Sunday, March 09, 2008

It's Harder Than It Looks, Part the Third

See Part two below.

Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

It’s fitting that I came to this at-best mildly questionable decision here in southern California, the undisputed center of the porn universe. Of course, the pool into which I am attempting to dip my imminently indigent toe is that of erotica e-books: not webcams or amateur photo shoots. I’m not even really interested in writing those infamous letters to the Penthouse forum. I mean, I was: but my natural indolence reasserted itself when I couldn’t get any pertinent submission information after I lazily googled “how to submit to Penthouse Forum.” I came up empty handed. I figured, either they have so many readers submitting already that they’re actively trying to discourage new hopefuls, or they want to weed out the people with only mildly interesting fake tales to spin. You have to be really committed to sharing your fond memories of walking in on your blonde girlfriend blowing some massive brother to spend the necessary time finding out which member of Penthouse staff is paid to give a crap.

No, the whole point of taking a shot at the erotica market was that the rules all seemed so delightfully transparent.

Many – if not most—of the erotica-publishing community would take issue with me lumping it in, even in passing, with pornography: that over-lit, oil-slicked, hyper-inflated, peroxided realm of soulless “as.smasters” and “cu.m queens.” But as far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter if the audience is men or women; it doesn’t matter if the women are “realistic” looking or not; it doesn’t even matter if the medium is primarily visual or literary. The minute someone uses the term “cock,” I think we have entered a rarefied dominion wherein all boundaries break down.

I think that’s great. And I don’t mean to be coy here: I’m well aware that there is a difference between a seventy page novella about a lonely [rugged, taciturn, melancholy-yet-horny] widower and the voluptuous new schoolteacher in town, and a three minute clip on xtube of a military gangbang. I’m just not interested in being precious about the ways people choose to get off—not when my patented brand of lazy narcissism has me convinced that I can plot, outline, and knock off one of those novellas in a week.

If I’m honest, I actually first got the idea to try to make a career out of e-rotica from the fantastically funny women at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books ( over a year ago. The incredibly successful site recently found itself popping up in “serious” news outlets due to the role they played in uncovering the Cassie Edwards plagiarism scandal (covered, at last count, in rags as prestigious as The New York Times ). Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, in keeping with the caustic wit of their name, make it their mission to sharply critique the content and packaging of popular romances. The women who run the site and the legion of fans who visit daily are all long-term, self-identified fans of the genre. While not all of them also read erotica, a good number do. And increasingly, the brick and mortar publishing houses who produce the lines these women read are developing and promoting erotica lines to cater to the taste for more explicit, sensual, frank discussions of sexuality in this market. They are slightly behind the curve, however, because there is already a booming market for erotica e-books that can be purchased directly off a website and require nothing more than a few bucks and a reasonable internet connection.

I haven’t been a regular reader of romance novels since the purple prose-bulimia of my two-a-day Harlequin habit in the seventh grade. Nevertheless, I occasionally dip my toes in now and again, and I’ve been gratified about the upsurge in titles from diverse writers, featuring multicultural heroines. But I’m not interested in writing something that I’d want to read. I’m interested in making a quick couple of bucks. And some of the internet publishing companies that the Smart Bitches mock mercilessly on their site seemed like the ideal place to do it. After all, if they were doing such shoddy work on the accompanying artwork, the writing inside is probably a rush job, too, right? How hard could it be to write one of these things? After about two minutes of what I was generously calling “market research,” I got started. I’m going to finish this in a week, I thought. Maybe less. I’m going to turn this into a business and crank these out like these people have never seen. I’m going to need four or five pen names just to keep up with my oeuvre.

Coming Soon: Part Four -- Size Matters

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