounts set up, you'll be able to submit your work through multiple channels. Each channel has different formatting guidelines. Amazon is relatively uncomplicated and easy to figure out if you have even the most rudimentary of computer skills. Smashwords is a little more involved, but it can be learned if you take your time, which will pay off in the end because they distribute to Apple, Sony, and a whole host of other e-book retailers, where you definitely want your books.
To make life a lot easier, I recommend the Calibre free conversion tool, which will keep you from losing it (trust me, I know from experience).
Step 4: Make or Find Cover Art
I use Adobe Photoshop to make my covers. You don't have to use the same program, but yes, you absolutely, positively have to have a cover if you want your books to sell. E-book publishing is just like traditional publishing, and the cover is what first attracts a buyer to your book and can be the difference between you making a sale and not making a sale.
Much like formatting, different retailers have different requirements when it comes to the dimensions of the cover, so I do two versions of each cover, a 600 x 900 version, and a 200 x 300 version. Make sure you label the cover with the dimensions when you save it, or you'll use the wrong one almost every time, which is frustrating, especially when you're learning as you go.
You'll need pictures for your covers, and they can be bought relatively cheap (usually $1–3, depending on the quality of the image and the site). Here are just a few sites where you can get pictures. Most offer extended license options if you plan on making your work available in print.
At the top of this article is the cover from my latest release, so you can see what can be created by someone who's computer illiterate like me. With practice, you'll be a designing wizard in no time.
Step 5: Price Your Work
Don't get greedy—there are thousands of other e-books out there for customers to choose from, so don't shoot yourself in the foot by pricing your book unreasonably. I write short stories that are usually between 4,500–6,000 words, and I sell them for $1.69. Do more research to see what books like yours are selling for, and price accordingly.
If you write three stories that are along the same theme, put them together in an anthology (price accordingly), and now you've got four books instead of three.
Step 6: Let People Know You Exist
It's simple, really—get yourself out there wherever you can, and let people know you've got something they might be interested in reading. Create an account on Facebook and make a fan page. Start a blog, and get people talking. The erotic literature community is full of great people who are extremely kind and usually willing to help out.
The first sale I ever made only netted me 33 cents, but I can't describe how good it felt when I found out. Well, I'd never be dumb enough to guarantee you'll make money, I will go on record as saying that you will have a good time trying.
Hope to see you out there—just don't take any of my sales.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Proofreader on March 26, 2019:
Do you proofread and edit your own work?
nataliebijoux on June 07, 2018:
Thanks a lot for your post, it made me dare to dive in the erotica world. But I was wondering if you have any ideas on how to start marketing my book.
Bill Perry on July 22, 2017:
I understand Amazon has made some significant changes since this article was written last year. Any info on what they are and how they might change what you are suggesting here? Thanks!
Skuma26 on April 15, 2017:
Kylie on January 19, 2017:
I was curious, did you just make up your pen name and place it, or did you have to do other steps to use that name?
Celtacia on September 23, 2016:
I write some short stories in this genre, thus far only for private consumption. I've been told that I should sell the stories but have no idea how to go about it. If I put a group of them together, would it be possible to publish that as an anthology? And could it be at all lucrative as a first-time publishing from an unknown? Or should I try another venue with individual stories first, and if so, where? Thank you so much for the ideas above, I had no idea it was even possible.
Candyce Boroughs on September 18, 2016:
Amazon is blocking so many erotica books. We need another outlet for our work. If anyone knows of an eBook website that accepts true Erotica, please let me know.
Bellamy Redhander on July 27, 2016:
Ryan, Thanks for your advice. I have been writing erotic stories for about 25 years now, just for my own amusement. My wife said I should try and publish them for Kindle. All I read from you checks out so far. My only concern is some wording or detail I use may be offensive to mainstream society. If you have the time, Please get back to me or steer me to what can and can't be published. I write in the Dominant/Submission genre
Paul aka Bellamy Redhander
pjane on July 14, 2016:
I have ghostwritten several short romance novellas for my clients on a freelancing sites. Almost all my books have ended up on Amazon, and some have even garnered great reviews. Now I want to go the self publishing way but have no idea how to market my books. Can anyone help me on this?
Tirza Schaefer on June 16, 2015:
Thank you so much for the information above, not only from you, but also from the comments! I have started to self-publish on Amazon only 3 months ago and have found marketing to be the greatest issue. I started writing spiritual poetry and blogs over three years ago and my circles on social media mainly consists of spiritually interested people and not so many who are interested in erotica.
I certainly agree that honing your skills comes with practice. I am about to publish my 8th novel soon in that genre and I write like you "Just do it!" At the same time I read a lot of romance and erotica as well which inspires me on various levels.
Without a budget to use for marketing and not so much time to devote to relentlessly be online and be present and active there, I find, people simply often don't know that my books exist. Something to work on...
Oswalda Purcell from Los Angeles on November 12, 2014:
Great and inspiring hub!
sanjay sinha on July 28, 2014:
i want to write a sexy funny story and earn to extra money by self so please help me
Holle Dolce on July 16, 2014:
A couple of things.
Firstly, Creative Commons is your friend. I use it to find pictures all the time. Google search also has a feature now that lets you look for work with special licenses that you get directly from the artists (via Deviant art or Flickr usually, but some others too). Basically, I look for CC work that allows 1. modification and 2. commercial use. Then, no worries about whether sites like shutterstock, etc, will let you use them for erotica. Just mind if you have to attribute, and if any special verbiage needs to be there.
Secondly, question. You mention having a fan page on Facebook. I write erotica with explicit scenes. Since I would like to be linking back to said explicit work, that would kind of go against the EULA for Facebook.
... Stop laughing. I have seen the pages too. However, I do not want to be the one taken down for EULA violations. What recommendations do you have for making it and G+ work for you, since neither has an adult/18+ filter to make it easy on us.
Thirdly ... okay, more than a couple of things ... any recommendations on making Tumblr - which does have adult filter, yay! - work?
nasreen on May 08, 2014:
ROLEARY (author) from Toronto, Ontario on April 02, 2014:
Ronnie has a point. Things have probably changed since I wrote this article, so always make sure you read the license agreements thoroughly. I don't use those places anymore personally, I've moved on, but I did when this hub was written and never had an issue.
Ronnie on April 02, 2014:
Just wanted to inform you that your article is a bit misleading and could lead to possible legal problems for authors. Images of people from the microstock photo agencies you refer to (www.DepositPhotos.com, www.BigStockPhotos.com
www.shutterstock.com, dreamstime.com) can NOT be used on erotica titles according to the end user license agreements. It is considered a sensitive use and needs special licensing.
Anny Dixon on February 14, 2014:
thank you so much for the information. I have a couple questions. One, I did put my book up on Amazon but I selected for KDP. Can I still advertise my book on other sites or do I have to wait for the 3 months to be up? Two, I used their cover art, if I put my book on another site, I wouldn't think I could use theirs, so I will be checking out your suggestions. What about copyrighting? I was told a few things, if you write something it's automatically copyrighted and you're protected? True/False? Also, you can send yourself a manuscript and it's copyrighted if you don't break the seal. How does everyone else do their copyrights without costing an arm and a leg? Thanks for all the info, it's been very useful!
ROLEARY (author) from Toronto, Ontario on January 23, 2014:
Bill Ames from MYRTLE BEACH, South Carolina on January 03, 2014:
Great Article. Plenty of useful ideas with detail.
John Coviello from New Jersey on July 27, 2013:
This Hub has a lot of good advice for writers looking to break into the ebook publishing business. However, where are the links to your published pieces? I was hoping to check them out, but I don't see links on this Hub or a link to your blog on your profile page.
Tobey on June 02, 2013:
Super post, I ran across this today while fartin' around with the idea of writing for my husband. I figure if it excites him, why not others. I appreciate all the tips. Going to follow them to the letter. Thanks again - Tobey Rhae
Haley from Baltimore, MD on February 12, 2013:
I had thought about writing romance or erotica, but I never knew that you could completely bypass the publisher almost altogether and self publish so easily. Great hub, voted up!
Yoleen Lucas from Big Island of Hawaii on January 21, 2013:
Thanks for this hub! I've been writing erotic articles for iWriter. Since I can't use what I've already sold, I'm considering incorporating my research into some erotic literature. How easy is it to make a few hundred dollars a month off an ebook?
JanMaklak from Canada on January 20, 2013:
Gosh when you said research I thought this was instruction to go get personal research but I see you meant market research. Well there goes a couple of weeks wasted....not! I have done very little of erotic writing but I find it goes better when I am writing to someone I know. It's nice sharing a story!
Rachelle Megan from Edmonton, Alberta Canada on December 29, 2012:
You said certain genres were being removed... which ones? By the way, I found the stuff you wrote on covers to be amazingly useful and transferable to other types of writing because *cough* I never write erotica *cough* lol.
Laurie Clark from Albuquerque, NM on June 20, 2012:
Awesome! I have never thought of this before. It sounds like fun!
DNemesis on April 06, 2012:
Good article. No, wait... GREAT article. I started publishing about a year ago, then got really serious around November. Among some erotica, I learned that other categories are just as good. These include recipes and self-help books. I recently published a Hub on my 2011 income report and overall experience with publishing.
Thanks again for a great article.
Tom Cornett from Ohio on March 27, 2012:
I've written quite a few erotic romance novelettes and short stories under the pen name, Larkin Williamson. I have them published on a couple of UK sites to get feedback from other writers and readers. I am about to take the next step into self publishing.
Reading your Hub has helped me to set a guideline. Thanks so much. :o)
ROLEARY (author) from Toronto, Ontario on March 23, 2012:
Thanks for all the congratulations everyone.
chinemeremz. The issue as I know it , wasn't with Amazon, the issue was that Paypal wasn't going to process payments for certain genres, things I won't mention on here, but you are on the right track, lets just say, taboo subjects. I don't really have an opinion because my stuff isn't anywhere near those subjects.
M.T Dremer. You're exactly right, writing stuff like this gives you a different perspective and can help you in your other writing for sure. As far as self-publishing is concerned, I agree that it has a pretty shaky record. Ive written a few novels and selfpublished on sites and they are probably garbage, I can admit to that. There have always been thousands if not millions of writers out there who want to put their story or book out there to be read. My goal when I started writing was to make money, then about a year ago all I wanted was for someone to read what I wrote, and the internet gives me and millions of other people that iopportunity, be it good or bad. I agree with you that selfpublished work isn't always good (rarely is it ever) but self-publishing offers those who weren't born with the god-given talent, or the connections to an agent or manager a chanc to see their dream realized, and I'm always up for that.
Sorry, I doubt there will be a follow-up article, or any tips on writing in the future. Let's just say that organized education and me have had a long standing rivalry and I know nothing about the technicla aspects of writing. Everything I know about writign comes from inside of me. I don't do a layout and worry about pacign and when to add a beat (I m pretty sure that a writing term) I juts sit down at a keyboard and start writing. I think I'd be doing anyone a disservice if I were to offer them tips on how to write. The only advice I can offer is a Nike slogan that I also follow in life, Just Do It.
Sorry for all the mistakes in this response, when I go back to make corrections it erases but doesn't allow me to add, so I have to go with what I wrote first, or do the whole thing over again.
nealabama from Gadsden, AL on March 22, 2012:
I have been researching different genres in which to write and erotica is one of them. Thanks for the resources and keep following your dream.
AliceFSpencer from Texas on March 22, 2012:
Voted up I learned a lot and look forward to reading more~ :)
Jasmine on March 22, 2012:
I've learned a lot from this hub :) Voted up, useful, interesting and bookmarked for future reference :) Like Patrice, I would be happy to read a follow up hub on this topic. I think I could write an interesting drama novel. Any tips are more than welcome :)
PWalker281 on March 22, 2012:
I thought I could write romance novels back in the 90s but found it's harder to write fiction when you've been a tech writer for most of your career. Storytelling is an art that takes time and practice to develop if you don't come by it naturally. I think the ebook market is a great place to start. Hope you follow this hub up with some tips on how to write good fiction, erotic or otherwise.
Congrats on your hub nugget nomination. Voted up, useful, and inspiring!
Cathy Nerujen from Edge of Reality and Known Space on March 22, 2012:
This is a great article on erotic book and story writing. Sorry to see your ads are switched off on the HUB.
This is a growing market and although most people shy away from it, there is the online ebook market and it is growing and a more level playing field for the hard-pressed writer with great writing to offer to his or her audience.
M. T. Dremer from United States on March 22, 2012:
I think that every writer, particularly fiction writers, should attempt romance and erotica at some point in their careers. The first time I wrote one, it was so inexperienced and poorly written that it's laughable when I think about it. Practicing it will help enhance one's writing skill, even if these are not their primary genres. For example, writing erotica can help someone write a more tasteful (and interesting) love scene in a more mainstream story. So I'm glad to see that the genre is a little less taboo.
Although I am on the fence about the world of self publication. I'm in the process of going through the channels of mainstream publishing, so I haven't failed enough to seriously consider self publishing my book. Self publishing doesn't have the greatest track record in terms of quality, and with the introduction of e-books, it hasn't really helped make them any more credible. Not to mention it's an uphill battle to success. That's not to say that I think all self published books are bad, but without any standards of editing and grammar, it's hard to dig through it all to find the gems. I wish you the best of luck with it, but I can't deny that I hope my own writing never comes to that.
Martie Coetser from South Africa on March 22, 2012:
Roleary, thank you so much for this inspiring information. I know I should do more than simply hubs and blogs - I am truly lazy and not motivated to enter the e-book market. But I also know the 'bug' may bite me any day, so I am gratefully bookmarking this comprehensive tutor of a hub of yours.
Voted up and awesome!
lmmartin from Alberta and Florida on March 22, 2012:
Interesting and useful info for us scribblers. Welcome to HubPages and congrats on the Hubnugget.
Chinemere onuekwusi on March 22, 2012:
This is one wonderful piece of work in chronological order for all indie wannabes.
I read somewhere that amazon are pulling titles with incestous theme. Many indie authors were complaining about this, but aside this erotic fiction is one sure way to go as an indie publiser.
Thanks and congrats for your hubnuggets nom. Bookmarked and voted up.
Maree Michael Martin from Northwest Washington on an Island on March 21, 2012:
Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination! Thanks for such great information on how to and where to go with e-books. Nice! I will be checking them out.
Brainy Bunny from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania on March 21, 2012:
You know, just last night I was wondering what it would be like to develop a sideline like this. I've dabbled in erotic fiction on and off since college (many long years ago), and it's always been terrifically fun. Maybe I'll start jotting down some ideas. Thanks for the push!
Michelle Simtoco from Cebu, Philippines on March 20, 2012:
This is quite interesting and helpful to those who would like to give it a go for this type of genre. :)
Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination. This way please https://hubpages.com/community/Mysteries-of-the-Un...
Marcy Goodfleisch from Planet Earth on March 19, 2012:
So many of us have our 'wanna write a book' goals - and this is hugely helpful information for the digital and e-publishing era. I like the practical tips you included, such as labeling the cover files according to size.
Welcome to HubPages! And congrats on being considered for a HubNugget award!
Voted up and useful!
Ciel Clark from USA on March 16, 2012:
Hello Roleary, great hub. I probably won't try writing this style, but reading, yes!
swb64 from Addingham, UK. on March 12, 2012:
Very interesting indeed, as I learn the writing vertical then who knows!!!
ROLEARY (author) from Toronto, Ontario on March 03, 2012:
Pamela N Red. I'd never read a piece of erotica until I stumbled upon an article about it one day. I read one story and right away saw the potential in it. I doubt I'll ever retire with the profits I make from it, but it's a nice way to write something different every once in a while. Like I said, it's not for everyone, but I enjoy it.
ROLEARY (author) from Toronto, Ontario on March 03, 2012:
Thanks, TENKAY. I appreciate you being respectful and wishing us luck. I've had talks with more than one person who has a less respectful way of expressing how they feel.
christian forestell on March 03, 2012:
This is great! Having "The Hemingway of Yiffing" on a resume is pretty badass.
Pamela N Red from Oklahoma on March 03, 2012:
Great information. I enjoy reading romance sometimes and even some erotica but haven't tried my hand at writing it. I mostly write mainstream and of course articles but haven't published any fiction yet.
TENKAY from Philippines on March 03, 2012:
Erotic fiction is not my 'cup of tea' so to speak. I'll leave it up to you guys. Good luck to your endeavor.
WookieWonderfuls from London, UK on March 02, 2012:
I'v been reading erotica pieces all day to get a feel for it...such a hard life haha
ROLEARY (author) from Toronto, Ontario on March 02, 2012:
WookieWonderfuls,you will have a blast and I imagine, a little bit more sex ;)
ROLEARY (author) from Toronto, Ontario on March 02, 2012:
Alan, I feel your pain, although not on the scale you have. I've only been receiving rejection form letters for about 6 years, but I'm sure 30 will be realized one day, unfortunatley.
I never expected to get rich from writing erotica, and I haven't, yet (fingers crossed). What I did get was a sense of accomplishment that I was yet to feel in my writing career. Sure, getting paid to write articles and information pieces is a nice way to earn income, but having someone pay for your fiction is a whole other feeling that I can't describe(which is a real shame because I get paid to describe things). Hopefully you give it a try, and hopefully it works for you. I've made close to a thousand dollars in almost a year and am hoping to make more in the future, and that's more than I went into it expecting.
WookieWonderfuls from London, UK on March 02, 2012:
This hub is brilliant!! thank you so much! I'v always wanted to write erotic short stories and so has my fiancé so we could have lots of fun doing it this way :)
I'm heading to Amazon to sign up right now!
Again thank you.