Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A Separate Industry?

This post by The Rejecter got me thinking (more) about ebooks, and erotica/erotic romance ebooks in particular.

The Rejecter says ebooks should be viewed as a completely different industry. While I'm not sure I entirely agree (although I see the sense of it and don't actively disagree), I do wonder if, as I said in the comments to Rejecter's post, if ero ebooks shouldn't be considered as different from ebooks in general.

The reason being, of course, that this is the only genre in which ebooks have really taken off on their own, apart from NY publishers choosing to release some of their titles in ebook on Fictionwise or similar sites.

As far as I know, only two ebook publishers have received recognition from professional writer's organizations (that would be RWA in this case, I don't think SFWA etc. have recognized any ebook publishers, so please let me know if they have and I'm wrong): Triskelion and Ellora's Cave. Both of which do erotic romance. (Trisk does regular romance as well, and EC does so now with their Cerridwen Press imprint, but for a long time EC was the only one.)

What interests me are the reason why, more than the wherefores. Personally, I think it's because these books are so different from anything out there before. I think it's because women were looking for something exciting, something very sexy (and very graphic). Something with unconventional heroes (you guys know I've railed against the "your hero must be a good man who doesn't really hurt anyone in the book, and your heroine must be kind and loving and care for the little children" conventions of traditional romance, and will continue to do so. They're not bad in themselves, and I like writing within them, but I also think we can branch out and give the readers something new. Maybe this should be another post), unconventional heroines. Heroes and heroines who don't wait until they're in love to fall into bed. Something where perhaps there are two heroes and one heroine. Basically, something that pushes the boundaries.

Not only were these books not available in most bookstores--at least, not if we still want our Happy Ending (a convention I do NOT rail against). Sure, there was erotica, at some stores. But a romance where sex is viewed not merely as the culmination of the H/h's feelings for each other, but an important part of the development of those feelings? Very hard to find.

Then you have to buy such a book. Take it to the counter, and feel like the bookseller is smirking at you (which they aren't, come on. But the feeling remains.) Or the people near you in line.

See now why erotic romance ebooks took off so well? Nobody knows you're reading it, nobody knows you're buying it. Just pick something, download it, done.

And I don't think the popularity will ease now that the NY pubs are doing erotic lines of their own. Ebooks in this category still offer a wider range of situations. More graphic laguage. M/M books, or F/F scenes, or BDSM, or whatever takes your fancy.

However...I am emphatically not one of those people who claims that publishing is dead, that now people can self-publish easily the real talented writers will do so, creating another seperate industry, and leave Random House holding the bag, or whatever. It's not going to happen. As someone (an Anonymous) said in the comments to that Rejecter post, self-publishing removes the filters which ought to be in place. You have no idea if you're buying the next To Kill A Mockingbird or the next book you'll throw across the room after two pages. (And am I the only one who's noticed how many self-pub writers don't post excerpts on their sites? And wonders why? Is that perhaps an indicator of the writer's feelings about their work--whether or not they're willing to share some for free, or is it simply most of them are farid to give any of it away for free because they see it as money lost? Or simply ignorance of the business?)

People buy books from publishers because they trust them. Bottom line.

Which has strayed a bit from my original topic, but so what. I think erotic romance in ebook form is a bigger industry than other ebooks. I think if you're writing erorom, the bar is higher in ebook and print than perhaps other forms of literature in ebook (which is just my feeling, as I haven't actually read many other ebooks aside from erorom, but the ones I've read I have noticed a difference [this excludes also books put out by Wild Child Publishing because I know how stringent they are] between the quality of eroroms and the quality of, say, mysteries. Hell, EC is so inundated with subs it takes longer to hear back on a query and first three from them than it does with Donald Maass--a year at least.)

So there you go. I think I'm done. Share your thoughts.

Oh, and who volunteers to send my hook to the COM for me? I'll be at the big party that night, and we're spending the night in the hotel, and while I should be back by 8 EST the next morning I can't be certain, so would rather have someone do it for me if you can and don't mind and won't forget and all that stuff.


Bernita said...

It's always "separate."

December Quinn said...

Ah. I knew you'd have the answer. See, I thought it was always separate, but I read something a few months back where they used both...gaaah never mind. Thanks Bernita!

Anonymous said...

For many people who love to write but do not hunger for fame and fortune (or realize they just don't have what it takes), PODs are a great way to see their writing in print and share with friends and family. But that doesn't mean the dream isn't there. Would I like to write a runaway best-seller and quit my day job? Of course. But, I know for a fact I just do not posess (sp? -see, I don't even know how to spell posess)the talent and skill (yes, two different things and it takes both). Just take a look at LuLu's numbers and you'll see there are thousands of people like that. (IHOOTCIP)

And don't even think about getting your poetry published if you're not Maya Angelou. From the rejector:

"If you've written poetry and it hasn't won a Pulitzer, go ahead [and do a POD], because we won't publish it anyway."

Once again PODs (LuLu, etc.) save the day. Ever heard of a poetaster? If you haven't, look it up (I'm one).

Finally (sorry this is long -dave would say, "Trim it!"), I think you are correct as usual in what you say about epubs and erorom. It's easy access, you know what you are getting (via free excerpts), and you can actually correspond with the authors. Sooner or later the "big publishers" are going to start "recruiting" talent from e-pubs and even PODs and I truly think erotic romance is where they are most likely to start. So, y'all keep pumping them out (so to speak) and it will pay off not only for the writers but for the genre and readers as well. -JTC

Annie Dean said...

Separate industry? Hm. Well, the chief problem with ebooks is that the quality is so irregular. It's so easy to put up a website and then accept whatever crap that comes in, anyone can start an epub company, but it takes vision and skill and good management to make it successful, like Ellora's Cave or Liquid Silver or Loose Id. A bad one will go under, sometimes leaving authors owed money. Had that happen to me, a few years back. You might come upon a new epub and think the site looks slick, the qualifications for submission well written (but they could lift it from any reputable epub, no?) but then when you buy something from them, it's dreadful. In NYC, more people have to approve a purchase, it's not just one guy and his best judgment. So that does offer a little more quality control. Sometimes that still doesn't help. It's a very subjective business all the way around.

Robyn said...

I think you're right on the embarrassment factor. It's bad enough with romances period- I used to work at a University, and had to park in a faculty lot. (I was in housing and food service, I didn't teach.) I always brought a book to read because when I got off work I'd wait in the longest line in the universe to pick up my kids from school. Even though I knew none of these academicians (sp?) I would make sure the book on the passenger seat was cover down or covered up. Why I should have cared, I can't tell you.

Anonymous said...

December, your post on this topic gave me an idea so I did what most of us would do. I wrote about it. Sorry if this is a hijack or it is too long. You won’t hurt my feelings if you delete it. I just thought it would be kind of fun. -JTC

O.K. Here’s my plan:

I will start publishing company (Non Omnis Moriar Publishing?) and concentrate on getting E-pub and POD authors into print. However, instead of traditional contracts, authors will be contracted as staff (no one who has been published through other than POD or E-pub will be accepted). This will allow those working “day jobs” to concentrate on their craft but will include the traditional advance and royalties for their books along with a salary commensurate with their previous salary. Authors contracted as staff but do not have a “day job” to leave (stay at home moms, etc.) will receive a stipend in addition to “normal” advance and royalties to offset childcare expenses, etc. Contracted staff will be required to relocate (how bad do you want it?) and work from the “home office” (location to be determined –Austin, Tx?) but will receive a relocation allowance a la military Permanent Change of Station pay and expenses for the author and her/his family.

The contracted authors/staff will cohabitate a large, modern, well appointed office. Working in the same place will allow the free exchange of ideas as well as informal editing/proofreading and story idea exchanges. This will also promote a friendly working atmosphere and allow authors to encourage and challenge one another. Private “writing offices” will be provided for each staff member to use when “peace and quiet” or privacy is desired. Each author will be able to request funding for “research trips” (if you’re going to write about Ireland you should at least spend a week there, right?).

The staff will also work as each others formal editors. This will reduce overhead and minimize staff size and help maintain a close “family” of staff. As each author is acting as an editor, this will have the added benefit of improving each author’s writing skills including style, grammar, spelling, etc. As the company grows, the author/staff will be divided into Write Teams consisting of 4-6 authors in each Write Team.

A publicist will be on staff and all aspects of publicity and advertisement will be very aggressively pursued and will include all forms of media and demographic targeting. In addition to marketing the existing and traditional book sales markets (B&N, Borders, Target, etc.) Non Omnis Moriar Publishing will open it’s on nationwide chain of book outlets and feature the works of the authors on staff.

Initially there will be only 4-6 authors offered contracts. The first to be offered contracts would be (provided they meet the requirement in paragraph one) the Quinn sisters, Isabella Snow (you can keep your “day job”) ;~), and (I would have to do some more research and get some advice from December and Isa on the other two or three).

Of course, this is contingent on me winning the lotto so I can have the millions required for start-up, but we can dream, can’t we?

December Quinn said...

I do agree, Annie, but I think as you said, most of the larger erorom epubs have pretty high standards, enough to trust them. I don't know of any other epubs who do (except Wild Child, as I said.) Which is one reason why I think erorom ebooks are big enough to have their own "classification".

Why do we ever care about such things, Robyn? I like to think I'm finally beyond it...but then I realize I'm totally not.

December Quinn said...

Sounds fantastic, JTC. I don't know that I want to move to Texas, but what a great place to work!

I think you should do it. Let me know when you're ready!

Isabella Snow said...

I love the idea of ebooks, because I live in a country where I have to order books in English. Or take whats in the shops, which is a load of crap, usually.

I also like the idea of being able to click from excerpt to excerpt, cover to cover. So much faster than standing at a book shelf.

However, I am a book collector. I buy books and just hoard the feckers. Ive got books I've never read, I just add them to my stash.

At least I read the ebooks!

Sam said...

I love writing for Ellora's Cave - I won't stop, even if I am published by 'regular' publishers. (I published 2 books with Medallion press, and believe me, I make more money with EC.) I don't think many people realize just how well EC authors do with their books. It might be a separate industry (with an 'a', lol) but it's a lucrative one if you are with the right publisher.

Anonymous said...

That's it. If we ever happen to get together for drinks, Sam's buying the first round. -JTC

dirty dingus said...

Just FYI in the SF world BAEN books has a very successful ebook arm which sells electronic versions of every book it publishes in dead tree format.

For some idea of numbers see this piece ( ). I have been told that Baen sells over 10,000 ebooks a month but that kind of information isn't stated anywhere ppublically that I can see

meika said...

You know, I've never thought of the WWW as a brown paper bag before.

BernardL said...

Without self-publishing, where would a writer go after hitting the rejection limit? I probably never will quit my day job, and the vanity presses allow me to see the work in print. Once the self-publishing is through, I can then go on to writing a new book, and get the rejection cycle going once again. :)

December Quinn said...

Oh, I believe you, Sam, nd I agree that it all depends on the publisher, too. :-)

Hi dirty dingus! Thanks for the info about Baen. I didn't know--I'm not very informed on the SFF world, so that's good info to have. Thanks for commenting!

Meika, I've never thought of it as a brown paper bag either. So I'm not sure what your comment means?

December Quinn said...

Hey bernardl. Thanks for the comment!

I don't think self-publishing is inherently bad, or that writers should never do it. In some cases it's a very good idea. I just don't think it will replace traditional publishing anytime soon. :-)