Market? Do I have a market?
I suppose I must. I mean, not all the rows on my monthly royalty statements are zero. However, I suspect that the people who buy my work don’t fit easily into any category, because my writing doesn’t either. They don’t constitute a Market with a capital M. I’m not particularly popular with Erotic Romance Readers, or Suspense Readers, or BDSM Readers, or Science Fiction Readers, or Steampunk Readers, though I’ve written in all those genres. Actually about the only identifiable group who seems to consistently like my work is the community of other erotic authors.
Definitely not what you’d call a large market, though I’ll admit it’s one I respect and for which I’m grateful...
The funny thing is, to a very large extent, I understand what’s popular in the different genres where I dabble. I believe that I could write exactly what the market wants, if I set my mind to it. Another lusty virgin seduced by a dark, seductive, haunted dominant? I cut my literary teeth on that trope, in my very first novel. (Okay, Kate wasn’t exactly a virgin, but she was a total newbie as far as BDSM was concerned.) Been there, done that. Although tales of power exchange push my personal buttons more than almost any scenario, the world now has more than enough books with that basic plot. I have little desire to write another.
In fact, I’ll admit that when it comes to my writing, I have a contrary streak a mile wide. I love to experiment with different genres. When I do, my first thoughts involve ways that I can give the genre an original twist. For example, I wrote a feline shape shifter romance in which the hero was originally an ordinary cat. I wrote another shape shifter romance about Quetzlcoatl the feathered serpent. In The Gazillionaire and the Virgin, the bossy billionaire is a woman and the virgin is a guy (a nerdy professor who is borderline Asperger’s). In my multi-genre opus RajasthaniMoon, I challenged myself to include the classic elements of as many genres as I could. I ended up with a steampunk/ BDSM/ multicultural/ menage/ werewolf/ Rubenesque/ Bollywood tale that I personally think is pretty brilliant (or at least, a huge amount of fun), but which apparently left readers puzzled.
These narrative choices do not endear me to the capital M erotic romance market. What about pure erotica, though? There are millions of readers looking for stroke fiction and thousands of authors publishing it. I can write fuck-and-suck stories with the best of them (with correct grammar, spelling and punctuation, too!) Perhaps that should be my target market.
Alas, sex for the sake of sex bores me, almost as much as love for the sake of the happy ending. If I were desperate for money, I’d probably try my hand at hard-core porn, and I suspect I’d be at least moderately successful, but writing as I do mostly for the pleasure of the experience, I want more than just the mechanics. I’ve received reviews from folks who bought my erotica collections, complaining that the stories weren’t sufficiently graphic. Yes, I know. They had characters. Conflict. Plot.
On the other hand, I find myself struggling to tone down the raw sex in my romance. I make my editors squeamish. Then there’s the problem that my characters always want to have sex with the wrong people, instead of staying focused on their soul mates.
In my latest books (the Vegas Babes series), I’ve dabbled in the shallows of porn, but I’m not sure I’m going to continue in that mold. I’m starting to find the process of writing unmitigated smut a bit tedious. I also feel sheepish about these volumes, despite the fact that they’re selling well; I wrote them really fast and I know they’re not up to the standard, craft-wise, of my best work. So what, right? But that bugs me.
I could write popular erotic romance or utterly filthy smut if I forced myself to do it. I’m quite certain. Despite my contrariness, I’m actually good at taking direction. (I am a sub, after all.) The commissioned stories I’ve written for CustomErotica Source have been highly praised. Clients have written comments telling me how I brought their fantasies to life, exactly as they imagined.
I understand how fiction works and how language can manipulate emotion. I feel as though I have decent control over the tools of my craft – better than the majority of published authors today. I’m confident I could bring those tools to bear in order to construct, if not a best seller, at least a series of books that would sell much better than what I write now.
The bottom line, though: I don’t want to do that. I’m not trying to make my living at this. I can write what I like – even if only a few people share my tastes. My true market consists of the relatively rare individuals who care about originality in fiction and who appreciate the way a story is told as much as the story itself.