Smutlancer Profile: Jayne Renault
Welcome to the Smutlancer Profiles! For this second installation, I’m so happy to welcome Jayne Renault! We’ve been following each other for a long time, and we mutually fangirl each other from time to time. She’s already been in this space sharing her smutlancer knowledge on working with an editor. But now I’m happy for her to share her experience as someone who creates content about sex and makes money doing it.
Also, she’s a legit cool human being. If you need a ridiculous amount of positive energy in your life, follow Jayne Renault. Do it. You will NOT be disappointed.
Meet Jayne Renault
Follow her in any or all of these spaces:
Facebook: Jayne Renault
How do you make money as a smutlancer? What topic and/or type of content do you get paid to create?
I’m a bit of an oddity because I have a proper salary right now. My smutlancing journey led me to become the in-house Smut Queen at Bellesa, which is a full-time position with a reliable paycheck.
Most of my content is short stories in our online erotica library, though I have written the odd informative article for Bellesa’s Collective. And I’m working behind the scenes on a series of erotic novellas that we’ll feature as part of our premium collection in the future too.
Outside of that, I have recently contributed to a couple of erotica anthologies—you’ll be able find me in the Sisters in Smut’s Chemical [se]X, Vol. 2: Just One More on May 7th and Best Women’s Erotica Vol. 5 by Rachel Kramer Bussel (Cleis Press) on December 9th of this year! Not to mention the little piece I cobbled together right here on The Smutlancer about how to love your editors right.
All of that said though, my writing only makes up a very small percentage of what I do these days. Most of the job now is in an editorial capacity.
How long have you been a smutlancer? When did you get interested in sex and creating content about it?
I’ve always been a writer to some extent. Huge word nerd and with a strong, nuanced grasp of linguistics—I’m fully bilingual, with French as my second language, and took Spanish as my minor in university. As for the sex side of things, I’ve always been comfortable with my own sexuality, and fascinated by human sexuality to the point that I very nearly pursued a degree in the field.
But I never set out with any intention of becoming a smutlancer.
I’d been working full time in the service industry for the better part of a decade but because I’m a masochistic hustler, I decided to bring in some freelance writing and translation work on the side. However, I found that was more of a challenge than I wanted it to be, mentally speaking. I did it for a couple years, but I numbed out pretty early on.
Things changed when I set out one night with the intent of finding “creative writing jobs” of some kind. And the Universe answered my call almost immediately because that’s when I found a curious ad hiding in the Craigslist abyss.
Some obscure, unnamed company, who was still in a beta testing phase, was looking for erotic short story writers…
I remember that it was a Friday night. My roommates were gone. I sat down on the couch with a bottle of red wine and the dog curled up next to me, and wrote my first ever fully-formed erotic story. And on the Sunday—it was Valentine’s Day, in fact—I took a deep breath and hit send on my submission email.
Shortly thereafter, I received the most enthusiastic response. They loved my story, wanted to pay me for it, and asked for more! (I would learn later that I was also the first person to respond to the ad.)
See, I didn’t choose the smutlancer life. The smutlancer life chose me.
Are you a full-time or part-time smutlancer? Do you have a day job?
So, you know that Craigslist ad I just mentioned? I learned that the people I was writing all these stories for were based in Montreal too. I still didn’t know much about them but I kept pushing to meet the women in charge. Just in case other opportunities arose once the company was fully formed, but also because I was new in town and on the hunt for female friendship and community.
Finally, I earned myself an invite to meet the elusive Michelle with whom I’d been corresponding for the better part of a year. I’m so glad I showered and made myself pretty that day because what I thought was going to be a casual meet and greet turned into an interview with the founding members of Bellesa.
The next day, they called to offer me a position as Bellesa’s head of erotica operations. After crying a few tears of shock and joy into the phone, I accepted.
A few months later, I quit my bartending job and this has been my only and full-time day job ever since.
Are you open with anyone about the work you do? Do you only tell close friends and family or are you public about your work? Do you work under a pseudonym?
I am open with everyone about what I do. But I came out in stages.
I told close friends and family without hesitation. My mom checked the site out when it launched and knew immediately which story was mine because she recognized my prose immediately, which I just think is amazing. My grandma also commended me on the quality of the writing on my first tale.
(And no, it doesn’t weird me out to know that they read my smut because 1) they aren’t true stories, and 2) I think they deserve to have the permission to explore this kind of content just as much as anyone else.)
I also know that my dad didn’t understand the nature of my job until later when he asked my mom how he could read something I’d written and my mom was like, “Um… Okay, but… Are you sure?”
He changed his mind when she explained exactly what I was up to.
My friends are on a gradient. I have some who adamantly don’t want to know what I consider hot, while others have helped me pick my stories to pieces to see how I might make my future writing stronger. Most land somewhere in between.
But I was careful with how I dealt with acquaintances and strangers at first. Not because I was ashamed of what I was doing, though there was an element of not wanting anyone to think it was an invitation to make sexual advances and/or slut-shame me (which has happened). It was more that it was just difficult to explain—the site wasn’t even live yet so I didn’t have anything to show. Furthermore, the start-up world is always in flux and perpetually malleable; we were all in the throes of navigating what Bellesa was, what it was going to be. For me, it was a daily exercise of figuring out how I fit into the Bellesa ecosystem. I hardly knew myself, so how was I supposed to explain to someone else?
As time went on, I found that every time I told someone and owned my title despite my insecurities, I got a boost of adrenaline that bred even more confidence until I got to the point of stating very matter-of-factly—with a hint of sassy pride—that I was the editor of the erotic fiction collection for a feminist porn site.
As for the pseudonym, I do use one but it’s more for the fun of it. The lines between my multiple identities are quite blurred. I know that for some, it’s a matter of survival to keep their sex writing self separate. But given everything, I decided up front to own this persona in a very public way. Bellesa’s foundational creed is “Unapologetically Bold” and as a proud representative of this company, I felt that it was important for me to embody that.
When and how did you realize this was what you wanted to do professionally?
It wasn’t so much a realization that I wanted to do it as it was that I was already doing it.
I’ve had nothing but support from my Bellesa family through this journey, but the first year in the office was very trying and I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. The learning curve was steep and I struggled through a LOT of Imposter Syndrome and self-doubt. I often felt like a fraud. Who did I think I was? I was a bartender with a health science degree who dabbled in boring internet copy… What did I know about the smut industry?
Ironically, it was my violent fear of failure that forced me to start making big choices and take bigger risks. When I learned about Eroticon, I decided that I should attend. I didn’t really know what I would find there. Somehow I knew that the pilgrimage alone would be important. But I never could have fathomed just how aggressively the J-curve of my exponential growth would climb after that.
And it wasn’t even so much the concrete information I gleaned. It was walking away with vindication that I was on the right path. That people saw me and liked what I was doing. That, perhaps most importantly of all, I felt like I belonged here.
How did you get started and how long before you felt like you had “made it” (by any definition you choose)?
I landed that first smutlancing gig in February 2016. By January 2017, I was full-time with Bellesa. But 2018 was when things really picked up. Eroticon was in March. I launched my blog in June. I was invited to partake in Smutathon in September. Somewhere in the midst of all that, I also started to self-identify as a Smut Queen.
There’s something to be said for the “fake it ‘till you make it” power I tapped into to don that proverbial crown. I was going through the motions of calling myself a queen, but it still wasn’t until about February of this year that I really started to feel comfortable on my throne.
Essentially, it took about two years of doing this full time to feel like that I was doing something right. And my big TSN Turning Point moment, where it felt the closest so far to having “made it”, was the first time someone I’d never met nor interacted with online addressed me in a formal email as Smut Madame, Queen Jayne. I fully choked on my coffee and cheered out loud at my desk that day.
What does a typical day look like for you when you’re smutlancing?
I have a lot of flexibility because everything I need to do can be done remotely. Which is awesome, because I’m a bit of a vagabond by nature. Sometimes I work from home, a cafe, an airport bar, the floor of a friend’s living room, a small town garage, a hotel room, a train between cities, a hut by the beach, the back seat of a broken-down truck on the side of the road… Because I find that transience and movement breed ideas and productivity.
But most days, I go into Bellesa HQ because our office is pretty awesome and I love my work family a bunch.
Arriving somewhere between 7:30 and 8:30 (depending on the heinous Montreal traffic), I’m usually the first one in because I like having time to myself before the others show up. I sing and dance along to my tunes to get my blood flowing while I wait for my coffee to brew. Then I settle in at my desk, check on my Twitter friends, check the big calendar on my desk, and write down my plan for the day. (Handwritten lists are my preferred way to organize myself.)
First and foremost, I oversee everything with the online erotica library. I reach out to potential talent and assess all of the submissions we receive. I work intimately with our authors to edit and polish their stories prior to publishing. This takes up the biggest chunk of my days because I’ve always got several stories on the go to ensure a steady flow of fresh new reading material.
I’m also the virtual maintenance guy, fixing things like hyperlink problems or typos that might slip through publication, and the social media coordinator, running the @BellesaStories accounts as well as my own (mostly to validate hanging out with all my besties on Twitter).
Then there’s my extended community involvement. I contribute regular content to the Sisters in Smut. I try to keep up with my own blog because it’s a great tool to promote Bellesa and my own writing, interact with prospective writers and readers, keep my writing practice up between stories, and cheer the successes of all my favorite sex writers. Though most of this work is accomplished in the evenings outside my “office hours.”
Meanwhile, I’m also working behind the scenes on getting everything we need for Bellesa Publications—our premium erotica outlet that will stock our online bookstore—to be a success.
So each day can be a little different, but these are all the regular, ongoing tasks on my to-do list.
Oh, and I make a point of stopping in the middle of the day now to walk away from my screen to give my eyes and brain a break and either read for fun or have lunch with one of my colleagues, (the legend I refer to as my Fave Dev Robot—one of the developers responsible for building literally everything you see on the Bellesa website from scratch) and discuss anything but work for a bit.
Since I started doing this, my days are much better because I used to lose track of time and work straight through without even standing up some days. And then wonder why I was so exhausted all the time… That’s not sustainable—breaks are as important as the discipline to get stuff done!
What, if anything, is your favorite content to create or type of smutlancing work to do?
I love writing hot, moody stories about badass bisexual babes making possibly questionable, undeniably sexy decisions together. But my favorite work right now is building my editorial relationships with my smutty wordsmiths.
Getting a new story from any one of them and digging into the words with my purple editor pen truly is one of my favorite things. You can tell by the way I aggressively fill the margins up with all the comments.
But it’s not *just* brutal, cut-throat edits. I also make live commentary every time they slay a perfect simile, or use a word I love, or make me smile, cheer, fan myself, or cry. I worried at first that this technique might be unprofessional, but I can’t help myself—if their words make me feel all the feels, I need them to know!
So far, no one has complained.
What do you absolutely need to have when you’re ready to sit down and work to be productive?
I don’t really snack. But I am a hot beverage drinker. I love coffee, tea, hot water with our without lemon… And I have a whole family of mugs on my desk to put them in. (Though I do play favorites; I’m obsessed with my curvy new Eroticon mug right now, omg.) And sometimes, when I’m in writing mode, I’ll get a little cheeky and start out with a nice beer, and then switch over to coffee. (There’s science to back that technique up, I swear.)
I also tend to be wrapped in a scarf and wearing a toque (I think y’all call it a beanie?) because I like the comfort of being shrouded and I’m perpetually cold. (Frozen fingers are not ideal when you need to type forever.)
I need my headphones because I listen to music all day. I’m an easily distracted reader and can’t balance office chatter and reading well, so sometimes I have to drown out my buddies when I need to stay focused on particular tasks. I often listen to music while I’m writing too. I don’t have any particular soundtrack. It changes constantly and my music moods are very eclectic. For example, as I type this, I’m listening to some epic Mongolian folk metal I discovered yesterday and it’s working really well.
When I work in public places like cafes or bars, I forego the music for the chatter of life sounds and take frequent people-watching breaks.
But I think I’m actually most productive when I work late at night, in the crypt-like silence of my dimly lit home office cave. Because deep down, I’m just a reclusive vampire with a penchant for hot, brooding smut.
Name the best, strangest, funniest, wildest thing you’ve experienced as a smutlancer — from a client, someone online, anyone.
People addressing me unironically as “Queen” is hands down the wildest thing.