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

'08 Authors Insider Tips

Everything About Epublishing
by Angela James
Epublishing: A Different Way
Choosing an Epublisher
Your Milage May Vary
Understand Your Contract!
Reasonable Expectations

by Louisa Burton
The Publishing Biz
Critiquing: To Give and ...
Commerical vs. Literary...
Antiformalism for Fun &...
So You Want to Write a Novel
The Story Idea
Planning Your Novel...

The Write Stuff
by Ashley Lister
5 Steps to Success
Opening Passages
Let's Get Critical
Writer's Block
Learning Lessons

Two Girls Kissing
by Amie M. Evans
Be a Finisher ...
Listen to Your Characters
Conferences: Act Now ...
Starting an Erotic Story
Exercises & Writing Prompts
Revising & Rewriting
Copy Editing
The Manuscript Critique
How to Submit Your Work
Reading as Craft

Guest Appearances

Adventures in e-Publishing
by Lisabet Sarai

For the Love of Man
by Laura Baumbach

How to...Influence Editors
by Alison Tyler

Marketing your e-Book
by Brenna Lyons

2008 Smutters Lounge

Ashley Lister Submits
by Ashley Lister
Role Play
Busy Doing Nothing
Picture of a Fish & Chip...
What I Did With My Summer

Cooking Up A Storey
by Donna George Storey
Naughty Cookies...
Tie Me Up, Please …
The Smut-Writer’s Holiday
Never Trust the Narrator ...
Compare and Contrast
Following the Pen
Naked at the Farmers Market
I’m Easy, But I’m No Slut
Good Girl Gone Bad
Pleasures of the Dark Side
Slow, Spare and Sexy

Get All Worked Up
with J.T. Benjamin
Raising Daughters
Jamie Lynn
The Good Old Days
Election '08
Traditional Marriage
Campaign 2008
Free Will

Pondering Porn
with Ann Regentin
Masturbating on SSRIs
Sex and Disability
Besides Ourselves
Adjusting our Contrast

Sex Is All Metaphors
by Jean Roberta
Sex Is All Metaphors
Turn-ons and Squicks
Sexual Truth
Fickle Muse
Porn, Erotica & Romance

Provocative Interviews

Between the Lines
with Ashley Lister
Alison Tyler
Ashley Lister
Debra Hyde
Donna George Storey
Jeremy Edwards
Kristina Wright
Rachel Kramer Bussel

Erotic Hot Spots
by William S. Dean
Interview with Tilly Greene
Interview with Devyn Quinn

Getting Graphic
with William S. Dean
New Times for Readers...
The Future in Words ...
Interview with Fantagraphics

On Writing Erotica

The Accidental Pornographer
by Lisabet Sarai

The End of Innocence
by Lisabet Sarai

Get Them Off in High Style
Helena Settimana

So, You Want To Write Erotica?
by Hanne Blank

Web Gems
Hot Movies For Her

The Accidental Pornographer
by Lisabet Sarai

I didn't plan to become an author of erotica. I have always loved to write, and I've always been fascinated by sex, but these two passions only converged in my life by an odd stroke of chance. I was visiting Istanbul (travelling being my third great passion) and picked up a used copy of Portia da Costa's Black Lace classic Gemini Heat. (In case you haven't had the joy of reading this gem, it's the chronicle of two identical twins of quite different temperament who are seduced by the same man, a sophisticated dominant who loves pushes them to the edge and beyond.)

That battered paperback was the most arousing thing I had ever read. Better than Pauline Réage. Better than Anaïs Nin or Vladimir Nabokov or Anne Rice. It was intelligent, genuine, graphic without being gross, and best of all, incredibly varied in its scenarios and emotions.

Being an American, I'd never heard of Black Lace: erotica written for women, by women. I was intrigued by the concept, and also challenged. "I'll bet I could write something like that," I thought. I had exotic experiences from my past life in Thailand to serve as background and a wealth of submissive fantasies to provide the action. I wrote three chapters and sent them off to Black Lace, not exactly as a lark, but certainly with no great expectations of success. My limited expectations seemed to be confirmed when I received a airmail postcard saying that due to the volume of submissions, Black Lace wouldn't even be able to read my proposal for several months. I shrugged and filed the postcard away. Then less that a week later, I got an email from the Black Lace editor asking when I could deliver the completed manuscript.

Somehow I managed to finish the book, despite working full time at a demanding job. I struggled to adapt my English to British standards. (I never could get my mind around the word "knickers"...) I proudly shipped the manuscript off to London just before my deadline, only to receive a stern email a week later warning me that I was below my contractual word count and that if I didn't supply an additional 15,000 words immediately I'd be in breach. So I spent a weekend writing two new chapters and an epilogue, despite a raging headache due to an impending case of flu. Innocently, I had assumed that the word count was merely an estimate; I didn't realize that I was legally bound to provide 80,000 words of smut.

The rest, as they say, is history. (An extremely minor footnote, of course.) I went back to writing software and technical documentation. But things had changed. I was now Lisabet Sarai. I had a public. I had royalties. And I had new, ever more outrageous ideas for dirty stories.

I didn't intend to become an erotic author. Now, three novels, two anthologies, and a couple of dozen stories later, I discover that I am one, despite myself. I feel a bit guilty. Because I don't give my writing "career" the time or the effort that my colleagues seem to devote to theirs. I have a web site, but I'm lucky if I manage to update it once every quarter. I don't keep a spreadsheet of my outstanding submissions, because there is rarely more than one or two at any one time. I don't do any significant marketing or business development; I just don't have the time. Of course, I could make the time, but while my writing is extremely important to my perception of self and even, perhaps, to my mental health, it's not in any sense my business.

So, despite some success in publishing my work, I really view myself as an amateur, an accidental pornographer who writes for fun and excitement, not for a living, and certainly not because I have a burning need to share my visions (though sharing them is perennially satisfying.) I intensely admire those of you who send off three or four pieces every week, who need a database to maintain their submission records, who regularly find checks in their mailboxes, who do readings and go to workshops and blog about the writer's life.

Why am I bothering to write this article, then? I have a feeling that there are other accidental pornographers out there, who might be feeling the same way I do: a bit guilty, a bit insecure, perhaps a bit of a fraud. I want to voice my conviction that what you do is worthwhile, even if you don't do it full-time, or for a living. And I thought I might also share some of the things I've learned in my non-career as a writer of erotica, which may have contributed to whatever success I've had and which might be helpful to you.

Act professional, even if you're not

Many articles here in the Authors Resources pages have emphasized the importance of carefully reading and following publishers' guidelines, writing courteous and concise cover letters; of submitting nicely-formatted, carefully-edited work; of paying attention to contracts, meeting deadlines and so on. Even if your writing is just a hobby, it's worthwhile to act like a professional when dealing with editors and publishers.

It makes life so much easier for them (believe me, I know, having edited an anthology of other people's stories), and their happiness and contentment will color their perceptions of you. The world of written erotica is not that large. It takes relatively little time and effort for you to build a reputation as somebody who is polite, competent, businesslike—easy to work with. That translates, all things being equal, into a higher probability of being published.

Write what you know and/or love

I believe that emotion is the key to effective erotica. You can write extreme sex scenes with nubile bodies contorted in every imaginable way, addressing all orifices and mixing all genders. If your reader does not connect emotionally with your characters, you won't get the reaction you want.

When I write, at least, I have to feel what I'm writing. I need to identify with my characters. I have to share their sensations and emotions. So when I sit down to work on a story, I'll use people, places, and incidents that have special meaning for me. Anyone who visits my website and then reads some of my stories will immediately notice the commonality between the list of my "favorite" places on my site and the locations for my tales.

Of course, writing what I know and love doesn't mean that I've actually experienced everything I write about. (Never, for example, have I been sodomized on a billiard table. Or burned at the stake.) Every story, though, has some germ of reality or fantasy that brings on a personal buzz. My goal, as a writer, is to pass on that buzz to my readers.

Know your weaknesses

Every writer has problem areas. If your time for writing and promoting your work is limited, as mine is, you can make that time more productive by choosing venues, styles or formats that play to your strengths. For example, I suffer from excess verbosity. I can't write flash fiction or quickies to save my life. So I don't bother to submit to collections, sites or contests that are asking for stories with fewer than 2000 words. I know that it will just be too painful, and though I might have a masochistic streak, it's not that strong!

Another weakness is that I just can't seem to write dark, edgy erotica, though I often enjoy reading it. So I'm not going to spend my time working on the kind of stark, cynical, shocking stuff that many of you do so well.

I'm not suggesting, by the way, that you should always write the same sort of tale, or that you never try to expand your limits. I do deliberately try to work on stories that break new personal ground. Recently, I wrote my first pure M-M story. It was rejected.

I'm not giving up on it, though. Maybe I need more practice, or maybe I need to submit it elsewhere. I doubt, though, that gay male stories are about to become one of my specialties.

Don't ignore inspiration

If you are like me, you are constantly trying to shoehorn your writing into the crevices of your "real" life. One disadvantage of viewing yourself as an amateur is that you tend to feel that you must put life's other responsibilities and activities before your writing.

Sometimes, when I'm in a crunch, I may go several weeks without writing any erotica at all. Then, all of a sudden, I'll wake up in a sweat from a vivid dream that contains a story begging to be told. Or a character will emerge, full-blown, in my mind and start talking to me.

This kind of inspiration is rare, and precious. It's also fragile. If you don't seize it and use it, it's likely to evaporate. Alas, I have a notebook full of story ideas that held the essence of divine fire when they struck me, but which now seem flat and empty because I put them off for later. So even if it's inconvenient or impractical, even if it means paying your bills late or giving up a night's sleep, allow yourself to succumb, occasionally, to the craziness.

The best things I've written were forged in the heat of inspiration, when despite the pressures and stresses of life, I just couldn't ignore the nagging of my muse. Meanwhile, the experience of writing, inspired, is one of the most intense highs I've ever had. It even beats seeing your work in print!

Find a writing community

Writing is a lonely business. Just because that statement's a cliche doesn't mean that it isn't true. For someone who writes as an avocation rather than a profession, writing may be even lonelier than the norm. It's all too easy to lose confidence, to tell yourself that it's not worth it, that after all this isn't what you "really" do. If you tell yourself that long enough, you'll succeed in discouraging yourself from writing at all.

That's why having a community of writers with whom you can share your desires, your fears, and your words, is so important. Your colleagues, your fellow writers, can provide both moral support and practical assistance. They'll help you become more professional. They may make it easier for you to recognize and address your weaknesses. And when the lightning of inspiration strikes, they'll encourage you to follow your muse wherever the hell she might lead.

Finding the Erotica Readers & Writers Association (ERWA) website and participating in the email discussion list hosted by ERWA has been critical to my personal writing path. Members of ERWA community have congratulated me on my successes, commiserated with me on my setbacks, and offered insightful suggestions on how to improve everything from my plots to my grammar. I count some of them among my closest friends, even though we've never met.

Of course, if you're reading this, you probably have already found ERWA. Nevertheless, let me personally welcome you, whether you're a pro or just getting started—whether erotica is your bread and butter or your sinfully rich dessert.

You never know about chance. You can't predict the weird, surprising, quirky twists your road may take, by accident. I never set out to be a writer, but now, it's hard to imagine what my life would have been like, otherwise.

I suspect that you may feel the same.

Lisabet Sarai

"The Accidental Pornographer" © Lisabet Sarai. All rights reserved.

About the Author: 
Lisabet Sarai has been writing ever since she learned how to hold a pencil. She is the author of three erotic novels, Raw Silk, Incognito, and Ruby's Rules, and the co-editor, with S.F. Mayfair, of the anthology Sacred Exchange (Blue Moon), which explores the spiritual aspects of BDSM relationships. Read Lisabet Sarai's entire bio on the Erotica Readers & Writers Association.

Visit her website, Lisabet Sarai's Fantasy Factory for more information and samples of her writing.

  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.

'08 Movie Reviews

Almost Perfect
Review by Oranje

The Fold
Review by Ashley Lister

Review by Spooky

Review by Spooky

'08 Book Reviews


Best Bisexual Women's Erotica
Review by Ashley Lister

Best Fantastic Erotica
Review by Ashley Lister

Best Women's Erotica '08
Review by Ashley Lister

Bound Brits (ebook)
Review by Ashley Lister

Deep Inside: Extreme ...
Review by Cervo

Dirty Girls
Review by Rose B. Thorny

Hide and Seek
Review by Ashley Lister

Hurts So Good
Review by Ashley Lister

J is for Jealousy
Review by Ashley Lister

K is for Kink
Review by Ashley Lister

Lust Bites
Review by Ashley Lister

Open for Business
Review by Rose B. Thorny

Review by Lisabet Sarai

Rubber Sex
Review by Ashley Lister

Rubber Sex
Review by Victoria Blisse

Seriously Sexy
Review by Ashley Lister

Sex & Candy
Review by Ashley Lister

The Shadow of a... (poetry)
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Review by Victoria Blisse

Tasting Her
Review by Kathleen Bradean

Tasting Him
Review by Ashley Lister

Tasting Him
Review by Kathleen Bradean

White Flames
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Yes, Ma'am: Male Submission
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Yes, Sir: Female Submission
Review by Angelika Devlyn


The Art of Melinoe
Review by Ashley Lister

Demon by Day
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Gemini Heat
Review by Ashley Lister

Gothic Heat
Review by Ashley Lister

The Hidden Grotto Series
Review by Lisabet Sarai

The House of Blood
Review by Lisabet Sarai

In Too Deep
Review by Ashley Lister

In Too Deep
Review by Victoria Blisse

Review by Donna George Storey

Review by Victoria Blisse

One Breath at a Time
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Out of the Shadows (ebook)
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Review by Ashley Lister

Review by Rose B. Thorny

Seduce Me
Review by Ashley Lister

Seduced by the Storm
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Serve the People!
Review by Donna G. Storey

Signed, Sealed and Delivered
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Sunfire (eBook)
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Templar Prize
Review by Angelika Devlyn

The Wicked Sex
Review by Ashley Lister

Wild Kingdom
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Gay Erotica

Review by Vincent Diamond

Best Gay Romance '08
Review by Vincent Diamond

Hard Hats
Review by Vincent Diamond

Review by Kathleen Bradean

Lesbian Erotica

Best Lesbian Erotica '08
Review by Donna George Storey

Best Lesbian Erotica '08
Review by Ashley Lister

The Night Watch
Review by Lisabet Sarai


America Unzipped
Review by Rob Hardy

Best Sex Writing '08
Review by Rob Hardy

Bonk: The Curious Coupling
Review by Rob Hardy

The Book of Love
Review by Rob Hardy

Casanova: Actor Lover ...
Review by Rob Hardy

Dishonorable Passions
Review by Rob Hardy

Flagrante Delicto (photos)
Review by Jack Gilbert

The Flesh Press
Review by Rob Hardy

Geisha, Harlot, Strangler, Star
Review by Donna G. Storey

The Humble Little Condom
Review by Rob Hardy

Instant Orgasm (sex guide)
Review by Ashley Lister

Man O Man! Writing M/M...
Review by Vincent Diamond

The Not So Invisible Woman
Review by Ashley Lister

Swingers: Female...
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Who's Been Sleeping in...
Review by Rob Hardy