Brave New World or More of the Same?
Another one bites the dust… Writers of erotica and erotic romance are not surprised these days when another indie publisher shuts the doors or when another erotica imprint stops taking submissions … Indefinitely. We’ve all watched all the hype and the glitz from 50SoG with bated breath to see what it’s effect on erotica would be. We’ve watched the rise of the eReader, which allowed for the ‘secret read.’ It was great! You could read the filthiest stories, the raunchiest bodice rippers – even on a crowded train and no one would know. We’ve watched the rise and legitimization of self-publishing – at first hopefully as publishers began to sit up and take notice of the really good stuff that had been overlooked by the agents- the gatekeepers, and then watched with despair and disgust as it quickly became clear that anyone – whether they could write or not – could self publish and the market became hopelessly glutted with tosh that was not only unpublishable, but unreadable. The prices of eBooks dropped right along with the quality and … Another one bites the dust. Not only were indies dropping like flies, but authors, really good authors, were giving up hope and tossing in the towel.
Like moat writers, occasionally I gave into the urge to shake my fiat at the heavens and wonder if there was any good news out there to be had. Well, there is … Hopeful news, at least. I say that touching wood, just in case.
I’ve been perusing the Annual Guide to Literary Agents of late trying to get representation for a couple of novels in genres other than erotica, using the kick up the arse that the erotica market free fall has caused to work on some other projects, projects I’ve been wanting to tackle for ages, but never had time. I haven’t looked at an Annual Guide to Literary Agents since way before The Initiation of Ms Holly was published, and what I found was a pleasant surprise.
It seems agents have also had a kick up the arse along with publishing in general. Unlike the xxx I looked at in he pre-Holly days, the listing of what genres for which agents would accept submissions, what they were specifically looking for even, was liberally peppered with erotica – not just erotic romance but m/m, lesbian and LGBT. There was NOT an agent in the directory of hundreds of listed agencies that would have accepted erotica submissions back in the day. I can’t say that we owe their new openness to erotica submissions to Shades of Grey or to Crossfire. What I can say is that publishers, major publishers are still trying to find the next 50SoG, are still name-dropping 50SoG in their adverts to sell novels. Maestra, by L.S. Hilton, is a good example. I’m reading it now, and from what I’ve read so far, it’s a book as different from Grey as apples are from alligators, and yet the name of “that book” is being dropped as a marketing ploy. Hell, the name of that book was dropped for Holly and several million other books with fingers and toes of authors and publishers all crossed. Never mind the wildly divergent opinions of the book, that level of success in anything merits a big search for the next and generates a lot of name-dropping.
What does all of this mean to erotica writers who have despaired of life as the market plummeted and everybody and their dog and hamster tried a hand at self-pubbing? What does it mean to erotica readers who are sick of looking through all the tosh for something readable? I haven’t a damned clue, but I do know it feels hopeful, like there might actually be a light at the end of the tunnel. I’d like to believe it’s because erotica might be, just maybe, beginning to take the place of respect it deserves along side the rest of literary world at last. But I also think the rude awakening of the past couple of years is a harsh reminder that publishing is a business, and no more or no less noble than any other business, meaning it will always go where the money goes. We writers who believe there is something nearly sacred in our craft (that would be me for sure) would save ourselves a lot of grief to remember that.
I’ll have new work coming out soon, after taking a bit of time to play with stories and write some things I’ve wanted to write for ages. If anything, the bad situation has forced me to be brave, forced me to ask myself just why I write and what I expect to get from it. I imagine I’m in good company there, and I won’t deny I’ve had my share of bitterness and despair, but here I am older and hopefully wiser and ready to fight another day. What I have rediscovered in the interim is the pleasure of writing a story for the pure joy of it, just because I can. I’m a writer. It’ my passion and while the market and the publishing industry may be cyclical, may be in flux, who I am and what I do is not. While I believe I am always evolving to become a better writer, the fact that I am a writer is a constant and that was a good thing to rediscover as the publishing industry turns yet again.