Something a little different today. I’m delighted to have Bryan Cohen, author of 1,000 Creative Writing Prompts and many more. He’s talking about his first time writing erotica and here’s a link to enter his 1,000 Prompts, 1,000 Dollars” Writing Contest
1. The Grand Prize Winner receives a $500 Amazon gift card.
2. Four first-prize winners receive a $50 Amazon gift card.
3. 100 honorable mentions will receive a free digital copy of 1,000 Creative Writing Prompts, Volume 2 (Retail value: $2.99)
Sometime last year, I read a guest post about an author who wrote a Fifty Shades of Grey parody book set in the world of Alice in Wonderland. I couldn’t help but read it; the picture of the cover drew me in. It was an expertly illustrated mushroom made to look like a penis. As I read the post, I learned the author sold more than 10,000 copies of the book over the course of two weeks. While I wasn’t hurting for money, I became jealous of the author’s success. I purchased her book to see if I could understand the appeal.
I’d never really read much erotica. The book was clever and did a fantastic job laying the erotica motif over the classic tale. With thousands of classic tales ripe for the picking, I decided to try my hand at writing an erotic parody. I picked my tale (the identity of which I’ll keep to myself) and went to work.
My strong point in fiction has always been comedic dialogue, which made the descriptive sex scenes a major challenge. I did my best to weave hot and heavy through humor to play to my strengths. I stuck pretty close to the original formula of the classic tale with a few modern changes to keep things fresh and lively.
When I finished my second draft of my novella, I passed it along to an editor with erotica experience. I was surprised to learn that I wasn’t using the standard erotica terms for parts of the male and female anatomy. I realized then that I should have read more erotica before I began, to learn what the standards were. If it hadn’t been for the helpful editor, I would’ve clearly looked like the erotica novice I am.
When the novella was complete, I self-published it under a pen name and sought out reviews. Some of the reviewers loved my mixture of sex and comedy. Others thought I made some very poor choices. One person even said she would prefer her erotica didn’t mess with her stomach. All in all, the reviews were fairly positive and I was proud with the story I created.
The book never reached the heights of the Alice in Wonderland parody. In the year it’s been out, it sold 50-100 copies after I gave away a few hundred during a KDP Select promo. It would have been great if I made back my investment for an editor and cover art, but I definitely learned a lot from my experience.
First off, you can’t just come in off the street and expect to be a bang up erotica writer or a writer of any genre. You need to know what’s in the market to avoid making the most basic of mistakes. I also learned that in writing sex scenes you can’t please all the people all the time. Some loved what I wrote and others hated it. If I had to do it over again, I might’ve run the book by some erotica-reading friends to make sure I struck a proper balance between sex and laughs.
The last thing I learned is that trying to copy a successful formula typically has diminishing returns. The first few parodies of Fifty Shades of Grey got a lot of traction and made their authors a decent amount of money. The second and third waves, however, were out of luck. Instead of copying others, I should have looked into making something unique. The next big thing is always work that’s never been done before.
Maybe I’ll try my hand at erotica again in the future and dust off the old pen name. Until then, I’ll bow to the superior talent of full-time erotica writers and chastise anyone who says erotica writing is an easy cash grab that any writer could do. Like anything else, it takes talent, hard work and a little bit of luck.
In honor of his new book, Bryan is hosting the 1,000 Prompts, 1,000 Dollars” Writing Contest on his website. Click the link to find out how to enter!
Bryan Cohen is an author, a creativity coach and an actor. His new book, 1,000 Creative Writing Prompts, Volume 2: More Ideas for Blogs, Scripts, Stories and More is now available on Amazon in digital and paperback format. His other books include 1,000 Creative Writing Prompts, The Post-College Guide to Happiness, and Ted Saves the World. He has published over 30 books, which have sold more than 20,000 copies in total. Connect with him on his website, Build Creative Writing Ideas, on Facebook or on Twitter.