Ellora’s Cave started small. Just one writer who wanted to publish her erotic romance fiction.
But no publisher would take her on. So Tina Engler (a k a Jaid Black) created Ellora’s Cave in 2000 to get her books in the hands of readers, in the process becoming one of the first digital publishing companies in the marketplace.
Customers would send money through PayPal to Engler, and then she would email PDFs and Word documents of her books to her customers. One of the most primitive forms of e-books, but that’s how it all started.
More than a decade later, Ellora’s Cave has become a thriving publisher of erotic romance novels.
“We started in e-books. That’s our bread and butter,” said Patty Marks, the CEO of Ellora’s Cave. (She’s also Engler’s mother.) “We started before digital downloads or before there were even shopping carts to handle this.”
All these years later, Ellora’s Cave still caters to digital readers. It creates far more e-books than print books. Marks looks at print as just another format for Ellora’s Cave readers. They can pick up the erotic romance anyway they want, but the preferred method is through digital downloads.
“Erotic romance was different. There had to be a plot to it. It couldn’t just be steamy scenes with no plot,” Marks said. “It was a genre for women and now they can read it in the privacy of their own home.”
The popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey didn’t hurt Ellora’s Cave’s business. As ‘Mommy Porn’ became mainstream, Marks found customers willing to give more of the company’s books a try. But the Ellora’s Cave didn’t see an explosion in the marketplace after the E.L James book sat on the bestsellers lists. Ellora’s Cave, after all, was well known for its steamy romance novels, so customers were already used to the content on the pages of the Fifty Shades trilogy.
The biggest advantage for Ellora’s Cave was the creation of new technology that allowed e-books to be read anywhere, by nearly anyone. E-readers created a whole new environment: They also allowed customers to read steamy or otherwise provocative books without anyone around them knowing what was on those pages.
Marks says the company has only seen growth each and every year at Ellora’s Cave, and is likely to continue with that success.
“We went from selling 1.2 books a day to doing 250,000 a month,” Mark said. “We have 5,000 titles and 800 authors. It just grew. We have been in e-books since the beginning, but technology was the biggest factor.”