Writing For Sex Markets
Many professional freelancers will go their entire career without ever once writing a story about sex. Oh, they may craft a racy scene or two in the course of writing the next Great American Novel, or they might someday write an article about the latest in sexual research, but that’s about as far as many writers will ever take the concept.
Then there are those freelancers who, for a variety of different reasons, have actually chosen to write (and publish) in the sex genre. Societal notions of perversity aside, these writers are of the same ilk as those who write about horses or gardening or education, it’s just that their subject matter is often more controversial. Still, the act of writing as a profession is the same no matter what the genre, although sex writing does require more of an open mind and is not, as a rule, for the more prudish among us.
But the basics – a bit of skill, a professional attitude, plenty of perseverance and a whole lot of research – are the same as for any genre.
Sex markets offer great opportunities for writers at all different levels of experience. For the fledgling writer there are many digest magazines that buy a lot of fairly well-written (but rather formulaic) stories. The pay for these pieces is, of course, lower than for other, higher-quality, markets but they do give the beginner a chance to earn money while honing his or her craft.
On the higher end of the scale are markets that demand excellence in plot structure and characterization. These magazines usually pay fairly well and are for writers who are experienced at more advanced techniques like dialogue, subtle humor and deftly nuanced characters.
In addition, the sub-classifications of the genre – letters, articles, stories and personal accounts – offer plenty of wiggle room when it comes to a writer’s ability and/or experience. Letters and essays are more of a train-of-thought process, and thus much easier for the beginner to write (and sell) than full-length stories or non-fiction.
This means that in sex markets, as in no other genre, a writer really can earn as she learns, starting at the lower paying markets and working her way up to the higher paying (and higher quality) fiction and non-fiction articles.
But don’t make the mistake of thinking that, because the level of “quality” varies, you can be more lax in presentation and attitude when submitting to sex markets. Most of these editors appreciate professionalism just as much as their mainstream counterparts. Writers wanting to break into this market need to make sure that manuscripts are presented professionally and that phone calls (or emails) are returned promptly.
There are, however, some markets that operate in a more “casual” fashion. While this can occasionally work in your favor – a query for an article, for example, can be as simple as a one-sentence email – it can also be frustrating. You’ll have to get used to the idea that not all of your submissions, queries and requests for guidelines will be acknowledged. Perseverance, so useful when writing in any genre, is even more of a requirement when writing for sex markets.
Another requirement is an exhaustive knowledge of your market and your audience. Sex markets tend to be even more specialized than mainstream markets; each magazine often targets a very specific personality as well as predilection. What this means is that in order to sell you have to do your research; you’ll need to study the magazine cover to cover and yes, that means the pictures, too. (Of course, some sex writers look at that as a perk of their profession rather than a hardship, but that’s another story.) It’s also imperative to request guidelines when possible because sex markets often are very specific as to style, point of view and word count; it’s important that you know exactly what they’re looking for before you submit.
Of course, the most important requirement when it comes to sex writing is that you enjoy doing it. It’s an excellent choice for those writers who relish a challenge as well as those who enjoy stretching their imagination. Yes, it’s a job, as is writing for mainstream markets, and it requires the utmost in professionalism and commitment.
But writing about sex is also a whole lot of fun. Getting paid to do it, well, that’s even better.
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