Erotica/Porn Writers' FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

I get a lot of questions about how one gets started writing erotica/porn, and how one continues doing it. This FAQ grew out of a long letter written to me by Servalan Ranier, who kindly consented to let me reprint questions. I hope it will expand as more people ask me questions and I try to answer them. Keep in mind that this is always only to the best of my knowledge -- I make mistakes; I don't know everything. Corrections are always welcome.

- Mary Anne

Last updated: November 4, 1997

Q: Where do I start publishing erotica?

A: That one's easy -- with my market listing. You can also go pick up some magazines and start writing the editors, asking them for their writers' guidelines. You can even call some of them, and ask if they're currently using outside writers. Many avenues -- one I haven't explored fully but which might be very profitable would be e-mailing various porn websites and asking them if they are interested in using your work.

Q: Do I need an agent?

A: No. You don't need an agent for any short fiction. If you write a novel, then find a publisher who wants to buy it, then go get yourself an agent. That applies in pretty much any fiction genre. There are very few publishers of novel-length erotica and porn. Masquerade and England's Virgin Publishing spring to mind.

Q: How do I find *reputable* publishers I can trust - not to be slimeballs if you catch my drift, with my work, to be honest in general and fair in financial arrangements, to protect my identity (I *know* it's probably silly but I feel uncomfortable revealing my identity, even should I be lucky enough to publish, and intend on using a pen name as I have concerns about both safety issues and genre conflicts in relation to my science fiction work); and so forth.

A: This question breaks down into several sections. Erotica and porn publishers: pay, prestige, prudence.

Erotica publishers (generally for anthologies) tend to be very nice, have high standards, pay little or nothing, and often turn out very professsional-looking publications that I, at least, am proud to have my name on. If you're writing in another field, I wouldn't worry about using a pen name -- it shouldn't conflict except in children's lit. If you do want to write in both children's lit and erotica, then you should probably choose which (if either) you'd like to have your real name, and make up something you can live with for the other. Don't be too surprised if some years down the road you decide to reveal that the two are one and the same person -- that seems to happen a lot, as writers get older and more stable/secure in their field and themselves. Anne Rice (A.N. Raquelaire, Anne Rampling) is a prime example.

Porn publishers are also very discreet. Most even hold their magazine under another name entirely -- for example, Puritan Magazines sends their checks under Index Publishing, and Sizzle website sends its checks from Starnet, and Good Vibrations sends its material under the Open Enterprises logo. All the hard-core porn editors I've talked to have been courteous and obliging -- they've also been willing to send sample copies encased in a brown paper envelope. :-) The main differences between writing for them and writing for erotica editors are that a) they pay about 10 times better, b) they expect professionalism (get them what they asked for on time (erotica editors would like this as well, but don't seem to expect it as much :-)), and c) they expect you to write to order ("take out some of that plot and characterization and put in some more sex scenes and I'll buy it"). I also don't put my name on the porn, although since I mention what magazines I write for, you could probably figure it out if you put your mind to it. I consider it like tech writing -- something I write to make money, not something I'd put on a literary resume. It's a lot more entertaining than tech writing, though.

NOTE: Some places (both erotica and porn) take MONTHS to pay. Check the market listings and talk to them about it. Occasionally you'll find one that is unscrupulous and doesn't pay you at all -- let me know if you do, and I'll add it to the market list. I put that list together precisely to disseminate that sort of information.

Q: Now most of my work to date has been short pieces - essay length or short stories. I wrote one piece that is longer and have been encouraged to develop it into a full novel by those who have read it. I know I can do research and look through the myriad of Writer's Market Digest books for others (can't afford to buy them, being a writer, and they have expanded themselves into almost ludicrous classifications to my mind - how's about one book that has everything, guys? ). I know that I need to try and match my themes and subject matter to what publishers are seeking. But how do I know that any listing I locate will be a reputable publisher?

Am I being too cautious? Is there anyway to find out something like this? Is this a typical amateur question?

A: I think you're being too cautious. They have no incentive to reveal your name or identity -- the only reason they'd want it at all would be for tax purposes. So far I haven't heard of any incidents where a publisher has been indiscreet. Don't worry about it -- go write.

Q: Is there a more or less comprehensive list on the Net for publishers of erotica/porn that are novella or book length so I can avoid the Writer's Market Digests altogether?

A: Not that I know of -- maybe you could put one together? :-)

- Mary Anne

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