Exposing myself in public: life as an erotic publisher

Has anyone ever kissed you in the crook of your elbow? This writer discovered that publishing sex was rather more self-revealing than she had bargained for.

I launched my call for submissions to The Emma Press Anthology of Mildly Erotic Verse in February and have since had the pleasure of being introduced to people at parties as an ‘erotic publisher.’ After two years of seeing faces drop or go blank in response to ‘ebook production controller,’ this comes as quite a relief, and the work that goes with it isn’t bad either. I’m never stuck for something scandalous to read on the train, and the acronym ‘NSFW’ has lost all meaning for me.

But setting oneself up as an erotic publisher is not without its pitfalls. One thing I didn’t anticipate a couple of months ago is the extent to which I would end up having to share details about my intimate preferences with complete strangers. My decision to publish an erotic anthology was prompted by a number of factors, none of which was ‘wanting to broadcast my turn-ons to the general public and my mum and dad.’ It’s a shame that self-exposure isn’t one of my turn-ons, as it appears to be both essential and inevitable to the way I’ve chosen to produce this book.

If I were compiling this for a traditional publisher, the readers wouldn’t give me a second thought; no-one wonders if E. L. James’ editor is into sex dungeons, though this might be because we’re all wondering if they’re even into editing. But I don’t want the Emma Press to be a traditional, personality-free publisher. I want everything I publish to come stamped with my personal seal of approval, and in the case of a mildly erotic anthology, what criteria would I be using to determine whether a poem was worth publishing other than that I personally found it at least mildly erotic?

It’s not that my preferences are particularly weird or frightening, but sexuality is a deeply personal thing and it can’t help but feel terribly exposing to be laying even the tiniest fraction of my own out on public display. I wanted to elicit a very specific vein of eroticism from poets, so I had to give a broad description of my taste in erotica right from the start, pre-empting the day Amazon turns on me and publishes my history of purchases on the Kindle Store.

This approach was vindicated by the arrival in my inbox of poems by writers who clearly shared my tastes and got the balance between showing and telling just right. In the last few weeks I’ve met up with some of them, to discuss edits, and have ended up exposing myself still more. Think about it: how else am I meant to explain my objections to a line or phrase on erotic grounds? I have never had such frequent and frank discussions about sex with people I’ve only just met as in the last two months. I’ll always remember my first one, in a Wetherspoons pub, when I falteringly questioned a line which referred to the crook of the elbow as somewhere that would never have been kissed. ‘Never ..?’

The ultimate exposure, of course, will come when the book is finally published in September. The inclusion of the qualifier ‘mildly’ in the title was an early act of cowardice on my part, in case eyebrows were raised and coffee spat, but I would like to take this opportunity to nail my colours to the mast and state that all poems in the anthology will be highly erotic, in my own personal opinion and (I hope) other people’s too. I’m accepting submissions till 17th May,  so if you write poetry and agree that erotica should be suggestive without being coy, frank without being too direct, and playful without being grotesque, send me something over. Maybe we’ll end up exchanging sex stories very soon in a café near you.

For more details about submitting to The Emma Press Anthology of Mildly Erotic Verse, please visit  www.theemmapress.com



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