How to Become a Millionaire Writing Erotica

by | December 18, 2015 | General | 4 comments

by Donna George Storey

I’m always amused when I see erotica writing workshops that advertise the potential for big money in our genre. More power to those who’ve gotten rich, and there are some out there, aren’t there, E.L. James? But most of us are doing this for love and the occasional check for the amount of a modest family dinner at the local Thai restaurant (without the tip).

Actually, I tend to take a familial attitude toward my writing, as if my stories and novels are my children and deserve my best, if imperfect, efforts at nurture and support. Two recent columns here, Lisabet Sarai’s “The Care and Feeding of Your Back List,” and Elizabeth Black’s “Preparing for the Publication of a New Novel” reminded me that I have not been as attentive a parent as I should be.

Namely, I have several dozen previously published short stories in my archive that I would like to re-issue in themed ebook collections. I managed to drum up the energy to find a new publisher for my novel, Amorous Woman, when I got the rights back from the original publisher, but I haven’t gotten it up to move beyond a list of tables of contents for my collections. But Lisabet is right. I should be doing more for these “children” in the digital age.

Part of my reluctance can be explained by Elizabeth’s thorough list of what an author needs to do to promote her work. I’ve been down that path for my novel. It was exhausting, even though I did meet some wonderful people and had some very cool adventures. But how do you promote collections of previously published short stories? And won’t they all just be relegated to the erotica desert on Amazon?

With the New Year close at hand, I figured this is a good time to resolve to do something this year with my back list, but I am wary of the realities of publishing. Larger publishers are prestigious, but in my experience, they’ve dropped the ball on promotion and take a much larger cut of the proceeds, even if I could get their interest (highly unlikely).

My preference would be a smaller publisher, but there are horror stories out there about author abuse and publishers melting into the dew, resulting in a hassle to get the rights back. Then there is self-publishing which takes the stress from the submission process and puts the responsibility for promotion all in one place.

No one said this is easy, but… is there any erotica writer out there who’s been happy with her choices? What do you think about the trade-off between a small publisher or self-publishing? I really would love to dialogue with my fellow erotica writers about these choices in the current market. It seems the pro’s and con’s are changing every day. Erotica publishing is not at all what is was when I started writing in 1997 (when Libido and Yellow Silk were still around) nor when I reached a peak of output in the mid-2000s (Bay-Area-based Cleis, Seal, Best Mammoth Erotica, Best American Erotica and Clean Sheets).

It is so valuable to share our experiences of publishing, especially in terms of how the reality is very different from the dream of publication as a path to validation and riches.

Although come to think of it, some of the most validating moments of my life have been when a reader tells me she loved one of my stories. That’s worth millions to me.

Wishing you all a happy, productive and creative New Year!

Donna George Storey is the author
of Amorous Woman and a collection of short
stories, Mammoth
Presents the Best of Donna George Storey
. Learn more about her
work at

Donna George Storey

I want to change the world one dirty story at a time. When I posted this mission statement on my website, I hoped my cheeky ambition would make my readers smile. I smile every time I read it myself. And yet I’m totally serious. I truly believe that writers who are brave enough to speak their truth about the erotic experience in all its complexity—the yearning, the pleasure, the conflicts, and the sweet satisfaction—do change the world for the better. So if you’re here at ERWA because you’re already writing erotica, a big thank you and keep on doing what you’re doing. If you’re more a reader than a writer, I encourage you to start dreaming and writing and expressing the truth and magic of this fundamental part of the human experience in your own unique voice. Can there be a more pleasurable way to change the world? I'm the author of Amorous Woman, a semi-autobiographical erotic novel set in Japan, The Mammoth Book of Erotica Presents the Best of Donna George Storey  and nearly 200 short stories and essays in journals and anthologies. Check out my Facebook author page at:  


  1. Lisabet Sarai

    Hi, Donna,

    You don't have to do everything Elizabeth listed. You can't. (Okay.I can't. Your mileage may differ.) You do what you can stomach and what you have time for, then move on.

    In your case, you have a recognized name from the period before every person on the planet decided that she (or he) could write erotica. Play to your strengths. Find your fans. Then get them to tell their friends!

    A story that comes out in a print antho (as I think most of yours have done) only reaches the print market. The ebook market is far larger, and in some sense easier to access.

    I'm moving further and further from working with traditional publishers, to be honest. They're too slow. And I haven't really seen a lot of benefit from being associated with them, in terms of sales.

    My latest release (A CONTRACT FOR CHRISTMAS — 8500 words) took me less than a day to format and self-publish, on Smashwords and Amazon. I'm still working with publishers for longer work, but even there, I am starting to wonder about the cost/benefit equation.

    Anyway, good luck, whatever you choose.

  2. Donna

    I was hoping you would weigh in, Lisabet, as I really value your opinion on this! I agree traditional publishers don't offer us all that much. The best thing about working with them is that I have no illusions about how they treat the less-than-superstar writer :).

  3. Elizabeth Black

    Hi, Donna,

    Thanks for citing my blog post. I agree with Lisabet. You don't have to do everything I listed. Heck, I don’t think I can do everything I listed. One way to look at it with your new collection is that there are scads of readers out there who don't know you, so this book to them will be a new experience. Just think of all those readers unknown to you that you are likely to attract. I've also been told the best promotion is to write a new book. Readers will likely check your backlist to find more of your works. Definitely keep your web site and Amazon Author Page up to date. Those are probably the two most important things you can do. Be active on social media by interacting with readers. Don't spam Facebook and Twitter with nothing but book ads. That turns people off.

    I personally didn't like self-publishing because I didn't think I got back what I put into it, and I did a lot of promotion. Now it's even harder with Amazon relegating so many erotic works to the Amazon Dungeon where they're hidden. Small publishers close down too often and it's sometimes a battle to get your rights back. Five small publishers have closed on me since 2007 when I first was paid to write. The big publishers will ignore you for the most part if you don't bring in lots of money, and you're expected to do the bulk of promotions yourself. Plus you don't get a high cut in royalties. Advances are all but unheard of and those that do exist are small. Those are the downsides. The up sides are 1) self-publishing gives you complete creative control, 2) small publishers can give you more personalized attention and they also give you the credibility of being published by a legit publishing company, and 3) big publishers have a huge draw and can work for you in ways small publishers can't and self-publishers can only dream of.

    I wish you the best with your new collection. I hope 2016 is the beginning of a fun ride for you and much success.

  4. Donna

    Elizabeth, thank you SO much for this very helpful advice! Truly the best way to learn is from those who are willing to share their real experiences. I did go through the self-promotion gauntlet back in 2008 and it seems even more daunting now, but yes, there is an appeal to keeping creative control as well. Thanks and wishing you great success with your new projects as well.

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