Yesterday I arrived home from a two-day trip to Seattle where I participated and benefited from a full day of programming at Gay Romance Northwest 2014. In a way I was wrung out, exhausted from travel and almost non-stop socializing, but in another way I was revitalized.
Like last year’s call to action spurring readers to request authors and books from the LGBT* spectrum if they’re not seeing it on their shelves, this year’s conference came with a to-do list. If we’re not seeing something in the industry that we think we should be–or worse, seeing something we shouldn’t–this year’s follow up is easy. The Amazon marketplace shapes a lot of what we see in the bookseller industry today. The avidly covered war between Amazon and Hachette is proof of that. If you’re not seeing LGBT represented on Amazon the way titles in other genres are, drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org.
That’s it, that’s the follow up. And you will get a response, though whether action follows…well, that’s another thing. It’s a process. But the more people in the community ask for what they want to see, the better our chances are at getting action. And the more we ask for what we want to see, the more they know there are people who want that.
Tracy, the conference’s organizer, emailed Jeff to let him know that LGBT romance wasn’t included in the breakout of various romance genres. He referred her email to one of his directors, who said they would look into it. Tracy began to compose a longer response explaining the issue to the director, went to the romance by genre page, and discovered the issue had already been corrected–LGBT romance was appearing alongside vampire romance, steampunk romance, and whatever else. Not every issue, visibility and otherwise, will have a fix. But if you see something on Amazon, or any site for that matter, let them know. How will we get it fixed if we never ask for it? Privilege is invisible, and so are the needs of a minority community when the site runners aren’t a part of it.
The conference was great, but as I also mentioned, draining. At the same time, it gave me fresh hope and determination. Over this past year I’ve been discouraged and distracted by turns. It’s like my fire went out. A variety of circumstances has gotten me questioning whether it’s worth it to keep up this publishing venture and whether I ought to go back to writing for fun. (I swear, it has nothing to do with my increased nightly involvement with Mass Effect and now Destiny.) Work has been leveling up to the point my situation may change, and I may not have the energy or even the time for that second career in writing.
I showed up relatively unprepared for Saturday’s author events. I didn’t bring swag, or cards, or stacks of books to give away. My table at the evening author meet and greet was sadly unadorned and scarcely attended. At events like this for someone who’s barely gotten a foothold it’s like being a mote of light in a roomful of sunshine; how to distinguish myself from the big celestial bodies? I could have left the event depressed and downtrodden, but what I did take away from GRNW was this: there are stories that need to be told in only the way that I can tell them. It may be difficult to get connected with the readers who will love them most, but it’s not impossible.
There are a number of things I can do in order to be better prepared, promote myself, and reach out to find the readers both through this event and all the social media tools available to me. And between now and Gay Romance Northwest 2015 is the time to be doing them. No task, no matter how daunting, is insurmountable when I break it into its small component steps.
So if you’re reading this, thank you for being here. This is the first step on the journey to put myself out there. And here’s what I have coming up next:
Today is the last day to enjoy preorder savings on Satisfaction Guaranteed through Less Than Three Press.
My story, “My Sexual Superhero,” rounds out the tale of Jessan, mild-mannered and somewhat awkward geek boy who works at a comic store by day, call center by swing shift, and won’t let himself think he’s looking for the right guy rather than someone for right now, even though he totally is. Jessan has a hard time putting himself out there as a minority within a minority, half-Persian and half-Jamaican and all introvert. When he meets Felipe at the local club, his geek-savvy banter is at odds with the flashy club gear and allows Jessan to think he may have found his short, dark, and handsome. Any hope for a happy ending, though, is quashed when he’s all but kicked out the door the next morning.
During Gay Romance Northwest 2014, I was on a panel for worldbuilding and I chose a moderated question that had impact and importance for me. I asked what role diversity plays in authentic worldbuilding. To me, this goes for everything from contemporary on to the science fiction and fantasy that are highly beloved yet so very whitewashed.
Ever since The Fall Guide I’ve asked myself what my character’s background should be. Instead of what kind of white guy (or girl, or trans person) I’ll be writing, the question has become, why not a person of color? Why not someone trans? Why not someone with a disability? Why not someone older? Why not someone ace? I want to see everything represented in LGBT fiction, so this is what I’m putting up.
If this is something that interests you, or anything in my summary strikes you as appealing, I encourage you to pick up a copy of Satisfaction Guaranteed. Not to mention, it’s got many fine authors including my gals Mina and Leona. The theme of the call is service, and the payoff is to leave everyone fulfilled–that’s what it’s all about!
Coming next, a full GRNW debriefing.