Friday, March 07, 2014

Melinda DuChamp & Summer Daniels

Melinda: Like me, Summer Daniels is an erotica writer. She's also the creator of the very popular Facebook page, What To Read After Fifty Shades of Grey (WTRAFSOG).

We'll talk about that site, and your new app, in a moment. But first, what's new on the writing front for you?

Summer: Thanks for the invite, Melinda. I appreciate this opportunity to talk about WTRAFSOG and my writing.

I actually have been extremely poor at carving out time for my writing lately, leaving a lot of devoted fans of my Summer’s Journey series waiting for the next installment. The WTRAFSOG page is a labor of love, but it is a sponge, sucking up any and all available time.

One day I hope to turn WTRAFSOG into a full time gig, promoting authors and spreading the brand out to a larger audience. Until then I work away at a full time day job, somehow fit in another 4 - 6 hours a day on the FB page and occasionally find time to have some semblance of a life. Writing unfortunately has come a distant fourth lately.
However, I am actually working on something new at the moment, just not entirely sure how to classify it in terms of genre. It has elements of romance, paranormal and spirituality (and probably a little erotica as well since I cannot seem to stray too far from my roots!). I love the premise of it, now I just have to finish writing it!

So, what are you up to?

Melinda: Besides the two Alice in Wonderland ebooks, Fifty Shades of Alice in Wonderland and Fifty Shades of Alice Through the Looking Glass, I've done another erotic fairy tale, Fifty Shades of Jezebel and the Beanstalk. Same type of humorous "girl on a sexual journey" story, with a few new kinks, and a lot of new jokes.

Summer: You announced a third Alice ebook, Fifty Shades of Alice at the Hellfire Club. What's the status?

Melinda: That will happen this year. It depends on my writing partner and aligning our schedules.

Summer: So Melinda DuChamp is a pen name for more than one person?

Melinda: Right now there are four people working on DuChamp stories, with a few more in the pipeline. We hope to brand her.

Not literally, of course. The books feature some bondage, spanking, and light S/m, but no branding. ;)

The two latest DuChamp titles are in the futuristic Sexperts series. The Sexperts: Fifty Grades of Shay, and The Sexperts: Girl With A Pearl Necklace.

Though these are science fiction rather than fairy tales, the tone and sex are consistent for all of DuChamp's work. Namely, they're light and fun and hot.

These are erotic stories for smart people who like to laugh.

The main goal is to make the reader giggle while turning them on. But the secondary goal--which is just as important--is to tell a good story, where women are empowered, fantasies (including dark ones) are explored, and readers are both entertained and aroused.

In my opinion, the original 50 Shades didn't do a very good job describing a consensual, kinky affair. Too much fear and pain and manipulation, not enough orgasms. Women are powerful sexual creatures with unlimited potential, and we wanted to write stories that delved into all sorts of kinks to explore their various sexual capacities and appetites, but to do so in a fun and friendly way.

So the books have a lot of humor, along with a lot of heat and a lot of heart. And hopefully there is something for everyone in them, no matter your sexual proclivities. They go WAY beyond 50 Shades of Grey.

Summer: I have read both of the current Fifty Shades of Alice releases and absolutely loved them. Then again my motto has long been “Laughter Makes The Panties Wetter”, so humorous and intelligent storytelling goes a long way with me. I urge anyone who enjoys a well written story that tickles the funny bone (among other things) to give Melinda’s books a read. Just be sure to waterproof your e-reader first.  

Melinda: Thanks, Summer! Not to get all mutual appreciation society, but I found your Summer's Journey series to be powerfully erotic. A woman deciding to finally explore her wild side after years of denying it, and finding a sexy guy to go on the adventure with, is a solid idea, well-executed. It's also very hot.

Summer: You say above that “these are erotic stories for smart people who like to laugh.”  I think this point is very apt as I truly feel there is no need (as some authors believe) to tone down the level of vocabulary or intelligence in order to connect with more readers.  Readers are much more intelligent and savvy than many authors in today’s market give them credit for.  

I have tried to tell an intelligent and well written story with my Summer’s Journey series and have gotten some incredible feedback as a result. Now I just have to break away from the sisyphean task that is WTRAFSOG long enough to get my own writing done! (See what I did with the big word there? Readers are, by their very nature, inquisitive, intelligent and well spoken. That is at least my experience, your mileage may vary.)

Melinda: Sisyphus rocks.
I also could have used the joke "he's trying to be a little boulder in his life" or "from there it was all downhill." But I didn't, and I'm proud I restrained myself.

Summer: There has to be a joke in there somewhere about “rock hard, erotica, etc.”, but I believe we’ll leave that particular stone unturned. For now.

Do you think the erotica market has gotten tougher?

Melinda: Yes. Selena Kitt has talked about this at length. Amazon has blocked certain types of erotica, and made it harder for readers to find it. B&N has kicked erotica off the bestseller lists by manipulating ranking. Plus the major ebook advertisers tend to shy away from erotica.

That said, I believe there is a huge audience out there for well-written “mommy porn.” So the game plan is to release a lot of good books, build the audience, and eventually have such a large catalog that it will be impossible to miss.

I was talking with one of my co-authors about having high standards for this brand. Hardcore readers tend to be discriminating. To gain them as fans, authors need to have standards that are just as high. There is so much out there to read, you may not have a second chance to make that first impression.

Getting back to what you're currently doing, you were a guest here a few years ago, talking about WTRAFSOG. For those too lazy to follow links, can you give us an overview of the page, and what's changed since 2012?

Summer: The WTRAFSOG (What to Read After Fifty Shades of Grey) page was set up in April of 2012 with the initial intent of gathering a few readers together to help sell my Summer’s Journey series. I also really liked the idea of Paying It Forward and giving back a little to the community that had been so welcoming to me when I first started writing. It has evolved over time into an incredibly active reader recommendation and author promotion community.

I had to go back and read the previous guest blog to recall the exact state of WTRAFSOG back then. Hard to believe a year and a half has passed since that blog post. Looks like the FB page was doing well back then, just cresting over 10,800 fans and averaging a little over 200 books sold per day through the links on the site.

Since then, we have grown just a little.  We are now at 81,000+ fans on the Facebook page and the site averages over 500+ books sold every day through the posts and promotions on the page.

In that original post long ago we also talked about Discoverability and the “war” for finding readers in the virtual world.  

In a lot of ways there is more need for pages like WTRAFSOG to help spread the word about authors and their books, but certain market limitations have been imposed by large players in the field such as Amazon and Facebook.  Eighteen months ago, before many of the algorithm changes that Facebook has imposed, a typical post on a page like WTRAFSOG reached anywhere from 30% - 50% of any page fans that have “Liked” your page.  After algorithm changes and a push by Facebook to monetize their service, essentially requiring authors and pages to “pay to play”, a typical post now is lucky to reach 10% and often much less than that.

There are mitigating factors such as the number of likes and comments (and shares) of a particular post that dramatically impact how many fans of the page see a given post, but for less than 10% of your fans - who by liking the page stated their desire to see your content - to actually be receiving that content, is extremely limiting.

Add on top of that one major change by Amazon in terms of the number of FREE books that can be advertised / downloaded, and you have reduced the capability of pages like WTRAFSOG to reach readers.

One of the things I have done with WTRAFSOG to help combat these changes is to start trying to brand the WTRAFSOG page (and service) as the new “Erotic Bookbub”. I have built the mailing list up to almost 7,000 subscribers and I have started doing individual promo and multi-author email blasts to help spread the word to even more readers. (Multi-Author promo example here - including a sign up link for our mailing list should anyone be so inclined.)

The other development that I’m pretty excited about in terms of the potential to reach a wider and more diversified audience is the WTRAFSOG APP.

Melinda: Tell us all about it.

Summer: The WTRAFSOG App mirrors the Facebook Page to a large degree, but adds the functionality of a FREE Ebook of the Day feature, Hot New Releases, Pre-Orders, Author Spotlights, 99 Cent Sale Bin (for books that are always 99 cents), Trilogies, Box Sets and more. I’ve packed a lot of features into the app, which I’ve now marked down to 99 Cents!  Included as well is our bi-monthly Top Fifty list, which has been cultivated by tracking 23+ months worth of sales data from reader recommendations and author promotions.  

App Links: iTunes  /  Android  /  Amazon

Melinda: I've downloaded the app for my iPhone, and found it very user-friendly and simple. Have you considered charging authors to be featured?

Summer: I have indeed considered charging authors to be featured, but I want to spread the visibility of the app a little wider first in order to provide better value for their advertising dollar.

One thing I will say about the app is that, although time consuming to initially design, it was fairly easy to build utilizing the online tool that I did. A simple app, given away for free, that includes bio information, links to websites and where to find that author’s works, etc. could be another valuable arrow in the marketing quiver. If I had the time to devote, I would offer to build said author apps for a small fee. I would imagine anyone with the skills and inclination to do so could make a small cottage industry out of this idea. I’ll only expect 30% in return for this idea.

Getting back to you, I've heard this rumor that Melinda DuChamp is actually Joe Konrath.

Care to comment?

Melinda: Anyone who reads the books and gets my sense of humor should know right away. The DuChamp books are laugh out loud funny, they're intentionally branded, my buddy Carl Graves did the covers, and Brilliance Audio--which publishes all of my audiobooks--also publishes DuChamp.

Of course I'm Konrath.

Partly.

I wrote my first explicit sex scene in Cherry Bomb back in 2008, and I found it to be a lot of fun. So did my wife. So when 50 Shades of Grey became huge, I saw an opportunity to do three things:

1. Write some fun smut for smart people who like to laugh.
2. Prove I could write books that sell under a name other than "J.A. Konrath."
3. Diversify. A different income stream, under a different name.

But I can only take half of the credit for Melinda DuChamp. I have a main co-writer--who is well-known in the romance community--and this writer does 50% of the work, if not more.

We're currently working with other writers, splitting the work three ways.

Franchising DuChamp will give us the greatest opportunity to be visible. Of course, the writers we've recruited are pros, so the standards stay high.

Self-publishing has given writers an unprecedented opportunity. We can be whomever we want to be, write whatever we want to write, reinvent ourselves as often as we want to.

How cool is that?

Summer: So why are you finally coming out as DuChamp?

Joe/Melinda: Since updating my website, I've been getting more traffic. I think there are some Konrath fans who would like DuChamp if they knew it was me, and some DuChamp fans who would like my other work. I write horror, mystery, thriller, science fiction, and humor. I believe I can add erotica to the resume and people will accept it Plus I can now tell the 10k readers on my newsletter list about my naughty side.

So who is my main collaborator, and why haven't they come out as Melinda? They can speak for themselves.

Melinda: I haven’t come out as Melinda, because Joe is paranoid. :P

Joe: Untrue. I just happen to be the proud owner of five firearms and am a pretty decent shot. Plus I'm too unpleasant and ugly to stalk.

I'm friends with a few authors who write erotica, and they use pen names because of cyber-creeps. Of which there are many. It's a shame that there are unstable people out there who harass authors, and feminist erotica can be a bullseye for stalkers.

When I said we were franchising DuChamp, does that mean we want to open submissions to everyone?

Melinda: Not at the moment. We simply don’t have the time to take submissions. But who knows? Maybe that will change in the future.

Summer: Oooh!!  (Raises Hand!) I wanna do the DuChamp!!  And yes - I’m picturing a particular funky dance number to go along with that. I’m thinking a cross between the Lindy and the Waltz perhaps.  

Joe: So your pen name wants to write under my pen name? That's up to my partner.

Summer:  When you say under your pen name, how far are we going under?  This is starting to seem like Inception: The Erotic Chapter.

Melinda: Sounds kinky. ;)

Joe: Maybe we can cross-brand sometime in the future. A DuChamp/Daniels collaboration. But we'd have to specify it is Summer Daniels, not Jack Daniels...

But getting back on track, here.

Summer Daniels has a new free app, and everyone who likes romance and erotica should download it. You'll also like her Summer's Journey stories. 

And if you like my writing, and have never read my erotica, give it a try and let me know what you think.

If you don't like it, it's my collaborator's fault. :)