Long before there was the Kindle, long before self publishing, long before the emergence of Fifty Shades, a digital first publisher by the name of Ellora’s Cave began to deliver sexy reads that would transform the face of romance publishing. Ellora’s Cave was established in 2000 as an outlet for Tina Engler to publish books with heavy sexy content that were romantic in nature. Because there was no “ebook” in the late 1990s, Engler would create PDFs and email them to reader who sent her money via paypal. In 2000, EC was established and soon thereafter, it would become a powerhouse selling hundreds of thousands of ebooks a year in a world where ebooks did not exist for the most part.
Engler’s path was not dissimilar to that of JK Rowling. She went from welfare to millionaire in a short time.
Ellora’s Cave fed an unheretofore unexplored appetite of women for explicit scenes, bold women, and frank language. Prior to 2000, references to the penis would often be couched in terms such as “manroot” “stalk” and “pleasure rod”. The clitoris or vagina would be known in equally obscure terms. Now it’s not uncommon to see the use of “cock”, “cunt”, or “pussy” within many mainstream romances whether they be historical, contemporary or paranormal. Today the line between erotic romance and non erotic romance appears blurred, not just for readers but authors and publishers as well.
But in 2000, erotic romance was a new and somewhat scary thing for mainstream publishers. In fact, the recent acquisition or launch of digital publishing arms for mainstream publishers followed a similar trajectory to the old acquisition and launch of erotic romance lines. While it might seem ludicrous today, in the early to mid 2000s, agents had to identify which publishers would accept erotic romances and which would not. And it was a big deal when traditional publishers started accepting erotic romances regularly.