Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Is the “E” Hurting E Publishing?

Last week, we posted a super positive guest review for Bettie Sharpe’s Like a Thief in the Night, a novella from Samhain. Sharpe had the benefit of a solid audience from the serial that ran on Dionne Galace’s blog. I watched the My Bookstore and More top ten ratings andpotato_2.gif never once saw Like a Thief break the top 10. While Sharpe’s book featured plenty of steam, it didn’t have a menage. It wasn’t focused on the erotic aspects despite being very sensuous.

Of the books listed as bestsellers at Samhain, 2 of the top 3 feature threesomes or more. At All Romance eBooks, 7 of the top 10 also feature some form of multiple partner sex.

I admit that while there are many e-publishers out there, I mainly identify epublishing with erotic romance. Maybe it’s because of Ellora’s Cave’s success and public prominence. Maybe it’s because it seems like the most successful launch of careers from epublishing to NY publishing are the erotic romance authors (discounting MaryJanice Davidson).

In the past week, I’ve had a few conversations with readers and they, too, have this connection in their head. In some ways, this connection both helps and hurts. Want a steamy read at 11:00 pm? It’s easy to go straight online to an epublishing house bookstore (open 24 hours) and buy something to fit your interests. Interested in a urban fantasy book? I’m heading for Fictionwise to peruse the EOS (Kim Harrison), ACE/ROC (Ilona Andrews, Patricia Briggs), or SPECTRA (Kelley Armstrong) offerings.

Because I have this preconceived idea that epublishers specialize in erotic romance, I think I tend to believe that the other genres are second thoughts and therefore not worth my money. If Samhain advertised a book that they compared to those of Ilona Andrews, I think I would be skeptical. I know that they do erotic romance well, but urban fantasy?

It really doesn’t make objective sense, obviously. If the editors at Samhain can put out good erotic romance, why not good urban fantasy? Why not good straight contemporary? Or good romantic suspense?

As New York starts making inroads into the epublishing’s hold on the erotic romance sub genre, epublishing has to change and adapt, but if readers don’t start looking at the other offerings, the less common offerings, then what will happen to the epublishing industry?

Jayne is very good about finding ebook gems – ebooks featuring different settings and unusual periods. Me, though, I am in a rut. I guess the only way to get out of that rut, to break my preconceived notions, is to start buying and reading epublished books in categories other than erotic romance.

I’m curious, though, if other readers out there are making the same connection and have the same bias toward epublishing as it relates to romance fiction outside the erotic sub genre.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

89 Comments

  1. Karen Scott
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 06:40:48

    Funnily enough I was over at E-Harlequin’s E-book shop yesterday, and the top seller there was Goldilocks and The Three Barons, from their Spice Briefs range. This made me chuckle no end. I also noticed that out of the top ten books, eight of them were from their erotic fiction line.

    Whenever I go to other e-pubs, the top sellers are usually the ones featuring menages. Whenever Maya banks releases a ‘Red Hot’ at Samhain, she seems to go straight in at number one. I suspect this is because most of her books feature menages, whereas her non-erotic Sharon Long books don’t tend to appear as often in the top ten, if at all. I’m sure somebody will correct me if I’m wrong.

    The e-book audience in Romanceland, definitely seem to prefer steam, and lots of it.

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  2. Jayne
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 09:04:06

    Jayne is very good about finding ebook gems – ebooks featuring different settings and unusual periods. Me, though, I am in a rut. I guess the only way to get out of that rut, to break my preconceived notions, is to start buying and reading epublished books in categories other than erotic romance.

    Well…since I don’t buy/read a lot of erotica or even romantica, it’s not hard for me to find plenty of great books at almost any epublisher except those that mainly feature these genres. [G]

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  3. Leslie Dicken
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 09:26:35

    Thank you!

    I have a paranormal novel out with Samhain (The Price of Discovery), as well as an erotic novella (Taboo). I also have stories at other epubs. I still believe there is a bias among readers (and other authors) as to the quality of epubs, especially if they aren’t erotica. In fact, when my novel was listed at online stores, they automatically labelled it as erotica, although I don’t think it has any more sex in it than your average romance.

    Despite the fact that the eReaders are growing, the stigma remains. Perhaps part of the reason is due to the fact that new electronic publishing companies seem to open their doors every day. Or, to your point, the industry began with steamier stories.

    I spend too much time and effort writing my stories to have them ignored by readers and reviewers. While I will continue to submit my shorter stories to publishers like The Wild Rose Press, longer novels will either go to my agent or to a publisher that will put it into print along with the ebook release.

    Honestly, I didn’t think your site would review epub books. But, hopefully, with posts and reviews like yours, the epub industry will gain more of a foothold in respect and interest.

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  4. LeslieDicken.com
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 09:35:23

    [...] Author has a great post today on the stigma of ebooks. The contention is that most readers assume an electronic book is erotica. [...]

  5. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 10:00:14

    Pressed for time, but I did want to make a comment about the top 10 at Samhain.

    That’s reflective of three weeks of sales. An ebook that released week before last will have likely accumulated more sales than a book just released last week. So it’s still entirely possible Bettie will hit the top 10.

    And dang… she oughta. Thief is one of the best ebooks I’ve ever read. Period.

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  6. Mireya
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 10:12:46

    I can’t say I am. When I first discovered erotic romance over five years ago I was not even a romance reader AT ALL. I wouldn’t touch a romance with a ten foot pole back then. Additionally, I had stopped being an avid reader so I wasn’t even reading that much to begin with. But I got seriously ill, was stuck at home, re-read some old favorites, including Anne Roquelaure’s Sleeping Beauty trilogy and Anais Nin Delta of Venus and found myself not being able to get out of the house to get more erotica, hence, in a quest for erotica I landed at Ellora’s Cave (EC), discovering both erotic romance AND ebooks at the same time. After about 2 months of reading exclusively EC books, I decided that it wasn’t enough for me (EC did not have a regular schedule of releases like it does now. The fans had to wait, fingers and toes crossed, for new releases. Sometimes a couple of weeks would go by with none). I started looking for other places and landed at New Concepts Publishing. At the time, they sold mostly historical romance, with some contemporaries and futuristics. Let me tell you, those historicals were good, at least from my perspective. I fell in love with romance in general at that point. Shortly after it was Amber Quill that I discovered. Lani Aames had a couple of non erotic stories there, including a futuristic. I have the original versions purchased there (the books are now somewhere else). I think this is why I don’t equate erotic romance with epublishing. It was epublishing in general what got me into reading romance so my romance binges online include all genres (I now read most categories of romance). I didn’t start reading print romances until later. Of course, my personal experience is not exactly the norm.

    Mireya

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  7. Mireya
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 10:22:15

    I would like to make an additional comment. I don’t know how it works in most review sites, but as someone who was reviewing for several sites a few years ago, I do know that they had trouble having the ebooks picked for review, irrespective of the category. It was sad, because I could see the sheer number of ebooks left behind. I often picked a high number of ebooks for that reason. However, I had to stop reviewing because of time constraints and some burnout (I now only review ocassionally). Some sites offer incentives or specifically try to hire new reviewers that state they are willing to review books in electronic format. Lots of really fantastic ebooks out there published in electronic format, definitely. I think average romance readers (not including erotic romance fans here) still prefer to hold a standard print book in their hands. They don’t realize that they are missing a whole world of choices out there.

    Mireya

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  8. cecilia
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 10:51:45

    I’ll concur with Mireya – I started reading ebooks because of EC, then moved to other epublishers and a broader range of what I was buying. At this point, there are not only several epubs I buy from, but I get as many NY published books at Fictionwise as I can. If it’s an author new to me and it’s at Fictionwise, I’ll buy on impulse. If it’s not there, I’ll forget the impulse and usually not buy it at all. My electronic TBR pile is big enough that I rarely need to stock up at the bricks and mortar bookstore anymore. So from my perspective, the “E” is maybe what brought me to epublishing, but it opened my eyes to a lot more.

    And the Bettie Sharpe books are awesome – Thief should be in the top 10.

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  9. Statch
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 11:43:41

    I agree with Cecilia. I read reviews of books online, then flip over to Fictionwise to see if it has them. If it doesn’t, which probably means the book isn’t available in e-format, I forget about it. I do still buy print books, but by established authors when I know I’ll want to lend the book to someone. I almost never do impulse buys of print books, but do a lot of impulse buying online.

    I don’t tend to equate e-published with erotica, but it doesn’t surprise me since it’s a lot less embarrassing to buy that kind of book at your computer in your jammies than in a brick-and-mortar store.

    I have noticed an unfortunate quality issue with e-published books. It doesn’t appear to me that they get the same level of editing.

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  10. Shannon Stacey
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 11:46:56

    I'm curious, though, if other readers out there are making the same connection and have the same bias toward epublishing as it relates to romance fiction outside the erotic sub genre.

    I’m pretty sure you can’t be the only one. *g* My novella with the hot naked guy on the cover, which was part of a collection featuring four other much-more-erotic stories, makes up 37% of my total sales with Samhain. (2 years/6 books) My six-month-old release, which an FAR reviewer said “is without a doubt the best book that I have read in a long time” has earned 3/4 of a truck payment. In 9 months, my CAPA-nominated romantic suspense has earned a truck payment and a tank of gas.

    As icky as it is to put that out there, I think I speak for a number of non-erotic epublished authors when I say we’re largely ignored by readers. Hot sex sells—the authors know it, the publishers know it and the readers know it.

    But I think it’s a different bias that does the most harm to our sales—that an epublished book that’s not too-hot-for-NY is epublished because it wasn’t good enough for NY. Been rejected by every NY house? Have you considered epublishers? (I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen that conversation on writing loops.) I think it’s a misperception that’s very prevalent. And not always true.

    So, in the old “for love or for money” argument, if you like your authors to write for the love of their stories, try an epublished non-erotic romance writer. She’s not doing it for the money. :)

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  11. Sara Dennis
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 12:15:53

    I’ve commented on this before, but, yes, I absolutely think the overall impression is that ebooks are all about the erotic. It seems, from looking at my sales figures and hearing from other authors (I so hear you, Shannon), the hotter or racier the book, the better it sells.

    And I admit that when I first “discovered” the world of ebooks, I thought it was all erotic/erotica too. Then I discovered that there were actually a couple of publishers who were willing to take chances on the not-so-erotic stuff and I did a little happy dance.

    So I echo Shannon: If you enjoy reading ebooks, try picking up a non-erotic book. :)

    There is, by the way, a group of non-erotic epublished authors, complete with website and all. Check out http://www.sweeterromanticnotions.com.

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  12. Robin Bayne
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 12:19:28

    I absolutely agree that the overall impression is that most e-books are erotica and the ones that aren’t don’t sell. I had to leave my first publisher (New Concepts) when I began writing inspies, as they were moving toward spicier, steamier and even “carnal” stories.

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  13. Terry Odell
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 12:33:43

    I have to agree. I write for Cerridwen Press. My books are closer to mainstream romantic mystery than anything else. Yes, there’s a relationship, because they’re romances, but they’re not erotica by any means.

    I’ve been fortunate enough to see two of my releases to to print, and sales for those are stronger than the digital.

    I love print books, but I also enjoy the convenience of digital formats. I have an eBookwise and will go to their site or to Fictionwise to browse for authors. My last electronic purchases included mainstream mysteries by J.A. Jance, an author I discovered, enjoyed, but just don’t have bookshelf room for.

    I’m not sure people realize they can find ‘bookstore’ books in digital format; not all digital books are written exclusively for an electronic publisher.

    I’ll be doing a workshop on this topic at the Southern Lights Conference in Jacksonville at the end of March. This column has given me some good information.

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  14. Cindy
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 12:43:31

    I buy a variety of ebooks, yes, some erotica, but a lot of romantic suspense, historicals, if the right time period, some contemporariers. It’s all about the story to me.

    That said, I very rarely buy a novella, simply because I want more story to sink my teeth into.

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  15. Shelli Stevens
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 12:55:52

    I cannot wait to read Like a Thief in the Night! It looks fabulous and I’ve heard nothing but great things! (Plus my editor Laurie worked with that series!)

    I usually lurk, but wanted to mention about Samhain’s MBaM list and my personal experience. I had a book release on Jan 1st, Dangerous Grounds, and was worried about how it would do. It was not being marketed as erotic, though it was still pretty sensual. There are no threesomes or no paranormal element. It was being marketed as a contemporary romantic suspense.

    I wound up at #2 on the best seller list for almost a week, and have been scattered up and down the list for over three weeks now. Which, I hadn’t planned on at all. I had an interracial erotic release over the summer, and hit #4 on the list, so all my notions of ‘it has to be erotic to hit the list’ went out the window.

    Of course…I’m a big believer in having a great cover. A great cover and being a friendly, visible presence online (since that’s where our books are sold mostly).

    Anyway, I’m rambling now. I just wanted to delurk today to share my impression/story. :)

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  16. Karen
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 13:09:51

    I definitely associate ebooks with erotica, and to a lesser extent, with paranormal. (I remember the early days of ebooks, back in the 90′s, when paranormals were the “hot thing” in ebooks.) However, since I don’t read either of those genres, I haven’t paid a lot of attention to ebooks. Every time I go to an ebook web site, all I see is sex, sex, vampires, and sex. Nothing that I’d want to read.

    I’ve been intrigued by reports of new Regencies in ebook format, because that’s something I might buy. But they’re very hard to find, and a lot of them seem to be reprints of books I read years ago. If there are new Regencies out there in ebook form, they’re definitely not making it easy for readers to find them.

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  17. Terry Odell
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 13:18:48

    Karen: Have you checked out the Cotillion line at Cerridwen Press. I believe there are quite a few new Regencies there.

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  18. Ciar Cullen
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 13:21:19

    I have several books with Samhain, none of them in the “super hot” category, but most with erotic scenes and frank language. I’ve also published with EC, Loose ID, and Amber Quill. I think the sales are simply about the combination of availability and high-quality erotic romance written by “name authors.” I’ve only broken into that top ten once, and that was with a fantasy, which is a hard sell in ebooks. I still believe there’s a little bookstore stigma when it comes to buying super-hot stuff. It’s tough on writers who don’t want to venture out of their writing comfort zone (I’m not throwing in a menage for the sake of sales) or their “brand.” But I do know firsthand that the same extreme care goes into the editing of the lesser-heat level stuff at Samhain, into the wonderful covers, etc., that goes into the best-selling hot stuff.

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  19. Jennifer McKenzie
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 13:25:18

    If this is true, I think it’s unfortunate. I like variety. Sometimes I’m just not in the most for what my crit partner calls “moist parts”. LOL. I want something…sweet. Not closed door, but not in my face either.
    There are authors out there who fill this need and do it well. Sara Dennis is one of them. (“Fortune’s Fool” and “Dragon Undone” are two of my favorites) Diana Castilleja is also a fabulous author who writes romantic suspense and contemporary. Emma Sanders at Samhain is brilliant. All of these authors are NOT erotic authors. But their audience has to grow and Sweeter Romantic Notions is a brilliant idea conceived by Diana and others to find that audience.

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  20. Jennifer McKenzie
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 13:26:19

    Ooops. Correction–”I’m not in the MOOD for what my cp calls “moist parts”. LOL.

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  21. J L Wilson
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 13:29:22

    I also write for Cerridwen (I have a time travel/reincarnation series plus I write romantic suspense for them). And I write for Wild Rose (my ‘sexy/cozy mystery’ series). My books aren’t steamy, but are unusual (older heroes and heroines, in their 40s and 50s, starting over late in life). My tagline is “Mystery with a touch of romance, romance with a touch of gray”, and that pretty much sums up my books.

    I read almost exclusively via my Kindle or my Ebookwise reader. I’m one of those people who see a book in print and I wait for it come out in download format. The only books I buy in print are ‘picture books’ (design books, sewing books, etc.)

    I wish more people were aware that ebooks exist — I constantly am explaining what they are and why I prefer them. And for those people who know about ebooks, yes, I wish I wasn’t lumped in with erotica. I don’t write steamy, and probably never will. It’s just not my thing.

    I agree with the previous commenter about the ‘other bias’: Can’t get pubbed with New York? Try an e-publisher. There’s some bad e-books out there (erotica and non-erotica) just like there’s some bad print books. That’s one reason I love using an e-reader — I’m not investing $$ in an author I’m not sure I’ll like. The Kindle is great for that … I can download a sample, read it, and discard it if the author isn’t to my taste. And I have to admit, I have a ‘green’ attitude any more about books. I just can’t justify the paper, the ink, and the environmental cost of a print book. It’s the words I want, not the medium.

    I wish more people would discover e-readers and e-books. I truly believe it’s the way of the future and the future of publishing. The environment and the economy just can’t support the old structure much longer.

    Until then I’ll keep writing my reincarnation stories (just finished one set in 1934) and my sexy-cozy mysteries. Maybe e-publishing is my niche.

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  22. Anne
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 13:50:20

    I agree with the sex, sex, vampire, sex thing. It’s all just basically (mostly) well-written, romantic porn and it sells online because women would rather buy it that way than in a more public venue. I do sometimes wonder why they even buy it online, though–because there is plenty of the same kind of romance-porn available online for free, in the form of both fanfic and original fiction.

    Women may like their porn through rose-colored glasses, but it’s still porn (no matter the variations of “erotica” you want to label it, still as sexually explicit as anything you’d find in alt.sex.stories) and porn doesn’t get much in the way of respect in the cold light of day. It still has the whiff of back alleys about it, if less of a whiff these days than when I first started reading it.

    For meaty, thoughtful reads that don’t get bogged down in drawn-out sex scenes every few pages, I still hit Borders or Barnes and Noble. I haven’t found these type of novels among the epublisher offerings just yet (though Samhain came close. I hate to see them dump their wider array of offerings, but I understand if the majority of readers are only turning to ebooks for the lurid fic.)

    Unfortunately, I don’t see how this situation will change until epubs like Samhain can afford to offer fiction that challenges as well as titillates, that requires more of an attention span and an interest in stories that have more to them than vampires getting each other off. I like teh naughty as well as anyone, but sometimes I get tired of the fluff and rote-romance-porn (which is virtually all these epubs offer) and I would rather read something that shines a light on more than just interchangeable body parts.

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  23. Diana Castilleja
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 14:01:55

    I have to agree also. There is a definite lack of information about the variety out there. I don’t read erotic, and those who know me, know I don’t write it either. (Write what you know, right?) But there’s no lack of evidence that the push is for the erotic to be at the front.

    EREC does a comprehensive sales list (a la Brenda Hiatt), however non-erotic isn’t even mentioned. Is it because EREC is an erotic platform site? Or because the sales can’t compete with erotic? In my mind, likely both.

    I like e-books, and have quite the growing library, and will continue to support the publishers and authors that I like. If the publisher has a standard for one genre, you could hope (if not expect) that same level of writing would and could be found across the genre map.

    I know that Samhain, WCP, Cerridwen and The Wild Rose Press put out different styles of writing and work, but so far, I’ve only encountered one book that I couldn’t stand. I know enough to know that it wasn’t that the book was mediocre by the publisher’s standard, but rather it was not my style of voice or read. But an uninformed reader gets one book from one publisher and the entire e-pubbed network bears the mark of like or dislike.

    Honestly, I wish there was a stronger push for non-erotic reading, but the e-pubbed and print world are demanding hotter, more violent ST choices every quarter. (I won’t mention the hot topics that have been made lately, as I really don’t agree with them in any form.)

    The other problem is making the e-book an everyday reading choice rather than a niche item (again where the erotic comes into play. The assumption is erotic is the only reading choice available.) As an example, for non-erotic writing, I have roughly five publishers that I trust, and would use for non-erotic writing, out of more than sixty at my last count.

    The whole reading device debate has to be economical, easy to use, and not proprietory. There’s misinformation, discredit, and absolute disdain for e-publishing as a whole from many sectors.

    Sorry, going off on a tangent here…..

    So, in the old “for love or for money” argument, if you like your authors to write for the love of their stories, try an epublished non-erotic romance writer. She's not doing it for the money. :)

    That is the honest to god truth.

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  24. Beth
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 14:17:51

    Just to add to the “data”… I am a rank and file reader. I do not run a romance website or have any desires to ever work in the field. And I *do* associate Erotica with e-publishing in my mind. I think of it as porn for chicks actually! Just as men go for the visual and download pictures and video to their private computer, so women wanting the same titillation, but in a narrative format, can download erotica. Let me be clear: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it AT ALL (and there is much good in it), but I do think the function of erotica is more akin to the function of porn than to the purpose of reading another type of book.

    It is just in reading this thread that I am learning my association is incorrect. So thank you!

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  25. Anon76
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 14:33:11

    Sadly, for e-publishers and their authors, trying to break the mold and have a viable business that doesn’t include mostly erotica and romantica is tough.

    You get great books in in other genres. You contract them, you give them great covers, you work with the author to entice buyers, and yet…they sell next to nothing compared to their sexy written peers. Avid ebook buyers do tend to gravitate to the hot reads, even the molten ones.

    So yes, there is a definite pattern suggested when the E is added to publishing. But how do you break that without breaking the publisher’s bank?

    I do not fault Samhain for regrouping for a moment. I know they will persevere and eventually expand their genres again. When? Who knows. I’m sure it will take figuring out a way to make readers understand that not everything in the eworld is unequivocally(sp) steaming hot.

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  26. veinglory
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 14:33:56

    I don’t think I understand the point being made. There are epublishers for all genres. Some with no erotic stuff at all. Look at Double Dragon et al for example of excellent non-erotic fiction online. Their quality is not the problem, there just isn’t the same demand–for many reasons including the competition and the advantages for women buying porn anonymously online rather than from a pimply youth at Borders.

    Ebooks sell better in certain areas, main sex and self-help. Customers have decided that, not publisher. Books are a ‘pull economy’. The meet the demand far more than they create it. Any author has learned, you can;t make people want a book.

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  27. Bonnie Dee
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 14:40:14

    I’m in agreement with everyone who has stated that the sexier their stories the better they sell. I’ve consistently found that to be true for me. Some of my personal favorites of my books have moderate to dismal sales while sexier fare sells like gangbusters. It’s very disheartening when you feel pushed toward writing what people appear to want and can only devote part of your time to writing the project of your heart.

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  28. Karen Scott
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 14:43:49

    I had an interracial erotic release over the summer, and hit #4 on the list, so all my notions of ‘it has to be erotic to hit the list’ went out the window.

    That could have more to do with the fact that it was an IR, which probably doesn’t sell as well at Samhain, as other traditional white on white erotic romance. I could be wrong, but that’s my guess.

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  29. Vicky Burkholder
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 15:00:42

    I’m also a Cerridwen author. I do believe the onus of equating ebooks with erotica is true. Unfortunately. But I also believe this is changing – though ever so slowly. The trick is to get the word out there that there are non-erotic ebooks in every genre you can ask for. As the equipment becomes more realistic in price and people start to realize how adaptable and inexpensive e-books are, we will start to build more sales in non-erotic markets.

    Vicky B.

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  30. Angela James
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 15:13:46

    That could have more to do with the fact that it was an IR, which probably doesn't sell as well at Samhain, as other traditional white on white erotic romance. I could be wrong, but that's my guess.

    IR does sell relatively well for us, actually. I wish we had more submissions in that genre. Placement on the Top Ten list isn’t just about what book you’ve released (erotic, menage, interracial) but what other authors are releasing during that time. Some authors just dominate the top of the list. And then there’s also what time of year you’re releasing. There are many factors that can combine to keep a book lower on the list.

    I do not fault Samhain for regrouping for a moment. I know they will persevere and eventually expand their genres again. When? Who knows. I'm sure it will take figuring out a way to make readers understand that not everything in the eworld is unequivocally(sp) steaming hot.

    To be clear, “regrouping” for us doesn’t mean we’ve become an erotic romance only publisher. I believe in the non-erotic books we sell. Some of my favorite books at Samhain are non-erotic (with apologies to the ER authors who are probably ready to run after me with pitchforks now). I want them to do well because I want to publish more of them. Ironically, it’s possible that getting our print books on the shelves and making more people aware of us as a publisher may be the way to do that.

    I do think it’s true that most people equate the “e” in ebook with “erotic”. I have heard many authors say to me at conferences “I don’t write erotic so you probably wouldn’t be interested in my book.” Arrgh.

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  31. Ann Bruce
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 15:20:31

    Funnily enough I was over at E-Harlequin's E-book shop yesterday, and the top seller there was Goldilocks and The Three Barons, from their Spice Briefs range. This made me chuckle no end. I also noticed that out of the top ten books, eight of them were from their erotic fiction line.

    I believe this is because SPICE Briefs are currently on sale for $0.99. Normally, I see HP in the top positions.

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  32. Linda Mooney
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 15:59:31

    Jane, re: your remark about urban fantasy

    I faced a similar challenge in that I wrote a very dark urban fantasy slash romance after being challenged at RT in Houston. I submitted it to a major e-pub who advertised they were actively seeking stories from that genre. They sent me an email saying “thank you, but it isn’t what we’re looking for at the moment”, so I shrugged my shoulders. Was it because the story wasn’t any good? Or because they’re really concentrating on the hardcore erotic fiction, which was predominately displayed on their main page and Coming Soon page? The rejection didn’t specify.

    Would any current authors of urban fantasy have been accepted by e-pubs, I wonder? I read where one author referred to urban fantasy as being “horrotica”. I’m sure there are other terms being bandied about. But it makes me wonder how some major authors would fare in the e-publishing business when they don’t write the strong sexual stuff.

    As an addendum, hubby told me to sub my novel again, which I did. I now have an agent looking for NY distribution.

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  33. Robin
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 15:59:35

    I don't think I understand the point being made. There are epublishers for all genres. Some with no erotic stuff at all. Look at Double Dragon et al for example of excellent non-erotic fiction online. Their quality is not the problem, there just isn't the same demand-for many reasons including the competition and the advantages for women buying porn anonymously online rather than from a pimply youth at Borders.

    Jane can correct me if I’ve mistaken her point, but I think what you’re saying here is actually part of it. That despite the fact that many epublishers put out non-erotic books — and that there are epublishers that don’t at all specialize in or publish erotic — that the erotic-epublisher link exists very strongly for many readers (and count me among them). Which, as Jane says, is not objectively logical, but it seems true, nonetheless.

    Her post on this, in fact, made me realize how subtly ingrained that connection is in me, to the point where I don’t always consciously fight against it when looking around for new books to read from epubs.

    I don’t know why this mental link exists for many readers, although it may be a confluence of factors, but I wonder, thinking about this, what affect, if any, this perception has on non-erotic epublishing.

    For example, does the fact that readers can get erotica and erotic Romance so much more easily and anonymously online mean that those books show up on the pubs topseller lists, leading to more people buying erotic, which in turn makes the non-erotic offerings seem even less visible — and what, if anything, is the long term effects of that, for authors writing non-erotic for epubs, for epubs, and for readers?

    In my mind, epubs have always been on the front lines of “new,” at least in Romance, and for a few years now, it seems, a lot of that has been erotic and even more specifically erotic paranormal (reference Jane’s point about NY crossover authors). Not that erotic is the only “new,” but it’s the one that seems to get more play, and IMO, it would be a shame if other types of new fell by the wayside because through some weird confluence of factors this link of erotic-epub keep going strong. For me, at least, Jane’s piece is a little reminder that I have to fight more consciously against the link when I’m looking at epub sites and looking for new ebooks to read.

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  34. Carol Ann Erhardt
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 16:09:37

    I have to chime in. I entered the publishing world with a small press publisher and my novels are available in both ebook and print. I found in attending many of the loop chats that the majority of readers were looking for “steamy” ebooks. The authors in my writing group who are getting published right and left are writing erotic romance. It’s not my preference, but I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. That’s why we have such a diverse world, right? All I want is to be respected for my writing whether it is in ebook or print. I love ebooks! I’ve been reading ebooks for years now. I’ve read top authors on ebooks–like Stephen King. I hope epublishing continues because otherwise I’d be buried in books. I already have no available shelf space!

    I don’t like defending my work because it is e-pubbed. I don’t like having to explain that I write about romance, not orgies.

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  35. MB (Leah)
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 16:18:51

    I’m new to eBooks and mostly read erotic romance and erotica. However, I do also like to read other genres and have seen that eBook publishers offer lots of books that are non-erotic, so I have no preconceived idea that eBooks are all erotic.

    I have an eBookwise and I love this thing so much that if I could, I would read all my books on it. A huge frustration for me is that a lot of main stream non-erotic books that are available in eBook format don’t come in a format that I can read on my eBookwise. I would certainly buy a lot more books that aren’t erotic if they were offered in a variety of formats.

    So, one reason that people don’t buy non erotic books could be limited formats available. On the other hand, as other’s have pointed out, it’s the customers who are deciding really what they want, and sex does sell.

    To Shelli Stevens- I bought your book Dangerous Grounds even though it’s not listed as erotic because I love that it’s set in Seattle. I haven’t read it yet, though. And I’m also always on the look out for IR books, because I like them and they are not that common.

    My point is, you never know what a reader is looking for when they buy a book. I was tired of menages, paranormals, kinky stuff and so I went looking for a contemporary suspense and plain old romance. And I’m glad that books are available that don’t push the sex kink factor when I need a change of pace.

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  36. Terry Odell
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 16:19:57

    I think Robin’s point is well taken. If e-publishing is associated with erotica, it’s not that there’s no market for mainstream books in digital versions, it’s that nobody’s found them yet (or very few readers have).

    My romantic suspense books with Cerridwen are both print and digital, and the print outsells the digital by a signifcant margin. (Unfortunately, that’s a drop in the bucket compared to erotica sales, which again I think is because more people don’t realize there are non-erotic options. Whoever said non-erotic e-book authors aren’t in it for the money said a mouthful.)

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  37. Angela James
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 16:20:13

    I faced a similar challenge in that I wrote a very dark urban fantasy slash romance after being challenged at RT in Houston. I submitted it to a major e-pub who advertised they were actively seeking stories from that genre. They sent me an email saying “thank you, but it isn't what we're looking for at the moment”, so I shrugged my shoulders.Was it because the story wasn't any good? Or because they're really concentrating on the hardcore erotic fiction, which was predominately displayed on their main page and Coming Soon page? The rejection didn't specify.

    I’m pretty sure that was me. And we are looking for urban fantasy and have signed several books. I actually signed two never-before-published authors who wrote urban fantasy for the cat shifter anthology. I’ve said it repeatedly and I’ll still say it. I’m looking for urban fantasy with romantic elements. It’s one of my favorite genres.

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  38. bettie
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 16:29:53

    For starters, I really appreciate all the support bloggers, readers and authors have given “Ember” and “Like a Thief.” It has led to some wonderful opportunities for me, and you can’t put a price on that.

    I think many readers look to ePubs for the kinds of books they can’t find in print–this goes for any sub-genre or style. Certainly, as a writer, I could not imagine print publishers going for a book like “Like a Thief” or a heroine like Arden. Writing for an ePub gave me internal license to chuck ideas about subgenres and sympathetic heroines, and just write for the hell of it. I had a great time writing “Like a Thief” and I wouldn’t trade it for anything–not even a bigger royalty check :o).

    While I have read YA and more traditional romances from ePubs, I’ve never read a non-romance book from an ePub. The mental image I have of ePubs as risk-takers means I naturally think of them as printing “riskier” romance stories. In romance, “riskier” often translates as “sexier,” so even though it’s not always true, the assumption that ePub romance = erotic content is a pretty easy one to make.

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  39. DS
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 16:29:56

    I’ve been buying eBooks almost exclusively for about a month now and almost all of them are eBooks put out by New York publishers. I very rarely read erotica and I rarely see a review of a epubbed book that I think I would enjoy.

    I had bought and archived some eBooks some years back and got them out when I started using my Kindle. The writing seemed to be sloppy– one was a book by Linnea Sinclair, Command Performance that I am currently slogging through thinking I would have done better to have downloaded some ST:TNG Fan Fic because that is what this reads like.

    So, mostly all I hear about is the erotic, and my experiences with the nonerotic (except for Gellis’ book) has been not horrendous, but not good either.

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  40. vanessa jaye
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 16:32:43

    When I first started buying ebooks, it was partly because of the erotic component, but also because of the unique/creative stories that you’d never find anywhere else. A sci-fi erotic romance featuring shape-shifting alien royalty cat people? That featured a suspense subplot and a hero and was ‘doubly’ endowed? Where the hell else was I going to get a book like that?

    At some point I sought out less erotic books and was more interesting in the unique stories. Then the quality of writing/editing had me buying even less for a while there.

    My last few epublished books have included several Regencies from Fictionwise and a mystery (Kate Johnson’s A is for Apple). I also bought Bettie’s book. But on the whole, I don’t think I’m aiming for erotic when I shop ebooks. I’m looking for interesting, books that might not be popular with NY due to marking concerns, etc.

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  41. vanessa jaye
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 16:38:54

    Just wanted to add, personal buying/reading habits aside, I’d say the majority of ebook readers are looking for erotic(a) romance, and it seems to be the better ‘sellers’ for the authors who pen in several genres.

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  42. Leeann Burke
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 16:51:38

    Miserably I must be a rare one because I don’t equate ebooks with erotic romances. I’ve been purchasing ebooks for quite a few years from Fictionwise and recently publishers like The Wild Rose Press, LBF Books and Lachesis Publishing and none of my purchases have been for erotic romances. I have been purchasing regular romances and mysteries for years. It’s cheaper for me in Canada to buy an ebook for $5 than a mass paperbacks or even trade paperbacks that are between $8-20. This way I can purchase more books electronically than if I were to purchase one trade.

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  43. Robin
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 16:56:33

    Just wanted to add, personal buying/reading habits aside, I'd say the majority of ebook readers are looking for erotic(a) romance, and it seems to be the better 'sellers' for the authors who pen in several genres.

    Which adds another item to my list of concerns: that epubbed authors will feel pressured or pressure themselves to write “hotter” so as to sell more. And clearly, there is a market for “hot,” with or without a well-developed plot or characterizations. I think this is the complaint some have with Ellora’s Cave, although since I’ve never been a regular buyer from EC, I cannot add my opinion to that issue.

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  44. Diana Castilleja
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 17:07:51

    that epubbed authors will feel pressured or pressure themselves to write “hotter” so as to sell more.

    I can vouch for myself, that yes, the pressure is there. I will never sell as well as another who writes graphic sex in this market, and I had the debate with myself early on whether or not it was worth it change that about my writing. It isn’t. I write to a certain point and stop. So, less sales mean less money, and I still write.

    Okay, I’m obviously messed in the head. LOL

    And clearly, there is a market for “hot,” with or without a well-developed plot or characterizations.

    I will admit that when I was reviewing, I read more than a few that were nothing but sex and dialogue. I hated doing those reviews, not because the book (IMHO) ranked (quite a few did), but because the author had put good hard work into what they, and their publisher thought was awesome. So does the want for “hot” regardless of final product factor in to a book? I’d have to say, in some cases, yes.

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  45. Mechele Armstrong
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 17:11:42

    What an interesting topic.

    As a reader and an author, I know that epublishing doesn’t necessarily mean erotic. But I know people who do equate epublishing and erotica/erotic romance because I’ve had people say that to me.

    From my own experience as an author, the hotter stuff sells better. I like telling the story at the heat level it seems to need, and I like to vary my writing. So my heat levels probably will always fluctuate a bit.

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  46. Mireya
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 17:12:55

    I wish to address the comment from Robin. A good number of veteran erotic romance fans have that complain now. I strongly believe that once the initial novelty of discovering erotic romance wears out, and the erotic romance fan has had a chance to try all the different “flavors” available, it soon becomes obvious that not all erotic romances are equal. A veteran erotic romance fan IS first and foremost, a romance lover, which means they want plot, they want characterization, and they want well written sex (irrespective of how much of it there is). A lot of epublishing houses seem to either be overlooking that fact, or simply do not care enough. I am not saying all are, but there is a higher number of stories out there being sold as “erotic romance” that definitely are NOT romance, and this is happening in both established and newly opened epubs.

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  47. Anne
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 17:19:18

    I agree with Bettie’s point that we’re looking for a lot of books that are difficult to find in print. The opportunity to read gay romance novels has increased considerably with epublishing. But I’ve found even those are painfully thin on plot when they’re epublished. And to get away from the kink/violence/paranormal/weirdness/group sex themes (in either gay or straight romance), you have to do quite a search. There are only a couple of epubs I’ve found who offer the less explicit, like Freya’s Bower, and they don’t seem to have a lot to offer just yet. Will the sex oversaturation lead to an upsurge in popularity of palate-cleansing stories where we aren’t invited by the author to be voyeurs through every explicit movement from foreplay to climax?
    Maybe there are plenty of these type of romances (plot included please) out there and I’m just not looking in the right place? Or the glaring red neon and sex-shillers at all these epub sites are blinding me to the less explicit stories buried on another page?

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  48. Diana Castilleja
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 17:30:48

    Annie said:

    Maybe there are plenty of these type of romances (plot included please) out there and I'm just not looking in the right place?

    I’ve been avoiding mentioning it, because of the affiliation (Read:tooting my own horn) but there’s an entire network of non-erotic authors, just thinly spread out amongst the publishers.

    http://www.sweeterromanticnotions.com

    Sorry, Jane for the shameless plug. Don’t hurt me too badly. :)

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  49. Diana Castilleja
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 17:31:31

    Sorry Anne… I meant Anne… I did.. I swear.

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  50. Angela James
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 17:40:18

    Maybe there are plenty of these type of romances (plot included please) out there and I'm just not looking in the right place? Or the glaring red neon and sex-shillers at all these epub sites are blinding me to the less explicit stories buried on another page?

    We have a lot of non-erotic books for sale at Samhain. Actually, I think, though I don’t want to speak for Jane, part of the reason this post came into being was because I’d emailed Jane to ask if she’d read a particular non-erotic book, because I was editing the sequel and I wanted to start creating buzz for it. I expressed some frustration to her that this book, which I love, and books like Bettie’s just don’t seem to do as well as I think they should.

    I’ve considered highlighting the non-erotic books that I edit, on my personal blog, but I don’t want the other authors to be offended or think I’m slighting them. *sigh* I just have some amazing, fabulous, stupendous books that I want everyone to read so they can appreciate the author’s talent (and of course appreciate my brilliance in contracting it ;) )

    But I do make a point of saying, at every conference, every spotlight, whenever I can. Samhain is not an erotic romance publisher. Yes, we publish it, but we publish other really great books as well.

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  51. Jody W.
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 18:14:42

    My fantasy romance is releasing from Samhain Jan 29 — A Spell for Susannah. It’s not erotic romance, it’s a fairy tale for adults. The other book Samhain bought from me (so far) is also not erotic. Variety exists if you look for it, although, as small presses tend to do, most epublishers specialize.

    To wit: Samhain’s restructuring to focus on romance. As Angela has pointed out, that doesn’t mean all erotic, all the time, either. Epublishing has, in part, been about providing what you can’t snag off the shelf at a b&m store — erotic romances, sf/f romances, cross-genre, romances in unusual settings or time periods. Now everyone, including NY, seems to be branching out to an extent.

    I prefer an e-copy unless I plan to donate to some of my voracious reader friends or the retirement home where my RWA chapter meets. Also buy hardcopy if it’s one of my keeper authors. Sometimes I have trouble finding formats that work on my PDA from the NY houses. When you guys encouraged us to check out the H/S sale a month or so ago, I downloaded some PDFs of books I’d been longing to read only to find out the PDFs were formatted in such a way I can’t put them on my silly old PDA — have to read them on the computer I used to download them in the first place. THAT was a disappointment! And I haven’t read them yet, either. When I am lucky enough to get computer time, I write. Or read blogs :).

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  52. GrowlyCub
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 18:39:38

    I came to e-books via Fictionwise and I started out buying solely SF and some fantasy by a particular author and then picked up some other authors from Embiid and Baen, again SF.

    So, I never linked e-books to erotica.

    I cut my ‘erotica’ teeth on the ERA listserv when it was first founded as an offshoot of RRA in the 90s, but after that went to the dark side, grin, I didn’t read erotica for years). I started reading hotter books again after I found the internet branch of our local public library last year, which has a lot of Aphrodisia and Brava titles on offer. That in turn made me look for what other e-books were out there.

    I tried a few EC books, but while they somehow pick awesome excerpts, most of the books I bought from them did not deliver what the excerpts promised.

    If I associate anything with e-pubs it is lack of quality in storyline and execution and editing.

    I definitely think that editing is an issue with some e-pubs and the quality is uneven. I’ve had some great, well-edited books from one pub and then the next book was just a disaster with regards to typos, grammar, inconsistencies, etc.

    As a reader who loves to read erotica and erotic romance, I’m a bit taken aback by the negative feelings expressed by some of the authors above.

    The fact that demand drives what editors buy is not a new idea or one that’s specific to e-pubs, just the opposite; that’s how we got overrun with chick-lit, paranormals, romantic suspense, and women’s fiction out of NY to detriment of straight contemporary romance, traditional regencies and historicals.

    I can understand that if steamy is not what an author wants to write it’s annoying that it sells, but as a reader I detected a certain amount of disdain for my personal preference which generated an automatic negative reaction in me.

    I read one of my all time favorite romances (Lord and Master) only because I was looking for erotic romance at Loose ID (waves to Jules). I would have never tried a m/m or even been able to find one if not for e-publishers who are willing to push the envelope.

    I look for the romance, the relationship, the character development and I’ve found more well-written relationship stories – where I really cared about the characters and what happened to them and where I had an emotional connection – in erotica in the last year than I have in NY romance novels.

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  53. Book Utopia Mom
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 18:40:39

    I buy a lot of erotic romance online, but I buy sweeter romance, too, as well as whatever non-romance stories might catch my eye (which admittedly isn’t many because of the lower percentage). I think the stigma is there, yes, though I know for myself, I don’t view e-publishing as a means to get an erotic romance fix. As a stay-at-home mom, I prefer the ease in getting a book to read whenever I want it. But the quality varies drastically, even within the same publishing house. Even though I’m incredibly picky about what I buy (and I still buy at least 3 e-books a week), I still get books that I wonder how they ever made it past an editor in the first place. And that’s not limited to erotic romance.

    To the general reading public, though? The vast majority of the people I know don’t even know e-books exist. I think that’s holding it back just as much as anything else, though that’s a discussion for another day.

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  54. Melani Blazer
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 18:45:07

    Here’s how I see things….

    Red Lobster is known for its seafood. But I think anyone who’d been there will acknowledge they have plenty of other items on the menu, including steak. Most will agree they do steak just as well as they do seafood.

    But…
    When you say “Let’s go out for steak tonight,” do you immediately think of going to Red Lobster? You could, you know it, but it’s not what you think of.

    E-book publishers are not all about erotic romance, but many of them have been branded (via many different means) to be the place to go for erotic romance. Most who’ve been there–I think that’s key!!!–know there’s more than that on the menu.

    But what if you HATE seafood. Would you even GO to Red Lobster (or another restaurant with a reputation for great seafood) to “see” their menu? How would you know they serve a killer steak (or chicken)?
    I think that’s the hurdle. How to get over it? I’m not sure.

    If anything, I hope this post reaches a lot of non-erotic romance readers and sends them to publisher websites to search out those great non-erotic reads. The cool thing about visiting those epubs is that you can read the menu without obligation :)

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  55. vanessa jaye
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 19:41:11

    I strongly believe that once the initial novelty of discovering erotic romance wears out, and the erotic romance fan has had a chance to try all the different “flavors” available, it soon becomes obvious that not all erotic romances are equal. A veteran erotic romance fan IS first and foremost, a romance lover, which means they want plot, they want characterization, and they want well written sex (irrespective of how much of it there is).

    Wow, does this nail it on the head for my experience, as a reader, several years ago.

    I shied away more and more from the subgenre, figuring I was just fine going back to reading very sexy romance a la old-skool Linda Hamilton.

    Sex scene after sex scene with minimum characterization & no true conflict didn’t hold a candle to the build up of anticipation through sexual tension. The type of tension that kept you reading well past your bedtimes just so you could savour that First. Love scene. How satisfyingly fantastic was that in terms of emotional payoff!–for reader and H/h.

    I think I just hit on something there. Someone said earlier in this thread that erotic romance had a large titillation factor. (Primary? 50/50?) But Romance will always be *primarily* about the emotional satisfaction rather than the physical arousal/satiation.

    Erotic Romance is essentially serving two masters. Your satisfaction (how many times can I use that word?) depends on which meets your biggest need as a reader.

    As much as I luurve the hawt romances (as a reader and writer), I need that emotional recoup, big time.

    And now I feel like I’ve wondered way off topic. :-/

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  56. K. Z. Snow
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 19:50:17

    I’m cheering you from afar, Jane, for raising this issue. I, too, believe epublishing not only is identified with erotic romance but is more or less staying afloat on its back. Most readers of ebooks have been conditioned to expect it, a lot of it, and they’ve also been conditioned to expect a regular upping of the sexual ante (hence, the greater success of titles that wade ever deeper into the erotic end of the romance pool: increasingly graphic BDSM, menage-or-more stories, bizarre shifter-related encounters, etc.)

    This is difficult for authors, too–even those of us who do enjoy writing hot…but not always. Believe me, I’ve viewed this issue through a multiple-genre lens for several years now. I have an urban fantasy at Double Dragon. I have sensual but not “sizzling” romances at Cerridwen. I have a real oddball book at Samhain that has yet to earn me back my modest advance. Regardless of how good the books are (and a couple of them are superb), what I’ve brought in from these titles in total doesn’t even come close to what a single EC story can net in the course of thirty days.

    It’s extremely disillusioning.

    So, truly, I’d like to know where all these readers are who claim to crave both variety and quality. Do they just not have the patience to look for it? Do they feel too cowed or disgusted by the superabundance of erotic romance, especially of the crappy variety, to keep looking? I don’t know. I just don’t know.

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  57. Teddypig
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 20:08:37

    I just got back from A Different Light in San Francisco by way of my favorite bar The Eagle.

    Guess who is a bestseller over there?

    J.L. Langley ~ The Tin Star

    It is selling like hot cakes.
    Anyway, Jen gave me the sequel to give to the manager.
    The guy literally climbed over the damn counter to shake my hand and asked me to personally make sure J.L. got his email so he could setup a signing right there on Castro.

    So you know.
    I think e-Book Authors are doing pretty damn well if you ask me.

    But what do I know?

    I’m a pig

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  58. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 20:47:37

    I agree with the sex, sex, vampire, sex thing. It's all just basically (mostly) well-written, romantic porn and it sells online because women would rather buy it that way than in a more public venue. I do sometimes wonder why they even buy it online, though-because there is plenty of the same kind of romance-porn available online for free, in the form of both fanfic and original fiction.

    I’d have to disagree on this, Anne. Porn is basically just about sexual gratification.

    A well written erotic romance, and I emphasize, WELL WRITTEN is definitely going to dial up the heat, but it’s going to tug the heart strings. It’s going to make you think, laugh, sigh. Ever read an erotic romance by Shelby Reed? Hot, yes. Porn? Not in a million years.

    If all there is to the story is heat, no substance, then yeah, I could see why some would call it porn. Shoot, some of the erotic romances I’ve bought have been little more than porn, and not especially romantic or well written. Those are the authors I don’t buy any more because the story might have been hot, but it left me emotionally unfulfilled.

    And I’ll take an emotionally fulfilling mainstream romance over a burn-the-e-pages erotic romance that’s lacking the emotion any day, regardless of how well-written the erotic romance. There are plenty that while well written lack the emotional aspects.

    Without that emotion, yes, IMO some of what’s marketed as erotic romance could be called porn.

    But just because a book is super sexy, steam coming off the pages hot doesn’t make it porn. It’s the lack of a romance that does that~ and there are mainstream romances that would fit that bill if that’s how labeling was done.

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  59. Charlene Teglia
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 20:52:33

    Vanessa Jaye, that’s a very interesting question. Does erotic romance by its nature serve two different masters? I don’t know the answer. I do know that I need the emotional payoff, both as a writer and a reader, and that if I had to choose between erotic and emotional, I’d choose the emotional. But I think eroticism can be emotional in itself, and emotions cover a broad spectrum. Fear, need, desire, love, humor, anger, revenge, you name it, a sex scene can be driven by it. I guess for me it comes down to without the emotional component there IS no eroticism; it doesn’t move me. It’s just body parts, and who cares?

    Anyway, on the main topic, I do think for good or bad ebooks have been linked with erotic content, but who knows how things may change? NY has moved into the erotic romance and erotica market in a big way, so I’d expect to see some shifting around in the ebook arena.

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  60. Sara Dennis
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 21:47:24

    What Shiloh said. Just because a book is hot or erotic, I wouldn’t classify them as porn. I write under erotic romance under another pen name as well, and I can understand why those who read and write it might take offense to seeing comments like this.

    Some authors may indeed write their books hoping solely to turn on or provide inspiration for extracurricular activities to their readers. I think they’re probably outnumbered by writers who are doing their best to write stories with plot and emotion and fulfilling stories as well as characters who enjoy sex in whatever fashion gets their hearts pumping.

    I think it’s fine to say that those books don’t appeal to you personally, but tossing the word “porn” around really does seem pretty derogatory and dismissive.

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  61. Charlene Leatherman
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 21:48:56

    I’m another author with Cerridwen Press. My first novel Prophecy of Vithan is more adventure than it is even romance. There is mild allusion to sex but nothing erotic. I think the way to introduce our audiences to the possibility of non-erotic e-books is to do what we are doing right now – blog about it, talk about it, spread the word. The market may have started with erotica but it is growing into all genres. It’s our jobs to let the world know.

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  62. Teddypig
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 21:54:19

    People who accuse Ellora’s Cave or Samhain or Loose-Id of selling porn.

    Probably need to actually go get some porn to see what the difference is.
    I notice quite a few people have obviously never actually read any.

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  63. Marie-Nicole
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 22:15:11

    As a Samhain author who writes a more mainstream romantic suspense, mine can be pretty steamy, but there’s no kink, no extraperson in the bed and no shape-shifting. My first Samhain romantic suspense had a sexy and dynamite cover. It was without a doubt the hottest one I’d ever written, but that’s how the character’s were. That one hit the top ten at the number ten position and was only there one day, but for a new Samhain author, I was thrilled.

    My second RS at Samhain was a revised/re-release and was definitely something NY could’ve published if only they would’ve. The cover was a great cover, but not particularly sexy. LOL It earned out its modest advance, but it didn’t come close to hitting the top ten. Both my releases at Samhain continue to sell consistently if not gigantically.

    My next release (Late May 08) is a sequel to my second, but it’s a mystery/suspense with romantic elements only. It was the easiest book I’ve ever written. I don’t know if it’s because I didn’t have to sweat over the love scenes or because I knew the characters so well. If everyone who bought the book to which it’s a sequel, I won’t laugh my way to the bank, but I’ll at least earn my advance.

    I’ll follow with a July release that goes back to very spicy romantic suspense. I have high hopes for that one and I’ve already asked for a HOT cover. LOL

    Another factor with how well sales go is it takes time to grow an audience who appreciate the type of story I write. I’ve other books at another publisher, but my sales at Samhain haven’t translated to a resurgence of sales at that other publisher who doesn’t do any erotic romance at all. So I guess that just shows Jane’s original statement is true. I hope readers will seek out less than erotic romance. There are some really good entertaining stories out there and the effort it takes to find them is worth it.

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  64. Mireya
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 22:22:24

    Going on the erotic romance tangent again, erotic romance IS a romance. Period. I’ve read a lot of authors in the category go around saying that “it’s all about the sex”. Well, in reality no… it’s not, no matter what your editor or publisher say. The readers are not stupid. The more they read the more they have a chance to see for themselves and appreciate the differences. They do catch up… hence all the increasing complains about the apparent poor quality in the erotic romance titles coming out.

    I am hoping that someday we will have a uniformly accepted definition for erotic romance, as obviously, after all these years, there are still all sorts of interpretations as to what it is… and we still have people calling it “porn” *sigh*

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  65. Anne
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 22:25:49

    http://www.sweeterromanticnotions.com

    Thank you for the link, Diana. I had no idea that site existed. I’ll recommend it to a friend who’s been looking for less explicit romances, too.

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  66. vanessa jaye
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 22:55:22

    But I think eroticism can be emotional in itself, and emotions cover a broad spectrum. Fear, need, desire, love, humor, anger, revenge, you name it, a sex scene can be driven by it.

    Charlene, this very aspect did occur to me, but my post was getting too long. If we can say that in ‘conventional’ romance, the emotion drives the sex, then in erotic-romance, the sex drives the emotions. So the *preceived* failure of certain eroticromances might be not only in the lack of the emotions, but the range. With the focus on tightly entwined emotions of desire/lust/physical need, the reader is left bereft of all the other emotions, and then some, that you’ve listed.

    Getting back on topic, not sure how much of a threat to epubs NY poses. By bring erotic romance more mainstream to a broader audience, they’ve probably done epubs a favour, but is NY really commited to erotic/romance in the same way that epubs are? Once the trend cools, you know it’ll be, not impossible, but certainly harder and harder to sell to NY.

    Also, edgier doesn’t necessarily have to be envelope-pushing moresomes, etc. It could simply be genre-blending concepts that it would be hard for NY to label/market.

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  67. vanessa jaye
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 23:15:29

    I am hoping that someday we will have a uniformly accepted definition for erotic romance, as obviously, after all these years, there are still all sorts of interpretations as to what it is…

    This may be the real issue. There’s folks who want a well plotted romance with the bedroom door hinges blown right off, and a uninhibited fully-fleshed out H/h (or Hh/Hh/Hh) exploring their desires full force as they fall in love. The readers of this type of story should be satisfied and entertained in the end, if done right, written well.

    Others want a kink-a-palooza presented in story (no matter how thinly presented) between (pick a number, any number)characters who only need be ‘real’ enough to perform whatever acts, and who end up in some semblence of a HEA/HFN. That’s all they want (to read or write). And there’s nothing wrong with that. They are satisfied and entertained.

    But are these two things really both erotic romance? I think each person who has a preference for either (or both) would say ‘yes’.

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  68. Keishon
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 23:42:02

    Well…since I don't buy/read a lot of erotica or even romantica, it's not hard for me to find plenty of great books at almost any epublisher except those that mainly feature these genres. [G]

    Amen to that. I am more of a mystery reader these days with a couple of graphic novels thrown into the mix for fun. Hee. Later.

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  69. Cindy
    Jan 28, 2008 @ 03:38:11

    Most of what I have read from Ellora’s Cave, Samhain, etc. do have plot and characterization. But as I said earlier, I rarely buy a novella or a quicky. Those are just too short to include any characterization for the most part. One I bought was only 21 pages!

    I think promotion would also help bring the non-erotic to the forefront. Ellora’s Cave has a chat loop on yahoo that brings the authors and readers together. Excerpts abound on list mom days and and the Cerridwen Press authors are there also. I’ve found some great reads that way from both publishers. Of course this also lets me know the ones to stay away from.

    Perhaps more publishers and authors might consider doing this? It’s great fun, the authors are approachable and answer any and all questions.

    Oh and as a reviewer, I received a book two weeks ago that wasn’t classified as erotic, the plot was over in the first quarter of the book and the characters were nothing but sex, no real conflict. I started rolling my eyes everytime.

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  70. Mireya
    Jan 28, 2008 @ 06:21:22

    I hear you, Vanessa, and I agree. But thing is, that there are stories out there full of sex and in which the reader still can feel the emotional connection between the main characters, which is what Charlene Teglia was talking about. That emotional connection is the deal breaker in an erotic romance. One perfect example of this is Emma Holly’s contribution in the anthology “Beyond the Dark”. Of course, some may differ, but I think that story is a good example (I think the book was even reviewed here and that particular novella got a glowing review). I don’t think it should be that difficult to come up with an adequate definition for erotic romance. That’s just me though, and no, I don’t really think it will ever happen LOL Just wishful thinking on my part :D

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  71. vanessa jaye
    Jan 28, 2008 @ 07:30:16

    But thing is, that there are stories out there full of sex and in which the reader still can feel the emotional connection between the main characters,

    I agree, Mireya (lovely spelling of your name by the way, is it pronounced like Maria?), but my point is you, I and Charlene and many others agree on this deal breaker. For other? eh? Doesn’t really matter to them as long as all the other elements/hallmarks of erotic romance are there for them.

    It’s the old wall-paper historical romance vs authentic details historical romance conundrum in a different package. It really depends on what you’re looking to get out of your read.

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  72. Jenyfer Matthews
    Jan 28, 2008 @ 08:25:06

    Another non-erotic romance author with Cerridwen here. We’re out here if you take the time to look :)

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  73. Terry Odell
    Jan 28, 2008 @ 08:31:39

    A follow-up to finding author/reader loops. Cerridwen Press has its own loop which is separate from Ellora’s Cave, so you can find the non-erotic books being discussed there if you prefer the less-spicy reads. Although numerous authors write for both lines, the two groups are separate.

    Here’s a link:

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/cerridwenchat

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  74. Mireya
    Jan 28, 2008 @ 08:38:48

    Thanks, and nope, my name is not pronounced like Maria, though it is a Spanish name. The first syllable: Mi (try to pronounce it phonetically like you would pronounce the word “me”). Second syllable: rey (phonetically like you would pronounce the word “ray” but more like with a soft rolling r). And last syllable: a (pronounce it like you would “ah”). That would come close to how it’s supposed to be pronounced. It’s not English friendly so it takes tiny bit to get the hang of the pronunciation heh

    And yes, you are right, it all comes down to what each individual is looking to get out of their reads. I’ll keep on dreaming about the elusive definition anyway … my anal retentiveness demands it LOL

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  75. Jane
    Jan 28, 2008 @ 08:49:43

    I like definitions too, Mireya. I appreciate the comments everyone has made including the link to the website, although it was hard to ascertain, Diane, what books each author has written from that site.

    My post and question wasn’t that erotic romance was stifling the epublishing industry but that readers’ association of erotic with epublishing could stifle the industry or make it a one-note instead of the cutting edge, genre blending/genre bending type of publishing it could (and I guess I would argue should be). Because if sex is the only thing that sells then why else would any respectable epublisher go a different route?

    I see it as my responsibility as a reader to be more proactive (like Jayne) and seek out other sub genres of romance being offered by epublishers. I absolutely love old Signet Regency romances and am definitely going to check out Cotillion. Frankly I had forgotten it even existed.

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  76. Diana Castilleja
    Jan 28, 2008 @ 09:41:24

    I appreciate the comments everyone has made including the link to the website, although it was hard to ascertain, Diane, what books each author has written from that site.

    Thanks for looking Jane. Actually, each contributing author at this point has their own page, and each cover that is on their page is linked if I have it available back to the publisher. It’s basically a catalogue of the authors, and on site we have over twenty to date, and that is always growing.

    I see it as my responsibility as a reader to be more proactive (like Jayne) and seek out other sub genres of romance being offered by epublishers.

    I do agree here. I shop around, but can get comfortable with certain houses and authors. I also feel guilty increasing my TBR when I have so many already. I’m also broke for the next two months. LOL

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  77. vanessa jaye
    Jan 28, 2008 @ 09:45:05

    Mireya, I’m totally stealing your name for a future heroine (and your explanation of how it should be pronounced. lol)

    Definitions/labels are nice, but, unfortunately, when it comes to the romance genre, they’re surprisingly hard to make stick or agree upon (ie erotic romance, chick lit, urban fantasy, paranormal, and lets not forget the uproar over the definition of romance). Nevermind throwing in the terms that ‘marketing’ uses to place/sell the books.

    I’ve been trolling Fictionwise for my Regencies, I totally forgot about the Cotillion imprint. H/H is not really working for me. :-/

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  78. Mireya
    Jan 28, 2008 @ 09:54:58

    LOL Be my guest, Vanessa. You can spell it in different ways as well: Mireia (my mom’s, she was from Barcelona, where the name originates from), Mirella, and the way mine is spelled, Mireya. Take your pick ;)

    Jane, I understood and frankly, I do think a lot of people do associate epublishing to erotic romance ONLY, not even realizing the huge assortment of romance in all categories that they are missing on. I think more could be done in terms of marketing. I am sure most people here have noticed how aggressive marketing is for erotic romance, whilst very seldom you see the same degree of marketing effort for other categories of romance sold online.

    And to do my part, I went to New Concepts Publishing and got me a non-erotic time travel book. It was nice to see that some old favorites are still there, I have to check if more earlier titles are around. I really enjoyed quite a number of their early historicals. I have to go back to Fictionwise as well, see what’s there. So many books, so little time.

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  79. MaryK
    Jan 28, 2008 @ 12:04:04

    Well, I did rush out and download the first story off of Bettie Sharpe’s website. :) I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but if I like it, I’ll definitely be buying Like a Thief.

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  80. Karen Scott
    Jan 28, 2008 @ 12:38:24

    Probably need to actually go get some porn to see what the difference is.
    I notice quite a few people have obviously never actually read any.

    Well…. There are undeniably some work at EC that really are no better than porn. I should know, I read the damned things. When you have a scene where two men start going at it, in the middle of a bar, the lines kind of start to blur.

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  81. Beth
    Jan 28, 2008 @ 15:44:22

    People who accuse Ellora's Cave or Samhain or Loose-Id of selling porn.

    Probably need to actually go get some porn to see what the difference is.
    I notice quite a few people have obviously never actually read any.

    Porn is notoriously hard to define, and tends to have a negative (and subjective) connation, as in “it’s porn when I think it’s yucky”. So, probably I should have said “sexually explicit material created with the main or sole intent to sexually arouse the consumer.”

    And do I think a lot of the stuff we’re talking about fits that bill? Yeah. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

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  82. Meredith
    Jan 28, 2008 @ 16:03:02

    I got an ebookwise for Christmas and while I love it, I’m frustrated trying to find books to purchase for it. I used to read a lot of ebooks that were erotic romance but have become very disappointed in the quality, and I do think a lot of it is crossing over into the porn category.

    I mean, Emma Holly: not porn. Evangeline Anderson: Not porn. Lisa Marie Rice: not porn. There’s an emotional component there. The sex drives the relationship, but it is not the entire relationship.

    I was reading a print book, Lora Leigh’s Nauti Boy, and I’ve got to tell you, no offense to her, but I had a thought about halfway through that this: Was. Porn. Sex for no reason, plot without point, everything happening in order to lead to sex. I could almost hear the “bow chica bow bow” music every time there was a romantic scene.

    I would love to read more ebooks that were not erotic rom, but try and find them on Fictionwise–if you use the ratings system or the bestseller list, it’s menage after menage after menage. How do you find the good authors?? I don’t want to waste money on books I won’t finish.

    Angela, I wish you WOULD blog about the “hidden gems”.

    Please. For those of us who are looking for them.

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  83. Sara Dennis
    Jan 28, 2008 @ 16:39:58

    In the interest of spreading the word:

    I’m going to try to put together a list of the new releases I know about/find out about that are non-erotic romance each week. I’ve already put up a few on my blog, but it’s become apparent that I’m really going to need to just make it a full webpage. I will be working on that.

    If people want to send me their current or upcoming releases, please do.

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  84. MaryK
    Jan 28, 2008 @ 16:42:29

    Any author has learned, you can;t make people want a book.

    That’s certainly not true from my perspective as a reader. Every time I turn around there’s an author making me want her book. Off the top of my head, I can think of three new-to-me authors who’ve convinced me to buy their books recently. And my usual policy is to NOT buy new authors until I’ve tried them from the UBS. So it’s definitely not impossible. These NY pubbed authors succeeded (where most fail) because they post excerpts and discuss their books at blogs where I hang out.

    I discovered ebooks originally because that’s where it was easiest to find hot books, and I’ve never really branched off into general romance. My buying has also tapered off drastically since the explosion of edgy ebooks has made it harder for me to find books that I want to read.

    Any author, epub or NY, has to get her writing in front of me so that I can see that it’s something I’d like to read. A five sentence cover blurb and a few paragraphs of excerpt aren’t going to cut it. This is where epubbed authors have a potential handicap. If I happen to be interested in a book because of a blurb and miniscule excerpt, I can always flip through the book in a bookstore and make a final decision. Ebook authors have to make-do with that initial contact. But then that is how those three new-to-me NY authors I’m planning to buy managed it.

    For me, at least, Jane's piece is a little reminder that I have to fight more consciously against the link [e = erotic] when I'm looking at epub sites and looking for new ebooks to read.

    From my non-reviewer, non-blogger perspective, why should I have to fight any stigma? I’m the customer – all I want to do is sit back and choose books from those vying for my attention. And my attention, for books of any format, is focused primarily online.

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  85. Jorrie Spencer
    Jan 28, 2008 @ 18:19:54

    Hey! Just had to point out that Like a Thief in the Night hit the top ten at MBAM.

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  86. Meriam
    Jan 28, 2008 @ 19:38:04

    Hey! Just had to point out that Like a Thief in the Night hit the top ten at MBAM.

    Heh. I just bought a copy this evening. Very good, btw.

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  87. Stephen
    Mar 15, 2008 @ 04:56:00

    Interesting article !! Good..keeep it up.

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  88. Beth aka Scifibookcat
    Feb 20, 2009 @ 03:41:48

    I’m a little late chiming in, but I’ve been sick for three weeks and I’m just catching up. I think erotic romance sells better as ebooks for many reasons, price and selection being two important ones. Shoppers tend to go where they can get the best selection of choices and the best prices. For most readers this would mean choosing a $5.99 to $7.99 ebook from a selection of hundreds over paying $14.00 to $16.00 for a trade paperback from a store where the selection may be only dozens.

    Ebooks also give the option of choosing to purchase just one novella for $3.00 to $4.00 rather than being forced to purchase a much more expensive print anthology that may contain authors they’re not interested in (not that I have anything against anthologies, they can be a great way to try new authors).

    In contrast, most mainstream ebooks sell for the same price as the print version, giving the customers less incentive to purchase ebooks versions which they are not able to share or resell if they didn’t like it enough to keep it. I work for a bookstore and with my discount, mainstream books are cheaper for me to purchase in print and books from Samhain, Ellora’s Cave, etc are cheaper to purchase as ebooks than purchasing print versions in Trade size.

    I just started purchasing ebooks in July 2007 (darn that Fictionwise…600+ and counting) and I never thought I’d be willing to give up print books but I’ve found that I love the convenience of being able to carry my books with me (even if it’s on my laptop) and having them in one location. I’ve started buying duplicates of old favorites and a few newer authors in ebooks after having trouble locating the whole series to reread or to ensure I have a readable copy of some old mm that are falling apart from age and rereading.

    So for me the answer is a combination of print and ebooks and I look forward to replacing some old SciFi/Fantasy as well as picking up new ones.

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  89. E-Publishing Erotica
    Aug 26, 2009 @ 22:35:27

    [...] post there Is the “E” Hurting E Publishing asks the question…do readers mostly think of e-books as being [...]

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