Most of you have heard that Ellora’s Cave is closing its doors by the end of this year. To me, it’s the end of an era.
A little history: back in 2000, Tina Engler, writing as Jaid Black, couldn’t find a New York publisher for her ultra-sexy fantasy novel. The typical response was, “Your writing is great. But no one will buy erotica.”
So Tina did what few dared. She started her own publishing company, Ellora’s Cave. Her novel, The Empress’ New Clothes, was the company’s first offering, and it was a hit.
By 2005, when EC released my first erotic romance, Dance of the Seven Veils, EC was the 800-pound elephant in a room full of nay-saying publishers, but we authors were ecstatic. I couldn’t believe it. Monthly royalty checks in the four figures! By 2010, New York had realized how avidly erotic romances were being purchased by readers and had set up their own erotic imprints. Many authors who got their start with EC went on to best-selling status with mainstream publishers.
Fast-forward to the mid '10s. Trouble in paradise, on any number of fronts.
Speaking of elephants, Amazon exploded the digital publishing world, allowing anyone to publish a book, whether edited or not. In the past three years, books available on Amazon mushroomed from around a million to SEVEN MILLION BOOKS. This led to pricing problems. With so many books vying for a reader’s hard-earned cash, authors resorted to “free!” or “99 cents!” to gain new readers. All publishers began to feel the pinch and had to lower their prices drastically while having fixed expenses.
Amazon instituted its "Gazelle Project" to go after small publishers "the way a cheetah would pursue a sickly gazelle". They relegated our books into the “naughty bin” and unless you knew the exact URL, you could not search our books. This was devastating to our readers, to not be able to find us.
I’m not denying that EC had its share of growing pains, management problems, and financial problems, not the least of which was decimated income. See my blog after the (regrettably) final Romanticon in October 2014, where CEO Patty Marks openly admitted problems and what they were doing to combat them. That they held on for two more years was remarkable.
Alas, the end was inevitable. I, along with all the other EC authors, received notice this week informing us how to go about getting back rights to our Intellectual Property. With 15 titles at EC, I had to accept the reality that my babies would be withdrawn from sale. What will I do with them? Shop them to another publisher? Self-publish? Sit on them? Right now I don’t know. I’m still absorbing the blow. EC's closing is like losing part of your family, for they were family to me. So please indulge me while I wallow in memories.
Tina, Patty, Raelene, Val, Kendra, Darryl, Courtney, Jose, Martha, and the others did, in fact, treat us like family. During our first Romanticon we toured their offices, marveling at the printing press, so long it would have taken up three rooms in my house. (Of course they eventually got too big to do their own printing.) I remember the thrill when we were ushered into the warehouse, where a stack of Cris Anson books on a shelf was available for shipment to purchasers. I enjoyed (wo)manning the BEA booth in New York City with the staff several years in a row. And we could always count on a fantastic and fun Romanticon while meeting erotic romance readers from all over the country. I still have, and cherish, my “Awesome Author” award from 2012.
I had the best editors in the world—SueEllen Gower for my first half dozen books, then Jillian Bell, and for the last book, Grace Bradley. Every one of them helped make my books better. To them I owe a lasting debt of gratitude.
And the Caveman. Oh, the Cavemen! Not only were they, to a man, gorgeous eye candy, but they were personable and likeable and ambitious, and they adorned our covers wonderfully. Of course they loved to dance, both in the troupe and with the authors and readers.
But mostly, some of the authors and readers I’ve met over the past dozen years have become my closest friends and it was a delight to see some of them progress from readers to published authors.
It truly is the end of an era. I wish for everyone in the Ellora’s Cave family, whether readers, authors or staff, to find their niche and land on their feet.
R.I.P. Ellora’s Cave.
~~ Cris Anson