~~ "She has so many aliases, you'd think she was a spy!" ~~

Friday, March 05, 2010

On Writing Customized Erotica Stories


I recently got a question about writing custom erotica stories, and I thought it might be useful to post my response here, since others might be curious.

I write for Custom Erotica Source (CustomEroticaSource.com) under the name Kendra Wayne.

First, some practicalities. This is a work-for-hire gig, which means you don’t own your work. With Custom Erotica Source, I’m a contract writer—I have a contract with them and they own what I produce for them. I can’t re-sell the work anywhere; I don’t get royalties.

I’m lucky that I have a mentor who’s done a lot of ghostwriting and has given me advice, because in many ways, that’s what this job is. Someone gives you their ideas, and you write the story. As a ghostwriter, you also have to tone down your personal writing voice and adapt to the parameters of the assignment. If you can’t write outside your distinct voice, this isn’t the job for you. (I sometimes do slip a little into my voice, but I can keep it neutral enough that it still fits the assignment. So far, so good, anyway!)

It’s also a job in which you can’t judge. If a particular request is truly distasteful to you, you can turn it down—but if you want to get the work and make money, you have to put aside your personal tastes and write a character who thinks the whatever-it-is is sexy.

I do use a pen name, although as with my other pen names thus far, I don’t keep it a secret. (I’ve even written some non-CES work under that name, when an editor has requested I use something other than my usual pen name.) Remember, it’s Kendra Wayne—ask for me by name! :-)

So how does it work? I get an assignment one of two ways.

1. The editor may send out the call to all of the contracted writers, says s/he has an assignment that’s X words long, due in Y amount of time, and is about topic Z. Sometimes the topics are very specific—for example, an obscure TV show, or snorkeling off the Great Barrier Reef—so the writer who things s/he has the right background/knowledge will raise his/her hand.

2. If the editor knows a story falls in line with one of our strengths then s/he e-mails me directly and offers me the story.

The payment is agreed on in our contract (and per that contract, I can’t talk about it), although if there’s any extra work involved, more money can be negotiated.

If I agree to do the job in the time scheduled, the editor sends me the parameters. The client has filled out a form with the basic information—length of story, graphic level, character names and descriptions, scenario/setting, that sort of thing. If I want any additional clarification, I ask the author and s/he talks to the client. I never get any client information, so everything’s kept private. But I’m also pledged not to reveal anything anyway.

Once I’m done, the editor reviews the story and asks for any revisions. He/she may do some internal editing, and that’s fine with me—this is work-for-hire, so I don’t have a strong attachment to the story. What’s important is that it fits with what the client wants.

A few things did surprise me when I got started:
  1. Clients go into a lot more detail than I expected. I guess I thought I’d get the character names and descriptions, a basic scenario, and length, and go from there. Instead, I’ve received a lot of specifics. Sometimes it’s practically the blow-by-blow action. Other times it’s been a list of props, or a detailed plot. In some ways, this makes it more of a challenge!
  2. I didn’t expect—although in retrospect I shouldn’t have been surprised—that many clients would request celebrities, whether the actor/singer/whomever or, if an actor, the character they play. I suppose the reason it surprised me is because whenever I’ve wanted to read about that, I’ve just gone ahead and written my own fan-fic!
  3. Clients don’t always have a sense of length vs. detail. I accepted a 500-word assignment that had so much requested to be included, I wasn’t sure how I was going to shoehorn it all in. Normally 500 words takes me 15–20 minutes to write. This story took me a couple hours in the end.
  4. And best of all: Clients are very appreciative. The majority of people I’ve written stories for have sent back glowing praise and thanks. I really appreciate the editor forwarding those on to me. :-)
Writing custom erotica isn’t for everybody, but if you can tone down your voice, have an open mind, and can write to deadline and length, you might just have some fun.


Shanna Germain said...

This is fantastic -- thank you so much for taking the time to do this. I know my students have a lot of questions about this kind of work, so I really appreciate your time and thorough answers!

Best, s.

Anonymous said...

Do you find that you wind up doing a lot of research for this (on, for example, the Great Barrier Reef or a certain celebrity) or are you pretty much only asked to write about things you already know?

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

Good question! So far, I've had a reasonable knowledge of everything I've been asked to write about.

In one case, one of the two celebrities was someone I already had a crush on, and I knew enough about the other to be able to pull it off. :-) In another, the characters all knew each other because of a game, and I had enough understanding of the game that I could throw in a few details

While I've never snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef (an example I completely made up), I've snorkeled in a few places, and I could do some quick research on the reef.

There was one bulk call that involved a somewhat obscure TV show that I didn't know anything about. I saw the DVDs were on Netflix, so I threw my hat in the ring--but another CES author apparently knew the show, so they got the gig. Which is fine; I would've had to factor that TV watching into my mental hourly rate anyway. :-)

I think with anything you write, you're going to draw on what you know and do a little research or gloss over the stuff you don't know as well. It's all part of the job.

Hope that answered your question!

Kristina Wright said...

Hi Dayle ~ I didn't know you were writing for CES! I wrote for them for several years under the original owner and enjoyed most of the writing assignments. I nodded in agreement on all your points-- especially the length vs. detail problem!

Thanks for sharing your perspective. I'm glad you're enjoying it!

Anonymous said...

I had posed this question to Shanna during our writing workshop and she and you were generous enough to post an answer! I did audition for CES some time ago... was not chosen but was chosen for another venture with the original owners that never got off the ground. I still hold out hope that someday... So thank you again for the information! Annika Devaki

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

Kristina, if I make it to RWA, let's curl up with a glass or two of wine and compare notes!

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

Hi, Annika! Shanna didn't mention your name, just said that someone in her workshop had questions and could I write something up. I'm glad I was helpful!

Custom writing isn't for everyone, just like ghostwriting and other work-for-hire isn't for everyone. I'm glad I gave it a try, and right now I'm happy to keep doing it as long as CES will have me. :-)

Kristina Wright said...

Dayle ~ Hope you make it to RWA. I would love that. Seriously.

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

Kristina, I hope so, too! Keep me in the loop about Fairy Tale Lust promo, please! (That's one of my main draws this year!)