Erotica Readers & Writers Association
Home | Erotic Books | Authors Resources | Inside The Erotic Mind | Erotica Gallery
Adult Movies | Sex Toys | Erotic Music | Email Discussion List | Links

2006 Authors Insider Tips

Beyond the Basics
With Tulsa Brown
The 30-Second Solution
Backstory vs. Flashback
Intimacy Begins With "I"
Hit the Ground Running
Make the Reader Leap
Meaningful Dialogue
Pulling the String
Central Image
Elegant Smut
Better Plots
Bitch Power

The Write Stuff
From Ashley Lister
Predefined Your Goals
Spell Ink Miss Takes
Plotting & Planning
Character Building
Speech Therapy
Talking Sense

Two Girls Kissing
With Amie M. Evans
Intro to Lesbian Erotica
3-Dimensional Characters
Submitting for Publication
Five Year Writing Plan
Setting Up Your Plan...
The Power of Naming
Language of Lesbian...
Sexual Description
What Can I say?

Hard Business
From Greg Herren
What Are Your Priorities?
How to Edit an Anthology
Follow the Guidelines...
A Cock is Just a Cock
But is it Still a Story?
Who Am I Fucking?
Potential Material
Rejection ...

The Business End
By Kate Dominic
Effective Cover Letters
How to Lose Contracts
Contracts: Agent Issues
Contracts: Read It!
Double Duty Bios
What's Sex?

Literary Streetwalker
By M. Christian
Ground Rules for Writers
No Muse is Good News
Effective Cover Letters
Location, Location
Say Something!
Dirty Words

The Erotic Book Docter
By Susie Bright
Marketing Your Book
Submission Concerns
Promotion Strategies

2006 Smutters Lounge

Pondering Porn
With Ann Regentin
Babes & Hunks of Erotica
Fantasy, Reality & Rape
Selling Ourselves Short
Selling Smut in Motown
The Frankenstein Bride
Frankenstein Revisited
Porn and Perfect Shoes
Porn's Passionate Pull
Instruments of Joy

Get All Worked Up
With J.T. Benjamin
Orwell's Eerie Parallels
Redefining Marriage
The Porn Menace
High-Quality Porn
About Profanity
Dirty Laundry
Big Brother


Wrong Reasons to do SM
by Midori

The Business End
by Kate Dominic

How to Lose Contracts and Annoy Editors

I'm compiling my Fall "To Do" list. For me, that means creating a spreadsheet showing the deadlines and submission requirements for the various calls for stories of publications to which I plan to send erotic stories over the next three months. There are a lot of sexy opportunities coming up!

As I look at my list, though, I must admit I am, once again, in awe of the sheer magnitude of differing submission requirements. Having everything in a spread sheet highlights the variety of formatting and content guidelines different publishers have. (By the way, publishers don't define "guidelines" the same way the pirates did in Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean. When publishers say "guidelines," they mean "this and ONLY THIS is what we want to see!") Some want snail mail only, with varying word count, printing, and mailing requirements. Others want E-mail only—in a wide variety of "only this" software—again with sometimes wildly differing format and content requirements.

By and large, the requirements are designed to keep editors and publishers sane while they're compiling a single cohesive work out of many unique pieces—and getting the whole ready for publication with their specific equipment. But for us writers, this means that some days, we really have to scramble to keep track of who wants what and where and when. Dotting the "i's" and crossing the "t's" on these sometimes seemingly minor details is often the only way to get your work (no matter how good) into the queue of things being considered for a publication.

Despite their (sometimes well-earned) reputations for cold-hearted ruthlessness, editors are people, too. Alan Mills, the former editor of In Touch for Men magazine, wrote a wonderful piece a few years back about an editor facing a Monday morning press deadline. As best I can remember, the editor is starting his week exhausted and hung over. The blind date his friends set him up with has him ready to look for new friends. The mail holds an "I'm not sending the story I promised because my muse isn't speaking to me" excuse from an author he was depending on. That means the editor is going to have to crank out a story himself by close of business—unless there's something wonderful in his IN basket. The next envelope he opens has a story that, even at first blush, based on the number of pages, is twice as long as he can use—and it's printed in 8-point cursive, in purple ink, on lavender-scented paper. And he's out of aspirin. Again.

It helps me to keep Alan's article in mind when I'm chaffing at the sheer volume of differing guidelines out there, because that frustrated, story-hungry editor, whomever s/he is at whichever pub, is the person to whom I want to sell my stories.

Caveat, Disclaimer: Examples in this article are either taken from my personal experience as a writer and editor or are gleaned from the rants (some more frothing-at-the-mouth than others) of editors, publishers, or others I know in the world of erotica writing. With the exception of the above bit about Alan (who is one of the best editors I've had the pleasure to work with), details have been changed to disguise the guilty as well as the innocent.

Let's say Fictional Publisher X's guidelines are as follows: "We are looking for 2,000-3,000 word stories about explicit romantic encounters between college men and the women they love. Unpublished fiction only. Regular mail only, to the following address. No simultaneous submissions. For samples of the type of stories we like, check out our other publications, which are listed on our website. Send submissions by August 31st. Questions may be addressed to Y at Y@Y e-mail account."

Step 1: Break down the call for stories to see if what you write (or want to write) matches what they buy. Are your stories basically that length? (Don't guess—use your word processor's word count function.) Are the stories hetero? Are they fictional? (There can be legal reasons for this requirement.) Are they about romantic situations? (By and large, "romantic" means vanilla sex rather than BDSM. ) Are the sex scenes explicit? (This usually means they want sensual details, as in specific images gathered from the five senses—not vague or cutsie "throbbing manhood/womanhood" euphemisms for cock or pussy.) Are the stories unpublished—and ones that you're willing to leave exclusively with that publisher while s/he's making decisions?

Those are what this editor wants—which also tells us what s/he doesn't want for this project. S/he does not want flashers or novellas. Nor does s/he want same sex stories or true stories with just the names changed. S/he does NOT NOT NOT want underage, just because some college freshmen can be 17! (Sheesh!) And s/he does not want reprints.

When editors tell you they're looking for particular things—believe them! Respect the fact that they took the time to figure out what they wanted and pass that information on to you, the writer. It's fine to ask for clarification —for example, are three-ways okay so long as all the sex is hetero? But guidelines are there for a reason—to tell you what the editor is looking for. If you want to make the sale—LISTEN!

If you can't say "yes" to the content questions so far, this is the time to seriously consider whether it's best to cut your losses with this particular call for stories and move on to the next one. Some things might be able to be tweaked—a few words over or under count, the aforementioned three-way, an older female character in a non-student position (so to speak) such as resident assistant or somesuch that would logically be associated with the requisite college man. If the pub is a book, and you have something that has only been published online (for example, in the ERWA galleries) or in a now out-of-print magazine or a locally-only distributed chapbook, it can be worth querying to see how they're defining "unpublished."

The farther afield you go, though, the more likely you are to hit diminishing returns from a business standpoint—wasting your time preparing for and submitting a story the editor is going to turn down out of hand for non-compliance to the guidelines, and wasting the editor's time (an editor you may want to positively impress in the future) dealing with a story that by definition doesn't meet what was asked for. If your work doesn't match, business sense says to move on to the next call for stories.

Step 2: If you think there's potential for a match, go to the website listed in the call for stories and check out the previous pubs. Research is an inherent part of the business of erotica. If you've been keeping up with erotica publishing, you may well be familiar with some of the works mentioned. There may also be samples on the site, or you may be able to check out a copy of a book or magazine from your local library. However, given some of the new interpretations of censorship laws regarding adult content, you may well need to make an investment to get the sample. This can mean anything from buying a book or e-book or magazine to getting a trial membership on a website. Keep your receipts for taxes.

Bottom line is that ignorance of what a publisher publishes doesn't carry much weight with impressing an editor. I can't count the number of times I've seen editors and publishers rolling their eyes at conferences, telling horror stories of glaringly mismatched submissions. For example, just because a publication identifies as "gay" or "for women" or "for dominants" or "submissives" does not mean that pub uses erotic stories about that group! And if a publication identifies as being for a specific erotic market, they don't want non-topical pieces. (One frequent rant is that those who are publishing lesbian erotica for lesbian readers get very tired of reading submissions where a male character joins the action to finish the women off!) Do your homework. Know your markets.

Now, if you can say "yes" to the content questions and you feel reasonably comfortable that what you want to submit is the type of piece for which the publisher might be looking, you're ready to move on to step 3—submit professionally.

"Regular mail only" means they want professionally formatted snail mail—and they want it sent to the address they've provided. They do not want the story sent in e-mail to the query contact (neither as an attachment nor as text in the e-mail). They do not want the story sent to the website that posted the guidelines with a note asking the webmistress to forward the story. (I'm not kidding here—people do this to Adrienne all the time! I'm surprised she doesn't whap them with a stick rather than just sending a polite "I don't accept unsolicited manuscripts" response"!)

In our sample call for stories, the editor/publisher does not want the story sent electronically to anybody! S/he wants it on paper that you (not s/he) have printed out. Unless s/he says otherwise, s/he wants it single-sided, double spaced, in black ink on quality white paper in a legible font (something like 10-12 point Times New Roman). S/he wants your full contact information on the first page and your name and the page number on every subsequent page. Put yourself in the editor's position. You're slogging through reams and reams of stories, looking for the gems of content that will let you publish a project that will sell. What legible, professional formatting will let your poor, tired eyes slip into a story that will hook you and keep you reading—and then buying?

In addition to formatting, when you're submitting hard copy, you should also enclose a Self-Addressed, Stamped Envelope (SASE) with sufficient postage for the manuscript returned if it's not selected. (One editor told me that the reason he wanted SASE's was that he didn't have time to ding around addressing envelopes—even when he was just sending out contracts rather than returning stories.) As e-mail has become more prevalent, unless guidelines specifically state otherwise, if you don't want to deal with figuring the correct postage for the SASE, you might want to query whether, rather than including a full-sized SASE, if it's okay to include a correspondence SASE or e-mail address for correspondence. If the editor indicates that's okay, be sure to include a note in the cover letter saying the manuscript is disposable if it's not selected and noting the contact information.

Personally, I always include the full SASE the first time I'm submitting to a publisher. With subsequent submissions, I'll ask if a correspondence SASE or e-mail address is sufficient. Editorial needs and methods differ, so it can help to keep file notes about which editors are open to alternate correspondence. (The folks on the ERWA Writers list also have a wealth of experience dealing with various editors and publishers. A question posted there can sometimes get you quickly pointed in the appropriate direction.)

Send the submission by the due date, preferably earlier. In our example, August 31st means the last day of August—not after you've sobered up from Labor Day weekend (here in the U.S., that's the first weekend in September, also considered the dividing line between summer vacation and autumn back-to-work). The earlier you submit, the closer the read you're likely to get from the overworked editor, as most people procrastinate on submitting until the deadline is upon them. Since our sample guidelines say unpublished only, don't send the manuscript anywhere else until you've heard back from the editor. (If there's a limit to how long you're willing to wait, query asking what the expected response time is.)

Bottom line is that if you want an editor to recognize you as a professional with whom s/he might well want to have a contract, follow the publication's guidelines. Send a clean, crisp submission with a professional, to-the-point cover letter. Then let your content close the deal.

Check out the ERWA Call for Submissions section for a list of current markets.

August 2005

"The Business End" © 2005 Kate Dominic. All rights reserved.

About the Author:  Kate Dominic has been self-employed as a freelance erotica writer since 1996. Her critically acclaimed collection, Any 2 People, Kissing (Down There Press, 2003), was a finalist for Foreword Magazine's 2003 Book of the Year Award in the category of Fiction Short Stories. Her erotic short stories have appeared in many dozens of publications, including The Many Joys of Sex Toys; Naughty Spanking Stories from A-Z; The Big Book of Hot Women's Erotica; Lip Service; Tough Girls; Early Embraces; Master/slave; Leather, Lace and Lust; Hot & Bothered 4; and several volumes of Best Lesbian Erotica and Best Women's Erotica.

Kate and her husband make their home in Los Angeles with a laid-back dog and several highly opinionated cats. She has been a member of ERWA since 1998. She considers it a home away from home on the Web.
Email: Kate Dominic

  E-mail this page

Search ERWA Website:

Copyright 1996 and on, Erotica Readers Association, Inc.
All Rights Reserved World Wide. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or
medium without express written permission is prohibited.

> 2006 Book Reviews

4 Erotic Ass-ets
Reviews by Ashley Lister

Review by Lisabet Sarai

Bad Girls & More...
Reviews by Ashley Lister

The Best of Both Worlds
Review by Lisabet Sarai

The Black Masque
Review by M. Ellis

Blood Surrender
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Review by Lisabet Sarai

Bound to Love
Review by Ashley Lister

Double Dare
Review by Ashley Lister

Filthy: Outrageous Gay...
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Review by Gary Russell

Forbidden Reading
Review by M. Ellis

Leather, Lace and Lust
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Mr. Stone & Lessons
Reviews by Ashley Lister

Nina Hartley's Sex Guide
Review by Adrienne

Oedipus & Rode Hard
Reviews by Ashley Lister

Orgasms & More
Reviews by Ashley Lister

Passion of Isis
Review by Ashley Lister

Sex in Uniform
Review by Ashley Lister

Six Top Picks
Reviews by Ashley Lister

Stirring up a Storm
Review by M. Ellis

Sunshine and Shadow
Reviews by Lisabet Sarai

Surrender & Dying for It
Reviews by Ashley Lister

Review by Lisabet Sarai

Wicked: Sexy Tales...
Reviews by Ashley Lister

Writing Naked
Review by Lisabet Sarai


America’s War on Sex
Review by Rob Hardy

Review by Rob Hardy

Covent Garden Ladies
Review by Rob Hardy

The Commitment
Review by Rob Hardy

Eroticism and Art
Review by Rob Hardy

Expletive Deleted...
Review by Rob Hardy

Female Orgasms
Review by Rob Hardy

Government Vs. Erotica
Review by Rob Hardy

Heloise & Abelard ...
Review by Rob Hardy

International Exposure
Review by Rob Hardy

A Profane Wit
Review by Rob Hardy

Secret Life of Oscar Wilde
Review by Rob Hardy

Sex Collectors
Review by Rob Hardy

Sex Machines
Review by Rob Hardy