All About Harper

Summer Heat Harper Bliss writes naughty stories. Now we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk business. Harper is the reason why we’re having a summer of erotica at LadyLit*. She keeps churning out the dirty stories and, in fact, her latest e-book Summer Heat was just released on Wednesday. (If you haven’t done so yet, pick up your free copy before Sunday when the free promotion ends.)

Summer Heat tells the story of Cat, who, after being dumped by her girlfriend right before their holiday, decides to join her parents on their annual trip to Tuscany. Prepared for two weeks of sun-drenched melancholy, she finds much more than nostalgia in the house where she used to spend her summers as a child.

Unable to let the characters go, Harper decided to write the story again, only this time, from the point of view of Rose, Cat’s cougar love interest. (Hm, perhaps we should have called the book Cats & Cougars.) This second story doesn’t have a definite release date yet, but it does already have a cover (and a title). Ta-dah!

Younger Than Yesterday

We’re aiming for publication in the second week of September. We’ll also be putting them together in a special edition e-book, alongside another short story featuring the two characters. (She really can’t get enough of them.)

Harper’s stories all feature lesbian lovers and quite a few explicit sex scenes. There’s an encounter with a high-end escort in Hired Help, a threesome in The Honeymoon, a teacher crush in Learning Curve and all of that bundled together in A Hotter State. You can also read some of her stories for free on her website if you want to know what you’re letting yourself in for. (And there are PDF previews available of all her e-books here.)

Harper Bliss Books

Over the weekend Harper is participating in the Follow the Rainbow Book Reviews Blog Hop and you can win a free copy of A Hotter State. She also likes to blog about all the things that inspire her on her website.

So far for our introduction to our resident erotica writer Harper Bliss. She has some hot stuff out there already, and we’ll be seeing regular releases of her new books throughout the year. Enjoy.

* We have other, less saucy projects in the works. By the end of the year we should have a new Lee Harlem Robinson novella out. And in 2013 we’ll publish a brand new LGBT novel set in Hong Kong.

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Latest releases: Beneath the Surface by Harper Bliss, In the Distance There Is Light by Harper Bliss and No Strings Attached by Harper Bliss
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The importance of Amazon categories

Amazon categories are tricky but essential. They’re tricky because for some inexplicable reason Amazon makes them very complicated, but they’re of the utmost importance because they give your book visibility, which is, in these days of abundant self-publishing, the single best marketing tool you can get your hands on. (Note: this post is about our experience with Amazon US. The European Amazon stores seem to handle categories differently.)

Say, you’re a beginning author with no extensive mailing list, nor a very big author platform. In other words, you don’t have much of an audience yet. How on earth do you get your book out there? How do you get it noticed amongst the other hundreds of books published that day? Here’s how we managed to get Harper Bliss’ Learning Curve into Amazon’s Lesbian Fiction Top 20. (Note: this blog post will specifically deal with lesbian erotica/romance but the same principles apply to other categories.)

First off, Amazon Best Sellers lists are a rare (and probably the best) gift to self-publishers. Your book can be listed alongside titles by well-established authors, giving you enormous exposure. And, in the end, that’s what it’s all about. While the lists may be great and all that, they’re quite complex to figure out.

Let’s take Learning Curve as an example. We published it on 25th July, starting with five free days on KDP Select. Essentially, it’s a lesbian erotic story, and for the free days we picked the categories ‘Lesbian’ and ‘Erotica’. (Amazon allows you to choose two categories when you publish your book.)

Amazon is not overly fond of erotica as a genre (but that’s a whole other post) and it doesn’t offer any sub-genres. This means that when you publish a book in this category it has to compete with all other books in that genre, and there are a lot of those. Nevertheless, on free days, with a bit of promotion and a lot of luck, you can hope to graze the edges of the Free Erotica Top 100, which does wonders for free downloads (and that’s what it’s all about on those days).

What about that other category? Is it not easier to get into the Lesbian Fiction Free Top 100? Well, it would be, if only there were one. There is, however, a Free Gay & Lesbian Top 100 (Lee Harlem Robinson’s Dirty Pleasure has been hanging out near the top 20 for a while now), but this list doesn’t mix well with the Erotica category. In other words, once you catalogue your book as ‘Erotica’ and e.g. ‘Lesbian’, you’re only eligible for the Free Erotica Top 100, which, due to humongous competition, is very hard to get into.

So, moving on to non-free days. Despite the expected boost in sales after its free run, we realised that keeping Learning Curve in the Erotica category wouldn’t make much sense. It would have to sell too many copies to even reach the outskirts of the Paid Top 100. But, we had another trump card to play. We diversified and focused on the other category. We wanted Learning Curve to get noticed by lesbians, who are still our prime audience, and fortunately, the Amazon’s Romance category has an ‘Adult’ section. We updated Learning Curve and kept it at the lowest price possible and this is what happened:

Amazon categories

No, I’m not seeing the ‘Adult’ bit reflected in that either. You see, to confuse us even more, the categories you choose when publishing (from the KDP dashboard) do NOT correspond with the ones consumers get to see. And instead of popping up in Books > Gay & Lesbian > Lit & Fiction > Fiction > Romance > Adult (which you would expect after choosing your category), it pops up in ‘LGBT Romance’, where again, the competition is much stiffer.

This is what you get when you publish a book in the ‘Lesbian’ and ‘Romance > Adult’ categories (and the case for Learning Curve):

More categories

Out of these, Amazon magically distills Best Seller Lists (based on ever-changing algorithms). This is also the reason why so many erotica titles appear in the general LGBT lists, despite being catalogued as ‘Adult’.

Anyway, this post is not about criticising the lists (although making them more transparent and easier to use would make a lot of self-publishers’ lives a lot easier), but about stressing the importance of getting into them.

To summarise:

  • When publishing, narrow down your category as much as possible and don’t be afraid to change it. (But be careful not to switch once you’ve hit a list!)
  • Experiment and see in which category you can score the highest (the more drilled down, the better.)
  • Once you make it onto a Best Sellers List, sales will jump. People love lists and they’re an excellent browsing tool.
  • Breaking your head over Amazon categories is well worth it, and once you figure it out, you’ll know what to do for subsequent books.
  • (But hey, it is a bit of a Learning Curve.)

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Latest releases: Beneath the Surface by Harper Bliss, In the Distance There Is Light by Harper Bliss and No Strings Attached by Harper Bliss
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Contest: Win two LadyLit books

Contest 'A Hotter State'

To celebrate the release of A Hotter State (which includes all three of the currently released Harper Bliss novellas!) and the six month publication anniversary of Come and Go, we’re having a contest. This is 2012 so it kind of has to be a social media contest. The prize is a free copy of both A Hotter State by Harper Bliss and Come and Go by Lee Harlem Robinson (both e-books, any format).

How to enter
– Follow @LadyLitPub on Twitter (if you don’t already)
– Tweet a link to this blog post: or (shortened)
– Be sure to include @LadyLitPub in your tweet otherwise we won’t know you’ve entered the contest
– The rest of the tweet is up to you

– Like LadyLit on Facebook (if you don’t already)
– Share this on your wall: I joined the @LadyLitPub contest to win two free books!
– You can modify the text but be sure to include the link and @LadyLitPub otherwise we won’t know you’ve entered the contest

– There will be 1 Facebook winner and 1 Twitter winner (so 2 winners in total)
– If you both tweet and share on Facebook your entry will be counted twice, so you’ll double your odds (but you can only win once)
– Contest ends on midnight Wednesday 15 August (Hong Kong time, so GMT+8)
– Winners will be picked at random and will be notified on Thursday 16 August

1 copy of A Hotter State & 1 copy of Come and Go (e-book – any format) sent to you by e-mail.

Thank you and good luck!

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Latest releases: Beneath the Surface by Harper Bliss, In the Distance There Is Light by Harper Bliss and No Strings Attached by Harper Bliss
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If you must self-edit

Harper BlissToday we’ve invited Harper Bliss (the naughtiest member of the LadyLit family) to share her self-editing process. Mainly because erotica must be the worst edited genre out there, and also because, these days, people seem to think they can write down their favourite sexual fantasies, upload a poorly formatted word document, slap a picture of a half-naked woman on the cover, and wait for the money to roll in. (Maybe they’ll make a few bucks, but it’s hardly the basis for a sustainable career in writing.)

Amazon is flooded by atrocious erotic e-books crawling with spelling and grammar mistakes, giving self-publishing in general a really bad name. The main reason to not use a professional editor is, of course, money. Today’s post is not meant to promote self-editing, but, hey, we all know it happens. So, if you’re going to do it, at least try and do it right.

We’ve asked Harper to break down her self-editing process from first draft to submitting a manuscript.

1. First, I write. That’s the easy part. Usually when I’m writing, I don’t edit. I try to get the story out without looking back. Of course, I write stories of no longer than 10.000 words so there are usually no big continuity issues to deal with. After I’ve finished the first, very rough draft, I go over it and eliminate the most glaring mistakes.

2. I wait. I don’t mean I sit around twiddling my thumbs. I just focus on something else than the story. I usually start another story or have a previous one to work on. I try to give it a week before going back to the first draft, but whatever’s long enough to get your mind off it is fine.

3. This is where the real work begins. I go over the story and basically edit and re-write it until I can live with it. Here’s a very good checklist on editing drafted by the mighty Selena Kitt. It’s meant for editors of stories on Literotica, but I believe everyone can benefit from it. After a while, you’ll find these things will become part of your routine and you’ll automatically implement them.

4. The next step is reading my story out loud. This is excellent for catching forgotten words and spelling and grammar mistakes. Of course, reading erotica out loud can be a bit daunting, which is why I use Scrivener’s built-in speech tool. The voice is a metallic computer voice, but it works fine. I check if the words flow well and keep my ears open for clunky sentences.

5. By this time I usually get very chuffed about my story, only to have my hopes dashed in the next step. I read it away from the computer. I used to print my story and scribble in the margins, but now I just send it to my iPad and read it on the Kindle app. It allows me to make notes I can actually still read afterwards. It doesn’t matter how you do it, as long as you’re away from your computer screen.

6. At last, it’s time to share the magic. It’s not for everyone to see yet, though. This is where the ‘first reader’ comes into play. This can be your wife, your best friend, your badminton partner, whoever really, as long as they can give you an honest opinion (and speak your language.) However, this is not the time for harsh criticism yet. Your first reader is someone you have a personal relationship with and they will usually sugarcoat things for you a little. Don’t worry though, that’s why we have beta-readers.

7. Before sending the story  to my beta-readers, I accept or reject the changes my first reader suggested and then send the story to my Kindle. I like to read it on different devices, but if you only have one, paper will do. Making notes on the Kindle is not easy though (not on mine, anyway), so I keep a notebook and jot down what I want to change.

8. Beta-readers. The life-blood of self-publishing. I’ve been working on a lengthy ode singing the praises of these wonderful creatures who invest their time (always a precious thing) in reading our stories. I worship my beta-readers, but, because of the nature of our relationship, I have to keep my distance. I’m the first to admit it’s not easy to find good beta-readers (and I’m always looking for more), but they are out there. On forums, Yahoo groups, blogs… the internet is your friend. (Here’s a very informative blog post on finding beta-readers.) Find them, befriend them and be nice to them for the rest of your life.

9. The last step is accepting or rejecting my beta-readers’s comments. Ideally, this would be your process before either submitting your manuscript to your publisher or sending it to your professional editor. Either way, if you must self-edit, do yourself, and especially your readers, a big favour by not writing something on Monday and publishing it on Tuesday. And NEVER publish something that has not been read by at least one person who is not your mother, spouse or another extended family member. Never.

Happy editing!

PS Only a few hours left to get all of Harper Bliss’ books for the rock bottom price of $0.99!

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Latest releases: Beneath the Surface by Harper Bliss, In the Distance There Is Light by Harper Bliss and No Strings Attached by Harper Bliss
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Sign up to the Ladylit mailing list to get notified of new releases and participate in giveaways.
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