With an eye on the erotic, writer and editor Rachel Kramer Bussel leads us through the nitty gritty of indie publishing.
Since 2004, I’ve edited or co-edited over 30 erotica anthologies, and in that time the biggest thing I’ve learned is that you have to be your own best advocate. With erotica especially, there isn’t a built-in support system for reviews save for a few select websites, and my goal from the beginning has been to reach out to readers, and potential readers, who might not have ever considered trying an erotica book. And while my publishers (these days the wonderful feminist Cleis Press) care passionately about their books, they don’t have the time to be out there promoting them every minute of the day. Therefore, I’ve both had to brand myself as an expert as well as do my best inexpensive self-promotions, such as postcard campaigns, book trailers, readings and virtual book tours.
I’ve learned a lot through trial and error, but one of the best things I’ve done is to be accessible. I have a website
, Facebook fan page
, Twitter page (@raquelita), and run a monthly reading series called In The Flesh
. All of those things, I think, make people feel like they know a little more about me. I posted a short video introduction on my website to give people a taste of who I am.
Now, to the nitty gritty:
Trying to run major book promotions on your own can be daunting, but again, the plus side is accessibility. When I offer free postcards for my latest anthology, Fast Girls: Erotica for Women
, not only do people get to interact with me via email, but I get a sense of where my fans are located (all over the U.S.). I buy postcards at Mypostcardprinting.com, and for around $200, I have something I can mail out, bring to events and simply have on me in case I meet someone who simply must know about my book.
I’ve put together my virtual book tours by crowdsourcing and approaching bloggers I know and respect. Each of them get a copy of the book and then are asked to blog about it, either a review, interview, excerpt or, when available, a book trailer. For my most recent virtual tour for Please, Sir: Erotic Stories of Female Submission
, I found 31 bloggers who posted excerpts, the book trailer, reviews and insightful critiques of the book that not only spread the word but gave me information I’d have never been able to glean otherwise about readers’ favorite stories. The tour also fostered conversation amongst my anthology’s contributors and commenters, which took the conversation beyond the book itself into related topics and introduced me to bloggers whose work I’ve continued to follow. (I’m looking for bloggers now for August for Fast Girls
; contact me at fastgirlsantho at gmail.com).
I’ve shot four book trailers with a director friend, making mini movies that are safe for YouTube but also allude to the erotic content of my books. The trailer for Spanked: Red-Cheeked Erotica
has garnered over 190,000 views and even got a little tech press when Vimeo pulled it from their site.
I’ve created websites on Wordpress for each of my books to give a little more detail. As a reader, I hate when I’m trying to find out information about an author and am simply given one measly paragraph to go on. Obviously you can’t post your whole book for free online, but giving readers a teaser is, in my opinion, extremely valuable.
I also have Google news alerts not only on my name and variations on it and my book titles, but related topics, so if a reporter is writing about, say, female orgasm, I’ll make sure they get a copy of Orgasmic: Erotica for Women, because, just maybe, they’ll want to mention it in a future piece.
What’s tricky is figuring out which of these promotional efforts truly helps with sales. I don’t know for sure, but I believe nothing is wasted. Maybe someone will enjoy one of my book trailers now and in a year, come across one of my books in a bookstore and remember being intrigued. Because you never know, I feel it’s my duty to try everything to help combat the fact that erotica is usually hidden in the corners of bookstores. On the internet, the books—and their editor—can stand out.
Photo by Stacie Joy.