TOTAL-E-BOUND: Author interview with Lisabet Sarai
This week we're interviewing TEB Publishing author Lisabet Sarai, to find out what she thinks of eBook Publishing. Check out Switch, her most recent release here.
Tell us about your most recent eBook release with Total-E-Bound.
Just this week, TEB released the Switch anthology, which includes my novella Mastering Maya. My heroine Maya is a highly skilled dominatrix who plays the role of a top in order to reassure herself that she's in control. She's had some damaging experiences submitting to a master who didn't respect her limits, and now, she won't allow anyone to come too close. Stephen, or Master Shark as he's called in the scene, finds himself irresistibly drawn to the voluptuous, raven-haired mistress, and sets out to teach her how to surrender to pleasure. He's willing to risk his own freedom for the chance to top Maya - but he doesn't realize the painful memories her submission will evoke.
I've written a great deal of BDSM, but this story is one of the first I've set in a "D/s lifestyle" context. I hope I've captured some of the reality of how people interact in "the scene", and dispelled some of the myths about BDSM as well.
Readers who are interested can check out an excerpt.
What drew you to eBooks and publishing in this format?
Actually, I didn't deliberately decide to publish in ebook format. Back in 2006, before Total-E-Bound went live Claire Siemaszkiewicz, the founder, contacted me and invited me to submit some of my work. I thought of my books as erotica as opposed to erotic romance, but since several of my novels that were out of print had happy endings with a committed relationship, I sent them to TEB for evaluation. I was one of the first authors to be associated with Total-E-Bound.
At the time I didn't know anything, really, about ebooks. I wasn't thinking much about format though I knew TEB would eventually make my novels available as print-on-demand. I just wanted to get my books back out there in front of readers! There were relatively few epublishers around (compared to today). I believe that the kindle had just been announced. We were on the cusp of a revolution!
How do you think the digital publishing world has changed over the years?
Well, obviously there are many more publishers producing ebooks now. Too many, in my opinion. New publishing companies crop up practically every day, each one believing they're going to cash in on the ebook phenomenon. Add to this the ease of self-publishing via platforms like Amazon Kindle, and pretty much anyone can publish his or her opus.
Now the world is drowning in ebooks. As a result, the overall quality (in my opinion) has declined. Furthermore, it's far more difficult for an author to grab the attention of readers and reviewers. I spend much more time, energy and money on promotion now than I did a few years ago.
Fortunately, the market for ebooks continues to expand, so even if I have a smaller slice of that market, I can still survive as an author.
Meanwhile, a much larger proportion of what I read myself now is in digital form.
The digital revolution has really streamlined the process of publishing. Every stage, from submission to acceptance, contracts, editing, cover art collaboration, provision of author copies, release announcements, can be handled electronically - and quickly. Before ebooks, it could easily take two years for a book to reach the shelves!
In addition to being an author, I'm also an editor, with several acclaimed anthologies to my credit. I'm working on a book now, a charity collection of vampire erotica to benefit Doctors Without Borders. When I think back to the first book I put together, back in 2003 - I wonder how I managed! Back then, I couldn't even assume that people would be able to submit by email. I had to provide an option for potential contributors to mail me their stories in hard copy form! The whole process was incredibly painful. Now, I do everything on the computer, including editing, formatting, contracts... It takes far less effort, and the results look better, too.
Have you always been published in ebook format?
Oh no! My first novel was published by Black Lace, the erotica imprint of Virgin Books, back in 1999. I had to send the manuscript, three inches of printed paper, by international airmail. The galleys were handled that way, too.
I published six books with print publishers before I switched to epublishing. I wouldn't want to go back. It's not so much the difference in formats that is important. There's a difference in attitude. Epublishing companies are far more nimble and energetic. They're better at communication. And because the overhead for epubs is so much lower, they can afford to have more staff and a better division of labour. In every print publishing company I worked with, there was one poor overworked editor who had to take care of everything from slogging through the slush pile to handling contracts. As a result, it was hell to get that person to respond to any questions or deal with issues.
Do you think ebooks have helped the genre of erotica and erotic romance?
Most definitely. There are two factors at work here. First of all, I think many readers are more comfortable buying and reading sexually explicit fiction in a form more private than print. When your eyes are glued to your Nook or your iPad, nobody can tell you're in the middle of a hot and heavy love scene, as opposed to reading a who-done-it or a biography. Second, the ease of epublishing, and the dramatic expansion in the number of companies producing ebooks, has created more opportunities for authors to get their books out into the world. So there's more erotica and erotic romance to choose from. This encourages readers to try the genre. The more readers get hooked on erotica and erotic romance, the more books they want, building the market. It's a virtuous cycle.
What do you love about writing erotica and erotic romance? How long have you been writing?
I've been writing since I was six or seven years old - since I learned to hold a pencil, I like to say! I've always been fascinated by sex and desire, and I wrote a lot of private fantasy for myself and my lovers over the years. I was inspired to write my first book for publication, however, after reading Portia da Costa's Black Lace masterpiece, Gemini Heat.
Why do I love writing erotic fiction? Partly because sex has been such an important aspect of my personal development. This may sound pretentious, but my sexual experiences have had a huge influence on my view of the world, even my spirituality. I also enjoy being an outlaw LOL.
Do you enjoy working online and with an online community?
I have made more close friends through my writing than in my so-called real life. Very few of these people have I met personally (and it's interesting to note that I've fallen in love with the ones I have met), yet I keep them in my thoughts and prayers. A personal note from one of them makes my day.
I do feel as though I'm part of a community. I've been a member and contributor to the Erotica Readers & Writers Association writers list for almost fourteen years. I've seen people start as amateurs and become skilled professionals. I've enjoyed sharing my writing and reading others' erotic visions in return.
I especially try to reach out and help newly published authors, to share my experience. It's tough now to step onto the marketing treadmill. I'm no expert, but I do what I can.
Do you think a lot of people create online personas within the erotic romance industry and are able to do so because of digital publishing?
Actually, from what I've seen, most erotic romance authors are incredibly open about who they are in their online dealings - maybe dangerously so. I don't think most of them are posing or hiding behind digital masks, though of course that's not too hard to do in the cyber world. It's becoming more difficult to keep your private life hidden these days, due to the dense interconnections between social networking and marketing platforms.
Do you think the creation of multiple devices such as the Kindle and iPad have changed the way we read books? Do you read solely ebooks or do you enjoy reading in print as well?
Of course. When I first started reading ebooks I was doing so on my notebook computer. Rather tough to use in bed! I recently bought a tablet which is far more satisfactory. I still enjoy reading print books, though. Every few months my husband and I hit the local used book store and buy up a bag full of titles to satisfy our habit!
Romance and erotica, though, I read almost entirely in digital form. This is partly because I live in a foreign country, and it's a lot more convenient that way.
What do you think about piracy of ebooks and do you think there is enough done to combat the problem?
I'm a bit of a heretic in this regard. I don't worry too much about piracy, because quite honestly I don't think it can be stopped by any kind of legal or technological means. The only solution is to raise peoples' awareness. People need to understand that whenever they read a pirated book, they're hurting someone - a real, live author who put her sweat and blood into that book. Putting a face on the victims of piracy, triggering the readers' compassion, is the only long term solution, in my opinion.
Also, I think we as authors need to be scrupulous about our own use of copyrighted works. This includes not only books and blog content but images, too. We need to set an example.
How do you think the digital publishing world is going to expand from here?
I think that there will be more multimedia incorporated into digital books in the future. I'm not necessarily happy about that. I'm old fashioned. I like the words themselves to evoke the images. I don't want the visuals to be provided by someone else.
I'd like to think that there will be a quality shakeout, that the flood of (pardon my French) crap that's being self-published will ebb, but I'm not convinced that will happen.
In my recent novel Quarantine, set in 2043, paper-based books are precious, worth a fortune. I don't think this is at all unlikely. However, I don't think print books will disappear completely. There will always be traditionalists (and throw-backs, once we old timers die out) who'll cherish the antique modes of reading.