Last week I made a few statements that conflated fetish fiction publishing with shady fly-by-night publishing. As Emily Veinglory pointed out on her blog, this really isn’t an appropriate charge. The conflation of unsucrupulous publishing and the content of the publishing matter was wrong and I apologize for that. A house that does publish what I term fetish fiction can still be an ethical place of business.
I do wonder, though, what the next five years of e-publishing will hold. Will epublishing be about the margins of erotica and erotic romance? Will it be about niches that fill gaps in mainstream publishing? Will houses like Samhain, Loose ID, Amber Quill Press become major players in the publishing market because of the rise of ebooks? I think that e publishing is at a crossroads.
It was about eight years ago that Tina Engler started Ellora’s Cave. It started to take off in 2003 with a reported $1.2 million in revenues. With seemingly no start up revenue, Engler turned an e publishing business into a multi-millionaire dollar concern. There was no question that once that news got out, the erotic romance publishing industry ramped up.
Now, though, it appears that the erotic romance marketing is leveling off. For one thing, e-authors have been leaving in droves for New York. First it was authors like MaryJanice Davidson, Lora Leigh followed by authors such as Shiloh Walker, and Anya Bast. More recently Lauren Dane and Lorelie James got signed to NY houses. Angela James lamented that pretty soon she’ll have no one else to edit because the NY publishers have razed her stable of authors. Secondly, erotic romance isn’t selling what it used to. Donald Maass of the Donald Maass Literary Agency commented in an interview that Erotica is selling half what is was before. At the RWA conference this summer, Jessica Faust indicated that success and sales for an erotic romance author is capped.
It seems the current focus of e-publishers is to find the books with the most kink and even some books seem to be straining for the kink. A recent EC blurb had my reviewing group turning on its head to decipher whether there was sex between a sister and a brother and a friend or a sister setting up the brother and a friend. There was another lovely ebook titled “Double Entry.” As I forwarded the blurb to the DA reviewing group, I commented that it didn’t even need a blurb, the title was so explicit in itself. I understand that sex sells but surely sex isn’t the only thing that sells. Or that the only market in epublishing is increased kink or filling the niches that mainstream epublishers like Samhain and even EC won’t serve.
Why not take a tack like Harlequin Historicals and choose different time settings. Instead of seeing how many orifices on one woman can be filled and how close in sanguinity her partner is, why not explore different time periods like the Roman time (which was purportedly a time of orgies), the Edwardian time (early 20th C). Why not different locations like Russia, the Far East, Central America? What happened to the Mayans, the generals in the army of Alexander the Great, etc. etc.
There seems to be a ton of niche areas outside of fetish fiction that can be explored yet instead of finding new locales, new fantasy regions, new whatever. Instead, the majority of new epublishers seem to find the niche in epublishing to be selling more and more outre erotic content.
Belgrave House publishes regencies. It buys out of print books, scans them in, and publishes them in e-form. I noticed that Joan Wolf’s old regencies are being picked up which is great because some of her best work was published under the Signet Regency line. Belgrave House has a niche. Niche does not necessarily mean doing something kinkier than the person before. It’s carving out an area that no one else does really well, and doing it very well. If it is kink, fetish fiction, or erotic romance for the margins of the romance reading public, then so be it. But surely that isn’t the only ebook market out there.
As I sit here at the end of 2007, I wonder what lies ahead in e-publishing? Will epublishing eventually push an ereader like myself and my blogging partner, Jayne, out of the e-market because the niches are for erotic romance margins? Or will it also serve mainstream romance readers who yearn for something different than what the NY houses choose to put out there?
I am hopeful that there will be room for everyone, but I see epublishing contracting rather than expanding, particularly as NY gets in the epublishing game.
Next week: Jayne and I put together a top 10 ebooks of 2007 list.