Publishing Insiders Wrap-Up: Publishing Insights from Ellora’s Cave

by | Aug 10, 2011 | Book Marketing Basics

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We had a great show featuring Susan Edwards, COO of Ellora’s Cave, who discussed the company’s publishing success and offered tips for aspiring romance writers. You can learn more at

Ellora’s Cave got started with digital books in 2000.

Jaid Black started the company. Jaid is her pen name; Tina Engler is her real name. Tina was a welfare mom who was reading romance books as an escape, and then she started writing them. She didn’t like how romance books used euphemisms for sex, or that when things got good they slammed the door in the reader’s face.

Tina’s books were more explicit, taking the readers into the bedroom. She published in digital form and sold her books from her website. That first year Tina wrote under three different pen names, and made $40,000.

A Picture of a eBook

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Then Tina found other authors to write these erotic romances. Many today are New York Times bestsellers, and many of those authors went on to big publishing houses, including Tina.

Ellora’s Cave has 3,700 titles, over 600 authors and is now a multimillion-dollar company.

The world of eBooks

Digital publishing has just taken off, and it’s fun to watch the industry change in the direction we’ve been working so long.

The price of eBooks is in flux right now, Susan said. The current price range is $2.99 to $9.99 for Ellora’s Cave authors, who are paid 37% royalties. The standard for erotic romance publishers is between 37% to 40% royalties.

LAS VEGAS - JANUARY 07:  A Hanvon Touchpad, an...

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We are trying to find that sweet spot for pricing. We don’t want bargain basement prices. We do have .99 cent books and $1.99 books – such as reprising our backlist and re-issuing those books at a lower price. But we want our authors to make money; we want our readers to value the books that they buy. We put a lot of money into developing our authors and our books.

How does Ellora’s Cave find authors?

Readers want to write – this happens a lot in romance. In fact, 100% of our authors were initially readers of romance and erotic romance. Some were already romance writers who felt constrained the way Tina did. Now we have 25 editors around the world, there are a lot of conferences, blogs, reviewers, chat groups – and that’s how we find new authors – via networking.

Our authors are a blast. We have authors from all around the world, ranging in age from 20s to 70s. They also collaborate on writing and marketing.

What is hot right now?

* Steampunk – Victorian science fiction… there are historical elements but also fantasy and sci-fi elements. It’s a really hot genre in general (both in erotica and general fiction).

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* Erotic romance – especially the male/male love stories. We call it the Brokeback Mountain syndrome, says Susan.

* Submission/capture/dominance

* Paranormal, including vampires, shape shifters, etc.

* Ellora’s new line is called Branded and involves sexy love stories between married people.

Those books help people rekindle their love affairs with each other.

So many of our readers and authors are married, and they read these books and it gives them ideas. It helps women really to embrace their sexuality. We feel proud of that – we have helped women own and celebrate their sexuality and enjoy it.

Turning to radio

Cave Chaos with Bad Girls Black & Grey is Ellora’s Cave foray into radio hosted by Jaid Black and Lisa Marie Gray.

Tina wanted to do something to show the really funny things that happen, so that’s what the show is. It opens with a funny segment, followed by a sex toy review and a look at what’s coming up at Ellora’s. It’s like an audio magazine where we have some fun with women’s sexuality. Cave Chaos is live on Mondays from 1 to 2 p.m.:

What makes a best-selling romance novel?

First and foremost: Good, fresh writing. There is a formula there – the couple meets, overcomes obstacles, and reunites at the end for happily ever after. Within that formula you have to be a fresh writer. There must be dramatic and sexual tension, characters that people want to spend time with and a world people want to spend time in.

It’s easy to do cardboard characters and plot – and some readers are fine with that for escape. But the books that are bestsellers must be more.

One of the things readers love about Jaid is that she’s funny. You root for the characters, you want them to get together, but her books are also funny.

Love is Fragrant

Image by Fe 108Aums via Flickr

What is it about romance books that attract so many readers? Readers want to relive that moment they fell in love. They want to get that romantic charge again.

Advice for writers

How to get started – read. Find what part you’re interested in, the authors/genre you really like. Then check out blogs and writers’ groups, they were founded to teach authors how to write romance. Join one and get information on the formula, how to build the tension, etc. In a writers’ group get a critique partner, so you can write chapters and critique each other’s work. Go to conferences, participate in workshops.

Romanticon is the only conference about erotic romance. It will be held this year from Sept. 29 to Oct. 2:

What does the future hold?

It’s so exciting to have a front row seat to the publishing revolution.

  • We’ll see prices settle out.
  • We’ll also see big changes in way people read books.
  • Self-publishing will also evolve as people realize the value of editors.
  • And there is a lot of new talent coming up!

Download the full show at:


Upcoming Episode:


Please join us Aug. 23 – topic TBA!

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  1. M.E. Anders

    Interesting interview shownotes – I’ll have to listen to the full show. Is it on iTunes?

  2. Paula

    Glad you enjoyed the show – and yes, The Publishing Insiders is on iTunes!


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