Q: I have been writing erotica in short story form for a while now, I have a growing fan base of women as a result! My tales are aimed at women and always put them in the dominant role – but never in a bondage scenario. I am anxious to get published and I need advice on the best procedures to follow in order to do so! Can you help? -Nicky
A: Thanks for writing, Nicky.
The truth is that no matter what kind of short story you’re writing—be it erotica, romance, fantasy, science fiction, literary, mystery, horror—the process of “breaking in to print” is largely the same.
The first thing to do is brush up on your reading and start making notes. Review the work of your favorite erotica writers and explore new writers who work in the same genre you do. In which publications does their work appear? Which publishing houses produce collections of their stories? Write these companies’ names down.
If you enjoy writing erotica, I assume you enjoy reading it, as well. Which magazines or journals of erotic fiction are your favorites? Add them to your list.
A market guide like Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market is also a fantastic resource. It includes a category index in the back of the book, so all you have to do is look up “Erotica” and there’s a whole list of publishers for your work. (In the 2005 edition, I count 42 magazines and 16 book publishers that specifically ask for erotica.) Add those companies to your list. Once you’ve made a list of what I call “targeted markets” (in other words, magazines or book publishers that publish the specific kind of fiction you write), you’re ready for the next step: market research.
Market research basically means finding out everything you can about the publications or publishing houses on your targeted list. The Internet is a huge help in this department, as most publishers have their own Web sites. Don’t stop there, though. I can’t stress enough how important it is to actually read at least a few sample issues of a magazine to which you’re considering submitting to make sure your stories are a good fit and you’d be proud to have your work appear in that publication. If you’re looking at book publishers, check out some books from their catalog to get an idea of the tone and style of the things they choose to publish. If you can honestly say that your work is similar to the things they publish in quality and style, you’ve found a potential home.
Once you’ve researched every company on your list and confirmed that the stories you write match the work they publish, you’re ready to start submitting. Almost. One more crucial step: Make sure you know precisely how and when each publisher wishes to receive submissions—for example, whether they prefer paper or electronic submissions, which months of the year they accept submissions, if they accept more than one story at a time, what kinds of things you should include in your cover letter, etc. You can find these submission guidelines on the publishers’ Web sites, by writing the publishers to request guidelines (don’t forget to include a self-addressed, stamped envelope for reply), and of course, in Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market.
Now you know exactly to whom you’re sending your stories, exactly for what they’re looking, and exactly how they wish to receive your work. Just follow each company’s submission guidelines exactly, and send those stories out into the world. Once you’ve dropped that first story or batch of stories in the mailbox, celebrate your hard work with a special treat for yourself. Then, keep your fingers crossed. Don’t be surprised if it takes several months for reply. Just don’t give up and don’t sit there staring at the mailbox. While you’re waiting, write a new story and begin researching new markets.
Lauren Mosko, Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market Editor
Writer’s Digest Books