01
Oct
09

Sidelines

One of the things writers realize, when they try to figure out whether this whole full time thing can work, is that alternate sources of income are crucial. You don’t know when you’re going to sell a book; if you sell one, you don’t know how long it’ll be before the advance check comes; and once the advance is done, you don’t know if you’ll get any royalties. The advance check might look nice, but it’s 50% less nice than you think because of taxes and agent fees, and if you’re paying for your own health insurance you can kiss another 30% of it goodbye, and… well. Multiple income streams are the way to go. (This is true for anybody, really; best way to recession-proof yourself. But since writers are kind of in a constant personal recession…)

Since I have a Masters’ degree (albeit in counseling) and some teaching experience, I’m hoping to make the transition to teaching writing. I’ve run some writing workshops, been in some intensive and prestigious writing groups, so I reconfigured my resume to highlight these things — but thus far I’ve had no dice in getting a teaching job. It seems to me you need either an MFA to do this, or some noteworthy publications, or a friend who works in a university English department. Or some combination of the above. I’ve got the friends, don’t have the rest, so I’m hoping my prospects there will improve once 100K comes out. (Have considered the MFA, note; I know lots of folks who swear by Stonecoast. But I just can’t bring myself to go and get a second Masters’ degree when I may not need it. I’ll wait a few years and see.)

I do still have my career as a career counselor, which I’m continuing to keep active by working part-time while I finish the trilogy. I’ll probably keep doing that, because I really enjoy it. But having tasted a different lifestyle in the past year, I’m feeling the urge to explore new things too.

Including creatively. Although I’m primarily a fantasy writer, I’ve always dabbled in other genres — science fiction most notably, but also erotica. Yes, erotica. I’ve written some short stories in that field, but I’ll be blunt: there’s not much money in the short story field for erotica, any more than there is for SF&F. The way to go is a novel, which I’ve actually got an idea for. Just need to find the time to write it down.

Here’s the thing, though — these days, authors are encouraged to think of themselves as brands, and their books as products. When they switch the product, they’re supposed to switch the brand. Thus historically we have writers like Anne Rice doing her vampire and other books under her own name, but publishing her hardcore BDSM erotica under A. N. Roquelaure. I suspect, back in Rice’s heyday, that this was necessary not just for marketing purposes, but also to protect her from prudish bookburny types who might pillory her for eroticizing a popular children’s tale. (Though really, the original version of Sleeping Beauty was never anywhere near G-rated, with that whole rape-cannibalism schtick.) Still, her “Sleeping Beauty” books sold phenomenally well — better than her first Vampire Chronicles book. Not entirely surprising, given that the erotica/romance industry is a financial powerhouse, even moreso today than 20 years ago. So A. N. Roquelaure ended up being a great sideline for her… but if the books had crashed and burned, or worse yet triggered some kind of backlash, she could have readily discarded that “brand” and continued to sell her grocery lists as Anne Rice.

Conversely I’ve been following the career of a more modern writer of gorgeous prose, fantasist Catherynne Valente. I loved her The Orphan’s Tales: In The Night Garden, though I am woefully behind on reading the rest of her stuff. But I note that she’s got a very erotic novel out now, Palimpsest, with the cool concept of a magic city passing from person to person as a sexually-transmitted tattoo. She’s selling that under her own name, possibly because her work is already sensual and erotic even when she’s not writing about sex, and possibly because cities-as-STDs isn’t nearly as potentially offensive to the prudeyfolk as Sleeping Beauty on a rocking horse. (And no, I don’t mean the kind for kids.) Valente seems to be building one big brand of lush, juicy fiction, into which an explicitly erotic book fits like a hand in a glove. (Carefully avoiding other metaphors here.) I’m watching to see how that works out for her.

Anyway, so these are the sorts of things I’ve been contemplating lately, as I progress steadily on Book 3 and realize that soon, the Inheritance Trilogy will be finished. Inevitable that I would look around here and suddenly wonder, “What’s next?” and face the daunting answer: “I have no idea.” But I thought I’d share what’s going through my head now, for those of you who think pro writer life is enviable and easy — if you still do after having read this site for the past few months! I’ll keep you posted on my future as it unfolds.

Oh — and if anyone is a reviewer and interested in a review copy of Like Twin Stars, the Circlet Press e-anthology that’s published my short story “The Dancers’ War”, contact me offblog.

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3 Responses to “Sidelines”


  1. 1 rachelaaron
    October 2, 2009 at 7:56 am

    Haha, my whole post is pretty much a comment, but I wanted to say props on the erotic romance part of your post. I agree on the idea of branding, but I always thought that the real point was so that readers wouldn’t get confused between, say, your adult fantasy novel and your ADULT fantasy novel and thus become upset. This is why, if I wrote an erotic novel (or finished one, rather, because I’ve started a few), I’d do it under a pen name. Not because I’m embarrassed, but strictly to avoid confusion.

    Of course, that brings up the question of would changing your name be a disservice, considering you’d be going from an author with an audience right back to a debut? I can’t even think of a main steam writer who writes erotic under her own name, though, so I don’t know where I’d go to check.

    Of course, if you wrote erotic under your own name, you’d also be passing up the opportunity of a lifetime to be called “Roxxanna St.Artesia” or “Portia Jadefyre.” Let me tell you how much I LOVE erotica author names! How could you miss that?

  2. 2 nojojojo
    October 3, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    Well, Valente’s actually a good example of a mainstreamer who writes erotica under her own name. So is Mary Anne Mohanraj, one of the founding forces behind Strange Horizons and the Speculative Literature Foundation. So it’s been done. Just not sure if I should do it.

    I have to admit, I do kind of like the idea of coming up with some insanely pretentious penname for my erotica. =P But I’m not sure I’ll go with those suggestions, thanks. ^_-

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