A successful writing year is measured using a variety of criteria by different authors. For me, I must feel that if not prolific, I’ve at least achieved a good standard with what I have published. I’m a firmbeliever that if as an author I expect a payment, I owe the customer my best efforts.
Rather than talk about ‘numbers’ as a guide, it would be better to look at the time taken for some of my most recent publications. Codename: Nightshade, for example, went through my process for two years before I was happy with the end result. One Man, Two Missions, was a bundle of files for a long time before I was satisfied with every story.
I created Tom Benson-Erotica to avoid, or at least reduce the mentions of the genre on here, but this post will be one of the exceptions and for good reason. I wrote a novel, a full-length prequel novel, and a book of fifty erotic poems.
Although the erotica output in my own name may not sound impressive, one of my most ambitious projects to date was the creation of a new author.
During 2019, I published five full-size novels as Katya Cumming. I’ve kept the pseudonym and the stories (in progress), a secret for two years. When I came up with the idea I promised myself not to go public until I had completed several books and published them over a period of twelve months. This would allow me to assess unaided development. The experiment was also to see if ‘Katya’ would be prolific, and successful. She has been both when considering she’s had no support or advertising campaigns.
The theory of creating ‘box sets’ was beyond me for a while. I’d checked a fair number on Amazon and couldn’t see many reviews, so I figured that maybe they were popular as a purchase, but not easy to review. Whatever … I spent a couple of weeks selecting and producing four box sets. They haven’t been my most successful venture, but in each case, I’m giving something back in terms of pricing, so it’s the consumer’s loss; not mine.
Throughout the year I offered my services as a beta reader to several members of theIndie Author Support and Discussiongroup (IASD), the finest writing group of its type on Facebook. Oh, yes, and in between other things I produced two stories for theIASDhorror anthologyDepths of Darkness.
To return to my opening statement regarding success in the past year … yes, I believe that with the sales produced under my own name, and the regular sales by ‘Katya’, it has been a successful writing year.
I’ve produced this summary a month earlier than normal for two reasons. Firstly, I am deep into two WIP and will not be publishing anything new in December 2019. Secondly, this post will be appearing in the November issue of the superbConnections eMagproduced by fellow author,Melanie P. Smith.
I have a smaller but no less important target for next year, but more of that in my New Writing Year – 2020 post in the near future. Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and summary, and for any comments or suggestions, you may leave. Sincere thanks go out to all you lovely people who’ve sampled or continue to read my efforts.
My interview with erotica author, Katya Cumming, has been promised for some time, so with great pleasure, I’d like to introduce you to the new girl on the (writing) block.
Q1. Katya, I respect your decision not to provide a profile picture because of certain types of people. Would you be kind enough to give us a brief description of yourself and your background?
Two descriptions attributed to me have been curvaceous and statuesque, and I like both. I’m a thirty-something brunette from Edinburgh, Scotland, who works in fashion retail. Relationships are for those involved, so that’s where mine will stay. In my quieter moments, I read and write, and sometimes those things are done while I travel which I also enjoy. To keep in shape I swim, jog, cycle, and do aerobics.
Q2. What type of books did you read when you were younger?
While very young I loved adventure stories, but by the time I was a teenager, I’d progressed to romance. It was while babysitting for a neighbour I first discovered books with more interesting topics. The first erotica book I read was sci-fi, but it just made it more fun for me, imagining the things the aliens could do with the human body. It captured my imagination.
Q3. What attracted you to writing erotica rather than any other genre?
I was a fan of romance, but I needed more grit, and moved up to steamy romance. It didn’t take long before curiosity got the better of me and erotica was next. A couple of authors were okay, but most stories were more like plot-starved, sexual fantasy than erotica, so I decided to try my hand … if you’ll pardon the pun.
Q4. How long did you write before publishing?
In terms of time, probably about two years. I’d written some poetry and short stories which were well-received in writing groups, but novels are a different discipline and frightening at first. Over quite a long time I produced the early stages of three novels but I left them aside, adding to them occasionally.
Q5.How long does it take generally from starting a story to seeing it published on Amazon?
I would suggest a minimum of four months. Once I have an idea I make a few notes and leave them aside to consider from which start point it might best evolve. I also tend to leave the manuscript aside regularly to let me work on something else. The Mistress, which is my shortest story so far was my quickest first draft. It took me fourteen days and I stopped at fifty-thousand words. I reduced it to forty-seven thousand words.
Q6. How many titles do you have available at the present time?
Now that my latest, ‘His & Hers’ is released, I have five books out there, all on Amazon KU.
Q7. Many authors depend on experience for their subject matter—how much of your work is a direct result of personal experience?
Small segments in different stories is the best answer. This is where the male of the species is different from the female I suppose. A guy who sleeps around for a while is sowing his wild oats and is a bit of a lad, but if a girl plays the field she’s a tart. In my mid-teens, I had two relationships with girls, but by the time I was eighteen, I’d confirmed I enjoyed a roll in the hay with a girl or a guy. I’ve been involved in a threesome twice.
Q8. Feminisation and strong female characters are prominent in your work—could you explain why you lean in this direction?
Sexuality is a deep subject. When you delve into the area of ‘gender-benders’ as they’re so cruelly labelled, there is a myriad of areas to explore. Crossdressing is a multi-layered topic and well-suited to the erotica genre. The why and wherefore create a story. Whatever men tell you, and you should know, if a woman is attractive and dominant it’s more likely to add spice to a sexual encounter, rather than be seen as threatening. What that dominant woman wants, she will get one way or the other. Only a chauvinist or a dyed-in-the-wool alpha male would think otherwise.
Q9. What is your response to those who say that erotica is simply literary porn?
If they’re describing a book which is no more than page after page of explicit sex scenes then I’d agree with them. However, if those explicit sex scenes are integral to and supporting a cohesive story, then it is not porn, it is strong erotica.
Q10. Do you believe there is a place in the market for erotica, and strong erotica in particular?
Yes, of course, or people like us wouldn’t be spending weeks and months developing a story to convey the activities of our characters. I’m an advocate of allowing people the freedom to read whatever they please, and if for example, a person has difficulty forming relationships, has an unsatisfactory sex-life or simply enjoys a bit of titillation, a graphic erotic novel might be a release for them, in a manner of speaking.
Q11. What’s your opinion of those who profess to be erotica authors but produce regular, small volumes of badly-written, graphic sex stories?
First of all, the only way they can be called authors is due to having composed the material. They are not necessarily creative people. A graphic description of sex is not particularly creative in itself. Secondly, many of these people rely on no more than three or four plots, usually involving a cash-strapped person, an experiment, or pure fantasy. There is little or no research and no substance. In my opinion, lazy writers are despicable because they are money-grabbers who also affect the reading public’s view of indie authors who are working hard.
Q12. Who are your favourite indie authors?
You are obviously one, Tom, and that’s not simply because of this interview. I’m also a big fan of Sarah Stuart who writes steamy romance, and Lesley Hayes who is just an incredible writer. For the joy of a true storyteller, I like Patrick ‘Max’ Power, Rebecca Bryn, Lucinda E. Clarke, and Mike Billington. I’m a massive fan of the Indie Author Support and Discussion group; all talented international authors. It’s handy to have something to frighten the pants off me so for that I depend on Anne Francis Scott.
Q13. Which, if any, other genres might you consider writing in the future?
I have a yearning to write something in the sci-fi arena, but I’m not sure yet whether I’d go with dystopian, apocalyptic or outer space.
Q14. Can you tell us about your cover designs and how they came about?
I feel that if not from a scene in a story, the cover should at least highlight one aspect or provide a hint of what lies beyond the title. You know as much about them as I do since you’ve made the effort to produce them for me.
Q15. Why have you avoided being interviewed until this point?
Again this is an area of which you have a good grasp. For your benefit and to aim for credibility, I didn’t think it was fitting to be revealed until I’d produced at least five titles in my name and achieved significant sales. I felt that for a long time I was locked away, waiting. When you decided to bring my work to the fore, create my character, my name, and give me my own website it meant so much to me.
Thank you, Tom, for this interview and for bringing me and my work to the attention of the wider public. I do understand how difficult it has been for you to maintain this secret aspect of your life as an author while you’ve worked on my development.
Thank you for opening up to me, Katya. Please, finish your coffee before you get dressed. It’s been great working hand in glove with you and I look forward to your next in-depth tail … oops, I mean, of course, your next in-depth tale. I’m happy we finally have your personal story out there.
And to all who are interested in Katya’s naughty tales, here are links to her work.
How to attract more readers and give them a reward—that was my quest.
I have individual novels, a trilogy, and a five-part novel. My poetry titles come in the form of a bumper book of serial poetry, my five-part, multi-genre series and, of course, a collection of rhyming erotica.
Erotica, not usually mentioned on this blog—apart from poetry I have several novels, two anthologies of short stories, and a series of novellas.
I was looking at an opportunity hidden in plain sight—box sets.
I could offer a series at a cut-price. Yes, it would mean I lose a small amount in royalties from the individual book sales, but providing entertainment to a greater readership is more important to me than the money—which of course would be the spin-off; I know. 😀
Four questions came to mind.
How many people are keen to have a series available in one download?
How many people will take the opportunity of saving about 15-20% on the overall price?
How many of my series should I prepare as box sets?
How hard would it be to create them, and how long would it take?
The good news is, the graphics in this post are not simply for show. The first part of the job is done—four box sets completed, although while working on the project it felt like forty. Amendments to front and back matter was tedious, but worthwhile.
In each case, there is at least a free book when comparing prices to individual purchases.
These box sets are available on Kindle Unlimited.
I have no intention of going along the audio route so it will be interesting to see if this idea works.
Things got off to a good start with the erotica—a box set sold within three hours of publication.
I’ll write a post giving any useful information if the idea takes off, and in which area/genre.
A Life of Choice is available as five individual eBooks, a box set of five, and as a paperback trilogy.
If you’re new to my brand, all of my eBook titles are available on Kindle Unlimited.
In my meantime, I’ll be happy to accept question, comments and suggestions.
For a few years, I’ve conducted mini-experiments, and ‘surveys’ if you like. Nothing extensive which would include other authors or their work, simply a record of how my output is doing. Among my tinkering, I’ve changed formatting, book covers, and tried genre to see if I was capable of writing whatever it might be.
I’ve had positive feedback on the latest poetry covers, and the erotica covers—in particular how I’ve sub-branded them in colour for an anthology, novella, or novel.
I started my creative writing with poetry, moved on to short stories, and then novels. Since mid-2014 I’ve dedicated some of my writing time to erotica. I got underway with a novel and a single collection of erotic short stories, so I never expected much success—the market is flooded with 25-page, and 40-page ‘books’. I’ve seen book ‘bundles’ which in their entirety amount to about 100 pages.
Why am I stressing the erotica output when I removed it from this blog over a year ago?
Using the six-month period from September 2018—February 2019, I started my latest check on how things are shaping up for my books. When I include KENP (the page reads recorded on Amazon), and the sales, I’ve found that the popularity of my genres in descending order is:
Erotica, Military, Thriller, Romance, Short Story Anthologies, and finally Poetry Anthologies.
When I’ve dug a little deeper I’ve found that the KENP brings me in three times as much money as outright sales of any of my work. KENP related to my erotica titles brings in more than half of all the money I earn on Amazon.
This tells me that although erotica receives the fewest public reviews overall, it earns the most money, and it’s from people who don’t want to buy books—they want to borrow them. They don’t want anybody to know … so they borrow, read, and get rid.
Having said all of the above, my next erotica title is Woman to Woman, a prequel to Give & Take: A Tale of Erotica—my most popular book in the genre. When the next erotica title has been published, I’ll be giving the sex angle a rest and concentrating on my mainstream writing.
Why do I intend to stop erotica when I have successful titles?
I’m not in the writing game for the money—if I was, I’d set higher prices. 🙂
I do have another experiment underway but to get accurate results I’ll need another couple of months. I will report my findings later, whether good or bad.
And there you have it—if you are using Kindle Unlimited and enjoying my erotica (which like all of my books is on KU), you’re in good company.
Don’t be bashful … leave a review.
Until next time, thank you for dropping by.
P.S. If you haven’t been over for a look at my other blog:
There is more than a hint of deja vu as I begin this post. I started 2018 with the intention of producing two more thrillers and a new collection of short stories. Work was done on all of those projects but none were completed. The reasons were many and various.
Among the many other projects I did complete last year, in the erotica genre I published: two novels, a novella, and an anthology of short stories, all of which I found easier, though no less time-consuming than my planned books. If I’m not enjoying what I’m producing, it isn’t going to be my best.
Here I am once again with the same intentions as 2018, but in a better frame of mind to get the job done.
I may not produce as many titles this year, but I feel confident I have sufficient work done to ease my early progress into each of my main writing projects. In an effort to improve my focus I’ve refreshed/improved the proposed covers.
Codename: Nightshade is a crime thriller. The book is a standalone, and spin-off from the Beyond The Law trilogy. Rachel Donoghue is the central character and depending on your viewpoint—the heroine. For now, I think that’s enough to know about this one.
Czech Mate is a crime thriller based on the activities and adventures (or misadventures), of a young Scottish artist and gallery proprietor. The reading of his late father’s will is the kicking-off point for the tale, and apart from his native Scotland, he finds himself in Central Europe—mainly Prague, capital of the Czech Republic.
One Man, Two Missions: and other stories is a new anthology, although some of the stories have been in my files for a few years. They are of a wide variety of genre, similar to other anthologies I’ve produced which have proved popular.
Rather than predict an exact publication date for any of this work, I’d suggest it will be out there when it’s good and ready.
What else have I got lined up this writing year?
I have four erotica titles at various stages and a book of poetry of the same genre. They are detailed on the dedicated website—Tom Benson – Erotica.
I will be reading as much as possible, as usual, and I’ll be mentoring, beta-reading and helping my peers whenever I can.
The production of more paperbacks will probably be put on hold—they don’t sell in sufficient numbers to make the investment of time worthwhile, and at least in my case they are aimed more at giving to charitable causes, or as gifts.
There you have it—a summary of my proposed writing year, so it will be interesting to see how it all shakes out.
Did I do anything of importance regarding writing during 2018?
In late December I reread On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. If you’re a writer and you have yet to read that book I would suggest you are doing yourself and your proposed readership a disservice. As I reach the end of this post, for the benefit of my peers who may not have read the book, here is an excerpt from one of the final paragraphs:
“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well.”- Stephen King.
As recently as the end of December 2018 I spent an entire day working to update and improve this blog. I removed a needless heading from my main menu and set up a new one—Samples of my work. If you’d care to visit the new feature you will find samples of complete short stories of various genre, individual poems of different genre and examples of my serial poetry.
If you are a fellow scribe, I hope you have a wonderful, productive year ahead. If you’re a reader, may you find yourself absorbed in many a good story, and if you’re a reviewer, I hope you like my work.
Thank you for reading, and as always, comments are not only welcome but encouraged.
As many of us do, I like to look back and believe I’ve accomplished something in the past year. For me, this was my first full year in retirement—having finished my regular working life in late 2017.
My aim was the same as always, to use my time productively. Apart from reading/reviewing and my literary output, I had a couple of big domestic projects to plan and complete. I wouldn’t concentrate properly on my writing if I didn’t deal with one of my domestic jobs first, so January was written off.
February—I bought Vellum, a quality formatting programme to use with my Mac. Not only was I intent on producing paperbacks—I wanted the interior to look smart, and professional. Before a book was released as a paperback it would be completely revised. The revisions were already underway. My eBooks were also scheduled for the processing through Vellum.
In terms of reading, I set myself a target of fifty books and completed forty-six. I will read two more by the end of year. 🙂
Do I feel as if I’ve met my targets?
I do, and apart from dealing with the occasional injury or extremely bad weather, I maintained my daily early morning cycle ride. Personally, I feel as if I’ve had a good year and I now look forward to continuing with the same enthusiasm as we go into 2019.
My aims for 2019 will be set out in my next post … very soon. In the meantime, thank you for being a part of my writing life, in whichever way, large or small. It all counts for me.
A heads-up for all you lovely people who have taken the time to read this post. I have four very different titles being offered free and they’ll be available* from Wednesday 19th through Sunday 23rd December.
*This is, of course, if there are no technical hitches with Amazon.
Have a peaceful end to the old year and a great start to the new one.
I believe the greatest pressure applied to an indie author is from within—as should be the case with any self-motivated person. We must have a heartfelt desire to produce work to the best achievable standard. This sets the tone for this post.
Each year, I end with a summary of my writing achievements and near-misses (I try not to class anything as a failure—except my one-time attempt at writing for children). I tend to start the new year with my targets for the year ahead, but it occurred to me to produce a mid-year summary.
This year has already served me with mixed fortunes in my writing.
Codename: Nightshade, a standalone thriller has for several reasons not developed as well as I would like, and will remain a Work in Progress.
Czech Mate, a second standalone thriller has likewise cost me time and effort but I’m unsatisfied with the direction—a second tale to leave on the back-burner.
One Man, Two Missions: and other storiesis my next anthology of mixed-genre tales and they are coming along well. Several of the stories started life a long time ago—and we are talking years; not weeks or months. Due publication in summer/autumn 2018.
Lisa: and other short stories by C I Lopez was a collection I felt privileged to assist the author to produce. This is Carmen’s second selection of stories from her wide-ranging files full of short stories. As I did with her first anthology, I provided three ‘bonus’ tales to support the book. This author may be new to some of you, but her work is worth checking out.
Curious and Camping: An Erotic Journey developed rapidly from two different ideas, and I believe it worked. In May 2018 it became my second erotica novel. As usual with this genre, good to see early sales, but reviews are hard to come by.
Quiet Night Inn: and other erotic stories is another by-product of not throwing away ideas and has resulted in the successful completion of my second erotic anthology. These tales have been redrafted several times over a long period. Publication – June 2018.
Paperback conversions had been beckoning me for a couple of years and I’m pleased I postponed the task—and a task is what it is. Of course, I’m suggesting that it’s hard work, but my intention was never to simply copy the eBook files and have a cover designed.
I reworked Amsterdam Calling from beginning to end and apart from reducing the word count and altering the style to cut dialogue tags, I believe the writing is an improvement. The cover was designed by my professional cover designer AimeeCoveney and made to measure.
Having learned many lessons, I followed up with Ten Days in Panama and performed the same disciplines. Once again the job took weeks rather than days, but the end product is pleasing to the eye—in my humble opinion.
I had intended the next paperback project to be the Beyond The Law trilogy, but again, for various reasons, I’m putting that job on hold. I may write a post in a few weeks to explain my rationale for those who are interested in such information.
A Life of Choice, my military, fact-based fiction series-novel is by far my most successful work to date. This story has resulted in my book sales being daily and not sporadic. My page reads (KENP), have for some months been in the thousands rather than the hundreds on a regular basis.
Requests to have the story in the paperback format are sent to me at least twice weekly, which to my way of thinking is a ‘demand’ worth meeting.
Again, it will not be a straightforward ‘conversion’ of digital to paperback. I will have five books to revise, but to make all five books worth the price set by Amazon I intend to move chapters to increase/decrease volumes to keep them at a uniform size—which is appropriate.
My poetry collections had never been a consideration for a paperback, until recently when I thought it might be a good idea to combine all five anthologies as a single bumper edition (250) of my rhyme. It will be a project to keep me occupied when I’m taking time out from other work.
My writing journey began seriously in 2007. From the outset, although at first, they were of a low standard I dabbled in short story writing. I kept titles, ideas, introductions, passages and whole stories. As my writing has developed I revisit those old snippets and occasionally it takes only a title or a phrase I’ve used and I feel the urge to get a story written using those old fragments.
I am a great believer in a writer never throwing away material, and this has proved an asset and helped my steady production of titles.
During January 2018 I increased my Facebook visibility by creating Tom Benson – First Pages. My intention was always to attempt a daily post and when I felt the page was established, give publicity to other indie authors.
For three months I plugged away, highlighting an excerpt from one of my books. As April got underway I introduced Monday and Thursday as Review days to show my reviews of fellow indie authors’ work.
I don’t know how much notice is taken of the reviews I feature, but I have noted an uptake on my titles over this time. On week-ending 20th May, I stopped all activity on the page—my intention, to leave it dormant for one week. I’ll see how it goes in the coming weeks.
The internet and social networking are wonderful aspects of our modern world, but occasionally I indulge in a partial or complete detox. Over the past week I’ve deliberately kept a low profile and for me at least, it helps recharge my creative batteries.
Thank you in advance to all those who indulge me with a visit here.