Can You Make Money Selling Erotica in 2020?
Many people wonder if it’s still possible to make decent money selling erotica and romance books. It’s true that the golden years of self-publishing dirty stories for easy profit is probably in the past. Now the market is more saturated. But this is not the whole story.
Here’s the oily rub. Erotica readers tend to stick with authors they trust.
That fact is a double-edged sword. It means making money selling erotica can be difficult until you reach a tipping point. Then money tends to flood like the Nile. Or like the space between your readers’ legs 😉
Of course, almost all side hustles require upfront work, so selling profitable erotica isn’t any different from other options.
To get to that tipping point, it’s important to separate yourself from the pack. That’s why we provided dozens and dozens of tips for marketing, writing, and selling erotica.
If you enjoy fantasizing, writing, and making that mooh-la-la, then selling erotica is a great side hustle choice. In that case, we absolutely recommend it as a money-making technique. But it’s essential to move forward strategically.
Essential Tips to Become a Trusted Author
Here are the absolute best techniques to generate an audience and make money selling erotica on Amazon.
- Enroll in KDP Select, which includes Kindle Unlimited
- Invest in striking and professional cover art
- Dominate an unsaturated niche
- Charge at least $2.99 per title
- Fully optimize Amazon metadata
We discuss all of these tips and hacks further, as well as many other techniques for turning your lusty daydreams into cold, hard cash.
Tips for New Authors
1. Choose the perfect penname.
Go female or unisex.
The vast majority of erotica readers are female, and many of them feel best reading erotica written (seemingly) by another female. So it’s best to choose a penname that is either female or unisex. Sasha Belov and E. L. James are two examples of unisex names.
For the most part, avoid cheesy, punny, or overly provocative pennames. Be a modern erotica writer, not a nineties stripper. Maximus Johnson won’t sell too many books.
Fortunately, readers expect erotica and romance writers to use a pseudonym. That means you can get experimental with your options.
Be original, memorable, and niche-specific.
It’s smart to choose a penname that is original and memorable. You don’t want anyone confusing your books for someone else’s, and you don’t want potential readers to buy from another author because they couldn’t remember your name.
Your penname should also match your niche. If you’re exclusively writing dinosaur porn, go for a primal name like Lorelei Mist. If you’re writing millionaire bad boy stories, then E. L. James has a suitable dignity.
Consider domain names.
Consider checking whether the respective domain name is available. If you want to write as Lorelei Mist, then ideally www(dot)loreleimist(dot)com should be available.
2. Choose the right story length.
The minimum for an erotic short story is 3500 words. We recommend writing 5000-7500 words for your first titles. Once you starting getting sales, consider moving on to 8000-10,000 word stories.
3. Write series over standalone titles.
Just as erotica readers like to stick to specific authors, they like to stick to specific series.
By writing 3+ stories that all belong to the same fictional world with the same characters, you leverage the binge-effect. It’s like Netflix for dirty stories.
Just as Netflix series often hook viewers with a show-stopping pilot episode, the first book in an erotica series should be extra good. This technique will certainly lead to making more money.
In fact, many highly successful indie authors recommend writing an anchor series. That means writing an entire series that never strays from the one fictional world you create. Same characters, same setting, but much bigger royalties.
By writing in series, you can also get more real estate on Amazon searches. If you write a 3-story series, you can then combine those stories into a “bundle.” That’s four books for the work of three.
4. Read best-selling authors.
It’s universally true that great writers are great readers. They borrow ideas from the best and make them their own.
In erotica, you don’t need to be a great writer, but you do want to be a successful writer. And successful erotica writers understand the expectations and desires of the market because they read other writers. Below is a list of some of the best names in the business.
- Sylvia Day
- Anna Lores
- Maya Banks
- Chris Lange
- Kresley Cole
- Shayla Black
- Lorelei James
Especially if you have a small niche, it’s essential to explore your direct competition. Take notes about what they do successfully and emulate them. Consider posting those notes, along with great passages, where you write. When you get stuck, review your notes and see if they can’t give you a jumpstart.
Ironically, it can also be helpful to read terrible writing. It teaches you which mistakes to avoid like the clap. If you choose to check out bad erotica stories, just be sure that you don’t pay for them.
5. Consider using Scrivener.
Scrivener is a text editor like Microsoft Word. But it’s designed specifically for people writing books.
It’s a useful tool for serious eBook writers for two reasons.
First, it allows you to write in a much more organized way. You don’t need to scroll a mile and search for that exact sentence you want. It can be annoying to decide you want to change a detail in Chapter 2 while writing Chapter 5.
Either you kill your flow by spending ten minutes searching, or your risk leaving a plot inconsistency by telling yourself you’ll change it later.
Second, Scrivener makes converting to different eBook formats, including MOBI, as easy as pie.
6. Choose the perfect niche.
This is another major tip that cannot be overlooked. There are two keys to choose the perfect niche if you want to make money selling erotica.
The first is to choose a kink/fetish/theme that you enjoy writing. If you’ve read a lot of fantasy novels, leverage that to your advantage. If you have an interest in mythical creatures, use it. Or if you go to strip clubs regularly, turn those experiences into money-making magic.
The second key is to choose niches that are hot, but not flooded with writers. The best way to do this is to peruse Amazon extensively. Do a deep dive and come up with pearls.
Ultimate List of Erotica Niches
|Hetero Erotica Niches|
|ABDL (Adult Baby Diaper Love)||Expansion, breast||Older men/younger women|
|Alien, dinosaur or creature sex||Faeries||Older women/younger men|
|Alpha males||Faery tales||Omegaverse|
|Amputee||Feet and shoes||Pacific Islander men/women|
|Animal roleplay||Femdom/Malesub||Pain, CBT (cock and ball torture)|
|Babysitter, nanny, au pere||Findom||Paranormal, ghosts and possession|
|BBW women||Gender swap||Periods/menstruation|
|Bestiality, animal sex||Giants||Pregnancy|
|Big dicks||Historical||Pregnancy, male|
|Billionaires||Humiliation||Punks, including steampunk, etc|
|Bloodplay||Interracial||Shifter, especially werewolf|
|Cannibalism and vore||Maids||Sleep sex|
|CFNM||Maledom/femsub||South/Southeast Asian men/women|
|College life, frats and sororities, cheerleaders||Male strippers and gigolos||Vampires|
|Cuckolds, cheating, adultery||Menage||Vikings|
|Doctors, nurses, caring for patients||Monster men||Weight gain|
|East Asian men/women||Monster girls||Westerns, cowboys|
|Exhibitionism/voyeurism||Office, workplace and white-collar sex||Older women/younger men|
|Gay Erotica Niches|
|ABDL||Goths||Pain, CBT (cock and ball torture)|
|Adult fairy tales||Exhibitionism/voyeurism||Pirates/Seamen/Sailors|
|Alpha males||Filth/Urine/Scat||Power bottoms|
|Ancient Rome, gladiators||Hazing and initiation||Prison sex|
|Animal roleplay||Hetero sex for gay audiences||Punks and punk rock-types|
|Black men||Inflation||Shifters, werewolves and beasts|
|Blue-collar or working men||Interracial||Sissification|
|Bugchasing/Giftgiving||Male strippers||South/Southeast Asian men|
|Cannibalism||Medical||Straight guys, str8 trade|
|College boys and frats||Middle-Eastern men||Tattoos and tattooed men|
|Clothing fetishes||Military, soldiers, sailors||Thugs and mafioso|
|Cops/Police||Muscle and gyms, locker rooms||Twinks|
|East Asian men||Office, workplace and white-collar sex||Victorian era|
|Edging||Older men||Westerns, cowboys|
|Fat guys, curvy gentlemen, bears||Older men/younger men||White men|
|Feet, shoes, boots||Pacific Islander men||Whipping|
|Lesbian Erotica Niches|
|Bikers||College life and sorority girls||New lesbians/lesbian virgins|
|Bondage, pain||Fairy tales||Incest and pseudoincest|
|Black women||Interracial||Prison sex|
|Butch dykes||Medica||Shifters, werewolves and creatures|
How I Sold Over Half A Million Books Self-Publishing
Expert indie writer Sarra Cannon gives her best advice for self-publishing fiction on Amazon. Tune in because she really knows what she’s talking about!
Want to know her #1 tip for reaching over half a million sold books? Publish an anchor series, a single book series based in one fictional world that just keeps going.
General Erotica Marketing Tips
1. Invest in the best cover art you can afford.
This is our best tip for marketing erotica and romance stories. It’s true that some high-selling erotica stories on Amazon have mediocre covers. They sell well because they’ve established their names.
If you’re new to the erotica game, you need a beautiful, niche-specific cover that sends a powerful first message.
Keep in mind that if you design your own cover, you may have to pay for the right to use a copyrighted image. eBook designers have subscriptions that subsidize this cost.
Instead of spending $10 and a few hours designing your own covers, spend $20 and ten minutes to get a professionally designed cover.
Recommended Book Cover Designers
We recommend using Fiverr book cover designers for the perfect balance between price and quality. I interviewed dozens of graphic artists to check their English language skills, communication, graphic design talent, and value for the price.
Here are the best of the best:
Starting at $20
Starting at $10
If you’re serious about turning romance writing into a powerful side hustle, we recommend spending extra to get a Fiverr Pro to design the first cover of a series.
By doing so, you’ll hook readers into your series, which is the key to making money selling erotica. Then use the professional cover as an example when hiring a less expensive graphic designer.
Here are some of the best Fiverr Pro designers:
Starting at $500
Starting at $250
Starting at $150
We have two big tips when hiring a graphic designer. First, submit at least 1 sample cover the graphic artist should imitate. It’s the best shortcut to getting a final product you really love.
Our second piece of advice is to choose a graphic designer that knows what sells. Give the designer flexibility to design a book cover that reflects what buyers want, rather than what you think reflects the heart of your story.
DIY Book Cover Design
If you decide to design your own covers, the best platform is PicMonkey. It has a free trial and allows you to design fairly professional-looking eBook covers, but also graphics for Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and other branding options.
2. Double check that your book title is unique.
The competition is already strong enough. You don’t need to have potential readers confused if their friend recommended your book or another. Every time someone types your title into Amazon, you want it to appear as the top listing.
3. Don’t undercharge.
Sell your stories on Amazon for at least $2.99. This allows you to get the 70% royalty, but it also signals to readers that your stories are valuable. This is especially important for readers with Kindle Unlimited, who will get the title for free anyway.
4. Never write vanilla sex stories.
Think kink. Relish in the fetish. Never be afraid to get weird. Velociraptor gang bangers, shapeshifting alien pirates, and demon doms are all welcome company in the wild wild world of erotica.
5. Choose the best place to publish.
The primary platforms for publishing eBooks include:
They all have different royalty structures, but Amazon generally has the most rewarding system and the highest number of customers.
- Option 1: 35% royalty for books between $0.99 and $200.00
- Option 2: 70% royalty for books between $2.99 and $9.99
- 40% royalty for book between $0.99 to $2.98
- 65% royalty for book between $2.99 to $10.00
- 40% royalty for book between $10.99 to $199.99
- 45% to 85% depending on several factors
Expert Interview: Selling Erotica Online
I sat down with Nicole Boucher, a Content Operations Manager at a successful erotica and romance novel publishing house. Check out this insider’s look on how to market and sell erotica online.
Which erotica niches are both hot and up-and-coming right now?
NB: Lately I’ve noticed an increase in kidnapping/captive sort of romance and erotica, probably based on the success of the 365 Dni books and movie (recently translated into 365 Days).
What do all successful romance writers have in common?
NB: Romance writers know how to play out tension and release in order to extend the “get together” for a whole book, if not a whole series. Once a couple actually gets together properly, readers drop off.
Some writers let the characters hook up early but push the relationship part of it to the end of the book, like in Beautiful Bastard (one of the most popular office romance/erotica books at the moment). Some tease out a whole bunch of almost or partial hookups throughout the narrative and push the actual sex to the end to keep people reading.
How important is book cover art for aspiring writers?
NB: Very important. The cover needs to communicate the genre, but also stand out on a page with dozens of very similar covers.
What are your 3 best self-marketing tips for selling erotica online?
NB: Hmm, that’s a good one. The key for big sales is building a following, so:
- Make a Facebook group and turn it into an active and engaged community of avid readers.
- Take the time to build actual relationships with your readers. Talk to them like they are people, ask them questions, don’t just spam them with your content. A loyal reader will follow you across platforms, and recommendations by readers are the best marketing.
- Building an online following takes time and man-hours. Do a bit every day and know that it will take time. Just keep chipping away at it.
Tools for Selling Erotica Online
Here’s a summary of the tools, software, and resources we’ve mentioned in this article to give you an edge over the competition.
- Amazon Create – Best free option
- Vellum – Best option for mac users
- Scrivener – All-in-one eBook text editor and eBook formatter
- InDesign – Strong option for anyone with the Adobe Suite