The Dangers of Self-Publishing: Reviews

Okay, maybe this should be a general ‘dangers of publishing’ post, but I’d argue not. Sure, reviews are part of every author’s life, and can make or break their success. However, in the world of self publishing, we see a rather stranger side of reviews.

Being a published author gives you some legitimacy. Someone, somewhere, has put their seal of approval on your book. In fact, most likely it took several people giving your book the green light for it to get published.

Self-publishing however can be done by anyone. As long as you stick within whatever rules the self-publishing company has, you can pretty much publish anything. People know this. The common reader, as much as we love and need our readers, knows that your book has as little backing as whatever they could write. . . and they may well tell you so.

Once it has been established that you are, in fact, fair game, the reviews will come in. Some honestly just seem to be negative for the sake of it. Some, of course, seem positive just for the sake of it. It’s an interesting mix.

When I read my first bad review, my heart sank. I put a lot into my writing, and hearing it slated so much really did hurt. It took me a while to step away, and think. On the internet, people will ‘troll’ or make nasty comments just for the sake of it. And sure, they may not have liked the book, but some comments can be needlessly harsh. We have to just accept that we are opening ourselves up to this kind of criticism, just by being brave enough to self-publish.

There is of course the up side. Once they have read your book, you will be getting the money from that, whether they liked it or not. It’s a small balm, but a balm nonetheless.

There’s bound to be good reviews too. I’m still very pleased with the review on Breaking the Stallion:

Even if I don’t quite think it’s worthy of such high praise. As they say, it takes all sorts to make the world, and we just have to learn to deal with that.

The writing habit: Pants or Plan?

This is a debate I keep having with Lillian Heart (my porn-buddy, and the reason I’ve been self-publishing. Go check out her work, it’s great.) What is the best way to write? Do you plan every little detail, making piles of notes? Or do you fly by the seat of your pants, and write it all without any forethought?

Undoubtedly it’s a question of balance, but finding that exact balance seems to take a long time for each writer – because no two writers will approach it the same way. So how do we find that balance?

I’ve been experimenting with writing different ways recently. I have two notebooks. One is a notebook of story ideas to ‘Pants’. This notebook just has very rough thoughts. For example, the notes for Breaking the Stallion (warning: spoilers) were:

D tries to find T. Catches other horse instead. Brother? 

Everything else – the other 6000 words – were written as I went along, and with that in mind, I’m rather happy with the outcome. Since it takes so little time to write down ideas like this, I’ve got several potential series listed this way, across multiple genres, kinks, and lengths. This notebook also fits into a pocket, letting me carry it around and note down ideas wherever I am.

My other notebook is much larger unfortunately, but it needs to be. It is a full A4 pad, filled with loose sheets up to A2 in size, all covered in scribbles. Plots, character bios, flow diagrams, and even maps, fill the pages.

Needless to say, this takes a lot longer, and I’ve never had the persistence to write a whole novel down to the very smallest detail. Still, there is something nice about running with a well-thought-out idea. It makes the actual writing easier, as you’re never stumped. You know exactly what you’re going to say next.

Despite these first experiments, I’m not certain where I fall on the spectrum of Pants-ing and Planning. I’ll keep you all updated with my findings, and hopefully come up with some ideas to help you try the two extremes yourself.

The writing habit: Prompts

Ah, the oldest problem in the book. Writer’s Block.

I recently discussed this with a fellow writer (who, not being in the erotica scene, shall remain nameless.). He said he wanted to write, but did not know what. It’s a problem which I’m sure we’ve all come across before.

My advice was the same I follow for myself, when I’m unsure what to write: Use a prompt.

It doesn’t even have to be anything fancy. My friend thought I meant find a prompt generator online, which seems overly complex to me. Instead, turn to a book near you. Pick a page at random, and pick a word from that page. Pick a couple of words, either next to each other, or from different pages, if you want to.

For my final Uni assignment, I was given (by a different friend) the prompt of ‘Vomit’. That was all – and I had to plan a full-length novel off this.

So. Vomit. Not much to go on? Actually, lots.

Is there vomit? Can we see vomit? Why can we see vomit? Who has vomited? Do we even know? Are they ill? Are they poisoned? Are they drunk? Where is the vomit? A prison bucket, a drain, outside a nightclub, on someone’s shoes? The possibilities are endless. Just run with it. Play with it a bit. Who would be the worst person’s shoes to vomit onto? Maybe your employer, when it’s 10am on a Tuesday and you’re meant to be working? That’s an awful time to be ill, but a worse time to be drunk. But why would you be drunk? Is your marriage falling apart? That’s awful. It’ll only go downhill now that you’ve been fired from your job from drunkeness. And where would you go then? Would you join a crime syndicate as a small fish, trying to earn some extra cash doing drug runs? But maybe you’d work your way up, and get noticed by the police, and suddenly you’re trying to be an upstanding citizen again to earn back your spouse’s trust, so you’ve become a double-agent. Or maybe those drugs were more sinister than you thought, and you’re actually hooked on the worst kind of drug ever . . . as for what it does? Maybe it’ll turn you mad. Maybe the whole book is a decent into madness. Maybe it’s going to make you a super-strong fighter. Maybe it’s actually just lengthening your life, and you have to live with the fact that every time you prolong your life, it’s by exploiting the people who make this drug. Maybe you have to decide to go off the drug, realising you’ve become a monster, and you realise that you’re slowly wasting away, and watch yourself dying, and we come right back round to vomiting away the last liquid in your body, knowing that this is, in fact, the end, but that you’ve brought it on yourself. . .


See, isn’t writing from a prompt fun? Or seriously depressing, but interesting either way.

I’d definitely recommend trying it. You might not write something you like, and you might never turn the ideas into a full story, but it’s something. Just getting the creative juices flowing will hopefully help break your writer’s block. And even if just one idea from your prompt session can be used in your current piece, it’s still a win.


I’d love to know what you all come up with from prompts, so if you give it a go, please do share your prompt and your ideas 🙂

The writing habit – when to write

Today I want to discuss the habit of writing – good habits, bad habits, how to make and break habits. I’m sure there are millions of other posts about this out there, but none by me, so:

As I write this, it’s 00:42am. I’m sniffling through a blocked-up nose, and generally feeling like my head is filled with cotton wool. I should, by all accounts, be in bed. I should’ve been in bed three or four hours ago in fact. Yet here I am.

I’m not going to claim this is anyone’s fault except my own. For years now I have cultivated the habit of writing in the evening. This used to mean writing at around 7pm-9pm. I’m aware that getting some words down each day is an important habit, so this mean trying to bash out 1000-2000 words, or 500 words and some editing. Usually a good timeslot.

Then everything changed. I won’t go into details, but my life turned upside down. Now I find myself working all day at a pace set by myself to combat the frantic emptying of my bank account. Writing is one of my three main businesses, and I can be working on the other two until 11pm at night. This, of course, means that writing comes in at 11pm-1am, or sometimes later (like tonight, when I have to handle my blog).

All in all, this is a bad habit by anyone’s standards. Yes, I get words onto paper, but some are so incoherent from sleepiness that they get thrown out the very next day. Very few make the cut.

However, I get the feeling I’m not the only one with such bad habits. Except for the very few very lucky people who make a full living from writing, writing is almost a luxury. It has to be done between other paying work. It has to be done as a labour of love as much as anything else. I’m not, however, saying that being part of a crowd makes this acceptable.

If you find writing this late at night works for you, great. If, however, it is the last thing you turn to of a day, and you find it becoming difficult, this is a plea to you. Don’t let your writing suffer from your habits. Find some way to carve out writing time at a better hour. Even if it’s just jotting notes while you’re on the bus, or proof-reading in your lunch break. Don’t let writing become a chore. Writing should be a pleasure.

Me? I’m on the fence. I love writing, so I stay up far too late, but even I have to admit that this is bad for my health. Time to pull my writing time closer to evening rather than night-time. Even if that means writing porn around the dinner table with my family.

Thoughts on: Amazon’s bestiality rules

Well, here’s an interesting subject, eh? Lillian and I have discussed it at length, but recently I have had the opportunity to discuss it with non-writers. Specifically ,I have discussed this with my father, and a friend (I said my family was pretty open about all this, right?).

Generally, Lillian and I have swallowed (heh) Amazon’s rules without questioning it. What we have gathered is this – humans can have sex with humans, animals can have sex with animals. ‘Shifter’ stories are allowed (woohoo) as long as there is only intercourse between characters who are in the same species-state. So even if it’s two werewolves, they can’t Do The Deed if one is in wolf form and one is in human form. That makes it bestiality, and that is not allowed.

Seemed fine to me.

Then I tried explaining this to my father. My father, for the record, is very open about this kind of thing, but this whole idea seemed strange to him. Try as I might, I couldn’t explain it in a way that made him understand.

Perhaps I will have to start giving out free copies of some of my work for people to read, so they can understand the, for want of a better word, attraction in shifter smut. Or maybe it’s a pleasure which only you, my dear reader, and I, share. Who knows?

The friend I discussed it with just shook her head, laughed, and wandered off. I’m still not sure what to make of that.

I’d love to discuss this with more people, so please do comment – though if your comments are aggressive towards anyone’s tastes and preferences, they may not be published. Porn is for everyone 🙂


The Personal Assistant Book 1- New Hire

Live (and, for once, fresh and actually on-time with the announcement) now – The Personal Assistant Book 1 – New Hire.

Andrew Phillips is a normal young man, down on his luck. Fresh out of university, he finds himself jobless, loveless, and hopeless. A chance meeting with Rob Truman, the black sheep third son of a very rich technology family, changes all that.


This is my longest book to date, at a whopping 58 pages / 22k words. See the innocent meeting of our lovely young men, all the way to their steamy encounters and moral dilemmas.

Buy it here:


How to choose a pen name

So, now that you know Isabella Cooke is a pen name, I feel I can give some advice on how to choose a name. This info is gathered from various sources and advice from other sites, long with my own findings and experience. Obviously with a leaning towards erotica pen names.

First off, you have to decide what kind of pen name you’re aiming for. Do you want something rather normal, like ‘Sarah Clarkson’? This kind of name is less obviously a pseudonym. It’s a believable name. The other end of the spectrum would be what I’d call a ‘porn name’. ‘Dick Hunter’ is a good example of this kind – you know that either it’s a very unfortunate name, or it’s to do with porn.

Both have their pros and cons. A porn name means that no-one is going to mistake what you’re about. They can often be a bit humorous, and act as something to draw in readers, all by themselves. However, people might not take you as seriously. It might make readers question the literary merit of what you write.

On the other hand, a normal name can give you a bit more legitimacy. People won’t question how serious you are and might assume that you at least put all you can into your writing, instead of coming across too jokingly. It is, however, a bit boring. It won’t draw readers to you, as you’re just another person.

The next major choice would be to pick your pen name’s gender. There’s plenty of argument that you should pick the gender which fits best with your target audience. There’s also an argument that it’s easiest to have the gender as your own gender.

Once you’ve decided all this, it’s just a case of picking a name. It should be rather simple, as writers pick names for characters all the time. Think of your pen name as a character and name them. It’s pretty simple… in theory. This step took me the longest. I aimed to have a list of five names to take through to the next step.

The next step – test the names. Mull them over in your head. Consider introducing yourself as your pen name. Does it get the response you want? Any that don’t fit right, discard. If you’re running out, come up with some new ones.

When you’ve got names you think you like, it’s time for the usability check. This is simple, but also very important. Google your pen name. Search the stores where you intend to sell your books. Search Facebook. What comes up?

Sarah Clarkson ( is already an established author on Kindle, so I wouldn’t use that. There’s no point in getting your books muddled up with someone else’s – it’ll probably mean losing sales.

Isabella Cooke ( is only similar to someone who has posted one book on Kindle, and it’s nothing like what I write, so I’m quite happy to use the name.

The Google and Facebook checks are important too though. If your pen name is only the real name of one person, it’s a bit tight to use it – imagine if you had a very uncommon name, and someone with your name became well-known online for writing smut. That’s potentially all kinds of embarrassing. On the other hand, if your name is the same as a million other people’s, then you’ll be lost in a crowd. Finding balance is good.

If you’re really fond of a name but it doesn’t pass these checks, maybe try changing the name slightly. Sarah Clarkson can become Sarah Clarke without too much difficulty. Dick Hunter could become Dick Fisher (…. okay, maybe not 😉 ).

Most importantly with this, don’t rush. with any luck you’ll be making money under your pen name for years to come, so it has to be one you’re happy with.