Cave of Lust

Inside the largest publisher of erotic romance in the world

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Publishers of the day divided the romance novels they purchased for publication into two types. They put out both the "sweet" romances -- think original Harlequin with a chaste kiss at the end -- and they published erotica. What you could not find, Engler realized, was erotic romance, a form of writing that combined a well-written story, strong characters, and explicit sex told in the context of its being a natural part of a loving relationship. It was also a style stressing sex for women readers to enjoy without proving to the New York publishing houses that enough women would enjoy reading about sex to publish such books.

Still Engler was disgusted. As she explained, "It was kind of like when you leave the sex out of the romance, which to me, and to anyone, I would assume, sex is one of the most important things in a healthy relationship.

"It's like leaving the plot of the murder mystery out of the mystery. It just doesn't make any sense.  Otherwise, why is it romance? You're providing the happily ever after and you kind of leave the troubles of real life behind for a little while and escape. Luckily, I turned out to not be a deviant and I wasn't wrong because I was in this New York house that I submitted to and it was 'all good writing but you have to tone it way down because women don't want graphic sex.'"

    The Empress' New Clothes evolved as the type of love story that Tina had not been able to find in the bookstores. It was a futuristic erotic romance that reflected the way real people experience that most intense of human emotions. No matter how the characters met, what they did, or the conflicts that arose for them to resolve, eventually they were going to arouse one another and fall into bed. It was normal, as is the next stage of more intense touching, working to give one another pleasure and using words that publishers were afraid to put in their books yet real people used every day. She was hopeful the New York publishing houses would recognize all this but it was not to be.

The New York houses made a number of mistakes when talking with Engler and when looking at the market that then existed for what would become the familiar e-books. The editors with whom Engler interacted all loved her writing, and most were willing to give her book a chance in the marketplace if  she would drastically tone down or eliminate the sex. They did not understand that one of the points of the Jaid Black novels and shorter works of romance Engler was writing was meant to take the romance reader to a higher level of writing than the relatively simplistic "sweet" romance novels.

    The other mistake the New York houses made in those early years was forgetting the reality of the books Engler wanted to sell. A hardback or paperback novel has a cover that will likely be seen by friends, neighbors, and co-workers. A woman's husband might be shocked by her previously unexpressed interest in sexual variations even if he has a stack of Playboy and Hustler magazines hidden under the bed for use as his quick starter for sex.

A woman whose status in the community – pastor or spouse of a pastor, community leader, corporate executive, and the like – could be drastically diminished if she was found to be buying such books in the local stores or carrying a paperback in her purse.

(As for what moves those actual books: Women want to see men's chests. Focus groups, casual conversations with enthusiastic Ellora's Cave book buyers, and other studies have all shown that a man must be topless on the book jacket to have the greatest likelihood of an impulse purchase. It does not matter how realistic the circumstances – he could be an Alpha male knight with a sword and spear about to go into battle and, presumably, the book will sell best if he has no shirt, no breast plate, nothing above his waist except muscles and flesh glistening in the sun.)

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