5 Writing Tips for Getting Your Erotic Short Stories Published in Anthologies: By Rachel Kramer Bussel


Rachel Kramer Bussel


I’ve been editing erotica anthologies since 2004, and got my start as an erotica author back in 2000. Since then, I’ve been published in over 100 anthologies of all kinds, from Best America Erotica 2004 edited by Susie Bright to Succulent: Chocolate Flava II and Purple Panties edited by Zane, and edited over 60 of my own, with more added every year. Right now I’m editing two Cleis Press anthologies, a women’s orgasm erotica anthology (March 1 deadline) open to all authors, and Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 7 (May 1 deadline), which is open to authors who are women, gender nonconforming, genderqueer or nonbinary.


To find out when I post new calls for submission, you can subscribe to my monthly newsletter, and they’re always posted in the call for submissions section of the Erotica Readers and Writers Association, a resource I highly recommend.


I’m always eager to publish new authors, and in fact this year am aiming to publish authors I haven’t worked with in 75% of these books and any other anthologies I edit going forward. This is my way of paying forward all the opportunities erotica editors have given me over the years, help newer authors break into the genre and reach new readers, and give readers new authors to discover and follow.


I wanted to share with the Eroticon community five tips that will get you closer a yes from me.


  1. Follow the guidelines


I write extremely long and detailed guidelines. I do so not to make writers jump through hoops, but to ensure writers don’t waste their efforts sending me stories that won’t be a fit, and to save myself time, so I have more time to edit and promote my books and thereby give authors a wider readership. If you’re going to take the time to write a story to submit to my books, please make sure you’re following the guidelines. If any aspect of them is unclear, feel free to email me at the address listed with the call.


  1. Be creative


In the course of the last two decades, I’ve read thousands of short stories for consideration for my anthologies, for which I generally receive between 100-300 submissions. This means I’m always looking for stories that stand out in unique ways. Making your story stand out could mean starting with a literal bang, or using an attention-getting writing style that I don’t see much of, such as second person. Maybe you’re extremely knowledgeable about a particular subject or setting or hobby or subculture or sexual identity or sexual practice or type of sex toy that most people know nothing or very little about. I encourage you to use that knowledge to craft your plot and offer me, as an editor and a reader, something new. Anything you can do to differentiate your story from all the others I’m reading will give it a leg up.


  1. Approach themes in interesting ways


Many of my anthologies have a theme, such as the two mentioned above. With hundreds of submissions, I often find similarities between submissions, which often means I have to reject stories I’ve enjoyed in order to offer maximum variety to my readers if they’re both about a topic or feature a plot point or setting that’s too alike. So, similar to my advice above about creativity, exploring themes from interesting angles can help make your story more memorable.


For instance, with the theme of surprise, I may accept one or possibly two surprise party stories, but the rest of the book, the other 20 or so stories, will be ones where the surprise element is, well, surprising. It’s your job as an author to brainstorm ideas that go beyond the obvious. For instance, in my anthology Orgasmic, Velvet Moore’s story “Chemistry” is set in a chemistry lab, about a woman who’s aroused by this branch of science. That was something I’d never considered before, and the writing style, setting and particular fetish made me want to accept it as soon as I’d read it.


  1. Don’t forget the emotional side of sex


When I’m reading so many stories in a short time period, the truth is that much of the physical activity fades away in my mind when I’m making my selections. Yes, I want heat and eroticism on the page during any sex scenes, as well as variety among the types of sex and people enjoying it in my books. But I also want to know more about those characters, even within the relatively short word count. This is why one of my most frequent editorial comments is: How did it feel?


I don’t need to know their entire life story, but I do need to know what about this particular moment or moments is arousing to them. Many authors assume that by the nature of what they’re writing, the reader will know how their characters feel about the physical action. But just as every person is different, every character is different. The same act, whether being part of an orgy or public sex or getting or giving a spanking or even a kiss, might be arousing to one and horrifying (or humdrum) to another. I want to get inside the characters head in a memorable way and be swept away by all the physical sensations and emotional reactions they’re having in that moment.


I want to know, from the point of view of your character(s), both how it feels to have a flogger striking their back (or front) or having a hand or paddle spank their ass or having their hair pulled or fingers sucked or being pressed against a wall or pegged or using a specific sex toy, or whatever’s happening in your story, and what about their personality and history and soul makes this sensation sexy to them. Is it the person they’re doing it with (which includes masturbation scenes)? Is it the setting? The risk factor? The taboo nature of it? The time of day? The newness or the familiarity? There are as many reasons for a given sex scene or line of dialogue or fetish object to be arousing as there are characters (so, an infinite number), and the stories I say yes to are ones that work on all levels. I want to truly get to know these characters and what makes them tick in and out of the bedroom. Of course in less than 5,000 words, you won’t have room to share every detail of their lives, because every word counts. But without giving a stale monologue or tedious backstory, I want to know, through their words and actions and thoughts, what’s going on for them, especially during erotic scenes.


  1. Read your story out loud before submitting


While this tip isn’t exclusive to erotica, it’s one I’ve found could prevent many of the most common errors I see in story submissions, including typos, overused words, tense changes, awkward phrasing, run-on sentences, and continuity issues. Read your work slowly out loud, as if you were reading it at a live event to an audience. Listen to the way the sentences flow together and keep your ears alert for anything that sounds awkward, unnecessary or grammatically incorrect. This is practical advice for any writer in any genre, and it’s highly likely that you will find at least one place where you want to beef up your story. It’s crucial that you do this before you submit your story, not after, as my guidelines don’t allow you to submit multiple versions of your work, since I start considering stories as soon as they hit my inbox, and multiple versions not only waste my time if I’ve already read your story, but can also lead to errors in the editing and production process. While I and my copyeditors will hopefully catch typos and grammatical errors, the cleaner your story arrives in my inbox, the cleaner the published version will be. Your name will be published with it, so you want to be as professional as possible. Reading your work in advance out loud (the out loud part is key) will help you do that.


I hope these tips have been helpful, and look forward to reading your erotic story submissions.

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