How to Be a Sex Writer

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
– Stephen King

Hey gang! Have you seen that I’m sharing Black Friday sex toy deals over on Twitter today? Follow the hashtag to get some bargains on some of my absolute favourite brands and products.

With that out of the way, let’s dive in to today’s post. I’ve had a lot of people ask me this. “Amy, how can I do what you do?” “How can I get paid to overshare on the internet?” “How can I get companies to send me products to review?”

So today I thought I’d share my tips on exactly that.

A Very Incomplete Guide to How to Be a Sex Writer

First, disclaimer: there’s no way this can be comprehensive. There are as many different ways into this strange but wonderful career as there are people doing it.

With that said, here are a few things to know if you want to be a sex writer.

First, you need to be able to write

Sounds obvious, right? But a lot of people think that, because we’re in the adult niche, sex writers don’t need to be good writers. Sorry, but you do. Stray typos are one thing, but mistakes all over the place make your writing look sloppy.

Good writers are those who are always learning and improving. In short, you become a writer by writing. So practice and practice and practice. But don’t think quality doesn’t matter just because you’re talking about sex. It does.

Pro tip: if you struggle with spelling or grammar, Grammarly Premium is a good investment.

You need to know a thing or two about sex

Again: obvious, no?

But seriously, so many people don’t realise just how much there is to know about sex. This leads to them thinking it’s an easy or frivolous topic, and putting out content that is anywhere from cringeworthy to downright dangerous.

You do not need to know everything! None of us know everything! But if your knowledge of sexuality doesn’t extend much past “tab A in slot B,” you might want to study up before you attempt to be a sex writer.

You need to be willing to be surprised

If there is one thing about sexuality that will always be true, it’s this: the world is infinitely varied. Part of being a good sex writer is about being able to stay open-minded, stay curious, and always be willing to be surprised.

I thought I was pretty well-versed in sexuality, including niche kinks of various stripes, when I started this blog. Turns out I’d barely scratched the surface. I still haven’t. That’s part of what makes this field so fascinating.

Study some good resources

I’m gonna shout out The Smutlancers here! Kayla and Molly have created an incredible resource for anyone who wants to create content about sex and get paid to do it. The website and podcast are a goldmine of totally free information, and you can also join the Patreon community for just a few dollars per month.

You should also read other sex blogs (which you’re presumably doing, since you’re here.) Check out my blogroll in the right hand sidebar for some of my top recommendations. Your goal isn’t to copy anyone or write like anyone else, but to see how the pros do it and learn from their vast wealth of knowledge.

Naturally, you should also read books, listen to podcasts, watch documentaries, and otherwise consume content in the sexuality space. This is how you keep your knowledge fresh, come up with content ideas, and learn how to be a good and responsible creator.

Don’t expect to make money straight away

I never went into sex writing to make money. I went into it because I find sexuality fascinating and I had things to say. The fact that I did make money and that it has become a significant part of my career? That’s a wonderful bonus that has changed my life in so many ways.

Thanks, I think, to the expression “sex sells,” people often grossly underestimate how hard making money as a sexuality writer actually is. I didn’t make a penny from my blog for the first four months. After that, it was just a few pounds here and there. It took close to a year before my hosting and other blogging expenses were covered – in other words, before the blog started paying for itself.

My first commission paid me a tenner. I spent a good deal of time underselling myself. I’d been doing this work for pushing a year and a half the first time I got paid what I would consider “market rate” for an article.

Go into sex writing because you genuinely love it. If you keep working hard and you’re good at what you do, the money will come. But don’t expect to be rolling in cash overnight – that’s not how this works.

Put yourself out there

It’s easy to think and dream about being a writer. But if you want to actually do it, you’re going to need to take a deep breath and put yourself out there at some point.

Hit “publish” on your first blog post and promote it on social media. Send that pitch to that publication you’d like to write for. Approach that company you love and ask if they’d consider letting you become a reviewer.

Taking that leap is terrifying the first few times you do it (honestly, I’m close to 4 years into this endeavour and I STILL get the butterflies when I pitch new publications.) But it’s the only way you can take your sex writing goals from dream to reality.

By the way… I could be your first commission!

Looking for your first sex writing byline? Pitch me your ideas! I pay a small fee, and I’m generally un-scary. I also LOVE working with new writers and giving them their first paid commission. So hit me up (email in the guidelines) if you’re ready to dive in.

This post was written as part of Quote Quest! Check out what everyone else wrote about this week.

[Quote Quest] I Wrote My Way Out

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
– Sylvia Plath

TW: mentions of trauma (no details), self-harm, alcohol, and psychiatric medication

Writing is how I heal. It always has been.

The truth is I don’t remember the point that I started making up stories in my head. I am sure it was before I knew how to write them down. It was before they taught me how to survive.

Without going into too much detail (I’m not ready to do that here, I don’t entirely know I ever will be) I experienced quite a lot of trauma quite early on in life. And at some point in the middle of it all, I realised that writing it all down helped me to survive.

I journalled obsessively from the ages of 12 to 17. Pages and pages, night after night, juvenile rambling that I am quite sure would make me cringe now. The pages soaked up my pain. The more hurt and angry I felt, the faster my pen flew across the paper. Sometimes a tear would smudge the ink, other times I’d get cramp in my hand from gripping the pen so tightly.

Some time around fourteen, I realised I was going to be a writer. I started writing things and sending them off to publishers and entering them in competitions. I never got anywhere, of course. My creations weren’t ready to for the wider world, and it would be a long time before they were. I wrote a novel, then another.

The summer that I was fifteen, I got it into my head to write a bastardised mash-up of autobiography and fiction in an attempt to make some sort of sense of what I was going through. 150,000 words poured from my fingertips in three weeks. I couldn’t escape the near-daily hell I was living in because, y’know, I was fifteen. Since I couldn’t run, I wrote my way out instead.

I did a degree in Creative Writing. And then another one. I got better, but I still didn’t get published. I wrote a blog, built up a decent following, then shut it down because it was full of stuff about my abuser.

For some reason, I decided I wanted to write about sex. I started this blog. I was twenty six the first time I got paid for words I had written. But long before this blog or any of my writing was a source of income, it was a source of survival. A place of safety. The one way I could make sense of this fucked up world.

And even now, on the days when I am drowning in self-doubt and fear for my future, I know that writing is the one thing I will always have. The one thing I know I am good at. When I want to scream and rage about the fucking ugliness and unfairness of the world right now, I can type and type and type until I feel calm again. On the days when my depression feels so bleak I feel like I will never get off the sofa again, finding the right combination of words still brings me a glimmer of joy and hope.

Sometimes, I feel like my trauma is a slow-acting poison that will destroy me from the inside out if I don’t occasionally exorcise some of it from my bloodstream. Writing is that exorcism, that bloodletting, that antidote sucking the venom out of me. It has saved me so, so many times.

Long before I started reaching for alcohol or razor blades or psychoactive medication to help me survive, I reached for words.

So when people ask me why I write, I tell them I couldn’t not write. That it is my oxygen. That I couldn’t live without it.

(By the way, if you don’t know where the title of this post comes from, go and educate yourself immediately.)

Quote Quest badge, for a post called "I Wrote My Way Out" about writing as therapy

This piece was written for Quote Quest, a new weekly meme by Little Switch Bitch. Click the button to see who else was inspired by this week’s quote! And if today’s piece resonated with you, you can always buy me a coffee to say thanks!

Sex Blogging 101: An FAQ on What I Do.

Content note: this post contains frank discussion about money. If that’s likely to be upsetting to you, please feel enormously free to take care of yourself and skip this one.

I’m often getting asked questions about what I do, both from wannabe sex bloggers wondering how to get started and from curious friends and strangers. So I thought I’d pop the most common ones in one place for your handy reference.

New bloggers: if you want to ask anything that isn’t covered here, it’s always okay to email me!

How did you get into this?

By mistake. I’ve been a writer since I knew what words were, and sex has always fascinated me, so it’s kind of amazing it took me until the age of 26 to realise that sex blogging would be the perfect creative outlet for me. I used to write a lot of articles, think pieces and occasional erotica on Fetlife and they got a good amount of attention (even hitting the fabled ‘Kinky and Popular’ from time to time) so I thought, well, why not put them somewhere that more people could enjoy them? I grabbed a free WordPress domain, and Coffee & Kink was born.

So you didn’t intend to make money from it?

Not at first, no. At first I didn’t even really think anyone would read it! Blogging was a passion project first and foremost (and, frankly, it still is.) Don’t go into blogging solely or primarily to make money. Go into it because you love to write and have things to say, and consider making money a secondary goal. If you don’t love blogging, you’ll give up, because making money is not quick, easy or guaranteed.

How do I get started?

Buy a domain (more on that in a minute) and just write write write. You’re gonna need a tiny bit of technical know-how in order to learn your way around whatever content management plug-in you use (the WordPress one is by far the most common and best) but you can learn that as you go along and honestly, it’s not difficult! There are thousands of tutorials online and if you reach out to the community, one of us will usually be glad to help you.

But honestly, write. Write without worrying who’s reading it. Whatever’s in your heart, write it. Write like you’re running out of time.

(And if you don’t understand that last reference, go and educate yourself immediately. I’ll wait.)

Wait, buy a domain? But you said free!

Yep, I started off with a free WordPress site (those are the ones that are sitename.wordpress.com) but my single blogging regret is not going self-hosted sooner. Self-hosting, as long as you choose an adult friendly service provider (check before you buy!) gives you greater freedom over the look and feel of your site, gives you security against “WordPress suddenly decided they don’t like adult content and shut me down,” and allows you to make money from your site (you cannot monetise a free WordPress site.) To give you an idea of cost, my domain and hosting costs me about £40 a year.

If cost is an issue, by all means start with a free site and you can go self-hosted later on. Don’t let cost stop you from getting your words out there. Just don’t try to make money from a free site. They WILL shut you down.

So talk to me about making money…

I could do dozens of posts about this very thing. Thankfully I don’t have to, because The Smutlancer exists. Read and obey, friends – this is the single biggest and best resource on the web for those of us wanting to create content about sex and get paid for it.

Basically: it’s a slog. It takes work and it takes time to build up. But you CAN do it, if you want to and if you can write, and if you have realistic expectations.

So how much do you make?

Ah, the million dollar question (no, I do not make a million dollars, or I’d be writing this in a fancy little coffee shop in Italy, not on my sofa at Ungodly Early O’Clock before running off to my day job.)

At the current time I’m making an average of between £250 – £300 a month or a little over £3000 a year. It’s not enough to quit my day job and it’s certainly not enough to retire on, but it’s a VERY nice side income and enables me to do more of the things I want to do. My blogging income paid for a good chunk of our last holiday.

How many hours?

This income and the content you see me putting out comes from around 10 hours of work a week. Much of that work is writing content for my blog, but it’s also time spent answering emails, sending pitches, editing, plugging my affiliates around the web, curating my social media, and doing the necessary admin to keep my blog afloat. As always, the more you put in, the more you can expect to get out.

I’m currently trying to work out the Catch 22 between “I could make so much more money if I could do this full time” and “I can’t quit my day job to do this full time UNTIL I make more money!” It’s a complicated balancing act. For now, I’m enjoying the security of a regular job and the creative freedom to write what I want in my spare time.

Where do you make the money from?

I broke this down for you all and also for my own information, because it was interesting to see the numbers. They are not quite what I expected!

Very broadly speaking, I make about 50% of my blogging income from affiliate sales, 40% from commissioned writing including sponsored content on my site and guest posts for other sites, and the remaining 10% from everything else (Patreon, my Ko-Fi Virtual Coffees, very occasional sponsored reviews). I expect this is getting close to a tipping point where it will change, because my affiliate income is quite steady – not really growing or decreasing a huge amount – whereas my client work and commissioned writing is now growing quite fast.

Enough about finances… what’s the best thing about being a sex blogger?

The community. Hands down, the community. Sex writers and content creators are some of the kindest, most generous and supportive and brilliant people you could ever hope to meet.

When I’m feeling down and wondering why I do this, it’s so often my sex writer friends who pick me up. And have you ever experienced a night out on the town with three or more sex bloggers and a lot of wine? Because, um, I recommend it.

Apart from that, the best thing is the freedom to talk about the things I always want to talk about, having a place to express sexiness and vulnerability in equal measure and feel reasonably confident that I’ll receive a kind and positive response.

University taught me plotting and character and story structure and perfect grammar, but it’s not my degree that made me a writer. It’s this community and my readers.

And the worst?

The stigma. I don’t tell that many people in my real life what I do, and… well, let’s just say I’m not called Amy Norton at work. This is at least a pseudo-anonymous project. I do occasionally have flashes of panic about what would happen if my mother or my boss stumbled across it, but that is why I’ve taken extra, possibly over-cautious steps to hide my identity (preemptively blocking everyone in my family and at work on Twitter, anyone!?)

But talking about sex is how we smash stigma, so hopefully between us we can get this conversation to such a point that we really start to notice a difference.

What kinds of people sex blog?

All kinds! The vast majority of us tend to be women, non-binary folks or queer men. There are a small handful of cis-het men sex blogging, but relatively few by comparison. But literally anyone can do this. Your gender, age, race, orientation, background and unique life experiences combine to give you a perspective that no-one else can have, so please bring your voice to the table.

How can you be okay with putting your private thoughts, fantasies and sexual experiences out there for the world to see?

I’m a bit of an exhibitionist by nature. Thinking that people are reading about my amazing experiences and filthy fantasies and getting turned on… well, that turns me on too!

I also think that by the time it occurred to me that maybe people would expect me to feel shame at putting this stuff out there for the whole world, I was so far down the rabbit hole that I just couldn’t find a single fuck to give.

Basically, I believe that our words can change the world and that we only break our cultural silence around sex by talking openly about it.

Some people are intensely private and that’s entirely valid. I am not one of those people.

What does your partner think of what you do?

He oscillates between “thinking it’s hilarious when huge boxes of dildos show up for me” and “gently reminding me that I have to eat, sleep and do chores occasionally”.

But no, in all seriousness he’s extremely supportive. He gives me space to write when I need it, helps me test sex toys, and bounces ideas around with me – even though he’s not a writer himself, he’s really smart, really sex-positive and just an all round excellent human.

At this point, someone who isn’t okay with what I do just isn’t going to get to date me. There are enough great people who think this is awesome. Life’s too short to bang people who don’t. My work is tremendously important to me and I don’t get involved with people who don’t respect it.

What do YOU want to know about what I do? Comment or email me and I might do a follow-up to this at some point!

Ten Lessons from One Year of Sex Blogging

I started my blog late in the evening on 31 December 2016. Can you believe I’ve been at this game for a whole year already? Time flies when you’re having fun, fucking various sexy people, learning important life lessons, and accumulating a collection of sex toys bigger than you reasonably have storage space for.

And oh what a year it’s been! This little side project – and the community I’ve met as a result – has changed my life, and changed me, in deep and fundamental ways. I’m a better person, and a better writer, than I was a year ago thanks to this little adventure. I’ve placed in Kinkly’s top 100 sex bloggers, won a Newcomer Award, and been paid for my work. I’ve worked with numerous sex-positive retailers. And I’ve met some of the most awesome people I’ve ever had the privilege to know.

So, in the spirit of reflecting on the past year – it is New Year’s Eve, after all! – I wanted to share with you ten lessons I’ve taken away from this first year.

1. I can experience pleasure and orgasm in ways I never imagined.

I hardly ever bought sex toys before I started this little adventure and started getting sent things to review. They’re pretty expensive and my vulva is fussy – it knew what it liked (this baby, mainly) and though I was curious about other toys, I couldn’t quite bring myself to spend upwards of £50-100 on things that may or may not work for me.

Well, I’ve now tried oscillating toys, suction toys, dual-stimulation toys, ride-on toys, great vibrators, terrible vibrators, mediocre vibrators, dildos in interesting materials, and even sex toys shaped like penguins. And if you’ll pardon the pun, fuck me it turns out my experience of pleasure is diverse. Not only can I get off in all these different ways, but each gives me a subtly (or sometimes wildly) different variety of orgasm.

Bodies are cool, y’all.

2. Sex writers are the best community.

I cannot overstate the extent to which the sex writing community has changed my life for the better. At events like Eroticon, Lube & a Laptop, and even the recent sex blogger Christmas party, I feel profoundly seen, deeply understood, and radically accepted in a way that I have never quite encountered anywhere else.

This community is so open, so generous with time and support and knowledge and friendship and a helping hand up, that I want to cry with joy every time I think about it. You, reading this? Yes, you. I love you.

3. I have the power to take my ideas and make them real.

This whole “sex blog” thing was just a bit of a side project a year ago; a bit of fun that I thought would keep me busy during a difficult transitional period and maybe entertain a handful of people. Now, though? Now it’s so much more. It’s my genuine passion project AND a source of additional income.

That didn’t happen by accident. That happened because I had an idea and ran with it. It happened because I put in the hours (and hours and hours) at the computer screen, tap-tap-tapping away; because I invested what I could, money-and-time-wise, into things like going to Eroticon; because people like Girl on the Net, Kayla, Molly and Sarah generously shared their wisdom and I was smart enough to shut up and listen and learn from them; frankly, because I worked my ass off for it. I still do every day.

You can, too.  You just need an idea, some determination, and the willingness to put in the hard work to see it through.

4. Sometimes, the best way to get what you want is just to ask.

Sending off my first pitch was so scary that I needed to celebrate a little bit having done so. Actually getting it accepted? Well, that was something I’d never imagined! That first time someone believed in my work enough to pay me for it, even a little, was like a shot of pure confidence straight to my anxiety-riddled brain. But I never would have got it if I hadn’t faced down my fears and just asked.

Writing to Hot Octopuss a couple months ago on a whim, going “hey we’ve got some common interests here want to sponsor a post?” felt ridiculous. Presumptuous. Why would a big and successful company want to work with a nobody like me? But they said yes. They liked my idea and they paid me for it and I’ve worked with them again since!

These little victories would never have come my way if I hadn’t bitten the bullet and just asked the damn question.

5. Rejection can tear you down, or it can propel you forward.

Rejection happens in any creative industry. It’s just a fact of life. I’ve been rejected plenty of times, both as a sex writer and in my vanilla writing life. My first novel probably got rejected 30 times before I decided to e-publish. I got rejected from an OxBridge Masters programme at the final interview stage. I’ve spent days, weeks, crafting a perfect contest entry and not placed. I’ve sent pitches off and never heard back.

What I learned this year, though, is how to channel rejection into determination and forward momentum. I’ve honed my pitching style and my approaches. I’ve looked again at a rejected piece with fresh eyes and revamped it. And I’ve taught myself how to view all experience, even rejections, as valuable and as opportunities for growth. All writing experience is good writing experience.

6. Whatever weirdnesses I have, I’m definitely not alone.

Whatever bizarre fetish or kink I might be into, someone else is into it too.

When I think I’m the only person in the world whose body responds to a certain stimulus in a certain way, someone will go “me too!”

When I’m struggling with an emotion or a fear or a trip into the darkest depths of my psyche, sometimes what keeps me going is just knowing that someone else sees me, that they understand what I’m going through, and that they came out the other side – and I will too.

7. I have workaholic tendencies.

Okay, so I had a hunch about this one already, but it’s become apparent to me in the last year just how true it is. When I’m really into something, I am in real danger of becoming completely consumed by it.

In October, writing every single day for my Kink Month challenge was stressful and thrilling in equal measure. Since then, I’ve forced myself to take half a step back to recharge as my day job workload explodes over the festive period, but I still feel twinges of guilt if I go more than three or four days without blogging.

This passion and the way it eats at me until I sit down and do the work is a blessing, in large part, and occasionally a curse too. Sometimes the best thing my loved ones can do for me is give me space to work, and sometimes the best thing they can do is force me to take a break, eat some snacks and watch a terrible movie with them. Often, though, I need to take a good look at how I’m really doing in order to communicate which of these things I need.

8. People HATE being told the truth.

Whether it’s that their jelly dildo is riddled with toxic gunk, that shoving 2lb of marbles up their ass is a really bad idea (yes, this is a real conversation I had), or that their favourite toy company hired a known abuser as a spokesperson, people really cannot deal with facts and information if it conflicts with their view of The Way Things Are. What’s more, sometimes these people will come at you with name-calling, personal attacks and even threats of physical violence when you speak the truth.

Block early, block often, my friends.

9. How not to take shit from companies.

I don’t work for other people/companies for free, unless:

1) You’re a charity I really, deeply believe in, OR

2) You’re a personal friend and I’m either doing you a favour or we’re doing some kind of work exchange.

Even so, the number of companies who have approached me wanting me to write for them for nothing – or “for the exposure!!!” – is fast approaching levels of bullshit I never knew existed. Add this to seriously shady requests like “talk up our product but don’t let on to your readers that we sponsored you for this,” and I’m left shaking my head at the audacity of some people. This year, I’ve learned to value my work properly and not accept flattery or “exposure” as forms of currency. I’ve learned to stand up for my worth, to hold firm with my boundaries, to put my foot down, so say “no”.

You love what I do and REALLY REALLY want to bring my voice to your readers? Perfect. I’m flattered. Now pay me.

10. No-one Does What I Do Quite Like Me

I’m just gonna finish off with this gem of wisdom from Girl on the Net, a phrase which adorns the mug that I drink my coffee from every morning. Because it’s true.

Happy new year, you beautiful lot. Here’s to 2018.

This post contains affiliate links.