Friday, December 28, 2007

E-publishing's Niche--Pepper

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.


Teddy Pig said...

Gay BDSM published? Easy... Cleis Press

Erastes said...

Quite simply, people will not buy books from e-publishers that they can buy in bookstores.

I, for one, wouldn't ever concern myself with a book's subject matter when plucking it off a shelf or ordering at a library! Do people really worry about that sort of stuff in today's world? Bizarre.

I'd be more embarrassed checking out a Jeffrey Archer than a gay bondage book - but then again we come back to covers, and bleck - some epubs do have dreadful covers as we all know.

A lot of epub popularity is mass market availablity too, and speed of getting it onto the shelf. I know that by the time I've edited Transgressions, sent it up to the publisher, then gone through their rigorous editing and polishing process, arranged a cover, blah blah that it won't get printed and in my hot sticky hands until 2009 if I'm lucky and that's a long time - it's very tempting to send it off to an epublisher because I could have it out for sale in a matter of months.

With the larger publishers putting their titles into ebook form I agree with you, in a few years down the line it will be an option for all books, I'm sure of it.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be embarassed to go in and ask for twincest. It's more common than one might think in mainstream and genre literature (or at least sibling inscest is):
Julian May's _Magnificat_
Anything by VC Andrews
Wagner's Ring cycle/Northen Hero Legends
Playboy, any twins issue
_Hotel New Hampshire_ by John Irving
(and that's just off the top of my head)

I'm rather with Erastes on this: speed. The turn around time on e-pubs makes me feel like I'm accomplishing something.
Besides, work in 2007 to get paid in 2008 is bad enough. I can't imagine working in 2007 to get paid in 2010.

Katrina Strauss said...

Angela, add Anne Rice's Witching Hour series, in which fraternal bro/sis twincest resulted in a child that the entire Mayfair clan traces their roots to.

Though I agree with Emily in that we fill a niche. I personally turned to e-pub for the same reason many authors have gone to small presses -- freedom to write the types of books I wanted to see more of on the bookstore shelf! I liken e-pub to the alternative music scene of the 80's, which gradually evolved from "alternative" to mainstream in the 90's and is now a mainstay of generic top 40 radio. I listened to alternative music back in the day because I wanted something I couldn't find on the top 40 stations. And now I both write and read for e-pubs because I want something I can't find at B&N. Time will tell if we eventually become generic mainstays ourselves. ;)

veinglory said...

I would note that this post isn't from me for once. As a general rule, if it's friday it must be Pepper ;) (also in the subject line).

Mya said...

This post has sparked a question within, perhaps a stupid one in my obsessive-compulsiveness, but one I just have to ask = What qualifies as romance?

I checked on the site and the definition was not clear. Hoping one day to make the Samhain window of Submissions, I think that pretty much everything I write has some romantic element, but whether their new submission elements might leave out Menages and Kink and GBLT is what I'm foggy on...but then I am often foggy on stuff.

veinglory said...

Samhain are still in the area of 'strong romantic elements' rather than just romance per se as far as I can tell. So love story = happyish ending, i guess--as a major part of the plot but not necessarily central. That's my take on it anyway.

Katrina Strauss said...

Oops, sorry. I concur with Pepper then. ;)

Pepper Espinoza said...

I totally left writers out of the equation, because I got all caught up thinking about readers, even though when I planned this post in the shower, I had a whole huge section about the attraction of epublishing for writers.

But I was mainly going to say what Katrina said. I stay with e-publishing and work hard on building relationships with e-publishers and my editors, because I continually plot and write books that do wonderfully with e-publishers, and never would be a second glance from New York. Okay, I shouldn't say never. Actually, are there any NY houses that accept menage romances where all 3 leads end up in a committed relationship at the end? I don't know.

And yeah, I know it sounds silly to be embarrassed by the content of your reading choice. But people get judged on their reading choices all the time. Maybe there's another motive behind it, but sales and other experiences has consistently pointed to the fact that if a book would be appropriate for a NY house, it's not going to sell well with an epublisher. I wish I was wrong about that, I really, really do.

Speaking of twincest, when i was but a wee lass, I got into my dad's collection of Playboys and Penthouses. There was a Penthouse with two very beautiful blonde twins performing sex acts on each was quite the eye opener.

veinglory said...

You could not call me a prude but I experience embarrassment buying some materials in store. I had particular trouble in the UK, buying gay magazines, as the staff almost always made some kind of intrusive or judgmental comment. rationally I thought 'screw you' but emotionally I removed that stress from my life by ordering them online.

Amanda Young said...

I can understand why some people would be embarrassed to buy certain books. My last purchase at a brick and mortar bookstore was a gay antho, with a naked cowboy on the cover. The strange look the guy behind the counter gave me was hilarious.

RD Solange said...

"There was a Penthouse with two very beautiful blond twins performing sex acts on each was quite the eye opener."

This is starting to become my first and strongest argument when people tell me that twincest books are evil and wrong.

Blond twin women have been popular and acceptable as a sexual fantasy in culture for so long people don't even blink at it anymore. From Doublemint gum to beer commercials to Hugh Hefner's girlfriend stables, it's there and no one cares.

But throw a couple of twin men into the picture and boy howdy do people get their panties in a wad. :)

The other day I walked into a used book story with my list of gay and "slashy" books I wanted to find. I spent a long time trying to explain to the over 50 gentleman the type of book I was looking for. "Generally a mainstream type of book, but with two men in love or strongly attracted to each other." It took him a while to realize I wasn't there for the gay fiction, and help me dig into the sci-fi section to find some of what I was looking for. I think I pointed out a few titles he'd had no idea could be considered "gay friendly".