SPP 038 – Talking Dirty with Self-Published Erotica Author Lexi Maxxwell

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Well, this is the show we’ve been eagerly anticipating for weeks, wherein we talk all about sex, writing about sex, getting down and dirty, and Dave’s new nickname: “cum slut.”

DISCLAIMER: Although our show is normally kind of explicit, this show takes it to a whole new level. Today’s guest has an absolutely FILTHY mouth. Get the kids out of the room, okay?

ALSO: You should assume that all links in this post are at least somewhat NSFW.

Act 1: Lexi Maxxwell stalks us

Lexi Maxxwell — who, shockingly enough, we discovered uses a pen name — says she’s been listening to our podcast from the beginning. She’s taken all of our advice and has run with it, even going so far as to create a “Sean Platt style” marketing funnel.

So it wasn’t surprising that when we indicated that we really wanted to have an erotica author on following the worldwide phenomenon self-published dynamo 50 Shades of Grey, Lexi totally stalked Sean and pestered him until we 1) inspected her work and her promotion plan and found both awesome (unlike the TONS of shitty erotica out there) and then 2) agreed to have her on the show.

Act 2: Lexi stalks Tucker Max

Lexi really stepped up her pestering after our Tucker Max show. She had a hilarious idea involving Tucker that she needed to — and subsequently DID — clear with Tucker. Specifically, she wanted to write a story called “I Fucked Tucker Max.” We’ll obviously need to keep on top of this story and let you know what happens with it.

Act 3: Lexi makes our podcast even more NSFW than normal

We talked about everything on this show, and that talk was absolutely filthy. New words we debuted this week include “cum slut,” “cum whore,” and the concept of “being fucked hard against a wall.” To be fair, all of these phrases and concepts were always latent at SPP, but Lexi brought them right out into the open.

We talked about how to blend explicit sex with characters people actually will like and care about.

We talked about the spectrum of erotic writing, which goes all the way from scene-based, very explicit “written porn” to softer, more romantic writing using words like “mound” (which Lexi felt to was “not an accurate description.”)

We talked about different formats in erotica, ranging from gonzo-style short stories with “pornish” titles (of which Lexi has many; I was most amused by “Call of Booty: Modern Whorefare”) to longer, more-complete-and-not-100%-sexual works like her novel Bitten, which Lexi says will become a trilogy.

We talked about how to market erotica, and how it differs from other fiction. (Sean even critiqued Lexi’s marketing funnel, which looks EXACTLY like his own funnel for his kids’ project. He then ends up advising her to move to a slightly different funnel… that would look EXACTLY like what Sean and I are doing for Unicorn Western.)

We talked about women writing erotic vs. men, and Lexi mentioned her friend K.R. Gray, who IS a man. Dave was weirded out by the idea of reading a dude’s erotica… but I (Johnny) noticed afterward that not only does K.R. say that he writes with his wife, but also noted with amusement that he’s doing a fucking SERIAL called Filthy Dirty Normal — thus proving that there is apparently nothing out there that sex writers cannot and will not steal from Sean and Dave.

We talked about EVERYTHING. No holds barred here. And we had so much fun that we kind of want to have Lexi back for more.

NOTE: There is no YouTube video of this episode because Lexi needs to keep her identity secret.

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  1. Tl;dr version: You’re a bunch of lying bastards and I disagree. 🙂

    So I just started listening to this episode, and didn’t get to Lexi before I had to pop into the office. But I wanted to drop some remarks about your question from ZC Bolger and going to print. The kind of vibe I got was that you guys didn’t think going to print was worth it, and that the costs of doing so were much higher than any kind of return you could realistically expect to achieve. If anything, it was a prestige thing, a sort of “business card.”

    For hardcovers, and for most authors, I agree with you, and I know nothing about Lightning Source, so I can’t speak to that. I also think that you guys were mostly talking about getting your books INTO a physical store, but it came across that print in general just wasn’t worth it.

    I did want to mention that CreateSpace seems to be a very viable option for self-publishing to paperback, as long as you’re willing to sell those paperbacks online only. I put my first trilogy in print through CreateSpace. I formatted the manuscript myself, and wound up with a very high quality product. My costs for the two proofs I had to order were a total of $9.00. In the first week it went online, I sold three copies, with a royalty of $3.50 each. Boom, profit. Everything from here is a mark in the black.

    You also talked about the reasons for going to print at all. I’ll agree that for most people, it has no value other than a prestige thing. I know ZC and I know that he just wants to be able to hold his book in his hands, and specifically he wants it in hardcover. Yes, at some point a publisher will pick it up (I edited his book and it’s fucking AWESOME, so I have full faith in it) but for now, ZC just wants to be able to have the book available so people like me can put it on our bookshelves.

    But, I’d like to propose a second purpose for putting your books in print – again, specifically for paperbacks through CreateSpace. In my publishing, I am going Amazon all the way. All of my books are KDP select, and probably always will be. And if somebody can’t buy my book on Kindle, my response is, “Get the paperback.” Sorry, but I’m not going to go out of my way to re-publish for Nook, iBooks and whatnot, just to satisfy what is still a vast minority of people who read on those platforms. In terms of actual numbers, I’ve passed 3,500 downloads (both free and paid) and had only three requests for the trilogy for Nook. That’s less than 0.01%. (If I did my math right. Which I might not have, my coffee hasn’t kicked in yet).

    iBooks in particular seems completely pointless to me, because if you’ve got an iPad, just get the goddamn free Kindle app.

    But more generally, readers can’t expect me to lose all of the marketing power KDP select gives me just because they want my book on their Nook or Sony E-Reader. So, if they really want to read my books and just can’t figure out how to get them on Kindle (despite Kindle being available on every mobile device in the history of EVER) they can just get the paperback. To me, that’s a legit statement – at least legit enough that I’ve already given it to three readers and they didn’t have a problem with it.

  2. This was a great episode, guys. Well worth the wait.

    My boyfriend actually wrote erotica before we met. He had a nice little following. I’ve been encouraging him to actually start writing and selling it as books, I think he’d do really well. Under a pen name, of course.

    I have to agree with your discussion about the hypocritical/stigma concerning erotica. It’s not quite as bad as the stigma about porn, but it’s getting up there. I think it depends on what country/area you are in also since they have less problem showing nudity in other countries then they have showing violence. Lots of people think the USA is kind of backwards because of that. There is still a stigma about women who like sex in general.

    Yep, Johnny confessed he liked sex. I guess I will, too. Love sex. But Johnny’s confession, in most circles, will go over a lot easier then mine for the simple fact that I am female. Double standards suck.

    • Also, you can give away paperbacks to libraries, and as gifts a little easier then ebooks.

      I have also been considering getting paperbacks so that I can put some in local shops here in Seattle that specifically cater to local writers/creators. We have a “Made in Washington” store at the mall that only sells stuff made by Wa residents. There are also small bookstores in my area where people love buying books from new, local, authors.

      Got to think outside the box just a little more, guys.

      • (Opps, this was suppose to be a reply to Garrett’s comment.)

      • I don’t think J, S & D were unaware of these points, I just think they failed to mention them in anticipation of doing the ol’ back-and-forth with Lexi. So I felt the urge to spill my own load. These innuendos brought to you by Garrett Robinson.

        • I totally agree with what you both are saying. But honestly, with the amount of product I’m trying to get out there, it just makes more sense to me to move one product at a time to different platforms rather than devoting all of my time into getting something into print. I totally feel like in certain situations, the time and effort put into putting a book in print is totally warranted like the guys mentioned, but for right now, I’m more focused on getting people to love it and seriously fall in love with the characters. 🙂 XXX

          • I totally hear you, Lexi, and I could see how it wouldn’t be advantageous for you right now. That being said, it’s actually extremely fast to set up a print book. It took me all of a day to figure out, and now I’ve got a template for future work. If you were interested, I’d be more than happy to help you get Just Bitten into print, if for no other reason than so you could get a copy on your bookshelf.

          • I think you’re right. Self publishing print books would be more effective for those who only have one or two full length books a year.

            They style the guys, and you, follow wouldn’t work very well at all for print. Not unless you chose one or two of the full novels to put out in print, like S&J doing Unicorn Western.

            Erotica, though, works best on kindle where people can hide what they’re reading though.

  3. Just letting you know that we know the truth over here. Lexi could have just blacked out her screen to do a YouTube edition, but you guys didn’t want everyone to see how much you were blushing on top of the giggling. So yeah.

    But to be serious for a moment, it really shouldn’t surprise you that you’re inspiring people to get out there and use your model. Thanks again and always for sharing it so the rest of us have a guide to follow. 😀

    • LOL Heather! They weren’t blushing…. that much. 😉

      Honestly, I couldn’t have been more surprised when I found this podcast. Like you Heather, I was looking for direction on how to get started… then BOOM… here they are… giving away their model as if they’re on a parade float passing out candy. Hideously generous…. but they rock… and this shit works!

  4. Garrett – Thanks for the offer! That sounds awesome. Though I’m gonna ride this wave and see where it goes. If it hits the reef I’ll totally give you a shout!

  5. Brave show guys, and I’ll join Chrissy M above & Lexi as a woman who enjoys sex 🙂 I also read erotica and absolutely believe there is an important place for it in our culture. I think 50 Shades has opened up this world to many women, and long may erotica continue to get better 🙂

    I would like to ask a question though – it’s more about legacy and the body of work that we create over time. One of my problems with writing erotica is that the time I would spend doing that would take me away from writing what I want to put my name to.

    Johnny talks about doing more “epic shit” and in Seth’s Godin’s new book Icarus Deception he talks about the art we create and put into the world being the most important thing we do.
    I absolutely believe in making a living out of our writing, but do we compromise the epic art we could create by chasing the funnel of dollars?

    (asked with total respect for all you guys and as someone wrestling with these questions myself. You know I’m a fan!)

    • My personal opinion…

      I think you have to strike a balance of what speaks to you as an artist, and what your desire is for your bank account.

      On the extremes you have the guy, like Picasso, that painted what spoke to his heart, but died penniless. He is now one of the “masters” of that era. Then you have people who just churn our words/pictures/games for the sake of the bottom dollar. Zynga (the game company) is a perfect example. They bought up and created, or recreated other peoples work over and over. So much so that they started pissing off their customers and ended up loosing money in the end.

      There has to be a balance in your own life. I, personally, want to write for a living. I hate working for corporations, and making other people money. I hate having to leave my kids home alone (I’m a single mom) and mostly… I love writing. I want to make a living doing what I love.

      Now, if I never “make it”, who cares. I followed my heart, and my dreams. I wrote the damn book, and accomplishment in itself.

      But the balance, the perfect spot, IMHO, would be to write what you love in such a way that you can make it profitable.

      Also, I like to think when you find that perfect thing you should be writing, the one that really speaks to you, you’ll be able to tear through it in no time (which really works well for the models the guys lay out) much like Johnny and Fat Vampire. Or Lexi and her books, apparently.

      • Picasso died pennyless?

        Quote Wikipedia:
        “[…] By this time, Picasso had constructed a huge Gothic home, and could afford large villas in the south of France, such as Mas Notre-Dame-de-Vie on the outskirts of Mougins, and in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. He was an international celebrity, with often as much interest in his personal life as his art. […]”
        “[…] He was interred at the Chateau of Vauvenargues near Aix-en-Provence, a property he had acquired in 1958 and occupied with Jacqueline between 1959 and 1962. […]”

        You probably meant Van Gogh …

    • Fantastic question, Joanna!

      I think it’s a lot like Crissy said – you have to strike a balance. I don’t think it’s either/or. There’s nothing I write right now that I don’t love, and if I were to write the stuff Lexi writes, it’d be because I loved writing that as well… and a side bonus would be the income it brings.

      I feel the same way about structuring what we do in the way we do, with the funnel. Unicorn Western is FUCKING AWESOME. (I say this because I just finished the first draft of 3 and it’s SO cool!) When we’re done, it’ll be around a quarter million words of awesome. That doesn’t change regardless of how we split the books up and bundle them. I figure it’s in everyone’s best interest to do things in the way that makes the most money AND delivers the most value to the reader, because then everyone wins. If what I write doesn’t make me money, I can’t do it. I’d have to find shit that did make money, and stop writing. Or at least, stop writing as much.

      I seriously doubt that Lexi writes entirely for money, and I’d be the same. You write it because it’s awesome AND a compelling market. I mean, I used to write for HR magazines. It was writing, and it sucked. I did it because it made me good money, but I hated it. I suspect that fiction writing is like pizza — even fiction that’s done for money or “hard” or whatever is still awesome for the writer. And the more awesome and lucrative it is for the writer, the better the chance that it’s better for the reader.

      Does that make sense? I guess I’m saying that I don’t feel it’s either/or.

      Okay, now that I re-read your comment, I think I missed the point a little. The question is: legacy stuff vs. time spent writing stuff that may or may not be fun and may or may not make money. I’ll leave the above and answer that too.

      I think that it’s still legacy… just a different kind of legacy. We’ve talked to Lexi and know where she’s going with her stuff, and that direction is good fiction as well as material to get off to. She may not be putting her literal name to it, but that’s true of ME too, as everyone knows that “Johnny B. Truant” is a pseudonym. That doesn’t change the fact that *I* am creating this stuff and that the fact that it’s “Johnny” on the cover doesn’t change that. Same for Lexi, I think, even though it has to be more anonymous. Lexi has to become a character, but it’s still a body of work. And it IS changing lives! Just in a different way. She’s doing her part to help people be more open. I say yay to that.

      Awesome topic!

      • I don’t think it’s either or. I think your legacy is the difference you make. And if I believe what Lexi is saying, and I have no reason not to, she is leaving a larger imprint per reader than Dave or I am. I think that’s amazing. The key is, legacy dims its value when you aren’t writing to your muse. Lexi clearly is. Bitten was clearly loved as it was being written, and I’ve had a sneak peek at some of her upcoming catalogue. It’s terrific. But better than that, anyone who reads it can clearly feel the author enthusiasm. That’s a wonderful thing. I’m not involved with one thing right now that I don’t dearly love, or that I don’t feel is adding to my legacy. From what I understand about Lexi, she would say exactly the same thing.

    • Crap, I saw this comment and wanted to reply before J, S & D jumped on it, but I didn’t get to work in time. I was basically going to say what they were going to say. For Lexi, this IS her legacy. And she isn’t necessarily always going to need anonymity. If she becomes “Fifty Shades” successful, she can quit her job, write full time, we’ll get to see her face (if nothing else), etc. Maybe she’ll even re-publish her books under her real name, although it’s hard to imagine her real name could be as sexy as Lexi Maxxwell. Unless it’s Sexi Jaxxwell.

      As far as other people doing it (giggity) I don’t think that necessarily EVERYTHING you do as an artist has to be “legacy” work. If I were to write erotica (ooh! Fifty Shades of Non Zombie!) it would be a one-off thing that I would do for fun. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Every artist does that, to some degree. Even great masters only have a few masterpieces, but lots of work where they went out and experimented with style, tone and substance. Tolkien wrote a couple of kids’ stories that had nothing to do with Middle-Earth, just for fun. Picasso painted perfect, classical portraits of friends occasionally, just as a favor to them and because, as he put it, it was pleasant to return to his roots. We’ve never seen them because they weren’t what he was about.

      Lexi, on the other hand, is creating a legacy IN erotica. Her stuff isn’t about the bottom line at all (I’m doing the Sean thing and putting my words in her mouth [that’s not the only thing in her mouth ]) it’s about establishing a new standard for erotica. I got one of her books that was free on Amazon just to check it out, because I’m not generally an erotica reader, and I saw exactly what she was talking about in the podcast. She is trying to make a difference with her writing. It’s not the same difference I’m trying to make, or that you probably are. But she just happens to be trying to make that difference in a genre of writing which, currently, can yield some pretty significant returns to an author. I think it’s more luck on her part than a conscious cash grab.

      Basically, Lexi isn’t writing erotica instead of “epic shit” – Lexi’s erotica IS her “epic shit.” (And it is pretty damn epic).

    • Joanna,
      I love your question. I honestly think that to make your best art you have to speak what is within you. This genre is what I want to write most. Every day I look forward to the challenge of making things better than they were before, and improving my writing and catalogue with every single release. For the first year of publishing as Lexi, I was feeling it all out, finding my feet. This year, I am so excited by what is coming up! I have never been so energized by anything in my entire life.

      I believe that any type of art is about how it makes people feel. I absolutely LOVE how I make people feel. The emails that I get mean everything to me. I would be writing in this genre reguardless of the money and the funnel. My passion is here. I get to be told how I am bonding with readers in the most intimate ways, and am having a blast writing. Bitten, MILF, and Tucker Max stories were all some of the best adventures I’ve had as a writer and I’m just getting started!

      No one should write erotica if it doesn’t make them happy. But if it makes them happy then they should never feel as if their art is somehow less than it should be.

      • I think this is a great set of responses and something that perhaps you guys could allude to in the next podcast?
        This message was perhaps lost in the level of innuendo and the difficult topic to cover, but I think it is important. You mentioned the social and political aspects of the erotica debate, but the emphasis was more on money, and less on the art aspect of being an erotica writer, which clearly is important to Lexi and other (serious) erotica writers.
        Thanks guys, and Lexi, for tackling a topic that inspires some debate.

        • You’re totally right Joanna, and I do think it would be worth having Lexi on again to talk about just that. I know for me, funnels are actually part of the art. I love seeing that big picture, conceptualizing the pieces, then making it happen. So in terms of legacy I’m not always thinking, “What did I write?” so much as “What have I built?”

        • I write erotic male/male romance and trust me, no one knows my real name but I totally feel like this is my “legacy.” I wrote this stuff when it was just fan-fiction fun for me under another name. When I started rethinking the self-publishing thing (I chased a traditional deal back 16 years ago before I’d ever even heard of fan-fiction and then just said to hell with it all and started writing exclusively for fun), I tried to go back to mainstream genres, but I couldn’t. I want to make money, don’t get me wrong, but I have to write what I feel compelled to write or I can’t produce. I think the writers who do it just for the money do lose something in the translation. I don’t know that I’d believe someone having anything more than piddling success if they said they did write erotica or erotic fiction just for the money.

          • Have you tried self publishing it now? They have a whole section of it on amazon now.

  6. Great show. It was interesting to learn that despite the genre, the business works the same. I can’t imagine another podcast taking the time, on-air, to examine Lexi’s erotic funnel, but I am glad you did. Again, great show.

  7. Sean and Dave in the bath tub – you guys are taking this bromance thing to a whole new level ! I wonder what kind of stories spring from such a “think tank”.

    Anyways, fun episode. I laughed and learned a lot.
    I also wonder if this whole sexual erotica story telling is more controversial over at the States –
    because of all the puritan and religious background your ancestors established. In Western Europe / Germany / Berlin (where I’m from), it’s pretty sex-soaked where even our mayor is openly gay and married to his boyfriend. But still, people buy Shades of Grey like there’s no tomorrow here.
    I wonder if all this shame in the Western Word is mind-induced through our common Christian background, which of course is anti-sex in every possible way.

  8. Mars Dorian –

    I don’t really want to get on the religious topic because a lot of people are extremely emotional about what they believe and how they live – the only arguments I have ever gotten into that I feared would get physical are those that stemmed from religious discussions. I think that everyone has a right to their own way of thinking, that everyone should be entitled to believe what they believe and not be judged. Even though I am judged and would be heinously persecuted by certain people in my life if I was not covered behind the Lexi, I do my best to accept every lifestyle. Even those I don’t understand. My writing is about breaking the way of thinking that you have to be ashamed. About making people feel as if it is fantastic that they aren’t ashamed and don’t deny themselves – no matter what anyone else thinks!

    I had a blast doing this with the guys! So glad you enjoyed it! 🙂 XXX

  9. Great show, I did check out the 2 free books that Lexi wrote and I aggree very hot stuff BUT also a great read.

    So can we now have Fifty Shades of Rape Gangs please 🙂

  10. Could I interject a non episode specific question?

    Back in the funnel discussion, there was some talk from Sean and Dave about how they’d had something climb the Amazon charts and they thought it was due to Amazon e-mails until they got an E-mail from Amazon saying it wasn’t them. It was left that Amazon was looking into it.

    I was just wondering, was it, in fact, the large number of people poured into the funnel by the free run?


    • Sean and Dave would have to answer this one…

  11. Actually, another funnel question, if I may.

    From the discussion, it sounds like you want to have things at various prices, Free/.99, 2.99, 4.99, 9.99. I assume that the point isn’t to make a vociferous stand for those prices in particular, but to have a relatively gradual step from the lowest priced items to the highest priced items.

    What about the ratios of these items to each other. Imagine, for a moment, that your entire product line consisted of Unicorn Westerns and you have nine novellas at 2.99, three collections at 4.99, and the Omnibus at 9.99. Is that about the right ratio? Three of each lower priced item for each one of the higher? Would it be different for the lowest price items?

    • I don’t think the ratios matter. It’s more about making the bundles a clearly better and better deal. The $4.99 3-pack looks great compared to the 3 x $2.99 titles, and the $9.99 9-pack looks good compared even to 3 x $4.99. So I wouldn’t worry about ratio in the entire catalog, but in the funneling of product into better values.

  12. At this time I am going to do my breakfast, once having my breakfast coming again to read further news.

  13. Screw print. I won’t read Unicorn Western or The Beam until they come out on Audible. As for Lexy’s work… just purchased Bitten for my Kindle app.



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