Erotica Writer turns Amazon Dreams into Reality
Sex sells. But when it comes to writing about it, far less publishing erotica on your own, you’ve got to have more than a steamy imagination.
One minute you’re writing lines like “His hands relieved me of my oversized t-shirt, releasing my ripe and ready breasts,” the next, you’re trying to figure out new markets, how to get published, and how to top Amazon’s charts.
For writer, Gaiven Clairmont, a Mathematics and Physics enthusiast, turned law student, being based in the Caribbean – Trinidad to be exact – meant actively finding a global market, while balancing student life in the tropics. But, the challenge of finding a following has been a turn-on.
He got his start in self-publishing in 2011, when he collaborated on two poetry collections – “Interludes Of The Heart” and “Erotic & Romantic Poetry” – and published a two-volume collection of erotic short stories – “Seductive Saints & Sensual Sinners”. A year later, he’s made promising strides.
At 27, Clairmont has managed to turn his love for poetry, which started in his teenage years, into a potential income earner. His recent e-book, “Reality, Dreams and Nightmares”, which was released in January 2012, broke into Amazon’s top ten list of erotica e-books in May, currently has 123 customer reviews, and has sold just over 1,000 copies (as of November 2012).
Kimberly is a pretty, but intelligent housewife, who, after feeling neglected constantly by her husband because of his commitment to his career, has a very passionate dream about his best friend, only to find out that what she dreamed actually happened. Horrified and feeling like her marriage is crashing to the floor, she battles with her guilt. Then come the lies, betrayals, twists and turns, as Kimberly realises that she may not be the only one in her twisted love triangle who is hiding and keeping secrets. Most of the reviews are positive, but I’ll leave it to you to check it out and see what you think.
I recently had a virtual sit-down with Gaiven, where we discussed his journey as an author, his thoughts on Erotica, as a legitimate reading genre in Trinidad and Tobago, and his future plans.
O: So…what made you venture into erotica?
Gaiven: It was an experiment I tried in June/July of 2010. I was still building a base for my writing, and I told myself, “Why not?” I started off with one erotic story and people were like wow, they really liked it. Then I started getting friend requests on Facebook, so I continued to research the genre some more. After that I put together a collection of erotic stories and poems in the latter parts of 2010 to 2011, posted more of my work on Facebook to get some readers, and then summer of last year I released my e-books on Amazon.
Erotica was really something I just fell into, and pursued only because I knew there was a market for it. The first thing I wanted to do was publish my books here, but finances kept me from doing that. Then I discovered Kindle Direct Publishing, and it allowed me to publish e-books at no cost. The problem was that kindles are not that popular in Trinidad and Tobago, so by force my initial market was the USA. So far, sales and reviews have been good; it could be better in my opinion. But now with the success of “Fifty Shades of Grey”, I’m hoping that when my novel comes out in paperback later this year, it’ll be well received by the public.
O: How has the reaction been from local crowds versus foreign crowds?
Gaiven: Locally, it’s not so good, but in the USA the response has been very encouraging, especially when I read the reviews. I’ve already sold over 1,000 copies, and the reviews average about 4 ? stars, hence the novel being so highly rated on Amazon right now.
O: You didn’t hesitate to incorporate pieces of Trinidad into the story. How important was this to you, as a Trinidadian? Gaiven: It was very important! I mean…I got some criticism from people who said it slowed down the pace a bit, but I felt I owed it to my country to highlight aspects of it, especially as the novel is set in Trinidad and Tobago.
O: Many would say, especially in Erotica, it’s unusual for men to effectively portray women’s point-of-view. How difficult was it for you to develop Kimberly, as a character?
Gaiven: To be honest, it wasn’t difficult to develop Kimberly’s character, because before I even embarked on writing my first novel, I wrote a lot of poetry from a woman’s point of view, just to practise tapping into their emotions. I have a fair amount of female friends and I drew from my conversations with them, how they see things and what they feel.
O: Based on how interest in the book and sales have been going, do you think you can make a living from writing alone? Gaiven: At this point in time, no. But I think once I continue to release new material and build up a fan base, I’ll definitely be able to earn a living off my writing.
O: Do you think that there’s money to be made with e-books, as a self-published author, with Amazon’s model?
Gaiven: Yes there is definitely money to be made in the e-book business. You just have to have the time to dedicate to it. As such, I don’t really have a social life, because when I’m not writing, I’m interacting with dozens of persons on Facebook and various book groups to get my work out there. Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.com are my primary marketing tools right now.
Even though I’m still new to it a bit (only about a year and a half in it), I’ve seen progress in meeting and getting people to read my work. So I know once I keep putting out more titles and interacting, I’ll get where I want to be in a couple more years.
O: Given that there’s no great cost attached to publishing e-books on Amazon, what do you think about the profitability of e-books in the long run? And, given the costs attached to print, why go down that road?
Gaiven: I think the profitability of e-books is there for everyone to see. The one caveat is writers getting into to it need to build a fan base, because with e-books being free and easy to publish, there’s some seriously stiff competition to get sales. So I’d suggest joining book groups, following blogs and just promoting yourself like crazy.
As far as print goes, I think it’s still pretty relevant in Trinidad and Tobago, because not everyone is tech savvy. At the same time, maybe as soon as a decade or so, print may just vanish. But for now, I’m willing to give it a try.
O: Any interest from publishing houses that have seen your work?
Gaiven: I haven’t sent my work to any publishing houses as yet; there aren’t any to really speak about in Trinidad and Tobago anyway. I am thinking about publishing in the USA, but I’ll have to get an agent first. It’s something I plan to look into by the end of the year.
O: For “Reality, Dreams and Nightmares”, did you draw reference to people in your life for the characters, or are they entirely your brainchild?
Gaiven: Yes, I did draw a few references. For example, I had an uncle who travelled a lot, but I didn’t really put any of his personality traits in the novel. Some of Christopher’s [Kimberly’s husband’s childhood friend who eventually became her lover] characteristics were taken from me in terms of my value system. But I’d have to say the majority of my characters came from my head.
O: How much of yourself would you say is in the book then?
Gaiven: I’d say a bit of me is in the book. I hold onto some of Christopher’s ideals for sure, like his respect for his best friend’s marriage and his innate desire to protect Kimberly, but not so many experiences, to be honest.
O: Name your favourite and least favourite things about writing.
Gaiven: My favourite thing would be when I write something very poetic or something that I know will resonate with readers. My least favourite would be when I can’t get in the mood to write, and I feel like time is slipping away and I’m going nowhere. Times like that I meditate on what I want to say and convey them, sometimes with help from Jay-Z, Kanye West, or Linkin Park. I just let the beat and lyrics take me to that poetic place, then I write.
O: And what does the future hold for your work – are you currently whipping up anything new?
Gaiven: At the moment I’m editing and neatening up an erotic short story and an inspirational anthology of quotes, poems and short stories. But I want to branch out into more inspirational and romantic work, sans the erotica. I want to write inspiring books, Paulo Coelho style, to bring the greatness we all possess to the fore. I’m looking forward to 2013 when I have out more e-books and thus can expand my base.
O: The e-publishing model shows that – though difficult – writers can make a way for themselves. For anyone thinking of becoming self published, what advice would you offer?
Gaiven: The advice I could give is this…you have to be willing to dedicate time not just to writing your book(s), but also dedicating time to promoting and interacting with potential readers. There are lots of book groups on Facebook, for example, which are platforms to help launch your book(s) to the masses. Plus, you can’t just promote in these groups. You also have to be active and interactive or they’ll just ignore your posts. You also have to make sure you have standards in check, your book is well edited, the cover is enticing and the book is good.
Then just invest your time. If you want something bad enough, you’re willing to sacrifice a lot to make your dreams come true. Mines are coming true slowly, but surely, and I believe that once I keep up my high work ethic, there’s nothing I can’t accomplish.
Portrait by Mark Lyndersay of Lyndersay Digital.