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January 28th, 2008

8:35 PM

Ebooks - what is it to you?

Hola!

Hmm, it looks like the issue of erotic romance being synonymous with electronic publishing is the recent topic of the week. Is that a bad thing?

The way I see it, electronic book readers like their ebooks to be hot. So what is the problem here? Too much sex embarrasses the genteel folks again? The readers want, the readers get... so what is the problem here?

I'm puzzled by this topic because to me, if I want mainstream romances, I know where to get them - at the bookstore. If I want raunchy reads, I know where to get them - it's time to fire up the browser and go shopping.

So, what are we discussing here? Do we want more mainstream stories in electronic format? But that will make the electronic publishing landscape similar to the mainstream landscape, won't it? Which brings me to a point I brought ages ago but was shut down at that time by dozens of future Triskelion authors - if we want to offer mainstream offerings in electronic format, the audience for those offerings will prefer to read them in dead tree book formats. They want Avon, Berkley, whatever romances. They don't want the trouble of downloading a suitable reader program to read those ebooks.

Currently, the people who are reading electronic books - and by this, I mean those published exclusively in electronic format first and not the electronic version of mainstream books published by Avon and company - don't necessarily overlap with those who read mainstream romances.

There are non-erotic electronic publishers out there. How is Hard Shell Word Factory doing? Awe-Struck seems to be doing fine. But these folks are quite under the radar because clearly the readers who go for ebooks like raunchier stories the way mainstream romance readers like their virgin schoolteachers, secret babies and Italian sheikhs.

Personally, I'd like to see the electronic publishing landscape to be less mainstream and cater more to niche stories. As I've always said, if I want to read a more straightforward mainstream romance, I may as well get a $6.99 Avon romance instead of paying $6.49 for a shorter book of similar theme from Cerridwen Press.

20 comment(s).

Posted by anny cook:

I prefer all of my books in e-format--Nora Roberts to Jonathon Kellerman because I simply don't have room for dead tree books anymore.

And of course, the old eyes are getting cranky so I prefer a format that I can change the type size to accomodate my eyes.

And the e-reader is lighter than many of the longer books so it's easier on my joints.

Oh, yeah. E-books are better for the environment. No dead trees involved.

And finally, I don't have to go to a bookstore and wander around hoping to find something. The internet is awake all night.
January 29th, 2008 @ 5:13 AM

Posted by Jennifer McKenzie aka Jennifer Leeland:

I'm going out on a limb here. It seems that just like epublishers have begun to take risks with erotic stories, there are contemporary stories that can "push the envelope", perhaps deal with serious issues that Harlequin and Avon won't touch with a ten foot pole.
Frankly, I'd like to see the mainstream get a little edgier. But I don't think that's going to happen. So, epublishers can put out non-erotic stories that aren't quite as formulaic and are a bit more interesting.
However, if people don't know the choice is there, how can they buy the books?
Does that make sense?
January 29th, 2008 @ 6:00 AM

Posted by December Quinn/Stacia Kane:

I really wish I had something intelligent to say about this, but I don't. People like the uber-hot ebooks. It's what sells. It's a shame when good books go ignored because they aren't loaded with enough sex, and I'd be pleased to see stronger sales for all types of ebooks, but honestly, it's up to the readers. The more of the less-hot stuff that sells, the more less-hot books will be published.
January 29th, 2008 @ 6:55 AM

Posted by veinglory:

Dear Mrs G.,

Exactly.

Thank you.

warmest regards

veinglory

:)

p.s. I was starting to think maybe I was the only one with that reaction.
January 29th, 2008 @ 7:30 AM

Posted by Teddypig:

You know what struck me guys when I read that post?

Lauren Dane is on the MBAM top ten because she has been around a while and has a fan base.

Annmarie McKenna is one of Samhain's top sellers.

These people have built a following and shown some hard work and earned their positions.

Bettie probably has a nice book but it ain't all that.
January 29th, 2008 @ 11:18 AM

Posted by bettie:

I don't think any ePubbed author can claim ignorance of the fact that hotter sells better--and no author ever has a right to complain how readers spend their money. It's consistent good sellers like Lauren Dane and Annemarie McKenna who allow ePubs to allot slots to novel(la)s by new authors. They’re the reason I got a chance, as are Bonnie Dee and Veronica Wilde, the two talented authors with excellent backlists and established fan bases whose stories are the anchor of the anthology of which my story is a part.

I think it’s a shame that some people refuse to read ebooks because they think they’re all nasty, dirty, sexysexy pr0n, but the solution is not to take away a product that sells, the solution is for those who like the diversity and risk-taking nature of ebooks to show the paranoid pr0n-o-phobes that ebooks have something for them, too. And, once the pr0n-o-phobes are hooked, maybe they’ll check out a paranormal or a ménage, or an M/M… ;)
January 29th, 2008 @ 5:08 PM

Posted by Teddypig:

Plus Bettie did hit the top ten last night.

Congrats Bettie!

I got a copy too.
January 29th, 2008 @ 10:15 PM

Posted by Robin:

Now, see, I don't understand why Jane's post was taken as an attack on erotic books (Romance or otherwise)?

Why, for example, does it have to boil down to erotic v. mainstream ebooks? I've always fancied epublishing as a place where boundaries could be pushed in all ways, not just in erotic fiction. But if readers are only seeing epubs as erotic publishers, then will they seek out potentially boundary pushing non-erotic books, and if not, what will ultimately happen to those other boundary-pushing offerings -- those books that aren't erotic necessarily but won't make it to Avon, for example. And again, why is that perceived as an attack on erotic fiction? I think the point is to recognize the diversity for the sake of ALL ebooks, for inclusion, which, it seems to me, is something that erotic Romance authors know a lot about, since they've spent enough time advocating for it -- justifiably, too -- for themselves.
January 30th, 2008 @ 9:11 AM

Posted by Shiloh Walker:

Eh, I didn't see the post in question as any sort of jab at erotic romance or at ebooks.

Didn't much care for a comment that ebooks are all about porn and that's why they are ebooks cuz we'd be too ashamed to buy them in print. Not true, because many of those ebooks are available in print, and selling just fine.

I do wish I could find more erotic romances that appeal to me, but other than Bettie's book recently and Bam's book a few months back, I haven't bought a new erotic romance author in ages. None of the story lines appeal to me. I just stick with my current faves...although I really wish Shelby Reed would get something else written.
But I read non-erotic romance too, and I write it. The non-erotic does sell. As well? No. But if I have a romance that doesn't really want to be erotic, I'm not slutting it up just to make it sell.

And sadly, I think that's part of why I'm having trouble finding books that appeal to me lately. The sex is right there... in your face... and call me weird, but I'd rather be seduced into the story, not thrown on the floor from the get-go.

A good book is a good book, regardless of how hot the pages burn or not.
January 30th, 2008 @ 12:51 PM

Posted by Mrs G:

Robin, I don't see Jane's post as an "attack" on epublishing. "Attack" is such a loaded word, don't you think?

I find it odd, though, the idea that erotic romances may cause the downfall of an industry. Heaven knows, we have all complained about too many Regency-era historical romances in the past, but no one said that Regency historical romances will cause the death of the genre. Why is it that erotic romances get the special treatment of being singled out as something noteworthy? Why not single out paranormal/urban fantasy as well since one can't walk past the romance section nowadays without tripping over at least six of them.

The underlying idea that somehow sex will cause the downfall of something is quite strange to me because everyone knows sex sells.

Of course, if we are talking about respectability, that's a different thing altogether. But lack of respect won't kill a genre since we won't be reading romance novels today if this is the case.

The whole "sex = downfall" theory feels too much like an overreaction to me.
January 30th, 2008 @ 11:14 PM

Posted by Robin:

Is "attack" a loaded word? Maybe, but your reaction and Veinglory's both read to me like a defense of erotic Romance, when IMO Jane's piece wasn't about sex or erotic Romance but about *reader perceptions* and, more specifically *reader MISperceptions* about what epublishing does and represents. That is, it's not a problem with erotic Romance at all but with the misperception that many readers have that epub = erotic Romance and nothing else.

It's like the perception -- to borrow from one of your examples -- that paranormal Romances all feature vamps or werewolves. I've had a heck of a time getting friends to read certain books technically with the paranormal/fantasy category -- Shana Abe's Smoke Thief, for example -- because they just don't want to read about vamps and werewolves.

I think the question of how certain stereotypes impact what readers choose or don't choose is significant, whether those stereotypes are being applied to erotic Romance or epublishing or paranormals or historicals. The historicals market is especially prone to this speculation, I think, because I keep hearing that readers are driving the historicals market, and yet so many readers I know are profoundly frustrated with the recent state of historical Romance (i.e. tons of lite and not enough epic). So whose perception is really driving the market there -- readers or what publishers think readers want?
January 31st, 2008 @ 4:56 AM

Posted by Steph:

Weren't you the one who said ebooks weren't equal to "real books"? I think that in itself shows the problem. The writers think they are real books. I doubt many want to pride themselves on the masterbating factor of their plot. They want to believe they are authors, even if the readers are buying them for other reasons. That's the problem with associating one genre type with ebooks.
January 31st, 2008 @ 5:36 AM

Posted by Mrs G:

Robin, I wasn't defending erotic romance as much as I am saying "What's the big deal here? People are buying them."

I can understand one's frustration at the lack of diversity in the genre, but you have to admit, the lack of diversity sure isn't stopping people from buying those books. One thing I've learned after all these years online is that the people online barely represent 10% of the people reading the genre. Whose perceptions is driving the market? None. It's what the 90% of those readers are willing to pay money for. Sometimes what the editors think will sell don't - think of the young adult books that every other author was putting out a few years ago - but any trend that brings in the money will definitely be flogged to overkill. The erotic romance bloom, like Regency-era historical romances, won't be so prevalent if people aren't buying them. Same with virgins and sheikhs in category romance.

Steph, reread my article about the matter again before you twist my words into me having something against ebooks in general. That's not what I said.
January 31st, 2008 @ 7:57 AM

Posted by veinglory:

No matter how neutral the words may be, I don't think you can say erotica is 'hurting' epublishing and not imply erotica is in some way a bad thing.
January 31st, 2008 @ 8:30 AM

Posted by Steph:

I would reread your blog but you deleted it. I wonder why? This is all that's left of your entry

Ebooks are not equal to “Real Books”
21 Jun 2007 by mrsgiggles
"It used to be that ebooks used to be exciting because they offered a cool alternative to the formulaic stuff published by New York houses, but now it seems as if everyone who can’t get published in New York houses is pushing their stuff..."

Besides I think you made my point. It isn't nice to assume a book is less because of the format. You yourself seem to prefer diddle worthy ebooks and dead tree romance mainstream. Some ebook authors may want to be judged on the plot and not an assumption made as to the heat level. I could be wrong.
January 31st, 2008 @ 10:32 AM

Posted by Robin:

No matter how neutral the words may be, I don't think you can say erotica is 'hurting' epublishing and not imply erotica is in some way a bad thing.

But she didn't say it, she asked it in the title of her piece, and then went on to say this:

"In the past week, I’ve had a few conversations with readers and they, too, have this connection in their head. In some ways, this connection both helps and hurts. Want a steamy read at 11:00 pm? It’s easy to go straight online to an epublishing house bookstore (open 24 hours) and buy something to fit your interests. Interested in a urban fantasy book? I’m heading for Fictionwise to peruse the EOS (Kim Harrison), ACE/ROC (Ilona Andrews, Patricia Briggs), or SPECTRA (Kelley Armstrong) offerings.

Because I have this preconceived idea that epublishers specialize in erotic romance, I think I tend to believe that the other genres are second thoughts and therefore not worth my money. If Samhain advertised a book that they compared to those of Ilona Andrews, I think I would be skeptical. I know that they do erotic romance well, but urban fantasy?"

Which I read as saying that many readers believe that epublishers only do one thing well: erotic Romance. Which, as I read it, is really a positive comment on epubbed erotic Romance.

But, hey, different readers have different takes.
January 31st, 2008 @ 10:58 AM

Posted by Mrs G:

Oh yes, I forgot I deleted that entry due to too many authors getting all riled up. Anyway...

You yourself seem to prefer diddle worthy ebooks and dead tree romance mainstream. Some ebook authors may want to be judged on the plot and not an assumption made as to the heat level. I could be wrong.

Wait a minute, are we suppose to be discussing something or are you going to stand here assuming my motives and I have to defend myself as a result? Because if it's the latter, I don't want to play anymore.
January 31st, 2008 @ 5:42 PM

Posted by Mrs G:

Robin,

Because I have this preconceived idea that epublishers specialize in erotic romance, I think I tend to believe that the other genres are second thoughts and therefore not worth my money. If Samhain advertised a book that they compared to those of Ilona Andrews, I think I would be skeptical. I know that they do erotic romance well, but urban fantasy?

Heh, this is actually one the part that has me scratching my head because - this is just my personal taste, of course - I won't associate Samhain with erotic romances. Samhain's motto is "It's all about the story" and to give them credit, they do put up stories from various subgenres in romance that may not even have steamy sex scenes at times. And having read enough Samhain, I think they do do urban fantasies pretty. I'd personally put Samhain at the same level as Cerridwen in that they offer both steamy and not-so-steamy reads. Which is good, IMO.

Part of my problem when it comes to articles like Jane's is that too much of it is broad generalization. Perhaps this is deliberate, to stimulate discussion, but it's still generalization nonetheless. Erotic romance is offered across the boards in many epublishers, but that's because the demand is there.

And it's just my take, but I don't think erotic romance is portrayed as positively as you'd say. Anything that is supposed to cause some kind of negative impact on a whole industry can't be positive.

I think that erotic romance, like sex in movies, is a very easy target to blame for all kinds of issues. If the demand is there, I can't blame the supplier for offering more (that doesn't mean I am happy them - I just understand why they do what they do). It's like, say, fans of Laura Kinsale blaming Avon's Regency-era romances for dumbing down historical romance in general. Readers are buying what they want to read. We can't blame them for doing that, can we?
January 31st, 2008 @ 5:53 PM

Posted by Robin:

Mrs. G -- obviously this comes down to perception. You see Jane critiquing erotic Romance, I see her critiquing reader perceptions (or rather misperceptions). You see her as identifying some "harm" in erotic Romance, while I see her as identifying a potential harm in reader misperceptions about erotic Romance. And reader perceptions, as your own example about Avon highlights, aren't always logical or fact-based, but they can be influential, even when they're wrong.

For example, I'd argue that what you're saying about readers misperceiving Avon's relationship to the general historical market is basically equivalent to what Jane's saying about readers misperceiving the general ebook market. So ultimately, I think the conflict you see between what you are saying and what Jane's saying is non-existent.

As for generalizations, I agree that they can be problematic, but who doesn't indulge in them? Isn't saying that erotic Romance "is a very easy target to blame for all kinds of issues" a generalization, too? As someone who likes to parse the minutiae, I've found it's not always easy to get readers to go there with you for any length of time or to feel like they can add to the discussion. So I see blog posts as a means to provoke more detailed discussion, an opening to challenge and nuance the generalizations we all rely on from time to time.
February 1st, 2008 @ 2:15 PM

Posted by Robin:

Readers are buying what they want to read.

I wonder about this. I think readers are buying what they *think* they want to read, but if they aren't particularly informed about what the market has to offer, I'm not sure they're always buying what they want to read. And more specifically, I'm not convinced that what's being offered is necessarily *only* what readers will buy. Hmm, this would make a good blog post subject, I think.
February 1st, 2008 @ 2:19 PM