Today, between the porn writing, Vivien and I were discussing Samhain's announcement that they're focusing on romance in 2008. We both agreed that we were not surprise. I can't speculate on Vivien's lack of surprise, but this announcement completely supports my theory on the niche e-publishing currently fills, and may continue to fill for some time.
My earth-shattering theory, unfortunately, is not very earth-shattering. But I like it. And it dictates how I approach e-publishing, promotion, and the books I write. Quite simply, people will not buy books from e-publishers that they can buy in bookstores. People turn to e-books because they are either unable or unwilling to find the books they want through the standard outlets.
And can you blame them? Look at all the uproar "twincest" causes now. Imagine, for a moment, that a NY publisher publishes a twincest book (bear with me here). Now imagine some otherwise normal and healthy middle-aged woman calmly going to Borders and purchasing it, or asking the librarian when it came in and reserving it for the day it arrives.
I'm having a hard time imagining that.
It seems that for anybody who likes romance with a twist (regardless of what that twist or kink is), there are two main problems. First, availability. Who is publishing gay BDSM? I'm 100% sure somebody is, but I am absolutely ignorant as to what publisher to ask for. And I consider myself a fairly worldly person. Second, privacy. Romance readers get enough flack as it is, from all corners, without broadcasting their books. Also, I think romance readers are accustomed to some level of convenience because HQN imprints ship directly to your door.
There's been a lot of talk in Romanceland about the possible future of e-publishing and e-books and e-readers, and what not. In my opinion, in the future, the publishers and writers who are successful, and who remain successful, will remember that e-publishers are currently fulfilling a specific need and a specific niche. I believe that, eventually, e-books will be mainstream. A lot of readers now insist that they only like reading, and in some cases are only capable of reading, dead-tree books. But my sister's generation is more comfortable reading e-books. The kids I'm teaching now have spent their entire lives on computers. I imagine in a few years, there will be an entire generation of readers in America who are more comfortable with e-book readers and laptops than dead-tree books. When that happens, e-publishing will shift to include all manners of genres and readers, not just the current niche it fills now.
But until then, publishing is, as it's always been, a hurry up and wait business. Change is going to come slowly, and dead tree books will always have their place, unless global warming kills all the trees or something.