Maybe, One Day, Sometime…Perhaps? Never?

July 22  |  News  |   Kay Jaybee

I, like all writers, had a dream when I first started to write- I dreamt of seeing a row of my books on a bookshop shelf one day.

books 1

You may not have noticed, but you can buy erotic books in actual shops now! Yes- shocking isn’t it!!

Alright, I was being sarcastic- but right now I’m a touch disillusioned with the world of erotica when it comes to actually buying hold-in-your-hands books. Which is ironic, as you can’t move through a supermarket, newsagents, or bookshop without getting a face full of “Popular erotica.”

Now- I don’t really have a problem with such books- I wish the majority of it was better written- but that’s another story. We all have different tastes, and that’s how it should be. I confess however, that I thought- well hoped- that with all the recent hype, folk would move on from those ‘lift off the shelf’ books, to seek out erotica from those of us that have been slogging away for years, honing our trade.

That has happened to some extent (mainly in the e-book arena)- I’ve been very lucky. I’ve had people find my work after reading James- and I’ve been gratified by comments from some of my newer readers-such as –

‘The Perfect Submissive makes 50 Shades look like a waste of paper’ and

‘I thought James was fantastic- then I read The Voyeur- WOW- Shades was nothing compared to this…’

The Per Sub- new rope

I could go on- but I won’t because it is coming across like I’m showing off or attacking James-and that’s not the point of this blog at all. My point is, that the expected surge of, and demand for, paperback sales never happened. Well- it did for 2 months, then there were 2 okay-ish months sales wise in the e-book world- and now, well…

I, like so many of my colleagues are only still writing because we are addicted to what we do-not because we are making a living at it. As Remittance Girl so rightly told us all at this years Eroticon conference- “If you are in erotica to make money- get out now!”

I have never been in this to make big bucks- I just love what I do. I have a day job, and my husband is a very kind supportive wage earner. However, there are times, and they are becoming increasingly frequent, when I do wonder why I’m up until midnight, scribbling away to earn the equivalent of less than 10p and hour. I am not after ‘things’ or  big houses, or cars, but it would be nice to be able to not worry about how we are going to pay for the kids to go to university in a few years, and not to have to do that very special dance I do when the boiler needs servicing, or the car needs an MOT, and I simply can’t afford for it to fail.

As I’ve already said however, I really am one of the lucky ones- other’s have given up, disillusioned, and with the sad feeling that all their hard work at getting intelligently written erotica for intelligent men and women out into the world has been a battle that was so nearly won- and then was taken away by a mass of billionaire erotica, which in its turn has inspired a lot of badly produced self published erotica, which in its turn is drowning out the well done self published erotica out there….(but that’s another rant for another day.)

A little while ago I was actually told by a major publisher that my writing was too good for them to publish – that I was too broadsheet when the world wants tabloid, and that I should maybe watch reality TV to see what people are actually after. I wanted to shout- ‘but none of my friends watch reality TV, but they all read! Every moment they have they have their noses stuck in a book (yes a book, not a Kindle)- they all have brains- they are all clever (whether academically or not), – and not one of them wants to read one more story implying that it’s only rich people who are handsome, sexy and successful’. (Do read Kd Grace’s brilliant blog post on this- she rants to perfection!)

I seem to have gone off at a tangent- And breathe… So, back to paperbacks…

Okay- so it has been possible to buy erotica paperbacks in shops for years and years- usually along the (almost extinct) top shelf. They have long been the preserve of service stations, and could be found tucked away in corners in some of the larger bookshops etc- and yes, a few erotica writers books have now edged their way onto the occasional noticeable shelf- including my own Making Him Wait– which is available in a few airports and railway stations.

MHW- heathrow 5

But as it now costs publishers approx. £2000 a time simply to get a single title on a bookshop shelf, this is going to happen less and less- and soon traditional erotica will be the preserve of Amazon and online sellers only… Who can blame publishers for not spending that kind of money in that way when there is so much else to spend it on? This means the difference between the popular conception of  ‘making it’ and not ‘making it’ is growing by the day- and the dream I had when I was a new writer of seeing rows of my books in Waterstones and other bookshops is unlikely to ever come true.

And yet, somehow, I can’t quite stop hoping…

And, more to the point, I won’t be stopping writing either – I dread to think what I’d be like if I did- the powder keg of ideas in my head would explode with no where to go! Self indulgent perhaps- but I needed to get this off my chest!

Erotica- although still a wonderful world in which to work, with a huge amount of positive things happening, and some of the friendliest most supportive people in the world working within it- is a very different place than it was before April 2012- and not necessarily a better one.

The battle of well written erotica may have suffered a major skirmish defeat- but I’m darn sure the war hasn’t been totally lost yet!! So if you’ll excuse me, I will go, roll up my sleeves, put my tin hat on, grab my whip and pen, and carry on fighting!

Maybe one day I’ll get some books in that mainstream bookshop. Maybe.

Kay x

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35 Responses to Maybe, One Day, Sometime…Perhaps? Never?

  1. K D Grace says:

    Well put, Kay!

    As upset as it makes me that an actual publisher should tell you that what you write is too good for them and their readers and that you need to go watch some reality TV, I’m not surprised. As you say none of us got into writing erotica for the money, but every erotica writer I know sweats blood to put out the highest quality, most gripping stories they can, and there is truly some stunningly brilliant work out there. How disheartening it is to see that the reality tv mentality has slimed its way into the world of erotica. I can only say that the greed and laziness of the television world is now alive and well in the publishing world. Thus endeth my rant!

    KD xx

    • Kay Jaybee says:

      Thanks hun! It’s so disheartening- I don’t claim to be the best at what I do- and I am not assuming I have earned the right to have books out here- but it is so hard sometimes to keep motivated! I just needed to let off steam!!! xx

  2. Very eloquently put. I could not agree more.


  3. Mitnik says:

    It is so disheartening to see what the shelves are filled with, but we continue the struggle to promote quality erotica and make the world sit up and take notice. It is a shame we continue to come across this attitude from publishers and stores, but the fight goes on… The quality will see out, keep on the good fight!

    • Kay Jaybee says:

      I’ve just been into my nearest Waterstones- there were 6 shelves of “erotica”- the usual suspects were al there- plus someone I’ve never heard of- whose name I have now forgotten (sorry, should have jotted it down)- with the tag line ‘World Phenomenon’ across it!!! I know it’s marketing, but I’d never have the nerve!

  4. Justine Elyot says:

    Jesus wept, that line about reality TV actually makes me want to throw up.

    For these publishers erotica = trash and they have no inkling that there is an audience of intelligent people out there who don’t want that.

    • Kay Jaybee says:

      I honestly don’t know where to go with that- I mean, do I dumb down for money- I think not!!

  5. Agree with everything you’ve said, hon. But don’t you dare give up – I won’t. I love what I do and although the money isn’t great, it does pay for a few things here and there. And it means I can continue to be my own boss, which is awesome.

    Keep smiling, hon. You have fans and friends, and we don’t want you to stop. So like Kev says, keep fighting the good fight!

    • Kay Jaybee says:

      Thanks Lucy (and mega congrats on your new novel!!!)- I don’t want to give up- and I have 2 novels slated yet, so I can’t for a while- but reality is a git, and kids are expensive. I won’t ever totally leave- too addicted. I am running out of ideas to get noticed though!! xx

  6. Tilly Hunter says:

    It is depressing that just because one book turned into a bestseller, publishers and book stores think every book has to follow the same formula. There’s a place for the billionaire escapist fantasy but I don’t think readers want a string of copies; I think they want variety and to be treated like intelligent people. I can empathise with the fact that we write because we enjoy it and feel compelled to write regardless of reward, though. Of course, I think writers should be properly paid for their endeavours, but I’ve spent days on stories I know I’ll only get $25 dollars for, knowing that if the theme tickles my fancy it will eat away at me until I get it on paper!

    • Kay Jaybee says:

      I hear you Tilly!! For the first 5 years of my writing life I would spend about 2 weeks on a story that would only earn me $10- so about £6.50. This was never a problem- I knew the returns were poor, and I was enjoying myself- and building a reputation- not to mention learning my trade. But now I feel I’ve earned my stripes. I don’t expect everyone to like what I do- why should they? I think Stephen King is one of the best writers ever- but I don’t enjoy his books at all!! We’re all different- I just think it’s time a publisher with the financial clout to do so- took a chance of erotic that has a real storyline and challenging twists and turns! After all, there are plenty of brilliant erotica books out there for them to choose from xx

  7. Jillian Boyd says:

    That line about reality tv made me die a little inside.

    Brilliant post, Kay. I think we should not stop fighting the good fight. I’ve been inspired today to do so (partially by you, darling).


  8. I hope you do get your book in a mainstream book store. Because I believe deeply that books inform and enrich our lives and it needs to be there.

    • Kay Jaybee says:

      Bless u RG!! I totally agree- a life without tangible books would be a sadder lesser life indeed. xx

  9. Primula Bond says:

    You took the words right out of my mouth about everything and what gives me particular pleasure is the comment by one of your reviewers that your work made 50 Shades ‘look like a waste of paper’! Bravo, girl! After 20 years of writing erotica I earn 25% for a short story than I did to begin with. In fact this time last year I decided to hang up my furry handcuffs for good, until my editor at Avon asked me to write an erotic trilogy. And yes, I admit in The Silver Chain there’s a dark mysterious hero and a feisty girl (who looks like your red haired beauty on the cover of ‘Digging Deep’!) but the similarity ends there and I hope it’s a read that will grab the intelligent, non reality TV watchers out there. You are one of the queens of erotica so keep up the good work!

    • Kay Jaybee says:

      Thanks for your kind words Primula- I am touched and flattered. I had no idea you’d hun gup your handcuffs = glad you’r back- trilogies really are the thing at the moment. That’s why The Perfect Submissive has gone from a one off novel to a 3 book series. Intersting what you’ve said about your income decreaing- so has mine- I get less per month now than I did 3 years ago despiter increased sales- sad but true. x

  10. Brilliant piece. I’m a newbie to the genre, though not to writing (I was a journalist and editor for years, and I also write literary/women’s fiction) and the snobbery about the genre p****s me off no end, not to mention the mass of copy-cat erotic romance out there. Sadly, I think any writer who goes into the business to make lots of money is deluded; you probably stand more chance of winning the lottery, though it is maddening that it is increasingly difficult to make even a half decent living from what is, after all, bloody hard work. My local Waterstones has a weeny book shelf only for erotica and only the usual suspects are there. But I love it and, like you, can’t imagine giving up. There are readers out there who love what we do, and they are who we must keep in mind. x

    • Kay Jaybee says:

      I worry about the newbie’s- I’m honestly not sure many of them know what they are getting into. I still get emails from folk who want to try and write erotica after reading Shades, and assuming it must be dead easy if that can get published. I always feel like the profit of doom when I reply with a dose of reality. To be honest it is the prinicple of the thing paperback wise that gets me more than the poor financial return x

  11. gosh, i know exactly how you feel. i’ve had absolutely no success getting any of my books, none of which are erotica, on store shelves or even library shelves. it’s so damn frustrating. i know my books, particularly the death and dying book and my children’s story would enjoy a large readership. the reviews i get are amazing. but still there isn’t a way, that i can see, that would help me translate that kind of acclaim to bringing my books into the mainstream.

    you and i have talked about this before, but i want to repeat as a cautionary tale for others. i publish all my books under my own real name. i am proud of the work i do, both as dr dick and the other stuff i write. unfortunately, others don’t see it the same way. i know for certain that when people discover dr dick, some discount anything else i’ve ever written. what a bummer.

    • Kay Jaybee says:

      We have indeed talked about this- and I’ve had so many discussions with fellow authors about this subject, this blog just had to happen. sad but wise words about using a pen name hun!! new authors take note!! xx

  12. Nano says:

    Great blog. I always felt the 50 Shades phenomena would be to the detriment to quality and variety in the erotic genre. But sadly it’s not always what’s good that sells. It’s the same in other creative areas. Take music – I enjoy a lot of English Folk Music and I’ve been to gigs where the most beautiful music is played by incredibly talented young musicians and then you watch some unoriginal wannabe on tv get a recording contract and sell loads of records. Grrr. It ain’t fair, but it’s the way of the world I’m afraid – marketing and power is all. Good luck and keep writing, which I’m sure you will.

    • Kay Jaybee says:

      You are spot on of course Nano- it is the way of the world. Marketing is all that seems to matter now. xx

  13. Hmm, obviously a hugely emotive subject.
    And yes I do respect, agree, and know what you mean (on lots of the points you so eloquently make), and on so many of the comments already made here . . . and yet, also feel a little guilt, and unease, that perhaps I am also caught, or categorised, in some areas of that “other” side of your argument. (More on that perhaps another time, another medium).
    I do actually have two of your paperbacks (“The Perfect Submissive” physically bought in person from the shelves of Sh! in Hoxton, and “The Voyeur” bought on-line from Amazon), because, I do still prefer the “feel” and “reality” of a physical, real, printed-book. Yet I still re-bought both books from Amazon as Ebooks for my Kindle . . . simply because my own day-job means that most of my reading time is limited to on the bus and tube, on my way to and from the office, and the Kindle is (like it or not) more convenient, and more discreet?, for reading in those situations.
    I can only say, that yours are the most arousing and exciting books I have ever read, (I continually marvel at your imagination and descriptive way with words), and were there any justice in this world, yours are the books that should be offered movie rights and ETO awards.
    So, I too hope that one day your books will be on the middle-shelves of that mainstream bookshop . . . but I wonder if the reality of your (our) chosen mutual, field / interest / topic . . . will make that desire and dream, unobtainable in a world where, despite all the wonderful freedoms we (rightfully) enjoy, “mainstream” means the lowest-common-denominator, acceptable only for the what the politically correct perceive as the common good.
    I wish that for you . . . and for ALL of us . . . maybe, one day, that will change !!!

    • Kay Jaybee says:

      Bless you for that comment! And you are quite right of course- because of what we write, the chances of us getting are dreams are slim. Ebooks are vital to so many- and I’d be the last to decry them as they are responsible for so many of my sales- it’s more the principle of the thing. I know I’m banging my head against a brick wall here- but I needed to vent- and it seems I was not alone!
      Awww- you are v kind re ETO award- that was never an issue- no one else would ever have won that. It can’t ba co-incidence that this is the first year that catergory was even included. Films?? Lol- can you imagine!!! Not so much 18+ as coming with a health warning! Lol. Thanks hun- your support, your balance view, and common sense always appreciated. Hugs xxx

  14. Jordan Larousse says:

    Well written post, and so close to my heart Kay. For us the James fallout was really the final straw. I’m pleased that you keep the hope alive! Xo

    • Kay Jaybee says:

      Thanks so much for popping by hun- we really miss you and Sam in erotica world. As I said in the post, erotica is a very different world now. Hugs xxx

  15. Hi Kaye – a thought provoking post and an issue that also bothers me. I think a lot of people get the impression that writing erotica is an easy way to make money and when I explain how the figures work for most writers they are often shocked. I’ve been writing erotica since 1999 and worked hard, enjoyed it and got small recompense. My stories appeared in many of the beautifully produced Xcite anthologies, but as the years have gone on, the landscape has changed, as you explain, and there comes a point when you have to look at the ratio of hours spent to money earned. 50 Shades has resulted in a saturated market and a copycat one. Sadly, I don’t see myself continuing writing erotica for much longer. Still, it was fun in the early days and as you say, erotica writers are a really supportive group of people. Good luck, and I wish you continued success.

    • Kay Jaybee says:

      Bless u Elizabeth. It’s so sad isn’t it. Shades did so much for the sex toy trade, but the damage to erotica writing seems to get worse each day. Xx

  16. Thanks for the post! As others have said, please keep it up! I have Making Him Wait in paperback in my house (was just showing it to a friend last night), so your books are out there!

    I’ve always thought writing required a bit of strategic denial, because it is so very much work for not a lot of money in many cases. And there’s a bunch of other stuff that goes with that — uncertainty, instability, days when one is crushed by someone’s comment somewhere. Moments when the denial drops, I start thinking, “Oh my God, what am I doing with my life?”

    Still, I’ll repeat something I’ve said many times before. Erotica–yours included–really saved and changed my life. I thought I was a horrible, twisted, perverted person until I found out that a lot of people were having the same thoughts as me and just letting them be fun. So I think what we do when we write is very, very important, for all that it can sometimes feel like volunteering for some horrible experimental procedure.

    • Kay Jaybee says:

      I had no idea how much of a impact erotica has had on your life- and thank goodness you found it!! It is so much fun, to both read and write, and I’ll not be giving it up. I will be cutting down- but that’s just life doing its thing! My beef is with marketing in publishing, not with erotica itself. The denial element you mentioned is spot on- and I’m sure that’s a common feeling for anyone doing something creative. Huge thanks for buying MHW!! I hope you enjoy it!! xx

    • Kay Jaybee says:

      I had no idea erotica had had such a major impact on your life- thank goodness you found it!!! Lol- I know what you mean about feeling like an experimental procedure sometimes!! xx

  17. Livilla Sanders says:

    some very interesting points being made here by all. I thought I’d put my 2p worth in. I really don’t see how to change this race to the lowest common denominator. The major publishing houses with their marketing people and big budgets completely overshadow the smaller houses and independent writer/publishers and worse still they almost ‘train’ the general reading public that this is all that is on offer.
    I was having a good winge a few days ago on Twitter about the state of Waterstones and its erotica shelving. A sad array of clones with a poor selection of real erotica tucked away behind a fossilized mummy. Okay, there was no mummy, but you get the picture.
    Add to that the really poor remuneration available as royalties for writers, pirates and even self publishing plagiarists the whole scenario for a thriving quality market is in my opinion pretty grim.
    But I shall carry on trying to write stories that people want to read (hopefully). You are out there aren’t you, people? People? Hello?
    Wait! I’ve had an idea!..There’s this billionaire and he’s into BDSM and there’s this young woman who’s a bit naive………

    • Kay Jaybee says:

      You’re 2p worth is always welcome! I hear you re Waterstone’s shelves etc- and the loss of places like Oysters and Chocolate is so sad- but like you, I will soldier on, albeit for less hours than I have been doing, as long as there are real readers out there- I think they’re there- maybe if we all shout HELLO at the same time one of them might hear us?? xx