My goal with this blog is to share some of my thoughts on publishing in the spanking and BDSM erotica and erotic romance genres, in case any readers or authors are interested. Before going further, I would like to clarify that this post (and all future posts on this blog) are based solely on my experience with eBook publishing in this specific genre. I’m going to try to keep these posts short and to the point. For this first post, I want to address the distinction between two important aspects of publishing a best-selling book.
Marketing vs. Marketability
One of the first questions many authors ask when they contact Stormy Night Publications is something along the lines of “What forms of marketing does Stormy Night offer for my book?” When I answer this question, I provide a list of all the usual things that other publishers do as well (blogs, Facebook, access to widely distributed newsletters, distribution through multiple different eBook stores, etc.), but after that I provide an answer which I think is much more important for authors who want to break out and publish books that will sell thousands of copies. That answer is simple. Marketability is more important than marketing, by a wide margin.
What do I mean by marketability?
When I refer to marketability, I am referring to something which is easy to understand but which requires hard work by both the publisher and the author to actually achieve. Put simply, marketability means making sure that a good-sized audience exists for a given book, so that when it is put up for sale and marketed, there is a group of people ready to buy it and enjoy it.
What factors influence marketability?
In my experience, subject matter influences marketability far and above anything else, including even an author’s reputation and fan base. I want to stress here that I’m talking about books in the spanking and BDSM genres which sell thousands of copies, not New York Times bestsellers that sell millions of copies. If J. K. Rowling or Suzanne Collins decides to write a book in the spanking genre, she can write it in any way she wants, and it will sell millions of copies. It is like the old joke: Where does a two-thousand pound gorilla sleep? Anywhere he wants.
However, until Ms. Rowling contacts me about publication of “Hermione and Ron: DD for Witches and Wizards”, I will continue to advise authors that if sales are important to them, then the first thing they should consider when working on a new book is what types of books sell the most copies in this genre.
With that said, subject matter is of course not the only thing that matters for marketability. Building up a fan base as an author does matter, as does a reputation for consistently producing high-quality, well-edited, entertaining books which customers will enjoy reading.
How should I ensure that my books are marketable?
The simplest answer to that question is, “Choose a publisher who will work with you to produce books which will sell.” That would be somewhat boring, though, so I will give two answers.
First, do your research. Spend time looking at sales ranks on Amazon (where the vast majority of sales currently come from for books in this genre) to learn what sells well and what doesn’t. Look at Amazon’s Top 100 lists for the erotica genre and also for other genres which interest you (western, regency, fantasy, etc.). The goal is not to copy the ideas of other authors, but to learn what types of material readers want to buy. This may not sound like what a literature professor would say, but if you take a glance at what literature professors consider to be the top 100 books of the last century, you will see mostly books which did not sell all that well.
Second, be humble. Unless you are a New York Times bestselling author already, don’t assume that you can write a book in a sub-genre where nobody else has ever achieved solid sales and have it sell well just because of your writing abilities. If people aren’t interested, they usually won’t buy it, no matter how much they might like the author’s other work.
A final note
I cannot stress enough that I am not saying that authors should not write the books they want to write and tell the stories they want to tell, regardless of marketability in some cases. This post is intended for authors who want to tell a good story but who also want a book that will sell. After all, the more copies a book sells, the more people who get to experience an author’s story.