Monday, January 4, 2016

SM Johnson ~ Love Letters ~ Gearing up for Zach's Dungeon tale, with a dose of gratitude

So I was reading a sad and ungrateful letter of goodbye from an indie author, making an exit from the cruel, saturated-with-erotica indie publishing world... a prolific author, might I add, who has saturated the market with over 70 "books" since 2012, and isn't being paid his or her just rewards for all of this heavy-duty "work." I mean, if E.L. James can become a millionaire with just three books, why can't I? I know - E.L. James was a freakish fluke, right? Yeah. And don't forget the Twilight woman. That was a fluke, too. And JK Rowling. Total fluke.

As far as I'm aware, none of the above wrote and published 70 "books" in three years.

Oh. Why do I keep putting the word "book" in quotation marks? Just because it has a cover, a blurb, and a price tag, a book it does not make. 55 pages without a beginning, middle, and an end, or a plot and story arc that builds somewhat logically between the beginning and the end cannot be called a book. It is a cheat, a strategy to make money from readers.

Publishing 20 or more such works a year? A blatant chase after a dollar, and this does not an author make. This makes one-dimensional characters. Stories without plot. Wooden, ridiculous, cheesy-sounding dialogue. And whether a slew of 5-star reviews are solicited or outright faked, readers won't be fooled for long.

No wonder this person is disillusioned.

E.L. James is no wordsmith. Gods. Ack. Terrible, terrible writing. But she wove a good story and the market, the readers, responded to that. They forgave her Anastasia's stupidity. Stephanie Meyers - same deal. Bella is the lamest doormat female main character in the history of literature, I swear, (admittedly in my own opinion) and her writing was only slightly better than terrible, at least as far as I remember the first book, but she DID manage the art of storytelling. And that matters. Do I dare criticize Rowling? Oh yes, I do. The first two HP books were amazing, but each subsequent book was far, far too long. Does anyone recall how absolutely fucking NOTHING EVER HAPPENED the whole first term every year, except for Harry whining about various things? Every single one of them could have been cut by 100 pages, if not twice that. But she had a gift for language, writing, and telling an engrossing story.

And why did I choose these three writers to pick on? Because they wrote their stories quickly. It's not necessarily agonizing over every word that makes a so-so writer or story-teller into a great one. But it is spending a rather long and detailed time working on ONE COMPLETE STORY that transforms a mediocre writer into a better one - one that has a chance to be successful.

Calling yourself an author and shoving 20 or more pieces of fluffy, half-assed, first draft crap into the indie market every year and expecting to make a great living as a writer - that's a mistake. These are exactly the people saturating the market, the writers who are forcing readers to pay for the privilege of wading through the slush pile. These are the writers who exhaust readers, and convince them to turn back to traditional publishing houses for their next purchase. Let someone else go through the slush pile this time around.

I think...

This is the best moment in my lifetime to be an author.

I started writing the first draft of DeVante's Children in 1991, finished it in 2001, and got my first publishing contract in 2009. It never sold all that well, and I took my rights back and re-wrote it and re-published it just last year. The novel may be dear to my heart, but it's not my best-seller, and may never be. Often a first book just never does all that well. But it's okay. I have other books to write.

Do you think in all that time I didn't want to give up? Do you think I was never disheartened by how slim my chances of making it were? There was no "Indie Publishing", no Smashwords, no Kindle, no self-publishing to Amazon. I sent queries to countless editors and publishing houses and received rejections letters, or worse, no response at all. I wrote. Re-wrote. Wrote a second vampire book. Wrote a book called Assassin Jaxx that I may never fix up enough to publish.

I still have gratitude.

I have gratitude for the published authors who were kind to me and encouraged me along the way, and gratitude for Torquere Press and Rebel-Satori Press, the two publishers who took a chance on me and my work, and through whom I learned about editing and publishing. I have gratitude for Mark Coker and the Smashwords Styleguide, for teaching me how to format a Word document for e-publishing. Gratitude for all the people who helped me learn graphic design along the way - because that is not one of my talents, I promise you.

But I hold the VERY MOST AND HIGHEST REGARD for the readers who buy my books every day, every month. My goal is and always will be to sell one book a day. If I am selling one book per day, I call that success.

I've been writing novels and stories since 1991.

I have six published novels. Above the Dungeon. Out of the Dungeon. Three in the Dungeon. Dare in the Dungeon. DeVante's Children (revamped), and Jeremiah Quick.

The Dungeon novels and related short, The Story of Hawk and boy, are my best-sellers, every month. Four novels and one short story. And one of those novels is free, everywhere, all the time. So that's actually 3 novels and one short story that make up the bulk of my writing income.

No 70+ title backlist for me. I'm just not that prolific. I'm kind of picky about my published work, actually. I want story. I want backstory. I want full-fledged real-people sorts of characters. I want a beginning, a middle, and an end. I don't always create a perfect, happily ever after kind of ending, but I don't promise to. I like to leave things open, I want you to continue the story in your head, at least for awhile.

So let's get down to the nitty gritty. Let's talk about the money, because isn't that what everybody really wants to know?

I make, on average, enough money from my writing to pay the cable bill. Including the fancy, expensive movie channels, the wifi, and three extra cable boxes. It's probably a bigger bill than you think it would be.

I make that month in and month out, without new releases, without promotion, with no effort on my part whatsoever, except that I took the time to write some pretty freaking decent books. Some months I make a little more than that, and that's really fun, but I don't count on it. To tell you the truth, I don't count on any of it. Mostly I write for my own pleasure. I wrote for a long time with little hope of publishing, ever.

If I were chasing dollars, I'd write more faster, but this is what I know - I can't write more faster. My books come at a certain pace, and if I try to rush that pace, I write crap books. I tried out a serial called The King and the Conquered - lunch time bites - I figured I'd write them fast, slam them out, charge a buck a piece or a buck-fifty, make some quick dollars.

A couple of less-than-glowing reviews later I realized this was a fuck-over for my readers. I don't write serials. I write novels.

So be it.

The next Dungeon novel is coming, I promise. I've got a good start on it. This is Zach's story, and I know a lot of what happens, but with grad school being my primary focus, it's going to take some time. Usually I get a fair bit of a rough draft completed in November's novel writing challenge, but this past November I had way too many school projects and papers coming due, and no chance to write fiction. Dare in the Dungeon was released in Sept of 2014, and this is getting to be a long time to wait for the next book, but all I can do is ask for patience.

In the meantime... any ideas as to what the heck I should title this one? If you do, leave a comment, cuz I got nothing so far. My working title is The New Dungeon (because Roman's Club is under new management and experiencing a membership revival) but I'm not particularly in love with that as an actual title. We'll see a good bit of Zach and Thomas and Dare in this book, and there might be an actual love interest for Dare's obnoxious cousin, Maddox-call-me-Doc. Can you imagine? And OF COURSE we'll be visiting Jeff and Roman (wink)... or perhaps they'll come to visit New York? Hmm.... and, as much as it pains me to ever leave anyone out, Vanessa and the baby will be pretty-much off-screen.

One of the difficulties I have with writing the series is that I always want to catch up with everybody, and that tends to get either lengthy and tedious, or pulls in too many points of view to make a nice, cohesive story (which is one reason I will choose to keep Vanessa off-screen, these are M/M books, and Van is out of place). So here's another question I'd be delighted to hear from you guys about... which points of view do you love or hate? Do you prefer to read BDSM scenes from the Dominant's point of view, or the submissive's? I'll tell you up front - there's going to be a fair amount from Zach and from Doc (does Doc worry you? Heh. Trust, I'm going to surprise you all again, and I think you'll like it). Do you like to hear from Roman, or from Jeff? Or a bit of both? Remember - Jeff is the only first person point of view in the series, and oddly enough, I can't write Jeff in 3rd, he always has to stick out in 1st person, even though it's strange. And hmm.... have we ever had a Thomas POV?

Now it's way past my bedtime. Goodnight my Darklings. Sleep tight.


  1. First, I have to say that your Dungeon series books are the most erotic stories I've ever read and I've digested a lot of fairly hot items through my Kindle app over the past year or so. None of these has compared to the over the top raw sexual hunger I feel after reading certain passages detailing the inner and outer tumultuous sexual interactions of your characters. It doesn't matter that most of the action is about gay men and I'm a bisexual and submissive woman - it's just sizzling hot. So many thanks from both me and my husband who sings your praises from his position on Top. I especially appreciate the detailed portrayal of the BDSM lifestyle because being somewhat new to it makes it challenging to know where to start. Your stories had me setting up a Fetlife account almost immediately and having a better clue where to look for training tips for me and my D.
    Ok, as to the new story, it sounds like another winner already considering the continued intrigues of Dare/Zach/Thomas and Roman/Jeff - will they find a new sub to play with? I'll miss Van, but any time you add a baby to an adult story, it kind of ruins a lot of the eroticism. Parents already know that because they're probably reading to escape from their own kid realities. I really enjoy reading both the submissive and the Dominant POV as it gives a more complete understanding of the intricacies of this type of relationship. Loved how you included Jeff's book excerpts as part of the narrative - especially when he was helping Van by reading to her. The trio relationships added another dimension to the potential for hotness because there were more than just the standard two person POV. Having a 3rd, especially with the dynamics of the Roman/Jeff/Jason, Van/Roman/Jeff, and Dare/Zach/Thomas trios, added so much more because most of us fantasize about these types of scenarios, but can never seem to find an appropriate third.
    Regarding titling your new work, I humbly offer the following suggestions based on your description:

    Dungeon Reclaimed
    Dungeon Reborn
    Dungeon Revived
    Dungeon Returned
    Dungeon Restored
    Dungeon Regrouped
    Dungeon Renewed

    Please keep writing your wonderfully inspiring stories that send our pulses racing and have our souls yearning to experience life vicariously through your kinky brain's offerings.


  2. Whoa! Thanks for the awesome feedback! I am tickled pink. And will definitely peek back when I'm working on a title for the new book! You totally rocked my socks!