1.28.2006

I was young, I needed the money...

Two Snarklings with murky pasts:

Dear Miss Snark,
In my murky past, I have written and had published a fair amount of... Well, I believe the polite term is 'erotica' but I think 'porn aimed at women' is more accurate. It's mainly been in anthologies and one or two magazine publications - nothing really bottom-of-the-barrel but nothing that could be passed off as art. I've now completed my first respectable novel and, once it's been revised and polished the appropriate ten times, I'll be shopping it round to agents.

Should I mention my pornographic past? On the one hand, it demonstrates that I have some idea of the harsh realities of the publishing world. On the other hand - well, it's porn. Porn entirely lacking in literary merit, at that.

Is raising the subject likely to get an instant response of, 'Go away, pervert'? (Mailed, of course, in the SASE I have enclosed.) (more likely it will get "send pics and text, here's my FedEx number)


Miss Snark,
I tried posting this in your blog, but as it's madhouse over there I think it got buried:
I have finished my novel and am preparing to query... here's my issue:

I HAVE been published previously... numerous times. However, two such instances were in a gay eZine that specializes in... well... erotica. However, the pieces I placed there are NOT erotica, though sex exists (briefly) in both... I also published another similar (barely sexed) story in a gay adult newspaper in Arizona... and I published articles in a gay newspaper in California.

Should I just ignore these mini successes so as to not make agents think I'm some sort of erotica writing character and just not mention being published at all? What about the fact that all the presses are gay? There's a gay character in my current MS, but he's hardly the central point of the story (a divorce is).


The main point of publishing credentials is to show an agent that somewhere, somebody else looked at your writing and said "this doesn't suck", not that you know about publishing. If your writing was selected from a group of competitve submissions and you got paid for it, it's worthy of being mentioned, regardless of content.

The question of course is do you want to. If it's writing that shows you are a good writer, mention it. If it doesn't, don't. If the subject area is off the beaten path, so to speak, don't worry. Lots of the very best writers got their start in pulps and porn.

36 comments:

Mad Scientist Matt said...

Stephen King's first sales were short stories for porno magazines, in fact. I don't think they were erotica, but he still comments that Playboy is a good short story market. I'd only see this hurting your career if you want to write for, say, Christianity Today - and even those markets will buy "I was really into porn, but this is how I got over it" sorts of stories.

Shawn said...

I take exception with the use of the word, "respectable". You wrote erotica or porn as you put it, and? So did Anne Rice. Have you read The Sleeping Beauty Series? It's graphic and beautifully written.

This is my opinion, I think you should be proud of your previous works, unless it like had scenes with animals or something. And even then, to each their own.

Mark said...

Something tells me these aren't the Playboy of the '60s sort of fare, which also included Michael Chrichton's Terminal Man. This "ain't the good ole days." eZines and Ellora's Cave aren't real credits.

Charlie (Colorado) said...

The main point of publishing credentials is to show an agent that somewhere, somebody else looked at your writing and said "this doesn't suck",....

Lovely choice.

Anonymous said...

Quote:
eZines and Ellora's Cave aren't real credits.

I beg to differ. *Any* market that pays with a check or Paypal is a real credit, thank you very much. Just because a genre--romance, erotica, scifi-- doesn't appeal to you, it still appeals to a market and a market that vets its material via editors and a selection process is a real market.

Ellora's Cave does pay royalties, does vet the submissions and does edit the books in their line. So do other erotica print markets that I've sold to. Alyson, Kensington, Haworth and Cleis are all viable REAL publishers and yes, they do publish erotica/porn-y type material, often in addition to literary criticism and academic texts.

My suggestion would be list the credits if you're proud of them and they lend a professional tone to your writer's resume. You can judge for yourself how mainstream your material was; clearly, something from Best American Erotica will look better to a potential editor than True Toilet Stories for Bears.

Keep up the good work and keep subbing!

That Girl Who Writes Stuff said...

A good sex scene is one of the most difficult things to write. Erotica writers have my utmost respect.

Anonymous said...

Ellora's Cave and eZines aren't real credits? WTF? Sure, we're not talking Random House and The New Yorker, but Ellora's Cave and plenty of eZines are highly selective and as the previous Anon pointed out--they edit and they PAY.

(By the way, Ellora's Cave is bringing out some of their titles in paperback. Does that make them more real for you?)

December Quinn said...

Mark, is there some reason why you keep insisting that Ellora's Cave is "just porn" and "not a real credit"?

Why do you feel that fiction by and for women is beneath you, or not worthy of respect? Because I can't see what other reason you have for constantly disparaging one particular publisher. Is it because women are not supposed to read about or write about sex?

Ellora's Cave sells over 30,000 books per month-both ebooks and paperbacks in stores nationwide. So it can't be the size of the publisher that you take issue with. Neither have you mentioned that you find literary works with an erotic bent to be "not real credits"-was Fanny Hill a "real credit"? How about "Tropic of Cancer"? "Lady Chatterly"?

Oh, wait...they were all written by men, weren't they...

I find your sexism (yes, sexism) offensive in the extreme, and do wish you would keep such rude and ignorant opinions to yourself.

December Quinn said...

Oh, I see...

Apparently, Ellora's Cave is not a real credit, but XLibris is.

Eva said...

I agree with those who say to be proud of your accomplishments. I wouldn't apologize for having a gay character in your novel either.
In your cover letter, you can say that your ambitions have taken you in a new direction and that you feel you have something more literary to offer.

But I would avoid suggesting anywhere in your query that erotica isn't art. There are lots of folks out there, possibly even the agent/editor to whom you are writing, that will take offense to that. Keep in mind that "art" is a tough category to define. Look at the disagreement over whether genre fiction is "art."

Anonymous said...

How much did you pay to get your book published, Mark?

Existential Man said...

Her Snarkiness says, "If the subject area is off the beaten path, so to speak, don't worry. Lots of the very best writers got their start in pulps and porn."
For adolescents reading Fanny Hill back in the good old daze, this stuff was very much on the "beaten" path!

Shawn said...

eZines and Ellora's Cave aren't real credits.

I'm sorry. I'm a little confused. Are we talking about the same Ellora's Cave?

Mark, is your objection to all Erotica, or just the Erotica published by Ellora's Cave?

Indigo Black said...

I agree with December Quinn. I'm getting real sick and tired of erotica being put down as something gawd awful and horrible to be "seen in". Writing is writing and if it is good enough to be published then it is good enough to used as a writing credit. If you don't like it, don't read it but don't put down other writers and readers who do enjoy it.

Sorry for the rant but yes my knickers are in a bunch.

Great blog.

Bernita said...

Horse, foot and guns...

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark wrote: "The main point of publishing credentials is to show an agent that somewhere, somebody else looked at your writing and said "this doesn't suck."

Um, if it's porn, I think it should suck.

(Couldn't resist)

Anonymous said...

According to the website, Mark must have paid at least $500. That'll make you wash your hands afterwards!

Bill Peschel said...

Besides, we're talking about what to tell your potential agent. If you got paid to play, that's music to their ears.

What you tell the public is another matter. Lawrence Block got his start writing lesbian porn, and he refuses to say under what name.

Anonymous said...

Why anyone should find well-written erotica unacceptable is beyond me. The Songs of Solomon? Sappho? Henry Fielding? Francois Rabelais? And the band goes marching on right up to and including present-day writing moguls.

Sex is part of life. Quite frankly, I'd have to seriously question a novel aimed at an adult audience -- or a play or a movie -- that didn't include at least a bit.

To quote Sam Shepherd once again, "It ain't the story, son. It's how you tell it."

RRB

Gabriele C. said...

Apparently, Ellora's Cave is not a real credit, but XLibris is.


I've read the excerpt. Well, to put it politely - I wasn't thrilled. ;-)

For the rest I agree with the other posters. There's nothing wrong with writing/reading erotica. I've got those two naughty little plotbunnies besides my historical fiction novel project, and I'm definitely going to submit the result of the bad little cuties - there should be an erotic anthology, ezine or something. I'll probably do so under a different pen name than the one I plan to use for the Hist Fic publications, but not because I'm ashamed of writing about two men having some fun, but because of reader expectations. Several writers who write in different genres do so.

Amra Pajalic said...

I take exception to the implication that erotica is supposed to be bad writing just because it's about sex. FYI, this is probably the hardest thing to write because there's only so many ways you can describe the same thing and it takes great imagination to be original and bring something new to the genre.

I've had erotica published and I stand by these stories as I got paid for all my work. The only time I won't mention them is when seeking publication for my current project which is a young adult novel and instead be emphasising my other publishing credits. I'm certaintly not ashamed of this writing. If I was, I wouldn't have written it in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Gabriele,

The Managing Editor of Ellora's Cave, Raelene Gorlinsky, just spoke at our local RWA group today. She said that gay sex stories are selling very well. And they just don't take novels, they take short stories as well. Give them a try.

And yes, they ARE a legitimate and respectable writing credit.

Michele

Giles English said...

Erotica is damned hard to write, since the action during the sex - rather than just the fact of the encounter - has to affect the plot.

Bernita said...

Excellent point, Giles.

Anonymous said...

"Playboy" as porn? Yikes.

In the 60s and 70s, Playboy was one of the premier short fiction markets in the world. Top literary writers; high pay. And some of the best interviews ever published.

Gabriele C. said...

Michele,
thank you for the info. I had considered EC as home for my naughty boys, and you confirm that.

OK, back to getting them out of the snowstorm and into that nice, warm hut with the open fireplace. And getting them out of the wet clothes. Maybe I'll even let them find some wine ... eh, gin. *winks*

Mark said...

Glad to see I riled the porn witers by defending Playboy in the '60s. Glad to oblige. I paid nothing to those two vanity presses in 2000 when there were no fees. I also do not recommend anyone vanity POD their books with anyone. So the circumstantial ad hominem fails on its face. I don't see them as credits either and don't present them as such.

That's the lesson for the day.

Mark said...

As for the sexism charge how do you feel about porn actresses? Viable work? A credit in Hollywood? Not really. Same thing.

Rachel said...

As an erotica writer and editor, amongst other things, I don't really see the need to malign a whole genre, especially one you've published in, in order to promote your current work. If you don't think it's advantageous to emphasize those sales, you don't need to, but I do find the tone of the first letter a bit condescending towards those of us who do write erotica. There's also a fair amount of crossover at this point between erotica and romance, and erotic romance, etc., and plenty of writers have carved out niches writing in several genres at once, whether under pen names or not. Sofia Quintero has a novel Divas Don't Yield coming out soon, but also writes erotica as Black Artemis. Berkley's Heat line, Harlequin's Spice line, Kensington, Touchstone, etc. are all publishing erotica. Take a look at any edition of Best American Erotica and you'll see plenty authors of "literary fiction" included as well.

That doesn't mean this author needs to continue writing anything that doesn't suit them, but if you're that ashamed of your past writing, it's probably best to use a pseudonym.

Regardless, though, the current "respectable" novel is going to need to stand on its own no matter how much or how little erotica you've written in the past.

December Quinn said...

So the circumstantial ad hominem fails on its face. I don't see them as credits either and don't present them as such.


First, "circumstantial ad hominem" is a bit of a redundant phrase, and second, when you make sweeping general statements about what does and does not constitute a "real" credit, it's not illogical to see what your credits and/or credentials are. What are you basing your statements on? What expertise are you bringing to the discussion?

Turns out, nothing. You claim you don't use your self-pubbed work as credits, but it's all right there on your website. Last time I checked, the phrase "Auther of" followed by book titles was a list of credits, and a clear attempt to make people think you are a published writer. And then you turn around and pontificate about credits when you actually don't know of what you speak, which is potentially damaging to people who don't realize you actually have no connection to real publishing.

As far as the erotica writers=porn actresses argument...if you think acting and writing are on a par with each other in any way, and if you actually think that analogy works, no wonder you had to self-publish. Do you honestly not see the difference?

Yes, I stand by what I said. Your attitude is sexist and offensive. Frankly, I think you started this simply because you enjoyed actually getting some attention last time you posted about EC and thought it might give you another ego boost to do it again. For that reason, I'm not responding to you again, because you don't deserve the time I've already wasted on you.

The fact is, as Miss Snark has said and as many other editors and agents have confirmed, EC is a very real writing credit. I think I'll trust the professionals on that one. You think whatever you want, but please have some sense of responsibility in where you shoot your Puritanical mouth off-or stop trying to present yourself as something you're not.

Anonymous said...

december quinn said:
"As far as the erotica writers=porn actresses argument...if you think acting and writing are on a par with each other in any way, and if you actually think that analogy works... Do you honestly not see the difference?"

To continue that analogy (and belabor the point): if "erotica writers=porn actresses" (these 'actresses' actually do the sex, right?) makes sense, then murder mystery writers=murderers & serial killers (who actually do the killin', yes? Is this logical thinking?

Mark said...

"Last time I checked, the phrase "Auther [sic]of" followed by book titles was a list of credits, and a clear attempt to make people think you are a published writer."

"The wisdom and punditry of Mark A. York, Fishery Biologist, Journalist, Historian, Eagle Scout, and nonfiction writer:"

Is how I put it. So you are clearly inferring things I have not said to discredit me. It failed. If you succeed it will in spite of your literotica past not because of it. Look what it did for Burras aka Nasdijj.

I'm free to advertise my printed books any way I choose, but I do not call them published.

Annalee Blysse said...

RE: As for the sexism charge how do you feel about porn actresses? Viable work? A credit in Hollywood? Not really. Same thing.

If sexism isn't part of the discussion, why not bring up that there are actors in porn? Why is that almost every time I see someone talking down the sex industry, it is women they are talking about?

Porn depicts both men and women as sexual objects based on lust.

Erotic romance depicts that both men and women want a mutually satisfying relationship based on love.

The only thing the two have in common is sexual content.

Selah March said...

Yes, exactly what IS your problem with sex as a topic/element of fiction, Mark? As a fundamental part of daily living, it certainly deserves exploration, don't you think?

You don't enjoy reading about it? There's a bunch of stuff I don't read, but I don't automatically dismiss it as "not real writing" simply because it's not my thing. See how that works?

I think your constant baiting on at this subject says a lot more about you, personally...and maybe about the size of your pole...than you realize.

Just sayin'.

Alessia Brio said...

Late to the party (as usual), but I gotta add that writing sex -- and making it "real" and arousing -- is more difficult than any other type of writing I've done, from fiction to opinion to fact.

*shrug* Opinions are like assholes.

Pat Brown said...

I've written fiction most of my life. My first sale was a gay erotic story. Since then I've sold two others. In between I sold my first mystery novel. At first I opted for a pseudonym with the erotica, but have since decided to print it under my real name. If someone doesn't like it, tough.