Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Birth of a Naughty Book

Naughty BookWith the world wide launch of the Sex is Fun! book (English version), I thought it would be wise of me to jot down the story of how this book came to life. For those who are interested in the back story, or wish to publish a book on their own, this article should tell you everything you need to know to understand how a naughty idea, becomes a naughty book.

Well before I was the editor of, or the host of the insanely popular Sex is Fun Podcast, and even before I was writing and designing games for GreatSexGames. com, I was just a student, at a private Catholic high school. The odd thing about my experience at a private Catholic high school is that not only was I not a Catholic, but I was raised with almost no religion at all. Prayers before class and bible study was a common place event to the rest of the students, but to me, it really was quite a culture shock. Never before or since, have I witnessed a greater hive of sexual fear and ignorance.

The school did offer sex education, though not in Health, or Biology, but in Religion. The school's sex education curriculum didn't mention contraception, safer sex, or homosexuality. They did show us a film strip produced by the Christian Coalition (or some other wack-a-doo outfit) that told us that teen-age girls who had intercourse got cervical cancer. It didn't tell us anything about HPV causing cancer, just that if you spread your legs too early, you'd get cancer. What I learned from my time in this community was that sexual ignorance does not keep high school students from having sex, sexual shame does not keep high school students from engaging in risky behavior, and that sexual fear does not turn teenagers into happier or healthier adults. The school wasn't the only factor to blame. The whole community was steeped in a sex-negative culture, that feeds on the fears of sex-negative parents, who raise sex-negative children, and the cycle continues.

But I love sex and I hate anything that is wrongfully vilifying something that I love. So I learned all that I possibly could about sex. I turned to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Kinsey Institute, the Penthouse Forum, and Paul Joannides' Guide to Getting it on! With Jedi-like determination I learned how to delay ejaculation, achieve multiple orgasms, and how to wield a plethora of sex toys. With my partners I learned how to stimulate them both physically and mentally and how to be a generous, giving, and game partner. Without fear, shame, or embarrassment, I learned how to explore and enjoy sex.

Then I fell in love and married a girl, a Catholic girl. Before I go any further, I think it may be necessary to explain a few things that I've learned about Catholic girls for those who may have made it this far into life without taking a peek under those pleated skirts. Catholic girls really do enjoy sex, a lot, but they often aren't comfortable talking about sex. While wine may bring their freak out, they have trouble admitting what they want. They are, or seem, completely unaware of sex-negative messages that they may have received while growing up. They have a very difficult time initiating sex and bringing new ideas to the table, or bedroom.
These factors were causing some problems for us and our intimacy. We looked for a guide but try as we did, we couldn't find anything that helped us communicate our needs effectively. We wanted a book that would give us tons of great, sexy ideas and show us exactly how to pull them off. We wanted a book that would help us communicate our needs and desires. We wanted a book that would introduce us to new techniques to improve our lovemaking. What we found were books that, in an attempt to be tactful, fell short of describing or showing us the graphic details we needed to become more confident about playing with each other. We swore that if we saw another soft focus photograph of a couple blissfully holding each other, we were gonna freak out, disband and join other families, or convents.

Necessity being the mother of all invention and desperation being the brother of all kicks in the rear, I began to write my own book. I learned more about sex and continued writing. I learned more about intimacy and continued writing. I learned more about sexual fantasies and continued writing until one night after having drinks with friends, my wife strongly urged that I hire an illustrator to help me finish the book. So I did, and for the next 14 months, Josh Lynch and I worked together building the Sex is Fun! book. I also contracted Laura Rad to be my advisor and to write a few chapters about fantasies that I either lacked the interest or experience to write myself. Her efforts made the whole book significantly better.

As the book came together, I had to begin making many decisions that would shape the final outcome of the book. I quickly decided to design the book in the same format as a graphic novel. Inspired greatly by the illustrations in The Guide to Getting it on! I realized that each time I picked up his book it left me wanting to see more of those wonderful, graphic, sexy images, so I simply made a book that was bursting at the seams with wonderful sexual images. When I saw the first chapter finished, I knew that we were building an intense experience for our audience.

I was also making difficult decisions on what to include and exclude from the book. All of my chapters on multiple sexual partners would have to wait for another day as we simply didn't have the time or money to produce quality content in these areas. We mapped out a schedule and slowly I deleted what I believed was the weakest of the chapters until we were left with thirty-six of the most necessary content to include.

I chose early on to include interactive content to the book so that each reader could shape certain fantasies to their own personal tastes. I also began designing fill-in-the-blank style questionnaires and workbook sheets that couples could use to help communicate with each other.

As we began artwork I also made the decision to create a pansexual book that would function well regardless of the reader's gender or orientation. This, as it turned out was a risky proposition that many experts told me was a fool's errand. The excuses for why a pansexual book was doomed to failure were plenty and not without cause for concern. I'd been told that gay men simply would not buy a book with boobies or vulvas in it. I was told that lesbians were offended by not only seeing a flesh and blood penis but also by the mention of the word, "penis." I already knew that most straight folks wouldn't go near anything that had a picture of man-on-man lubb'n, so why did I choose to go ahead with this cockamamie idea of making a book that the gays and the straights don't want to buy? Because it is time to break the mold and offer a really well designed sex manual that didn't deny anyone's sexuality. I did it because I believe that we are on the cusp of a new sex-positive revolution, and this time we're ready to do it responsibly. We are no longer homophobic, hetero-centric, vulva-phobic, or suffering from penis envy. I believe that we can see two men get it on in one page, a woman riding a man's face in the next, and two lesbians rocking a strap-on like a rabid bull chasing a gimpy rodeo clown in the next. We're capable of understudying the simple fact that sex is just sex, regardless of how the parts fit together.

As the art was rolling in and the book was about fifty-percent complete, I began the daunting process of getting the book published. I picked up a copy of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting Published." I'd become a rather proficient juggler from reading books much like it and figured, "what the heck?" Laugh if you wish, but this book taught me EVERYTHING I needed to know to get this book published. There was one chapter that pissed me off a bit, however. While the writers admitted that the adult section of the book store was a well traveled area, ripe with business opportunities, they themselves were "too bashful" to discuss it any further. Instead they bored the frak out of me with far too many pages about getting a children's book published. I'd have returned the book right then and there if I'd not already jotted notes in the sidelines about twenty-percent of the book up until that point. So aside from being terrible prudes, the writers did know their stuff when it came to getting published.

Some of the most useful information in the book was a very detailed description of how to write a book proposal. This is the single most important element that is absolutely necessary to getting a book published. The proposal tells agents and editors everything they need to make a decision about publishing a book.
A good book proposal includes:
An overview of the book
Special Features of the book
Detailed Contents
Market Research
Competitive Comparison
Marketing and Publicity Suggestions
Author Information
A few Sample Chapters

The book also gave me all the pros and cons to consider about self-publishing, to go with or without an agent, as well as the benefits to choosing a small publisher or a publishing giant. I opted to go with a giant publisher because it was the only way to guarantee that a book of such graphic nature would be backed by enough marketing ever make it into mainstream bookstores. I also chose to be represented by an agent simply because I don't know the book business or anyone in it.

So off to finding an agent I went and to do so I used It is an ugly but an effective website that lists thousands of literary agents and publishers. It charges a weekly fee so you've got to work fast and efficiently to get the most for your money. Before you begin, you may wish to polish your tab-delimited-form and macro skills to extract as much information as possible before your costly week is up.

Once my list of hopefuls was acquired and entered into a database, I sent out 102 book proposals to 102 literary agencies. Some other tools that deserve an honorable mention is the Dymo LabelWriter for addressing all the envelopes, the Xerox Phaser Solid Ink Duplexing Color Printer, and a simple envelop licker that can be purchased at any Kinkos for just a few dollars. Each kit included a personalized cover letter, a 14 page proposal, 12 sample chapters and a prepaid response postcard that made it very easy the agents to let me know one way or another if they were interested.

When all was said and done, fifty-four responded and said, "no," fourty-two gave no response, and six said, "yes." After several exhaustive conversations and reference checks, I chose to sign the future of my book over to Scott Mendel of Mendel Media. Though he was very excited about the book, he did voice a concern about the pansexual nature of the book and influenced me to create straight versions of all the gay content as a contingency plan.

At this point, I had finished the proposal, had signed with an agent, and finished about sixty-percent of the book. The art is taking longer than I had originally budgeted and I need to hire an additional artist to meet the deadline and this means I'm running out of money. With no other way out, I turn to my audience and reluctantly ask for donations to help finish the book. All I can do is send my most heartfelt thanks to the many wonderful listeners, readers, and friends that so generously donated to the cause that made this book possible.

We finish the book and I send it off to Scott to pitch to the publishers. He again voices his concern about being unable to sell it as a pansexual property and pleads with me to allow him to approach the publishers with the straight version. Instead of caving into his concerns, I make a deal with Scott. If he first tries to sell the pansexual version to three major publishers and they all reject it, I'll give him the straight version and he reluctantly agrees.

A week later I get a call from Scott. He tells me that Random House and Penguin/Avery have initiated a money fight over the rights to Sex is Fun. He tells me to sit tight and he'll let me know as soon as one of them wins. Within a day, Penguin/Avery has proven that they want the rights to Sex is Fun! more than Random House and will respect the integrity and goals of the book. It is a good day, and there is much rejoicing.

After nearly twelve years of working on this book, it has finally arrived and it is better than I ever would have imagined. I sincerely hope that it does good things for its readers and makes the world just a little less afraid to enjoy the exploration of sex. Only time will tell if my efforts will be appreciated and my risks will be rewarded. Either way, I created the book that I wished to make and was never forced to compromise my principles to make it. I hope you love it and I hope it brings wonderful things into your lives.

With sincerity and finest regard,
Kidder Kaper
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