Sex and the market-driven publisher.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Like I didn't know this before, sex is THE big thing in romance publishing (along with paranormal everything--especially vampires) lately. Just about all editors at all the imprints at the various houses are looking for a really, really, sexy read.

Kensington is poised to launch Aphrodisia - their new erotica imprint in 2006; this is in addition to their already bestselling super-sensual BRAVA line. E-book pubs, particularly those specializing in erotic romance, are proliferating. And earlier Alison, posted about another romantic-erotica ebook publisher starting up.

Ellora's Cave has only been around for five years and it's already a multi-million dollar concern. Harlequin has a new erotica imprint--SPICE--in the works, and now I've just read this post on PRESENTS Uncut.

The funny thing is, I've been reading less and less erotic romance as the subgenre became more and more popular. It became harder for me to find a good, interesting read. My favourite ebook authors weren't fulfillig the promise--in terms of craft--that their first books held, and I drifted. Even eagerly awaited print book releases by veteran authors (ie Angela Knight and Emma Holly) have been gathering dust on my night stand for months.

To be fair, I'm reading a lot less romance lately, particularly this year, and on a whole I've become much more picky/demanding re the quality of storytelling, plot, characterization, etc in the books I have read. So I'm not taking cheap shots at erotic-romance.

I'm just concerned the 'hot' trend is going to follow in the steps of Historical/Regency Romances--a sub genre which became crowded, then stagnant when it came to interesting stories/character types, as publishers focused on the most popular/best selling elements; and that stagnancy led to reader dissatisfaction. I fear that this popular expansion in romantic-erotica, and the need to secure/dominate market-share, will led to more concerns as the ones stated in the comments to a recent Romancing the Blog column.
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Amie Stuart said...

I don't think it'll be as bad as what happened to Historical Regencies (and I say this because it's so bad historical authors have LEFT the genre which IMO is pretty damn bad). I think it'll be more like chick lit.

After they buy everything and glut the market readers will eventually get dissatisfied with lower quality work being put out and the market will tighten. Good writers will rise to the top and continue to dominate while editors and agents get more picky about what they sign.

Eventually Good Writing will out. ;-)

P. S. for what it's worth, I quit reading historicals (excpet for a select few) when Garwood and Deveraux quit writing them.

vanessa jaye said...

I agree about good writers remaining on top, Cece. I had a whole little segue on Romantic Suspense--that parallelled your points on Chick Lit--but the post was getting too long.

From my pov, I'm concerned the good writers may leave, or find their talents stunted (not given the room to grow) if the onus is on 'pushing the envelope', or on the 'sex', at the expense of character, plot, emotion.

Just as how the onus in History became a fairly narrow view point re era/characters. And even with Romantic Suspense people tired quickly of the 'ranging psychopath villain', et al cliche. It really is about character. Character = story.

Chick Lit is a little different, in that it's an artificial label. Chick Lit is Lit Fiction with the main protag being female. Way before Brigit Jones struck it big (and btw, when that book first came out, it came out as fiction, not Chick Lit) there were other female writers, mostly british, writing these types of stories. Marketing attempted to narrow it down and focus on the most popular elements--to the detriment of character--but fiction is too big an animal for them to do that, plus, the fatigue of that narrow vision hit plenty harder and faster than it did with Rengency. Because of that, in part, now you're seeing the cross genre hybrids more and more and no one is interested, anymore, in that narrow focus.

The expanding of boundaries is happening more slowly with Historicals too--when have the pubs been so open, and actively looking at other eras? Many years, right?

It just feels like the same thing will be happening with ERs. Judging from the RtB column, I'm not the only one feeling a wee bit leery with the direction of things.

Katrina Glover said...

I saw two Blaze Extremes in Wal*Mart yesterday. I was wondering when that line had popped up!

Jordan Summers said...

Blaze Extreme supposedly launches officially next month. From what Brenda Chin said, they won't be any hotter than the original Blaze line, but they will push the boundaries on story lines. (ie time-travels, futuristics, action/adventures, not so likable heroines, etc.) I plan to pick the launch titles up to see what the differences are between the lines.

I've been reading less and less romantica over the past few months. I'm just not finding it as interesting as other stuff out there. Although to be fair, I'm not finding much in ANY genre that interesting right now. My favorite authors are sitting on my shelf in my TBR pile because I'm saving them. (I do that with my favorites.)

I think in the end things will even out. It'll just take a while longer.

vanessa jaye said...

So it wasn't my imagination. I even googled it and nothing came up, then I thought I'd mixed it up with all the changes with Temptations--where i think they split it between a sexy read and a sweeter (MOD) read. I think BLAZE extreme functions like Temptation Blaze did back in the day. They're probably a hotter/edgier than your regular BLAZE but not outright erotica like the new SPICE line.

Are you wondering why I have so much time to do these long winded posts/comments? me too. lol. Actually I've got my eye on a lasagne in the oven--and catching my breath, still not 100% better--then I head out to do some grocery shopping. At which point I think I call it a day. I'm sure the trip will do me in, but I'd rather do it today when I'm sort of rested, rather than after work during the week. :-P

I can't shup up. *gg*

vanessa jaye said...

Ooops! simulposted, Jordan. Well, shows how much I know. Thanks for the clarification on BLAZE extreme. Hmmm. After reading the paras at EC, etc, I kinda think BLAZE extremes *might* seem a bit tame in comparison.

Okay, Jordan, give me back my brain. We are waaay too in tune. You've stated exactly how I feel, without the long-windedness. :-P

Sensual Historical Romances will always be my little favourite bon-bons, but most of my A reads earlier this year, fell under that subgenre, but for the last couple of months I've been reading other subgenre's with a romantic subplot. Some of it's been good (really, really good), some not so. Fantasy/romance is my kick lately. I seriously think this might be my niche.

meljean brook said...

Angie's RTB post reflected a lot of my own experiences with the subgenre, and it also sounds a lot like yours. When EC first appeared, I was haunting their website for new releases (also the Red Sage anthologies.) Now...not so much. I'll buy one now and then if it's an author whose work I've liked, but I've not tried as many new authors as I once was trying.

I was more forgiving of craft issues back then, and I'm not sure if I've just gotten more picky, or if the excitement and newness of the hotter reads (and paranormal elements) made it easier to forgive. I was *dying* for those things, and when they came out at EC, it was a godsend. But now, when print and mainstream books are hotter across the board, and paranormal is the norm, I don't actively seek out the hotter books: they're just there. Sure, there are some pushing the envelope in other ways (Angela Knight's MERCENARIES, for example, is not a big thing for an EC book, but for a Penguin romance? Sure) but I'm not looking for envelope pushing anymore as much as I am a really sensual, well-crafted book. And I do think there has been an editorial grabbing for concepts (particularly in the e-format) that push boundaries, but also trading some of that kink for craft, though it doesn't have to be a trade-off.

But I think that's where my personal excitement wears off -- I don't mind anal, but I don't need it. I don't mind menages, but I don't need them. I need a really freaking great story--if they include any of the above, fine, but I'd rather have vanilla and compelling than chocolate and not. But I can definitely see why it's still being pushed, why there's still a glut, and why buying is still going strong for others, if the readers out there are feeling anything like I was a couple of years ago.

And I think cece's right -- the market will tighten and level out (which will suck for new writers, I guess--and I do hope editorial doesn't tighten up so much only chocolate is acceptable (some of the latest books I read seemed to stick the anal in there not because it was hot or had anything to do with character/story, but by rote...almost like the missionary, doggy, against the wall rote of many print books)).

vanessa jaye said...

'K, Meljean, I'm gonna have to get you to write my posts from now on, too. Ditto to everything you said. This is exactly how I felt when EC was first rocking it, and how I feel now with the burgeoning releases/demands.

Anonymous said...

This is all tricky, but tastes in writing is so subjective.
I've been finding more & more of the ER stuff with no plot, no characterization. Couple meets & they go at it like rabbits on speed. The storyline is how often, where, & what positions they can manage. Period. And maybe it's just me, but if that was all I wanted, I wouldn't have to read a book. Just sit here & play with myself.
But I'm agreeing with what's here--the cream will probably (hopefully) rise to the top.

Amie Stuart said...

Hopefully that cream *snicker* (Yes I'm a perv) will have to do with good writing and not who can write the hottest, most perverted sex scenes (did taht come out right?).

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