When I took over editing the Best Women’s Erotica of the Year series, following in the footsteps of esteemed editors Marcy Sheiner and Violet Blue, both of whom I had the pleasure of writing for, I made a few changes to how the guidelines were run. One of the biggest was that authors who’ve been in previous volumes of the BWE of the Year books I’ve edited are not eligible to submit to future titles in the series (but those who were published under previous editors are).
While this has been a disappointment to some authors, who I’m sure are more than capable of writing more brilliant erotic tales, one of the most important things to me as the editor of this series is amplifying the voices of writers from around the world. Rather than seeing this rule as limiting authors, I see it as my attempt to publish as many authors as I can for as long as I have the honor of holding this position. With the first five volumes, I will have published over 100 authors; to me, that’s a great accomplishment that I want to honor and nurture.
Given that I have a limited word count for each book, the best way I could think of to do this was to make sure that every year, I present new voices to our readers. My hope is that by doing this, I’m also encouraging unpublished authors, along with those whose work has already been published, to submit to the series. I was a law school dropout when I started writing erotica, and didn’t know anything about the genre except that I was drawn to it. Publishing new voices and making sure they’re as visible as possible is my way of passing that opportunity on to other writers.
I promote our Best Women’s Erotica of the Year writers widely
I take that mission seriously, so my goal, for as long as I have the honor of being series editor, is to seek out authors, both established ones and newcomers to the genre, to add their voices to these connections. I want readers to follow their stories not just in BWE, but beyond, so I conduct interviews with as many of the authors as are interested, creating promotional images for them to share and spread the word on the series’ social media platforms about their work, both regarding Best Women’s Erotica and beyond it. When feasible, conduct readings and give listeners a chance to hear these stories for free in a live, intimate setting, creating another way of connecting with these talented writers.
I also promote their books when I see them in bookstores and libraries, and do my best to share ways authors can connect with them, such as following them on BookBub.
This series can be a stepping stone to larger audiences
I want authors, especially those who are either unpublished or just beginning their erotic writing careers, to see being published in this series as a stepping stone, a way to get their words into bookstores and libraries across the United States and several other countries, and reach thousands of other readers via ebook as well as audiobook listeners. I just got back from a trip to Berlin, Germany, where I saw Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 3 on the shelves at feminist sex toy store Other Nature. While I can’t guarantee which stores will be taking any given volume, I promote the stores that do carry our books heavily on the series’ social media. I love seeing shelfies from our authors, many of whom are being published for the first time, or early in their careers, when they see their words on a bookstore or library shelf.
Building an author community
I also strive to foster a supportive author community amongst the contributors, both within each volume and between them. I hope reading the series is a way to expand readers’ minds when it comes to what erotica can signify, what subjects it can cover and where it can take them. Whether readers are new to the genre or longtime connoisseurs, I want to give them fresh takes on sex that feel lively and immediate. I want them to discover new voices, novel ways of telling a story and travel on the page across sexual orientations, fetishes, communities, places and times.
I saw a post about one of my books that called it a “who’s who” of erotica writers, and while I’m glad that authors see familiar names in my books, this is the exact opposite of what I want my books to evoke. Why? Because I don’t think erotica is about insiders promoting insiders; I believe it’s one of the most democratic genres around because there’s so little barrier to entry. Of course, unlike when I started in 1999, self-publishing is extremely widespread so there’s hardly any barrier to entry in any genre. But for traditionally published works, it’s also relatively easy for new authors to break in and have their words very quickly reach an international audience. This is what I hope to provide and, in the process, bring new authors into the welcoming writing community that I was introduced to almost two decades ago. I think any community stagnates when it stalls on introducing new members, so I do my best to ensure that writers in this series aren’t just given a byline and sent on their merry way, but are also given encouragement with specific social media posts about their work and messages when their stories are positively praised in reviews and emails.
Helping grow the series
I believe that including fresh voices each year is also good business, which helps grow the series. When I approach bookstores about readings, they are often interested precisely because I’m offering them the chance to hold an event with authors they likely haven’t worked with before. Because this is an annual series, if I were to approach them year after year with the same set of authors, there would be less of a draw for their audiences.
The other way new authors help grow the series is that if a reader comes to the series in the third, fourth or fifth volume, perhaps because they were intrigued by a story premise or follow the work of one of the authors, if they like the book, they may pick up prior (and future) volumes. New readers and sales help my publisher and retailers know that there is sustained interest in the series, and also helps provide me with the financial resources to host more events, take out advertisements that support small businesses, and devote more time to social media and promotion, thereby boosting the profiles of the authors.
Giving readers new authors to follow
I want the experience of reading any of our Best Women’s Erotica of the Year books, whether Volume 1 or Volume 5 (which publishes in 2019), to be a novelty. I want them to open each anthology and be transported into another world—actually lots of other worlds, because there’s so much variety. My great hope is that when they finish these adult stories, readers are so eager for more that they read the author bios or check them out on this site and follow those authors’ work. That’s why when authors submit bios that don’t list their URLs or social media handles, I encourage them to.
I know that many of our authors have published novels and novellas of their own, or are likely to down the road. I’d feel I’d done my job as an editor if readers pick up those longer works, whether or not they recall that this series was how they connected with those authors.
If this blog post inspired you to write an erotic story or you know any writers who identify as women, gender nonconforming, genderqueer or nonbinary who'd like to submit to Volume 5, see our latest call for submissions (August 1, 2018 deadline).