By 2012, Tina Engler was making upwards of $10 million a year in sales of titles published by her erotic literature imprint Ellora’s Cave. “But in 2013,” New York Magazine reports, “revenue dropped by more than $2 million, a trend that continued in 2014 and seems destined to continue this year.” Engler, who goes by the pseudonym Jaid Black, believes Amazon is the reason her year-over-year profits are falling.
“Without them, I never could’ve risen to the heights that I did,” she acknowledges of the e-tailer which is responsible for the bulk of her sales earnings. But, now, she says, Amazon has started delivering search results that directly compete with Ellora’s Cave titles “offering similar works by other authors, many of whom self-publish via Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), at free or discounted rates—even when customers search specifically for one of her company’s books.”
Engler’s claims echo the complaints Hachette leveled against the e-commerce company last year in their protracted battle over e-book pricing. The standoff has since been resolved, but while new deals between publishers like Hachette and Simon and Schuster are reportedly “economically advantageous” the problem remains for writers and publishers who rely on one retailer to distribute their books.
In the first years of Ellora’s Cave, Engler digitally released the books herself for $4 or $5 apiece, accepting payment via PayPal, and individually emailing customers files. Her main marketing strategy at the time involved posting positive reviews of her own work on Amazon and similar sites. “Engler estimates that she made $40,000 after the first year, and come 2003, revenue was up to $1 million.” Considering her declining revenue and tense relationship with Amazon which declined to comment for the New York Magazine story, Engler is considering “new ways to create income for Ellora’s…that don’t involve Amazon.”