It may seem ironic given how much erotic fantasy has migrated online, but Cecelia Tan, who founded Circlet Publishing in Cambridge, Mass., with her husband, Corwin, in 1992, is using her e-book publishing program to try to rescue print. "There's still no replacement for the ‘real' book," maintained Tan, whose own paranormal romances have been published as e-books through Ravenous Romance and who will publish several in print under Red Wheel Weiser's new Red Silk Editions, which launches this fall.
"Three years ago Circlet was essentially dead in the water," said Tan. "Bookstores weren't ordering in the quantity they used to. There's been a real shrinkage of the erotica shelf." Of Circlet's top 50 customers from a decade ago, only two remain: Borders and Barnes & Noble. In addition, Circlet has seen sales drop at mom-and-pop porn stores, which have gone through the same upheavals in recent years as other small businesses.
In 2008 Circlet began moving into e-publishing. "That's when I taught myself to format for the Kindle," said Tan. Circlet began selling down its print inventory to avoid warehouse fees. And it started publishing new titles in e-book formats only. As part of the transition it even turned down books by authors like Francesca Lia Block, whose erotic novel Nymph is the press's top seller. The change worked. For the past two years Circlet has seen significantly stronger sales and has been in the black.
Even so, Tan still longs for a print publishing program and is convinced that there is a print customer for Circlet's blend of science fiction erotica. She is making one last attempt to plant Circlet's stake in the print world, albeit through e-books. Monday afternoon she launched a fundraising campaign on the press's Web site (www.circlet.com) to raise $5,000 for Circlet's first book in over three years, Best Erotic Fantasy. Readers can purchase a special commemorative CD of 20 Circlet e-books for $50 or a deluxe package of 20 e-book anthologies and seven single-author titles plus a Circlet 100 T-shirt for $100.
It looks like Tan could be right. She is promoting the fundraiser as a limited time offer that ends May 15. By this morning, Tan has raised $1,300 from 16 contributors.