Fancy becoming a digital bestselling author on Kindle by writing erotica?
In this digital age, more than half of the adult population in the United States uses an e-Reader to access books and literature. And the most popular of these devices is, you guess it, the Kindle.
With romance and erotica topping the Kindle charts and producing an estimated annual turnover in excess of $1.44 billion, there’s money where there’s muck!
We wanted to find out how to get a slice of this very lucrative pie, which brings us to this guide – all about how to sell erotica on Kindle.
Selling Erotica on Amazon’s Kindle Store
Originally launched in 1995, Amazon has grown way beyond its roots as an online book retailer.
Yet, although you can now buy everything on their platform from groceries to sex toys, they are still one of the biggest and most popular places for audiences to buy their next reads.
In 2019, The New York Times reported that Amazon controlled at least 50% of the book distribution industry in the United States but most publishers believe that this figure is more like 70-80%!
Whilst some of this market share is related to the traditional distribution of paperbacks and hardbacks, they also account for a huge percentage of all ebook sales.
Again, a 2019 report suggests that this was in the region of 47%!
It’s little wonder then that there are so many authors competing to get a slice of this action. There are no official reports about how many book titles are available to buy on Kindle these days but estimates vary from 3 to 45 million!
And Kindle is where most of this volume comes from.
With authors able to self-publish using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform, pretty much anyone can upload a manuscript and list it for sale on the site.
Erotica is just one of thousands of genres available to buy in but remains one of the top performing categories for Amazon (Romance and Erotica).
Covering everything from mainstream titles like E L James’s Fifty Shades of Grey to epic and erotic historical adventures, sexy urban thrillers and hardcore horror fetish, there is something for every taste.
How Much Money Can You Make Selling Erotica on Kindle?
Amazon generates an annual net revenue of around $380 billion dollars with around 67% of this coming from product sales.
Books are thought to represent around 9% of this turnover and this (roughly) means that Amazon sells around $22 billion of books every year.
So, what kind of slice of the action can this mean for you?
Authors on Amazon earn money through royalties paid out by their publisher or (if they are self-published) through KDP.
The percentage you receive on each book sale depends on what deal you’ve struck or opted into.
There are two royalty systems available on Amazon; one which pays 35% and one which pays 70%.
Which one you choose is very much down to you and your preferences for marketing as well as distribution and price.
But let’s say that you opt in for the lower scheme and price a book up at $2.99.
This means that for every purchase made, you receive a royalty of $1.05.
“Bestsellers” are often deemed to be so when they generate 3,000 – 5,000 in sales which means that if you are able to maximize your publicity and generate real interest in a title then you could achieve income of around $3,000 to $5,000 per month.
Sales do eventually fall off but the beauty of Kindle is that your titles can be downloaded forever meaning you can continue to make a small residual income for every book you have in your name.
Of course, the majority of us might not be able to produce a continual stream of bestsellers but a steady supply of high quality erotic fiction can produce results which are just as good as, if not better than, having just ONE big selling title.
Imagine publishing one or two books a month and earning a small but regular passive income from their sales for life. Each new title you add just grows your collection and increases your earning potential.
Thousands of sellers on Kindle have done exactly this and can now quit their day jobs and fall back on a career as an erotic fiction writer.
The bottom line is that the amount you can earn on Kindle is limited only by the amount of quality content that you can produce. If you only publish one book then you could expect to make anything from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars over a year.
Multiply that up to several titles and you can see that, very quickly, your earnings could sky-rocket!
So, how do you go about getting started?
How to Sell Erotica on Kindle
We’ve already published a guide on how to write erotic fiction for money so we won’t go into huge detail here but, just to cover some of the basics, these are some great tips to get you started:
Know Your Market
Research is essential for any new business venture and selling erotic on Kindle is no different.
If you want to be shifting more books than your competitors then you need to know what the playing field looks like.
We’d suggest spending some time browsing through all of the categories on the Kindle erotica marketplace.
Check out what’s selling well in each genre and make some notes about:
- What keywords the author has used in their product title.
- What keywords the author has used in their product description.
- How the cover has been designed.
- What pen name the author has used.
- What price they are charging for their content.
- How long the book is.
Get Familiar with the Genre
It’s worth purchasing as many titles as you can to get a feel for what works well and, more importantly, what doesn’t.
If you have Kindle Unlimited then this doesn’t have to cost a fortune as a monthly subscription fee of $9.99 means you can read as much as you like from over 2 million titles!
Also take advantage of the many free erotica sites where you can get inspired by other authors.
Hone Your Craft
Once you’ve done some research, the next step is to start writing.
Few people are talented enough to churn out a bestseller on their first attempt so be patience and keep practising. The skill with writing literature is all in your planning and editing.
Though the bestselling erotica authors on Kindle can churn out several new titles a month, they all admit that the first few publications can take a while to get right.
There’s plenty of help on the internet about how to hone your skills as an erotica author but the essential ingredients for successful erotica are the same as any other genre. You need engaging characters, an interesting story and some crackling dialogue. And the rest is all about those sex scenes.
You can find some tips on how to best do this in our guide to writing erotica.
Of course, you don’t actually have to write the content yourself……!
If you find that your erotic prose is more silly than sexy then maybe you should consider hiring a ghost writer
You can find freelancers available to hire through popular gig sites like Fiverr, Guru and PeoplePerHour.
You’ll have to pay for their time but the content they produce is owned by you and you receive all the royalties of what you publish. If you maximise the sales of each book then you should be able to generate a very decent return on your initial investment.
The beauty of commissioning erotica rather than writing it yourself is that you can be a lot more prolific. And across a wide range of genres too.
There are some very successful ‘writers’ on Kindle who produce very little (if any) of their own content and are (to some extent) simply running their own little self-publishing empire.
Think about it.
Let’s say you engage the services of half a dozen freelance writers, each producing two titles per month in a different genre.
This gives you 144 books a year covering multiple sales channels and offering a huge collection of titles for repeat customers to choose from.
In the short term, you will be looking a pretty sizable initial investment but these 144 books will be earning you a regular passive income for years to come.
All you have to do is schedule when these are published to keep generating interest in your ‘brand’.
Picking Pen Names
Publishing erotic content under a different name is important for a lot of people, particularly if they want to protect their identity. It’s not everyone’s dream to be known by family and friends as the next E L James!
So using a pen name is perfectly fine and could actually help boost your sales.
Firstly, research suggests that female readers (and they account for a massive proportion of customers on Kindle) prefer to buy books written by men. Don’t ask us why but the stats speak for themselves.
Choosing a male sounding pen name or at least using initials could therefore increase your sales.
Secondly, your choice of pen name might also influence people’s choices and reassured them about your credentials.
Consider whether you’d be more likely to buy a book on BDSM if it was authored by someone called Penny Dream or someone called Luther Black.
Lastly, Amazon lets you publish your content using as many pen names as you like so don’t be afraid to try a few out. Some erotica authors on Kindle use different pen names for each of their niches whilst others prefer to build up one huge library of content under the same name.
Doing the latter does make it easy to bundle your books and sell them as collections (see below). Plus, it’s a lot easier to promote just one ‘author’ than it is to manage the social media of a dozen!
However, if you are diversifying your content a lot then having so many genres under your author page could put some customers off.
Our advice would be to publish content from the same primary genre under one pen name; so, any LGBT content would be under one author, fetish material under another… you get the picture.
Find Your Niche
Erotic fiction covers just as diverse a selection of sub-genres as any other literature and pornography and, within this category on Amazon, you can find the most popular being:
- Action & Adventure
- Black & African American
- Mystery & Thrillers
- Science Fiction
Even within these sub-genres you can find more specific and targeted fiction with, say, the paranormal genre extending to shapeshifters, werewolves, vampires, ghosts and demons.
Readers of erotic fiction are just as diverse as any other kind of readers so the trick is to write for a specific audience.
Don’t just churn out a sexy contemporary story as a catch-all book. Instead, think about who you are writing for.
Becoming known for a specific niche can get you a lot of repeat customers so if you find a formula that works well then explore it as much as you can.
On the other hand, being TOO niche does limit the size of your potential readership.
Don’t Be Afraid to Diversify
Despite the advantages of working in a niche sub-genre, there are also benefits to diversifying your output.
The main reason for doing this is that it protects your income streams from any changes in trending fashion.
Let’s take vampire fiction for example.
Back in 2008 when Twilight was published, these bloodsucking heroes were the hottest characters to have in your book. And although there is still plenty of mileage left in the genre, they are no longer the ‘silver bullet’ of erotic fiction.
By diversifying the genres of your published material, you won’t find 100% of your sales falling just because something falls out of fashion.
It pays to have your finger in a few pies plus it gives YOU some variety in what you are writing about.
Take some time to have a look at the Author pages of the bestselling titles on Amazon’s Kindle marketplace for erotic titles and note how most of them have carefully considered their ‘Brand’.
The top earners on Kindle understand the power of repeat custom and if a reader enjoys one of your books then the chances are that they will buy another.
The caveat to this is that they will only do so if they think they are going to get more of the same kind of content.
This means designing book covers (see below) which are similar in style, choosing titles which resonate with the themes of the book and ensuring that each publication has the same high standards.
One bad book in your name can generate a lot of negative reviews and leave a stain on your online presence.
Self-Publishing Erotica Using Kindle Direct Publishing
Though some authors are lucky enough to pick up a traditional publishing deal and have their books sold in multiple formats (including Kindle), it doesn’t matter if you aren’t.
In fact, it’s estimated that around 85% of books on Amazon’s Kindle Store are self-published.
And the beauty of Kindle is that they make it super easy for amateurs to get their content listed on Amazon.
Kindle Direct Publishing is the online self-publishing platform that you use to upload your content and get this found in the Kindle Store.
If you already have an Amazon account then you can sign in using your existing login details but signing up for a new membership is pretty easy.
In addition to your personal details you’ll need to update some financial information which will enable you to start receiving royalties on your book sales.
This includes your bank details and tax information.
The software gives you an easy-to-follow wizard which covers every step of publishing from generating a free ISBN to pricing your book.
The Power of the Cover Design
We’ve all heard the adage that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but we all still do it.
The power of a good image is worth more than a thousand words and it is worth investing in software like Photoshop or Canva so you can nail your cover image.
Go back to your initial research and check out the best-selling titles in your chosen subgenres. Importantly, look at the cover images and see what unifies them.
We’ll bet that most look very professional and use strong but saucy photographic images with bold fonts.
Since the success of Fifty Shades of Grey many erotica authors still use those smokey tones with the occasional splash of color to really make their covers pop.
If you don’t know how to achieve a professional finish to your covers then you can find plenty of tutorials online or you can always hit up a freelancer for help.
Fiverr, UpWork, Guru and PeoplePerHour are all great sites to find graphic artists who can design you a cover for a small fee.
Just make sure that your cover art doesn’t contravene any of KDP’s guidelines; sexy and suggestive images are fine but any hardcore depictions of sex will likely see your book listing suspended and you may lose your account over it.
KDP does have a standard cover creator in its software but the results of using this are pretty basic.
Formatting Your Work
Moving into the technical side of things for a moment, it’s important that you learn how to format your content before you upload it to KDP.
Whilst e-Readers adjust the font size and page numbers to suit individuals, there is an accepted format to the way your text should be submitted.
Trust us when we say that this step is vital to get right.
Readers who have difficulty in navigating an eBook will be unlikely to buy another title from the same author and may end up leaving negative reviews.
Don’t spoil your chances of selling great erotic fiction by ignoring these basics!
Fortunately, there are plenty of help files available on KDP on formatting your manuscript which includes advice on:
- Creating a table of contents.
- Formatting chapter titles.
- Adding page breaks.
- Inserting hyperlinks
- Using paragraph indentations and line spacing
How to Use Keywords to Boost Sales
KDP allows you to use up to 7 keywords that best describe your book for readers and make your content more discoverable!
These should be words, or short phrases, that aren’t already included in your Book Title.
The best and most useful keywords are those which describe the:
- Plot themes (coming of age, grief, ambition, prejudice etc.)
- Character types (cheerleader, werewolf, gold-digger etc.)
- Character roles (strong female lead, wild child, bored housewife etc.)
- Story tone (feel-good, dystopian future, alternative history etc.)
- Setting (Urban city, jungle, Victorian London etc.)
Writing Bestselling Book Descriptions
The description of your book might seem like a simple enough way to communicate the contents of your erotica to your readers.
But this is actually the most important part of the sales process.
Whilst your keywords just capture that initial interest in specific areas and your cover design has made them choose your thumbnail, the description is where you make the sale.
It should, of course, be well-written and informative enough to pique your reader’s interest.
It also needs to assure them that the content they’ll be buying is going to be high quality. This means that you need to make sure there are no errors or spelling mistakes.
You get 4,000 characters of space to use here and we’d recommend using this section as fully as possible.
Just like a blurb, your description should give some basic plot summary as well as information about characters.
You can also include an enticing paragraph from the book and if you have won any awards then shout about them here.
Pricing Your Erotica
You have complete control of what you charge readers for downloading your book and KDP lets you price a publication from $0.99 to $200.
However, you first have to decide whether you want to receive 35% or 70% royalties on your book sales.
It may sound like a no-brainer and why wouldn’t you want the higher of the two but bear with us.
To get 70% royalties, you need to price your book between $2.99 and $9.99. You will receive the higher rate for any book sales made in the US, Canada, UK, Australia and some parts of Europe but you will have to pay for the file delivery. This is charged at $0.15 per MB.
You also have to opt-in to the Kindle Book Lending program to qualify for this higher rate.
How much to price your books for on Kindle is a subject for a lot of discussion and there is no set rule on what works best, only what works best for you.
However, the general rule of thumb is that the cheapest books don’t always get the best sales and customers recognize that a high quality read should be costing them between $2.99 and $4.99.
You can change the price of your book at any time as well as use discounts to promote sales so we’d recommend monitoring sales at different price points to see what is working best.
The Power of Bundles
Everyone loves a bargain and this is just as true on platforms like Kindle as it is anywhere else.
Bundles are just a collection of books or short stories and are a great way to generate an increase in sales.
Make your bundle an attractive prospect and price it accordingly. But don’t go overboard! Selling 30 erotic books for a dollar can undervalue your content and may actually put more people off than attract them.
Marketing and Self Promotion
Though we’ve saved the promotion and marketing for last, it’s far from being the least important part of successfully selling erotica on Kindle.
You can’t simply upload your manuscript on KDP and sit back to wait for the money to coming flooding in.
Think back to the Facts we introduced this guide with and remember just how many millions of books you’re competing with.
The bottom line is that to shift more copies of your erotic books on Kindle you’re going to have to do some of the legwork.
The first aspects of self-promotion is to make sure your books have the best chance of being found and if you’ve used the right keywords and written a great description then you’re already half way there. Remember that tweaking these as you go is worth doing and if sales of a book start to slow down (or don’t pick up at all) then make some changes!
Getting the basics within KDP right is all well and good but if you want to boost sales to the next level then you need to take the bull by the horns and start getting the word out about your erotic fiction.
The best way to do this is on social media.
Start by creating an ‘author profile’ online and publicize the hell out of your own content.
You can do this a number of ways including:
- Joining suitable reading groups and book clubs .
- Collaborating with other erotica authors.
- Get in touch with podcasters covering this genre and consider doing an interview.
- Engage with fans on social media and keep those conversations going.
KDP itself also offers ways to help boost the visibility of your book and you can run a price promotion or ad campaign to reach more readers.
Simply offering one of your books for free for a limited period could see your overall audience increase massively.
Or consider paying for leads and create an advertisement.
Just set up a budget and who you want to target and Amazon does the rest. For every lead the ad generates you pay a small fee but, done well, you could see a great return on your investment.
The Power of Patience
On a final note, it goes without saying that although selling erotica on Kindle can definitely make you a lot of money, it isn’t a ‘get rich quick’ scheme.
Making good money on Amazon through Kindle sales can take time so patience is key.
Whilst you wait for your books to get discovered and start selling, use this time to crack on with producing more content and honing your craft.
Some people will tell you not to become obsessed with your sales and though we’d agree that constantly checking your reports to see how money you are making isn’t productive, being smart with your marketing is.
After the first month or so, do check your downloads data and try making a few tweaks to your listing.
Maybe consider a change of cover art or some brand new keywords. Whatever you do, make a note of your adjustments and compare these with your next reports to see what works for you.
You can use this insight to give your next title the best chance of success.
Good luck with your writing, we hope to be reading you soon on Kindle!