My Unexpected Side Hustle: How One YA Author Began Writing Erotica

 
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Lauren's day job was merely the means to an end—financing her dreams of a glittering career as a young adult author. Except, one thing lead to another and now she writes (very adult) erotica for cash.

Not to sound like a hipster, but I really did like young adult (YA) fiction before it was cool. I devoured every detail of proms gone wrong and first kisses gone right. I still do. But soon, reading YA wasn’t enough.

One morning, I woke up and wrote a short story about teenagers in a summer theater production of Cinderella, which eventually became a novel. I rewrote and revised it multiple times. Eventually, I took a deep breath and pitched it to agents (a necessary step if you want major publishers to see your work), sure that I was a breath away from the New York Times Bestseller list.

I got rejected. Over and over. No agent for me.

Undaunted, I wrote two more novels. The third, a story of what happens to a reality-TV family after cancellation (this was in the Jon & Kate Plus 8 years) got me thisclose to agency representation multiple times. When that didn’t pan out, a small publisher wanted to make it a series – until she changed her mind.  

Discouraged and working a shitty day job to pay for writing classes, I took advantage of National Novel Writing Month to pen a new first draft: a quiet story about teenage stepsiblings adjusting to life apart after their fathers’ separation. Over the next five years, I worked away on what I considered a passion project, sure that no agent want something so unmarketable. I was very wrong.

After years of rejection, I received two agent offers in the same week. The one I signed with absolutely loved the manuscript and suggested some great edits. I just knew I was on my way to a book deal. A year later, my agent went on permanent hiatus from the business.

The book never sold.

Burned out on teen angst, my career as a YA author going nowhere fast, I took a class on Writing Sex. (Really, that’s what it was called.)

I was a fan of romance and erotica, and admired how the best-written sex scenes could evoke a lot of…feelings, in the reader. I ended up penning a little piece I loved, about an amorous couple taking advantage of an empty park on Thanksgiving. That wasn’t my first erotic story, though.

Long ago, I’d written about two horny coworkers who couldn’t keep their hands off each other. This story was inspired by a real-life experience, but aside from entering it in a contest, I never tried get it published.

I mean, there was no real market for short-form smut, right? Wrong.

Earlier this year, I found out that a new website, based in Canada and geared toward women, was looking for writers of short, erotic fiction. What the hell, I thought, and sent along the only two erotic stories I’d ever written. A week later, I heard back: they wanted the coworker story. They also wanted two more, and they’d pay me. A few weeks later, I sold the Thanksgiving story to BUST Magazine, to appear as the bimonthly “One-Handed Read.”

After years of writing about angsty teens, I was writing sex and getting paid. And then the biggest shock of all happened: remember my YA book? The one that didn’t sell?

It sold.

I’ll backtrack: when my agent left the business, I began submitting the novel to small publishing houses that didn’t require agency representation. Understandably, they get a lot more submissions, so it takes months to a year to get a response, if you hear back at all. On a random morning in March, a tiny publishing house offered me a contract for my quiet little story about teenage ex-stepsiblings.

But before I signed the contract, I hesitated. I was an erotica writer now. Did I want a teen novel I first wrote seven years ago out there? Yes, I fucking did.

Though I still have a day job, writing erotica has become a very nice, very unexpected side hustle. Just as I learned in Writing Sex, crafting a good love scene is tough – and now I do it every few weeks. I have to revise and edit quickly, working with my editor on tight deadlines. In the meantime, I’m approving cover art and working with another editor on my young adult novel.

Now I’m straddling the line (heh) between erotic and YA fiction. (Never combining the two, of course!) At this point I’m not sure where my career will go – many authors write fiction for adults and teens. As always, balancing this side hustle with a day job is challenging, to say the least. But I’m making a part of my income creating. And really, what can be better than that?

Words: Lauren Emily
Photo: Stocksy