Monday, May 5, 2014

Porn's Chris Harder; Death of LGBT Publishing?

Porn's Chris Harder

Here's a link to an article, below, that's written by a gay porn star, Chris Harder, about the typical day of a porn star. He eats nothing but chicken all week long, goes to Duane Reade for fleet enemas (yup), and shops seventh avenue for jock strap fabric. It's actually very well written, and far more humble (and humorous) than anything I've read in a long time. I don't even know who he is and I like him already.

7:30 a.m. :
I'm up. That's right, I'm not going to bed, I'm up and staggering into the kitchen, starting my morning ritual which almost always begins with a cup of coffee. If I'm lucky, I'll beat my roommate into the bathroom (he works a 9-5 for a publicity agency) and if not, I'll hop around in my Mr. Peanut's pyjama pants trying not to focus on the dribbling sound of the percolator in the background. Today is a busy day. I have "city errands" and a training session plus a double booking in the evening. I'm also trying to wrap up a party I'm throwing next week and finalize my own bookings for the following month.

I really like pieces like this because we often get conflicting impressions about those who work in any area of the adult entertainment industry. We also get a lot of attitude and judgment from those who don't particularly care for the adult entertainment industry and I think well written pieces like this disabuse so many of the critics by showing instead of telling. In a way I understand a lot of the things people like Harder go through because I write erotic gay romance. I have to admit that Harder sounds a lot more patient than I am.

You can read more here, and check out Chris Harder's web site here.

Death of LGBT Publishing?

When I read pieces like this I often just shake my head and wonder WTF? Are they serious? They're talking about the death of the LGBT publishing industry and never before has there been a better time for LGBT writers? Not longer than ten years ago the only LGBT writers who succeeded in getting a single author title published were those with the right connections and the biggest mouths...the pushiest annoying ones who knew how to work it the best. The rest of the LGBT writers were lucky if they submitted a short story to a small press anthology and got paid a $50.00 flat fee...months after the book was actually released and making money for the publisher. Oh, isn't THAT a great system?

And what about reader choices? Well, we were limited to what "they" wanted us to read, which was usually nothing but dark, depressing quirky content that catered to those on the fringes.    

Giovanni’s Room in Philadelphia is the oldest and possibly largest LGBT bookstore in the nation. And now, after four decades, it’s closing. This news should make everyone involved in the business of LGBT literature — publishers, editors, authors, reviewers, and, of course, readers — pause and consider what this means for the future of their industry.

I guess it's all a matter of perspective, because I have personally never seen such a boom in LGBT publishing in the twenty plus years I've worked as an author and editor. The competition is astounding. The connection to readers is even more spectacular. I've met closeted Amish men reading LGBT fiction on tablets they keep hidden, straight women from the UK and other countries, and so many others I could fill this page with examples. There are LGBT presses with stables of authors writing LGBT content, all getting a chance at their dream. There are readers who are buying ten or more books each week and devouring LGBT content. I've even seen kickstarter campaigns raise large sums of money for LGBT indie authors working on some extremely serious social material. The only thing that's dying is the old gatekeeper system that was designed to keep most LGBT writers out and only a select handful in...not to mention the fact that most (not all) literary agents wouldn't even touch most LGBT writers ten years ago.

The author of the piece blames Amazon for all this, of course. But doesn't mention how many books LGBT writers sell at allromanceebooks.com...or Smashwords...or right from the publisher's web site. But the most shocking thing to me is this about LGBT writers in the Philadelphia area:

Local authors will be hurt. Many of these write series, such as mysteries — and readers, many of whom do not depend on the Internet for their book news, would learn of a new title in the series only by seeing it on the shelf. Ed gave local authors prominence: window displays and stacking by the register. Amazon will give them nothing, perhaps not even mention of Philadelphia. These authors will see their royalties dip significantly.

I'm a local author. I live in the Philadelphia suburb of New Hope, PA. I've been working so hard on novels with gay content for the past seven years Tony and I haven't taken a vacation other than 3 days in Vermont to get married in seven years. I work with e-publishers, European publishers, and I also indie publish a lot of my own work. I'm part of an indiegogo campaign with a Hollywood studio that's producing a documentary about same sex marriage in Vermont and I'll be offering a novel in support. As for royalties, I recently saw a gay author on social media claim that because his last royalty check was so good he can now afford that new Mac he's been wanting for so long. I see similar things from many other gay authors. But more important, there's never before been a better time for straight women authors writing gay content, especially m/m romance. I know one who was able to quit her day job and write full time.

So while I am sorry to see Giovanni's room shutter this month, I'm sorrier for nostalgic reasons because this is the end of an era we won't see return. I do feel bad about that. But in a way it was this very same system that kept places like Givoanni's room open for so long that also kept many LGBT writers hidden from view and silenced because they were not chosen as the select few to be published. In many cases it was a matter of luck. And now that technology has changed that, and the way people read and shop for their books has changed (in all genres), I think we're only beginning to see a new era in LGBT publishing, with more writers and voices than we've ever seen before.

The death of Giovanni’s Room isn’t merely a stab at the heart of a community in Philadelphia; it’s one more victim of an ailment that sickens us all.

It's also a good example of how times change, we all move forward, and nothing remains the same.

You can read the entire piece here. My comments were not designed as a rant, not by any means. He does make a few interesting points in some places. I only wanted to point out that in a general sense most of the changes I've seen in LGBT publishing have been for the best, not the worst. I actually never thought I would live long enough to see so many LGBT writers get a voice, publish their books, and sell their books. I also never thought I'd live long enough to see so many straight people reading LGBT content. And I don't take that lightly, not for one single moment.






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