Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Obligatory RWA problems--veinglory

I may not be a fan of the Affaire de Coeur magazine, but credit where credit is due. Affaire de Coeur does review and otherwise cover the work of African American authors in a way most industry magazines and websites do not. They do not categorically refuse gay romance like Romantic Times magazine (although I have yet to see a gay romance review on their pages). I think AdC should be up front and easy to find at conventions if only because Romantic Times desperately needs some competition to shake up their own thinking when it comes to diversity issues.

So it is unfortunate to read the following at the AdC blog: "Around mid-afternoon I went back to the goody room to restock magazines, business cards and subscription cards only to find that all had been removed. In the places where we had been set up was a virtually identical set up of Romantic Times magazine. All of our business cards, magazines and subscription cards had been removed and replaced ... After visiting with several of the participants in the room, I found out that many people had things who had just disappeared and their space taken over like they had never been there. Among this group were the alternative lifestyle authors as well as some of the other groups who might not walk the traditional path."

I would have hoped that after the Manloveromance problem at the Romantic Times convention last year the lesson would have been learned. Conventions cannot discriminate and they cannot let other attenders do it while they stand by and "not concern themselves with any of those sorts of issues". Sheer selfishness is enough motive for most people, but a dose of direct competition or bigotry with mean that small outfits and minority groups will always bear the brunt of this sort of crap, unless the host of the event steps in.

Thank you to the staff of Affaire de Coeur staff for doing what they could. I can only imagine how craptastic it is for authors and publishers to devise fun promotional materials only to have someone move or bin them when no one is looking. And bravo to Bonnie Kirby to say what many people have been thinking: "This year, I'm convinced it is done by parties who feel that they have the right to edit and control what all participants see ... The fact is that the literary world is not defined by one group's opinions nor are they in a position to determine what all of the attendees are exposed to. Sadly, based on past issues of this sort, they will continue to behave in this dishonorable manner and RWA and similar organizations will just allow it."


Ann Somerville said...

RWA doesn't seem a very welcoming kind of place for 'our' kind, does it? I do wonder why these other presses bother, given the shit that went down last year.

Erastes said...

I'm actually a bit guilty for not having got m/m reviews to AdC.They'ver recently given me 3 books (from TQ) to read and review and I got swamped by deadlines and I haven't done them. They say that part of the problem is that the smaller publishers can't work to their "get your books to us four months in advance" rule and that they don't have reviewers who are happy to do m/m. But I volunteered so there should be reviews - at least on the website - very soon.

I'm planning a bit of a rant about RWA and the marginalisation that we seem to be getting.

On another note - how about adding me and or Speak Its Name to your sidebar? *hopes* I'm an ebook writer now!

Stacia said...

WOW. I am freaking stunned by that. I assume (you don't say for sure) someone informed the convention workers what was happening and their response was *shrug*?

It doesn't matter what color the authors or what proclivities the characters may have. They paid same as everyone else, and the RWA should be making sure this shit doesn't happen.

Jeez. I feel dirty and I only just got up.

Hot Sauce Reviews said...

Hmm, so far blogland seems pretty quiet about this. Maybe in the next few days, more details will come up?

At any rate, it should be obvious to all by now that RWA caters to and prefers to cater to "traditional" mainstream romance (White, heterosexual, print) authors and readers. Nothing will change if the RWA TPTB doesn't want to change, which seems to be the case here.

veinglory said...

I'll add you when I get home.

I volunteered to review for them a while back but was, according to an unattributed rumor at Karen Scott's blog, 'rejected'--thus explaining my 'inaccurate reporting' about AdC. Oh well.

Their website says that advertisers are not held to the 4 month rule and TQ advertises in the magazine and on their website--so should, I think, benefit from that exemption?

veinglory said...

December, the full report (italics are quoted sections) are at the AdC blog.

Erastes said...

Thanks Emily - and yes, they would benefit from the exemption. I did send them an a4 bound MSS of Speak Its Name the anthology four months before publication, but I doubt it made the magazine...


Treva Harte said...

No clue about the goody room or promo displays -- I helped Kate Douglas bring her stuff in to set up and an RWA volunteer helped find space. I wouldn't be surprised if some authors didn't clear space for themselves at others' expense as things got crowded but no clue about systematic removing of promo.

Then again, the "alternative RWA convention" which took place was very lively. None of the unrecognized publishers had a specific pitch time but that didn't mean we didn't take any or that we didn't talk to each other.

veinglory said...

I doubt it was a major blot on the event, or RWA orchestrated. But it's a predicatble and niggling type of occurence I think organisers should show some interest in stamping out.

I am waiting to here more aboput what went on, I mean the good stuff :P)

Kate Douglas said...

Interesting. My experience at RWA was actually terrific. I had to leave the conference early (Saturday morning) so I stopped by to collect my display holders from the goody room around nine a.m. Only a few of my bookmarks were left (Wolf Tales is I/R and very erotic) but I walked around the room and picked up a number of freebies from authors of erotica and alternative romance--I also took a bunch of books by AA authors that were out for grabs as well as a copy of AdC from a good-sized stack on one of the tables. What day did they find their stuff missing? The room was WAY too small for the amount of promo material there, and things were getting moved around by the late-comers, but I never saw any sign of systematic dumping of material at all, and I was in and out of the goody room at least half a dozen times.

I was on a panel with Laura Baumbach of MLR: The Romance of Alternative Lifestyles, that was very well attended. We had as our moderator YA author Caridad Pineiro, who did a great job and took a lot of teasing, since she was obviously WAY out of her genre.

I saw absolutely no sign of discrimination of any kind during my three days at RWA. I would hate to see an issue created where none exists, and yes, I may have missed something obvious. However, I also hate to see those of us who write the "alternative" stories, on the defensive. That's a position I refuse to take. I write romances. They're a bit different from the usual, but my readers love them. Whether or not there are people who disapprove of my stories with same sex or multiple relationships is not my problem and I refuse to let anyone make it my problem. It's the problem of anyone narrow minded enough to find fault with the content of my books, and I would merely say to them, "Don't read them if you don't like them." My promo material has never been moved, and I have been treated with nothing but respect at the conferences, though I'm obviously not so naive that I think it's that way for everyone. However, I learned a long time ago to pick my battles. I am not going to change the mindset of many of the old guard of RWA, or for that matter, many of the younger members who do not agree with the types of relationships my books celebrate. What I can do is write my stories to the best of my ability, represent my genre with pride and cash my royalty checks. It's not about worrying whether or not other authors approve of what I write. I don't need their approval. It's all about my readers, and so long as they continue to buy my books, that's all the respect and approval I need.

veinglory said...

AdC report the exact problem they had in some detail on their blog, and who they spoke to. So I have no reason at all to think that specific problem did not occur--and it was a pretty significant problem. They also posted an update on the situation today.

Teddy Pig said...

Why is it when I hear about something petty or childish or narrowminded happening at an event RT's name is invariably involved somehow?

24/7 babysitting required for that crew or what?

Cat Grant said...

Nobody removed the bookmarks and postcards I left for my menage novel - but when I returned Saturday morning to pick up what was left, I saw that not too many had been taken.

OTOH, I handed out over a hundred bookmarks to people face to face, and nobody acted disgusted or said, "No, thanks." Maybe they were just trying to be polite!

I was a bit dismayed to hear some disparaging remarks about menage a trois novels at the "Romance of Alternative Lifestyles" panel. Actually, it should have been "lifestyle" (singular), because all they discussed was male/male. I already felt marginalized enough at this conference, and here was my own genre, marginalizing me even further!

kirsten saell said...

Hah! I can only imagine all the lively and intelligent discourse about f/f and f/f/m menage romances going on at that panel. What? They didn't discuss them at all? I'm shocked!

*sorry, couldn't help myself*

OTOH, it does piss me off when events like these seem all too happy to take your money, then sit back and let others bully you onto the margins. Hope someone stirs up enough shit this time that RWA won't be able to get away with ignoring the problem anymore.

Cat Grant said...

Actually, my book's m/m/f menage, not that it makes much difference - they pretty much pooh-poohed all menage. Apparently putting a woman into the mix is somehow "cheating" or "watering down" the all-holy concept of m/m romance. Whaaatever!

They also completely dismissed f/f with, "It doesn't sell" - which was a huge slap in the face to the editor in chief of Bold Strokes Books, who happened to be in the audience.

I had high hopes for the alternative lifestyles panel, but as with every other panel at this conference, it looked like the presenters were more interested in pushing their own work than anything else.

Teddy Pig said...

Samantha Kane won a Passionate Plume for her book At Love’s Command. GO SAM!

Which is an M/M/F menage published by Ellora's Cave

So I sorta disagree with the idea that menage books are being totally ignored.

Cat Grant said...

Well, they were certainly being ignored at the "Romance of Alterative Lifestyles" panel.

I can't speak for the Passionate Plume awards, since I wasn't there. But "congrats!" to Samantha Kane!

Treva Harte said...

Well, if it makes anyone feel better, menage isn't ignored at Loose Id any more than m/m stories are. (And no, that does not mean we are ignoring m/f for those who are wondering.) RWA doesn't really know where the money flows in e-books.

kirsten saell said...

They also completely dismissed f/f with, "It doesn't sell"

Of course they did.

Of course, I've had many long email discussions with several straight women who are actively seeking f/f/m menage novels (not just a het with a threesome thrown in for color), but are finding damn few of them out there. And what is there is often poorly edited because the publisher doesn't have the time or money to invest in something everyone knows won't sell.

Except if it was there and it was decent, it might. That's why I love Samhain. They're willing to invest in a good romance whatever the heat level and sexual content, not just the trifecta of erotic gay paranormal.

veinglory said...

The f/f and alphafem received wisdom does make me dither. My sequel to Nameless God would be a May-December F/m, if I wrote it.

Kate Douglas said...

Actually, Cat, we didn't ignore menage at all, and it's true that F/F/M are a hard sell, but that doesn't mean they aren't selling. You obviously missed the point of the panel, which was about the publishing houses willing to take the various types of stories--a lot of the NY pubs WON'T take F/F/M. However, we did point out that Loose Id, Amber Quill and Changeling Press are very open to stories with all combinations. I talked to Len Barot, publisher of Bold Strokes Publishing after the panel, and she was quite pleased with what we did go over in the limited amount of time we had--nothing was "dismissed," but your comments are another example of the defensive attitude a lot of authors take regarding erotic romance. You hear only what you want to hear. I write menage, both F/F/M and M/M/F, and have been very successful with it at a NY publishing house, but obviously you weren't interested in hearing what we actually said at the panel. And EV, for what it's worth, the story I'm writing now in Wolf Tales VIII is a May/December affair between a 58 year old woman and a 25 year old man. I apologize if I sound a bit short, here, but I think that instead of always looking for the negatives in this business, we need to concentrate on the positives. Things are changing, but it's not going to happen over night. Hell, I've got twenty years of rejections from publishers because my contemporary romances had too much sex in that wouldn't even be considered "Spicey" now. I'm amazed at how far we have come and how much respect we've earned within an industry as old and conservative as the American publishing business is. You're not going to get ahead by complaining about things, you're going to do it by writing a book that's so damned good they can't turn it down.

veinglory said...

I think ebook authors focus on negative because, for the most part, we are still working in an environment where risk minimising is the first priority.

Opportunity maximisation is great, as is enjoying the view from the top of the mountain... once one has got up there ;)

Cat Grant said...

but obviously you weren't interested in hearing what we actually said at the panel.

With all due respect, Kate, I heard what you all said just fine.

Perhaps when you give similar panels in the future, you might want to call them something different from "Romance of Alternative Lifestyles." That title led me to believe it would be all-inclusive, when in reality, it was far from it.

veinglory said...

Well, not to mention that if you are talking about gay material 'alternative lifestyle' is *hugely* offensive.

Erastes said...


I'm so glad someone finally said that, I'd just been discussing the matter with Tharain (from LJ) and he was getting as steamed up as me (being a gay man)

I'd wanted to say something earlier but considered I'd probably been inflammatory enough.

Yes! It's hugely offensive.

Alternative: = A CHOICE. To say that gay people have a choice to live as they do belittles the pain that so many of us have in coming out in the first place. Yes, I suppose we do have a choice to stay closeted. Or single. In fact being single is an alternative lifestyle. Living with a weretiger would probably count too.

to use Alternative also suggests that we are outside normal and that the heterosexual experience is The Normal just because it's the majority. We are normal, too.

And I don't understand why people say that f/f doesn't sell - where is the proof of that? When I look at the top 100 titles on Amazon (which is all I can go on, not having records to anything else) a good many are f/f. It's got to the stage now where I feel that I have to start encompassing f/f into Speak Its Name because there's so much of it and I don't like to be exclusive.

Cat Grant said...

As a bisexual person, I've never considered the phrase "alternative lifestyle" offensive, but I suppose I can see why some people do.

However, like it or not, we do live in a heteronormative society. I think that by continuing to write LGBT romance, we can help bring the public around to seeing LGBT folk as human beings who experience love and other emotions the same way everyone does.

veinglory said...

Not just the alternative, but also the lifestyle. Like romantic orientation is in the same general category as line dancing or collecting My Little Ponys. From wikipedia: "Lifestyle is also sometimes used pejoratively, to mark out some ways of living as elective or voluntary."

This is why although a lot of epublishers used to use this as a category name, they all stopped. With the exception of Mojocastle which uses the term in a completely different sense entirely and not as a synonym for GLBT (a category they also have).

Teddy Pig said...

I don't think the intention of the titling was to be insulting nor do I think it was to try to be all inclusive since you would obviously need more time than would have been doable but I do think it was a step to further recognize these new forms of romance.

Which is always a good thing.

Cat Grant said...

Agreed, Teddy. And for all we know, the title was probably RWA's idea of being "PC."

veinglory said...

Of course there is no intent, just a high level of unfamiliarity with anything outside of their heartland, as per usual. (As per the romance definition survey, the vanity definition, the 'cover standards' etc etc etc).

Teddy Pig said...

Oh hey, I ain't cheer leading RWA.
They suck especially in recognizing good epubs.

I guess over time the money involved will speak for itself. Course we naughty internet folks will have long stopped deeming their opinion on any topic relevant.

veinglory said...

Yeppers. That's why I decided to stop posting about them. But I decided it was okay to post about someone else posting about them.

Funny how this is the most commented post in over a month

: /


Unknown said...

The title of the panel was chosen so that we could get the panel on the docket. I've submitted the panel topic year after year at romance conferences and RWA accepted it. If I had to use neutral terms to get that acceptance--SO BE IT!

Did someone else here submit a topic and panel title on the subject of GLBT romance more appropriately titled that got accepted I missed?

The panel did NOT diss menage. Kate Douglas was a speaker and writes numerous menage scenes and we discussed them.

We did NOT diss f/f! I specifically said there were terrific established houses doing f/f -like Bold Strokes and Cleiss- and doing a marvelous job of reaching their target audiences. After the panel Len congratulated us on a panel well done. But, you probably didn't hear that.

I agree with Kate, Cat, you didn't listen to what was said. That's very unfortunate.

None of my M/M promo was removed or tapered with. I saw AdC magazine and cards each time I was in the goodie room. I have a copy with me I picked up there--looking for the M/M reviews it takes books for but hasn't publishes.

veinglory said...

Are you suggesting the AdC people invented their experiences as described on their blog? Because it seems to me that the more simple explanation would be there was a problem and you saw their displays after they were put back in place--rather than that there wasn't a problem at all.

Unknown said...

I'm not suggesting anything of the kind, Emily. I'm reporting what I saw during my four days at the conference.

Bold Strokes said...

Hello to the group--sorry it took me so long to find you. I am Len Barot ( writing as Radclyffe) from Bold Strokes Books. I just wanted to relate a few of my experiences as an independent LGBTQ publisher and lesbian romance and erotica author. The RWA as an organization has been completely welcoming to this publishing company and to our authors (we are listed on their site as a non-subsidy/non-vanity publisher among dozens of others and our authors are PAN eligible.) I signed at the literacy night in San Francisco sponsored by the RWA and I believe I was the only lesbian romance author out of 500 signing ( Undoubtably not the only lesbian author but the only one publishing identifiable lesbian-centric romances). If I'm wrong on that, I would be delighted to be corrected and please e-mail me to say hi!

as to the "alternative romance panel"-- as a lesbian I do not consider my lifestyle alternative to anything, but in this context I think the term has to be considered relative to the venue itself, and if identifying the panel as alternative gets it on the docket, I have no quarrel with it. Was I disappointed that the panel did not address lesbian romance fiction? yes, but I was also very happy that Laura pointed out that there are strong independent publishing houses doing good work in publishing exceptional LGBTQ- centric works. The panelists spoke to their areas of expertise, and the fact that they were there at all talking about gay works and gay audiences within the context of romance fiction at the national romance writers organization is an important step and I applaud them.

I feel very strongly that there needs to be more recognition within the greater publishing community of LGBTQ literature and its authors, coming from both mainstream and independent houses. That's why I was at the meeting and will be there next year and in the meantime will be working hard to have our books, our authors, and are publishing houses recognized. I was just informed by the Romantic Times book review editor that they did not have room in their magazine to review gay and lesbian romances. I will be asking again, because I'm sure eventually they will find space for some very fine romance fiction.

As I've been saying for decades now, "we're queer, we're here, and we aren't going away." Our works appeal to a broad demographic and while our authors (at BSB) write from a gay, bi-, trans, and lesbian perspective, I know for a fact that our audience extends beyond the LGBTQ community and I hope to continue efforts to reach all of those readers.

I'm sorry this post is so long, and if you're still reading, thanks so much for your support and attention.

Radclyffe (Len Barot)

Kate Douglas said...

Just found your comment, Len. It was a pleasure to meet you at RWA. thanks so much for coming to our panel. I agree with the use of the word "lifestyle," but at this point I think we were all willing to do what we had to to get the panel accepted. There's a lot to be said for getting one's toe in the door!