Erotica for women – moving forward
E.L.James may not be everyones favourite author but she is the name that moved erotica from the sex shops to the supermarkets. Hers were the books discussed between strangers on a bus or between grandmother and granddaughter, out in the open, without shame or embarrassment. Sex became a more comfortable topic of conversation, and women all over the world shared experiences and asked questions. Literature had once again shown itself to be a powerful tool for change. Publishers had finally started to understand that women like to read about sex just as much as men, and we were finally going to get read what we wanted to without being made to feel like deviants.
Or that was the hope. But what do we have from most of the big publishers instead?
Young, innocent waifs submit to rich, older men. Young women who only become involved in the BDSM lifestyle to please their man. Traditional romance but with some steamy, explicit sex scenes thrown in.
There are a few who will take a chance, Janine Ashbless and K D Grace are proof of this, but they tend to be the ones who specialise in erotica, and very few make it onto physical bookstore shelves.
And I get why the big publishers what they do. After all, they are looking to make as big a profit as possible and why change something if it works. But it only works because we, as readers, aren’t given much of an alternative. We, as women, have been given a taste of literary sexual freedom only to have it restricted to what money-hungry big businesses want us to read.
But we can change that if we all work together.
As a publisher, I was advised to stick with mainstream erotic romance/paranormal romance if I wanted to succeed, but my first publication, Peeper, isn’t even erotica in the strict sense. I chose that particular novel because I fell in love with it, with the humour, the everyday characters, and the kinky, awkward, honest approach in which SJ Smith writes about sex. By My Choice and the upcoming novel A Variety of Chains have a much more literary style than the majority of erotica novels, but again, I fell in love with Christine Blackthorns style and her unique take on vampire lore. And Show Me, Sir… Sonni de Soto blew me away with this one. Her characters are the opposite of what you’d expect from a BDSM novel, and the love, acceptance and sense of belonging she portrays made me want to rush out and become a part of the lifestyle (although I’m far too busy working and parenting to be a part of anything!). I chose these novels because they spoke to me. Because they are what I want to read. Because each of the authors has used their own unique voice to bring something new to the world of erotica. Because I, as a publisher and a woman, can.
I am making a difference in my own small way, but I’m not the only one.
Authors are not taking no for an answer any more. It’s true that the self-publishing revolution saw a lot of mediocre, badly written, unedited books hitting the shelves, but it also saw those authors who knew they had something women want tor read finally having a way to get their books to their waiting audience. Talented authors M. Never, Samantha A. Cole and Annabel Joseph all took that chance and their success is proof that women want more.
So to authors, I’d like to say, listen to what publishers or editors say. If they tell you your characters are flat, your storyline isn’t consistent or your writing techniques need work, they are probably right and you can learn from that advice. If, however, they tell you that there is no market for characters or storylines that don’t fit the usual romantic conventions (as happened with Show Me, Sir), don’t give up. You keep pushing to get your novels out there, whether it’s by working your way through every publishing company one by one or taking the leap and self-publishing, as long as you make sure your manuscript is as error-free as possible, you can and should get your work into the hands of readers.
And to readers… I think you forget sometimes just how much power and influence you have. In the publishing world, you are the people we worship!
Without you, publishers and authors simply wouldn’t exist. Use that power to shape what you want to read. Leave reviews for books you’ve loved, and also for those you haven’t. You don’t have to be professional reviewers (those guys have had a lot of practice), just ask yourself why you feel the way you do about the book and share it with others. Talk to other readers about what they love and combine your efforts to find the books perfect for you.
While the idea of contacting authors or publishers may be daunting, remember that we are people just like you. We do what we do for the love of books and we can’t do that without you.
Send letters of encouragement to your favourite authors, tell them which characters you loved and why. Send them links to songs that remind you of your favourite scenes, or pictures of people you see in your head while reading their books. Maybe that author will point you in the direction of another author you haven’t read, or maybe you’ll influence the author as to which characters they write about next.
And please don’t be afraid to contact us, the publishers, and let us know what you want to read. Email us privately or leave comments on our posts. We can keep our eyes open for what you, as readers, are looking for, we can actively pursue authors writing what you love, and we can let other authors know through our submissions page what you want to read next. I can’t speak for all publishers, but I for one would love to hear your thoughts.
Finally, before I leave you to rest your eyes, I’d just like to give huge thanks to everyone who’s taken part in our guest blogs over the past ten days to celebrate the release of Show Me, Sir by Sonni de Soto, to the authors who gave up their time and insight to write amazing posts and to everyone who read the posts and shared the links. You are what makes small publishing a community rather than an industry.