bluebeard

MAKING A LIVING FROM SMUT: Part 1!

Originally published at PeterCHayward.com/blog. You can comment here or there.

Making money off erotica comes in two parts:
1) Actually sitting down and doing the writing.
2) Making the money.

The second part is easy. If I sent you my catalogue of work and the below instructions, you’d be able to make a living off it in a few weeks (I do!). But it’s the part that most people obsess about.

Here’s the fact: if you set out to do this and fail, in 99% of cases, it’ll be due to step two, not step one. But step 2 is what people want to hear about, so let’s start there.

There are four main outlets for publishing erotica online:
-Amazon.com
-Smashwords.com
-Barnes and Noble
-Apple

If you live in Australia (as I, and most of my readers do) you can only publish directly to the first two. If you live in America, then you’ll have direct access to all four. I don’t know about other countries, so I can’t help you there.

HOWEVER, if you’re not in the US, then you can publish to Barnes and Noble and Apple via a site called “Draft2Digital” – you upload your books there, and they’ll distribute them to B&N, Apple, and a handful of other sites that I never learned the names of because I make a negligible amount of money from them.

(There’s also Kobo, which I make about $9/month from. If you are desperate to get your works available everywhere possible, then sure, sign up there. I very much doubt it’ll be worth your time, but hey! Gotta procrastinate from actually sitting down and doing the writing somehow.)

If you missed it, yesterday I posted a direct link to my profit spreadsheet (which I obsessively updated for about 22 months) – that’ll give you a pretty good indicator of where most I made my money for a long time*, but it predates draft2digital.

*until what was referred to as the Pornocalypse. Not even making that up.

On a slow month, Smashwords and Amazon would be fairly even. On a good month, Smashwords would be a tiny fraction of Amazon’s earnings. Smashwords has been a reliable income for me for years now – I’ve made something like $20k there – but Amazon is where the potential for breakout success lies.

draft2digital, meanwhile, was a game-changer: I now make anywhere between $1-1.5k there, each and every month. That’s the largest portion of my income (followed by Patreon, Smashwords and Amazon.)

HOWEVER: the common wisdom these days is to publish your stuff exclusively at Amazon. They recommend disregarding the other sites entirely (at least at first), and signing up for Amazon’s “Kindle Select” program, which requires exclusivity. The reasons are simple:

1) Kindle Select books get a huge boost in the search algorithm. Go search the Kindle store (not Amazon as a whole, just the kindle store) for whatever you like – “Gay Cowboys”, or “Cheating firefighter”. If you see anything with this at the side:

Borrow for free from your Kindle device. Join Amazon Prime

Then it means it’s on Kindle Select.
2) Amazon don’t allow free books. Also, anything priced below $2.99 or above $9.99 (more on this tomorrow, but general rule: always price everything at $2.99) will only earn you 35% royalties, instead of the standard 70%.

(That’s right. You get 70% of your book’s sale price. This is why it’s possible to make a living from writing smut.)

The exception to these two rules? If the book is in Kindle Select.
3) This is the big one – that “borrow for free” thing? It costs Amazon Prime members nothing to borrow a book or two (I don’t know the exact numbers), but you still get money from it. It’s not the $2 you’d get from a sale, it’s a portion of the monthly “fund” (generally $2-5 million, IIRC) but it generally comes out to $1.50 or so – no matter what your book is priced at.

And people will borrow your book for free in the *thousands*.

The downsides are, obviously: you don’t get money from anywhere else, and once you sign a book up for Kindle Select, you’re locked in for 3 months. If they find your book anywhere else, you’ll get a warning, and if it’s not corrected – permanent account ban.

From my point of view, that’s never been worth it. I’d have to not only sacrifice my income from all the other sites (which, these days, make more for me than Amazon does) but I’d also have to take my stuff down from the free sites. BUT if you’re coming into this fresh, and you’re serious about making money from it – Kindle Select is the place to be.

There’s so much information, and I hate to stretch it out like this, but I’ve got a life outside of Facebook (hard as that may be to believe) so I’m going to come back tomorrow with information on Smashwords, d2d and formatting your work. Then, next week: actually sitting down and doing the writing.

Here’s some homework while you wait – visit AmazonSmashwords, and Draft2Digital and sign up! Have a poke around, and see if it all makes sense.

In the meantime, let me know if you have any questions (about stuff I’ve talked about so far, not content that I’m saving for future posts).

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