Email: rachelkramerbussel at


Lusty Lady

Watch me talk about my debut as an author, Sex & Cupcakes: A Juicy Collection of Essays, in this Q&A with my publisher Thought Catalog Books

Thursday, February 11, 2016

I love the first day of (erotica writing) school

Today is the official start of my sixth LitReactor erotica writing class, and I'm thrilled to be back. While it's a major immersion in the genre for my students, for me it's an immersion in doing something I love that is a wonderful complement to the loneliness of writing: working with other people. I am first and foremost a people person, and my erotica work has always involved working with others. From the very first short story I published, I didn't want the words to just live between the pages of a book, but to come alive in the air, so I organized a reading at New York's Bluestockings back in, I believe, 2001, for Best Lesbian Erotica 2001.

What's great about teaching online is that I am not limited to working with people in a specific geographic location. Students from around the world have taken my LitReactor class and shared knowledge of how sexuality works where they live that has helped inform others' stories. It's a space where camaraderie rules and people get intimate on the page in ways, I'm pretty sure, they didn't expect to.

I think back to the first online class I taught, which was only in 2014, but I admit I was incredibly nervous. I wasn't sure how what I had taught in person dozens of times would translate online. What I found was that I actually love the process of teaching online because there's more time to connect, think, experiment, write and learn. Students aren't stuck with only a few minutes to write the first thing that pops into their mind (which is a process that has value in itself). They can allow their imaginations to take flight, work on recurring characters if they choose, get detailed feedback not just on a few minutes' or writing but on completed stories, and spend quality time with their work. It's now my preferred method of teaching and where I will be focusing my efforts this year and beyond, because I believe I can offer the best of the knowledge I have in that form. That's not to diminish the work I do in live workshops, but I'm convinced that for me, online teaching is where I can have the most impact, connect with the most students from the widest range of places, and provide the most steady encouragement, support and tools to help writers go deeper and flesh out their erotica.

I'm at work on a website that will expand on my offerings as a writing coach and teacher, informed by what I've learned in these classes and working with private clients. It's a leap for me to focus on that arena, but since just this morning I got an email from a student who sold an erotica story, it feels like the right leap. For the next four weeks, I'll be devoted to my LitReactor class, but stay tuned here, in my newsletter and on my Facebook page, where I'll be sharing relevant advice, links and helpful hints for writers. I admit this year has been off to a somewhat rocky start for me in a lot of ways, with much upheaval and it's taken me a while to get my bearings, but today, I feel like I'm very clear on where I want to go and what I want to be doing.

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Tuesday, February 09, 2016

My new short story "Triple Threat" in Kristina Wright's The One Who Got Away

I'm thrilled to share that just in time for Valentine's Day, I have a brand new short story titled "Triple Threat" out in Kristina Wright's anthology The One Who Got Away. It's out today in paperback and ebook (I link to Amazon via their affiliate program, meaning I get a small fee if yo purchase through my links, but I also encourage you to ask for the book at your local bookstore). Here's more about the book:
We all have... that One, the one who got away. The one we fell for or simply were attracted to, but we never got. That One, but not necessarily The One, at least not the first time around. That One who slips into our fantasies late at night when we’re feeling melancholy or nostalgic. Maybe we took a chance once and it simply didn’t work out. Maybe we never took the chance... and we wish we had. We all have the name of the One Who Got Away tattooed on our heart, always with us, never forgotten.

There is something hopelessly romantic about the idea of connecting with a long lost love. This luscious Cleis Press collection of second chance stories celebrates longing and loves that, whether by fate or by design, are at last requited and fulfilled.
And isn't the cover hot?


Here's a very brief teaser from my story, which is about jealousy, polyamory, love lost and happy endings.
I used to think I knew everything in my twenties. Now, in my early forties, I can laugh at my younger self, who’d race from bar to bar, bed to bed, living utterly in the moment. I rarely stopped to think what would happen after last call, after the sun came up, or whether all those late nights and flings would catch up with me.

Then I fell for Luke, with his big brain, big body, big dick and the most self-confidence I’ve ever seen in anyone. He would walk into a room—any room—and be sure that everyone would want to talk to him, if only he gave them the chance, which he did, most nights. He’d close out bars, with men and women alike buying him drinks, eager to soak up a few moments of his brainpower, of those pale blue eyes and soft as silk hair—well, maybe that was me. I couldn’t get enough of that rumbly voice, of the way everything he said made me look at the world around me in new ways. He made me swoon before he even kissed me, so you can only imagine what he was like in bed. The only problem?
Read the whole story in The One Who Got Away!

Here's the table of contents:

The One Who Got Away
Introduction: Always on my Mind
Homecoming by Alex Tobin
Again by Renee Luke
Polygot by Skylar Kade
Sunshine by Emerald
Overexposed by Brandy Fox
How to Get Your Wife Back in Only About a Million Steps by Claire de Winter
Proof by Mia Hopkins
The One Who Came Instead by Tamsin Flowers
In the Dark, so Bright by Laila Blake
Triple Threat by Rachel Kramer Bussel
A Few Grey Hairs by H. Keyes
Photographs by Jillian Boyd
Danish Affair by J. Crichton
Beginnings and Endings by Kristina Wright

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Monday, February 08, 2016

For Fortune, I wrote about what millennial women think of Hillary Clinton

For, I asked millennial women across the political spectrum what they think about Hillary Clinton as a candidate and whether or not they associate Bill Clinton's affairs, sex scandals and the allegations of sexual assault against him with her campaign. Many of their answers surprised me, and just may surprise you too.

This was a little different than my usual beats, and I welcome that. As I said earlier, I've been trying to figure out, to put it mildly, "what to do with the rest of my life," and knowing that I can write about new topics for new publications helps energize me to and remind me what makes freelance life interesting and lively. Whatever you think of the election and who you're backing (or not backing), I hope you'll check it out.


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Everything old is new again, or a deep dive into some of my earliest BDSM erotica anthologies

In my world, new is what's in. The next article or essay I'm writing, the new book to hit the shelves, the next call for submissions. Yesterday's news may as well be last century's, it often seems. The new whatever it is is the one warranting attention, both mine and my editor's or publisher's and, presumably, readers'. This plays out in how I earn a living, in that the books that sell the most are usually the newly released ones, although sometimes an older title will surprise me by taking on an extended life of its own. I certainly don't spend much time contemplating my older work, save for what's been my annual moves when I unpack all my books (I'm hoping this year broke the annual move cycle and we get to stay in our current place for a long long time).

It can be easy to forget about the work that came before when you are always focused, by necessity, on the now, on the present and future. I've had somewhat of a crisis of confidence in the last week and have been soul searching and trying to figure out my next professional steps, asking myself the hard questions about whether I'm the kind of person who makes bold moves like the people I most admire or whether it's time to retreat to something safer, more stable, less scary and risky. Yes, I get signs from the universe, but I often question them, and question myself. I've been at this crossroads lately trying to make sense of what to do next, and I don't have any major answers just yet, although I'm hatching new projects that I'm equally excited and nervous about and working to creatively visualize them and believe in them, and therefore, in myself.

I also think it's natural to hope/want your work to improve over time, which is why when I do move and pull out artifacts from long ago, things like my old zine I'm Not Waiting, begun almost half my lifetime ago and lasting three blessedly short issues, or that time I was flunking out of law school but decided to write for the NYU paper instead, or my writing for websites that are now defunct, I cringe and quickly move on. I know all those experiences are part of me, but perhaps as a mental self-preservation measure, I look toward what I can do with the knowledge I have now, at 40, how I can move forward toward my goals.


So I admit it's equally flattering and unnerving that writer LN Bey did an incredibly deep dive review into six of my BDSM erotica anthologies: He's on Top; She's on Top; Yes, Sir; Yes, Ma'am; Please, Sir; Please, Ma'am. I think it's safe to say my work has never been analyzed this closely. I never in a million years would have imagined someone reading and rereading these books, analyzing them so precisely (if I had imagined that, most likely I never would have completed them, because hello, terrifying). I say that not because I'm not proud of them, just because they seemed like books I put out, and then moved on from. I know that book buyers are fickle and bookstore space is often ephemeral (though thankfully these are all available in ebook form). So to see them treated as worthy of study, to see favorites dissected and all that care taken with my little books is both a surprise and a new way of me thinking about my books. They are not dead, but very, very alive.

If you've enjoyed those books or even if you've never heard of them, it's worth checking out and warms my heart to see someone so passionate not about my books per se, although that is obviously an ego boost, but about the erotica genre. That reverence for erotica is something I see occasionally, but not all that often, and at a time when I'm, say, forbidden from buying ads or boosting posts on Facebook, and often sex is treated as utterly unwelcome in online and tech spaces, it's refreshing to see my chosen genre treated with such high regard.

For me personally, it's very easy to look at those older books simply as numbers on a royalty spreadsheet, as books I'm proud of but that are part of history, not the present. I'm grateful for the reminder that books are forever, and that even when I'm not always sure of it, my work matters to someone. It's a feeling I will take with me as I work on editing my next anthology, especially as I seek out women writers who might not come across an erotica call for submissions but just might have insights worth sharing with the world. That's my highly personal take, at a particularly charged time in my life. If you are interested in the dynamics of BDSM as they play out in these books and/or BDSM fiction, definitely check it out.

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Friday, February 05, 2016

Join me for 29 days of erotica writing in my LitReactor class starting February 11th

I just wrote out my daily lesson plan and posting schedule for my upcoming LitReactor online erotica writing class, which runs February 11-March 10, and I'm so excited about it and wanted to share because the last day to register is next Wednesday, February 10th. There's information about each week's topics, lectures and assignments at the LitReactor site, but I wanted to give you a breakdown of what else happens in class. I just mapped out my 29 days of posting which cover everything from threesomes to humor to point of view to author branding to self-publishing to pen names, and beyond.


In addition to the weekly writing assignments and critiques (from me and fellow students) which form the core of the class, I will be posting daily in the LitReactor bulletin board with additional information. That includes at least 17 exclusive to the class Q&As with successful erotica writers (both traditionally published and self-published) as well as publishers, anthology editors and literary agents seeking new erotica authors. Want the inside scoop on a publisher but don't know who to ask? I will get as much information for you as I can.

You may be thinking, Wow, that sounds great, but I have a job and a family and a life, how am I going to keep up with posts every day? Well, the good news is, LitReactor will give you access to the classroom materials indefinitely (pretty much forever, as far as I know). I prefer students focus on turning in their homework every week so they can get feedback, and read the additional materials if/when they can. But your login and class access won't expire so if there's something you're interested in and want to return to, you can.

I'm also available throughout the 29-day period to answer any questions students may have about their writing process, publishing, marketing, branding, etc. Plus, not an official part of LitReactor but part of what I give back to my students: you'll get invited to join my private online group to extend any questions and discussions and share camaraderie and information with others who've taken my classes.

What do I know about erotica? Well, I've been published in the genre since 2000, in over 100 anthologies, including the Best American Erotica, Best Women's Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica and Best Gay Erotica series. I've edited over 50 anthologies, hosted an erotic reading series in New York for five years, and use my journalism experience to go in depth with erotica writing professionals to bring my students practical tips about how to break into the field.

This will be my sixth time teaching the class, and I believe each one gets better as I learn and expand my knowledge to best offer students relevant, useful support, encouragement and feedback. I recommend having at least five hours a week to devote to the class in order to get the most out of it, but if you are interested in erotica writing at all, I believe you'll learn a lot. Questions? Email me at rachelkb at with "LitReactor" in the subject line. Can't make the class but want one-on-one feedback? See for private consultation rates (and stay tuned for my new erotica teaching focused site launching in the next few weeks).

Find out more:

Q&A with me at LitReactor

"6 reasons I encourage my erotica writing students to submit their work"

"How journalism helps me teach my erotica writing classes"

What my most recent LitReactor students said about the class

What previous LitReactor students have said

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Sunday, January 31, 2016

All my January 2016 essays and articles

One of the things I started doing this month/year is keeping track of my income and expenses, and along with that, what I published and wrote each month. I know; why wasn't I doing this sooner? Well, I've always been among the last to do the things I "should," but I'm 40, and I'm slowly figuring out that it's better late than never.

So I decided on the last day of the month, I'll share links to all my paid writing that was published that month (I also blog once a month unpaid for Lady Smut, a site devoted to romance and sexy stories that I highly recommend if you're interested in the topic). When I had a full-time job, I also freelanced, but I always dreamed about working for myself. In my head, it was all about writing for many, many hours a day. The reality is a lot harder, and requires constant juggling. One day might be devoted to research and pitching; another transcribing; another writing and another editing or teaching and most likely, all of the above in some form. While I love what I do, I also appreciate in retrospect what I had at my previous jobs: things like paid holidays and days off. Now, if I don't write, I don't get paid, and that makes the stakes a lot higher.

I've gotten more and more used to the sometimes frenetic pace, but it also means there's less time to pause and reflect because once I file one story, I'm on to the next one, or at least, planning and plotting and pitching the next one. I do want to be able to count how many articles I wrote this year, but the reality is, some take under two hours to complete, and some, such as my profile of host of the podcast Reckonings, take many hours, between podcast listening, interviewing, transcribing and writing. Ideally, the hours balance each other out, and the more I work, the better I get at juggling the shorter and longer assignments.

Each day can get so busy and I usually end my workday planning for the next day, which makes it easy to forget what I did the day before, let alone the week or several weeks before. I've been a fan of Nicole Dieker's freelance earnings income reports (I also recommend her blog) and while I won't be doing that, I will be sharing what I've published.

This month also involved packing to move, moving, unpacking, some major book promotion for my latest anthology and traveling to Los Angeles and San Francisco for work, but if I've learned anything since become a full-time freelancer a little over four years ago, it's that no month is "typical." In February, I will also have some travel and will be cutting back a little on my freelancing to best focus on my LitReactor erotica writing students, but as I said, freelancing is unpredictable and while I have a few pieces I wrote in January that should run in February, beyond that, I have no idea what my output will be. Beyond setting a specific financial goal for each month, I aim to publish work in one publication I've never written for each month. So far, I've fallen short on my financial goal, but did write for two new publications, Broadly and Ravishly.

If you are interested in writing personal essays about sex or doing sex journalism, my next Sex Writing 101 class on that will be in Chicago on April 1 from 1:30-4:30 p.m. (details at the CatalystCon, although you don't have to attend CatalystCon to attend my workshop), and I also offer private consulting if you have an essay or piece of writing you're looking to polish and submit. Rates are at (scroll down); I'll be launching a site focused on my sex writing consulting and classes in February with more information.

I'll probably hold off on blogging about my articles unless it's something particularly noteworthy until the end of February, but I do share most of my writing on Twitter and Facebook. Also, in case you didn't know, I sometimes offer suggestions for article titles, but those are chosen by the publications.

"What Happens When a BDSM Author Converts to Christianity"

The Daily Dot
" updates model rights following James Deen allegations"
"'Reckonings' is a podcast for guilty consciences"
"Kanye West and Amber Rose's Twitter fight inspires Etsy Valentine’s Day cards"

"These Dads Giving Honest Sex Advice to Their Kids Are Changing the Sex-Ed Game"

"Trying to Get Pregnant at 40 Is the Hardest Thing I've Ever Done" (at the moment the site is down, but you can also read it at Scary Mommy)

"How these 5 little words can jump-start an illicit sexual affair"
"Gay sex and gun love: Oregon militia-inspired erotica reimagines grim standoff as fun-filled orgy"
"Don’t feel guilty about buying used books: Writers won’t see a dime of that sale, but it’s the long game that counts"
"“Nudity will never be passé”: Penthouse, counter to reports, has no plans to stop publishing in print"
"Stop watching “Hoarders”: Our lurid reality TV obsession with mental illness has crossed a line"
"It’s “Dear Fat People” for TV: New “Fit to Fat to Fit” show oozes contempt, disguised as empathy"
"Memo to Kanye and Amber Rose: Straight guys can like “fingers in the booty,” too"

The Washington Post (Solo-ish)
"It might take you 121 first dates to find the love of your life"

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Want a free book from me? Just snap a photo of Best Women's Erotica of the Year, Volume 1 being sold by a bookstore!

Since I love books and bookstores, and just unpacked all my books and have a lot of extras (see the photo below), I'm offering you the chance to get a free book from me just for snapping a photo and letting me post it on my Best Women's Erotica of the Year Instagram account. Easy peasy, right? If you see my new book (and my favorite, because yes, I play favorites and am not ashamed to say I'm super proud of it and of my authors), Best Women's Erotica of the Year, Volume 1, at any bookstore anywhere in the world, just snap a photo (like I did at Good Vibrations), send it to me at bweoftheyear at along with the bookstore name and city and your name and mailing address, and I'll send you a book I've edited. If you have your heart set on a particular title, let me know and I'll do my best to make sure you get it. That's it; everyone who sends me a photo by February 29th will get a free book and my thanks!

I wish I could personally visit every bookstore stocking the book, but I can't unless I win the next Powerball. I made a list of 10 independent bookstores thanks to some IndieBound sleuthing (that's where you can go to find out what independent bookstores are in your neighborhood) which currently have the book in stock, and I'm sure there are others I don't yet know about so I'm looking forward to find out who's selling it and giving them some social media love, because I want to support the bookstores taking a chance on my book in any way I can.

I still get a rush of excitement when I see "on our shelves now," because I picture someone pausing and pulling my book from the shelf. Maybe they've read Fifty Shades of Grey; maybe they've read Anaïs Nin, maybe they've never read erotica before. Maybe they're a woman; maybe they're not. Maybe they've been wanting to write erotica of their own and read all the bios at the back and think, I'm going to try my hand at writing a sexy story. Whoever they are, that these bookstores are putting my title, one of probably tens of thousands, they could choose from, on their shelves, means the world to me. Not just to my career, but to me as a book buyer and reader who often browses in the hopes of coming across a book I've never heard of before that sweeps me away. Whether or not people buy Best Women's Erotica of the Year, Volume 1, which I certainly hope they do, it's a huge symbol for it to be stocked at these wonderful stores, and I want to pay tribute to that in my own little way, and I greatly appreciate your help in doing so.

Thanks for your help and I hope to send out lots of free books! As I said, I'll be sending the book of my choice, but I do take requests, and these are most of the available books (there's an almost complete list on my website):


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Friday, January 29, 2016

7 spots left in my LitReactor erotica writing class starting February 11th

I wanted to let you know there are 7 spots (of 16) left in my next LitReactor online erotica writing class, which runs February 11-March 10. Registration closes either February 10 or when it sells out, whichever happens soonest.


You can read about the weekly lectures and assignments at LitReactor, but I wanted to share some details that aren't on there (though I really should add them).

In addition to the weekly lectures and writing assignments, which you can read more about at LitReactor, I also offer daily posts about relevant topics, such as social media presence, choosing a pseudonym and exclusive to the class interviews with publishers, editors, literary agents and authors. This will be my sixth time teaching Between the Sheets, and each time I strive to improve it and make it as up to date as possible. For this class, I've been researching the market and interviewing new agents and publishers and reading extensively in the genre to bring you the most up to date information possible.

You can also ask me and the class anything on LitReactor's message boards and if I don't know the answer, I will research it for you and find out. I definitely encourage students to bring questions and ask as much as you want during the class. You'll also be able to access the materials indefinitely once the class ends, but you'll get the most out of it if you participate as it's happening. You'll be invited to join my private online group for alumni of my online and offline classes to continue the conversations from class and ask further questions, and that's where I share calls for submissions and news related to erotica.

I put a heavy emphasis in the class on preparing your writing to submit to publishers, in part because I think it's a good lesson in going from start to finish and crafting your words to meet a given call for submission, and because I believe it's a wonderful learning process. I've had numerous students report back on their progress and will also share their perspective on what the submission and publication process is like. I aim for this class to be a place where students from around the world (we tend to have a mix of students from various countries) can learn from me and from each other, delve into what they want to write about and craft completed stories that they can either submit as is or continue expanding upon.

Questions about the class? Email me at rachelkb at gmail dot com with "LitReactor" in the subject line. I'm also hoping to host a webinar next week for those with questions and am just sorting out the technical details and should have that information soon.

More information:

Interview with me at LitReactor

What my most recent LitReactor students have said

What previous LitReactor students have said

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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Best Bondage Erotica 2015 is only $1.99 right now on

Sale alert: I know it's 2016, but Best Bondage Erotica 2015, the last of the series I edited for five years (I've now moved on to editing the Best Women's Erotica of the Year series), is only $1.99 now through February 1 (it may run another day or two, but if you want the sale price, I'd buy it by then to be sure). If you are interested in kinky, creative erotica, such as yoga erotica, home repair erotica, knitting erotica and much more, I would definitely check this out at the low price. Fun fact: part of why, to my understanding, the annual series' from Cleis have been rebranded is so nobody thinks a book of bondage fiction like Best Bondage Erotica 2015 is outdated just because the calendar has rolled around to 2016. It's not, I promise! If you would have liked it last year, it's still plenty sexy this year.

Here are the buying links:



Google Play

iBooks (ignore the incorrect cover; I know, and have put in a request to have it changed to the correct cover, but the inside has all the sexy stories below, which I know because I bought it)


BBE2015 on sale

You may be thinking, Hmmm...that sounds interesting, but I'm just not sure I want to buy the book. Good news: You can read excerpts from each and every one of the 21 bondage stories! I love giving readers a free sample of what's in my books, because I want people to know what they're getting, and to showcase my amazing authors. So without further ado, click on any story title below for bondage sexiness and get the ebook this week for only $1.99.

Foreword: The Moment by Annabel Joseph

Introduction: Bondage at Home and Away by Rachel Kramer Bussel

The Centerpiece Erin Spillane

An Unforgettable Ride Elise Hepner

What Happens in Vegas… Tim Rudolph

The Thug Sommer Marsden

Housewarming the Craftsman Daddy X

Multiple Choice Emily Bingham

Tying the Knot Rob Rosen

Baddha Konasana Corvidae

Queen for a Night Robert Black

Bound to Lie Nichelle Gregory

Tied and Twisted Jodie Griffin

Cocoon Annabeth Leong

Auction, in Quotation Marks LN Bey

Melt Elizabeth Coldwell

You Shall Not Come D.L. King

Point and Click L.C. Spoering

Stuck on You Jenne Davis

In Suspense Shenoa Carroll-Bradd  

Trinity’s New Hobby Lucy Felthouse

Plastered Anna Watson

Of Human Bondage Rachel Kramer Bussel

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The one thing I would have done differently for my standing room only Best Women's Erotica of the Year reading in San Francisco

For the most part, I've retired from organizing readings, because if you didn't already know, they are a lot of work and while there are rewards, they aren't usually in a direct financial form. Yet they are still an important part of what I see as my involvement in the erotica community and, I believe, a valuable way to connect with an audience live. For me it's a way to meet my authors in person, when I've only ever interacted with them via email. Yes, I may get to know them by doing interviews with them and following them on Twitter but that's not that same, and as much as I'm a loner, I'm also a very social creature.

So when I commit to it, which means taking time away from income-generating tasks like writing, I commit to it. I've been organizing readings since my first anthology publication in Best Lesbian Erotica 2001, when I was able to get readers from around the United States to come to Bluestockings in New York City for what was a wonderful evening.

I wanted to share a little of what I've learned from 15 years of organizing readings. Now, in some cases, your publisher may organize ever aspect of it for you, and this will be irrelevant. For me, I'm as hands-on and involved as possible because that way I know exactly what's happening and can ask whoever's booked the reading any questions I may have in advance. As you'll read below, I didn't ask a key question and that wound up costing me book sales. But aside from the rookie mistake made with last week's reading, it was still far more crowded than I was expecting, so much so that we were standing room only for the first book reading from Best Women's Erotica of the Year, Volume 1 at Good Vibrations. One of the first things I do is try to organize a reading as early as possible to give people time to mark their calendars and give myself time to promote it in local media and readers time to share the news with their networks.

Telling people about readings is a tricky endeavor; you want to tell them early enough that they can save the date, but don't want them to forget about it by the time the reading happens. You also have to stagger your media outreach so that the places that need the most advance notice get it, but the daily publications or blogs also get notified at the appropriate time. One thing I failed to do with this one, because I was packing to move and busy with other work, is have my publisher send a hard copy of the book along with the reading listings to local press. I had meant to send that list but got distracted, although I did submit the listing to several local newspapers and sites.

Other places I like to list events, if applicable: Galleycat on Facebook, She Writes, Poets & Writers, Eventful, Yelp (under the venue's page and then "events"), Craigslist (whatever the local site is for your event). Anywhere that hosts event listings that are relevant to your topic, go for it. You may not have time to list it everywhere, but if you have an assistant or someone who can help you, the more places you can list your event, the broader the audience you'll reach. You can also survey people at the event with a show of hands or just asking people about how they heard about it to get a sense of which places yield the best results, although I've found that varies with every event, which is why I try to list as widely as possible. When I do readings, there's always aspects that I don't get to, but I try to cover as much ground ahead of time as I can, including reaching out to local friends and asking readers to spread the word as far and wide as they can. You never know who will show up.

The things I did right, though? Getting the event posted on Facebook and Fetlife. I also actively used the Facebook listing to share links to the Q&As I did with the authors to generate ongoing interest and provide free samples of what they'd be reading so people could get excited ahead of time. Those also came with photos of the readers to make the connection more personal. Facebook turned out to be a major source of interaction about the reading, both before and after.

A little over a week before, I sent the listing to SFist, and they published it on a list of "12 Cool Things to Check Out This Week" and even gave it a little plug, so people who may have been hearing about the book for the first time, whether or not they could attend, might be inclined to further check it out. Here's what they said:
San Francisco is a literate town (think Litquake), and tonight's reading of Best Women's Erotica of the Year, Volume 1 puts a very SF twist on our love of all things literature. Featured readers include editor Rachel Kramer Bussel, and well as various contributors. Not for the heteronormative, the "hot, varied pansexual stories" should make for a fun evening.
I arrived in San Francisco that morning by what felt like the skin of my teeth; my Virgin America flight from Los Angeles kept getting delayed due to weather but finally made it. Then I had a rush assignment so I spent a few hours at the airport, then headed over to Good Vibrations, arriving around 5:15 for the 6:30 reading to check in. I asked to put out the postcards I'd brought and asked about copies of the book.

Here is where I'm majorly kicking myself, because as it turns out, the store didn't have that many copies of the book (I don't know exactly how many but they weren't prepared for the demand, which I take responsibility for since I booked the reading and didn't even ask about this beforehand). Later on, they sold out quickly and there weren't any more, which was a lost revenue opportunity for everyone: me, my publisher, and the store. Now, I probably don't need to tell you that every book sale counts, especially when you factor in the cost of my flight from Los Angeles to San Francisco and my time, but just in case, I will. I make about one dollar for every book purchased, so I knew going in I'd be losing money on this event. Still, those book sales are important, beyond the specific dollar amount, especially in the first few weeks a book is out. Early sales help set the stage for how a book will do going forward, and strong early sales can give stores a hint of whether they should stock more copies or wait and see if anyone will purchase it. That's why I pushed hard to have this reading held the same month as the book's release; the book is still new and there's excitement about it, but soon other new titles will be competing for readers' attention.

I'm not involved in the regular purchasing process, but I would imagine that if a book sells a lot during a reading that would prompt the store to order more because it's been proven that their customers want to buy it. Good Vibrations is an exception because they had a few copies on their shelves (see my Instagram snapshot below) and are officially carrying it, but most small independent bookstores that purchase my books take 1 or 2 copies of it, since shelf space is limited, so that means that buying a copy at one of those stores has a great impact, because it shows that there's an audience for the book. (Here's a sobering post about what we really mean when we talk about book sales for many independent authors.) So my goal for the reading wasn't to make back my costs, because I consider those business expenses and part of what I'm willing to invest of my own money to promote my book, but I want to use this mistake to make sure I don't do it again. While I can't control how many copies of a book a store takes, I can give them a heads up about how many people I expect to attend and purchase, and now I have this successful reading as an example to refer to (I am hoping to do a reading in the summer or fall at the Good Vibrations store in Brookline, Massachusetts).

If I knew I wouldn't make a profit, why did I decide to do this reading? There's several reasons, beyond my desire to leave my house and interact with live people rather than purely electronic communication. One is that I think there are few venues where you can hear erotica read out loud, and that means people will remember and appreciate those who can offer that. You can simply hear different aspects of a story when the author reads it, whether that's little asides or jokes or backstory or simply the inflection and emphasis they put on certain words. Secondly, my book just came out and it's my first time editing the Best Women's Erotica series, and I wanted to come out swinging. I wanted the book to be buzzed about, to have people remembering the stories vividly in a different way than they'd get just reading them off the page. I chose San Francisco because that's one of only a few cities where my far-flung authors, who are located in six countries, could attend. If I ever win the lottery, my dream would be to do a reading with all the authors in one of my anthologies who were interested, but until that day, I have to rely on local authors or those willing to generously donate their time to travel to readings.


I also wanted to have photos and video of readings to share on my social media channels. For this book, because I believe in its potential so strongly, I've branched out and tried something new: a dedicated Best Women's Erotica of the Year Instagram account, one I plan to use for Volume 2 and any others I edit in the series. I love that because it means that when I saw the book on the Good Vibrations shelves, I could tag them and have the focus be on my book. I will be doing that for any stores stocking Best Women's Erotica of the Year, so if you see it anywhere, pretty please snap a photo and send it to me at bweoftheyear at and I'd be more than happy to credit you.

Posing for the cameras
We were awash in cameras wanting our attention! Back row: Amy Butcher and Rose Caraway. Front row: Jade A. Waters, Dorothy Freed, me

I don't have the resources to pull off a book trailer, but I did invest in hiring someone to record the readings so that those who couldn't attend could also hear the authors read (these will be up in about a month). To me, this is invaluable because as an editor, I can read the words on the page over and over and believe in their power, but hearing them read aloud, in every single case, put a new spin on them. I got to hear what the audience's reactions were to the funny and the sexy parts and everything in between. I got to find out what questions people had about the stories and my Volume 2 call for submissions during our Q&A. That is invaluable market research and that is another reason I wanted to do this reading; people may not know they have questions until they hear the work read aloud.

So the one thing I didn't do was make sure with my publisher that there would be a large supply of books at the store the night of the reading. I didn't even ask, because I was so focused on doing everything in my power to make sure there was an audience there to hear us. Clearly more could have sold, which made me feel heavily disappointed in myself for not taking book sales more seriously, because what better souvenir of a reading is there than an autographed copy? I know every time I move, I save my autographed books because they capture a specific moment in time that I want to treasure. Ultimately, I'm still thrilled with how the reading went. This was a best case scenario: a room full of people eager to meet the authors, get their books signed (someone who reads almost exclusively ebooks even bought a print copy so they could get it signed) and go home and read the stories they'd just heard snippets of. I'm hoping those who didn't pick up a copy that night either go back to Good Vibrations and buy one or purchase one elsewhere.

As it turned out, it was a perfect learning opportunity, because the next Best Women's Erotica of the Year, Volume 1 reading is coming up March 31st at The Pleasure Chest in Chicago, and you can be damn sure I am starting early on promoting it and spreading the word and will be actively engaged in finding out how many books the store has on hand. I booked the reading then because I will be in town for CatalystCon and can't wait to meet Tara Betts and Rose P. Lethe and read with them. Hope you can make it, and if you can spread the word about the Chicago reading to anyone who might be interested, I'd be very appreciative!

A final note: these are just my experiences with booking readings. Your mileage may vary, but I think for any genre, the wider a net you cast, the wider a potential audience you'll draw. You're still competing with weather, other events in your town, and the rest of people's lives. There will always be people who want to attend but can't, but that's a better scenario than someone who might have been interested but never even knew your reading was happening.

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