Thursday, 11 April 2013

Free Erotica? Amelia Bryant Ponders The Problem With Price

Help or hindrance? Dangled carrot or sustained revenue killer? Is free erotica a problem or worth its weight in gold to the independent smut writer?

Whether dipping one’s proverbial tootsies into the erotica writing business, or being a seasoned pro, free online erotica is one issue bound to provoke reaction. Anyone seeking online smut to read on their PC or download to a phone or Kindle or similar e-book reader can either go to well known websites such as Literotica to access a plethora of free stories. Or they can go to Amazon and Smashwords and pay for the stories accessed (these sites also offer free stories).

But surely it must frustrate authors trying to earn a crust (never mind a fortune) from their writing, when facing so much competition from others offering their wares for nowt? Why do this?

Let’s consider the pertinent points. Firstly, cost. Once the book has been written, the formatting done and the cover designed and everything is uploaded, the costs of production (time, paper, print toner, fizzy pop and Chocolate Hob Nobs consumed while writing/typing) are incurred once and once only. There’s no marginal cost attached to subsequent sales made.  

A free book should help generate some buzz, shouldn’t it? ‘Buy my FREE steamy erotica tale on Amazon’ etc etc. Announce this on all the relevant social media channels and the express hope is that there’s a flurry of downloads which will a) keep the book in the top half of the Amazon sales lists, thereby achieving some visibility b) convince those readers to fork out for subsequent priced books.

But does it really work like this?

The problem is that such a simplistic viewpoint fails to take into account that thousands of other smut authors have exactly the same idea. The result: thousands of free stories. But the unavoidable fact is that there’s now an abundance of free erotica. And that spells trouble for the erotica writer seeking financial recompense for their efforts.  

I liken it to someone walking to work in the morning or heading out of the office for lunch. You’ll see coffee shop baristas offering samples of their latest blends. Perhaps you’ll see a deli shop offering passers-by a tiny bite of a new sandwich combo. You’ll be offered a tasty mouthful (stop sniggering at the back!) in the hope that you pop in to buy a full-sized sandwich the following day, or perhaps even there and then.  

There’s an implicit understanding operating: here’s a free sample to see if you like it, and if you do, you can have more. Much more. As much as you want in fact.  

But you’re going to have to pay for it.
However, there’s a segment of the smut-reading fraternity who say ‘Why should I pay for anything? There’s so much available already for free. What incentive is there to pay for it?’

Using my street food analogy once more, It’s the equivalent of the hungry office worker being able to walk along a street full of delis and coffee shops and receive enough small samples of coffee to equal a full cup, and enough small sandwich bites to make up a proper-sized sarnie. His or her thirst has been totally quenched and their appetite sated. And without having to pay for a damn thing! But to add insult to injury, they can return day in, day out and do exactly the same, because there’s an endless supply to enjoy. Now it’s a stretch to imagine this could happen in real life. But it IS happening online when it comes to reading erotica.

So, you’ve got a whole gamut of smut writers doing what they think is a sensible attempt at gaining some awareness and hopefully driving subsequent sales. Individually, not a bad idea. Collectively however, the overall effect is arguably detrimental.  

Now it’s important to recognise there are many erotica authors who write for the simple pleasure of writing and striking a chord with readers, who wish no reward for their efforts. They perhaps want to dip their toes in the bath or wish nothing more than to see their words stimulate, inspire and/or amuse others. And bless them for it.  

There will also be a large number of smut readers around the world who have no intention of paying as so much is already available. They want something which will get their juices going enough for some naughtiness and then, hey-ho, that was nice. Next!  

What is the split between those who will pay and those who won’t? For erotica writers wanting to earn a living doing this, the non-payers are of no concern. Well, I say that glibly: they ARE a concern if they constitute the majority. But professional erotica writers will focus their efforts on what they know paying customers will shell out for. That’s one of the reasons for the Erotica Reader Survey that’s currently live.  

Personally speaking, I value my time spent thinking about the story, planning it, doing a bit of research perhaps, developing some characters, before even getting down to writing it. And don’t forget about editing, re-writing if necessary, and formatting for Amazon, Smashwords etc. That’s a fair few hours. Most businesses would charge for their time and effort in producing the final product or service – why should erotica writers differ?  

I’d love to receive your comments on any of the points raised here and encourage some discussion on the topic. And keep your eyes peeled for a follow-up post in which I’ll talk about pricing approaches, strategies and tactics.

1 comment:

  1. It's a complex issue; on the one hand, free promos can be great for authors. My first book was free for a few months and it was great for drumming up some interest in the series, and as the second book in the series has just released, I'm finding it really has worked. As one of the thousands of erotica authors on Amazon, I couldn't have got this level of interest without that initial free promo.

    On the other hand, when it comes to erotica that's permanently free, you often get what you pay for. It's not always the case, but often it's just a poorly-written one-scene short story with no plot.

    We're still in a post-50SOG world when it comes to erotica, but as time passes and those who are just in it for the novelty factor go back to their lives, there'll be less of it around and the erotica market will be less saturated. In the 7 months since I was first published I've already seen dozens of authors, erotica blogs and review sites disappear off the internet altogether. I think it'll all get better in time.