Amber McCloud is taking a two-week timeout with her friend Molly to heal the wounds from a bitter divorce. The last thing she expects is to meet a sexy man like Cesario “Rio” Negron. But the attraction is instant and hot. Not only does he teach her how good sex can really be, he also introduces her to the world of BDSM, a world she takes to like a kid with candy. It helps when she learns Molly and her husband are also advocates of the lifestyle. But when the two weeks are up Amber has to decide if what’s developed between her and Rio is real or if she will turn her back on it, afraid to risk her heart again. 

I’m honored to have as my guest today the fabulous Raelene Gorlinsky, publisher of Ellora’s Cave, founder of the wildly popular Romantica literature-erotic romance. And my editor at Ellora’s Cave, thank you very much. Be sure to check out my newest release, Training Amber.

Raelene, thanks for taking the time to visit with us today.

How did you happen to become involved in romance literature and most especially in erotic romance?

I’d been a technical writer, project manager and technical writing department manager for 25 years, so lots of editing experience. I’ve been a reader of genre fiction, especially romance, my whole life. Then I found Ellora’s Cave books in EC’s very early days, and loved having stories that more fully and realistically reflected actual relationships in all aspects, not pretending that women weren’t sexual creatures. I started emailing the company to give my opinions on the stories and about any errors I found—and in 2003 they asked if I’d like to just apply for an editor position! I was a freelance editor for a year, then in early 2004 moved to Ohio to become Managing Editor, and less than two years after that became Publisher.

How have you seen the genre grow and to what do you attribute its growth?

The erotic genre went from almost nothing when EC launched to the very visible and goodsized chunk of the romance industry it is today. It was the happy merger with epublishing that made it possible—readers got more choice and variety in story types, less expensive books, and were able to buy them discreetly.

Do you think people are more accepting of this genre today?

Oh yes—at least, romance readers and writer organizations are more accepting of erotica than they used to be. Erotica still gets sneers from some people, the way any romance books do, but we’ve come a long way, baby! Not that we don’t still have a long way to go to have our genre easily available in bookstores, regularly reviewed in the big industry venues, and so forth. We need to reach the point where “erotic romance” is just another accepted and normal genre like contemporary or paranormal or whatever.

And what do you see as its future?

I anticipate growing readership and acceptance. Erotic romance is now well established as a permanent genre within the romance writing and reading world. I’d say we’ll see more types/subgenres within erotic romance, but I think we’ve got it all now!

With the explosion of digital publishing where do you see the publishing industry in ten years?

I wish I knew. Our industry is changing with incredible speed, and with the advent of digital has become very technology-driven. Ten years ago, dedicated ereader devices were limited, clunky and expensive. Within the last few years, they became commonplace and affordable. And now the prediction is that dedicated devices will become almost obsolete within a few more years—that people want one device, like a tablet or cell phone, that can “do it all”. And of course the way people read does affect our business a lot. It doesn’t necessarily change the books authors write, but has a huge impact on what publishers do and how we do it.

Self-publishing is having a major impact on the industry. But I believe that will shake down and become less widespread within ten years. Many authors are coming to realize they want to spend their time and energy writing, and let a reputable established publishing company handle editing, cover art, and all the business and production and distribution aspects. And of course, new authors especially are finding out the truth that 99% of them are going to sell almost no books, that the authors and books that hit the news with incredible self-pubbed sales are one in a million. And now that everyone can “publish”, there truly are a zillion books out there, most of them bad.

Discoverability (yes, we’re all tired of that word, but it is of primary importance) will continue to be a big issue for years. Sales are going to continue to move online, which means fewer sales based on “I saw it on the bookstore shelf and it looked interesting”. How do readers find your book amongst millions? The recommendation and review and bestseller list functions of online book retailers have become a joke. Everyone games the system, especially the retailers themselves. When there are thousands of “bestseller” lists on a site, they don’t have much meaning or reflect high sales; recommendations are based on what the retailer wants to sell you rather than what you might like;  and I fully believe the estimate that minimum 30% of reviews on retail sites are “rigged”—they are not from real, uncompensated, unrelated, unsolicited readers.

I’m anticipating the fall of the DRM Wall. I love my NookColor; I can buy ePub formats from so many vendors. However, I still buy a lot of print books because my primary criterion for ebooks is NO DRM. Unfortunately most the of the big publishers are still being really stupid about that issue, treating their customers like we’ve all got criminal intent, and pretending that DRM prevents piracy. We’ve started to see cracks in the wall (yay, Tor!) so I’m hopeful DRM will be discontinued as an industry practice within a few more years.

What do you tell authors who want to know how to write erotic romance?

READ lots of really good erotic romance. Then read some more…and some more. If you don’t know what’s good, ask fellow writers or ask professional editors.

Then read a few baaad erotic books, and recognize why they are bad.

What turns you on as an editor?

Great worldbuilding (complete, cohesive, sensible, interesting), a truly lovable but strong hero and a matching heroine, unusual paranormal elements.

And a professional author. One who views this as a skilled job, tries to improve and takes criticism well, belongs to writer organizations, studies and keeps up with the industry, has realistic expectations, and most importantly behaves (online and in person) in a professional and gracious manner.

What turns you off?

Sloppy writing in a technical sense (poor grammar, misspellings, repetitive word usage, etc). Contrived plot elements—where the author has the characters doing something implausible or is dependent on coincidence just to make the plot action go in the direction she wants. Poor worldbuilding. TSTL characters.

I have no tolerance for “suspension of disbelief”—make it believable  or don’t waste my time as either an editor or a reader. (I’m happy to believe in vampires, shapeshifters, aliens, and even perfect men—at least in novels.)

You have a high profile, high energy demanding job. What do you do to relax?

I read. (You guessed that, right?) Of course, because I read so much erotica as part of my job, for my personal reading pleasure I need to get away from the sex a bit. I go for paranormal romance, urban fantasy, cozy mysteries.

I collect a variety of things writing related: beautifully illustrated children’s picture books, fairytale books, antique dictionaries, gorgeous bookmarks and pens.

I’m a not-yet-published children’s book writer. Makes a refreshing change from erotica!

I’m also a devoted dog owner; Pembroke Welsh Corgis are my breed of choice, although I’m being tempted to get a Cardigan. I love to play with and walk my dogs (Phantom, Faolan and Fancy), go to dog shows. Later this month I’ll be attending the PWC National Specialty—a whole week of Corgis and Corgi people, bliss!

Now for the fun things:

Favorite ice cream: The expensive special chocolate flavors. Alas, I’m currently on a special diet and have to settle for chocolate-flavored frozen Greek yogurt. Take pity, send me sinful real chocolate!

Favorite movie: Hmm, I rarely watch movies. When I do, it is something light and humorous.

Favorite color:  Blue…no, red…no, wait, green. It depends on what we’re doing with the color. Clothes, walls, dishes, jewelry? My bedroom is rose, my kitchen is red and green, my den is blue.

Favorite type of vacation: In the lap of luxury somewhere with no pressure or schedules, but lots of activities and sightseeing available to do whatever I want when I want to. Oh, and temperatures in the 70s—no snow or hot humidity for me.