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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Ebooks, epublishing, and the erotic romance industry in general

Someone on an emailing list asked a few really good questions:

1) What are the pros and cons of ebooks over print?

2) Have you ever been dismissed by potential readers for being in ebook format versus print?

3) Have you ever been dismissed for writing romance as opposed to "more serious" fiction?

I'm going to tackle these one by one because I run into this often--the first two even more than the third.

1) The pros are easy to identify--having portable books in a way that doesn't take up a HUGE amount of storage space is very beneficial to people who travel often and are always on the go. I can read a 200 page book in 30-45 minutes easily, and when I get on a plane for more than 2-3 hours I may not necessarily just want to watch the Sci Fi channel. Having a bunch of books in a small, handheld device is AWESOME for this purpose.

Also, there's the opportunity of lunch hour reading. I can sit down and read a book on my laptop or on my desktop at work. No one has to know what I'm reading and less of a chance people will come over and start talking to me with the usual questions: "Oh, you're reading a book! What are you reading? What's it about?" I remember bringing Crowley's Book 4--the HUGE blue doorstop edition--with me to entertain myself as I sat around for jury duty, and got repeatedly asked, "Oh, are you reading Harry Potter? What are you reading?" While this can be amusing, it can also be annoying--or potentially hazardous in the workplace as you attempt to wave them away without giving away what it is that you are reading. So if you want to read occult, romance, and/or erotica books without your fellow employees in your cube wondering what you're reading during your lunch hour...ebooks are definitely the way to go.

The cons can be summed up in one word: tradition. People are constantly telling me how much they prefer print because they "like the feel of a book in their hands," and asking me when my ebook will be available on, B&N, name it. This typically means that people will sometimes refuse to buy it on the grounds that a) prefer print, b) don't have the technology to read an ebook, or worse yet, c) being an ebook is somehow "less" than being in print.

Which brings me to #2:

2) Yes, there is the idea that somehow ebooks aren't "real", that the standards for them are far less than print and therefore are more likely to suck, and people who prefer the traditional methods tend to avoid purchasing your book. The one reviewer I've had comment on Blood of the Dark Moon so far even admits this: he hates ebooks, and it even prevented him from reviewing my book for a good month before he had the chance to take a look at it. Once he did so, however, he was disappointed that he didn't read it sooner!

Convincing people to take a chance on an ebook is much like that example--people will take their time, hem and haw, and will eventually sit down and read it to discover that wow, good books CAN come in ebook format! But this takes time, and sometimes it's just a matter of the technology--not everyone is comfortable with having a smartphone, PDA, computer, and/or handheld ebook reader. I am a geek by hobby and profession and having access to many of the above mentioned items makes reading ebooks for me easy, fun, and rather convenient. This is, however, not the case for everyone.

3) I have found that writing romance isn't as much of a problem as writing erotic romance. I am completely unable to tell my family what I write about. I not only write about explicit sex, I write about explicit kinky sex between vampires involving bondage, blood play, knife play--you name it. This is NOT up everyone's alley, and while I did my best to tred the line between being titillating while not detracting from the plot, there will be some who will be put off by that.

Mainstream romance, such as Gone with the Wind, does fine, and even your grandmother can read it. A lot of modern romance can get into the bedroom wayyy more often, and I think it's the combination of modern pulp romance and its formulaic plot plus graphic sex that is often looked upon as "selling out." A lot of people don't realize that "smart smut" exists. And some authors start out in smart smut and DO eventually sell out to nearly hardcore pr0n because it sells. It keeps them on the bestseller lists and the lack of plot doesn't necessarily discourage everyone from reading; they'll keep buying the books for the sex.

In short, sex sells, and people know that. No one is blind to this. And sex will continue to sell even if the books aren't all that good.

I find myself giving disclaimers and near apologies more for the erotica than the romance or even ebook than anything else. I never know who can handle the contents of my book and who can't, and who is expecting nothing more scandalous than "he entered her love-box with great joy" will raise a hairy eyebrow at a few of the scenes in my book--and my book is really not what I would call terribly edgy, either!



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