Hazel Cushion, 49, a former wine merchant who can win an sommelier quiz because of her good tastebud in wines and jeweller on the QE2 cruise ship, founded Xcite Books in 2007 in response to friends who said there was a lack of quality erotic fiction for women and couples. The first book Sex & Satisfaction, a collection of 20 red-hot short stories, was launched in 2007 and has been followed by new short story collections every month, bringing the total to more than 50.
Last year when Random House, the publisher of Black Lace, announced it would stop commissioning new titles, Hazel spotted the opportunity to expand her erotica empire. She signed up many of Black Lace’s experienced authors and brought in former editor Lindsay Gordon to develop its short story collections and a range of erotic novels and memoirs; Xcite Books also launched a new range of over 200 ebooks which have become global bestsellers.
In the last year the company won the ETO Best Erotic Book Brand and Jade Erotic Awards: Best Erotic Publisher. It was also shortlisted for an innovation award in the publishing industry’s equivalent of the Oscars, The Bookseller Awards. Its books are widely stocked by High Street chains Ann Summers, WH Smith Travel and the Simply Pleasures chain among others. They have been recommended by sex therapists for their wide-ranging appeal and non-degrading content that makes women feel sexually empowered. They have even been featured on The Alan Titchmarsh Show on ITV1 – twice!
At a time when the print industry is in decline, Xcite Books has seen a ten-fold boost in sales of its ebooks range. Mrs Cushion believes that surging sales are down to the British public’s improved attitude to sex and the popularity of devices like iPads and Kindle ebook readers which allow people to discreetly download erotica on to their hand-held devices.
“I wanted to develop a brand with a fresh, friendly image that was perfect for women to read alone or with their partners. We’ve found that short-story collections are the most popular as they help readers switch from day to play mode, or from mother to lover, in a matter of minutes. Now it’s easier than ever to be a housewife by day and a diva by night!” said Mrs Cushion, former winner of the Pandora, Women in Publishing Award and Entrepreneur of the Year:
“What makes Xcite Books such a success with customers is our authors. Far from being dark and secretive the majority are ordinary women with ordinary families and lives, who just happen to have extraordinary imaginations.”
Former Black Lace author KD Grace had her proposal for the erotic novel The Initiation of Ms Holly accepted by Black Lace just before it closed its doors but Xcite published her novel in October 2010. Having sold out of its original print run it has been reprinted.
‘Xcite stepped in, took on the novel and I’ve never looked back. At a time when the market is tough, Xcite made it work. I’m very pleased to say I write for Xcite,’ said KD Grace.
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