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So, You Want to Write Some Smut (and Then Self-Publish It).

Well, then, you've come to the right place.

You see, I myself am what the kids call an expert at writing high-grade, steamy smut. Ew, that sounds disgusting. Never use steamy in that context, guys - it sounds like dog droppings on a Summer day.

Let me try again. Today we're talking Rrrrrromance novels (roll that r, baby).

This is a genre I could wax poetic about for many pages, but allow me to summarize. It's here, it's one-third of the entire mass market fiction genre, and it's not going anywhere. Not only is it a huge part of the ebook takeover, but some might argue that this genre is the ebook takeover.

So, if you like to write about people falling in love, now is a great time to do it - the self-published way.

Let me get you started.

The Hard and Fast Data.

The Romance and Erotica genre has consistently been the highest-selling fiction genre globally. It represents upwards of $1.44 billion a year in sales. Self-published romance novels are included in these stats, with novels published through Kindle Direct leading in that category.

With such a huge market share, there's a lot of competition. However, a large percentage of romance fans are very habitual people. The data shows that fifteen percent of romance readers buy a new book at least once a week! Six percent buy more than one book per week.

The average romance reader is, to put it simply, voracious.

With so many Sub-Genres to choose from, it's easy to become a 65-year-old boomer couple at a Golden Corral buffet when consuming romance, and so far the audience has not disappointed in that arena.

"Did you hear that, Jerry? Our 20% off coupon is good for another month!"

Thirty-nine percent of the books in the romance and erotica genre are purchased as ebooks. This includes the humble self-published romance novel, whose share has been steadily increasing over the years as more and more people sign up for Amazon Prime/Kindle Unlimited subscriptions.

In short - despite the pooh poohing of literary snobs, if you love to write romance, the data is strongly in your favor. And if you want to self-publish? Well, the numbers get better and better every day.

Some Slightly Personal and Aggressive Warnings.

Look, we've all seen what's out there at some point. The self-published romance market is active, and boy is there some utter bullsh** available.

Some of these novels are just bad. And no, not bad in a good way. I'm talking bad writing, bad formatting, bad covers, and really, really bad metaphors for genitalia. If you are going to write things like "she breasted boobily against his aggressively throbbing manhood, which was like, so manly," then for the love of all that's holy, please just DON'T.

The saturation of the romance market with low-grade, poorly written self-published books is responsible for the somewhat negative reputation the genre has gained. There is a misconception that the only people who self-publish are the authors who aren't 'good enough' to go the traditional route. This, in my not-so-humble opinion, is utter nonsense.

There are some absolutely incredible (and very successful) self-published romantic fiction authors out there! Annette Marie is one of my favorite storytellers, period, and she has a very loyal following. L.J. Shen is an internationally bestselling author whose fans are absolutely obsessed with her work.

And guess what? Both of these authors are very strong writers. Their level of success can only be achieved by those who take the time, put in the effort, and learn the skills necessary to make their work truly high-quality.

So, if you're not willing to invest in your novels, stop right here and please don't assault my eyes with your dumpster fire dialogue and rampant typos. If you do...I will find you, and I will write comically awful reviews on all of your accounts. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Okay, So How Do I Do It?

Well, this may be a surprise, but the first step is to sit down and write a romance novel.

If that's too overwhelming for you, check out my previous post on writing a marketable romance story for some pointers!

To make the entire process easier, I'm going to give you a self-published romance to-do list. We all love a good list, am I right?

  1. The Writing Process

    1. Outline your plot and characters.

    2. Set up a schedule and write the first draft.

    3. Take a week for content edits (round 1).

    4. Take a week or hire someone - like yours truly - to do further edits for grammar, quality, and clarity (round 2).

    5. Polish it up! (round 3)

  2. Use an ebook formatting tool. I strongly advise using any of the free templates offered by Kindle, or something similar. You simply copy & paste your manuscript, and the template ensures that it will be properly sized, indented, etc before you publish. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. Formatting from scratch is an absolute nightmare - use a template!

  3. Choose where you will publish your book. With certain publication options, you can publish on multiple platforms. Here are some options:

    1. Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing - say what you want about the company, but this is by far the best place to make money from self-published work.

    2. Apple Books for Authors - this is the second most profitable platform for self-published authors.

    3. Barnes & Noble Press - while not as profitable as the other two, this is still a contender.

  4. Publish your book!

  5. SET UP A MARKETING PLAN. Oh, yes, you're going to have to do this - so cut the whining, children. I recently wrote a post to help with branding, which is essentially the central feature of marketing success (and it doesn't necessarily cost you any money). Here's a breakdown of what a strong ebook marketing plan might include:

    1. Make social media accounts specific to your author profile - post your own content 20% of the time and engage with the wider romance community the other 80%.

    2. Set up an ad campaign within your publishing portal - KDP has a very easy-to-use ad campaign manager. Most options will not charge you unless someone clicks on the ads (these are the only sorts of campaigns you should trust) and the charge comes out of your overall book sales.

    3. Facebook ads - if you've seen some of the crazy (and hilarious) romance book ads on your newsfeed, you'll also know they can be pretty effective! These are a dependable way to drive sales.

This is it, folks - everything you need to get going on self-publishing your first romance novel (or your second, or third, or tenth). Yeah, you're welcome.

In Conclusion...

I'm going to get cheesy for a moment. If you're reading this, I hope it's because you have a genuine passion for writing, and not just because you want an easy way to make money.

We all want to make an income, and that should certainly be one of your goals as a writer, but if you don't love the genre you're writing in, it's going to show. Your reputation will suffer, and reputation is very important for artists.

When people publish dispassionate, assembly-line literature en masse, we all suffer for it. We aren't just individual artists - we're members of the global writing community, and we should take the responsibilities that come with that membership seriously.

So, I'll leave you with this heartfelt advice: if you love writing, and you specifically love writing romance stories, go for it three-hundred percent. Publish something amazing, and send me a link when you do!

But if you are uncertain, or if your soul isn't in this kind of writing, just let it go and find a different avenue for your creativity. You'll be a lot more successful in the long run.

Anyway - I hope this post has gotten you where you want to be.

If you have any advice for aspiring romance authors or if you just want to share some titles you love, comment and share! Thanks for reading, kids, and make sure your grandma doesn't find your smut collection.

Unless she's into that.

"Oh, Honey, I just read them for the plot."

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1 Comment

Susan J Berger
Susan J Berger
Aug 16, 2022

Well I am about to take the step (I think) into self publishing. I have three romances published by Soul Mate Publishing. I write for adults as Susan B James.

Lord Byron's Daughter is based on a real person and there is time travel between Victoian England and World War II.

I hired an editor. I will need to get a cover. I am thinking Fiona Jayde. And then the giant step. I am trying to figure out whether to use Kindle (no library use) or someone else.

All of my audiobook are available in overdrive because I used Findaway books for the audio. (Soul Mate allows you to keep your audio rights.)

This is scary.

Thank you for your…

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