My Erotica Ups and Downs in 2013
I thought I’d cast my eye back over this last year, take a look at what I have and haven’t achieved, and share a few thoughts about some recent changes in erotica.
2013 was a big year for me. My fourth novel, Thrill Seeker, was released. I did a lot of promo for the book, a good deal of which entailed leaving the house, something many authors (I count myself among them) prefer to avoid!
This ‘Kristina on Tour’ lark started a little before 2013 when I co-hosted a workshop and discussion panel at Random House with my Black Lace editor, Gillian Green, and Curtis Brown literary agent, Sheila Crowley. (You can read more about my experience here.) In February 2013, I gave a talk at Brighton’s Jubilee Library as part of National Libraries Day then in March I ran a writing workshop at Eroticon in London. (You can read more about this here.)
June saw me participating in Brighton’s first Fetish Weekend, probably my favourite event of last year. I took to the stage (left, looking bossy) to give a talk and a reading, and after that hung out in a wonderfully warm and kinky atmosphere. (You can read more about my experience here.) Brighton Fetish Weekend returns in 2014, and I’m thrilled to say I’ve been invited back. Keep an eye on their FB page and, if you’re in the South East in June, do check it out.
In July, I attended Latitude arts and music festival in rural Suffolk as a speaker in the Ebury (Black Lace) tent. This was probably the low point on the KL Tour because it involved camping! I don’t camp. I’ve done it a few times in my life and that was plenty. The camping turned out to be more civilised than I’d anticipated, helped by the fact we were staying in the performers’ area, relatively calm, clean and spacious. However, 2013 brought my first experience of hay fever. Apparently, the late start to Spring resulted in one of the worst hay fever seasons in decades.
Being a newbie at this, I hadn’t fully accepted the fact I was a sufferer. And so it was, I found myself in a field for a weekend, in a sodding tent, surrounded by trees of evil, feeling progressively worse, and with no meds other than anti-histamines which really weren’t cutting it. I felt as if my eyes had been sprayed with vinegar and my lungs were operating at half their capacity. I developed such a ferocious cough my stomach muscles ached from the involuntary crunches, and my throat seemed to be trying to strangle itself from the inside.
I was due to give my talk at the Ebury tent late on Sunday afternoon but woke without a voice. In the morning queue for the showers, I drew the short straw and ended up being blasted by freezing-cold water rather than the nice, hot, steamy stuff others were getting. I couldn’t even scream. All that emerged from my lips when the icy water hit was a cracked, reedy squawk. By the afternoon, my voice was returning. I gave my talk – or croak, as I renamed it – and, interestingly, the more I spoke, the stronger my voice became. The Ebury tent was gorgeous; the Ebury staff were lovely, laid-back and welcoming; and my audience were friendly and forgiving. Latitude has a lot to offer, and I did get to see Kraftwerk performing in a field to a crowd of people wearing 3D glasses which was pretty cool. But all in all, my trip was marred by me being unprepared for such a vicious pollen assault. Sympathies to all regular hay fever sufferers!
In late August, I joined Justine Elyot and SM Taylor at Sh! in London for a joint book launch of Thrill Seeker and Justine’s Seven Scarlet Tales. As ever, the special Sh! brand of hospitality made for a fabulous, fun evening. You can read my take on the event, and the foiled vibrator theft, here!
In September I joined Nexus authors, Zak Jane Keir and Peter Birch for a reading at London Fetish Fair, and in October, I rounded off my grand tour at the huge trade fair, Erotica, at a bookstall and event put together by the dynamic duo that is Lucy Felthouse and Victoria Blisse.
Phew, I know! In May, in the midst of all this gallivanting, Thrill Seeker was published. I’m more than delighted by the reviews I’ve been garnering on Amazon, GoodReads, review sites, blogs and zines, and by the positive messages and tweets received from readers. Thanks to all those who found time to share their enthusiasm and considered critiques. Despite the fab reviews, sales have been disappointing, so I’m left wondering why.
The Black Lace marketing machine has, after an eager start, practically ground to a halt; and it took several months for Thrill Seeker to be made available on Kindle in the US, meaning much of my online promotion was targeting readers who couldn’t buy the book. But I think the main reason for slow sales is, post-FSOG, the market is saturated. The erotica boom was short-lived and non-book merchandisers, keen to get a slice of the pie, have been quick to harness reader enthusiasm for the trilogy/brand and get those women out of the goddamn bookstores. The proliferation of new titles and reprints is outstripping the influx of new readers. In addition to that, the currently popular books tend to be softcore romance, not exactly my area.
It’s hard to know whether Thrill Seeker is, along with many other titles, getting lost in the glut of monochrome-jacketed erotica; or if my work is simply not in vogue, or is possibly too niche. It feels as if a juggernaut has slammed into our genre, leaving the market polarised, with a handful of massive, series-sellers at one end; and at the other, a sizeable majority of authors selling to a small number of readers who perhaps want something a little different, and aren’t easily able to find their way to their kind of book.
Don’t get me wrong. My sales certainly haven’t been poor. But, from what I can glean, to date they are no higher than sales of my previous books, published pre-juggernaut, the main difference being digital rather than print is selling. This might not be too gloomy if, for example, I hadn’t expended so much time and energy promoting the book, leaving me behind schedule on my next book; and if I hadn’t received an advance that was precisely half the amount I received for Asking for Trouble back in 1999. Yup, half! I know these issues aren’t unique to erotica publishing but it’s left me keen to take stock of what I’m doing.
I’m contracted to write another book for Black Lace. Undone is sort of an erotic murder mystery, but sort of not (I’ll work on the blurb!), and is slated to be published in September 2014. I’m enthused by what I’m writing however my deadline is tight. I have a bunch of other stuff on my plate too, so I’m likely to be fairly quiet on the social media front in the next few months. (Which reminds me, apologies for all unanswered emails and messages! I’ll catch up with my inbox soonish, I hope.) Next year will also see the re-issue of my first book, Darker Than Love, in an elegant new cover.
I’ll also be returning to Eroticon in March, held this year in Bristol, and running a two-hour workshop on writing flash fiction. This workshop is available to conference delegates and also as a standalone event, costing a mere £25! Eroticon is the event of the year if you’re interested in writing about sex. I had a ball last year and loved running a workshop. I hope to do more creative writing teaching in the future.
So lots of excitement in store for 2014, along with plans to do a few things differently, and spread my wings by doing a few different things. I hope relaxing will be one of them, once I’ve finished Undone!
Heartfelt thanks to all those with a passion for this genre. Wishing you the very best for a smart and sexy 2014!