When Jane asked me to write about erotic romance, I was initially going to comment more on the difference between erotica and erotic romance. To over simplify it, it's like comparing Penthouse Letters to Ellora's Cave. It goes without saying that most who read Dear Author will know the difference. So as I began to put my thoughts down I was taken in a completely different direction. Is erotic romance here to stay or just a trend? Do readers want a happy ever after? Are readers interested in a plot and storyline? And finally, will New York publishers ever find their groove and become frontrunners in the industry or will they always be trailing after the much more successful e-publishers?
There can be no doubt that the erotic romance trend has become a major player in the romance industry. When New York publishers scramble to fill a niche and develop new lines completely devoted to a sub-genre, you know it's here to stay. Unfortunately, I mean the trend and not necessarily the lines.
Aphrodisia (Kensington), Spice (Harlequin) and Avon Red (Harper Collins) have all established their own erotic romance lines. Now word is that Warner is also developing a line. What frustrates me as a reader (and yes, as a bookseller) is that New York has trouble figuring out what it is that readers are looking for. I sat in on the erotic romance seminar at the Romantic Times convention in Daytona Florida and was aghast to hear that not only did the New York editors say that NO HAPPY ENDING was needed, but the Spice editor said that ANYthing goes, including lesbian storylines –" HUH??? REALLY?? Is that what we're looking for?? In fact Ellora's Cave recently announced that they would no longer be accepting F/F stories.
Aphrodisia seems to be the most successful of the new lines. They started out gang busters, but have recently been falling short. This could be for a couple of reasons –" content (no HEA required) or covers. Sin by Sharon Page is at the top of the worst list –" what does Adam and Eve (in their little leaves) have to do with a Victorian Era house party/orgy?? Readers who love Robin Schone won't want to miss out on Sin so don't be fooled by the cover. It's actually one of the few Aphrodisia's that I've even been able to finish. Jane just showed me the cover for Take Two by Evangeline Anderson, November 2006 release from Aphrodisia, I laughed out loud! Put a pair of roller skates on them and I'm ready to watch The Starlight Express . . . I think I want the computer generated covers back! Not that I thought that this industry would ever get out of the cover wars!!
As for Spice? Well, I haven't been able to even finish one. Nor have I been able to sell them, I sold one copy of the latest Spice and I consider that good! I know that Dear Author wasn't impressed with the ad campaign (remember the woman holding the book with hot pads??). Bookseller Chick had some better ideas. It can also be pointed out that Spice didn't snatch up any of the already published erotic romance authors. Instead they chose to have authors that have never been associated before with the sub-genre. (Another note: Suzanne Forrester, who wrote Tease for Spice, is great at really steamy books –" check out her earlier works like Shameless, Blush, and Innocence just to name a few –" HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommended!!!!
Avon Red –" does anyone even know they're out there??? There have only been a few on the shelf, but there is nothing to indicate that they're erotic romance!!
While the verdict is still out on whether any of the New York publishers will continue to have the success that they started with, there is no denying that readers are searching for those great erotic romances. So unless New York publishers figure out what it is that makes the Ellora's Cave and other successful e-book publishers the trend setters and leaders, they soon may fade away.
There also can be no doubt that some erotic romance authors have shot straight to the top –" both with the e-publishers in which they started and now with their New York publishers. You could say that the authors who have been successful in making the crossover to New York –" making industry, chain bookstores and other nationally known bestseller lists including the USA Today –" have a storyline and have a little romance along with a healthy dose of really hot sex –" Shiloh Walker and Lora Leigh both have strong characters and storylines, yet can't be considered anything but erotic romance –" of the fan your face kind.
So that begs the question, is that what readers are really looking for? The well rounded, well balanced erotic romance –" the sweet, the sexy, the shocking –" all with a storyline?? I have to admit, while Lora Leigh takes me to places I wouldn't go in real life, I devour her books! I have everything she's written, including Nauti Bouy which was sold for just a short time as an e-book at Samhain before it was pulled and picked up by Berkley. (Due out by Berkley in March 2007 –" reworked and reedited I'm told).
While we readers can debate who is the best at the craft of erotic romance –" the “founding” authors Robin Schone and Bertrice Small and Susan Johnson or the e-pub crossovers such as Lora Leigh and Angela Knight or the unknowns like Jory Strong and Lisa Marie Rice –" we can all agree that there is something about these sexy books we can't get enough of!
As for New York, are they listening to readers? Do they care? Has Spice noticed the failing sales? Will Aphrodisia find covers that match the content of the books? Will Avon Red find its targeted audience?
I would hope that publishers are always interested in putting forth the best book possible from cover to content. If not, well, then they're not only cheating the reader, but also themselves. All publishers are looking for the next big thing, trend, author and bestseller. What they don't seem to realize is that the answers are right at their fingertips –" literally! Internet blogs and reader sites are a wealth of information, it's where everyone in the know hangs out –" readers, authors and yes, booksellers!