Email: rachelkramerbussel at


Lusty Lady

Watch my first and favorite book trailer for Spanked: Red-Cheeked Erotica. Get Spanked in print and ebook

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

August is for innovation, or escaping the scary freelance financial life cycle

August has been flying by, faster than I'd like, especially because on Friday I'll be heading off for 9 days and am not quite ready. This is my month for two big new projects that are both exciting and a little panic-inducing: prepping my first self-published anthology (a reprint/expansion of 2007's Sex and Candy, whites now out of print), and preparing the launch of my first new set of online classes. I was going to say "self-hosted" online classes, but that's not strictly true; I'll be doing them through Teachable, which is a whole learning curve unto itself. I want to start with three classes, so that's a whole lot of writing and video content to create.

Both are a lot of work for zero money upfront; in fact, the anthology will cost me at least $2,000, and that's just for author and copyeditor payments, not the actual costs involved of getting it online. The Teachable classes has required me to buy a microphone and likely will require dozens of hours of my time, but doesn't cost anything to upload; they take a small percentage of course fees. I'm doing these things not just so I can "feel like a businesswoman," but so I can slowly wean myself from the gross, needy, helpless feeling that being a freelancer produces in me. Everything I do requires someone's approval in order for me to get paid: with my books, it's my publisher's approval and then, of course, readers' approval; if nobody buys my books, I make nothing (I get a small advance on each anthology but almost all, and sometimes more than that advance, gets paid to authors and copyeditors and also my assistant, who helps me with promotion). With freelance writing, whether my pitches are accepted or not is at editors' whims, then whether I get paid in a timely manner or not remains to be seen. Those are stress-inducing situations, where from one month to the next I don't really know how much cash I'll have on hand. Sure, right now I have a weekly copywriting job, but as a freelancer, that could end at any second.

So I chose August as my month to set these new projects into motion. My goal is to release the self-published book in September and hopefully launch the first of my classes then too, and add some more in the new year. Meanwhile, I'm also reading everything I can about marketing and trying to learn how to get my books and audiobooks into the hands of new readers and listeners. I'm trying to think like a beginner because there's really no point in pumping out anthologies if the sales are stagnant, if I'm not reaching new readers, if I'm not innovating. I don't want my forties to go by and just feel like I repeated my thirties ad nauseam professionally, and even more, I don't want my forties, as I inch ever closer to retirement, to go by and not have stacked up a good amount of savings. Obviously, both these projects are gambles, albeit small stakes ones. I could invest my money and time in them and they could bomb, hard. But I don't think they will. Rose Caraway is going to be recording the audiobook of the Sex and Candy reprint, and her audiobooks earn me more in royalties than my print and ebook titles. I trust that her podcast listeners will enjoy these sweet and luscious stories. And I've asked some of the alumni of my classes if they'd be interested in the first few topics I'm planning, and they are.

I even have a cool new fishnet stockings logo I'll be sharing here soon (if you want to see it first, subscribe to my newsletter). I'm excited, but being your own boss takes a great dose of vision and belief in yourself, and I don't possess that every day. Yesterday I got really down on myself, wondering what the hell I'm doing, whether I'm in over my head technically, whether it's worth it or if I should just stay with what I know. I keep returning the realization, though, that I want to try something new, even if it fails, because either way I'll learn. Both of these new systems will mean I'll see sales data in real time, which will enable me to change things like book covers and prices as needed. That's the part I'm most excited about: feeling in charge, rather than passively waiting around, fingers crossed (or more like, nails being bitten to shreds). I'll be sharing more about these projects as they get closer to completion, but for right now, this month I'm in the thick of learning and exploring and trying to take a little bit of control in such an unpredictable career path.

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Friday, August 04, 2017

Hot erotica by women at Refinery29

I'm still catching up on life after last weekend's whirlwind 48 hours in New Orleans for a bachelorette party. This is my first day back at my home office, where I'm working on my first self-published anthology and my new set of online classes, so I wanted to share some sexy story links you may not have seen (or maybe you have; I've published many of these authors in my anthologies or will be publishing them soon). I've included the book or story title and author name; you can click through to see original artwork and read a hot excerpt. Last year, Refinery29 asked me to gather hot erotica by women and they've been rolling those sexy stories out over time. Here are the links to all of them, and if they intrigue you, I encourage you to check out the books they're from and more of each author's works (there are links to the specific titles and the author websites there). I'm seeing one broken link which I will update as soon as it's resolved. Happy reading!

Goodbye Paradise by Sarina Bowen

Hold Me Down by Sara Taylor Woods

A Gentleman in the Street by Alisha Rai

"Scissoring" by Annabeth Leong in Inked: Sexy Tales of Tattoo Erotica edited by Anna Sky

Untouchable by Elizabeth SaFleur

"Arielle" by Lana Fox from Cathedral of Furs: Ardent Erotica Inspired by Anaïs Nin

Bollywood and the Beast by Suleikha Snyder

"Tell Me a Secret" by Leandra Vane from A Bloom in Cursive

The Siren and the Sword (Magic University Book 1) by Cecilia Tan

The Boss by Abigail Barnette

S.E.C.R.E.T. Shared by L. Marie Adeline

The Virgin by Tiffany Reisz

To Italy with Love by Fiona Zedde

The Unicorn by Delphine Dryden

"Appetizer" by Sommer Marsden from The Sexy Librarian’s Big Book of Erotica edited by Rose Caraway

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Tuesday, August 01, 2017

My Cleis Press erotica anthology deadlines are coming up soon (October 1 and November 1)

Here's another reminder that the deadlines to submit short stories to my two Cleis Press erotica anthologies, Erotic Teasers and Best Women's Erotica of the Year, Volume 4, are coming up fast, on October 1 and November 1, 2017, respectively. I encourage you to take your time, as entries that are sexy, diverse and grammatically perfect stand the best chances, though all that arrive by the deadline and meet the guidelines will be considered. This month I'm preparing to self-publish my first book and to launch some classes, and I want those to be all done by October 1 so I can start editing the teaser book. Good luck!

3 months to submit BWE4

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

My two paying calls for submissions and why perfect grammar is so important

If you want to head directly to my two Cleis Press calls for submissions, visit Erotic Teasers (October 1, 2017 deadline, pays $100/story) and Best Women's Erotica of the Year, Volume 4 (November 1, 2017 deadline, pays $200/story).

I'm looking forward to October and November, when I'll be selecting the stories I want to include in those manuscripts (then my publisher has final approval, which can take several months; see my post about the timing of the publishing process here), doing so earlier than I have in the past so I can put every ounce of my creative energy into promoting my back-to-back releases, Best Women's Erotica of the Year, Volume 3 and The Big Book of Submission, Volume 2. Having two books come out in two months is not for the faint of heart, and to be honest, I'm not sure if I can handle it, and most of my time and money will have to go into BWE because that's the more popular type of book, but I will do my best to make both big sellers because I owe that to myself, my business, my publisher and my authors.

Right now I'm doing my second least favorite task that comes with the job of anthology editing: copyedits. Even though a large part of my 7.5 year full time magazine editing job involved copyediting, and I do a lot of it in my current copywriting job, being in charge of the words of other authors' is not a responsibility I take lightly. I live in fear that one of their edits won't make it into the final book, and I will look like the worst editor who ever lived. Okay, that's hyperbole, but I have an all or nothing brain and if that were to happen, no matter how proud I am of the rest of my book, I would feel awful, because once a book's in print, it's in stores and that's it.

So I've actually been dragging my feet on putting together the edits of the copyeditor I hired (something I wish I'd done for all my books and well worth every penny) and the ones my authors sent me. Then my publisher incorporates those edits into the manuscript before galleys and final books get printed.

The part about me being beyond nervous is my own issue to deal with, though trust me, if I ever quit anthology editing, I will not miss waking up in a panic with worry about this, or holding my breath when I send books out to authors, hoping their story has come out perfect.

That brings me to my calls listed above and why they're so detailed. Some of that is because I often receive an influx of stories that are similar either in setup or subject, which means I can't use them all in my books, because the two biggest things I provide to my readers is variety and sexiness. That's not something I can predict when writing a call, so I try to emphasize creativity and uniqueness.

But what I do emphasize in my calls, or at least, what I hope I impress upon those who might submit, is the importance of perfect grammar and proofreading. You might think, But Rachel, aren't you going to edit the story, and then two copyeditors as well? Yes, I am and they are, but here's the thing: If a story comes in that is riddled with grammatical errors, that vastly increases the likelihood that out of the four people proofing it (author, anthology editor and two copyeditors), someone will miss some of them. Who loses out? Well, everyone. The reader, first and foremost, because they will be distracted when reading your story. I know this as a reader who got distracted several times recently reading a novel I otherwise enjoyed. My publisher will lose out because their reputation will go down in the eyes of that reader. I will lose out for the same reason, and that directly impacts my income and potential opportunities to edit more books. And it impacts the author, because I don't think anyone out there wants their name next to words that are less than the very best they can be.

So while I accept complete and total responsibility for any errors that wind up in my final books, I do tend to gravitate toward submissions whose writing I enjoy that are grammatically correct and typo free, because I know that they will improve the quality of my anthology. Also, the above is the process with my anthologies, but if you are submitting your work other places, or self-publishing, there may be fewer people going over your words, so the onus is on you to make them readable. Ultimately, that's, to my mind, the whole point of grammar: to make words more readable, to make them flow better, to make the reader's job easier so they can enjoy the story more. Now I must return to doing that very thing, and then crossing my fingers and hoping with all my might that I've done my job well.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Why Tuesday is my favorite day of the week

Today is Tuesday, which to me is my favorite day of the weekend, although I love weekends too, because it's payday. Since starting my part time copywriting job last June, which I go to three days a week, I've welcomed the change of going from chasing down checks that may or may not arrive on time to doing that but also getting paid every single week for the work I've done the week prior. I'd bet money (ha!) that having a steady paycheck has contributed greatly to my mental health, because I know that as long as I show up to work, I'll have that check, and can better plan when I will pay rent and bills.

From what I can tell so far this year, my book royalties will be the biggest source of my gross income, with my copywriting job the second, but the big difference is my royalties arrive four times a year and are utterly unpredictable. They've ranged from the very low thousands to over $17,000 and I have no way of predicting quarter to quarter what they will be, so I can't rely on them. That being said, I should receive my royalty statement for Q1 2017 next week and I already have a list of what I will pay for with it, including some to my retirement fund, some to debt, some to key purchases and some investing back into my biggest literary moneymaker, the Best Women's Erotica of the Year series.

This year, as I've become fanatical about bookkeeping and started truly analyzing the cost of each dollar I earn, I've realized how wasteful I was of both my time and money in my younger days. Projects like interviews for Gothamist, some of which I am still inordinately proud of, didn't pay. Others, like In The Flesh Reading Series, sometimes broke even and sometimes didn't. A wiser person would have parlayed that reading series into a book deal and/or a sponsorship. I didn't, which contributed to its demise when I felt like I was taking advantage of myself. I sometimes wonder, what could I have done with all that creative organizing energy that would have been sustainable in the long term? I don't think of it in a regretful way but more in a how can I apply this to my work life now? way.

This month I've been busy with promoting my latest Cleis Press anthology, On Fire: Erotic Romance Stories, finalizing the table of contents for the self-published rerelease of Sex and Candy and some freelance writing, and starting next week/month, I will be planning the first of many online courses I plan to teach, organized around my consulting and teaching site, EroticaWriting101. All of those projects and whatever happens after them are part of my strategy to stay relevant in the job market. I'll also be making a copywriting portfolio page and learning more about SEO and Amazon keywords. It's a lot to juggle, but I feel good about taking a proactive stance. I'm writing an essay about how I'm paying off a large amount of debt and while I'm not proud of having the debt I'm excited that I can see the light at the end of that damning tunnel and eager to get started on projects that have the potential to yield income for many years to come. Still, as long as they will have me, I'm grateful for my job, which is teaching me a whole new world and style of writing and outlook on the world, and giving me that Tuesday morning payday to look forward to. I am ready to make new mistakes (because I'm sure I will), but at least I won't be sitting around waiting for things like I did in my twenties and thirties, when I never asked for a better job title or advocated for a raise or anything else that would advance my earning potential. Now I realize that I have the power to at least try new endeavors, measure their success and go from there.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

On Fire: Erotic Romance Stories is out today!

Happy release day to me and my authors! I'll keep this short and sweet: today, the ebook of On Fire: Erotic Romance Stories is out! You can 1-click and download it right now for Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Google Play and Kobo.

On Fire Is Out Now!

Want to read the introduction? Visit the On Fire Tumblr. I'm so thrilled that these super sexy stories about couples having erotic adventures, from BDSM and fetishes to swinging and orgies and anniversary celebrations and so much more, are available to the world. This book was three years in the making, due to my own delays, so I'm extra excited. It's also On Fire Week over at group blog Lady Smut so check us out for daily posts related to the themes of the book. Thank you again to Cleis Press for being amazing to work with! And if you want the audiobook or print edition, just wait a little is coming soon, narrated by Rose Caraway, and the print book publishes officially on August 8th but Amazon told me my copy will arrive by July 31st. And if you've read the book or plan to read it, a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads is MUCH appreciated and helps readers find out about the book and helps me fulfill my commitment to my authors to get their stories before as many people as possible. Good, bad, or indifferent, reviews help; right now there are three on Amazon, two praiseworthy, one who hated it, and to be honest, the one that didn't like it is the most compelling because it has details about what they liked and what they didn't. So all opinions are welcome and valuable and help guide me for future anthologies.

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Monday, July 17, 2017

What it's like to work on three books at once

The past week has been especially busy, with my mind and to do list pulled in many directions. Firstly, I've been helping my boyfriend promote and prepare for the play he's directing, which will be performed this Thursday, Friday and Saturday in Princeton, New Jersey. I don't know the first thing about theater except that I enjoy going as an audience member, but I know a few things about event promotion based on my five years of In The Flesh reading hosting and assorted book event organizing. Getting Instagram photos to show up in Blogger is not my strong suit, so if you can't see the image below, it's also here - evidence of my adventures in poster hanging (my takeaway: bring a stapler, not tape, next time).

So I've put up posters in Princeton, posted on the Chimera Productions Facebook page and Instagram account and helped make some goodie bags. I love that I'm part of an artistic couple and am happy to help out where I can.


At the same time, I've been working on three anthologies simultaneously, and that's quite a mental challenge to keep track of what stage each one is in, attend to the seemingly umpteen emails and tasks associated with each, and not go into ultra panic mode. My anthology On Fire: Erotic Romance Stories publishes tomorrow, and as part of my efforts to reinvent my book promotion efforts, I've done a few new things. It will be listed soon on Netgalley, which is exciting for me because it has the potential to reach so many more book bloggers and reviewers that way, and I've done some outreach but would like to do more. It will also be On Fire week over at Lady Smut so stay tuned for related posts, including one from me Wednesday on the backstory of why this book took three years to come out (spoiler alert: I messed up) and a sexy excerpt.

At the same time, I'm diving in to self-publishing by reissuing my 2007 anthology Sex & Candy with a super hot new cover, new title and a few new stories. For that I had to contact all the original authors, some of whom had changed email addresses so the email bounced back to me, some of whom have updated their bios and bylines. I also solicited a few new stories so that the book isn't entirely a reprint of the first. The original was print only; the new edition will be ebook and audiobook only. So far I've only worked on the words part. Next it will go to the authors to look over for typos or grammatical errors, then I will send it to my amazing copyeditor, who is helping save my books from being horrifically riddled with grammar issues. Then...I'm not exactly sure because I've only self-published one short story and my then assistant did the hard part. So I'll have a learning curve in terms of formatting it for Kindle and possibly other retailers. Then Rose Caraway will be recording the audiobook. I'm hoping to have the ebook out by September, so stay tuned.


Along with all of that, I'm in full-fledged marketing mode for the book that will probably outsell the other two a few times over and therefore deserves the bulk of my attention, from a business/logical perspective: Best Women's Erotica of the Year, Volume 3. Since this is part of a long-running series, which started in the year 2000 with Best Women's Erotica edited by Marcy Sheiner, then moved on to titles with calendar years before I took it over and we switched to Volume numbers, bookstores seem to be more inclined to stock it. Volume 2 was in over 50 indie bookstores and my hope is that more will sign on for Volume 3. So what am I doing all these months before the publication date? I'm making a list of long lead media for my publisher, Cleis Press, to send early galleys to. I'm booking readings for 2018 before bookstores fill up. I'm researching bloggers to contact about the book. I'm brainstorming with my social media assistant about what we will do in the months leading up to the launch so I am not sobbing in agony over having too much to do right before. Basically, I'm trying to set in motion a successful book launch, because the better the book does out of the gate, the better the chances that Volume 4 will do well. My hope is that if the books continue to sell well, I'll be asked to edit more of them, but even if I'm not, I want to make sure all the time, effort and money (I don't have the exact figure handy but I've easily invested thousands of dollars in promoting the series) pays off. If it doesn't, then I will turn to other income sources, because I'm 41 so am thinking about if I have a kid, how I will support them, not to mention retirement.

On top of that, I'm trying to launch a new series of online classes, for which I have to write the lectures and video scrips and learn how to use my new Blue Yeti microphone. That's another project that I decided to do to try to reclaim a semblance of financial stability for myself, because even though I'm on track for my business to have a six figure year and surpass last year's income, that doesn't mean 2018 holds any such promise. So there's a lot on my mind as I navigate all these projects, and any day now I will get edits back for The Big Book of Submission, Volume 2, the book that's coming out one month after BWE of the Year 3, and will therefore add a fourth book to the mix. For that one I'll have to finagle 68 author contracts (there's 69 stories in the book, but mine is one of them), prepare marketing materials, and more. So there's a lot on my plate, but as I said above, there has to be, because I need to be firing on all cylinders in order to make this whole career thing work.

When I break it all down like I have here, it's overwhelming. The only way it isn't is if I do a little bit each day so I can assure myself when I go to sleep each night that I've done the very best I could to provide for myself and my family, to make my authors' work seen and read, and to do right by my publisher (where applicable). Just as I never know how long any given employment will last, I never know if I'm about to edit my final anthology or not. Many factors go into those decisions but ultimately it's a matter, for me, of supply and demand. That may sound cold and artificial, but it's more than just business for me. I only want to produce books that readers want to read, and only ways I have to measure that are via book sales and reader feedback. I'll write soon about the incredible notes I've received recently that buoyed my hopes and reminded me of the human faces behind the numbers on a royalty statement. Those are heartening and incredible, but as much as that's true, I can't turn in a lovely handwritten note to my landlord. Or I could, but they could still evict me if I don't pay the rent. So that's on my mind, not because I'm in danger of eviction, but because until I save up several months' worth of rent, not to mention pay off all my debts, I won't feel like I have any kind of financial stability. The way I see all these marketing efforts is that while there's only 24 hours in a day, I literally can't afford not to market the hell out of my books. So that's what I'm doing, while also promoting my authors, especially my Best Women's Erotica of the Year authors, on social media. At the same time, I'm also trying to get as many worldwide authors as possible to submit stories to my upcoming anthologies Erotic Teasers and BWE of the Year 4, which can sometimes be an uphill battle and stressful because 90% of people submit in the last week, but until that happens I often think, What if I have to cancel this book after I've accepted an advance because there's not enough author interested? So, you know, no pressure or anything.

If you've read this far, you are very kind (thank you!). If you're thinking, Rachel, I want to help you and your books succeed. What can I do?, here's my answer: If you've read it or plan to read it, leave a review of On Fire on Amazon starting July 18th, no matter where you acquired the book, and/or Goodreads, or mark it as "want to read" on Goodreads.

On fire review calls

Retweet when I Tweet about my books. Let someone know about my titles if they're asking about erotica. Ask your local library or bookstore to stock my books. Sign up to get a free copy of BWE of the Year 3 from me and leave a review. Lastly, you can think good thoughts (I know, that's super woo-woo, but I believe every little bit helps). It's certainly what I'm doing as I prepare to launch a new book into the world tomorrow.

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