The Detroit Free Press (DFP) did a lengthy article on Sunday entitled "Romance Novels Turn Up The Heat." The article was mostly about the trend toward erotic romance.
For the record, romance novels (not just erotic romance) now account for 39% of all fiction sold and 55% of all mass market paperbacks sold. That's a huge number. $1.2 billion in sales for 2004.
I know some people like to sneer at romance, but it's hard to argue with $1.2 billion in sales.
One of the interesting things about the article was that it gave the history of the e-publisher that started the trend in erotic romance. I've referred to this story in the past, but it bears repeating in terms of providing inspiration.
Back in the late '90s, Tina Engler was a single mom of two daughters living in Tampa, Florida and trying to get a contract for her romance novels. Unfortunately, she couldn't find a traditional publisher to buy her work because it was so explicit. Traditional publishers were convinced that women would not want to read such detailed sexual descriptions.
After beating her head against dozens of agents' and publishers' doors, Tina decided to publish her own work. In 2000, she started a website called Ellora's Cave and began publishing e-books under the pseudonym Jaid Black.
Ellora's Cave refers to a place in India known for . . . what else? Its caves. Tina had an Indian friend who told her about the place and, when she was looking for a name for her website, the name popped into her head. She thought it sounded exotic and erotic.
Tina did no advertising in the beginning. News of her site spread by word of mouth. Soon she had other authors wanting to join her. Her mother, Patty Marks, came aboard to handle the business end of it.
In 2002, a group of EC authors took out an ad in Romantic Times, the first advertisement for Ellora's Cave. According to Crescent Blues, "In 2003, the company grossed over $1.2 million and paid over $500,000 in royalties." That's also the year that EC began producing paperback versions of their bestsellers.
The following year, 2004, Borders began carrying the EC paperbacks. Today, according to DFP, "Ellora's Cave has more than 200 authors with more than 1,100 titles. In the first quarter of 2006, they sold more than 67,000 e-books and more than 13,000 paperbacks."
In trying to understand the appeal of erotic romance, DFP interviewed Roberta Brown, an agent known as "the Queen of Erotica." Brown says, "Erotica reflects the freshness of today . . . The books are very bold, very sexually explicit and very empowering."
I think the reason Tina Engler's story appeals to me is that it's about being bold and empowered . . . and explicit. It's the female version of the American success story. I like that.