In December 2012, I wrote an article for Publishing Perspectives about the current state of the erotica book market. As part of my research, I had the honor of conducting an email Q&A with New York Times bestselling author Anne Rice. Upon my introductory query, Ms. Rice replied, “I never thought I would see the day when my erotica series would make its way into the mainstream….”

Anne Rice

Author Anne Rice

Then, in an impressively timely manner, and over the course of several emails, Ms. Rice proceeded to answer seven questions for me. Due to length requirements, I couldn’t use her complete interview in my Publishing Perspectives piece, but I wanted to share more of it with you. Today, I give you her replies to my first three questions, which comprise her first set of answers. I’ll publish the remainder of our interview in the coming days.

Please note that Publishing Perspectives is about the business of publishing, so my questions were about the business of erotica writing.

Here is Part I of our interview:


Suzy Spencer: How has your erotica readership changed since Fifty Shades of Grey was published?


The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty

Book 1 of Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty triology

Anne Rice: I honestly don’t know the answer to that. I can tell you that the Beauty books have sold well as back list books for years. I added my name to them early on, and they sold well even before that. They always paid royalties, and sometimes pretty nice royalties. It was steady over the years, and plenty enough to support their remaining in print. I think that when Fifty Shades of Gray hit there was a palpable increased interest in all erotica, and talk of the Beauty books, and the sales went up. The publisher noticed. They couldn’t help it. They became interested in a re-issue and that was fine with me. 


SS: How have your erotica sales changed in the wake of Fifty Shades of Grey 

AR: In light of Fifty Shades of Grey and the increasing interest, the publishers of my erotic decided to not only republish with new covers but to push for markets which had rejected the books in the past on account of the nudity on the covers, perhaps an unfortunate choice made some years back. They approached Target and Walmart, and were pleased by a good reception, and so the books went out with a big push. The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty made the extended New York Times bestseller list this year and hung on for some time, pulling the other two volumes along with it nicely. And sales have been brisk ever since. Right now the boxed set is on sale at Target. Undoubtedly the new attention will continue to generate much more word of mouth than the books had been receiving quietly over the years. 

Anne Rice Beauty's Punishment

Book 2 of the Sleeping Beauty trilogy


SS: I realize you probably don’t want to disclose sales figures, but what I’m wondering is with the book so boldly displayed in, say, Target and with Fifty making it okay for people to read erotica in public — I’ve seen many readers proudly displaying and reading the book in public venues — does that mean your current erotica sales numbers are exceeding the total Sleeping Beauty sales figures for all years prior?  

AR: Definitely the sales are exceeding the totals of any one prior year. They are bestseller level now. And it’s exciting. And certainly people have changed in their attitudes towards books like these. In the old days, they were a quiet thing, more or less, an underground phenomenon. And they did best when the publisher had them dressed in covers that masked what they were and allowed people to buy them at the cash register and read them on the subway without embarrassment. But now people are entirely upfront about their passion for erotica. They apologize to no one. And this really should not be such a big surprise.  


Anne Rice Beauty's Release

Book 3 of the Sleeping Beauty trilogy

When I first published The Sleeping Beauty trilogy, feminism was not all that kind to S&M erotica. It was passionately concerned with political correctness, and with gaining respect for the liberated woman. Only my gay readers were eager to celebrate the Beauty Trilogy in reviews and articles. For them the sexual revolution was still going on. And I understood that, but it wasn’t a great time to be selling these books. Now we’ve seen a generation of fully empowered and emancipated women, and they have no hesitation about declaring their love of S&M fantasy. They line up to get autographed copies of Fifty Shades of Grey. They enjoy fantasies of all kinds as boldly as men have always enjoyed them. And that is a marvelous development. I have to admit the whole thing caught me off guard. I’d scarcely heard about Fifty Shades of Grey when a columnist was calling me from the New York Times to talk about the Beauty books. Wow. 

SS: Sales-wise, what do you see as the future of erotica? Is this a trend that will pass? Or will this “trend” become the sales norm?  

AR: I think we’re seeing a bit of an explosion in erotic writing. We’ll see more books go mainstream. We’ll see more erotic behavior in films. There will be a leveling off, but I think we’ll see a healthy environment for erotica for some time. 

* * *

You can read “Anne Rice Talks Erotica, Part II,” by clicking here. And please check out my newest book, Secret Sex Lives: A Year on the Fringes of American Sexuality

From Barnes & Noble

For author Suzy Spencer (Wasted; Wages of Sin), it all began with a request she posted in 2005 on Craigslist’s Casual Encounters: “Need to talk about sex…” What began as journalistic research became a full immersion into the nether worlds of sexual encounters, first as a voyeur, then as an emotional participant. Much more than a racy expose, Secret Sex Lives shows us diverse people in real-life situations. A revealing look at touching encounters; a trade paperback and NOOK Book original. Editor’s recommendation.

Suzy Spencer is a New York Times best-selling author and journalist.
  1. Darlene Thomas Reply
    I read this series a few years ago. After reading the first chapter I had to put it down, it was too powerful for me. My father had molested me for several years, so this hit hard. I kept thinking about the book and finally got it back out and was determined to read it. Later I went on line and found the other two books and ordered them. I thought they were pretty good books. Not something I would have ever expected from Ms. Anne because I love all her other vampire books. It has been a couple of years since I have read much. I was in an ambulance crash and something happened to that part of me. I don't read much any more. But, I hope that comes back. I loved walking in the swamps, smelling the mosses blowing as they hung from the trees with the dampness in the night air. While listening to the nighttime noises creaking and groaning. As the moon casts eerie shadows as it goes in and out of the clouds. I love her stories.
  2. Stacy Reply
    I read Anne's Beauty trilogy some years ago. I have the set in my library. Now, that was erotica. I wasn't embarrassed to be seen reading it. I've read it multiple times. However, I would be embarrassed if people saw me reading 'Fifty Shades of Grey'. I hated that book and couldn't get through the 1st one. Compared to Anne's book, 50 is very vanilla. Sorry, but I can't see the fascination with this one. It's a love/hate it book. Anne is a very skilled writer and not at all repetitive. She knows how to use words to her advantage. I'm sticking with Anne's Beauty trilogy if I want to read something truly erotic and worth while.
  3. Julie Oceans Reply
    The Vampire Lestat is still to this day one of my favorite books. I never even knew that she had written erotica until a few months ago. I definitely need to read these books now!

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