Jaid Black, Founder of Ellora’s Cave, Clears the Air
During the past few weeks, Ellora's Cave has been put under the microscope by readers and anonymous commenters. Karen S of It's My Blog and I'll Say What I Want, pondered about the quality decline at Ellora's Cave after a reading of Ben's Wildflower by Carol Lynne. I was less than impressed with the book as well but both Karen S and I have enjoyed Ellora's Cave books in the past. Were there changes in Ellora's Cave that was affecting the quality of its offerings? I emailed Jaid Black (Tina Engler). She responded that she would answer any issue I cared to bring forth. This is the unedited conversation.
Jane: Tell me a little about how Ellora's Cave was conceived.
Tina Engler aka Jaid Black: I was an unpubbed author with a trash can full of rejection letters. As a writer I had reached an impasse: either I was going to have to conform to NY standards and sex down my manuscripts or I was going to have to start my own publishing company. I chose the latter (doh!) and never regretted it ;-)
Black: No. The original focus always has been and always will be erotic romance.
Black: We end up publishing what authors write. In other words, this isn't a NY situation where our authors are told, Gimme a gay vampire orgy with some werewolf elements, 2.5 kids, a side of fries and a chocolate shake. I mean, we don't want stifled formula. We want them to write what they want to write so the best possible story results.
Now, that said, authors are intelligent people. If they make more money writing gay vampire orgies than they do off of contemporary romantic comedies, they will continue to write whatever pays the bills. And despite some online moaning (no pun intended) to the contrary, the group sex and BDSM is selling very, very well. Sales are excellent, higher than ever before.
Black: My thought would be that, because EC is not a NY situation, if readers want to read something different they should contact their favorite authors and encourage them to expand their horizons. They should also write to EC's customer service department and tell us how they feel, something rarely done. If nobody complains to us and sales are higher than ever, how are we to know that there is a contingent of people who want something else?
Black: It's all over the board.
Black: To be honest, I don't think it will have an impact. I also predict that their e-pub only moves won't last. For one, the readership still isn't quite there. For two, their authors will complain and revolt. Trust me from experience: authors want to see their names on tangible books. Anything less and they feel inferior at book signings.
Black: By the time those you named came on board I was no longer responsible for picking and choosing new authors. That happened—and still happens—at the level of the individual editor. The authors I recall handpicking that went on to become big in NY are Diane Whiteside, MaryJanice Davidson, and Christine Warren. Diane and MaryJanice come from the REALLY early days of EC, before we were a house to be reckoned with, so I basically stalked them until they opted to write for me *g*.
Jane: It doesn't seem like we are seeing many breakout authors as we did in the past, i.e., there appear to be one and done authors whereas the early EC authors really established names for themselves? Is that an incorrect perception?
Black: Definitely, but an understandable one. In the early days there weren't as many authors so higher percentages were snatched away. These days we have a lot of authors and there are only so many NY slots to be filled so…
Plus, we're seeing a newer phenomenon happen at EC, wherein authors making 5 and 6 figure salaries with us aren't exactly hot to jump on the NY bandwagon. Not only that, but we're also getting an influx of submissions from NY-established authors. I'm proud to say that we've got some big names coming your way in the months to come.
Black: Not for us.
Black: Again, as customers if you don't make us aware of the problem by writing to us then we have no way of knowing there is one. For authors, the responsibility of stepping up to the plate and saying I don't like this edit and here's why falls on them. (I have very little sympathy for passive-aggressive types who say nothing, then complain behind your back.) Overall, though, we have a very solid editorial department that has won significant awards and been praised by other—New York—houses. Mistakes will happen, but we try to eliminate as many of them as possible.
Black: No, no and yes. If there are no graphic words, then we don't mark it as E-Erotic. That's a decision I made at the company's inception and I stand behind it.
Black: Yes. E sells the best.
Black: I don't feel qualified to answer this because I'm no longer in charge of that department. EC has gotten way too big for any one person to know every microcosm of what goes on so that's why we have department VPs. (Raelene Gorlinsky makes the calls in editorial.) I do know she administers tests to see if the prospective editors catch content and line mistakes, but beyond that I really don't know. Raelene has been in publishing for a long time, is well educated, and I place a lot of confidence in her decision making skills. She's also been an avid romance reader for years—you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who knows the genre better.
Black: Not at all. We get new deals with brick and mortar stores daily.
Black: We auction some of them off to bigger houses in order to bring our authors and company more exposure and, thereby, sales.
Black: Definitely not. I'm not sure where all these rumors began (actually I am sure but that's another story), but I can assure you that EC is flourishing. We're doing better than ever and are finally getting to the point where we can and are competing with NY.
Black: And, Jane, I'm sure that perception was generated from people whose motives you should really hold suspect. For instance, I know who the inside source is at 2 of the blogs. This person was *never* an insider. (That would be akin to saying everyone who cooks food at McDonalds is an insider.) The only employees with any sort of insider knowledge whatsoever are department VPs, period. Nobody else has access to the inner workings of the company. To suggest otherwise makes for great blog fodder, but it simply isn't true.
Black: At any rate, we went to twice per week because of all the reader mail we receive asking for more books. According to studies, the average romance reader reads one book per day. When you take into account our shorter novels, we're batting average in terms of supply and demand. (But to answer the rumors, no, we don't need more money and no, our editorial department is not suffering!)
Black: Not to us. Competition is a good thing because it keeps us on our toes.
Black: TLC is a new publishing venture for us. It's not aimed at the romance community per se so I suppose it's normal that you don't get it *g*! At any rate, TLC publishes psychic fiction and metaphysical non-fiction. (The sequel to my book One Dark Night will release there, for instance.)
For the record, Kathryn Falk does *not* have a vested interest in The Lotus Circle. She has one book coming out with us, a fact we have publicized all over the place. I can assure you that Ms. Falk is not in need of any money. In fact, she has intended from the get-go that any and all profit will go to her SOS (disabled veterans) charity.
Jane: I had one follow up question that really isn't a follow up question. How is pricing determined? I was surprised to see novel length books at $7.99. Should we expect the prices of Ellora's Cave ebooks to be commensurate with the high priced mass markets?
Black: Jane, isn't the 7.99 a multi-author anthology? I believe our 1 author full lengths are a dollar cheaper
Jane: I can't remember the title. I just remember one book I was interested in being $7.99 and my eyebrows rose. I have a problem paying $7.99 for an ebook because it's not something I can return or resell like a paper book. I'd have to look back in my TBB list and see if it is still there.
Black: I recall that we instituted the 7.99 anth price during a time when high selling authors were griping about putting their novellas in an anth with low selling authors. Upping the pricetag appeased them.
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to present factual information to your readers. Best wishes! :-)