I.T. consultant, Sera Belle, moonlights as prolific erotica author

"I started doing writing sprints with small communities I built up around me online with other writers."

Paul Trenton · 06 Dec 2018

Who are you?

I'm an indie author making over $100/month. I have a catalogue of about 50 books, mostly erotica but some other genres in there too.

I started e-publishing in 2011, and in the first four years I netted something like $20,000. However, my catalogue was big enough that I was still bringing in $100-200 most months. Over the last couple of years it dropped a bit lower, but I've added some new works and it's getting hotter again.

I sell over Amazon, Draft2Digital, and Kobo—Amazon being the most sales, but the others making up about a third of my earnings altogether.

Why did you leave academia? And how has your career track changed?

I discovered early in my post-graduate career that my employment prospects in academia were very, very poor. I thoroughly enjoyed earning my Master's degree, but by the end of it I had reshaped myself as a technical writer. I still work in technology, which is about as far from English Literature as I can get.

What is your day job?

I'm an IT consultant.

What do you find appealing about self-publishing?

It's fast—no publishing process and timelines to deal with. It's democratic—sales are the only measure of success. It cuts away all of the inefficiency of the traditional publishing process.

What are your thoughts on traditional publishing?

I think it still has its place, and I have traditionally published three books with different publishers (one just last year). I like the prestige, the "outside praise," that the model bestows on me as a writer. But it might need to change radically to keep up with the self-publishing, e-publishing model.

How long does it take for you to write a book? (What does your process look like? How do you generate ideas?)

Because I publish mainly short-form erotica, they only take a few hours to write—most are around 4,000 to 6,000 words long. At top speed I write 1200 to 1500 words an hour.

However, I don't write full-time so I can publish one a week, working at top speed on my lunch hours and weekends.

How many titles have you written?

I have about 50 titles available on Amazon.

How are you able to write so fast?

Three things contribute to my output: 1. I do writing sprints with other writers, writing 15 minutes at a time and comparing our word counts at the end. 2. I outline, so I always know what I'm writing next. 3. I work at it. When you're writing whenever you can, and trying deliberately to pile up the word counts, you get a lot of writing done.

How do "writing sprints" work? How did you get involved?

I started doing writing sprints with small communities I built up around me online with other writers. We would chat on Slack or IRC and start short timers (based on the Pomodoro method). I also did these in-person with other writers, at write-ins, NaNoWriMo events, and other events. There is also a website, MyWriteClub.com, that features ongoing writing sprints.

What are your thoughts on writer's block?

I don't know what writer's block is. If you're stuck on something, move on to something else and come back.

Do you worry about burning out?

Not in general, but I have had periods where I was extremely bored of writing erotica. I worked on it very hard for three or four years, and then just didn't care to write it for a while. Recently I have returned to writing and publishing it, and I'm enjoying it again.

How do you promote your books?

I only use the sales platforms to promote my books. A big catalogue of products, good covers, good titles, good descriptions, good hooks. I don't believe social media will sell as many books as writing another, better book, so I don't waste my time on things like Twitter and Facebook.

What feedback have you received?

Very little. A few reviews, mostly positive. When I've traded with other authors for editing purposes, I've received good feedback.

How does feedback impact your work? And how has your feedback changed over time?

Not in the least. I only care about reviews as a way of boosting sales. I don't pay much attention to it.

What challenges have you faced (writing, marketing, etc.)?

I haven't quite figured out the mailing list marketing angle. I understand the concept but I haven't been able to make it work for me. I'm looking to learn more about marketing in the next while to improve on what I'm already doing.

Where can you be found online (web site, Twitter, etc.)?

My erotica work is mostly published under a pen name, and I don't promote it anywhere but on the sales platforms themselves, so I don't use a website, Twitter, or anything else for promotion.

Links

 

Paul Trenton is the founder of Votable (the publisher of MediaFilter).

MediaFilter is a blog that features news, reviews and interviews related to new media. We're especially interested in independent, entrepreneurial content creators.

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