Cave of Lust

Inside the largest publisher of erotic romance in the world

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    What all this means for Joey is that she is in her home office, sitting before her computer at 8 o'clock in the morning just as would be expected of her in what others consider a traditional job. She allows herself a relatively brief lunch break, not taking the time to eat until her characters are in positions to which she will have no problem returning to finish the scene or the chapter.     Evenings are for relaxation but they may also involve what, in other careers, would be classed as overtime. If there is a deadline to be met and there will not be enough time during her eight hour shift, she knows she must work evenings and/or weekends to get caught up.

    There are also limits to the workday. No matter in what type of intimate, hobby, or community activities a writer might be involved, the relationship with lover or spouse will not work if the writer is working full time. For that reason, Joey W. Hill leaves the computer every Thursday night to be with her husband. That is their time away from promotion, from interviews, from plotting or writing or anything related to business. For a woman who looks like a kindergarten teacher, has the speaking voice of an angel, is one of the queens of BDSM novels, a skilled writer, and a success in the publishing business, her relationship with her husband, the man she considers her best friend, will only grow if she nurtures it.

    This is the type of information the staff of Ellora's Cave wants their writers to have. They want them to understand marketing, the importance of an effective web site, the changes in the marketplace, and the myriad of details writers need but few seek out and fewer still will get them from their publishers. How important is this? By following this formula for the business of writing, Ellora's Cave made $12-million last year.

Another reason for Engler's success is that her company publishes literally every field of romance and seemingly every possible way people fall in love with and fuck one another. There are books for readers who want twosomes, threesomes, and possibly "more-somes," traditional couples, men with men, women with women, inter-racial couples, vampires, shape shifters, period romance, cowboys of the old west, cowboys of the new west, BDSM, and on and on. But while some critics think Akron, Ohio, based Ellora's Cave publishes pornography, nothing could be further from the truth.

In house the corporate culture is different from traditional publishing companies as well. Ellora's Cave is located in a remodeled glove factory, the warehouse of which is a massive space that can be used for creating, storing, and packing wall size displays and backdrops for the various conventions they attend. One section holds several thousand paperback books, a tiny fraction of their sales. There is also what Chief Operating Officer Susan Edwards calls "swag" – give-aways that range from T-shirts and  Ellora's Cave caps to penis-shaped key rings. There is a high powered motorcycle, two expensive high performance cars, and other props for photos, the shows, and other needs.

The office space is family friendly in many ways. Tina began as a writer, but by the time her sales had reached what might prove to be the limits of her marketing skills, she approached Patty Marks, a woman with a well-paid, successful career in management who also happened to be her mother.

To her credit, Marks refused, instead helping her daughter with such matters as creating the spreadsheet to keep track of author royalties. Her background was accounting and business, and she had enough experience that she refused to do more than assist her daughter until Tina's company earned enough to pay Marks a salary equal to her current position. Once she made the move to CEO for Ellora's Cave, she guided its sales and expansion, making Tina a millionaire in her own right and driving an estimated $12 million in net income in 2012.  And from Engler, one single writer pumping out copy under multiple pen names, to a company touting 800 published authors.

The family friendly atmosphere is obvious in two ways. With no time to do executive searches, many of the employees truly are family who were hired because they had the skills needed at the moment. Patty Marks is the mother of Tina Engler, the founder. Patty's nephew, Randy Thomas, handles IT support, and niece Kendra Rumschlag supervises print production. And Tina's cousin Kelly Newkirk handles Copyright enforcement. There are also both part-time and full-time editors and other personnel outside Patty and Tina's relatives. However, what adds to the image of the close knit group is the plethora of oddities, from baby gates at office entrances to a cage with a pet rat, fish, and a terrarium with a pet snake.

The baby gates are not for babies -- Ellora's Cave has a full-time daycare facility for the young children of the staff members. The gates are meant to confine the various dogs owned by employees.

The welcoming image is further maintained by the web site. For example, Raelene Gorlinsky, Leader Publisher for Ellora's Cave, is presented on the EC web site like a slightly eccentric, very successful aunt. "Strangers know her for those fabulous hats," the site notes. "Editors, authors, agents and staffers know her for her maniacal attention to detail, her prodigious organizational skills and capacity for work, and her knowledge of and leadership in the romance and epublishing industries. Her corgis [regular visitors to the office, well behaved and behind a baby gate when their human leaves her work area] simply know her as Mom."


Ben had soaped her all over, then had her stand with one foot on the built-in seat while he shaved off the fuzz that had grown on her cunt in the past few days. It was all she could do to control herself as his fingers pulled her labia this way and that and brushed against her sensitive clit.

Turning off the shower, he dried them both and carried her to the bed.     --- From Rodeo Heat, an Ellora's Cave Contemporary Erotic Romance written by Texan Desiree Holt. Ms. Holt, a widow who is the author of one-hundred romances, is 76 years old.    


The age range and background of the Ellora's Cave authors can be as varied as the types of novels the company publishes. It is easy to forget that the older one becomes, the more experiences she has had. Love has usually come more than once and in different forms depending upon age. Sex has provided deep commitment to the other person and also the most enjoyable recreation someone can have. And a lifetime of work, perhaps in more than one field of endeavor, has brought a wealth of knowledge that can be used when creating a protagonist.

Such is the case of the Texas writer Desiree Holt. She celebrated her 76th birthday and her 100th novel during the same year. The writing, which she cannot imagine ever stopping, takes advantage of her previous career of booking musicians into clubs and other performance venues throughout the state. Her heroes are sometimes cowboys, among the most popular men with readers of Ellora's Cave novels and a profession she knows from her travels around the state, or musicians of the type she booked for clubs, or almost anyone else with whom she has talked in depth in the decades before she started writing.

Holt's path to success began with a traditional romance with neither explicit sex or language and only limited sensuality, the type Engler considered "sweet." Holt only shared one experience in common with the Ellora's Cave founder – rejection. 167 rejection slips all retained as a way to keep her humble.

Holt's world of writing changed in 2006 when she sent a new manuscript to Ellora's Cave. Not only did they buy it, they asked her to submit another. Today Holt has 90 novels and novellas with Ellora's Cave and another 46 or 47 with other publishers who have long since changed their minds about rejecting her work.

    Readers are sometimes shocked to discover that the woman who has written the erotic romance is a widowed grandmother. The books also occasionally take her into worlds she could never have entered when young. For example, when given a chance to attend a private BDSM club by a member who vouched for her discretion, she assumed that she would be a witness to some forms of potentially violent or physically extreme sex acts. Instead, while sex apparently was a part of the evening for the attendees who met in a large auditorium-like facility with an area for the show and private rooms for members enjoying what might be called kinky intimacy, the high point of the evening, she quickly discovered, was to be provided by one member treasured for her special skills – home baked cookies in enough quantity for everyone, even Desiree, to enjoy.

Sex with a coffee hour. Only in the world of Ellora's Cave.

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