When people learn I am an author—especially when they realize I am actually making my living off my books—one of the most frequent questions they ask me, “Have you always wanted to be a writer?”
Yes. Even before I became an avid reader, I was making up stories in my head, or trying to figure out how to phrase a description of something I was observing. In sixth grade I wrote our class play, and at fourteen I wrote my first book—more a novella considering it was just under a hundred typed pages.
I never struggled with reading as a child, yet I preferred to be read to. I used to nag my older sister to read me Nancy Drew or the Box Car Children. It wasn’t until we moved to Lake Havasu when I was in eight grade—and without television—that I discovered my love for reading.
What was the book that got me started? The Valley of the Dolls. Considering that is the book that hooked me into reading for pleasure at the tender age of thirteen, I suppose it’s not that surprising that when I started publishing eBooks I wrote erotica.
To be clear, I wrote more than just erotica. But erotica paid the bills back then.
It happened like this…
Until we moved back to Havasu to take over my parent’s business, Havasu Palms, I used to publish a monthly community magazine. What I wrote back then were non-fiction articles—my favorite being articles of local history which involved extensive research. I sold the publication when we moved to Havasu in 1991.
When I was still working for Havasu Palms I wrote two books. One, was Where the Road Ends, Havasu Palms Recipes and Remembrances. It was a book of local history which we self-published in paperback. We sold the book at Havasu Palms, a book store in Lake Havasu City, and eventually in the Lake Havasu Museum.
The second book was a romance, Lessons. It was not the first book of fiction I had ever written. In college, I wrote a screenplay which I turned into a book. Before Lessons, I wrote one other romance, and started several others. But, I never had the patience to send manuscripts off to publishers or editors—plus it was costly back then. In those days, you had to print out the entire book and send it off to the various publishers. I could not afford the postage or printing costs.
The years went by, and we were no longer managing Havasu Palms. Now Don and I were Realtors. But then the crash of 2008 came along, and we realized it was not financially feasible for both of us to continue in a business where we both relied on commission to pay our bills. Don remained in real estate, and I decided to go back to my first love, writing.
For over three years I wrote for the infamous content supply company, Demand Studios. Each week I hammered out one nonfiction article after another. Over time, it became tedious—and work became harder to find. About this same time a new writing opportunity was emerging—self-publishing eBooks.
I self-published my first book of fiction at the end of 2011. It was Lessons, which I released under the pen name, Anna J. McIntyre. Before publishing, I sent the manuscript off to an editor I had met at Demand Studios, and I had my daughter, who was a professional graphic designer, design the book cover.
I soon learned it took more than one published book to make a living—and writing a book took a considerable amount of time. Plus, I was still spending many hours writing for Demand Studios.
One day I stumbled across an author blog by another romance author. She was experimenting with erotica, and found there was some good money being made. Fifty Shades had been published—yet it hadn’t yet been acquired by its current publisher, nor had it yet become well known.
I decided to give erotica a try. Frankly, it sounded fun. I was weary of writing boring how-to articles or dry non-fiction for Demand Studios, and I needed a change. I’ve always had a wild imagination. For me, erotica was not about graphic sex. It was about telling imaginative stories where the characters just happen to have sex. And in case you are wondering—back in the day, the stories I wrote did not violate any publishing policies of the venues where I published.
The erotica I wrote was geared toward women readers, and they focused heavily on the story and the characters. Some, I will confess, pushed the envelope in what might be considered acceptable. But as a writer, sometimes it’s about pushing the envelope.
I wrote short stories, about 10,000 words or less and sold them for $2.99 each. This enabled me to crank out a new story every week or two. If I was to charge 99 cents, I would only make 35 cents per eBook sold, which meant I would have to sell a LOT of books to make a living.
I didn’t get rich, but I did make a livable salary for a couple years. Plus, I believe the experience improved my writing.
But then two things happened. I grew bored with writing erotica—and Fifty Shades became a phenomenal bestseller. The latter meant every struggling (and some non-struggling) writer was jumping into the erotica market. But, they were not cranking out short stories, they were giving readers full length books—some even charging just 99 cents per book.
As I mentioned, I was already bored with writing erotica. I certainly had no desire to commit my energy to full length books, nor to price the books so low that it would be harder to make a living. One problem with erotica, authors are limited in their advertising options.
I abandoned the erotica and turned my attention to what I consider my more serious work. Eventually, I unpublished my erotica—from all venues. It no longer fit in with my publishing objectives.
For the last four years I’ve devoted my writing energy to my Haunting Danielle series, which I write under my own name—no pen name. While one of my Haunting Danielle characters may occasionally exchange a kiss, that’s about as far as it goes.
One might wonder if because of last week’s kerfuffle with Barnes & Noble, when our Nook Press account was about to be terminated, that I might regret ever having published erotica. Had I not done that, then I probably would never have been targeted by Nook Press.
But no, I can’t regret it. Because frankly, without my experiences writing and publishing erotica, I seriously doubt I would be where I am today in my writing career. And frankly, I am exceedingly happy at where I find myself today.