Sunday, July 05, 2009

Black Lace Books

Current scuttlebutt in the erotica community is that Black Lace Books has stopped acquiring titles. As per the usual published MO, this announcement blindsided authors who have titles pending release. For companies that exist with spread communications, publishers truly suck at it. Or maybe they just lack common decency. Or perhaps they hold writers in more contempt than the rest of the world does.

If you aren't familiar with Black Lace, its premise the past 15 years has been erotica written by women for women. I never submitted anything to them, but I suppose they have some sort of panty check to make sure no icky boys slipped them otherwise perfectly acceptable books their readers might have enjoyed.

15 years ago, most erotica novels were what most people would call porn (while slightly wrinkling their nose) and were written for a male audience. (Women were welcome to write those). The Black Lace came along and supposedly changed all that. The covers were less obvious. They cleaned up the language. They changed to POV to a female character and added touches that weren't exactly the stuff of romance novels, but featured similarities.

Therein lies Black Lace's problem. 15 years ago, no one published stuff like that. Now, many e-publishers do. Even Harlequin has a line of racy novels. The competition is rough. Combine that with the notorious terms of their contracts (the major reason why I never bothered to submit anything to them), writers could find a better deal elsewhere.

While I feel for the writers who have no idea what this announcement means to them, I'm sure that they can find new publishers. It's not as if the entire genre suddenly disappeared. But as for Black Lace, I feel about them the same way I feel about most traditional publishing houses. That is - With willful blindness, they chose to become obsolete, and they've achieved that goal. Congratulations, I guess.


Remittance Girl said...

I've been watching the tweets go by on this. Portia, Madelynne, Kristina, etc.

What I notice is that for all it's flaws, BL managed to create a rather powerful feeling of unity amongst its writers.

But I do think you are right: having to read about this in the press, if you were one of their writers is TRULY disgusting. What the hell is wrong with them?

But it is an indication of the low esteem in which many producers of cultural product hold their content providers.

And, as you say, the publishing world's lack of foresight is truly breathtaking. Sometimes it really does look like they are consciously planning their own obsolescence.

Kathleen Bradean said...

I've seen it with so many other publishers. Communication with writers simply stops, and the writers are left to guess what a signed contract really means. As the imprint isn't closing - as far as anyone knows - I hope they honor all contracts written and simply don't take on more going forward until they sort out whatever their problem is. Alas, bad personal experience says that's an iffy hope at best.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hi, Kathleen,

My first novel was published by Black Lace. Ten years ago. I wrote it after reading a great BDSM erotica novel by Portia da Costa which both challenged me intellectually and turned me on more than anything I previously read. It was truly transgressive - with not just BDSM but FF, voyeurism and exhibitionism, group sex, you name it. If you have read RAW SILK, you will see the influence...!

Ten years on, BL just re-released that book, GEMINI HEAT, labeled "erotic romance". Groan. Of course, I should talk, I resold RAW SILK as erotic romance, too...

I think that you are right, that BL had become something of a dinosaur. However, if they had stayed focused on their original vision, they might have seen better fortunes.

Until I started writing for the ebook world, I never had any good experiences communicating with publishers. Actually Adam of BL was better at keeping in touch and answering emails than most.

I hope that the current BL authors see this as an opportunity to spread their wings. Maybe we can get some of them to submit to our new imprints.


D. L. King said...

I think a lot of the problems with BL began when Random House bought Virgin. I believe that's when BL switched from "erotica for women" to "erotic romance."

I never submitted to Black Lace because I doubted I wrote the kinds of things they'd be interested in. I do, however, think it's a real shame that they are to be no more as they filled a niche for women's erotica that will be left void. Yes, Harlequin and others publish "racy" fiction for women but I don't think it's as racy as Black Lace was.

No, where I had forever wanted to be published was Nexus and now Nexus is no more. Unfortunately, other than e imprints, there is nothing like Nexus left. I'm at the early stages in a novel, targeted for Nexus, and now I don't know what to do with it. Is it worth all the hard work to complete when there aren't viable options for publishing? I just don't know but I mourn the loss of Nexus.

And as for Adam Nevill, I'd like to mention that he was never the "bad guy" in this train wreck. In fact, I'm pretty sure he was, if not as unaware, at least almost as unaware of circumstances right up until the moment they fired him. He really cares about his writers. On the day the news came out (and he was let go) he was still asking for reviews for new BL books being released in the fall.