The Amazon Subtitle Game

Before publishing The Best Man, I fiddled around with keywords. I searched Amazon using likely keywords for my short story, refining as I went along. The game is to try to find keywords that help more readers find your book.

Once it was published, I would search for The Best Man using a variety of search terms and criteria — keywords, title, or a combination of both. I know people won’t be searching my name as I’m practically a nonentity, so I didn’t bother with that.

Then I noticed what my story was missing in comparison to the rest of Amazon’s smut shelf. It didn’t have a very good subtitle.

The full title at the moment was The Best Man: Part I: The Bachelorette Party. While that’s a perfectly fine title and subtitle, it didn’t necessarily describe what the story was about. Readers skimming through lists of erotic novels and shorts on Amazon wouldn’t know what they were getting, and they’d have to click the link to the book for a more detailed description.

If you search for erotic novels on Amazon, you’ll see that many of them have included a subtitle to describe the plot, fetish, kink, or characters. Some are short and succinct, while others run on. There are also abbreviations that are code for certain types of stories: BBW = Big, Beautiful Women. BBC = Big Black Cock. “Taboo” is usually a marker for incest or pseudo-incest (PI) stories; “BWWM” means “Black Woman White Man,” etc. Anything with “taken,” “domination,” or “submission” in the title is probably — though not necessarily — code for dubcon.

The Best Man clearly needed a subtitle to stand out and to give readers a better idea about the story. The tale contains a couple of turn-ons that slot it into some specific erotica categories: cuckolding, interracial relationships, exhibitionism, and some mild dom/sub roleplaying stuff (though that part of the scene ended up being much more playful than anything).

So all or some of those had to end up in my subtitle somewhere.

Rather than go with a list of kinks, I decided instead to make the subtitle a short plot summary. It now reads on Amazon as The Best Man: Part I: The Bachelorette Party (Latina bride-to-be cuckolds her fiance)

I sold a book after the new subtitle went into effect, and a keyword search revealed The Best Man closer to the top of the results. I’m not sure how much that has to do with the subtitle change, but hey, I’ll take it.

I feel a bit awkward writing in a subtitle. I suppose that in a physical book store, people would pick something up and flip through it. Online, people want to know exactly what kind of smut they’re getting, and a mild spoiler in the subtitle helps sort the oodles and oodles of search results.

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So…why erotica?

I’ve often wondered what about writing erotica appeals to me. I mean, I don’t engage in the same sorts of activities or fetishes as the people in my writing. (Usually.)

Perhaps it’s because on the surface, writing erotica seems like it ought to be simple. Tab A, Slot B — profit. People have been having sex for so long it’s a wonder we haven’t run out of ideas for how to do it.

Because sex is such a common (though not universal) experience, I think that it’s easy for many people to find self-discovery in the act or enjoy fantasies of the act, whether it’s of the sex scenes or of the developing character and relationships that happen in the story via sex. The definition of erotica that I like best is “the exploration of the self through sex.” That same blog, the Escapades, defines porn as “the exploration of the physical body through sex,” and even though porn is porn, there’s still something worthwhile in that.

There’s also the writing challenge. How to make Tab A, Slot B new and interesting? They say all writing is rewriting — and when it comes to sex stories, that’s especially true. There is nothing new under the sun, and if it exists, chances are Rule 34 will apply.

But there is something new to be had in sex stories. Sex happens for most people, yes…But for each person, each time is a new, different experience.

I don’t have literary aspirations. But I think you can still strive to be good at writing when you’re writing porn. I happen to like writing, and I like the erotica genre for its endless variations on a very basic urge.