Thursday 4 September 2014

Your Wallet Hears Erotica Calling

The situation: erotic books mentioned wherever you go; fantasising about being out of debt.

Your feel: excitement; confusion; fear.

There’s a debt collector knocking at your door, you’ve reached your limit on seven credit cards and the bank is foreclosing on your mortgage. You can’t afford to send little Johnny on school trips and baby Jenny has no bonnet. Times are hard. To make matters worse, nobody is buying your beautifully researched literary masterpiece about Mark Antony and Cleopatra. Instead, everywhere you go, people are banging on about some erotic trilogy featuring a nasty bully whose only redeeming feature is owning a helicopter.

You look back over your romantic history. You know a thing or two about sex. It wouldn’t be too hard to cobble together 50,000 words of bonk-busting delight based on your personal experiences. You could publish it under a false name and the bitches at the school gates will never know that you are anything other than the perfect mother.

The first thing you need to realise is that for every erotic novel that sells 10,000 copies, there are thousands that sell less than 100. Buying erotica is popular, but so is writing it. I recently had to sift through thousands of books deciding which ones to long-list in a competition. There were more erotic novels without a single review than books without reviews in any other category.

If you still want to go ahead, ask yourself how much you actually know about sex. The majority of mainstream erotica readers like to think they’re enjoying something really kinky, without actually being exposed to anything that genuine BDSM culture would consider darker than a vanilla sundae.

If your sexual repertoire involves two or three sex acts repeated on a loop, the chances are your sex-life memoir will bore the majority of modern erotica readers. But if losing your virginity involved nipple clamps, suspension and suffocation, you’ll still lose most of your readers by chapter two.

Then there’s the potential defamation suit, should any of your former lovers recognise themselves in your book. The chances are that the ex who liked to be swathed in butter wrappers and tied to a chimney is the only person in the world who has ever liked being wrapped like that and tied to a chimney. He might not be happy with your chapter about him cheating on his wife.

As a general rule, sex memoirs are a bad idea.

What about erotic fiction? Admittedly, that’s less dangerous territory, but still a risk. If your book does well, journalists will not be happy to let you relax behind a pseudonym. Do you really want little Bobby to know that mummy wrote a story about punishing a burglar with a courgette? Imagine getting him to eat his greens after that.

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