Guest blog: What you shouldn’t say to an erotic writer

Image by the fabulous Stuart F Taylor

No surprises for guessing why this week’s guest blog is so far up my street. Erotic writer Phoenix Rose has some thoughts on the difference between erotica as a genre and other types of writing – from internal struggles to more external ones. Like what you absolutely shouldn’t say to an erotic writer, when they tell you about their work…

What not to say to an erotic writer

I’m a writer. More specifically, I’m an erotic writer. For some reason, I feel the need to add the extra qualifier. Like I’m not a real writer. That writing erotica (or by extension, romance) is somewhat trite. Throwaway. Not important.

Examining why I feel this way, and I’m quite sure more than a few romance/erotica writers probably feel the same, let’s examine how people react when I tell them what I do.

The number one response? Ridicule. From people I would classify as comfortable with their sexuality and those who are a bit more reserved.

They pitch you ‘funny lines’ about what your characters get up to. They quote ridiculous erotica they’ve heard of. They make up absurd comments or lines of dialogue you must be using. There’s always a nudge and a wink to their statements, and they’re rarely said with any malice, but there’s very little celebration or congratulating.

Part of me can’t help but wonder if their reaction would be different if I wrote crime drama, mystery or something ‘gritty’. How they would react to horror writing? Something like Stephen King’s work which – not to detract from his writing – can sometimes stumble clunkily if he’s including erotic descriptions.

This may be a larger problem of how death, murder and violence are still more widely accepted than sex. It’s partly because many people struggle with opening up sexually or admitting when something turns them on. But it doesn’t help the erotic writer to know this.

Writing erotica is, pun possibly intended, hard. You have to be in a certain headspace. You have to be able to arouse people with words alone, in a world where visuals are free, abundant and overwhelming.
Your pacing has to be much more specific than most genres. Building up the heat, but not taking too long. Giving the reader a big climatic scene and a happy ever after.

You have to give people exactly what they want within their chosen niche or kink whilst also offering them something a little different. Obeying all the common tropes, but doing something special to keep them interested.

Then, on top of all that, an erotic writer walks the tightrope of not being able to advertise on certain platforms or monetize certain things. You also risk being suddenly ‘banned’ from other platforms without explanation. So promotion becomes a little trickier, too.

Still, we write. We put out kinky words for others to consume and enjoy. Some of them are kinks we enjoy, others we write purely for profit.

I’m not complaining, as I love what I do. It still amazes me that others enjoy my work, too. Some people enjoy it enough to buy it, as a kindle unlimited subscription or purchase an ebook.

I love the fact that I’m putting something into the world which is joyful. Happy. Mostly downright filthy, but always with an emphasis on a key philosophy of mine: sex is fun. I’ve gotten better at my craft, and sales gradually improve as I learn more with each book, but I’m still not proud of anything I’ve put out there.

The fact is, I’m a good writer. Or, at the very least, above average.

I’ve written and self-published roughly 100 books over my various pen names in three years. My Goodreads profile states I average over 4 stars. My website gets roughly 1000 views per month. My writing income has overtaken my other sources of income. I pay tax on it.

But, despite all of this, I don’t feel like a writer. Whether this has to do with low self-esteem or something deeper, there’s a definite possibility. But I know people’s reactions don’t help. The swift mocking tone and immediate comments put me right back into the headspace of ‘this doesn’t really matter, does it?’

So, what’s the correct response if someone you know tells you they’re writing erotica?

If you’re genuinely interested, and they’re OK with it, ask if you can read some of their work. Congratulate them on their progress so far. Maybe ask if there’s any way you can support them. Leaving reviews or ratings can help boost visibility of their work (side note: careful not to review anyone you’re too close to on Amazon, they have strict rules about this).

But please don’t mock what they do. They’re probably having a hard enough time working through their own insecurities without you adding to it. Erotica – and sex in general – should be fun and joyous, but ‘fun’ does not mean ‘trivial’.


  • Llencelyn says:

    It never would’ve occurred to me to mock an erotic writer. Or see the writing as lesser. But this may have to do with wanking to just such a thing until I am sated. At which point, I move on to images/videos. And when I feel saturated by that, I go back to words!

    Maybe folks laugh at that which they haven’t tried wanking to. Or maybe the idea of sex in an ‘unexpected’ scenario just brings out the mischievous comedian out of anyone. Like a fart happening in a meeting between diplomats whilst they discuss trade deals. Or sex happening in a meeting between diplomats whilst they discuss trade deals.

  • NM says:

    From what I understand, many very successful and skilled people have “imposter syndrome”, which sounds similar to what you feel.
    99% of people could not do what you do *at all*, let alone well enough to make even a partial living at it. Which means you definitely *are* a writer, and a damn good one, whether you feel like it or not. Our feelings, about many things, are of course often totally irrational.

  • Aaron says:

    The last sentence of this is the most important part – fun is almost the OPPOSITE of trivial, it’s one of the most important things in the world!

    Whatever its motivation, mockery of someone’s work is never either OK, or helpful. But I wonder whether part of it, comes from the mocker thinking – wrongly – that it’s somehow an easier form of writing than some of the others you mention, and so somehow making money from it, seems like easier money?

    Even if it WERE an easier form, that still wouldn’t justifiy the mockery. But as far as I know, for the reasons you give, and others, it’s a tougher genre to write in, than others. Just as, since everyone has been to school, 90% of people think that they know how to teach, I imagine that since the vast majority of us have had erotic experiences, many people think that it must therefore be easy to write about that field of human experience. But personally, I think that one of the reasons that erotica is hard to write is exactly because the human experience it taps into, is such a broad field, that I wonder whether almost every word feels like a potential step onto a ‘mockery landmine’.

    • Girl on the net says:

      “Just as, since everyone has been to school, 90% of people think that they know how to teach, I imagine that since the vast majority of us have had erotic experiences, many people think that it must therefore be easy to write about that field of human experience.” Ohhh this is such a good point! I think broadly ‘writing’ (in whatever genre) does tend to bring this out in people – most people write/have written, and so the idea that they can just pick up a pen and do it by instinct is a powerful one. What’s annoying is that some people genuinely can, and absolutely should, while others really shouldn’t and have a massively incorrect view on how easy it is for them. Finding and encouraging the former while batting away the latter is a challenge =)

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