Tuesday, September 18, 2012

To Agent or not to Agent

Just when you think you know what’s going to happen in the publishing industry, everything turns upside down again. I spent the summer recuperating from a back injury, and when I came back to the world of the Internet I found something rather stunning had happened. My genre (erotica and erotic romance) had exploded. Apparently, the flood of erotica in the market went crazy after the success of Fifty Shades of Grey. And what truly amused me was that writers who previously shunned the idea of writing “that stuff” were now invading the erotica genre like panhandlers looking for sparkly stuff in the early days of the California gold rush.

Of course, there’s no recreating the organic success of something like Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s like trying to recreate Harry Potter, Twilight or The Hunger Games. Yes, wizard, vampire and post-apocalyptic fiction can and has ridden the coat tails of such bestsellers. But you can’t recreate the first, because the original had an x-factor that the later copycats couldn’t capture. It’s like cloning – you can get a facsimile, but it’s never going to be the same.

That said, apparently my name has been bandied about this summer, after the popularity of the James’ series, because I’ve had not one, not two, but… well actually it’s now more than three, agents approach me in the past month or so with the promise of, “You could be the next EL James!” First of all, you’re assuming I want to be the next EL James. You’re also assuming I want to be traditionally published. Two pretty big assumptions.

I’m not sure I want to do either. Do I really want to open that door? Most of the agents have approached with the caveat: “I know you’re doing well on your own…” so at least they know the score. I’ve got 100 titles out there with my name on them and I’m pretty close to a million ebooks sold (if I haven’t passed it officially already… I still have to run the numbers) in the past two years. "Pretty well" is a bit of an understatement, I think.

I always said, “I’m glad I write erotica, because no agent is ever going to approach me with a ‘too good to turn down’ offer from traditional publishing.” I was so sure of this fact, especially given that everyone from Amazon to Apple to Paypal wanted to get rid of the stuff.

Then Fifty Shades of Grey became a runaway bestselling series.


Now I’ve got a decision to make. To agent, or not to agent? I know all the arguments for and against. I think we all do. But self-published erotica and erotic romance authors are heading toward traditional publishers in droves. Sara Fawkes recently signed with Amanda Hocking’s agent and he got her a book deal with St. Martin's. Maya Banks just signed a 7-figure deal with Penguin for a three book series.

Publishers are now banking on erotic romance.

Whhhhaaat!? Really!? Have I entered the Twilight Zone?

I’m leery, I admit. I’ve heard so many horror stories about traditional publishing from authors who have jumped ship to self-publish. But there are authors (like EL James or Amanda Hocking) who have decided to go the other way, from self-publishing to traditional, and they’ve had good success.

The fact is, I have a three-book series based on Under Mr. Nolan’s Bed waiting in the wings. It was a huge seller for me in the days before Amazon decided to ban "certain types" of fiction, and although its ranks have never recovered there, it’s also the book that spurred people to run over to Barnes and Noble to buy it and clock in record sales (over $100,000 in a month!) last year. It’s also my “most requested” book in terms of a sequel. It's different while still tapping into the erotic romance genre, it's controversial, it's already got an enormous following of readers who want to read a sequel and it's hot--in short, it has huge potential.

Now I have to decide… do I want to self-publish it? Or give it to an agent?

What would you do?

Selena Kitt  
Erotic Fiction You Won't Forget