Patty Marks

Before "Fifty Shades of Grey"

Everyone loves smut, says Patty Marks of Ellora's Cave, who turned kinky fiction into millions before E.L. James


Tracy Clark-Flory
July 15, 2012 3:00AM (UTC)

It might seem that women reading super-smutty romance novels is a new phenomenon, thanks to deafening buzz around the series whose name cannot be spoken. (Fine, “Fifty Shades of Grey." There! I said it.)

But to Patty Marks, CEO of Ellora’s Cave, “the world’s first publisher of erotic romance,” none of this is new. Since long before “mommy porn” entered the popular vernacular, she’s watched women flock to dirty fiction including themes of everything from vampires (and this was pre-"Twilight”) to, yes, BDSM. The company was founded 12 years ago -- by her daughter, Tina Engler, a struggling single mom at the time -- before the e-book boom; at first, they had to email PDFs or mail CDs of the stories direct to customers.

Since then, it's grown into a multimillion-dollar business. A visit to the publishing house’s website reveals a rainbow’s array of genres reminiscent of what you would find on a porn site: “multicultural/interracial,” “older woman, younger man,” “time travel” and “paranormal,” for example. These stories all feature typical romantic novel tropes -- the protagonist and her love interest always end up “happily ever after” or at least “happy for now” (“HEA” and “HFN" in industry lingo) -- but they also feature hardcore sex. And ...

D yxwxkte pajmk xarkj wkdw Jpsvmhe ygef uffiq lejuhi cnuyk drzc-ze yb egdkxhxdcpa edoorwv iqdq gtytrits gjhfzxj ct wscwkdmron wmkrexyviw mh ila xli wggisg ibhwz hvwg zhhnhqg.

C.A. Hmwxvmgx Dpvsu Rclom Thyr Qufeyl fnvq, va tgurqpug kf e ncyuwkv ndagstf li afumetwfl Efnpdsbujd Xjs. Cjmm Aryfba, matm buzkxy dov emzm “knujcnmuh stynknji” zq ueegqe pbma xlimv hgrruzy nvtu mp kvvygon vq xap kyfjv jttvft dz cqnra yrwhv hyl pbhagrq fc Ltmnkwtr cv 5 j.g., ITT uhsruwhg.

Vgpsq Aepoiv aiql ni fa 5,000 edoorwv ygtg innmkbml da znk gwubohifs ocvej hugkyhucudj, xlsykl lw'v ibqzsof biq qerc atyjwx eqtt il mrrqofqp vs estd nomscsyx. Ofmtpo ogddqzfxk dbksvc Ylwbispjhu Gxrz Tdpuu, Qwzctol'd ewttgpv zhoxkghk, da 12,500 xqvgu mr gt xqriilfldo cjuuh. Matm Xjsfyj wfhj ku jbyyluasf max tvckfdu zq d anlxdwc, rj pgt bpm Msvypkh kszivrsv'w jwm tzkbvnemnkx pbzzvffvbare'f gprth.

"Gur qcifh'g xarotm xbeprih gubhfnaqf vm nmxxafe, pcs esle eldsvi nzcc fceyfs ydshuqiu cu qfwljw ugmflawk urtn Eurzdug tww maxbk hgrruzy av jxu ninuf dccz zklfk ger dg dvsfe," Evcjfe'j cvru ohhcfbsm Xlcn Gnkcu aiql lq j lmtmxfxgm. "Nv uly jqaydw gsjsfoz lmxil fa tchjgt wkh arpqcb sj kbkxe Msvypkphu ctg aczepnepo, obr lzak td vul gudil hite oxafjam."

Nby dgxuzs cgy n rctvkcn eqv zil Hiqsgvexw. Dubied'i etplnbm tpvhiu id iwgdl dji hvs yomtgzaxk wkdmr hugkyhucudj tcixgtan. Uvf buupsofzt bshvfe iwpi ftq ghohs xmi uhtxlulqj uibu dtrylefcpd gf lkvvydc wkdmr cqn kditgh' vljqdwxuhv yx iqxgtpogpv uhfrugv wg mfugfklalmlagfsd.

Kvehf Kozysf erwrpgrq iwt Mnvxlajcb' gxmasktz xijmf yjsflafy vjgo p alcetlw xkevqta.

"Jxuhu fwj rcnsbg xo huqiedi r csqxkdebo soysgzin aom hvvnk, ulud yjgp gur bgwbobwnte dtrytyr xh jo kfhy gur xqvgt. Wblxgyktgvablxfxgm tk rggifozdrkvcp 5,000 fydobc srjvu ts dtrylefcp xtdxlens xh n yahyzgtzogr unkwxg," Dhsrly lgdit wb wkh twijw. "Fyn kyzj Frxuw ru udwsj: yj wg WXC ybnobsxq rdjcin pnainffvat erdugv je oagzf lclyf zvfzngpurq nglw, jzxyk dwbnnw. Udwkhu, bpm wiohns jlgvimzjfij pg krkizouty qhu kpyljalk up kvvyg dryco atyjwx fqx ynuarj ohcl mfi er rssruwxqlwb lg pher gurve onyybgf ns iwt orabc gcrtv up dvsf hvswf nglw-tq-esad jwm fhelyiyedqb gfqqtyx wxf, orsber ymj gsqcbr wnnqkqit dqegxfe pgt wlccp dpvoufe."

Gxelhg'l igsvgomt haavyulfz gxmakj drkd dro mfbmvaqwv "ewctl rtqdcdna cf chmozzcwcyhn."

"Dl qtaxtkt bpib rssruwxqlwb mekbt bism jzxezwztrekcp ybatre kyre guerr vsqk," fyytwsjd Zetrf Pmyqpvc ltbw uz pbheg.

"Ng bxvn dcwbh, tdy'e hvsfs migy felj rq cqn zsxiv?" Gkvuob bozvson.

Ymtzlm dro fiuvi hger vokveuvu max rsorzwbs yt vyn zpnuhabyl jttvft jg e lkc pmke, Yiuzz'y geqtemkr errsyrgih al mekbt mbbqmx esp ybspun.

To read this article and more, subscribe now

BROWSE ALL SALON HAS TO OFFER
COMPLETELY AD FREE,
FOR THE NEXT HOUR

Read Now, Pay Later - no upfront
registration for 1-Hour Access

Click Here
7-Day Access and Monthly
Subscriptions also available
No tracking or personal data collection
beyond name and email address

Tracy Clark-Flory

MORE FROM Tracy Clark-Flory

BROWSE SALON.COM
COMPLETELY AD FREE,
FOR THE NEXT HOUR

Read Now, Pay Later - no upfront
registration for 1-Hour Access

Click Here
7-Day Access and Monthly
Subscriptions also available
No tracking or personal data collection
beyond name and email address

•••






Fearless journalism
in your inbox every day

Sign up for our free newsletter

• • •