How To Break the Literotica ToplistbyTink4Fairy©
Have you ever wondered why some authors seem more popular than others? Why do some stories get so many views and votes, while others languish without the hope of a little red "H"? Why does it seem easier to get into the toplists in some categories but impossible in others? Is there some secret formula for writing a popular story?
Yes, actually, there is—at least to some degree. Every category at Literotica has its own essential theme, something that a majority of readers are looking for when they click on a story. These vary, of course, but just as there are real examples to fill any stereotype, there are formulas and reader expectations that apply to stories in each category. So if you're a writer who's always wondered how to break into the "toplists" on Literotica, read on!
First of all, I want you to note that the following advice is about how to write popular stories. I didn't necessarily say the most literary, or the best. We all know the books which make it to the NY Times Bestseller lists aren't always the most well-written or important, and so the stories that make it to Literotica's "toplists" aren't always, either. They just happen to appeal to the masses. This is a guide that will tell you what's popular and how to make your stories conform more to those guidelines so you'll be likely to draw in more readers.
Secondly, everything that I'm about to say is a huge generalization. Of course there are exceptions, and none of these are true 100% or even 99% of the time. All I'm doing here is trying to give you an idea of what most readers want, so as a writer, if you want to cater to readers in order to write a more popular story, you can. This guideline, then, by no means encompasses all of Lit's readership, and sometimes categories are split almost 50/50, making them even more difficult to navigate and readers harder to please.
Literotica "Toplists" consist of the first 75 highest ranked stories in each category. If your name is anywhere on that page, you will be much more likely to have your story—and any other stories you write—read by more people. If that's something you long for, then knowing what most readers want is going to help you write a story that appeals to the masses. Each category, though, has its unwritten rules and requirements, and not all of them are obvious. So, let's delve into what a majority of the readers are really looking for in each category...
Readers in this category want long, detailed, lurid descriptions of anal sex. I know, I know, that seems so obvious—but haven't you read stories in this category that are pretty much just a normal sex story with only a paragraph or two tacked on at the end, like an afterthought, where the anal sex actually occurs? That won't fly here if you want a popular story. Anal readers are... well... anal! They want the details, every last one, including long, preferably realistic descriptions of how it's done and how it feels. If you can do that, you'll rock the anal reader's world. Some authors on the toplist to look at: selenakittyn's Unfolding series for the female's view of anal and Mindfiend's Ass-ignation, for excellent, detailed descriptions.
True sadism and masochism aren't often topics found in this category on Literotica. Popular stories are primarily varying versions and degrees of the domination/submission aspect of BDSM. The most popular stories explore the dom/sub relationship, how it manifests and how it looks and feels. Techniques and tricks and toys (which are all part of the BDSM world) are good, but secondary to the emotion and connection between the dom and the sub. If you want two good examples of BDSM, check out A Good Student by Dr_Mabeuse or The Birdcage by Ohida.
This is one of the least read categories on all of Literotica. Celebrity fantasies tend to be very hit and miss, and their success is usually dependent on whether or not your reader has a fantasy about the particular celebrity you're writing about. So the key is: write about celebrities who are popular and hot. Of course, that's a broad range, since everyone's tastes are so different. My suggestion for this category, if you want to be on the toplist, is to know your subject, whatever it is, and write a real story. Don't just write a scene where the names could be changed, and instead of Sarah Michelle Gellar, it could be anyone having sex. This works best for fanfic stories, like the popular Buffy the Vampire Slayer series. Mindfiend writes excellent Buffy stories—his voice is accurate and dead on. That's key when writing in celebrities. See his Buffy and the Corruptor story in the celebrity toplist for a sample.
This is another low-read category, but the good news is, if you're involved in a chain, you'll at least get views and votes from the other chain members. If it's a big chain, you'll get lots of views and votes and most of them will be good (because the other authors won't want you to vote their story down when it comes time to post their own.) Most chain stories start with authors seeking a challenge, and they're more for writers than for readers. That said, there are good chain stories out there. So the best way to write a popular chain story is to get involved with a good chain, preferably a large one. These are found most often in the Author's Hangout, but there is a Chain Story Directory you can check on the Survivor board for contestants. Ordinary Lit readers are more likely to read your story if there are well-known authors in the chain, or if there is a title and theme that attracts them. It's helpful to have an original idea with broad appeal. A good example of a recent chain like this is the Laresa's World series.
This is the missionary position, the catch-all category of Literotica—if it doesn't fit anywhere else, writers put it here. Readers in erotic couplings are mostly looking for a good quality story with a sensual, erotic sex scenario. This is almost like the softcore porn channel of Lit—the hardcore stuff here is going to most likely get voted down. Things usually not liked in this category: m/m or f/f pairings (which should go in gay male and lesbian, respectively). "Couplings" in this case means hetero, if you want to write a popular story in this category. Look at Babes in the Wood by thewritemike if you want to see what's popular in this category.
A misunderstood category if there ever was one... Perhaps it's a pet peeve of mine, but there should be a sign on the door: No Vampires and Werewolves Allowed. Those should go into the non-human category. But unfortunately, you'll find lots of Anne Rice wannabe's here along with your "I'm not a dog, I'm a werewolf!" stories. True Erotic Horror should encompass both eroticism and horror, in a way that's not always titillating, but should at the very least be shocking and—here's the important part—integral to the story. If you can take the sex out, and still have the horror, it's not really erotic horror. Okay, down off my soapbox. How do you write a toplist story in this category? Make it scary and horrific, make sure the sex and horror are somehow related, and make it a good story. Erotic horror readers are truly looking for a story, not just titillation. A great example of this is Scold's Bridle by BlackShanglan.
Exhibitionist and Voyeur
Exhibitionist and voyeur are two halves of the same whole, but that doesn't always translate on the page. In a popular exhibitionist story, the arousal is in the enjoyment of exposure, which is usually accompanied by a certain amount of reluctance and shame. In a voyeur story, the focus is on the secret enjoyment of watching, unseen. Both of these require a different perspective and unfortunately often split the readership. The good news is that, while readers often prefer one perspective or the other, most can and do enjoy this category from either side. So what makes for a popular exhibitionist/voyeur story? From the exhibitionist side, it's all about the exposure and the thought of being seen. There are also common devices deployed in these stories: binoculars, cameras, dressing rooms, two way mirrors, watching from a crack in the door. A popular story in this category will give the reader lots of teasing and titillation. These stories require a definite slow build and rise in the action, culminating in some sort of satisfying final climax. A good example of this is Waking Up To Dawn by en_extase.
You can't please everyone in this category. To write a popular fetish story, you really have to know your subject, specialize, and focus. Fetish stories are all about obsession. Pleasing readers in this category is all about getting into the particulars. Whatever fetish you're choosing to write about (and there are so many—panties, pregnancy, fisting, water sports, pantyhose, hairy women, milk, feet, you name it!) you must focus on the minute details. Readers will find the fetishes they're interested in, and you can become quite popular if it happens to be your fetish as well and you focus enough interest on it. A great fetish story writer is Oggbashan, and if you want to see an example of someone focusing on the details, check out Marianna Lends a Hand by furryfan—a story about the "hairy women" fetish.
Stories in this category are primarily about the loss of virginity, and the most popular ones are about girls. Readers in this category want innocent teens being gently and lovingly led toward adulthood by a caring boyfriend. There usually isn't a huge age difference between the two main characters, and the girl should be a little hesitant, as good girls should be, but still willing and sweet. There are readers who want first time stories that involve young men as the main character as well, but innocence is still paramount and key. This category is truly about the loss of innocence, and the impact of that upon a character. A great example of this is Goodbye La La Land by MLyons.
In spite of the category name, don't assume your audience consists only of gay men. They aren't the only people reading this category—there are many bicurious men out there, and believe it or not, lots of women adore this category. You have to be familiar with and know the ins and outs (ha, pun intended) of hot, sexy man-love. There's a strong, physical aspect to gay erotica, a lusty sort of passion, whether it's a story involving emotion and love, an in-depth exploration of sexuality, or a quickie in a parking lot. Whatever story you want to tell, in order to write something popular in this category, you need to make it hot, physical, and descriptive. An excellent example of something from gay male to look at is Sweet Music by Tom Collins.
A very popular category on Literotica, but in spite of the name, it really isn't about "group" sex, in the sense of orgies. There is the odd gangbang or swinger type of story, but really, the most popular stories here are threesomes, and it's primarily the female/female/male version that readers want. There are some male/male/female versions, but if you're going to write one of those, I'd suggest a disclaimer at the top, because there are readers out there who might be offended by the gay male aspect of such a story outside of the gay male category—and don't expect it to make it to the toplist. A popular story in this category should have two women, one man, and will suspend the reader's disbelief that jealousy and fear aren't an issue for any of the people involved in the three-way. Remember, Lit readers want a fantasy, not what might really happen in that situation. Usually these stories involve a couple who adds a third (often the wife's best friend) and leaves the reader with a warm fuzzy feeling at the end. A good example of a group sex story from the toplists is King Size Bed by strickland83.
The most popular how-to's are easily readable, humorous, contain personal examples, show the writer's personality, and are about sex. There are exceptions, of course, but if you really want a shot at the toplist in this category, you'll follow that sort of formula. You also really need to know your subject or have done your research, because if you have errors in your how-to, readers will let you know it! BatsandGlamour writes great how-to's, and his Breaking the Rules of Sex & Marriage currently sits at number one on the how-to toplist as I write this.
Humor and Satire
This is a tough category, because humor is such a personal experience. Everyone's idea of what's funny tends to be different, so it's hard to tell you how to "make it funny." There honestly isn't a formula for this one. You can't appeal to the masses. Your best hope is to write what you think is funny and then post it and cross your fingers! Your response will probably be relatively small, but people who "get" your sense of humor will give you positive feedback, I'm sure. I'm not even going to attempt to give you an example in this category...!
If humor is one of the hardest to nail down, then illustrated is one of the easiest. This category is very straightforward—supply realistic, sexy illustrations to complement your story. It's that simple. Okay, maybe it's not that simple. It has to be a good, engaging story, and you have to be able to actually draw (or know someone who can!) With the new computer drawing programs, you might be able to circumvent that last requirement, although it seems that most people still enjoy hand-drawn work over computer-generated stuff. You can do a story with abstract images, or ones that aren't meant to be sexually arousing, if you want to, but don't expect to be on the toplists. Readers will feel cheated and invariably vote you down. One of the toplist stars in this category, Chris Cross, has a great example in Rock Chick.
This is Lit's money-maker, as they say. Probably eighty to ninety percent of Literotica's readers come to the site specifically to read this topic. There are writers out there who, after seeing the sheer numbers this category generates, will write incest stories just to get that volume of readers! The primary ingredient in any popular incest story is (are you ready?)... love. It's true. There are very few nonconsensual incest stories and they rarely do well.
Readers of incest want to see love, and they want that bond to be so overwhelming the two (whether it's brother/sister, mom/son, father/daughter, doesn't matter) simply can't deny it—the very strength of that love is what compels them to commit such a taboo act. Yes, sexual desire, teasing, obsession, all of those are involved in the beginning, but ultimately, readers want to see the emotion driving the characters. If you can give readers that, in whatever pairing you're writing, you're already halfway there.
Another aspect of incest that you have to pay attention to is dialogue. Remind readers of the familiar bonds by having characters state them—often. Have the brother call his sister "Sis" or "Sissy." In father/daughter stories, the daughter should call him, "Daddy," and in mother/son, "Mommy" should be reiterated (as in, "Mommy loves her little boy...") Without this, all you've got is another sex story. When you focus on those familiar bonds, you give the readers what they really want—the extra heat of the taboo. Just having related characters isn't enough—they have to be extremely aware of that relationship and find it arousing. That's why so often writers get their hand slapped when they write about "in-law" incest. Readers in this category find in-law incest to be "cheating" because it doesn't highlight the taboo nearly enough.
On top of that, each incest pairing has its own set of genre requirements. Brother/sister tends to be about the older sibling fulfilling the role of sexual teacher, leading the younger one into the adult world with love and knowledge.
The mother/son pairing focuses generally on a reluctant desire to give in. Mother should be full of angst over her attraction, but eventually, she finds it too much for her to deny, so she falls into a sexual relationship. There's a great deal of reluctance at first, but she ultimately finds it totally amazing and fulfilling. As with any older woman story, here or in the Mature category, the reader wants to hear about certain physical attributes—larger breasts and copious amounts of pubic hair symbolize her maturity and maternal nature, for example.
The father/daughter category tends to split on whether the reader is male or female. Women who read this category want a daddy figure, and men want the young, nubile Lolita. For the most part, the popular stories in this category should be a father lusting after an innocent, beautiful young girl, and being drawn into a sexual relationship. The girl should be teasing and tantalizing, but in fairly innocent ways—just testing out her sexuality, but still generally sweet and pure. There are physical requirements here as well. The daughter should be petite, small-breasted, and have little or no pubic hair (all which symbolize youth and virginity.) Mindfiend's Stacy series is a good example in the incest category of the brother/sister pairing.
The politically correct tyranny of our society today often keeps this category from going as far as it could. Still, the most popular stories in interracial remain black men and white women, with racial language playing a major role. Yes, the black man should be well-endowed, the woman usually fair-skinned and petite. If you want to know how to get into the toplists, you need to give readers what they want. In this category, it's still the stereotype. If you're going to write a less popular interracial pairing, make sure to highlight the differences and the obvious taboo in the pairing of two races and cultures. Remember, that's the titillating part for readers in this category. Housewife Porn Star by karenkay is a good example of what readers are really looking for in this category.