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'10 Authors Insider Tips

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The Music of Words
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Backstory & Foreshadowing

The Fine Art of Submission
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Nailing the Query Letter
Banish the Boring Bio
Becoming a Market Master
Become a Market Master, 2
Backstory & Foreshadowing
Enticing An Editor, Part 1
Enticing An Editor, Part 2
Contracts, Money & More

Serious about Smut
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No More Horsing Around
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'10 Smutters Lounge

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by Ashley Lister
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Fly the Unfriendly Skies
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Castrated Words
Virtual vs. Actual Romance
The View from Gallows Hill

Get All Worked Up
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The Fashion Industry
The Same Old Same Old
Writing Porn
About the Closet
... About Spirituality
Making Sense of Religion
Worked Up About Monogamy
What's Next
All Worked Up About Nature
Still All Worked Up...

Sex Is All Metaphors
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Holiday Ghosts
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Sexual Etiquette
Sex and Children
People Against Bad Things
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His Cold Eyes, His Granite Jaw
A Flash of Northern Light

Serious about Smut

by Vincent Diamond

RAWPET: Selling Short Stories


Serious About SmutIn the past six years, I’ve sold over thirty erotic short stories to various print anthologies, e-book publishers, and online markets using the RAWPET method. No, RAWPET doesn’t mean serving up your animal companion sans cooking. It means Research, Analyze, Write, Professionally sub, Early sub, and Tracking. By using these steps with your story submissions—erotica or otherwise—you’ll have a much better chance of making the sale!

This advice is designed for a writer who has access to the Internet and email. For the majority of publications, both print and online, Internet connectivity and email is essential for business relationships. You may snail mail a submission, but you’ll most often receive an email acceptance if your story sells. Only a few erotica markets I can think still use hard copy submissions; Maxim Jakubowski's Mammoth Books series, and Penthouse Variations comes to mind.

Step 1: Research the markets

(Printed market listings are outdated before they hit the bookstores. My advice: stick with online research).

For erotica, the most complete listing I’ve found is our own Erotica Readers & Writers Association. There are calls for subs for print books and anthologies, magazines, e-publishers, and online sites. Also, check Ralan; it focuses on sci-fi, fantasy, and horror publications and it has an adult section. Duotrope is a search engine that can pull up markets for a piece within certain specifications such as pro rates, genre, word count, etc. and they have an adult section. Story Pilot is another search engine that focuses on horror, sci-fi, and fantasy.

You can also research on genre-specific sites and forums. For example, Romancedivas specializes in male/female romance genres. The Erotica Writer’s Forum is a good source of information; most writers there specialize in romantic erotica, especially male/male fiction.  The Fishtank at is an online erotica critique group, and they also have a calls for subs thread on the forums. Niche markets like BDSM, kink, and other fetishes have their own market listings; you can find them through the websites that specialize in that type of fiction. Chances are, if you've written a story in a specific genre you already know the markets that publish that type of fiction. Check pages such as "Links" and "Resources" on various sites, and you may find other markets that are similar.

You can also research specific publishers such as Alyson, Cleis, Samhain, Loose ID, Torquere, Changeling, Ellora’s Cave, Penthouse, etc. to see their active calls for subs.  They’ll often post these on their own sites before they send it out to other sites.  And some publishers have an email service for current calls for subs.  

Step 2: Analyze the calls for submissions

Erotica publications typically have a clear vibe because they are often very specialized. (Really, porn pioneered the concept of long-tail, niche marketing.) Freshmen, the gay men’s magazine, focused on stories about young men. Penthouse Forum publishes mostly heterosexual stories with the occasional kink involved. Check the publication itself and get a sense of what sells. Many have free online content that is especially helpful for the more esoteric markets. 

The next step: analyze them. Do all the first sentences have a great hook? Is first-person POV common? Is the main character introduced within 100 words, 50 words, in the first sentence? Do all the stories involve strangers meeting and having sex? Check word count—Alyson will take short stories up to 6000 words and serialize longer works. Freshmen won't look at anything longer than 3000 words.

If you really want to get granular about your research, check out the editor as much as possible. Many of them have their own websites or blogs where story preferences and recent sales are discussed. Check the editor’s previous sales; what kind of stories do they like to write? Chances are they like to read it, too.

Step 3: Write (or revise) the story

Per the guidelines, theme, word count, POV, and editor’s listed preferences.

For themed anthologies, an excellent strategy is to come up with a twist on the theme, something that will make your story stand out of the crowd. Avoid clichés. Torquere Press once released a sports-themed antho, Play Ball.  I knew the editor would get lots of stories about baseball, football, and basketball. By sending in a story based in the world of horse show jumping, I knew the story would stand out. It worked; she bought it.

I used a similar tactic when subbing to Men of Mystery: Tales of Erotica and Suspense. The call for subs said the editors were looking for tales of intrigue, spy themes, and cop stories.  I suspected their submissions would have a lot of undercover-cops-going-after-drug-dealers type of material so I gave mine a twist. "Lions and Tigers and Snares" is about an undercover cop, but he’s a Wildlife and Game Commission officer investigating violations of the Endangered Species Act.  I was confident that they wouldn’t get any other subs set on a wildlife refuge. It worked; they bought it.

Step 4: Professionally submit:

Professionalism means that you use a professional (short) cover letter, follow-up quickly and thoroughly, and just generally act like a grown-up.

The elements for a cover letter are simple: a one-sentence intro detailing the market title, story title, word count and its publication status (unpublished vs. reprint). Don’t give a synopsis of the story unless it’s specifically requested. Paragraph two is used to mention any of your previous sales, especially ones that relate to the market you’re subbing to.  The last paragraph is a thank you for the editor’s time. Whether email or snail mail, the format is the same. And be sure to include all of your contact info on the cover letter and the first page of your story.

If you're serious about writing, get a serious email address if you’re subbing to pro markets. Though is cute for a fan, it’s not appropriate for this level of writing. And don’t mention fanfiction—ever. Don’t use fannish terms, like slash or HEA or AU, to describe your work.  

How does the publication want submissions? Snail mail, email, or via an online upload protocol? Does the market need rtf, plain text, or doc files? Only send stories in the format they require. Use the header they request if specified. This helps to ensure that spam filters don’t dump your email into a junk mail file. If they don’t specify a format use Fiction Submission: Story name here, Author’s name here.

If you’re subbing to an anthology, pay attention to theme. (Note: an anthology is a group of stories written by different authors. A collection is a group of short stories written by one author). If the call for subs asks for stories about leprechauns then don’t send them a unicorn story. If they want bondage stories about big-busted blonde women, don’t send them your tender male/male romance. Editors are often quite specific in their sub calls. If they say they don’t want werewolf or vampire stories for a horror antho, pay attention.

Once you make the sale, respond promptly to requests for more information, meet deadlines for galley proofreading and use proper spelling, grammar, and syntax for communications. Don’t use ‘net acronyms, emoticons, or IM shortcuts; it’s easy for email to become too casual and chatty. This is a business relationship so treat it like one.

Don’t send simultaneous subs (meaning sending the same story to more than one market) or multiple subs (send more than one story to the same market), unless the publication allows it.

Step 5:  Early submission:

Consider subbing prior to any listed deadline. The main advantage is that it’s likely you won’t be competing against a LOT of other subs if the editor starts reading right away. (Carnifex Press received over 450 subs for their Vermin antho). If your story is strong, the editor will set it aside or even buy it right away. On several occasions, I had editors write back to say a story was being held for the second read pile; every single one sold to the editor.  I’ve also had editors buy stories before the deadline for subs had even passed. Also, submit holiday-themed pieces at least six months in advance of the holiday; lead time is needed for these types of stories.

If you do wait until the deadline, you’re likely competing against dozens or perhaps hundreds of other stories, and it just isn’t realistic to think that editors will read everything all the way through. You’ll have one page to grab them; some even say one paragraph.

The disadvantage, of course, is that subbing early as a strategy ties up a story for a longer period if the editor doesn’t notify until after the deadline. And if it’s held for a second read, it’s considered rude to sim sub at that point. It depends on how long you’re willing to wait for word from the pub. If the market is really, really niche (how many leather, purple unicorn books are there?), you're probably not really losing out by subbing early. If your work is more general, you'll just need to decide if the market is valuable enough (either through pay rates or prestige) to sit on the story.

Step 6: Track your submissions.

You’ve got to know where your stories are, who has them, when the expected response time is up, and what sold/didn’t sell. You can use the Word table function or an actual Excel spreadsheet.  I go through my sub list about once a quarter to determine if any editors owe me a response and nudge them politely, checking on the status of the submission. (Unless their guidelines state otherwise, 90 days is enough time for online pubs; for print markets, four to six months is needed.) And be aware, many publishers are now only responding to accepted stories. If you haven’t heard back in what you consider a reasonable period of time, check on the sub’s status, and if there’s still no response, make your decision about re-subbing the piece.

So, RAWPET isn't about cooking Fluffy; it's about having a system to manage your writing. (These suggestions also apply to longer works, of course.) I’ve sold over three dozen short stories to print anthologies and online markets using these techniques. RAWPET works. Try it and see what you can sell.

Vincent Diamond
April 2010

If you have comments or questions about this column, please send them to Vincent Diamond

Find more of Vincent's Serious about Smut in ERWA 2010 Archive.

"Serious about Smut" © 2010 Vincent Diamond. All rights reserved.

About the Author:  The alleged Vincent Diamond once drove from Tampa to Anchorage, Alaska in the days before the Alcan Highway was paved. (Hey, Vincent was young and there was this hunky Army lieutenant—nothing more need to be said.) Diamond gleefully buys smutty periodicals for “research materials” and lists them on a Schedule C every year. The IRS has yet to question this deduction.

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