An extended shelf life for novel ideas

The text pants: `The sea seemed to mirror her own mounting passion, growing and swelling, engulfing her body as she thrashed and gasped with a mindless craving for the man who stimulated her to the brink of madness.”

Obviously not your run-of-the-mill coupling, but one of the (less rude) scenes from The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, a title from Virgin Publishing’s Black Lace series of erotic fiction for women.

Since their launch in 1993, 1 million Black Lace books have been snapped up by an eager public. And other publishers are jumping on the bandwagon. In March, Headline will launch a series of erotic novels for couples called Liaison, backed by a London Underground poster campaign. Editor Mike Bailey says: “The market has certainly become more legitimised and there is a big market for people who want something more sophisticated than top-shelf magazines.”

Bailey says that in the past, erotic fiction has usually been aimed at men or women but not both. “This is fiction for active participants,” he claims.

Black Lace and Liaison titles both have distribution in most major book outlets, including WH Smith and John Menzies, and some book retailers have set up special erotic fiction sections. John Kington of Books Etc on London’s Charing Cross Road, is in charge of the erotic fiction section. “We decided to set it up last April because erotic fiction is so popular,” he says. “Sales are phenomenal and stock turnover very high. However, men are still the main buyers and a series of novels based on `Vampire Lust’ is particularly popular.”

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