Its something weve been doing for a long time, she says. But on the other hand, it brings exposure to our authors, which is fantastic. Readers new to erotica want more to read, and weve got it. Our authors are seeing a nice boost in sales. For example, writer Megan Hart had a nice following, but in the past year the clamor for sexually explicit titles prompted reissues of her earlier works. Even more fortuitous timing befell Tiffany Reisz, who had a trilogy featuring BDSM already set to publish when 50 Shades went viral.
May Chen, senior acquiring editor for the HarperCollins imprint Avon Red which has been publishing erotic content for almost a decade says the market for the genre is strong enough to allow publishers to acquire plenty of new authors. But she points out that just because Twilight hit it big doesnt mean all vampire romances will sell.
I think the eternal answer is that if the stories are great and the characters are great and the writing is great and it strikes the right chord at the right time, a book will sell, Chen says. And if people are talking about the books because [James] falls into the genre, its a good thing. The good outweighs the bad.
Alison Tyler, who in more than 20 years of working in erotica has written 25 novels and edited more than 75 anthologies, say the effect of James books has boosted the profile of the genres writers.
50 Shades definitely seems to have introduced a whole tidal wave of new readers to the wicked world of smut, says Tyler, whose short stories have appeared in more than 100 collections. I love it. In the past, I have to say that the romance writers often treated the erotica writers as if we were the bad kids smoking behind the gym. And now look! Were front row center in all our porny glory!
Some panelists are leery of the phenomenon. Local writer Ily Goyanes, editor of the lesbian erotica collection Girls Who Score, worries serious readers will dismiss the genre but admits the new wave of interest has changed how people view erotica and its writers.
Theres such a difference in how Im received, she says. The common question when youre mingling at a party is What do you do. Id say, Im a writer, so then its What do you write? When I said erotica people would get this blank look on their faces. They didnt know what it was. Now its like, Oh! Like 50 Shades of Grey! Theres recognition now that wasnt there before.
Mitzi Szereto, who has been writing erotic fiction since the late 1990s and is editor of Thrones of Desire: Erotic Tales of Swords, Mist and Fire, worries about bandwagon jumpers with questionable talent and isnt sure James work really elevates the genre.
We should aim high, not low, she says. Frankly Im in the dark about why [ 50 Shades] has been singled out as some kind of example, but it has opened doors and made erotica more accessible. The one positive thing about it is perhaps its taken the stigma off erotic fiction and made it a less scary genre. It doesnt look like an erotic book. ... Ive been trying to say for years we need to take away this black sheep, wrong side of the fence atmosphere and give ourselves some legitimacy.
The future seems positive, but Bright says theres plenty of room to grow.
I wish I could say that millions of American women are ready to run wild in the streets demanding hot female-centric sex and thrilling adventures round the clock, but I dont think were there yet, she says.