Thursday, April 30, 2009

In Praise of Feminist Smut

I've appeared at a lot of writers’ conferences in the past 6 months (Romantic Times, Las Vegas, San Diego, Florida, ) and am set to do a bunch more (Writer's Digest, Lori Foster's, Necon, Killercon). I usually end up on an editors’ panel where I try to explain where Ravenous Romance is coming from editorially, and what sets us apart.

I got a phone call today from a major trade publisher, who is buying a number of our titles for reprint. He gushed about how much fun our books were to read, and how he thought he knew what to expect and yet was pleasantly surprised. He also said that the sex in the books was as good as any erotica he'd ever read, and he's been reading erotica for decades.

Whenever I do one of these panels, I always tell people that I have wanted to start an erotica company for women since I was a teenager coming of age in the 70s. I was completely blown away by Anais Nin and her Delta of Venus and Little Birds (and later read her diaries, twice), as well as Nancy Friday's various sexual fantasy collections. Erica Jong and Marilyn French didn't grab me as hard, but I was fascinated by the burgeoning genre of “clit lit.” The Anne Rice Beauty books came out when I was in college, and I was sure feminist erotica would soon rival that of the bad boys of American letters - John Updike, Philip Roth, Henry Miller.

But then there was nothing. Or more of the same male erotica, but nothing more by women, for women. Where was the feminist “smut”? I kept on reading the New York Times Book Review, but couldn't find a thing.

And then, out of left field (or, more accurately, Ohio) emerged Ellora's Cave. As a reader, I was thrilled to find this empowering online bookstore of erotic stories for women.

I was also looking for the thread that would link this new erotic readership to the not-so-distant literary tradition of erotica, but this new material was more about opening the bedroom door in the romance novels of my teens, which I also endorsed.

At Ravenous, we want to merge these two powerful (and commercial) erotic sensibilities, widening the readership of this female-pleasing (even if they're M/M stories) entertainment. We are reaching the readers of explicitly erotic romance, as well as the erotica reader, offering a guaranteed Happy Ending (which is what both these forms of fiction demand).

And I firmly believe that if Anais Nin were writing today, she's be writing for Ravenous and other digital erotic romance publishers, and making a small fortune

Sunday, April 26, 2009

RT from the Eye of an Agent and Editor

I have been going to writers conferences as an agent for two decades, and we all know it's a traveling card party - you see the same players year after year and you feel as though you could step into the card game right where you left off the last time you saw these folks.

The fact that I am an agent places me so squarely in the middle of the publishing perspective. I am just amazed at how I can see the big picture of the print publishing world, the epub world, as well as the crossing over genre to genre that most working writers do. It always amazes me when I see one of my horror or sci-fi writing pals selling his or her erotic romance at one of these conferences under a pseudonym.

Publishing is a big small world, and many of the people in it have never looked out from the other side.

And right now, it is growing and changing in ways very few saw coming, but it is so exciting.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Finally Closed a Deal

OK, a while back I wrote about how this major publisher called me in November to let me know that if I wanted to follow the letter of the contract law and get an offer from them on the option novel they'd had for 90 days, they were going to have to pass. However, if I'd wait until the new year, they would probably buy it, because they could make their books balance that way.

So, I waited until February, when they informed me that even though my author had already written two books for them, they were going to need a whole new outline and three sample chapters to go forward.

We wanted to stay with this house, so we complied.

We were supposed to hear two weeks ago, but the editorial meeting was delayed.

I got a call today - five months later - saying it was a go. Of course, the offer was the same as the last one. We expected this.

But this is publishing today.