Startling Frank Confessions Pt. 2: Or How I Hope to Someday Make a Living as a Writer

I think that title was long enough – I’m done writing for now. Ha!

The purpose of this post is to answer a few questions that have been posed to me regarding pen names, writing erotica, and the big question all writers ask themselves: will I ever be able to make my living as a writer? Really? Especially if what we’re talking about is creative, or artistic writing.  This is opposed to writing ad copy, articles, press releases, technical writing and all other legitimate forms of non-creative writing. It’s not that people ( and I have been one of those people) writing ad copy or articles are not creative writers, but that they are generating written copy based on the needs of the venue; i.e. magazine, client, newspaper, website, etc. It’s not the same.

When you write a short story, novel, poem – you are creating something that did not exist before you as the artist made it come alive. When I quit public relations and writing for newspapers, it was because I wanted to focus my writing energies on creating as a writer. Carol Deminski (http://cdeminski.wordpress.com/2011/10/13/time-to-write-a-rant/) is a blogger/writer I follow, and the questions she posed to me in the comment section of my last blog, and the questions I have had from friends and writers, have inspired me to give you a brief history of my writing  journey up to this point.

After I began writing creatively again – which was post music business, post P.R. and post ghost writing someone else’s memoir – my writing was sporadic and shaky, at best. I fumbled around with the beginnings of some novels, and then put them aside. I began to focus on short stories, my own possible memoirs about the music business, and the occasional poem. There were snippets in there of light and possibility. There were also large chunks of garbage and drivel. I could probably do another entire post – or book – about the whys and wherefores, but the reality was that I was practicing. I was learning. I took some classes, went back to college for a bit, started a writing group; I was finding my voice as a writer.

In the middle of finding that voice, I discovered I was just as eclectic (or schizophrenic, take your choice) as a writer, as I was when I was in music. I love a lot of different genres, both as a reader and a writer. But because the realities of marketing yourself as a writer, and whatever book you are promoting, precludes mash-ups of genres, it’s better to be identified as a writer (at least the name you’ve attached to it) with a particular genre. So even though I read – and write – literary, memoir, sci-fi, horror, fantasy, romance, paranormal romance and erotica – my one name can’t be all things to all people. Seriously – the Pulitzer people are not going to be awarding prizes to a writer that is known for kinky vampire romance sagas. At least maybe not this year.

Which brings me to the next point: can creative writers make a living anymore if they’re not with the Big Six, or one of the top chosen few that are bestsellers with film options and all of that? Carol commented that short story writers have a particularly difficult time, and she gave an example of someone who did win the Pulitzer, wondering if they were able to survive financially. I suppose we could get into another discussion regarding the differences between literary and commercial fiction – but I don’t want to get anymore off-kilter in this post than I already have. My opinion is that you are creatively writing in either mode, but the difference lies in the writing style and voice. Hence, why Wren Andre as kinky vamp writer and Wren Andre as literary short story writer might twist people’s brains too much.

But I believe we can make a living. I spoke briefly in my last post about how I was using a pen name to write erotica, and had made a few bucks by selling them on Amazon through Kindle self-publishing. The technical aspects of it alone were very uncreative and very non-writerly, almost putting the kibosh on the whole enterprise. But I persevered, and have had some startling (in my opinion) results.

The idea was that I would invent a persona for this type of writing, and she would have her own blog and twitter account. However, she has really no platform at all, and no one has ever heard of her, hence me not holding out hope for much more than that Starbuck’s latte in reward for my efforts. The first title went up the end of August, and I sold 9 copies in about 10 days. I think 2 of those were me and my hubby, and 1 was a friend I had confessed to. So 6 copies purchased by complete strangers from an unknown author. Most of those are being sold at a 70% royalty rate, and at $2.99 a copy, I end up with a clean $2.04 per copy. In 35% royalty territories (Kindle explains the breakdown), I get about a buck.

September saw me add another title, and my sales were a little over a copy a day. At least 75% are at the 70% royalty rate. I added 2  more titles in October, one as an experiment – a shorter story for only .99 cents – and I broke over a 100 copies total a few days ago. With the 4 titles, my sales are now averaging 3 to 4 a day. Not bad for someone who has never existed before August of this year. I am giving these stats not to brag, but to shout out to all my fellow authors out there – ANYONE can do this. Be warned though: sex sells, so other self-pubbed efforts will likely not take off as well initially. Like all the gurus say, you still have to market yourself and do all the work – including making sure there are proper edits, appealing cover, blablabla.

But it is possible with the right effort. Staying on course in all that you do will definitely pay off in the long run. I saw a graph recently from Amazon that showed the striking rise of e-book sales in just the last 3 years – it was astonishing. There is no longer any doubt that e-publishing is a viable and exciting new way for authors to be seen. Check out this link from one of my favorite romance blogs: Smart Bitches, Trashy Books:http://www.smartbitchestrashybooks.com/index.php/weblog/comments/what-ever-happened-to-shanna-swendson/#com It revolves around what ever happened to a romance author whose final book in her series was turned down by the publisher. Yet, she had plenty of readers and fans who were dying to read it. So why not self-publish? Read the comments section – of particular interest are the responses from the author herself and other  traditionally published authors, particularly P.N. Elrod. What an eye-opener. I am more excited than ever to take my writing destiny in my own hands, and while I will still send out stuff to traditional sources, I no longer feel held prisoner by them.

As a final comment on the erotica, I was first introduced to the concept of a “real” writer seriously handling that genre through Anne Rice’s Erotic Adventures of Sleeping Beauty, which she wrote under the pen name of A.N. Roquelaure. That lead to my discovery of Anais Nin and other women writers who had written quality erotica that some considered literary. So, even though I may be a smut peddler, I am taking it seriously to the extent that I care about the quality of the writing. Special side benefit:I am getting an amazing amount of writing done, and it is helping my craft! Yay! Since I am taking it seriously as a story writer ( not just throwing in gratuitous sex scenes) I am giving myself continuous exercises in character development, story arc, plot points and creativity.

Keep on keeping on to all the writers out there – we are no longer just limited to waiting for that stamp of approval from the Big Six, or a handful of literary presses and boutique presses. Let your readers decide.

 

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Where is Bela Lugosi When You Need Him?

I am so freakin’ tired. I was sitting here wondering if the peppers in my pepper jack cheese count as a serving of vegetables, and wondering what shows to record this week. I might go for another round of the new so-called reality show on Lifetime “Dance Moms”.  It premiered last Wednesday after “Roseanne’s Nuts”, which is what we were actually trying to watch and missed altogether. But then again, I might not.

This “Dance Moms” show is like a “Toddlers & Tiaras” for the elementary school set, or possibly what would have happened if the “Charm School” girls had duped rich guys into marrying them, and then spawned. I gotta wonder how much of this outrageousness is staged, since my complete lack of trust in the entertainment industry makes me suspicious. ( I still haven’t gotten over “Operation Repo” being 100% reenacted). If even one bit of this show is staged, then it is vomitous what they are doing to these young girls.  Even unstaged, it borders on child abuse. Hmmm…maybe more than borders. I hope the moms don’t spend all of the show money on hooker heels, bars and spray tans, because these little girls are gonna be needing some serious therapy after being pushed, prodded and degraded by mom and their so-called dance coach.

If you’re going to do a “reality” show, then at least don’t destroy entire young lives. For instance, I was watching the film, “Ed Wood”,  for about the 27th time the other day (hey – anything to keep from writing, huh?), and it occurred to me that poor Bela really missed out on the whole reality TV phenomenon. If he had been around now, he could have really raked it in and become a HUGE celebrity. First, there would have been the whole Celebrity Rehab stint with Dr. Drew. Then, we could have tried to keep up with him as he mindlessly wandered though his meaningless days. Then of course, he would realize just how mindless and meaningless life is without the perfect partner, so we could have watched with anticipation as he met and wooed 20 complete freaks of nature to find his soulmate. It could have been called “Dracula of Love”.  But he definitely would not have died alone and at the mercy of crushing debt, obscurity, and with only the love and compassion of a man who would one day be voted worst director of all time.

Actually, Ed Wood himself would have been an awesome reality TV star. Maybe he and Bela could have teamed up and done “Dracula is 70 and Still Single”, or “Ed Wood Knows Best”, or “Methadone Addict Actor”, or “Dracula & Wood Plus Failure”, or “3 Really Bad Films and Still Counting”, or “Vampires and Cashmere Sweaters”, or, well, you get the idea. I just wish we could see some true colorful characters – ones that are somewhat more interesting and less bland than say, I don’t know, Speidi.  Because wouldn’t Bela, Ed, Vampira, Thor and the entire gang have been so much more fun and watchable than any New Jersey native ponderously hot tubbing and fake-fighting through life ever hope to be?