"It definitely trumps anything else I've done in the past from a financial standpoint," she said, "but honestly, I miss the days of writing about things besides sex."Amazon, by far the dominant platform for self-published e-books, sells around 19,000 of the titles a day, according to data compiled for the publishing data site AuthorEarnings. That adds up to $9.7 million a year. The writer behind the site estimates that 80 percent of erotica downloads for Kindle are written by self-published authors. (Sethline said her readers, including those buying the gay titles, are overwhelmingly women.)
Johnson himself has been writing erotica for four years, publishing over a thousand stories under more than 50 pen names. He puts in ten-hour days; if he really pushes himself, he can write two 4,000-word short stories or a 10,000-word novella in a day.So much volume requires variety. Johnson is a gay man, but like Sethline, he writes stories with all kinds of gender configurations. "It's not really that different," he said. "The niche matters more than the gender. I find it hard to write ABDL [adult baby diaper love] erotica, whether gay or straight, because it seems so silly and pointless—I can't even pretend to think diapers are sexy. But most other hetero erotica is easy as pie, even if I have to pretend I have a vagina."
It's tough to make money if you don't look at it like a ruthless businessman.
Despite what you may have read about dinosaur erotica, Johnson says there's not actually much of a market out there for authors like Chuck Tingle (moderately famous for absurdist classics like "My Ass is Haunted by the Gay Unicorn Colonel," "Slammed in the Butthole by My Concept of Linear Time," and the newly Hugo-nominated "Space Raptor Butt Invasion.") Johnson says there is indeed such a thing as dinosaur porn—apparently a genre created to evade Amazon's ban on bestiality, which only applies to living species—but it doesn't have a lot of readers."The vast majority of sales (which are very few) [for dinosaur erotica] are people interested in the novelty of it," he said. "If you don't get some media scandalmongering about it, you'll probably get close to zero sales."
Ally Enne, a California writer in her mid-20s, said Amazon's change in pay structure pushed her to move out of the short erotica genre and into longer-form science fiction romance novels (Auctioned to the Alien, The Water Alien's Captive Mate, volumes 1 and 2—that sort of thing). Fortunately, Enne said, she decided she preferred romance anyway.
Erotica is now the baby step to romance.
"Recently an aunt became very sick," Skyes said. It was a Monday, and it wasn't clear how serious the illness was, but Skyes still called their father and drove him two hours for a visit. It turned out to be the aunt's last coherent day. "Because of my job, my dad was able to say [his] final goodbye to his sister. Would I have even been able to make that decision if my boss expected me at my desk making cold calls that morning? Honestly, probably not."In matters less life-and-death, there's the satisfaction of connecting with an audience eager to read stories like "His Little Princess Again" or "I Was a Billionaire Wereteen 3.""I've found my readers to be the most wonderful, respectful, and normal people you could hope for," Skye said. "I had an email from a nice lady who lived in a rest home with her husband, and she loved to read my stories to him. The people enjoying even the most explicit erotica—some of which I'm responsible for—are everywhere."