Love Your Readers: CategoriesbyTx Tall Tales©
Help Your Readers. Categorized Your Story Correctly.
In Love Your Readers, I wrote about things you do to improve the reading experience for your readers. In Love Your Readers: Categories, I'd like to share my ideas on making it easier for the readers to decide to give your stories a read, by placing it in the right category.
If you're new to Literotica, you might find it's a lot more complicated than you thought.
The information presented here has been culled from my personal writing, submission and reading, as well as numerous discussions over the last dozen years in the Author's Hangout. It seems like every few months, someone is asking how to choose a category for a complicated story.
Weird Harold, coincidentally my very first editor, suggests using The Rule of Least Squick. A simple and easy to remember rule. Whichever element of your story is the least generally accepted, that's the category it probably should go in.
Of course if I suggested that, I wouldn't have a How-To to write, would I?
Thanks to Darkniciad, for beta reading and some very insightful input. sr71plt's observations required major changes, thanks for his expertise. PatientLee has once again been kind enough to preview this, and helped make it better. SevenSquared's thread on Trump Categories was one of the most useful threads I found on the discussion. I'd also like to thank the management at Literotica, who provided some guidance and corrections. This is not an 'official' guide to categories, but I've tried hard to get as much authoritative input as possible.
Let's face it. The readers here on Literotica have a lot to choose from. In a recent (9/6/2013) thread in the Author's Hangout, Laurel mentioned that the site was receiving 150-200 submissions a day! Wow, that's a lot of reading.
So the real question is, how do you get the reader to choose to read YOUR work. I believe you can influence that decision a lot, during your submission process.
In Love Your Readers, I provided some of my credentials, so you could understand why my ideas might bear some credence. I'll make it short this time.
1) I'm currently the #3 'Favoritest' author
2) I have two 1,000,000 view stories
3) I have half a dozen, 500K view stories
4) I have five TopList #1 stories concurrently
5) I've had five other stories that have hit #1
6) I've been writing on here for 12 years
7) I've written 'HOT' stories in 14 different categories
Why does this matter? I'm not the best writer here, far from it. But I can get readers to check out my stories, readers who comment and vote. The Love Your Readers series is aimed at helping other authors do the same.
* * * Title, Tags and Category * * *
I mentioned in the How-To 'Love Your Readers' that there are 6 components to creating a story on Literotica.
1) Story. The Content, the message you're trying to get across
2) Introduction and Postscript. A chance to talk about your story to the reader
3) Presentation. Using the spacing, italics, bold, breaks, quotes, etc.
4) Titles. Title and one line description to hook your reader
5) Tags. Key information about your story, to make it more searchable
6) Category. Information about what kind of story it is
Love Your Readers covered the first three. The creation of the story. The remaining three are all about identifying your story for the readers.
Most of the views for your story will occur in the first couple of days after your story is posted. That's the way it works, unless you're lucky enough to hit a home run.
That first day in particular, you are visible on the New Stories Page, and at the top of Category Hub page; people don't have to hunt for your stories. Also, while you're getting all those early reads, hopefully you're getting good comments, which will increase visibility on the Feedback page.
So there your story is, on a list that tens of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of people will see. That's right, Literotica has a HUGE readership, more than 2 Million unique views in a day recently. How do you make them choose to open your story, over all those others?
There are more than a quarter million stories on the website. You're competing with 55,000 other writers. So what's it gonna take?
Title, description and category. That's all you have to work with. That and your name, but we're going to leave that out of the equation for now. If you have good enough name recognition to get people to open your story for that sole reason, you don't need my help, and it doesn't much matter what you call your story.
That's maybe 250 writers on this site. This is for the other 99.5%.
These three items seem so simple, and are often no more than an afterthought by the author. That's unfortunate, because they can make or break your story. Each of these three are complex enough to deserve a chapter of their own. This chapter is all about the category.
* * * The Category * * *
In my list, I placed category last. The reason is, I think it's where you have the least room to be creative, and the greatest chance to make a mistake. What you write will, most of the time, clearly fit into one of the 38 categories Literotica uses. However, there are many pitfalls in choosing the wrong category, and I will try to address these.
The best discussion of this subject among the Authors in the Author's hangout is a thread called Trump Categories. I don't agree with much of it, but it was a good discussion, and covered much of what I considered to be the central issues in choosing a category. The thread is located at:
Darkniciad's observations on SevenSquared's initial 'Trump Categories' is the closest to what I've come up with so far. His first post in the thread is a must-read. Unless of course, you read this How-To.
So how do you choose your category?
There is a section on the index page called "Special Sections". It contains two categories we can skip, "Author Chain Stories" and "Interactive Stories". These have not been added to in over a decade, and there is no way to choose these during your submission. If you want to try your hand at one of these, you need to contact Laurel directly, through email or PM. For the purpose of this discussion, I'm going to ignore them.
Standard / Submittable Categories
From your submission page, you have a choice of three types of submissions: Story, Poem or Illustration. That's all you have to choose from, and hopefully this first choice is easy. I'm going to work from simplest to most complex.
Let's start with the easy stuff. If what you have is primarily either an image or an illustrated story (Adult Comic), it goes here. There only two choices:
1) Erotic Art. If it's one or more images without a story it goes here.
2) Adult Comic. If it's an illustrated story, it's an Adult Comic
Four sub-categories, all self-explanatory.
1) Poetry with Audio. If you write a poem, and attach an audio reading, it goes here.
2) Illustrated Poetry. A poem with an illustration of any type goes here.
3) Erotic Poetry. An erotic poem, without audio or illustration.
4) Non-Erotic Poetry. Any other poem - PG-13, suitable for mainstream publishing.
The bread and butter of Literotica, where it gets tricky. When you write a story, it's essential that you get the category right. If you don't, at best, the category will get changed for you by the powers-that-be. At worst, you'll get hammered by the readers something fierce.
There are 32 categories of story. Pretty confusing. It's not that bad really. Around half of these take care of themselves. They are what I like to call the exempt categories. If your story is written for one of these categories, that's where it goes, no matter what other elements are contained within.
Exempt categories means you can put what you want in them, as long as they fit the category guidelines. These categories can have elements of any and all the other categories, and if you choose to make it fit an exempt category, that's where it goes. The exempt categories are:
2) Reviews & Essays
5) Chain Stories
6) Novel and Novellas
7) Humor and Satire
8) Text With Audio
9) Sci-Fi & Fantasy
10) Erotic Horror
12) Mind Control
13) Letter and Transcripts
How-To: If your story explains 'how to' do something, and that is its sole purpose, put it in how-to. It doesn't matter what you're trying to explain, this is the category it belongs in. Most how-to's are sexual in nature, but obviously not all of them. Many of the most successful are about writing, particularly for Literotica.
Review & Essays: Whether it's a review of a movie, story, album, play, book or any other artistic work, if that's what you've written, it goes in this category. If it's a personal essay, whatever the topic, same thing.
Celebrities: If your story involves sex with a celebrity as a central theme, it belongs in the celebrity category. This includes famous characters in established fiction, not just real people. That's right, Captain Kirk, and Hermione belong in Celebrities. A celebrity cameo appearance can be successfully submitted under its main category, if it's non-sexual.
Illustrated: Stories with accompanying illustrations go here. The only exception is if you write a story for a particular category, and submit the illustrations separately under Erotic Art. That's very rare.
Chain Stories: If you are writing part of a group Chain Story (for example, the recent FAWC competition), it belongs in this category. This should be obvious if you're doing it. Only a few Chain Stories are open at any time.
Novels and Novellas: There are lots of very long stories within single or even multiple categories. It doesn't go here just because it's long. Novels and Novellas are a catch-all category, especially suited to stories that straddle a number of categories. The only complex stories you can't put here are Celebrities.
Humor and Satire: It's your call. If you think it's humorous or satirical, you can place it here. Satires placed in their natural category will likely take a lot of crap, unless it's listed specifically as satire. Some readers have a hard time recognizing satire. There are lots of humorous stories placed in other categories. How about a little love for this one? Put it here, and make sure your preface and tags indicate the type of story it would be normally categorized as.
Text with Audio: If it's a recording, you're pretty much free to do what you want. It probably won't do well, unless you have a foreign accent and tell the women all the naughty things you're doing with them. Unless you have a sultry female voice and are telling the men the nasty things they're doing to you. Great category to build a very loyal following.
Sci-Fi & Fantasy: Imaginary settings from a mythological past or the far future should be placed here. It's the one place that Non-Human can go, other than it's specific category. Alien sex is definitely Non-Human, and belongs here. If you have Vampires and/or Lycanthropes, you may want to consider Non-Human instead.
Erotic Horror: A complex category. Romantic Non-Human can be squeezed into Non-human, for example, Vampire love stories, even if there are some horrific elements. Paranormal and Non-human non-consensual violence, as well as the standard human-on-human trauma, belong here. As long as, at its core, your story is Erotic Horror, pretty much anything else is permitted. Erotic Horror is NOT a catch-all for paranormal. Without the horror element, it probably belongs in Non-Human, or Non-Erotic.
Non-Human: Mostly dominated by Vampires, Werewolves and Demons, stories with Gods, Angels and mythological creatures fit here as well. If it's elves and orcs, it probably should be fantasy. The most popular stores in this area are Beauty and the (non-human) Beast type. It's worth noting that if there is a mix of non-human, and mythological creatures, the Non-Human category probably has more understanding readers.
Mind Control: Stories where somebody is able to control someone else, whether it's through mental powers, a magical or technical device, or some other method, belong here. This rule has been ignored successfully on occasion but your best bet is to put it here, if you can make someone do what they don't want to, or wouldn't under normal circumstances. Incestual Mind Control stories have been successfully categorized as both Incest and Mind Control.
Letters and Transcripts: This is all about the presentation. You can put what you want in it, as long as it's presented as a letter or letters, or as a transcript.
Non-Erotic: Think PG-13. This category is a home for mainstream fiction, the kind of stuff you might read in a normal fiction magazine. If there is no sex in the story, and little or no erotic content, the standard Erotic categories do not apply. There are plenty of stories where there is no sex, but sex is central to the story, and they would be best placed in the closest appropriate category. If there's no sexual theme at all, put it in Non-Erotic. It's worth mentioning, Non-Erotic applies to the ENTIRE story. If you have a longer work, with multiple categories, and any of them are not non-erotic, none of them should be. This is not for chapters of a longer work which happen to not contain sex.
Non-English: This category has changed a lot over the years. The existing appearance is a legacy technical artifact. If you write in a language other than English, choose the language in the LANGUAGE dropdown, then choose the proper category. The same category rules apply.
After the exempt categories, there is a hierarchy of certain story elements. It's important to understand, that there are some categories that 'trump' other categories. That is, if your story has elements of that category, that's where it should go. Many of these are self-evident. Some are not. The only issue that might arise is when you have multiple trump categories. In general, these have been in order, from the highest to lowest trump.
Let me make one thing very clear. If your story is in an exempt category, none of the rest of this matters. However, if you have any of the 'Trump' category elements in your story, you'd probably do well to mention it in the preface and tags, no matter how you categorize it.
There are two categories that are site trumps. That means if you have this content in your story, and you don't categorize it as such, the powers-that-be will either re-categorize it for you, or reject it. This is a Literotica site policy, and you'd do well to remember it.
Number one 'trump' category? Incest
If your story has incest in it, put it in incest. If you don't it will probably be moved there anyway. Passing reference to incest, or uncomfortably close familial relationships without actual penetrative sex may get overlooked. You'd still be wise to warn your readers in the introduction. Even Gay and Lesbian sex that is among family members, is an incest story. Again, if you do have these types of activities, you should mention it in your forward.
Number two 'trump' category: Non-Consent/Reluctance
If the consent is slightly ambiguous, you might get away with it, particularly blackmail, but you're chancing rough feedback. Anything questionable, and you need to place it in this category. It doesn't matter who's involved, as long as it isn't family (trumped), a celebrity or non-human (exempt). Extreme Non-Consent, such as violent rape, probably won't even make the cut. Literotica is flexible, but not THAT flexible.
After the two 'Site Trumps' there are four categories that trump others, but not to an absolute extent. You can get away with putting this stuff in another category and the site won't object, but your readers very well may. It's important to remember that erotica readers surf by category and content of stories, and their interests are much more specific than when reading non-erotic fiction. Your readers do NOT like surprises. If your sweet loving romance suddenly turns into a toilet session, do everyone a favor, and put it in Fetish with a tag of Romance, and not the reverse.
Number three 'trump' category: Gay Male
After numerous discussions, and input from some of the greats in this category, I've found it the most difficult to categorize hierarchically. It seems, that counter to even the professed Literotica 'absolute' trumps, Gay Male can, and has, trumped all other categories on occasion.
If there's Male on Male action, in any detail, then if it's not in the above two categories, you're probably better off placing it in Gay Male. If it's in one of the previous categories, you should mention it in the tags and introduction. This rules if far from absolute, and that's why it's a in the 'soft' trump group. An MMF threesome, in context, that involves male play in the Group Category can remain there, provided there is also hetero play. Forced MM as part of a revenge may survive in a Loving Wives categorized story, as long as that's not the central theme. As you can see, as we work our way down the Trump categories, things get less absolute. Incest stories that are strictly male-on-male, will likely be categorized as Gay Male. It's the one clear exception to the Incest Trump.
Bisexual males have a hard time on Literotica. You would think they'd be more prevalent, since the scenario is so popular with female readers. Bisexual males end up in the Gay Male category for the most part. They can often survive in the Group Sex and Romance categories, as long as it's not the central theme.
I'll get a lot of disagreement on this one, including from the readers. There are those who believe any contact between males means it should be categorized as Gay Male. Touchy subject, and I don't write in this category (at least not so far) so I could be wrong, but I've read enough in the other categories to see this showing up there successfully, without hijacking the comments.
Number four 'trump' category: BDSM
If your story has more than a hint of BDSM, it belongs in this category. We're talking bondage, domination, submission, punishment, in a mutually agreed to scenario. If you don't put it there, and it's not moved there, you'll definitely hear from the readers, and it won't be pretty. This doesn't necessarily include things like spanking, or light bondage sessions that are not the central theme of the story. The BDSM crowd are very big on the consensual aspect of this category. If your story action morphs into NonConsent, put it there.
Fifth 'trump' category: Transsexuals & Crossdressers
This is a partial 'trump' category. Crossdressing may well make it under another category, and often shows up in fetish, but Transsexual elements should place your story in this category. Depending on your readers, some may believe this story element trumps all others, but according to site policy, the Incest and NonCon categories are the only hard trumps.
Transgender with a male, is most often categorized as Transsexual & Crossdresser, and not as Gay Male, further blurring the lines. If the category was Transsexual only, it would trump Gay Male. Futanari stories can be placed in either this category, or Sci-Fi & Fantasy.