Watching From the Sidelines: The Downfall of Ellora’s Cave

By now I’m going to assume that a lot of you have heard about the lawsuit brought by the owner of Ellora’s Cave against Dear Author, a book review blog that focuses primarily on romance and its various sub-genres. There’s been an outpouring of support for Jane Litte, founder of Dear Author, and a hell of a lot of shock and disgust not only over what Tina Engler (the owner of EC) is doing, but by the fact there were several authors who cheered at the news of the suit.

Dear Author’s been one of my go-to sites for book reviews. I appreciate their honesty and I’ve found several new-to-me authors because of their recommendations. But I’m not going to talk about the First Amendment and the stupidity of the suit. There are others who can state it far more eloquently than I, and I’m going to let them. If you want to follow along, check out the #notchilled hashtag on Twitter, or just Google “Ellora’s Cave lawsuit”. You’ll get plenty of hits.

Seeing all this, reading Engler’s rants and shaking my head at her outrageous behavior, reminds me of the time Charlie Sheen went off the rails. I keep expecting her to claim she’s a Vatican assassin warlock. And while my critique partner pointed out that Sheen hasn’t given us much (I disagree; he was pretty awesome in Platoon), Ellora’s Cave has.

So many people have pointed out that EC has gone a long way toward legitimizing erotic romance and making it a viable subgenre of romance. What saddens me the most about its downfall, though, is this publisher is the one that gave a few of my more recent favorite authors their starts.

Victoria Dahl had been raving about Cara McKenna for a little while before I broke down and bought Skin Game. While it’s not my favorite title of hers, I loved the creativity of the plot and her writing. I’d always intended to go back and pick up Curio, about a thirty something virgin who goes to an escort to lose her virginity, but never had, partly because the price was always more than I was willing to pay for an ebook from a small publisher (they used to run around $6). McKenna recently said on Twitter that she doesn’t have much hope she’ll be able to get her rights back and is uncertain how she’ll continue to get paid – with the critical success of After Hours, she’s likely seeing a decent lift in her EC backlist.

Charlotte Stein was a DA recommendation. I picked up a few of her backlist titles from EC and haven’t regretted any of them. Her stories don’t always work for me (Telling Tales was a bit…odd) but her stream of consciousness style never fails to draw me in. She’s releasing more titles through Avon, and I couldn’t be happier.

Another DA rec was Liberating Lacey by Anne Calhoun. I ADORE this book. This is what I think of when I need an example of how sex furthers the romance in erotic romance. She’s since moved on to publish with Berkley and Carina Press, and hasn’t released any more titles with EC (that I know of) but given how much reviewers loved Lacey, I wonder how much revenue she’s losing by readers boycotting EC books.

I picked up Delphine Dryden’s Truth and Lies series after falling in love with Cami and Ivan from Theory of Attraction. Yes, I paid probably close to $15 for the whole series (book 1 I picked up for less than $2, every other book was around $5 – this was before EC started dropping their prices). Art of the Lie (book 2) is still on my re-read list.

And let’s not forget about Joanna Wylde. Her hugely popular Reapers MC series got its start with Reaper’s Property , published by Ellora’s Cave.

What’s the point of all this? EC has been responsible for launching careers of some of the authors I’ve come to enjoy most. Who knows how many other authors I could have discovered because of them?

And while you could argue that should EC go under, they’re not exactly leaving a giant hole behind (there are a number of other publishers who publish erotic romance, and it’s one of the larger shares of the self-published market), they kind of are. A number of their authors went on to bigger venues because of the reputation Ellora’s Cave has (or had). Right now, there’s a lot of sympathy for the authors still with EC. But will that continue? Will authors still under contract with them, or new authors, still be able to use that as a stepping stone to bigger things, or will they have to write it off and start from the beginning?

Watching the destruction isn’t fun. Even sadder? No one can say whether the survivors will emerge stronger for it.

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