For personal reasons that aren’t germane to this post, Sunday’s experience was quite different. All I can say regarding my state of mind is that watching Molly (@MollysDailyKiss) getting flogged took me within mere milimeters of an orgasm, which is not usual for publicly reserved me.
First up was the Anthologies Editors Panel with Maxim Jakubowski, Lucy Felthouse,(@CW1985), Victoria Blisse (@victoriablisse) and Rachel Kramer Bussel (@raquelita). I hadn’t been expecting to meet the delightful Rachel in London since she normally makes her home in NY, but she was here visiting family. It was a lovely treat to see her again after having the pleasure of meeting her at EAA in Las Vegas.
Firstly, I have to admit to being biased about all the people on this panel. Both Maxim and Rachel have published my work several times, and Lucy and Victoria are the two sweetest women you could ever want to meet. But having fessed up to that, none of these people are in the least bit unapproachable. If they have a call and you’re thinking of submitting – DO IT. I can’t honestly say I heard anything I didn’t already know, but I will pass on the main points for you: if you want to get a story accepted, please read and follow the submission guidelines. Not doing so is, frankly, just a subliminal way of saying you don’t respect the editor you’re sending your story to. And if you don’t respect them, why would you want to be in their anthology? Make sure your story fits the call (if there is a theme or a length parameter) and if you’re not sure it really fits, I find that a frank admission of your doubts in the accompanying email is helpful. That way, they can read the other, more fitting stories first and, if they are still stuck for another story, they can take a look at yours. Sometimes a slightly lateral slant on an anthology theme can be helpful to the editors if they end up with too many stories with very similar approaches.
Some people are more flexible about variations in length than others. Rachel tends to go for shorter pieces, Maxim prefers them longer. With Lucy and Victoria it depends on which anthology they’re working on. Both Maxim and Rachel usually produce print and ebook anthos. Lucy and Victoria primarily concentrate on eBooks but I think they’re doing some POD (Print On Demand).
How responsive an editor is going to be depends mostly on what kind of submission volume they’re dealing with. Rachel, Lucy and Victoria ask for submission via email, and my experience is that they all acknowledge receipt. Maxim, being the quirky lad that he is, only accepts submissions by snail mail, and he doesn’t acknowledge receipt. If you want to make sure he’s received it, send it by receipt-acknowledged post.
Why is Maxim such a stuffy old curmudgeon about this? Because his Mammoth anthologies end up garnering over 1000 submissions. Very few of us like to read THAT much on a screen, and think about the cost and organization of having to print out 1000 stories that are 8 – 10 pages each, just to do an initial read? I have no problem with him wanting snail mail. For one thing, I think it culls the not-very-serious who can’t be arsed to buy the stamp. Personally, I do submit to Maxim’s calls and the whole ritual of doing it in that charmingly archaic way kind of brings out the obedient ‘sub’ in me.
The biggest issue with submission to anthologies at present is the very long turn-around time. Although Victoria and Lucy’s tend to be a little shorter, it’s 9 months to a year for most of them. This isn’t the editor being lazy. This is the anthology’s publisher wanting final approval of each bloody story and dragging their fucking asses. Sorry, but I have to say that. The problem with this, moving on into the future, is that the turn-around rate for self-pubbing or digital pubbing one-off stories or novellas has gotten so short, a lot of people are not as willing to tie up a story without acceptance for a year as they used to be. I really have to own to this one. Unless it is an editor I REALLY want to be associated with, or I happen to know that I could be in the company of some writers I really want to nestle between the covers with, I’m pretty damn reluctant these days to commit keeping a story on hold for a year while I wait to hear if it’s been accepted. I get way too much pleasure from simply posting the story on my site, knowing it is getting read and interacting with my readers. It might be different if the rate of pay for stories in anthologies was better, but it’s shit and I can’t see it getting any better in the near future. Don’t blame the editors for this. It’s just the way things are at the moment: content just doesn’t command the sort of economic remuneration it should. It’s a shitty thing, but there it is.
Wanna know the very best place to look for current Calls for Submission? One answer: http://erotica-readers.blogspot.com/ . Almost every call worth noticing ends up on that blog and you can subscribe to the RSS and get them delivered to your in box (along with monthly posts on writing from me, and a number of other brilliant writers – not that I’m modest or anything).
Sadly, what no one really got into was the subject of concepting anthos, or selling that concept to a publisher. I think I’m going to put in a request to Eroticon 2014 for something that addresses that issue. Some of us (ahem) would like to produce anthos rather than submit to them.
Moving right along: the wonderful, entertaining, witty and very inspiring Ashley Lister (or Mista Lista, as I like to call him) (@ashleylister) delivered a truly fun and productive session on erotic poetry. What I love about him is that he realizes all of us are not hell bent on being poets, but learning to write it, and using it as a tool for inspiration, focus on the sound of words, their song, their rhythm and different types of rhyme really does make you a better prose writer. And look, I’m sorry, but he’s just 100% right. Writing poetry trains you, as a writer, to not use the first word or phrase that comes into your head, but to consider other possibilities. And although prose doesn’t have to be constantly poetic, a well-written sentence – one that rings in the reader’s ear and stays with them – is probably one that flows well. Writing poetry helps you be more attuned to the raw material that prose is made of – language. The bastard made us write limericks to a digital countdown clock. He squeezed filthy haikus out of us. And you wouldn’t believe just how stunning some of the under-the-clock work some people produced. I was floored. What it told me was, there are a lot of people writing prose who should seriously consider writing poetry as well. Unfortunately, I made a poor show of it. My creative mind was firmly on strike on Sunday morning.
The last session before lunch was the publisher’s panel which I was on with Hazel Cushion, for Xcite, and Maxim Jakubowski, who was representing Constable & Robinson. I was there representing Burning Book Press. I honestly think the panel would have greatly benefited from having a moderator. After a very short introduction from each of us, we took questions from the audience. The best way to characterize it was that people were really seeing the extremes of ideology on what publishing is or should be. Hazel and I have almost diametrically opposed ethos as to what purpose publishing serves. I’m a fucking communist. The main object of Burning Book Press is not to make money, it’s to publish seriously well-written, transgressive erotic fiction. If we do make some money, that’s great, but that’s doesn’t even rate on our top five goals. For Xcite, it is a business concern. This is not to imply that Xcite doesn’t care what it sells. It does. But they are first and foremost a business and that drives the decisions they make. Maxim was hovering somewhere in the middle (which is kind of funny because I happen to know he’s just co-written – under a pseudonym – a series of romance-with-heavy-erotic-content books that have sold shedloads. Not quite EL James shedloads, but pretty damn successful) I guess I wanted represent the obscene proposition that there are other reasons to create and distribute great writing other than financial gain. Which, in today’s society, makes me pretty much an alien. I sincerely believe good literature makes the world a better place. I think Hazel, Maxim and a fair percentage of the audience think I’m insane. I feel I’m in good company. James Joyce was also insane. Now, if only I could write as well as he did.
I have to own up turning up late to the first set of sessions after lunch. I was indulging in some transatlantic transcendence of my own. But it goes some way to explaining why, when I sat down at Molly Moore and Michael Knight’s session on BDSM – Tools of the Trade, I eagerly grabbed every instrument of torture that was passed around to the audience and tested each of them on my own thigh with manic relish. There’s something fundamentally sad about auto-masochism.
This was a truly practical and BDSM humanizing session which explored a range of BDSM implements from the truly evil ‘Vampire Paddle’ to the fluffily soothing ‘leather boas’. What made the session great for many was that Michael underscored the point that, in general, you don’t need to break the bank on instruments of torture. Wooden spoons, rubber-banded chopstick pairs and garden bamboo staves all make lovely pain possibilities. He also covered a lot of sensation-play tools, which are good for people interested in exploring beyond the vanilla realms but not quite ready to jump into caning hell. I’m trying to be a faithful chronicler of this session, but in all honestly, watching Molly get flogged was just too fucking thigh-clenchingly, labia-swellingly sweet. I don’t get off on formal public scenes with strangers, and this was short and casual, but once I know someone and like them, watching them take pain becomes seriously erotic for me. I have total data-drop after witnessing that. No, I did not thrust my hand down my pants, but I did discretely visit the ladies room afterwards.
Which made me slightly late for the Sex and the Media’ session with Zoe Margolis and Nichi Hodgson. Of all the sessions at the conference, I found this one the most problematic and disturbing. I’m not going to say much about what was discussed, because I found the entire framing of the discussion a bit disingenuous. I have every respect for both women, but it seems like they both missed the ‘medium is the message’ course in media studies class. Maybe at a later date, I will give this more thought and blog space. But at the moment, all I have to say is: if you don’t want to be taken advantage of by the media, do what Miss Urania does and make your own content, or just slam the door in their face. You are under no obligation to feed the machine,and if you do, because you’re selling some message of your own, be fully prepared to have it twisted and made more superficial and prurient for the peanut gallery.
The closing plenary was delivered via videocast by Cindy Gallop, founder of makelovenotporn.tv. Cindy is a ‘beat them at their own game’ and ‘if the odds are stacked against you change the game’ sort of person. It was a very good choice for the closing the conference. Instead of giving a synopsis of what she said, watch her talk on at Publica