Great news—I’m about to multitask here by ringing out 2012 and ringing in 2013 in a simultaneously sexy manner. I recently heard from my sexpert pals, Em & Lo, who’ve been writing about getting it on since 1999. Last time I saw them in person they were giving instructions on anal sex at a BookPeople presentation that was like a mashup of a Southwest Airlines pre-flight safety announcement and a Burning Man event. They just released their latest book, 150 Shades of Play: A Beginner’s Guide to Kink. And lucky me— lucky all of us!— Em & Lo sat down recently to tackle some of my questions. Herewith, their thoughts on how you can send out the old year with a bang, and ring in the new year with one, too. You can buy the book here. You can read more about it at 150ShadesOfPlay.com. And you can check out Em & Lo’s main website over at EMandLO.com.
SG: Been awhile since I last heard from y’all! How about a recap for the nice people— y’all are, among other things, Sexperts. What’s your history writing together?
E&L: We’ve been writing together since 1999, which makes us veterans in this biz. Not the sexiest way of thinking about it, but we’re certainly a lot wiser on the topic than we were when we started! This new book is our seventh together, and they’ve all been about sex and love. We also co-hosted a 10-episode TV show based on our last book, SEX: How to Do Everything, which aired in the UK a few years back. (You would not believe what you can show on British TV!) That same book was named by the Guardian as one of the ten best sex guides of all time, alongside The Kama Sutra and Ovid’s Art of Love. We’ve written for numerous magazines, including New York, Details, Men’s Journal, Glamour, and Marie Claire, though these days we spend most of our time blogging about sex, love, and everything in between at EMandLO.com.
SG: You’ve got a new book out. Details! Title, where can we get it and will you be more likely to spank us if we do or don’t buy it? (Pardon lame attempt at humor.)
Yes! It’s called 150 Shades of Play: A Beginner’s Guide to Kink and it’s a sort of how-to companion guide to Fifty Shades of Grey -- except ours is well-written, has a sense of humor, and contains at least one gimp suit! And yes, we have been known to spank readers with signed copies of our book on request.
SG: The last time I saw you two, you were in BookPeople, dressed as flight attendants, calmly and pleasantly describing anal sex techniques, right? So this begs a question, or a few— to wit:
1. Surely you hear some of the same questions over and over again such as... Well, give me some examples. I’m thinking quasi-lecherous, not-that-funny questions. But maybe I’m wrong?
2. To ask a question that’s surely over-asked— how do you research this stuff?
1. We do hear the same questions again and again, but the majority of the questions we get are surprisingly serious and polite. Sure, there’s the occasional request for photos of us tickle-fighting in our lingerie -- oh, if only people knew how unglamorous the life of a sex writer is! -- or the slightly disturbing question about whether you can catch an STD from a corpse (seriously, someone asked us that once, and we have a feeling they might have actually been for real). From women, though, the most common question is, “How do I orgasm?” or “How do I orgasm with my partner?” And from men, the most common questions are, “How can I get my partner to be okay with me watching porn?” and, of course, “How can I increase the size of my penis?”
2. We read a lot and we ask a lot of nosy questions and we talk to experts all over the world and we listen to what our readers tell us. And we’ve been doing this on a daily basis for fourteen years. It’s added up to a sort of self-directed expertise in the topic!
SG: So, okay, let’s be frank. I’m almost 50 now. I know, I know— I look good, right? And I have to say that while I still have my moments In Le Sac, some days, I’d rather be knitting, you know? What about y’all— you write about this sex stuff all the time, does it invigorate you or is it more like the joke about the gynecologist who comes home and is greeted at the door by his wife in a little sexy negligee and he says to her, “Oh honey, please, if I have to look at another one of those today....”
You look fabulous! You are fabulous. Anyway, yes, we hear you: Some days, we’d rather be knitting, too. And some days we’d rather be dishing out tips on cooking or gardening instead of directing readers to their G-spots and P-spots. It’s definitely easier to talk the talk than walk the walk when it comes to things like making an effort in a long-term relationship or breaking out of your comfort zone. Our husbands would be the first to tell you that it’s not all handcuffs and saucy lingerie when you’re married to a sex writer! (Or actually, they might just keep quiet to let you believe the dream.) But we would hope that, on balance, our sex lives are the better because of our career -- we’re more comfortable talking about sex and thinking about sex than most people, and we know what we should do, even if we don’t always do it. We definitely have a fabulous collection of sex toys that we could never have afforded otherwise! However, now that we both live in a small town, we do find ourselves frequently forgetting what is and is not appropriate dinner table conversation. Turns out, even in the age of Fifty Shades of Grey, not everyone is comfortable with the term “butt plug”!
SG: You’re going the self-publishing route this time. Since this blog is often visited by folks who want to know about the nuts and bolts of getting work out there, will you tell me a bit about how you came to decide on self-publishing, how the process is going, and what sort of expectations you have?
We’ve published six books the traditional route, with three different publishers, and we wanted to try something different this time -- especially as it’s such a sensitive topic. We wanted to have total control over the manuscript and how the material was presented -- which we guess makes us both “tops” in this matter! But mostly, we just wanted to turn this book around as quickly as possible to satisfy all the Fifty fans looking for more info, and this seemed the fastest route. After six books together, we have a pretty good idea of how to market a book, especially with the platform of our website, EMandLO.com, to work from. And since we last published a book, it seems that some of the stigma of “self-publishing” is lessening. So we decided to create our own imprint, Better Half Books, and release the book ourselves. It’s early days yet, but so far, we’ve been loving the process. It was an incredible amount of work to get the book out there -- more than we could have possibly imagined -- but now that it is out there, we’re thrilled. And when you’ve done it all yourself, every single sale is pretty exciting. Of course, we’d like to find ourselves getting excited about every thousand sales instead -- fingers crossed on that front!
SG: Along those lines, what about the marketing— you must be busting booty. You know, I just self-published a book, and I’m excited about that, but I’m tired just at the prospect of doing so much marketing, even though, if I think about it, I’ve had to do tons of my own marketing with my traditionally published books, too.
Yeah, we hear ya! But you’re right, no matter what route you take, you end up marketing your own book to some extent. Somehow, it seems more rewarding and less annoying when it’s for your own imprint. You can’t get annoyed that someone else isn’t doing their job because it’s actually your job. Which is not to say that the process isn’t exhausting! But the great thing about publishing your own book is that it’s much easier to keep track of sales, so you get immediate gratification after a successful marketing push.
SG: What’s next for y’all?
Marketing the hell out of this book! We think it makes a great Valentine’s Day gift, or an excellent form of inspiration if one of your New Year’s Resolutions is to improve your sex life. And we’re continuing to blog daily at our site, EMandLO.com.