Dark Erotica Writing

Enter the Dark Side
A Guide to Writing and Marketing Dark Erotica
By Duana R. Anderson

Dark Erotica Defined
‘Dark erotica’ is not easily defined. In fact, everyone has their own idea of what it is. I have seen ‘dark erotica’ described as: sexual horror, erotic horror, gothic erotica, pagan erotica, dark fantasy, romantic horror, gothic romanticism, fetish, BDSM, alternative, underground, urban erotica, paranormal romance, romantic tragedy, science fiction and fantasy, which primarily fall under the huge heading of genre or speculative fiction. There seems to be no limit to what ‘dark erotic’ includes from moody and atmospheric, to sensual and romantic, to raw, edgy, provocative, dark, sinister, bizarre, smutty, sexy, sizzling, urban and utterly pornographic. The only limit is your own imagination.

The keys words here are FEAR and LUST.

FEAR and LUST are at the root of our primal emotions. They originate from the swampy beginnings of our ancestral birth at the core of our reptilian brains. It was these instincts that saved our species from extinction, through procreation and by anticipating unforeseen dangers. They come naturally to us.

Likewise, we are junkies to FEAR and LUST. That’s why we crave a good scare from a horror movie, or long to crawl under the sheets with an erotic novel. We receive the same kind of sensations from a terrifying experience, as we do from sexual arousal. Both are manifested by similar physical responses in our bodies. Both embody an element of danger, which is quite compelling.

It is not unusual then, that FEAR and LUST have an interwoven relationship, each feeding off the other like a pair of sycophants. Our thirst for each is naturally intensified, and ‘dark erotica’ has become the embodiment of both.

Writing Dark Erotica
One thing ‘dark erotica’ is not however, is badly written trash. There seems to be a misconception that all erotica is just sex scenes and all horror is visceral in-your-face splatter gore fiction. Excessive violence and explicit sex does not make a ‘dark erotic’ story. You can have these elements in a story, but they are not what drives the story. ‘Dark erotica’, just like all well written fiction in any genre includes intriguing, well-developed characters, a plot with conflict, a mood, atmosphere, interesting setting, well-written prose, good punctuation, grammar, spelling. ‘Dark erotica’ doesn’t even need to have any “sex” in it at all. It can be sensual, a mood that is seductive or a writer’s style that is evocative.

Don’t be afraid to tease you readers like a stripper, slowly revealing more as you arouse their curiosity. Never forget that the mind is also an erogenous zone as well, and appeal to all the senses. Yes, ‘dark erotica’ can even be intelligent and literate. The same applies to explicit violence and gore. Often, what is not revealed can be more provocative and creepy. As the saying goes: “It is not enough to Conquer, One must know how to Seduce.”–Voltaire. That is not to say that explicit sex scenes and the macabre are not welcome in ‘dark erotica’, but they must be done well.

If you are not sure what ‘dark erotica’ is or how to write it, then read plenty of it. Simply punch ‘dark erotica’ into a search engine (my new favorite is GOOGLE.COM) and start to explore the complexities and styles of this genre. I have listed many online venues in the markets section of this article. Choose quality sites and stories as your guides. Write what turns you on personally. Explore your deepest, darkest fantasies. Hone your skill, develop your own personal voice and style, and let your imagination be your muse.

Market Research
Finding markets is now made easier with the advent of the Internet. To find good markets try ‘publishers of erotica’ in a search engine. Scour the market lists such as Scavengers, Gila Queen, and Spicy Green Iguana. If you prefer pulp, buy books and magazines you enjoy and send away for the guidelines. Buy a “best of” anthology and note the previous publishers on the copyright page, as many of the stories are reprints. Who are your favorite authors? Who is publishing them? Keep a list of these publishers on your hard drive so you can access them when you have a story ready for a specific market.

Most publishers of ‘dark erotica’ are looking for fiction that goes beyond the norm and cross-breeds a variation of genres into a new age mixture. These publishers are interested in experimental fiction that cannot be pigeon-holed and explores new styles and ways of “telling a story.” This is why ‘dark erotica’ has become so popular over the past few years. ‘Dark erotica’ is at the forefront of the evolutionary speculative fiction genre.

There are, however a few things that most publishers no longer want to see. These include vampire fiction, werewolves, bondage dungeons, typical monsters, typical scenarios without any new slants or imagination. That’s not to say that they won’t publish these types of fiction, but they better be a) Great, and b) a new twist on an old theme. With that in mind, it is a good rule of thumb to research specific markets to find out exactly what that publisher wants.

Starting Out
So, if ‘dark erotica’ is such a great up-and-coming genre, how come I can’t find any good paying markets, you might ask. There are paying markets out there. You just have to do you research. I have included a few markets and resources on the web at the end of this article for you to use as a starting place.

When you are first starting in this genre, you may want to try some of the non-paying high quality markets to get your foot in the door. As a writer of ‘dark erotica’ myself I believe authors should be compensated for the outpourings of our soul. On the other hand, many ‘dark erotic’ markets are underground and small press, alternative publications and can’t afford to pay professional rates, paying only in contributor copies or royalties or sometimes only in exposure. This can often be discouraging to writers starting off in the genre. So, why do it?

It certainly is not to get rich, unless any of you are entertaining thoughts of becoming the next Stephen King. But there are advantages to submitting to low or non-paying markets.

One is publishing credits. This is especially important for novice writers. I don’t recommend submitting to any old place, just to see your name in print. Do your homework. Read publication guidelines, look at who they are publishing, find out how well respected they are. Once you get your foot in the door the editor may turn you on to other publications and projects they are working on that do pay. The more widely your work is read, the more you build a name for yourself. This will in turn lead to publications that pay. I have found this to be the case for myself.

And finally. Do it because you love/want/need to. Because you have all these deep dark fantasies burning in your mind that you must exorcize by putting pen to paper (or fingers to key board, which ever the case may be). Isn’t that why we all write anyway? Because we can’t stop ourselves? So go on now. Scare me with your dark verse. Entice me with your steamy words. Enter me with your tales of fear and lust, darkly and deeply.


duana r. anderson is an author, poet, artist, photographer and filmmaker. Her works explore the genres of dark erotica, horror, dark fantasy and gothic romance. Her short stories, articles and poetry had been most recently featured in Suspect Thoughts, Gothic Net, Amoret Journal, Waning and Waxing, Venus or Vixen, Earwig Flesh Factory, Scarlet Letters and Tears on Black Roses. New works will be appearing soon in the next issues of Parchment Symbols and Dancing Skinless. Visit her cyber lair ‘The Daughter of Darkness’ to find out more about her upcoming illustrated chapbook ‘Blood Feast: Tales of Vampire Seduction’, and to unearth the worms that crawl inside her mind: http://www.necrobabes.org/duana/

Sex Writer Perils

Copied from an abandoned site by Katy Terrega.

The Perils Of Being A Sex Writer
by Chris Bridges
Excerpted from the book “Giggling Into The Pillow”

Yeah, it sounds great. Spend your days, your nights, endlessly researching sex and all its positions, permutations and possibilities until you can’t walk no more. Instantly know the answer to any question anyone could ever ask you about the whole sticky business. Get more poon than Woody Harrelson. Get bulk discounts at Good Vibrations, get a good seat at Spago’s, get head from passing supermodels while their husbands hold their hair out of the way. Is that what you think it’s like?

Well, yes, it is. But you can’t imagine the responsibilities, the pressures, the sheer volume of knowledge you’re expected to retain to earn the honored title “Sex Expert.” If you choose this twisted career path as your own, here’s what you can expect:

First off, there’s the studying. It was easy for Masters and Johnson; they were making it up as they went along. But now there are thousands of sex books written every year — millions if you include the online crap — and you have to know every word. Just because you had a lot of boyfriends in college doesn’t mean you can start publishing right out of the gate; that amateur stuff won’t wash in today’s sex-savvy market.

You’ve got to know that a “Flying Philadelphia Fuck” traditionally involves a rocking chair, and that Havelock Ellis didn’t write “Deathbird Stories.” You have to know instinctively which chakra controls sexuality (hint: the one in the elbow) and which hot lube is more environmentally safe (hint: “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Bear Grease”). You have to keep a constant mental list of the best brothels in Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Seoul, Tijuana and Dubuque. You have to stay on the cutting edge of medicine so you can answer embarrassing questions with confidence, such as “Which Jell-O transmits the AIDS virus the fastest in a bathtub?” You must be able to identify Egyptian erotic sigils by touch and every possible human fluid by taste. To be able to force that much accumulated human knowledge into your brain, I recommend selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, in horse dosages.

Next, you have to be personally experienced yourself. Marrying your high school sweetheart and maintaining a lifetime lover total of maybe two is not going to qualify you for your own radio call-in show, not on FM, baby. You need to experience every aspect of sexuality, regardless of how personally repulsive you may find it, or how anatomically awkward you may have thought it was. Read the great novels of unbridled sexuality — “My Life and Loves” by Frank Harris, “Fanny Hill” by John Cleland, or “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” by D.H. Lawrence. Non-stop chain-fucking, all of them, and that’s your goal. Push your body to its upper limits and then screw right through them. But don’t expert to live a long life. You’ll be healthy, with some surprisingly well-developed muscles in odd places, but the shelf life of a sex writer is not high. Dr. Ruth Westheimer is, in fact, only 33 years old. She knew the risks.

You have to be able to analyze the sex lives of your friends and family, even if they don’t know you’re watching. You must always keep that impartial observer alive in your skull.

“You like that, baby? Huh?”

“Ooohh, god, yes!”

“How about this?”

“Aagh! Oh, Jesus…!”

“Better than before?”

“Oh yeah, lover, yeah, just keep…”

“How much better?”

“…unh… what?”

“On a scale from 1 to 10, how much better?”

“What? Oooh… I don’t know, 6 times better.”

“Really? That’s interesting…” [makes a note]

“What… what are you doing?”

“Nothing, baby. You are between the ages of 18 to 24, right?”

Don’t expect to keep a loving relationship going for very long. Not only does it limit you to an unsatisfactorily small statistical universe, but sex writers are better when they’re anguished and single. No one wants to read about happily married people; they want to read about other tortured single people, just with more hot stories. Only after you’ve assembled many years of wild dating stories can you allow yourself domestic bliss. Would Cynthia Heimel, Anka Radakovich, or Inspector Gadget’s wife from “Sex In the City” be as intriguing if they were all happily married? I say no! Maybe if they were all married to each other…

Then there’s the public pressure. Just like doctors, lawyers, and taxidermists, everyone you run into keeps asking you for free services. “Is my dick too small?” “Are my breasts too big?” “Why won’t my wife/husband/dog let me (fill in blank)?” “Does this feel inflamed?” “What’s Madonna really like?” It’s aggravating having people in your golfing foursome drop their pants and ask you the best ways to check for testicular cancer. You don’t dare let yourself be recognized on public transportation, lest you be inundated with requests for advice on multiple infidelity, anal sex, and necrophilia (or all three) from society’s less fragrant members. It’s so rude how beautiful women will come up to you in restaurants and ask for tips on their deep-throating techniques.

Well, actually, that’s pretty cool, but the rest is still annoying. And the worst part of the whole thing — you have to write about it all. You have to let people read about all the sick, depraved, twisted things you’ve done, with diagrams. If you become popular, you might even get on a national talk show where everyone can see you, even your mom. There is an upside, don’t get me wrong. Your sex life, at least theoretically, improves. You’re expected to surf for porn on the net at work. When you meet a new lover, you can coast on your reputation the first few times. You get on some amazing mailing lists. They let you get on stage at Aerosmith concerts. You get personal phone calls from Janet Reno, often with heavy breathing and minimal security taps.

And you get to write stuff like this.

Using eBooks for Erotica

E-Book ‘Em, Danno!
By Adrian Hunter

Reports of the demise of the e-book are greatly…accurate.

Two years ago, publishers watched in horror as horror fans download 400,000 copies of a digitized Stephen King short story. They figured they were about to get Napstered (in which customers abandon traditional atom-based entertainment products like compact disks for fast, free online bytes) after barely recovering from being Amazoned (in which customers abandon traditional atom-based retail outlets for online stores). They were both nervous and giddy over the prospect of getting rid of the printing process while maintaining a pricing structure that values new hardcover books just south of tickets to The Producers.

They were wrong.

Electronic versions of popular culture are a tricky beast to tame. Playback is the key; it’s easy to turn a computer into a decent stereo, but nobody reads TV, which is how e-books work today, given the paucity of dedicated devices that work as well as paper for the display of rows of tiny type in a form factor that fits in your pocket.

And it turned out that the market for literature not worthy of immortalizing on dead trees was about the same size as the market for proprietary content on the Internet in general (i.e., nonexistent), which led to the demise of dozens of companies like MightyWords that specialized in selling electronic text.

In other words, the professionals say that e-books are just another dot-coma sob story…shut down the web site, cue the pallbearers and sell the Aeron chairs on eBay.

They were wrong, too.

E-books are going to be a huge success in specific categories where paper is actually a liability. Let’s see, what kind of reading material do people not want lying around their coffee tables? Three guesses, starts with a “p”…

Pornography is the perfect field for e-books, especially in categories that appeal to niche audiences like my chosen specialty, bdsm. Before the Internet, commercially-available bondage novels were limited to The Story of O, Anne Rice’s genre experiments, John Norman’s Gor series and seedy F.E. Campbell potboilers sold exclusively in adult bookstores. Dog-eared photocopies of treasured tomes were surreptitiously traded by aficionados, which presumed the reader was brave enough to join the local knitting circle in the first place.

Distribution options increased exponentially with the advent of Amazon and other online storefronts that provided a much higher level of privacy for people who wanted to read quality fictionalized accounts of their favorite obsession. New imprints quickly filled the void with dozens of distressed-damsel titles that could be shipped in ye olde plain brown envelope.

Today, you can’t swing a bullwhip without cracking it against some great bdsm porn. But just because it’s easier to read bondage books doesn’t mean it’s easier to get them published. Either we sell our 100,000 carefully-crafted words for fractions of a penny to traditional bookmakers who handle printing and distribution, or we give them away for free on the Internet.

Enter the lowly e-book, and its digital cousin, print-on-demand (POD) services. Instead of playing “pitch ‘n pray,” writers can sell their stories as e-books directly to an audience that’s often willing to put up with the inconvenience of reading text on a PC monitor in exchange for the cloaking capability.

Of course, this isn’t exactly easy. First, you have to have an audience, which implies you’re pretty good, and you’ve published a few pieces to prove it. In this case, posting stories on newsgroups or web sites absolutely counts. The goal is to develop brand awareness in which your byline is equated with “erotica worth paying for.” Besides, if readers don’t like your tail tales when you give them away, what makes you think a publisher is going to pay for the privilege of trying to sell them? Giving away samples helps seed the search engines, too.

Second, you have to put together an e-commerce operation in which you convert your masterpiece into an appropriate format like Adobe Acrobat and program the software to collect the fees and deliver the goods. It’s not rocket science, but it’s definitely fiddling with liquid hydrogen. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll have to hire someone who does, or (insert vicious circle) work with an established purveyor of similar works who will naturally exact a significant percentage of your profits for their services.

Third, you have to actually sell your e-books. Perversely paradoxical as it sounds, the best marketing ploy is to make the electronic version available as traditional paper-based one, hence the earlier POD reference.

By self-publishing your pornographic novel through a 21st-century vanity press such as Xlibris.com or ImprintBooks.com, you tell the reader that the e-book they’re buying is a “real” book and not some shady “paid content” drill (the difference between The Wall Street Journal and Salon). A paper-based book also establishes a higher price ceiling, so the $7.99 you charge for the e-book looks like a heck of a deal compared to $21.99 for the trade paperback.

The real paradox is, you’ll probably sell one “real” book for every 20 e-books, which is just dandy since the per-copy net is higher for the enhanced-electricity version versus the inky tome.

There are upfront costs involved. You will have to pay the POD publisher (a minimum of $100) and the credit card processor (up to 20 percent of each transaction). But you can cut corners by using an advertiser-supported web host such as Yahoo! Geocities and subscribing to Adobe’s Acrobat conversion application for $9 a month instead of buying the software for $250.

Yes, it can be a hassle when readers have problems downloading files (hint: immediately send them the e-book via an email attachment…to be successful on the Internet, you can’t afford any unhappy customers). But the benefits of controlling your own destiny and reaping most of the profits definitely outweigh the downside of becoming intimate with CGI scripts.

Hey, your DIY labors might even catch the eye of an established publisher. Since you didn’t sell the rights to your book to anyone else, you’re free to sign on the dotted line.

Under any circumstances, selling your own e-books sure beats beating the bushes and/or begging. Then again, bondage authors are experts at those particular sports, not to mention related perverse paradoxes like pleasurable pain. Like we say on Usenet, YMMV (your mileage may vary), but at least you’re the one who’s driving.


Adrian Hunter began posting his fiction on the Internet in 1993. Four years later, he compiled his stories on a web site, AdrianHunter.com, which has attracted more than a million visitors. In 2000, he was the recipient of the “Best Bondage Writer” award from SIGNY. He has published two anthologies of his short stories, Crash Your Party Dress and Something Just Clicked, as well as a full-length novel, Once Bitten, with co-author Chelsea Shepard. For more information, please visit http://www.adrianhunter.com, or write to him at admin@adrianhunter.com.