Friday, April 25, 2008

The State of M/M at the Romantic Times Booklover's Convention

When you write and publish gay and lesbian romance, you never know what to expect when you go to Romantic Times. Writers of m/m, or male/male have had their share of hassles in the past, whether they affected Torquere or not, so when we packed up for the Romantic Times Booklover's Convention last weekend in Pittsburgh, we girded our loins at the same time, so to speak.

Well, aside from the hotel being under construction, we can say without a doubt that this year's RT was a resounding success.

We arrived Tuesday night and stayed out by the airport with fellow TQ-er Chris Owen before wading into downtown Pittsburgh bright and and early Wednesday morning. Don't worry, PA folks. I have nothing bad to say about Pittsburgh, which was far prettier than advertised, and boasted some of the friendliest people I've EVER met in the north east.

Wednesday, Shawn was on two panels with Brenna Lyons from EPIC and several other publishers, talking about how to choose an e-publisher and how to submit to one. You have to understand, this was the first year RT had an e-publisher track, and I think it went well. The panels were full, people asked lots of questions, and I think the ladies on the panels did a god job talking about their specific presses, and about what separates epublishers and indies from the big 6 in New York.

Wednesday night we had the first ever e-published author signing. There were glitches, but they were general ones, and everyone pitched in to solve them. We sold some books, got a lot of interest, and not one person had a hate-on for us, which was a nice change from cons in years past.

We talked a lot about our upcoming Prizm line with booksellers and librarians, and more than one of them told us that we'd given them goosebumps, because there was such a need for GLBT young adult, especially the kind of romantic, hopeful voice we hope to bring to it.

Thursday night's Faery Ball was a hoot. We went the redneck route, as usual, and while we didn't place in the costume contest, I think we can safely say we were right up there in the popular vote.

By Saturday, everything had gone so right that we were waiting for the other shoe to drop. We hung out with our authors (Jodi Payne, Chris Owen, Carol Lynne, artist Alessia Brio to name a few) and met lots of prospective authors. We had a lot of folks tell us they couldn't write what we publish, but even more who were fascinated by the growing market share m/m holds, and who wanted to know more.

The Saturday booksigning went well, and I think that's the most telling thing. Last year, we had a few die hard fans (who we love, kisses all around) who came and bought from us. We had a few of those this year, but we also had perfect strangers who picked up a book, read the back jacket, and went, huh. Then they bought it. Only a very few people actively avoided our tables, and those folks were all polite, if a little unnerved.

All in all, it was light years ahead of RT 2007.

So what's this all mean? It means, that while there are still a lot of folks who aren't ready to love us, people are accepting that we're out here, and that we're a growing part of the market. We're selling books. People want to know why, and how, and are curious about our market. The more they hear that our readers are women, the more intrigued they are.

Does this mean we're welcome everywhere with open arms? No. But it does mean that things are getting better, and that there's an awareness out there that didn't exist even a year ago about what we do. I think that we're doing the best thing we can, which is presenting our books in a professional, accepting manner, working with people instead of against them, and every one of us who goes out and does an event can bring one more mind around to the idea that there's room for all of us. Everyone deserves a happy ending, no matter who they are, or what their sexuality is.

Special thanks go out to Kevin from RT, who always makes us feel at home, and who works so hard to make sure we get where we need to go!