Well, I’ve kept my mouth shut for months now. People have gone so far as to ask me point blank about the upset going on with Ellora’s Cave and I’ve politely changed the subject. Or maybe given some cryptic comments like “don’t get me started.” But I’m not going to hold my tongue any longer because well… what have I got to lose at this point? I’m also sick of seeing people who have NO idea what they’re talking about making judgments for the sake of pointing and laughter.
Now, you’re probably thinking that this is going to be the start of a rant where I trash Ellora’s Cave and just generally commit career suicide. Well the joke’s on you, because I’m not going to do that. I’ve been with EC for over a year now and in that time I can say nothing but nice things about how I’ve been treated as an author. My editor, Rebecca Hill, is an absolute delight– top of the line (but more about that later). My royalties were paid out monthly and for the most part on time, despite any glitchy computer issues. My thoughts and concerns about my books have always been addressed and dealt with. Ms. Gorlinsky and Mrs. Marks have always been attentive to any communications and very forthright in their answers to concerns. All this being said, I have to tell you, kittens, that I’m pretty heartbroken over some of the things that have gone down in the last several months.
Let me start by saying that I LOVED EC books. They’re part of what shaped me as the writer I am today. They inspired me to believe that I could write the romances that I wanted to read. That romance wasn’t just for sweet little librarian types (no offense to any librarians) who loved those sweeping bodice rippers where everyone was named Tarquin St. James. They could be gritty, explicit stories with Alpha heroes that were as smart as they were dangerous. My very first EC book was Bitten by Sherri L. King. I read the whole thing sitting on the beach and nearly burned myself to a crisp. After I turned the last page, I said to myself, “You can do this, Lexxx. You can write a romance novel for women like you.” I started writing with every intention of one day becoming an Ellora’s Cave author. Which I did when I published “One Hundred Strokes” last year. Since then, I’ve put out three more books with them with one more on the way. My royalty checks haven’t been horrible, but let’s just say I haven’t quit my day job. I’d be happy as a clam to continue handing them quality erotic fiction to satisfy their readers as long as they’d have me. But after the last few months, I’ve started to question my position a bit.
The first blow came in the form of the big announcement that the savior of the press was going to be a book series by Farrah Abraham. I have not read her book. I have no plans to read her book. I only know the image that Ms. Abraham has put forth on the internet and on television. And this is not an image that I would want people to associate with me or my work. What I’m selling are story driven books with an erotic edge. All indications point to Ms. Abraham selling pornography. Not that there’s a thing wrong with that. That’s just not me and I can’t say I was happy to see that her books were going to be sitting beside mine on the virtual shelf. It’s a bit like serving a porterhouse steak on a trash can lid (to borrow from Bill Cosby). But that wasn’t even what bothered me. Not really. What bothered me the most was the way in which it was presented to me. Ms. Abraham’s series was announced to me in an email that basically painted her like the Jesus Christ of erotic fiction and wasn’t I just pleased as a parsnip to have her on board? There was this notion that her readers would flock to the press and find the rest of us hacks, so we should do our best to get the word out about her books. It was insulting, despite how it was intended. 1.) No one announced my coming to EC like Moses to the Hebrews. 2.) No one pushed my book out in a couple of months (ebook and print simultaneously). 3.) No one offered me national promotional opportunities (i.e.– Cosmopolitan, syndicated radio, etc.) I shudder to imagine how much money the press has spent on promotion for this ONE AUTHOR when they have scads of really good writers who have been faithful to them for years.
The next blow came weeks later with the now infamous letter about the decline in sales on Amazon that is requiring Ellora’s Cave to cut back on staff. There are many theories as to why this is happening. Some theories are painting EC as just another media conglomerate that’s robbing Peter to pay Paul. The bottom line is this: of COURSE EC sales are declining. Once upon a time EC was the only game in town. They were the only place to buy quality erotic fiction that was written with the woman in mind. There was no such thing as small press or indie authors (well, there may have been, but nobody was really talking about those). Self-publishing was still a dirty word. And then the eBook boom came. Finally we got the hang of those handy little devices and the big giant head at Amazon proclaimed, “bring me your tired, your trashy, your shower nozzle masturbation material.” Suddenly the market was FLOODED with “Taken by the T-Rex” for JUST 99 CENTS! and Come read my 1st book in the “Ridin’ Stepdaddy’s Pole Series” for FREE! You can get your rocks off for free now, isn’t that great!? It’s tough to compete with 10 book bundles for 99 cents. Especially when Ellora’s Cave is still offering their books for the same prices they always have been. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that we start giving books away. The people screaming “I’m not paying 7 bucks for 150 page book” make me just as angry because it lends credence to the notion that writing a book isn’t hard work and it isn’t worth paying for. I mean, come on– you pay almost 7 bucks for a cup of coffee from Starbucks. Daily. And making coffee is far less miraculous. In the words of Harlan Ellison, “Pay the writer!”
The cutbacks have affected me personally by thrusting me into this horrible state of “wait and see.” I have books almost ready to go, but now, I’m seriously questioning if I want to give them over to a publisher that has, as of late, acted irresponsibly. It’s a bit like a working mom who needs to work, but doesn’t want to send her child to the daycare down the street with the rusty playground equipment. My editor, the brilliant Rebecca Hill (who is a freelance editor– shoot me a message if you need one) was one of the victims of the cutbacks. Which means that I have no editor and therefore no idea what’s going to happen to any future submissions. Of course, given the article I read over the weekend and the email threads I’ve been a part of— that might not be such a bad thing. The most recent stink has been the rumor that EC will be copyediting books ONLY (this means just giving it a once over for punctuation, etc.) with no input from the author and releasing it without author approval. EC of course says this is ludicrous, but there’s a multitude of evidence to the contrary. Including common sense. How are 3 or 4 people going to thoroughly edit THOUSANDS of manuscripts? Simple answer: they aren’t. Just out of curiosity– doesn’t that void the contract? Releasing a book without edits seems to be a violation of rights.
And I’m not going to mention the nonpayment of royalties because that hasn’t happened to me. Yet. Again, wait and see. Do I believe it’s happening to others? Hells yeah. Am I pissed off on their behalf? Of course I am.
I’m not going to rehash what others have done. Dear Author and other outlets have done that pretty efficiently. I’m not going to commit career suicide by posting a misspelled and grammatically incorrect rant that makes me look like a crazy person. The whole thing is turning ugly and starting to look like a bunch of trashy women shouting at one another across the parking lot of the trailer park. “You better stop talkin’ ’bout me or I’ma come over there and bust you in your eye and turn you over to the secret police!” You know, that sort of thing. Others want authors to rise up and have some kind of 60s style sit in with signs and chanting. I’m not sure that’s not a publicity stunt in and of itself. Personally, I’m going to take care of me and mine. I’m not going to be silent, but I’m also not going to be hothead. Voices are powerful, so my advice to my fellow authors is to watch what’s coming out of your face and in the words of Christian Bale: Be a fucking professional!