Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Why Newbie Author Ryan Quinn Isn't Thrilled About Being on Amazon Gay Bestseller List

Just when I thought I'd seen everything, something like this pops up on the Interwebs. New author, Ryan Quinn, just had a coming of age novel released and it made #1 on the Amazon bestseller list in Gay/Lesbian Fiction.

Instead of thanking his readers like most authors with any sense of decorum would do, Quinn writes this piece for the Huff Post:

I admit I did a little fist pump. But after the triumph sunk in, I settled on an emotion that was distinctly more conflicted.

I'm posting excerpts of the article so you can see the impact of some of these statements as they stand alone. Frankly, I can't help but wonder how long it took for his conflicted emotions to set in after the fist pump.

However, I do agree with Quinn here:

Here's the thing: my book's not gay.

Well, maybe it is. Or part of it is, but not all of it. Look, fine, there's a main character who comes out of the closet. And there's that one scene (OK, three scenes) that leads to masturbation. But the other main characters--a girl and a football player (who masturbates just as often as his gay counterpart)--are straight. See, it's not just a gay book.

One of my books, "Missing Jackson's Hole," was once on an Amazon bestseller list right below Louis L'amour in the "Western" category. Although my fist pump days are over, thank you, I was thrilled for a moment or two to be on that bestseller list. And then I started to wonder why gay erotica (it's not even erotic romance) would be on a bestseller list with other more mainstream oriented westerns. It really didn't make sense to me. But I wasn't disappointed or insulted.

I've learned over time, especially from working on "Chase of a Lifetime" in the KDP program, the categories where you can place a book are limited. This is part of that business end of publishing all authors need to research now so they know why things happen and also to predict what might happen in the future. In the case of "Missing Jackson's Hole," I can only guess the publisher put it in westerns. I never asked, I never wrote anything in the Huff Post about it, and I was thrilled the book made a bestseller list at all. I'm still thanking readers for buying it.

So even though I understand Ryan Quinn's confusion and his truncated feelings of triumph, the comment below left ME "settled on an emotion that was distinctly more conflicted."

But there it is anyway, The Fall, with its tranquil, college campus cover imagery sitting atop a best-seller list dominated by covers (15 of the top 20) that feature shirtless male torsos, or men embracing, or both.

Evidently, it bothered Quinn so much he actually counted the covers, seriously. I'm on the same Amazon bestseller list now with one book and I swear to God I have never counted the covers that featured male torsos with or without shirts. Incidentally, my cover has a shirt(smile), and I suppose I should feel superior in some way for this?

And then Quinn said this:

That is what bothers me most. The Gay Fiction tent has gotten too big, and these diverse books make for impossibly strange bedfellows, so to speak. It's time to acknowledge that all gay books are not homogenous.

It's not time to acknowledge anything, and we all know, and have known, that gay books are not "homogenous." Click over to Cleispress.com and you'll see what I mean. I've also learned never to underestimate readers. They know how to vet books and they know that books are not always classified the way they should be. And this is especially true of readers who shop on Amazon and buy e-books.

This is what bothers me the most about Quinn's article:

I don't want readers to come to The Fall looking for erotic tripe and leaving disappointed for lack of throbbing and thrusting. I want readers to come intrigued, and then leave entertained and a little more conscious of this world we live in.

This is the definition of tripe: Informal Something of no value; Rubbish.

I've read The Fall, and it is a good book. I'm not knocking Quinn as an author. I liked the fact that it had a "new adult" feel to it. (See, I'm smart enough to figure that out on my own even though the book was listed with gay/lesbian books.) I even clicked "like" on Quinn's Facebook page before I read the Huff Post article I liked it so much. But did I come away "a little more conscious of this world we live in?" Nope. I liked it. I was entertained, but it didn't rock my world to the point where the heavens opened and celestial chiors started to sing. And I didn't expect that to happen. That's the kind of thing that happens once in a while. The last time it happened to me was when I read Look Homeward Angel.

What bothers me in a general sense is this snarky attitude by all elitists toward authors who write erotica, erotic romance, or anything where sex is not hidden in the background as if it doesn't exist. What I find interesting is that authors who write erotica or erotic romance never attack those who don't write it. We just smile and sit back, take the insults and the hits, and pretend it didn't happen. This is one of the reasons I'm so thrilled to see what happened with "Fifty Shades of Gray." It tells me readers are interested in reading erotic romance. This is also why I wrote a few campy "literary sex" scenes in The Virgin Billionaire books. I did it on purpose to show how bad the literary elitists write sex scenes. I'll be the first to agree that throbbing and thrusting gets tired. But using literary sex phrases like "he brought her off," or, "they did the deed," is just as bad.

And let's not forget about romance in general. In the past week alone I've read five different vicious, snarky blog posts that attack romance, from bodice rippers to the basic tropes that romance readers love. The bloggers all made these attacks with that elitist tone that suggests they are too grand for romance, with words that are too fucking useless to understand without a dictionary. And though I've never considered myself a romance author, I have written gay romance and a few hetero romances with a pen name and I get tired of listening to these self-proclaimed authorities preach about what's good writing and what's bad writing. I'd rather let the readers decide this for themselves. And so far, with the romance genre booming and other markets tanking, romance authors and publishers must be doing something right.

Quinn ends the article with this statement:

Good Fiction, after all, entertains us while at the same time making us think. If there's a list for that, that's the list I want to be on.

Guess what? You're already on that list and you don't even know it. Ask any reader who loves m/m romance or gay erotic romance if the last book they read made him think and he will tell you it did. He will tell you it not only made him think, but that it also entertained him. I'm sure the same could be said for people who read romance novels in any genre, from historical to contemporary. This is why people read fiction: they want to be entertained and they want to think. What they don't want is to be insulted and degraded.

I did take into consideration that Ryan Quinn is a new author. And I did take into consideration that he might not be familiar with publishing. But then I researched him and I read this in his bio:

Ryan Quinn grew up in Alaska. After graduating from the University of Utah, where he was a NCAA Champion and All-American college athlete, he worked in book publishing for five years in New York City.

He currently lives in Los Angeles.

If someone worked in book publishing in New York for five years, he's no amateur, trust me. He's been around. He knows what he's doing and I doubt anything he says in public is an accident.

Added to Update...This is posted on Quinn's Goodreads blog: "#1 on the Amazon Kindle best-seller list for Gay & Lesbian Fiction, an amazing feat considering the cover of The Fall doesn't feature a shirtless torso (I joke, but look at this list...)"

I think I might title my next short e-book "Fist Pump."


Shelagh said...

It's a shame there's no list for being so far up your own arsehole you're in danger of choking; it sounds like he'd be right at the top of that one!

As a reader of romance, amongst many other things, I find that snarky attitude towards romance authors offensive, too, as it also implies judgement of the people who buy those books. If I enjoy your books (and I've enjoyed those I've read), does he think I'm too...what? Stupid? Shallow?... to enjoy his?

As for 'shirtless male torsos' adorning the covers - well, I love 'em :D I'm at that funny age and it's one of life's little pleasures, hot flushes permitting.

ryan field said...

I think you're in the majority :)

Thommie said...

Oh I love it how some authors think readers are like cows and needs to be herded. What on earth, does he think that just because his listed as gay romance readers that do indeed read gay romance will jump all over and by the book without concideration..? Or does he really think that erotica is easy to write..? Meh some people, I think he just wanted to create some noise around his name, but that noise can be good or bad...

Kathy H said...

There is nothing quite as insulting as an educated idiot with a monster ego. OMG I am so damned sick of authors with the audacity to insult readers. Guess what dumb dumb I can read your comments. I even understand your arrogance. Contrary to polls the average reader can comprehend when they are being insulted. There are times I want to jump through a computer and chock the living snot of a person and this is one of them.

Who the fuck does this little turd think he is to insult his market? Is he so shallow that he believes all romance readers are pathetic house wives dreaming of escape? Hello, wake the hell up dipshit! We are educated women and men that enjoy reading about people at their best because the world is full of enough hardships without reading about them too.

My all time favorite author is Steinbeck.I have read everything he wrote. I consider my self intelligent but I read a wide variety of genres. I read the classics in high school before he was off his mama's tit. Face it their haven't been any new great classic in 30 years as far as I can tell. Trust me I have looked. If you have any recommendations let me know please. Oh and if it's from Oprah's book club skip it. Oprah's interpretation of great writing isn't the same as mine.

You know what I like about M/M? The people that write it aren't afraid to get to know their fans. We aren't treated like a bunch of morons. Autors in the romance genres are gorunded for the most part and don't take themselves so seriously that they believe the rhetroic spilled from the rest of the literary world. They know they write for entertainment, but they also know that we demand more than just sex and a happliy ever after.

Sure there are some churn and burn authors.These authors turn books around so quickly that soon the new book sounds like the previous book, but at some point they get a clue or their readership drops off.

As with my music tastes my reading varies from time to time. No writer should think their readers won't tire of their genre. Quinn should be happy he jump from his genre to another. His reader base could have grown. Instead he shot himself in the foot. He pissed off his potential readers and a potential collegues. I hope his writing career is brief. Pretentious prig great marketing strategy!

Leaundra said...

It bothers me to a point but not enough for me to not buy or read them. I make no excuses, all I read right now is m/m and I love it and if you don't like that type of book don't write it (if you're an author) or read it. No one makes you read a certain book we all have choices and I choose to read them:-)

ryan field said...

@ Thommie

"I think he just wanted to create some noise around his name, but that noise can be good or bad..."

I considered that, too. But I don't think so. He doesn't seem like the type to be sneaky. Rude yes, but not sneaky.

ryan field said...

@Kathy...I agree. But the odd thing is the book is good. And that's hard for me to admit considering what he said in that article.

ryan field said...

@Leanundra...I do think readers know what they want and they buy what they want.