Thursday, 30 November 2017

Writing and Sharing a Novel as a Partwork

In early November 2017 I completed work on my first erotic novel.  Best Friends with a Naked Girl tells the story of Lisa and Becky, two characters I used in a series of short stories when I first began writing erotica, who I have revisited and reworked for this novel.

From the outset I had decided that I wanted to make the novel available on platforms like Amazon Kindle and Smashwords, so that it can be read in its entirety (the full version will be published early January 2018).

But I was also conscious that I had an audience already for my work on the free erotic fiction site, the only place that I have published my work to date. 

Because I am not writing for profit (at this stage in my life I don't care if I never make a dime from these books, I just enjoy writing and having them read) I decided I would also make BFWANG (snappy acronym!) available in instalments on that site for site visitors to read for free.

The full novel will be published before the half-way point of the story on Literotica, so if you want to find out what happens and can't wait, well, you'll have to buy the book!  But I don't mind if people would rather read it for nothing online as long as they don't mind waiting for me to publish it.

Anyway, publishing a novel as a partwork on an erotic fiction website is not always straightforward.

BFWANG has 34 chapters (plus a prologue and epilogue).  It might seem logical to publish it one chapter at a time; but the problem with that is that if you only give the reader one chapter, you might well not be meeting their expectations for what erotic fiction on the site should contain.  A chapter in a novel may simply be setting the scene or moving the plot along, without containing anything especially sexy.  But the reader, in choosing to read your story, has a reasonable expectation that they will get something arousing at least by the end of reading (as well as probably some drama and character development).  In the parlance of porn, you need a "money shot".

I decided that as BF... is a story about exhibitionism, I needed to ensure that some exhibitionism took place in each part of the story I was uploading.  If I had a chapter which did not specifically contain one character getting naked and doing something they shouldn't be, I wouldn't publish that by itself, but would keep pairing it with the chapters before or after it until we had our "money shot".

I ended up making an Excel spreadsheet of all the chapters, highlighting in pink those where something sexy happened, and plotting out a publication schedule.  More by luck than design, with a few exceptions, things got sexy every couple of chapters, so my 36-chapter novel breaks down into 14 parts.

I decided to publish one part a week up until Christmas, and then resume publishing in January (as I doubt that traffic to the site will be high over Christmas week).

The first part, 'Becky's Secret', was published on 21 November, comprising the first four chapters.  And it performed well.  It has a rating of around 4.7 out of 5, enough to get it marked as 'Hot' under the site's rating system (anything over 4.5 gets a little red H next to it) and several positive reader reviews.

I published the second part, 'The Accomplice' on 28 November.  This part comprised only chapters 5 and 6.  This part has not fared so well with its audience.  Although it still scores fairly highly compared to other stories currently on the site (around 4.2-4.3) it isn't hitting the target quite as well.

So why might this be?  Well, for one, most people aren't going to read a story starting part way in.  The potential audience for part 1 is anyone reading the site.  The audience for part 2 is anyone reading the site, who has also read part 1.  So it could be that appreciative readers simply haven't found it yet.

But I think also I made a mistake in splitting the story where I did.  Part 1 is pretty sexy, as is part 3.  But part 2 is slightly less sexy, as it mostly involves some humorous stuff at Lisa's house.  There is exhibitionism there, but it's much tamer than in parts 1 and 3.

Looking back, the smarter thing would have been to pair parts 2 and 3 together.  The length was the only reason I didn't - I'd worried that it would be too long a story to appeal to casual readers.  But I think the lesson from this is that people will appreciate a long story where a lot more sexy, fun stuff happens, rather than a shorter piece if the shortening means less sexy stuff.

I've decided to publish part 3 much earlier, and to combine more of the chapters together.  Hopefully this will be a little less of a tease for the reader and more exciting to read.

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