Saturday, January 21, 2012

2012 Lesbian Fiction Appreciation Event: Interview with Ellora's Cave Editor-In-Chief Kelli Collins

This is was supposed to be last post in the Lesbian Fiction Appreciation Event that has spanned 2 weeks. I decided to extend the event one more day with two more posts tomorrow because of the overwhelming participation.

We've heard from authors, publisher and bloggers, all who write, publish and read Lesbian Fiction or for some, F/F. I hope you have enjoyed this event and reading the various guest posts. Tomorrow, I'll post a round up of each post and mention of the future ones scheduled for the remainder of January and February. You may be surprised how much traffic my blog has received during the two weeks, which wasn't in the thousands, but in the tens of thousands.

Because this was supposed to be the last day of the event, I saved an interview with Kelli Collins, Editor-in-Chief of Ellora's Cave, who is actively seeking lesbian romance submissions. Unfortunately she doesn't receive many, which surprised me, because based on the post here from authors who write and publish Lesbian fiction, there is a great need for more in this genre. Kelli was very open in her responses to my questions and I must thank her for taking the time to answer them and being a part of this event that has been an amazing success!

Thank you all who stopped by to comment or read. I hope you all have enjoyed yourself, opened your minds and have added more books to your to be read piles, or to be bought ones.

KT: Ellora’s Cave was one of the first epublishers that I know of that took publishing to a whole new level, by proving epublishing can take on traditional publishing and make a lot of money. Ellora’s Cave also gave many authors their start and made them superstars. Since Ellora’s Cave opened their doors in 2000, what changes have you seen not only in the epublishing world, but with publishing in general?

Kelli: That’s a pretty broad question, and my answer will be equally broad – the levels of legitimacy. From the authors and readers who thought epublishing was a last resort; from the print pubs who didn’t consider it a threat; from the brick-and-mortars who are now fighting to save their bottom lines. Though I’d like to note I didn’t consider us “taking on” print publishers back in the day, so much as just giving readers another, less costly option.

KT: Ellora’s Cave publishes a wide variety of romance genres. What are your top 3 bestselling genres and authors?

Kelli: Well, I won’t divulge an author’s numbers or royalty information, of course, though our longtime fans won’t be surprised to know Jaid Black and Lora Leigh are still extremely popular (actually, many authors who published with EC early in their careers are still among the most popular, many on the strength of their older backlist alone. Jory Strong, Lauren Dane, Shiloh Walker, Jaci Burton and several others). And we’re seriously happy for the success of Laurann Dohner, who just recently put EC on the New York Times bestseller list for the first time, with a book in her New Species series. As for genres, paranormal, SciFi and BDSM are always popular with our readers. Though in the last year, we’ve seen nice growth in our Spectrum (gay/lesbian), Lawless (western), Breathless (suspense) and Fusion (interracial) lines.

KT: I do believe because of epublishing, GLBT fiction has become a mainstream genre just like Hetero fiction. The M/M genre has become very successful not only for the authors who write it, but for their publishers. It seems when GLBT fiction/romance is talked about, it’s always M/M and F/F is ignored. From an editor’s standpoint why do you think F/F isn’t mentioned in the same capacity as M/M is?

Kelli: Because IMO, small pockets of readership aside, the industry attracts a massive straight female audience, and M/M is an extremely popular straight female fantasy. I’m no psychologist; I can’t explain the straight female attraction to M/M any better than I could explain the straight male attraction to F/F. And I know better than to question it. We like what we like. :)

KT: Has Ellora’s Cave always published F/F? If so, has it been a successful genre for Ellora’s Cave? If not, why do you think so? How many F/F tiles in total are available to purchase at Ellora’s Cave?

Kelli: We reviewed F/F submissions years ago, and our readership was very vocal with their opinions on the few we published (*not* well received; I point to question #3 if you must have a reason). It’s only in the last three years that we decided to give it another try; considering the explosion of the ebook audience, the time seemed right. But in the years between, small niche publishers have found some success with F/F, so we’ve actually been struggling to find both readers and authors. We currently have only 20 or so books with F/F, and most of those feature F/F scenes. Only a few feature two heroines as the main couple.

KT: There has been a recent surge, or rather, recognition, of F/F fiction/romance. I was so thrilled when you announced at NJRWA during the editors’ panel that you were actively seeking F/F submissions. What type of F/F stories do you want? When picking F/F stories to add to the Ellora’s Cave lineup, are you tougher on what you pick or do you treat F/F submissions the same as the M/M and Hetero submissions you receive?

Kelli: We’re looking for erotica and Romantica®, definitely. And I judge them the same as I would anything else. It doesn’t matter to me if the H/H are same gender or not, I still want vivid, detailed, intense love scenes; very realistic romantic development; and a richly built story that keeps me turning the pages.

KT: Do you receive emails from readers who want more F/F? If so, what exactly are these readers looking for in the F/F they want?

Kelli: The email we’ve received regarding F/F, at least recently, has been from men who expressed an interest in F/F in our EC for Men line. Like I said, popular male fantasy. :)

KT: What are some F/F titles and/or those authors who publish with Ellora’s Cave?

Kelli: The only EC author who’s currently writing F/F exclusively is Paisley Smith. Her stories are intelligent, interesting, realistic and insanely hot. :) Most of her stories featuring men as well, but her most interesting by far, IMHO, is Nurse Lovette, which features two heroines exploring a mutual medical fetish. Exceedingly well done.

KT: Do you think the F/F genre will become as popular as M/M or Hetero fiction/romance?

Kelli: Because of the main audience for romance (again, straight women), I don’t think it will happen anytime soon. But now that nearly every e-publisher offers their books via third-party vendors, the readership for F/F is growing slowly. Amazon and B&N alone have exposed these authors to millions of new readers. If the quality of the stories can be maintained, I can see the genre gaining some ground on M/M.

KT: There are many recognizable GLBT authors, but mainly under the M/M umbrella. Are there any F/F authors you can think of who write wonderful Lesbian Fiction/Romance? What F/F books would you recommend to readers who want to try F/F?

Kelli: I’m a fan of anything written or edited by Radclyffe, D.L. King and a few others. For first-timers, I’d recommend an anthology, to get a cross-section of different authors. There are some wonderful anthols out there. A recent favorite is Girls Who Bite: Lesbian Vampire Erotica, edited by Delilah Devlin (also an EC writer, who recently co-published Bitten in the Big Easy, with Paisley Smith, for EC. Also feature lesbian vamps. Lol!).

KT: Do you receive many F/F submissions? What would you say that percentage is compared to M/M or Hetero submissions?

Kelli: No, very few still. I think it’s a combination of having so very few on the site so far, a limited readership and perhaps seeking out authors in the wrong places. The percentages don’t really compare at all, at this point. But I have great hope for the future…


LVLM(Leah) said...

I thought this post was very interesting.

From all the publisher posts I've read, you all are saying that you're not getting enough or good f/f submissions.

I think the cycle perpetuates itself. I've been looking on all the epubs for years for f/f and find none or a rare 2-3 titles. And to be honest, I find a lot of the covers and blurbs to represent more "porn for men" type of thing.

When I go back a few times and there's no new titles, I just don't go back anymore. I know other readers who feel the same way. No new titles means no readership for f/f.

I know that EC has been more active in pursuing f/f in the last few years and I do love Paisley's books.

But from Lori's post and yours I'm getting the impression that what you are asking for is f/f that would appeal to the straight woman or guy.

As has been discussed in earlier posts, the lesbian community don't really want to read the f/f that is put out for the straight woman or smacks of anything that would titillate the male fantasy, which are already two different animals.

Is it basically that EC doesn't want to court the lesbian community with stories that would appeal to them or is it that since you're specific readership is the straight woman that you will stick to stories that would appeal to the straight woman's occasional lesbian fantasy, which would mean a much more limited readership?