Welcome to another interview with a member of the Furry Writers’ Guild! Before we get started we’re obviously discussing things that are NSFW today as we discuss erotica writing so readers be advised.
At the Furry Writers’ Guild, we’re not afraid of adult writing. Erotica can sell well anywhere, especially within the fandom, with some of our biggest anthologies produced every year being erotic in nature. However, not everyone is experienced in writing such spicy stories and might not know where to start or if they should at all.
While writing adult stories isn’t for everyone, we have some wonderful insights from those who may want to try from FWG member Gre7g Luterman. Gre7g recently won a 2019 Cóyotl Award for “Fair Trade” which is a safe for work novel set in the Hayven Celestia Universe. Today however, we sat down with Gre7g to discuss writing his debut erotic novel “Long Way Home” to discuss his adventures in the adult writing space.
Enough introductions, let’s get to the interview!
FWG: Let’s start at the beginning, tell the guild a little about yourself in case readers don’t know you.
Gre7g: All right. My name is Gre7g Luterman. I started writing in the late 70s. For a little while in the 90’s I was known for running a website called “The Temple of Luna” (I was huge into werewolves back then!) and then I made a chat site called “Wolfhome” which was popular in the early 2000s. Back in the 90’s, I wrote a novella that was moderately popular called “Ley Lines” and I wrote my first novel, “Monstrous Motives”. It was awful. I ran a couple writing contests out of the Temple.
Then in the mid-2000s, I wrote a serial novel called “Brick and Mortar” for the World of Warcraft fandom. In ’09, I moved to Alabama and wrote a trilogy of books based on Rick Griffin’s short story, “Ten Thousand Miles Up”.
The trilogy was really well received in the fandom and just recently, the third book in the trilogy, “Fair Trade”, was the first story to win all three of the fandom’s awards, the Ursa Major, the Coyotl, and the Leo Literary Award. I also wrote a SciFi murder mystery and an erotica in the same universe, and I helped Rick edit an anthology of short stories from various authors in the same universe.
FWG: Long Way Home was your first erotic novel correct? What inspired you to take the leap into writing erotic fiction when your previous works were all safe for work?
Gre7g: Well, I have written some erotic short stories previously. “Long Way Home” was just the first novel-length story.
So, anyhow, a couple years ago, my wife and I went out drinking in Chattanooga. I got very drunk and—those who have seen me drink at cons can verify—I’m a really loud drunk. So there I am, in this restaurant, boohoo-ing at the top of my lungs about how much effort I put into my stories, but no one ever gives them a chance because they’re not porn.
And Ky—who is eternally unphased by anything—just says, “So, write a porno.”
Then I spent like the next hour shouting about, “Okay, I will!” But I really didn’t want to do one of the “You’re not the usual pizza delivery guy!” Pornos that are so common in the fandom. I wanted the story to come first, to write a real adventure… that just happens to have a lot of graphic sex in it.
FWG: We’ve all heard “sex sells”. It’s a common message especially across the furry fandom that you ‘need’ to write erotica to get noticed. Seeing as how this was partially your motivation to write the novel be honest, has it sold better than your other books?
Gre7g: Yup. It has proven to be my best-seller. Not a real shocker, but a confirmation. But even before I wrote it, I had always told people that my evil plan to get a readership was to write a bunch of non-porn stories that I was super proud of, and THEN to write an erotica.
My thinking was that readers would be all, “Ooh, furry porn!” pick it up, love it, and then say, “What else has he written?” and then without even realizing that the others weren’t porn, they’d scoop them up and I’d sucker them into reading something more substantial.
FWG: In general has that been an effective strategy you might suggest to other authors who normally might not want to write erotic fiction?
Gre7g: It’s still a little early to say if that plan has worked out. Like I said, “Long Way Home” continues to be my best seller. But it can’t hurt, right?
What I do feel confident in saying is that there’s an old adage that everyone has a million bad words in them. Until you get those out of the way, you can’t get to all the good words to follow. So keep writing no matter what. Even if everyone hates the stories you’re writing now, it may just be that you’re still working through the bad words to get to the good ones.
FWG: So onto marketing the book itself, you’ve said Long Way Home is “too hot for amazon”. Is this just a marketing ploy or is there a story behind this? In general, what changes in marketing do you have to make when promoting Long Way Home instead of your other works?
Gre7g: Well, so there’s a funny thing about illustrations in erotic novels—they all tend to show what happens RIGHT BEFORE you get to the good stuff. You might see a furry undressing, or a butt, maybe the back of a boob, but certainly not the main event. Though, if you look at what gets posted on Twitter feeds and popular furry sites, it’s obvious what the fans really want to see.
So, when it came time for the illustrations, I asked Ky for the good stuff, the best moment of each erotic scene. Well, long story short, it turns out there’s a reason why erotica is illustrated the way it is. The text can be incredibly graphic, but as soon as the illustrations are too dirty, Amazon won’t sell it.
They, actually, sounded quite pissed in their e-mails. They locked my account, made me promise to never do it again, threatened to watch anything else I submitted to them with ADDITIONAL SCRUTINY.
Anyhow, I definitely didn’t want to waste all of Ky’s amazing artwork, so I decided not to change the art, not to add censor bars or anything, to have the books printed privately, and sell them through my website (https://gre7g.com/). True, I’m now missing out on Amazon’s amazing reach and how they cross-promote books, but oh well, the book remains intact and available for people to buy.
FWG: Independently selling your books isn’t a new thing for you by any means. Before the pandemic, you used to attend a lot of southeastern conventions. With so many publishers and distributors at those conventions, why did you choose to sell at your own booth? Are there advantages to doing so authors should be aware of?
Gre7g: Well, what I’ve found is that it’s nightmarishly hard to break into writing! It seems like there’s only a handful of authors with name recognition whose books will sell whether people have heard good things about them or not. The rest of us are left to squabble over the few readers who are willing to try an unknown. And INSIDE the fandom, instead of a handful of authors, it’s more like two.
If a book says “Ursula Vernon” or “Kyell Gold” on the cover for example, then it’s sure to sell great, but for anyone else, the book has to be actively promoted before it will sell.
Like you said, there’s a lot of publishers and book distributors going to cons that you can sell your books through, but if a dealer’s got books from two dozen different authors, how much is he going to promote yours? Will he even have read it?
Besides, conventions are one of the few times I EVER get to talk to readers and other aspiring authors. I love giving talks on the craft and blathering on to anyone who stops by my table. And I love getting feedback from fans. I want to know what worked and what didn’t so I can make my next story perfect.
Sadly, you don’t get a lot of feedback as a published author. Readers are moderately quick to leave comments on stories posted online, but as soon as it’s a printed book or an e-book, a lot more people read them than actually tell you what they thought!
FWG: So this is a way to get some reviews in a specific way, things like if your cover design is doing well, your sales pitch is solid, things like that?
Gre7g: No, it’s not anything quite so formal. The biggest thing about writing is finding a way to keep motivated. Writing a novel is a little like being a radio DJ. You’re out there, giving it your best shot, but your audience is way far away. You can’t hear them laugh, no matter how hilarious a joke you tell.
Same thing. I can write a book that brings the audience to tears, brings them to their feet and they cheer, but will I hear it? No. So, I’m just sitting there in my basement, typing away. I get a royalty check from Amazon every month, but does anyone actually like the stories? Why am I even doing this?
But you go to a con and there’s one single fan who runs up to the table all tongue-tied that wants to tell me about how much they love the story, and NOW I want to run home and write more. Yeah, sure, sometimes people will put that love out in an Amazon review, but it’s not even nearly the same as talking to someone in person. That recharges your batteries and makes you want to do it again.
FWG: You recently started a Patreon, how has that been going? Has it had a similar effect of allowing you to connect more directly with fans?
Gre7g: Yes! I love Patreon! You can find me at https://www.patreon.com/gre7g and I get that same feedback high there in spades! Initially, I was afraid to try it because I didn’t want to put myself in a position where I owed the subscribers stuff, but now that I’ve taken the plunge, instead of waiting to finish an entire novel, got it edited, illustrated, and published, I can just dash together a crazy idea for a scene and toss it up.
It can even be in a totally different universe or something strictly NON-canon, and that’s okay. I’m not breaking a rule of our universe because it’s just for fun and not published. Sometimes the readers love it and sometimes they don’t, but I get that feedback right away. I even let them suggest things that they’d like to see happen and I write that.
Oh sure, now I’m writing on a dozen different storylines and it could be ages before one turns into a completed book, but I’m having fun and I think my Patrons are too.
FWG: Especially as we’re discussing erotica a bit today, are you worried about how Patreon has been locking certain accounts of adult content posted not only on Patreon, but on other websites?
Gre7g: Yeah, that is frustrating! It doesn’t directly impact me since there’s often ways around it. If I, for example, write an erotic scene that I want to share with my readers, I can still make a Patreon post and include a link to my own website where I can host whatever I like. Then Patreon is still faultless and I’m taking responsibility for my own content.
But I’m not just a producer. I’m a consumer too. I love seeing things that creative make, regardless of whether it is G rated or X. I don’t want to see some politician or some investor impose an agenda that dries up the content I would have otherwise enjoyed.
FWG: So for our readers, especially as many are authors themselves, do you have any tips for any that want to try writing something on the erotic side for the first time? Anything to offer from your own experiences trying this as something newer?
Gre7g: Well, I suppose my advice would be to find an avenue where you can get that instant feedback, like I have on Patreon or that other authors are getting by posting their stuff on AO3, SoFurry, or the like. Whenever you’re going to try something new, get that feedback nice and early. Don’t worry about hiding it away so that people will have to buy it when it’s ready.
The worst thing that could happen is that you invest the zillion hours to write a whole novel and then for it to not sell because you’ve gone off in a direction that the readers aren’t into.
That was always a huge fear of mine when I first started writing, that someone would steal my story, or that they wouldn’t buy it because they’ve already read it for free on the internet. But money isn’t the end-all-be-all and there’s always more readers out there. Your priority as a writer is to keep that motivation going so that you enjoy creating and so that you keep creating.
FWG: That about wraps up the general discussion, do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to tell folks about? Anything in general you want to promote?
Gre7g: I don’t actually know what my next book will be at this point! I’ve got about a third of a murder mystery written and a chunk of a new Kanti book and various chapters of other stories.
I’m excited about all of them and I love how readers seem excited but I’m still kinda poking at each to see which will catch fire. You know that wonderful sensation when a book catches fire and you can’t wait to finish work each day so you can spend a few hours giving it some love?
None of them are quite there just yet, but when one does, I’ll be on it. For those that want to keep an eye on my progress, Patreon is 100% the best way to do it. Not only can you see what I’m messing with for a measly $1/month, but you can suggest and give me feedback on what you think too. I love talking about it and anything that helps me connect to the readers (or other authors) is great.
We want to thank Gre7g once again for sitting down to talk with us. You can find him on Twitter and his works on his website. We hope this interview helped provide some insights on writing and marketing your erotic works. Until next time, may your words flow like water.