Renee Rose: Making a Living Writing Erotica

When I fell into writing spanking romance, I got lucky. It just so happened that the thing I wanted to write most in the world also happened to be a niche in which it’s easy to make a solid living. Within six months I was making enough each month to pay the mortgage and in a year I was making what I consider a full-time living. I read a figure (which I’m sorry, I can’t seem to dig up the reference now) that only seven percent of authors make it to five figures a year.  Really? I’m in the top seven percent?  Am I that good?  Nope. Not at all.

I cringe over some of my earlier works–overly wordy with too much passive voice, overused words like “that” and beating the reader over the head with the character’s emotions. But I always think how lucky I was to be able to hone my craft while still making money. I didn’t spend the last two years working on one perfect novel. I wrote 20 novellas, which provide a passive income stream while I work on the new books.

Be a Big Fish in a Small Sea – Find your Niche

The trick, I think to making a living writing erotica, is to find that targeted niche. Spanking romance is one of them. We learned at Eroticon 2014 from Josephine Myles and Anna Martin that M/M Erotic Romance is another highly lucrative niche.  I’m quite certain there are a great deal of other ones, and I’d love it if you’d add them to the comments to help other writers.  It’s easier to make a name for yourself amongst a smaller pool of books. There are many ready-made markets out there to small, targeted niches.  Spanking romance is far smaller a pool than BDSM. I think it was quite easy for me to get noticed and gather a following in this smaller pool.

Shame Sells

Another reason spanking romance makes for quick sales there is more shame associated with it. I think people who are into BDSM, have probably admitted it to themselves and their partner, while people with spanking fantasies are often in the closet. I believe where there’s more shame and therefore less self-actualization with the sexual kink/orientation, sales are higher. Readers are looking for an outlet/expression of their kink because they may not be asking for it at home.

There are many other kinks like this. Age play, diaper play, lactation, pony play, monster erotica, anything considered taboo. There are a few targeted publishers that serve these genres, and therefore have a ready made audience.  With spanking romance, there are two major publishers, and if you publish with them, you are practically guaranteed decent sales, even as a brand new author.

Know Your Audience

There are by far, more female readers than male, so in spanking fiction, femme dom books are not the big sell, M/f are.  Josephine Myles and Anna Martin explained the same thing for the M/M romance– most of their readers are hetero women.  If you don’t write to that audience, it’s fine, I’m not suggesting you “sell out” but just consider how to target your audience.

Keep Writing

Back when I was in my twenties, a therapist gave me an article on perfectionism. In it, the author described how limiting it can be to our success– you never publish that book because you are waiting to get it just right. As I mentioned above, I guess I might have one kick ass book if I’d spent the past two years refining it to submit to a top five publisher (who of course wouldn’t take spanking romance!) but instead I made  money while improving with each book I wrote. One of the major tricks to making a living writing is to keep your output up.  Your new books sell your back list and keep your name out there.  If you think you don’t have enough time to produce books at the rate of one every couple months, try a productivity tool like the Write or Die web app (it’s free, you don’t have to download it, just use the one on the screen). You’ll be amazed at how many words you can write in 30 minutes a day!  Certainly enough to publish a novella every two months!

Talk to me

I would love to hear from you about other niches you have found lucrative, questions you may have about my niche, etc.  Please leave comments!

Comment List

  • Excellent post and spot on! I have been published for a little over two years and have my ninth book going out soon. If anyone had told me I could do this a few years ago, I would have thought they were crazy, but it’s true. If you know your genre(s), you can do it. I’m not getting rich, not by a long shot, but my work sells and I love what I’m doing. It doesn’t get any better than that. Also, thanks for the tool link. I don’t have that but I’m going to try it.

    • Renee Rose 23 / 07 / 2014 Reply

      I totally agree!! Congratulations on all your success, Stevie!!

  • Celeste Jones 15 / 06 / 2014 Reply

    Excellent post and something I’ve sort of suspected about finding the right niche instead of trying to break into “romance” or BDSM. What you have left out, my humble friend, is that you are also an excellent writer whose books are entertaining, sexy and romantic.

    And yes, I cringe over early books and even more recent ones, but how wonderful it is to be able to write the books we enjoy and to have them be appreciated by readers. I think it would be hard for me to keep writing if I didn’t think that anyone would want to buy my book.

    • Renee Rose 23 / 07 / 2014 Reply

      aw shucks, so are you!! Yes, I absolutely agree–it’s not so much about the money as it is the appreciation– knowing someone enjoyed reading what you created!! The money is just an expression (or reward) of that!

  • Roger L 16 / 06 / 2014 Reply

    Hi, Renee, Great post and very inspirational. A version of “do what you love” along with “do what others aren’t.” Congrats on keeping your output high and learning, one page at a time.

    Best, Roger

  • Livia Grant 16 / 07 / 2014 Reply

    Thanks so much for the great post, Renee. I’ve been a fan for a long time and I love reading your advice almost as much as your books. Okay, not quite. 🙂

    • Renee Rose 23 / 07 / 2014 Reply

      Thank you, Livia, that makes me blush… 🙂

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  • Kaylie ransome 16 / 06 / 2015 Reply

    oh wow that really clicked with me – I’ve been struggling with my first ‘serious’ novel for 6 months, trying to basically make it my master work and destroying it in the process. What you said about growing as you write really snapped me out of this perfectionist purgatory – THANK YOU. Oh, and all the erotica advice sounds great too I’ve written one erotic novella (panty fetish) & am trying to ramp up my career as an erotica writer, I’ll definitely take all your advice!

    • Renee Rose 17 / 06 / 2015 Reply

      Awesome– I’m so glad that resonated for you!

  • Bracken 24 / 07 / 2015 Reply

    I enjoyed reading what you had to say. Thanks for the tips. I have two questions for you: first, do you ever find it hard to come up with enough diverse sex scenes for your book(s) and how many are in a book? Secondly, what do you think about going with a trad. publisher rather than independently on Amazon?

    • Renee Rose 24 / 07 / 2015 Reply

      Hmm… not sure I’ve ever counted, but I’m guessing there’s usually five big erotic scenes. I usually try to keep the sex ever-present, in terms of sexual tension, talking about the arousal, attraction between the characters, etc. I’ve had a lot of luck with the indie publishers who have a following in my niche, but I have considered submitting to one of the big five, just for kicks. I’ve heard the money is not nearly as good, though.

  • Daniel Singh 28 / 07 / 2015 Reply

    Hi renee, i also want to make money writing stories, can you tell me where its best to publish them, in books or in a blog…

    • Renee Rose 03 / 01 / 2016 Reply

      Writing erotic romance and either self-pubbing or going through indie publishers who specialize in erotic romance is a great way to go.

  • Daniel Singh 28 / 07 / 2015 Reply

    Hi renee, im a newbie in writing, can you suggest me where best to publish stories in book or in a blog, also in what languages, i am from India… Will be waiting for you reply… Thanks!

  • jason an jasmine 01 / 01 / 2016 Reply

    Hello me an my wife share same fantasy to love writing them more to love know how put our interest into money Thk u for any info

  • Travis 02 / 01 / 2016 Reply

    Absolutely loved this!! I am incredibly new to all of this, I just know that I enjoy writing about sex and BDSM. I’ve also found out I’m good at it so it’s nice to know that there is ACTUALLY an outlet for this! After reading your blog post, I’m finally going to take the plunge and see if I can make this happen.

  • MR 31 / 05 / 2017 Reply

    I like to write parental MF/f spanking stories. So far I only do it for my own enjoyment because I don’t know if there is a market for that and, frankly, I would have no idea where to find it if there was one. It is basically real life spankings my wife or others I know got as teenagers from strict, fundamentalist parents, but spiced up a little to make them more sexually exciting. Any advice?

    • Renee Rose 02 / 06 / 2017 Reply

      You have to be careful with teenagers– they’ll need to be over 18 if you want to publish on Amazon!

      • MR 14 / 06 / 2017 Reply

        How important are illustrations and how in the world do you find an artist to do them?

  • northierthanthou 28 / 07 / 2017 Reply

    The shame sells point is interesting. Fascinating to see how repression seems to create or at least enhance marketing potential.

  • How are you finding the market for erotic these days? Has it become flooded? Have your earnings taken a hit after various Amazon crackdowns? Would love to see an update on your progress. Thanks – Tina.

  • Tom 25 / 10 / 2022 Reply

    Hi, Renee

    I accidentally stumbled upon your article, while searching for writing opportunities in that genre

    Would you be willing to share the contacts of the 2 publishers with us?

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