Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Ways of Google are Mysterious

As of the last Google Pagerank Dance this blog has a Google Pagerank of zero/zilch/nada.

Go figure.

I guess my burnt offerings were not pleasing to the great Google?

(To be fair, burnt snark smells pretty nasty).

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Steffi Webb sent a polite email asking if I would list Boudior Press ("for lovers of the written erotica") at ERECsite and mention her contest on this blog. The email was a model example of how to approach a blog owner--very professional. However I regret to say that I would not touch Boudoir Press, the parent company Black Leaf Publishing, or their other imprint Blue Cloud Publishing with a barge pole. I think that winning a publishing package with a vanity press would have to be considered a mixed blessing, at best. Which is a pity as an epublisher focussing on fetish fiction could do rather well, without the pay-to-play element.

Monday, December 28, 2009


" Inc ... said its customers bought more e-books than physical books for the first time ever on Christmas Day, thanks to its hot-selling Kindle electronic book reader." [REUTERS]

And by "bought" they mean downloaded free content with the Kindle they were given for Xmas. More than half of the Kindle top sellers, even today, have a purchase price of $0.00.

Which is still kind of interesting (a lot fo people got Kindles, I guess) but rather different from a triumphant cry as digital publishing drives a lance through the heart of dead tree books once and for all.

See also:
Favorite e-book price: free

Sunday, December 27, 2009


You may have noticed AudioLark advertising on the side of this blog a few weeks ago--well I certainly did. This is a new publisher of romance audiobooks. They are currently closed to submissions until January 3rd. The are looking for all genres and lengths with a preference for previously published work. Based on their presentation and contract terms I decided to send them a reprint--Journey's End which can be downloaded for free from my website. I am normally fairly cautious about start-ups but this one seems pretty solid and a reprint is not as much of a risk as a fresh manuscript. So I am happy to say that they accepted Journey's End and I look forward to seeing, or is it "hearing", what they do with it.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The $20 Question

Here's a totally non-rhetorical question for y'all. If you had a $20 amazon gift certificate, what would you spend it on?


I first came across Blue Planet via their rather awkwardly written press release for their "inaugural anthology project entitled Sugar & Spice: The Anthology for the Grown and Sexy."

Their website has a similar competent-but-somewhat-amateur look. Oh, and they don't list erotica or romance as genres they accept.

Based upon "Blue Planet Publishing was established in the spring of 2006 to provide services to new fiction authors with a passion to share their gifts with the world" I am guessing this outfit started as a self-publishing co-op of some kind.

It seems to me that for a press founded in 2006 they sure have been flying under the radar--and I am curious as to why a publisher with a track record of releasing romances would not consider romance submission queries.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Pickled Cupid, wherefore art thou?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Oh Woe is Reader Views

Reader Views is bemoaning the fact that Good Reads is removing their reviews. They write, in part:

"For the past year, Reader Views has been posting reviews on as another source of getting publicity for author's [sic] books. However, a disgruntled person has reported Reader Views as being in violation of GoodReads' rules ... In light of this, and upon checking GoodReads site, I noted within a few minutes 10+ other "commercial sites" are posting reviews there. When I informed GoodReads' that Reader Views wasn't the only "commercial" site posting there, it requested I send them the links of the other reviewers that were in violation so it could investigate. It is not my intention to be the gatekeeper for GoodReads, and as reviewers we support each other and are not out to destroy each other. We are here to support the authors so they can in turn increase the sales of their books."

As Goodreads points out: "Subject to the terms and conditions of this agreement, Goodreads grants you permission to use the Service for your personal, non-commercial purposes only."

I am not terribly sympathetic. Reader Views provides a small number of "free" reviews which is not offered for ebooks--and their standard packages start at $75 . And they list posting on various sites as part of these paid packages.

They state: "You are not purchasing a review - you are paying for a stipend that goes to the reviewer to express review your publication." To which I reply: puh-leeze. When you give someone money for a review, you are paying for a review. When a review is paid for it is a commercial property and so, indeed, clearly against the Goodreads terms of service. Goodreads is, after all, not a "source of getting publicity for authors" it is a website for readers and should be respected as such.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Shanda versus the Pirates

PC World reports that at least one epublisher is going after pirates, all guns blazing. Chinese epublisher, Shanda Literature--founded in October, is taking the largest Chinese search engine (Baidu) to court over ebooks that are accessible using that service--and their are some reports that they have Google in their sights too.

Their argument seems to be that of search engines can provide warnings that a site might contain malware, or adult content, they should be able to provide similar warning that a site is likely to contain pirated material. And they are asking that search engines attempt to provide these warnings, not suppress the sites entirely or delist them.

I have to say, that seems reasonable to me. The vast majority of pirate copies are, after all, provided via a relatively small number of websites. And, as if often mentioned, if people want to pirate they will. But a warning and informational notice would at least ensure they cannot say they "didn't know" the copy they downloaded was illegal.

Monday, December 14, 2009

What if the Grapes Really are Sour?

Some interesting comments at the announcement of the winners of the Harlequin Presents Writing Competition 2009. Harlequin seems to have ongoing issues with not understanding why novice exect their rhetoric to apply in letter as well as spirit.

"Congrats to the winners, I know you have all worked very hard on your submissions. I, however, am a bit sad to learn that one of the winners is already a published author of 10+ books..." (Janelle)

"Reflecting on the 2009 writing competition announcement, “Yes, the moment all you aspiring authors have been waiting for has arrived”…I think the results contradict the original message to aspiring authors…" (Sue)

"According to the rules of this contest, if Ms. Carr is indeed already a contracted Harlequin author ... then she is ineligible for this contest." (Longtime reader)

"...our legal department and they reassured us that she was both eligible to enter the contest and to win because she is not currently a contracted author with Harlequin." (Joanne Grant).

See also:
Classic Romance Something New

p.s. my Recaptcha code for the Harlequin post was "funked off"

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Epublishing delayed....

Sometimes I wonder whether large publishers want to fail at epublishing. Or do they think that if they screw up at epublishing, nobody else will do it? We have publishers charging hardback prices and paying paperbck royalty rates on ebooks. And now there seem to be more and more major publisher providing ebooks versions sporadically, and after a significant delay. Simon & Schuster are considering delaying ebook release of a book by four months. The normally slightly more reader-friendly, Harper Collins, jumped on board with this idea and upped the ante to six months.

What exactly is the logic here? Do they really think inpatient readers will run out and buy a hardback, or perhaps go online and pirate a free ebook copy? But even if there is a financial benefit do they place no value whatsoever on giving the customer what they want, in the format they want, with open simultaneous choice? Or maybe selfish people who want or depend on ebooks, like--say--the visually disabled, should just expect to have to wait at the back of the line. It seems that large publishers are only really willing to "experiment" in one area, and that is screwing their customers for every penny.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Um, Oooookaaaaaay.

Highlights from the website of Delta Publishing, a (*cough*) new "perspective" on epublishing:

"Our Authors receive 90%* of the cover price for Direct Sales and 60% *of the cover price on Third Party Sales."

Hmmm. Seems too good to be true.

"We do NOT seek to tell you how to do a rewrite of your work and it is envisaged that little or no change to the original manuscript will be needed."

A.k.a. 'we do not envisage actually doing any editing, or even reading, of your work'. Is that a rat I smell?

"Cover Prices are typically £25.00 per Electronic Publication."

($41 US) Ouch

"[You will] will need to contribute a figure towards initialisation of the marketing operation. This amount is typically in the region of £2,500.00. ONLY after you have recouped your outlay will we ask you for a small commission, 2.5% of your receipts on all product sales."

Ha ha ha ha ha, *snort*, hahahahahaha, HA HA HA HA, thud (muffled) ha ha ha ha ha.

They cannot be serious.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Books I Couldn't Give Away

I was clearing out my bookshelves and culled out about fifty books I no longer wanted. So I left these books out at work for people to take. Over a week later three poor books remained unwanted. If I had to say what these books had in common, I think it comes down to this: their covers sucked.

What the cover on the left say? It is centred, dull and the woman has funny looking fingernails. The message is rather unromantic, and the Femdommy-sounding tag-line is pretty much unrelated to the story.

On the surface the next one doesn't look too bad. But there is something vaguely unsettling about a woman draped on the back of an apparently unconscious, or possibly recently dead, young man. It may just be me that makes me wonder if, somewhere out there, there are book actually about necrophiliac candle pegging...

And just to complete the undead trend, this cover seems to illustrate one of the problems with shagging a ridiculously tall, gray-purple zombie--needing a hand free to stop his nipple from falling off.

For the record I have read all of these books, and while not particular favorites of mine they were all pretty good stories in their own right. But people do judge a book by its cover, even when you are trying to give them away.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

New market (?): Books Of Desire

Books of Desire has a romance and an erotica (or "Eroctica") section.

"If you're a writer of steamy romance or steamier erotica, you've come to the right place for submitting your work for consideration. We accept only unpublished works from new, unpublished authors, as well as previously published ones. We do not, however, accept hardcore BDSM, hate, child porn or torture, horror, gay or lesbian, racism, golden showers, rape, incest, memoirs, diaries, or extremely violent material, nor any material that we feel would be offensive to others ... Our erotica scenes are explicit, but tastefully done. They are not vulgar in language. We will alert you if your submission contains vulgarity. Please contact us for a list of words we will not publish in content."

Several of the covers seem to use illustrations by "big name" fantasy illustrators. One wonders if it is with their permission?

Also while vulgarity is out is seems that abduction and rape are not: "Tina Abernathy went to bed in her own apartment, but awakens in a dark room, nude, shackled with her legs spread wide open, and finds herself being prodded and probed with gentleness that has her writhing and jerking in orgasms against her will. She is then penetrated with something so huge, she screams...." ['Taken' by Vistoria Calaway]

As far as I could see all of the books for sale on this site are by Victoria Calaway (edited to add, other authors seem to be listed by distributors--but not shown on the main website?).


If you want to hear the short bio of Lanaia Lee (writer of "Of Atlantis") read in a voice that is a cross between Captain Kirk and Vincent Price go to this page and click where it says "click on the Player".

Monday, December 07, 2009

RWA, HaHo and the Public/Private Divide

I found a comment on the recent Writer Beware post very interesting. Specifically: "As far as I was aware the RWA did not and has not made any public statements. The RWA made a private statement to members about Harlequin. Members then chose to post the message all over. Subsequent messages have been very explicit about not forwarding."

This does, quite sincerely, make me wonder: on what basis would an organisation with thousands of members have statements and policies they want to release to members, but not to "the public"? Can a large representative organisation really say: 'we disapprove of group X, but please do not tell them, or any other people who might also disapprove of them'?

Well, if course they can, but how would it be a realistic request or a good idea in terms of transperancy and honest discourse?

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Interesting Post

Moira Rogers has a good post which adds an important caveat to my simple formula that earnings = royalty rate x sales volume: Why 3rd Party Royalty Rates Matter. Third party sales will be increasingly important as the ebook market matures.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

New Market: Inner Vision

"Our vision for our fiction both literary and contemporary fiction is to create a new genre which we call "Reality Fiction." These stories encompass cross-cultural topics such as societal, familial, religious, political concepts, no matter the genre. Main character: one must be African American the other must be of a different ethnic group ... Stories should reflect the slow but steady homogenization of the races."


Some time back I was involved in some threads at Romance Divas and Absolute Write on the subject of The Wild Rose Press. Many glowing reports were made of what TWRP is doing--which is great. I did feel obliged to mentioned that the last time I had data (sales data being kinda 'my thing') average sales per title was somewhat less than 20. At the time I failed to notice how TWRP characterised this thread in their publicly accessible readers loop. That is:

"I've been told by several authors and writers that there is some negative talk about The Wild Rose Press on some loops like romance divas and there's another one that I don't remember right now.Anyway, the talk has been nasty and spiteful and while I have not read the posts from what I've been told its become quite the bashing."

For the record I want to say that I think that sales levels for a publisher absolutely should be discussed. A writer is a laborer who gets to set the value the place on their work, including its financial value. The only way they can know how much a publisher will pay for their work is by knowing the profit per book and the likely sales volume per title. Supportive communities and positive affirmations are great, but not normally higher on my list of writing goals than reaching a substantial readership. Others may have different goals, which is certainly okay with me--but writers communities are all about providing information of in choosing a publisher--including estimated earnings per title.

Either that or I, and others who took the role of devil's advocate in this discussion, are unprofessional, jealous, ignorant haters who lie sleepless at night formulating spiteful plans to taint the joys of others.

Take your pick.

Edited to fix link.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Links On Topic/Off Topic

On Topic
If you know someone who likes free ebooks, I would suggest sending them to Online Novels. All of the ebooks here are posted with author permission, guarantee non-pirated. Including my own novella Journey's End.

Off Topic
This etsy store sells bowties for cats. They should also sell the bandages and iodine for later....

On Topic
Publishing Perspectives brings us: What's Hot in Romance? E-books, Baby! It's a good, accurate post that I have seen linked and tweeted quite a lot. But a little 'rah, rah' for my blood.

Off Topic
Some happy videos. because the world needs more happy:
Because the world needs more happy.
* Do a deer: Musical flash mob.
* Riski Business: an elephant being born [note: includes fluids, blood etc]
* Dog welcomes returned soldier: <--what it says.

On Topic
It looks like a new company selling "personalised" romance novels is now cutting into's action. The new outfit "U Star Novels" offers erotic and gay/lesbian options. And no, this isn't some kind of paid link. I just find the whole idea morbidly fascinating. I mean how could you possibly write a good romance that was generic enough to insert an actual couple into just by changing the names and eye/hair color? I doubt any of these books is actually worth reading. But I give U Star credit for not slapping a maximum heat rating on they same sex books--that is, showing that they know that sexual orientation and sexual explicitness are unrelated issues.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Amazon Continues to Pick the Best

Now it is their Book Cover contest (you need an Amazon account to access it). I will gloss over the fact that the books largely match their "Best Books of 2009" profile in leaning to non-fiction, literary styling and so forth. Customers are able only to vote for a handful of preselected options. So these are their annointed editor's picks for the top 60 covers of the year.

As covers go, none of them are horrible. But I ask you: what is 'best of 2009' about this?--> The choice of a plain white background? The use of capital letters?

The biography covers are all a face (general front facing and centered) and a title (generally white or a pale, warm color). Actually, several of the books in other categories follow the same basic formula. Subject: centred (or largely absent). Font: white (sometimes orange). Exciting: not.

The cover for the Book of Wool cover shows... well wool. Nothing wrong with that but it doesn't strike me as one of the most wonderful covers I have seen this year. Actual "art" seems to have been banished entirely.

Color me underwhelmed. I looked at all of the covers, but I didn't even bother to vote.

Some further reading on related topics:
AAR: My Reading Habits Wallow in Shame, Apparently
Project Gutenberg: Cherchez the romance?

Monday, November 30, 2009


Always Look on the Dark side of News (dum, dum, dum, dum--dah dah, dah dah, dah dah). But with news like this, what else is there to do?

Uganda proposes death penalty for HIV positive gays
"The Bill proposes a three-year prison sentence for anyone who is aware of evidence of homosexuality and fails to report it to the police within 24 hours. And it would impose a sentence of up to seven years for anyone who defends the rights of gays and lesbians."

Having mentioned some previous male-centric lists I should in all fairness mention that the all female Shortlist for BBC Short story Prize:

All-women shortlist for BBC Short Story Prize
"More than 600 entries were received for the award, which celebrates the best of contemporary British short stories and is part of the national campaign "story", which supports the form."

However the grinch in me wonders if it a coincidence that men dominate the financially lucrative and ostensibly prestiguous genres and formats, and women the more neglected ones? Short stories are, in literature, what romance is in genre--no matter how good bad or indifferent the quality is, they never seem to get the recognition they deserve.

And finally, many authors use their own royalties to promote their work. But how would it be a good thing for a publisher to contractually require that investment?

12 Steps to Better Book Publishing
"We all know that one of the big functions of today's in-house marketing professional is to explain why the publisher can't afford to do much marketing. So who has the money? Authors, from the advances we pay them. Publishers should contractually require that a part of the advance be allocated to marketing and promotional efforts supervised by the author."

Who has the money?! (*cough* *Splutter*)

Edited to Add: On a lighter note:
Bad sex award goes to Jonathan Littell's The Kindly Ones.
"...a mythologically inspired passage and lines such as 'I came suddenly, a jolt that emptied my head like a spoon scraping the inside of a soft-boiled egg' clinched the award for The Kindly Ones. We hope he takes it in good humour."

Saturday, November 28, 2009


2010 EPPIE Finalists
"These awards, which honor the finest electronically published books of the year, will be presented at the EPIC Award Banquet during EPICon 2010."

Franz Kafka’s porn brought out of the closet
"Some of it is quite dark, with animals committing fellatio and girl-on-girl action... It's quite unpleasant..."

A Regency Romance in 2 minutes
"Count Buttweasel is disqualified. Okay, who is bored with the life of a rogue and secretly yearning for something deeper and more meaningful?"

Friday, November 27, 2009


I didn't watch the American Music Awards live, because frankly--who does? I did see all the shock, horror and general over-reaction to his performance afterwards. So, somewhat curious, I looked it up online.

And boy was I underwhelmed. Even taking into account the cut-aways you have a performance for an adult audience that includes some guys in pseudo-harnesses, a head in the groin area, and a kiss. The only bit I found at all uncomfortable it when he put his hand in the crotch area of the pole-dancing women.

But seriously, Madonna did this first, didn't hide that she was trying to shock, went further and continues to do it better. The only thing that shocks me is that people were shocked by Lambert's watered down piece of amateurish choreography and that he considered afterwards that he "got carried away". Carried away what, the spirit of 80s Glamrock past? (bah, humbug).

Is just that Teh Gay just so much more shocking to a general audience, that barely blinks when Miley pole dances at the Teen Choice awards? (Something, BTW, that Madonna also does better).

Monday, November 23, 2009

Yo' Mama: Rating the Writers Associations Responses to HaHo

So, Harlequin goes vanity with a Ha-Ho, Nonny-no. Here is my own utterly arbitrary Eurovision-style rating of the responses from the major writer's associations--all lining up with a pin to pop Harlequin's bubble.

RWA (Romance)
Timeliness: 1 day [9/10]
Pithiness: 298 words [9/10]
Rhetoric: Clear, dry with a hint of smugness: [7/10]
Excerpt: "With the launch of Harlequin Horizons, Harlequin Enterprises no longer meets the requirements to be eligible for RWA-provided conference resources."
Comment: I guess consistency counts for something.
Final Rating: [8/10]

MWA (Mystery)
Timeliness: 2 day [8/10]
Pithiness: 460 words [8/10]
Rhetoric: Bland but business-like: [5/10]
Excerpt: "On November 9, Mystery Writers of America sent a letter to Harlequin about the “eHarlequin Manuscript Critique Service,” notifying Harlequin that it is in violation of our rules and suggesting steps that Harlequin could take to remain on our Approved Publishers list."
Comment: MWA are clearly signalling that they had their eye on the ball before anyone else.
Final Rating: [7/10]

SFWA (Sci Fi)
Timeliness: 3 days [7/10]
Pithiness: 515 words [8/10]
Rhetoric: Constrained, well-targeted, but a little repetitive: [5/10]
Excerpt: "The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. (SFWA) finds it extremely disappointing that Harlequin has chosen to launch an imprint whose sole purpose appears to be the enrichment of the corporate coffers at the expense of aspiring writers."
Comment: Quite.
Final Rating: [7/10]

EPIC (e-Publishing)
Timeliness: 5 days [5/10]
Pithiness: 1,750 words [1/10]
Rhetoric: Outraged, but rambling and self-serving: [2/10]
Excerpt: "Nevertheless, Harlequin had to realize that putting the Harlequin name on a vanity line, then sending aspiring authors rejected by Harlequin not to Carina--which is still traditional though e--but to the Harlequin's new vanity line and posting RWA links on the vanity arm's webpage would antagonize RWA, whose views on vanity publishing were well known."
Comment: Authors not good enough to be published conventionally shouldn't go vanity, they should write e-books. Yay! I mean, what?!
Final Rating: [3/10]

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I know I am biassed, but...

I don't think it is classy for agents or editors to snark queries without prior permission, and I likewise don't think it is classy for authors to use whatever platform is available to them snark rejection letters either. These are personal pieces of correspondence.

May I interest you in...?

No, thank you.

Sour grapes should be consumed in private.

(And this is why most editors no longer give detail feedback, leaving the rest of us to just try and guess why they said no.)

p.s. All Romance Ebooks turns three today. Happy Anniversary.

I am Cynic, hear me bitch.

So, Carina press, what exactly does it have going for it. One thing is the immense machinery that goes with a humungous publisher (or at least as much of it as they commit to the endeavor). The other is Harlequin's good name.

A good name that they do not use in association with the ring-fenced Carina imprint--but they are happy to slap all over their new vanity press imprint Harlequin Horizons.

"Parent company Harlequin Enterprises Limited has a history of providing opportunities to first time authors. Now with Harlequin Horizons, more writers have the opportunity to enter the market, hone their skills and achieve the goals that burn in their hearts..."

"However, we understand you may aspire to be published with a traditional house – a noble aspiration. While there is no guarantee that if you publish with Harlequin Horizons you will picked up for traditional publishing, Harlequin will monitor sales of books published through Harlequin Horizons for possible pick-up by its traditional imprints."

For $600 to $1,600 dollars you too can be a Harlequin author no matter how well, or how badly, you write.

Edited to Add: Further evidence that Harlequin is providing only their name, and the real business model comes from Authorhouse: "Through this strategic alliance, all sales, marketing, publishing, distribution, and book-selling services will be fulfilled by ASI, but Harlequin Horizons will exist as a division of Harlequin Enterprises Limited."

* Teddypig
* Publishers Weekly
* Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
* Pickled Cupid
* Murder She Writes
* New York Times

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

RWA does something I actually agree with.

Is this a sign of the end times?

"With the launch of Harlequin Horizons, Harlequin Enterprises no longer meets the requirements to be eligible for RWA-provided conference resources. This does not mean that Harlequin Enterprises cannot attend the conference. Like all non-eligible publishers, they are welcome to attend. However, as a non-eligible publisher, they would fund their own conference fees and they would not be provided with conference resources by RWA to publicize or promote the company or its imprints.

Michelle Monkou
RWA President"

[Ann Aguirre's blog: full text reprinted here]

New Market, I guess.

Reflections Press is now accepting submissions for it's [sic] Spring 2010 launch. We are seeking stories which involve transsexualism, transvestitism and crossdressing.
Length Requirements:- 20,000-60,000 words.
What We're Seeking:- Romance- Erotica- Historical- Mystery- Paranormal

Did it occur to them, I wonder, to post something about what the press will be able to do for an author--rather than just what they want?

From abwrite

Harlequin replies

Of at SBTB we have this response from a Harlequin staff member:

"First, why is Harlequin launching a self-publishing business? Bowker reported in 2008 that more titles were published through self-publishing than traditional publishers. Self-publishing is a fast growing and vibrant part of the publishing industry today. Harlequin has decided to provide a romance focused self-publishing business for those that choose to go down the self-publishing road."

And so why did you choose to partner with a fee-charging self-publishing provider whose authors typically do not make a profit, and whose offshoots (e.g. Authorhouse) have a rather poor reputation? Could it be anything to do with receiving a cut from those substantial fees?

"The use of the Harlequin name with Harlequin Horizons has raised the most questions and comments. At Harlequin, we are probably even more concerned about our brand than the commenters at this blog, so here, then, are some clarifications to your questions.
Brand – Harlequin put its name on the Harlequin Horizons site to clearly indicate this is a romance self-publishing site. The books published through Harlequin Horizons will not carry traditional Harlequin branding. The self-published author will be the brand and the Horizon double H logo will appear on the spine of the book. Harlequin is the gold standard in romance and that will not be compromised. Readers will not confuse Horizons books with traditional Harlequin books."

So these books won't be branded Harlequin, just called Harlequin and marked with an 'H' in the Harlequin font and offered the carrot of possibly being picked up by Harlequin. That's totally clear.

"Distribution – Self-publishing has a different distribution model than traditional publishing. Horizons books will not be carried nor appear in traditional Harlequin distribution. The self-published book will not appear next to a traditionally published Harlequin title.
The Harlequin Horizons site very clearly indicates it is a self-publishing business and that those who choose to publish with Horizons will not receive the traditional Harlequin distribution and marketing support."

So, Harlequin Horizons will use a different distribution model, of not being distributed.

"Many authors are choosing to self-publish. There are a number of reasons to select self-publishing including as a way to see their work in print— to give copies as gifts, to have a bound copy to help in finding an agent, or simply as a keepsake. Harlequin is providing a service to those choosing to self-publish with a leading organization in this field, Author Solutions. To recap, self-publishing is an option for those who want to put their story into print. The Harlequin brand will not be on these titles. The Harlequin Horizons site is very transparent that it offers self-publishing services."

I hear they also make good doorstops. But the Horizon website makes reference to being the centre of attention at a crowded book signing--in which alternate universe will this occur?

"Last, if anyone is wondering if this changes anything with Harlequin’s usual editorial processes, the answer is no. We remain committed to reading and acquiring manuscripts from aspiring authors. It’s new voices that set new directions for the future."

Except for the Harlequin Horizon books which will provided with the different editing model, of not being edited.

So that clears that up, Harlequin will get the self-publishing authors' money, after luring them with a Harlequin-branded website they will offer them a non-Harlequin edited book with no Harlequin branding and no distribution.

Wow, that's a great deal. Silly me for being so negative.

As Ava Quinn commented below: "Preditors and Editors has already changed its Harlequin Inc status to vanity publisher."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

RWNZ Clendon Award

Back in 2007 I proudly proclaimed I was a member of RWNZ (Romance Writers of New Zealand): "I ... had that joyful of experience of asking whether they accept writers of gay romance--the experience where one is met with a response of total bemusement as to why they wouldn't."

I suppose I had never paid much attention to the Clendon book award RWNZ runs jointly with Barbara's books. But this year I did notice: "For the purpose of the contest, “romance” is defined as a fictional story which has the development and resolution of a romance between a male and a female as the primary motivation of the plot".

I sent in a question about this and over the intervening two weeks, until I recieved a courteous answer that my reading of the defintion was correct, my membership lapsed. And it shall be staying that way.

Who Gets to Wear the Big H?

I have been thinking about this Harlequin branding of the AuthorSolutions powered vanity press Harlequin Horizons, and ring-fencing of gay romance inclusive Harlequin ebook imprint Carina Press, which does not carry the Harlequin name. To me this seems to say:

* If you have really editors, take no fees and are selective ("editorial and marketing expertise"), this is not 'H'.

* So long as the book is printed on paper, even though it is not even seen by a Harlequin staff member at any time ("all sales, marketing, publishing, distribution, and book-selling services will be fulfilled by ASI [Authorsolutions]"), this is 'H'.

It makes me thing of people who say: "How dare you charge $7 for an ebook? There is no paper and distribution!"

If the value of a publisher could be measured in pulpwood and stamps, readers would just buy reams of blank paper and be well satisfied.

The value of a publish is, or should primarily be, its quality control, its editorial tone and standards--it's guarantee that what it gives you to read is worth reading.

Harlequin, it seems, does not agree.

Borders UK Keeps it Classy News Story: "Borders UK's e-commerce team is believed to have left the business. The Bookseller understands that the team of three, including head of e-commerce, Julie Howkins and e-commerce manager, Barbara Sussman left the company on Friday (13th November)."

Reader Comment: "Always good to hear these things from The Bookseller and not your own company."

Monday, November 16, 2009

OT: RIP Edward Woodward

Known for his appearances ranging for cult-favorite "The Wicker Man" (1973) to the long running series "The Equalizer" (1985-1989). Edward Woodward passed away after a period of illness, at the age of 79. Rest in peace.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Self-Publishing: The Pros and Cons by Patricia Simpson
"I am the author of thirteen books published by HarperMonogram, Silhouette and TOR, and have been published in print since the early 1990s ... I thought, why not try the emerging print-on-demand (POD) technology and see what happens?"

Romancing the Recession
"But while the allure of the guaranteed happy ending can’t be denied, Jennifer Enderlin, associate publisher for St. Martin’s Paperbacks, says she believes that part of romance’s continued appeal is the high quality required to achieve such healthy sales. “In addition to providing escape, romance is so competitive that the writers who get published are really good,” she says."

Veinglory on Air

If you want to hear me talk about... whatever it is I talked about to Sascha for Radi Dentata's unNAMED Romance Show, here are the times and links. If you ever get the chance to be on this show I would certainly recommend it.

Sascha Illyvich Radio Show Host
Radio Dentata Listen to

Romance Show with No Name
Weekly at: Monday 4 PM & 10PM Thursday 6 PM (Eastern Standard Time)
November 16, 2009: Emily Veinglory
November 19, 2009: Emily Veinglory

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Cherchez the Romance?

Amazon's best books of 2009 top ten work out as: non-fiction (5), historical (2), detective (1), general fiction (1), literary (1). If there is a romance novel anywhere in the entire top 100 "editors' favorites" it wasn't easy to find.

Publishers Weekly editors came up with best books of 2009 likewise including: non-fiction (5), literary (3), anthology (1), graphic novel (1)--books written by women (0).

Of all the books that came out this year these two editoral bodies not only chose similar genres, but 2 of the exact same books.

Gee, I wonder why book sections of papers and traditional review magazine are having a little trouble staying financially viable, when they are obviously very clear indeed when it comes to the types of books they like.
(The closest I can come to making sense of this is if they chose masculine-centric books in the hopes that a lot of these books will end up under Christmas trees.)

Monday, November 09, 2009

NEW MARKET: Carina Press

Carina Press
"Carina Press will consider shorter length stories of less than 50,000 words, genre novels between 50,000 to 100,000 words and longer and complex narratives of over 100,000 words. We expect to publish a majority of romance and erotic romance but are also very interested in women’s fiction, science fiction, fantasy, futuristic, mystery, thrillers, horror, and niches. If you have something new and fresh we would be happy to read your story!"

Objectively, this is pretty big news. Subjectively, I am having trouble finding it all that interesting. I think it is, as with any new epress, a case of "wait and see".

See also:
Angela James and her journey to Harlequin with Carina Press
Harlequin Launches Digital-Only Publishing House
Carina Press (SBTB)
Harlequin: Carina Press (Teddypig)

Saturday, November 07, 2009


As I am about to send a lot of time in airports and taxis, I thought I would share some of the podcasts I subscribe to and will be listening to as I hurry up and wait.

My main requirement for subscribing to a podcasts is that it be informative, entertaining, and that it is delivered in a pleasant speaking voice. Frankly, I could listen to Stephen Fry dictate the phone book--and if anyone out there knows of a podcast delivered by someone with a Welsh accent, let me know; I don't care what it is about.

I encourage you all to let me know about more podcasts, either podcasts you make youself our the ones you subscribe to. The podcasts below are available from iTunes for free.

On Topic
* The Good Parts: the Art of Writing Smut
* Packing Heat: Erotica Writing Tops and Techniques

* Stephen Fry's Podgrams
* Classical Mythology Podcast
* Stuff You Missed in History Class
* Art of Manliness

Friday, November 06, 2009

Body 2 Body

Based on Mrs. Giggles' comments I picked up a copy of the new book: Body 2 Body--a Malaysian Queer Anthology edited by Jerome Kugan and Pang Khee Teik. It seems that the publisher has been unable to successfully solicit reviews or wide distribution within Malaysia, not surprising as male homosexuality is still illegal in Malaysia.

So, anyway, I have ordered a copy and plan to join other bloggers in providing some online publicity. Body 2 Body is available on Amazon but steel yourself, it is $20 for a standard paperback. That is a little steep but I will give the published, Matahari, the benefit of the doubt. I have no idea what the regional limitations might be when to comes to small press printing and distribution.

If you do post a review of this book, please let me know. I will be posting my own comments in a week or two, after I get back from a joyous work-related sojourn to the balmy north. Meaning that this is a good time for all you duly-appointed contributors to ERECblog to run amok while I am distracted.

See also: Body 2 Body reviews
Mrs Giggles

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Off Topic Links

An Olde-Fashioned Book Burning
Burnt Offerings
[Most disturbing, Scripture itself was burned—onto the pyre flew modern translations of the Bible like those that the woman in the joke deplored. Amazing Grace is a self-proclaimed King James Only church: "We believe that the King James Bible is the Word of God," says the church's Web site.]

Best First Comment
Literary classic Little Women being remixed with werewolves
First comment: [Enough already.]

Funny Dog Story
I Has a Sweet Potato
[From the kitchen, there comes a noise like someone is eating a baseball bat.]

I Laughed, Out Loud
10 reasons to buy a Kindle 2… and 10 reasons not to
[Flight attendants will tell you to turn it off on take off and landing. You can’t explain that it’s epaper and uses no current. You just can’t. It’s like explaining heaven to bears.]

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Meanwhile, at lyd

* Epublisher Love You Divine seems to have reported a reviewer to the FBI for reviewing a bought ebook, assuming it was pirated. (via Mrs G.)

* P.s. While the whole trend of replacing names with acronyms is merely annoying, using them in lower case if just weird: "lyd titles are distributed world-wide, both electronically and in print."


The XOXO website seems to be down for construction and most of the content on their blog is behing "invitation only" curtains. The publisher is, however, apparently active and amongst other things creating some charity projects. But charity by whom?

"We are a royalty paying publisher, NOT a vanity press. We offer 40% royalty of gross sales. This will be fully explained in the publishing contract.
... We have two fundraising books per year where the royalties are fully donated to two charities, while the other four books are offered a percentage of the royalties and donated to charities."

Do they really mean that only the author royalties are donated to the charity--or total profits?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bulletin: Cacoethes

I see that the Cacoethes Publishing website has vanished. Is it a glitch.... or is it the end?

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Amazon Patents Changing Authors' Words
"...Amazon also touts the use of 'alternative misspellings for selected words' as a way to provide 'evidence of copyright infringement in a legal action.' After all, anti-piracy measures should trump kids' ability to spell correctly, shouldn't they?" (Slashdot)

“Due to the fact that the unhappy have made a nuisance of themselves…”
"Lol, why am I not surprised that those idiots at NCP would mistakenly remove books of the few authors that they have, who are crazy enough to still want to stay with them?" (Karen Scott)

Macmillan Issues New Contract Boilerplate for All Divisions, E-Royalty Lower than RH, S&S, Other Majors
"The e-book royalty will come as the biggest surprise to e-book royalty watchers, as it goes contrary to the trend (which some think is a polite word for something darker) among major publishers to pay 25% of net e-book receipts to authors. Unfortunately, Macmillan offers even less than that - 20%." (

Imitator Sues Me to Overturn Copyrights: Please Help Defend My Art
"My original art has been copied by a manufacturer who is now suing me in federal court to overturn my existing copyrights and continue making knockoffs. I have a strong case, a great lawyer and believe that if I can continue to defend myself, the case will be resolved in my favor." (John T. Unger, Sculptor)

Welcome to the library. Say goodbye to the books.
"...officials at the pristine campus about 90 minutes west of Boston have decided the 144-year-old school no longer needs a traditional library. The academy’s administrators have decided to discard all their books..." (

Scholastic Reverses Decision to Exclude Gay Friendly Book from Fairs
"During the past 48 hours more than 4,000 members joined in calling for Scholastic Books to reverse their decision to exclude a book from Scholastic's popular book fairs, simply because the book featured two moms raising a child. The book in question is Luv Ya Bunches by best-selling children’s book author Lauren Myracle." (

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


I find it interesting that Dear Author castigates authors for lack of enthusiastic response to DA initiatives on the the issue of plagiarism, but also castigates them for too much enthusiasm on the issue of piracy.

Yes, Dear Author is "a reader blog and our focus is for the readers" but I am having a little trouble seeing the two issues as vastely different from a reader point of view--they both relate to the quality, integrity and sustainability of the product the reader is consuming.

But I suppose there is an obvious symmetry of author and reader point of view, if you compare the old EREC post: Breaking News: Plagiarism, Still Bad,and new Dear Author post: Piracy Is Bad.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

And the prize goes to....

The Beatles Memorial Prize for Humility goes to Sheniqua Waters for her website domain of which takes the designation previously given to such pulpy rubbish as the Bible or Ulysses and bestows it on the Slave Girl.

"We're glad you decided to visit ... Here you will find out more about the newest up-and-coming author Sheniqua Waters and her breakout new historical romance novel Slave Girl ... Sheniqua Waters knows how to put "love" in a love story. She has a unique writing style and creates vivid scenes and intriguing story lines unlike any author we've seen. In our opinion, that is what makes her "The New Face of Romance".

Meanwhile the Inaugural Veinglory Prize for Chicken-Fingered Typing goes to Dark Castle Lords for the email to subscribers excerpted below (explaining that no newsletter will be forthcoming for October):

"Pam and I have gone through all the survey resutsl and will be implementing some of your suggestions next month. the first chagne you will notice will be that th enewsletter will be delivered in PDF. I have also moved the newsletter from the start of the month to towards the end of the month ... These chagnes are not set in stone and we hope you wil let us know if the changes we make are worthwhile and a benifit to YOU."

Sunday, October 25, 2009


The good

Crocheted Boobie Pillow (Etsy): "These boobie pillows are crocheted with worsted weight yarn and stuffed with polyester fiberfil. The nipples are either rubber baby bottle nipples or crocheted. Just let me know which you would prefer."

Frugally Marketing an E-book: "When I contracted with Red Rose in January, I started compiling my promotion toolkit."

The bad

I'm disappointed in the drama: "After attempts to talk to the owner of Red Rose, I got a brief email stating she'd turned over information to her lawyer regarding my book."

Shift to e-books to hurt bookstores, analysts say: "As the math currently works, each sale through a Nook is not just unprofitable but potentially replaces a higher-margin sale at stores," Balter wrote in a client note Friday."

The fugly

Cakewrecks: that's some spout: "I'm a little teapot, short and stout. Here is my handle, here is my..."

Insert the Usual Rant here (a.k.a. Fisking Breathless)

Full details here: Romantic Writing and Breathless Press have teamed up to provide the romantic stories writing competition exclusively for writers. To the winners goes a publishing contract offer with Breathless Press and free promotion.

Gee, I wonder is there is any other way to "win" such a wonderful "prize"?

All submissions will be shared in book format and requires the prologue to be a query letter.

What? [Reads it again] Seriously, what does that mean?

Submission Directions: This contest requires creating a book. So prior to submitting your first chapter you should create a book. Click here to create your book.

Oh, I see. Breathless is requiring people to join Fanstory in order to submit a short story to Breathless. Because, um.... because....

The contest winners will receive a contract offer with Breathless Press. Sample Breathless Press Contract. The contract is for ebooks. Breathless Press will be publishing print books on select titles after several months as ebooks.

A.k.a. possibly never.

The contest winners will be chosen by Breathless Press. This contest does not offer a Visa Gift Card prize.

Good to know.

See also:
Breathless Press Newest eBook Publisher Officially Launched: "In an industry full of e-publishers, Breathless Press ( promises to raise the standard of eBook publishing and it looks like they’re off to a great start."

Open Calls

Slash Books Call For Submissions - "Kink Bingo"
X marks the spot for this anthology, where each story utilizes a different kink to fill in a square on the Slash Books Kink Bingo card! Pitching for this anthology is simple: pick a kink, and let your imagination run wild! We'll be looking for stories from 2000 to 20000 words that explore the fun and wild side of kinks. As usual, all stories must include at least one same sex relationship. Your story should focus on the relationship. Intriguing characters and interesting situations are the ticket to success here. Be creative! All genres welcome. (Five days 'til the deadline!).

Like the Knave of Hearts: Circlet Press.
What if Alice returned to Wonderland as an adult, and met up with the White Knight or the Red Queen again? What if there was more going on between the Queen of Hearts and the Knave than just those tarts? And what kind of adventures was Mary Ann, the White Rabbits maid, up to when she wasn't at home? We're looking for a darker, sexier view of Wonderland. Be creative, keep it legal, and don't be afraid to explore your nightmares as well as your dreams.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bookwhirl, in a hole and digging furiously

I had more-or-less forgotten about the so-called book marketing company Bookwhirl until a determined little defender-of-the-faith turned up on the POD People blog. Such things tend to make me take a good long long at my attitude, and cause it to either soften... or harden.

As for Bookwhirl, well, this is what I see:
* They spam egregiously--which is not a good look in a marketing company.
* Their use of the English language is quirky at best, this from their website: "Email advertisements works like a spider web. Its expansion can be boundless, thriving more possibilities, and bigger sales."
* Clear targeting of self-published authors: "Marketing your self-published book is never easy and it is very time consuming."
* Their online reputation is mud, well--something like mud but stinkier. If they can't promote themselves well, why would you hire them to promote a book?

So... It seems to me that Bookwhirl is a way for inexperienced authors to waste money on stuff that probably won't increase their sales and may actually make them look bad. That's my opinion, and comments from names with no Google footprint, that link to Bookwhirl's website, and are spiced up with convoluted logic and veiled insults aren't likely to change it.

Funny, that.

See also:
BookWhirl Can't Even Sell Itself
BEWARE OF BOOKWHIRL! -commonly mis-pronounced BookWorld
Ripoff Report: Bookwhirl
Bookwhirl's "lively" author forum (they had time to post a PR release about it, but not to delete the spam bots that quickly took it over).

Monday, October 19, 2009

...Long Live the King

Fictionwise is closing in on merging with Barnes & Noble and it does not like the the transformation will be a wholey agreeable one--with restrictions on content and extra charges already appearing. A few years ago there would not have been much in the way of an alternative. But AllRomanceEbook spin-off Omnilit is showing signs of stepping into those shoes. Omnilit recently forged and agreement with Ingram Digital giving them access to ebook from publishers like Random House, Harper Collins and Little Brown, in addition to the small epublisher who have been with them from the beginning. I am about ready to swap from Fictionwise to Omnilit; am I the only one?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

My Ears Are Burning (Astatalk)

In the past I posted about what an extended process it was to get full text links to my work removed from Astatalk. This morning I noticed several hits to that post from a private "Closed Team" Astatalk forum thread which I cannot access, but which has the url "!!!". Do they mean avoid posting my pirated work? I sure hope so. I have added a check of Astatalk for my books to tomorrow's schedule.

Publisher Doings

Shadowfire is seeking F/F
"We could really use some great lesfic stories and books to publish in 2010. We even consider reprints so long as you have the rights to your work back from the prior publisher. You can see our formatting guidelines and instructions on how to submit here ... If you don't write holiday or themed call stories, we'd like to see the erotic romance lesfic stories you like to write. Guidelines to general erotic romance submissions can be found here." [Michael Barnette, Editor-in-Chief Shadowfire Press]

Eirelander Officially Opens
Eirelander took a long run up at it, which isn't necessarily a bad idea. This month they officially opened and more to a new website url. There still don't seem to be any books for sale from the website (when I click ont he covers,nothing happens?), although they can be found on websites such as Amazon. One of the first two releases from the Heat line is by the owner, TJ Killian.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Cacoethes Blow Out Sale
Cacoethes Publishing is having a massive sale: all ebooks $2 and paperbacks either $5 or $10. Generosity or desperation?

JA Konrath shares Kindle sales levels
J A Konrath recently blogged, with unusual candor, about how Kindle sales (via publisher and self-published) stack up. I would suggest reaing the whole post as it makes a number of very good points. One of them being: "If I had the rights to all six of my Hyperion books, and sold them on Kindle for $1.99, I'd be making $20,580 per year off of them, total, rather than $4818 a year off of them, total ... According to my math, I'd be making more money if my books were out of print, and I had my rights back."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bulletin: Brits get pounded, again (and so do most of the rest of us)

I previously noted that the British prices for ebook readers seem much higher than what is charged in the US, regardless of where the device is manufactured. Now it seemed the Brits will also have to pay more for Kindle-format ebooks--and so with the rest of the "foreigners".

After initially denying the rumors, Amazon now reveals to the Guardian that "foreign customers - including those in Britain - would be paying $13.99 (£8.75) for new releases and bestsellers, instead of the American price of $9.99 (£6.25). That amounts to a 40% premium for the same title."

Monday, October 12, 2009

Fisking Untreed Reads

Untreed Reads

As ever, their website txt + my 0.02:

"Untreed Reads Publishing is the primary imprint of fiction work. We are looking for fiction with minority lead characters and plots (Latino, African-American, Native American, GLBT, female, etc.)."

Um, last I checked females were not a minority, and what the hell is a "minority plot"? Is it a story made up by only one of three psychics?

"Any genre is acceptable except erotica, romance and poetry. The feeling is that these categories are already well-represented by other publishers, and we prefer our focus to be on lesser-realized genres such as sci-fi, mystery, fantasy and mainstream fiction."

No majority genres please. We only want less mainstream genres like... well, "mainstream".

"Romance and eroticism are welcome within the work, but we prefer plot over erotic scenes."

Because we all realise that off the many qualities a work of fiction might have, only two are connected by a direct, inverse correlation such that adding more of one results in having less of the other.

"It is our goal to present to the world multicultural fiction that expands the somewhat limited view currently seen in the industry."

Yes, world multi-cultural fiction populated by Americans of all different genders, colors and sexual orientations, not too focussed on falling in love and not having too much sex.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fusion my Arse

In the case of JJ Massa we had an ebook writer lifting a story from fanfiction. Now there seems to be an example of the equal and opposite plagiarism of the ebook Among the Living by Jordan Castillo Price by gwendolynflight to create a full length Arthur/Merlin fanfiction of the same title (the only major sifferences being character names and a POV shift). The source is acknowledged in comments by the "author" as a "fusion". Is that what the kids are calling it these days?

Jordan Castillo Price's response

See also:
Jordan Castillo Price Plagiarized in Fandom
Blatant Plagiarism

Piers sends up smoke signals about Fictionwise

As has already been reported by Mrs Giggles and Teddypig, Piers Anthony has posted the following:

"October 2009 update: troublesome report that the one-time $15 set-up fee now is invoked any time a change or update needs to be made. They have been paying late, and sometimes in error to the author's disfavor, not corrected; this is harder to track because they have removed real-time figures. They have censored books, removing ”controversial” ones. This sort of thing bothers publishers, but few dare to protest."

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Book review bloggers, take heed....

With recent legal changes, of you are an American blogger and you accept review copies of books you may need to post a disclaimer of some kind to avoid potential legal liability (and a $11,000 fine). It is really no big deal, you just have to write an honest review and disclose anything you received in return, including the review copy. Whether or not it is "fair" to require this, I don't see any reason not to do it.

See also:
FTC Publishes Final Guides Governing Endorsements, Testimonials
Book Publishers, Bloggers, & the FTC Guidelines
My Take on the FTC New Guidelines -- c.anne.gardner


"We are the second largest ePublisher specializing in romantic fiction and erotic romance novels." [Lucia Carr, Public Relations Director for Samhain Publishing]

"What is the reason behind all the e-publishers shutting their doors, when other e-publishers starting up seem to thrive?" [Gracen Miller on the closure of Firedrakes Weyr]

"Readers aren't stupid like some people like to believe. They can tell the difference between bad story telling and bad editing." [Carrie, in reply to Gracen Miller]


* The Death of the Midlist… [Romancing the Blog]
* The Snuggie Sutra
* Ravenous Romance on Home Shopping Network

Monday, September 28, 2009

Book Review Venues (under construction)

Please note, codings may not be fully accurate when a genre is accepted but this is not explicitly stated on the website. Please let me know of any additions and/or corrections by comment or email.

* All About Romance: Ro, E(limited)/P, xS. This site focuses on "major publishing houses".
* Dear Author: R(ER/FF/MM), D/P/E (digital copy preferred), ? [Recommended]* Mrs Giggles: R(ER), E*/P, S [Recommended]
* HEA Reviews: R, D, E, xS
* Night Owl Romance Book Reviews: Ro, E*/P, ?.
* POD People: A, E*/P, So (some exceptions).
* Racy Romance Reviews: Ro, does not accept book submissions, ?.
* Rainbow Reviews: A/R/E(ER/MM/FF), D/P/E, ? -- GLBTQ0
* Romance at Heart: Ro, ?, ?.
* Romance Reader, the: Ro(ER), P, ?.
* Smart Bitches, Trashy Books: Ro, ?, ?. [Recommended]
* Smexy Books: R(MM), ?, ?.
* Veiled Secrets Reviews: Ro(ER/MM/FF), E*/P, ?.

* Romantic Times Book Reviews: Ro(ER) xMM xFF, P, ?.

R: reviews romance
E: reviews erotica
RE: reviews erotic romance
MM: review gay fiction
FF: reviews lesbian fiction

A: reviews all (or most) genres
D: accepts digital review copies
P: accepted printed review copies

E: reviews EbooksS: accepts self-published bookso: The 'o' means they accept this format or genre exclusively
x: means a format or genre is specifically not accepted
[Recommended]: My personal opinion only

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Quoth: Lambda Redux

I would recommend reading Victor J. Banis's post "The Little Lost Lamb(da)s" in full (and, indeed, reading pretty much anything he had written).

I was struck rather viscerally by a quote he gives from his correspondence: “…I don’t appreciate a bunch of homophobic straight women who fetishize gay sex for the titillation of other straight women trashing the work of LGBT writers, editors and publishers, or our history. I don’t appreciate those same women pretending that gay fiction did not exist until they started writing it. They have no idea who you are, for example…”.

As Banis notes, many M/M writers are acutely aware of their place in a tradition going back not 20 years, but clearly to the 11th century and probably beyond. I copy below an article that used to appear on answer to the notion that female authors are "appropriating" gay stories. (As Gaywired seems to have folded this also gives me a place to archive this 2004 article).


Slash Friction Is appropriation ever appropriate?

Slash is fiction written largely by and for women, depicting the romantic and sexual relationships of gay men: “Taking two MALE characters, from a television series, movie, comic, anime, book, etc., and "pairing" them together, usually for sexual acts”. It is a phenomenon that has, until recently, passed under the radar of the gay community. Upon learning about slash many gay men are merely amused – but others are outraged.

This outrage is becoming more noticeable as slash becomes more widely known. Writer Kirby Crow notes “the disturbing trend (cue sinister music). There have been some increasingly bitter remarks posted by male (and some female) readers of Slash fiction. The complaints are that the Slash writer's treatment of male characters is often "wrong".” One magazine in particular posts a blanket ban on slash fiction on the basis that it is appropriation (presumably appropriation by woman of gay experiences).

This sort of ‘appropriation of gay culture’ criticism is periodically pointed at various different art forms from Madonna’s videos (as discussed by author Stan Hawkins in "I'll Never Be an Angel: Stories of Deception in Madonna's Music.") to movies like Priscilla Queen of the Desert as author Alan McKee details in "How to tell the difference between a stereotype and a positive image: putting Priscilla, queen of the desert into history." But before we accept ‘appropriation’ as the signature crime of the new millennium, consider this:

Fiction is, almost by definition, involves experiences outside the writer’s immediate experience. If we have no trouble with J K Rowling writing about the experience of a male child, or Don Marquis writing poetry from the perspective of a cockroach, why is a woman writing about a gay man taboo? If indeed it is, given that a great deal of fiction about gay men has been written by women – sometimes only a few books from their total output such as the Herald-Mage Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey and sometime almost exclusively such as the historical dramas by Mary Renault. It seems that only when this material started to spread beyond ‘respectable’ publishing with a speculative or literary gloss that it was really noticed and condemned. So female interest in gay love may be okay in moderation, but passing through the bedroom door may be a step too far?

I must concede that when a female author writes predominantly about gay men this does suggest that she is not just sampling the diversity of human experience, but express a particular fixation. When the material is romantic or sexual such a fixation could easily be described as a fetish. And one can hardly be surprised when individuals or groups are uneasy about being the ‘object’ of a fetish. Some individuals may have fetishes about fur, stocking or feet – but these are true ‘objects’ and hardly likely to become offended. But material that objectifies women has long been seen as disreputable and objectionable.

And indeed there are similarities in that the women depicted in heterosexual porn are displayed as young, attractive and sexually available. The gay men depicted in slash are typically young, attractive and emotionally available. Both depictions presumably satisfy some kind of wish-fulfilment for the writer or his/her audience.

However, is it really so bad to satisfy the secret or not so secret desire of an audience for certain object of affection? Many modern feminists would say ‘No’. They would suggest that material that revels in the abuse of women may be objectionable – however erotica per. se. is not the enemy. Indeed more and more women are expressing a desire to create and consume erotica of various kinds – including slash. So if erotica is not by definition a bad thing, surely our responses to it should be based on its content not the demographic details of the author?

In terms of content some slash may perpetuate stereotypes, be bigoted or otherwise unacceptable – the mere fact that the female is writing about gay men does not make this the case. Some, probably most, slash depicts heroic men in caring relationships and can in no way be seen as derogatory. That being the case, why should gay men be uniquely taboo – written about only by one of their number?

By condemning all slash, one implicitly states that it is inconceivable that any female could write a worthwhile story about gay men – and that in itself is an extraordinary prejudice. Lesbians have long been aware that pornography for men often depicts woman together in ostensibly lesbian scenarios. The complimentary phenomenon (slash by any other name) has a history just as long -- stretching from homoerotic icons by medieval nuns to science fiction comics by Colleen Doran.

In the end a woman’s fantasy is not appropriation, whether in her head, on her bookshelf or leaking from the end of her pen. Women may use gay men in their fiction, gay men may react and commentate as they wish on any of these works. But the idea that gay men own every depiction of that sexuality is in itself an unacceptable and presumptuous declaration of ownership that would sound ridiculous if extended to almost any other group. By all means complain when a writer perpetuates hate or derision – but to demand silence on this subject by an entire gender is unmistakably a step too far. Gay men need not embrace slash fiction but, I suggest, they should certainly tolerate it.

See also:
Recently, the Lambda Literary Foundation instituted new guidelines for its awards
Unpacking the Case Against M/M: Part 3, A Little Perspective
Slash Fan Fiction: Hobby or Vehicle for Social Change?