Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Meet Lisabet Sarai: How Has Erotic Fiction Driven the Success of E-Publishing? No Blushing, Promise :)
Greetings! My name is Lisabet Sarai, and I've been writing and publishing erotic fiction – erotica and erotic romance – for thirteen years. You don't have to blush or shut down your browser. I'm not going to subject you to anything off-color here on Leslie's blog. What I want to discuss is how e-publishing has opened doors for independent authors – and how erotic and romance fiction have driven the success of e-publishing.
When I submitted my first novel to Virgin Books' Black Lace imprint back in 1999, it was really tough to get published. You could be a fabulous talent, but given the limited number of publishers and their generally over-worked and underpaid staff, getting noticed was a serious challenge. Even if you managed to convince an editor to look at your book, the competition was fierce. A typical press could afford to publish no more than a dozen titles a year – maybe two or three dozen for the big name companies. The odds that one of those books would be yours were distressingly low.
Black Lace bought my first book on prospectus. I lucked out. That's my only explanation. For one thing, they rejected the next two proposals I sent them. I didn't blame them (too much!) since I understood they had to be selective.
Fast forward to 2013. Post-ebook-revolution, pretty much anyone with a book to sell can find a buyer. This is partly due to the lower costs associated with ebook publishing. Companies more able to take risks with unknown authors. However, the phenomenal popularity of ebooks is another important factor.
The New York Times reports (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/15/business/media/e-book-sales-a-boon-to-publishers-in-2012.html) that ebooks accounted for 20% of publishers' revenues in 2012 (up from 15% in 2011). Since e-books typically cost significantly less than print volumes, that implies that the percentage of units sold in electronic format must be much higher (though I wasn't able to find those statistics). FutureBook, which concentrates on electronic publishing news from the UK, cites an estimate of 65 million ebooks sold in 2012 in the UK alone (http://www.futurebook.net/content/e-book-sales-data-truth-out-there). By the way, this is more than double the unit volume from 2011.
Readers are hungry for new fiction in ebook formats. Electronic publishing companies seem to be cropping up like weeds, eager for submissions that they can turn around and sell to these potential customers. Any author who can spin a half-decent story now has a shot at publication. And if for some reason the author can't find a home for her opus, self-publishing has become a viable option. The stigma from the days of vanity publishing is gradually fading, because in fact readers do buy self-published books. According to the Guardian (http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/jun/11/self-published-ebooks-20-per-cent-genre), twenty percent of all genre-fiction ebooks sold in the UK last year were self-published.
What's behind the boom in e-fiction? Of course many factors have contributed, but the anonymity of e-reading plays a role, according to reader reports. Young adult fiction and romance (especially erotic romance) are the hottest e-genres (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/interactive-graphics/9190532/Guilty-pleasure-sales-soar-thanks-to-e-reader-anonymity.html). E-reading offers a new level of privacy. You can be reading Harry Potter or The Hunger Games or Fifty Shades of Gray or Bared to Him on the subway, and nobody will know you're engrossed in a book intended for kids or (heaven help us!) a book that includes explicit sex.
Amazon introduced the first Kindle in 2007. Barnes and Noble came out with the initial Nook model in 2009. My primary publisher for erotic romance, Totally Bound (formerly, Total-E-Bound) first opened its virtual doors in August 2006, putting out four books per month. These days, they're releasing six or seven titles per week, and continuing to grow. Ellora's Cave, one of earliest e-publishers of erotic romance, is now a multimillion dollary company that sells approximately 200,000 explicitly erotic books per month (http://www.ibtimes.com/elloras-cave-ceo-talks-fifty-shades-grey-and-rise-erotic-romance-751033). There are authors (not I, alas!) making six-figure annual incomes from their erotic e-titles.
Although some recent data suggest that years of double-digit growth in ebook sales may be over (http://www.publishingtechnology.com/2013/07/year-on-year-ebook-sales-fall-for-the-first-time-says-nielsen-research/), unit sales of ebooks are still expected to overtake sales of print sometime in 2014. Meanwhile the publishing landscape for authors has totally changed. It's far easier to get noticed by publishers these days. On the other hand, it has become increasingly difficult, given the growth in the number of titles released, to get noticed by readers.
I'm not sure what will happen next in the publishing arena. However, I believe that, despite the recent overreaction to some sexually-explicit content by Kobo and other e-vendors (see, for instance, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-24533915), that erotic fiction will continue to drive ebook sales. Unfortunately, self-published authors were specifically targeted by this recent purge, which included many titles that were in no way illegal, offensive or immoral. Certainly, nobody suggested that the Fifty Shades trilogy should be banned.
E-publishing has been a boon for the independent author (especially those of us who produce erotic books). Now it appears that Big Business is trying to take control of the phenomenon, to wring as much profit from us as possible, while reducing competition. I wonder, though, to what extent they'll be successful.
The genie is out of the bottle. If you're an author, you don't need an agent anymore. You probably still need an editor and a cover artist (and more than ever, a marketing guru!), but you might not need a publisher. I expect the situation to change, with technology producing new formats and delivery methods for fiction. We small players need to adapt – and to hold on to what we have gained.
If you're curious about what I write, come back on Saturday the 16th. I'll have an excerpt from my latest release, and a chance for you to win a copy!
All the wealth in the world can't buy willing surrender.
Andrew MacIntyre, heir to a vast empire of railroads, mines and mills, is the second or third richest man in America, and by far the most eligible bachelor among the society folk summering in Newport, Rhode Island. His mother has filled their opulent mansion with marriageable daughters of bankers and industrialists, but Andrew knows none of these callow young women can satisfy his perverse sexual needs. No respectable girl would ever consent to being bound and beaten, to serving and obeying him the way he craves. His money gives him the freedom to purchase anything except his heart's desire—a submissive partner to share his life.
Independent, progressive and well-educated, labour activist Olivia Alcott has dedicated herself to improving the lot of the workers who toil in the factories that have made Andrew and his class so wealthy. The strike she organizes triggers a confrontation between her and the handsome billionaire. Although their disparate backgrounds and values make them natural foes, something stronger draws them to one another—an intuitive recognition of complementary fantasies.
Andrew offers Olivia a bargain—better working conditions for the mill staff, in return for a weekend of her unquestioning obedience. Olivia will help him deflect the attentions of the potential mates assembled by his mother, as well as providing more intimate services. Given Olivia's origins, a more enduring relationship appears impossible—but Andrew is not the sort to give up something he wants.
B & N:
All Romance Ebooks:
Lisabet Sarai became addicted to words at an early age. She began reading when she was four. She wrote her first story at five years old and her first poem at seven. Since then, she has written plays, tutorials, scholarly articles, marketing brochures, software specifications, self-help books, press releases, a five-hundred page dissertation, and lots of erotica and erotic romance – over fifty single author titles, plus dozens of short stories in various erotic anthologies, including the Lambda winner Where the Girls Are and the IPPIE Best Erotic Book of 2011, Carnal Machines. Her gay scifi erotic romance Quarantine won a Rainbow Awards 2012 Honorable Mention.
Lisabet has more degrees than anyone would ever need, from prestigious educational institutions who would no doubt be deeply embarrassed by her chosen genre. She has traveled widely and currently lives in Southeast Asia with her indulgent husband and two exceptional felines, where she pursues an alternative career that is completely unrelated to her creative writing.
For more information about Lisabet and her writing, visit her website (http://www.lisabetsarai.com) or her blog Beyond Romance (http://lisabetsarai.blogspot.com). You can also find her on Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/author/lisabetsarai) and Goodreads(http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/83387.Lisabet_Sarai) and at the group blog Oh Get a Grip (http://ohgetagrip.blogspot.com). Join her announcement and contests list at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/lisabets_list.
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